Castro Speaks to Unions 3

Jon Flanders 72763.2240 at
Sun Jun 9 14:31:31 MDT 1996

 Worldwide attacks on social benefits

 Neoliberalism, the globalization of the economy, hegemonic
 policies, selfishness and the monopoly of all the resources are
 incompatible with any social development measure. And to tell the
 truth, no one knows what's happening with the money that these
 institutions, as a whole, intend to devote to social development.
 Furthermore, in the world a huge wave of corruption has been
 unleashed, and not just in Latin American countries or African
 countries - as they used to say - but also in Europe and the
 developed countries. There are also waves of violence, of drug
 consumption, social measures to achieve balanced budgets, and they
 also are reducing workers' pensions, public health spending for
 retired people, for the elderly. We see this problem quite a bit
 in Europe; they are merciless in their desire to balance their
 budgets, at the expense of social rights.
   In the United States, there is a barbarous wave of measures
 to cut the U.S. population's social benefits, to the detriment of
 retired workers, the elderly, the sick, everyone. They're doing
 away with anything that hints of progressive politics in all these
 countries, in order to impose savage, merciless capitalism, with a
 fanatic faith that the laws of the market will solve everything.
 For that reason, they aren't in the state of euphoria and
 exhilaration that they were five years ago. Now they are full of
 worry because they don't really know what's going to happen.
   Now, what a difference from what has happened in Cuba during
 the special period, what a different set of procedures for
 adopting measures. We had to take steps, many difficult measures.
 In all the countries, as someone who spoke on behalf of the
 foreign delegates said yesterday, a few people get together, they
 decide on measures and they apply them to the people mercilessly,
 with policemen on horseback, with tear gas, with police cars. We
 see that on television every day, whenever they put on some news
 from abroad. That's what happens and that's how they impose their
 measures. How different from the manner in which the Revolution
 took measures to solve terrible economic situations! First of all,
 no one was thrown into the street, as they say here, and the
 workers in the factories that were shut down continued to get
 paid, maybe not 100 percent but a large part of their previous
 income, at least a sufficient amount for the few things that could
 be bought. No one was abandoned....
   A revolution, and certainly not this one, could not adopt
 measures of that kind, and none of us was willing to adopt
 measures of that kind. At the time there were advisers here of all
 kinds, we stood our ground, we did things as we thought they
 should be done. They were discussed in the National Assembly, they
 were discussed in the streets, they were discussed again in the
 National Assembly, they were discussed again in the streets, all
 the measures and economic openings, the joint ventures, the
 possibilities for foreign investment and the whole set of
 activities we have been carrying out to face the situation in a
 form we considered correct, with measures of all kinds.

   Democratic and revolutionary methods
   The financial situation had reached a critical point, that
 couldn't continue: 12 billion pesos in the street; and at a moment
 when we needed more than ever to work, many people were leaving
 their jobs, because one person's wages were enough to satisfy a
 family's needs; so, at the very moment when workers were needed,
 people were leaving their workplaces left, right and center; and
 on top of all this there was the transportation crisis, it was
 terrible. And we began to win the battle using these revolutionary
 and democratic methods, and the amount of money in circulation
 began to be reduced.
   But remember all the measures we discussed and how many we
 had to take, and how many millions of people expressed their
 views, and how, finally, measures were taken which had been
 discussed and which had gained widespread consensus. Some of them
 were extremely hard, not those related to food, but to cigarettes,
 alcoholic beverages; gratuities were stopped. There are things
 that hurt and that have an influence....
   Other measures were adopted, such as the farmers' markets, to
 give impetus to food production, to open up the possibility of
 being able to buy some things which were impossible to obtain,
 given the situation we were in, although, clearly, they weren't
 the methods we used before, when we could distribute pork,
 chicken, eggs, milk, etc., at minimum prices, which was a better
 way. Nor did we have the resources to establish parallel markets
 to bring in capital for the state. Nevertheless, we had to find a
 way of making that money circulate a little, to collect a little
 money and, moreover, many people were absolutely convinced that
 the farmers' markets were a solution, and since people with a lot
 of money in their pockets, who didn't have anything to spend it
 on, were saying, "It's better to have somebody supplying
 something, never mind the price...." There are criticisms of the
 markets because of the prices but, as I understand it, many people
 who complain about the market also defend it.
   For me, it isn't an ideal formula, far from it, but it was a
 way, a measure that had to be taken, with its advantages and
 disadvantages. The intermediary inevitably emerged, and remains
 there because this is a personality associated with the free
   Of course, one thing was inevitable: people began to spend
 money, and in the first year almost two billion pesos were brought
 in, I think it was 1.953 billion; in the second year it was about
 700 million, already reduced by almost two-thirds because,
 naturally, money was being spent.
   A relatively significant portion was recovered by the state,
 it was anti-inflationary; another far smaller portion was
 recovered by the state in taxes and other measures imposed on the
 farmers' markets and on self-employed workers. An even smaller
 portion by the UBPCs, as they are new organizations; and another
 by state companies; it was appropriate that they should recover
   However, one of the sacred things that we had to defend was
 the ration system still available to the population, to guarantee
 that minimum amount of garden and root vegetables, of other food
 products where possible, and a significant proportion are imported
 foodstuffs. This meant guaranteeing rice, guaranteeing specific
 quantities of beans with what was imported; over 80 percent of the
 production of the UBPCs, of the cooperatives and of the remaining
 state enterprises all reached the population at local distribution
 points, and this year we've seen the miracle of non-rationed
 products, even if these are only cabbage and potatoes.
   The organic farms began to produce results everywhere, they
 took off in almost all parts of the country; fresh vegetables
 began to appear at good prices, as a consequence of all those
 measures; but most of what was sold in the farmers' markets came
 from the private farmers, and was brought there by intermediaries
 who, up until now didn't pay taxes, and they are going to have to
 pay taxes.

  E-mail from: Jonathan E. Flanders, 09-Jun-1996

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