[Marxism] It's those damn petty-bourgeois at it again!

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Nov 29 17:38:08 MST 2005

Callum wrote:
>I said that Castro DID create welfare state capitalism after the 
>revolution, which is broadly the system we have in place now in Cuba -

No, I understand exactly what you said, especially since I have been 
hearing one version or another of it for the past 12 years on the Internet. 
But let me repeat. The idea that "welfare state capitalism" can exist in 
Latin America or Central America violates fundamental principles of 
historical materialism. Only a proletarian revolution such as the kind that 
took place in Cuba can result in the following:

Learn from Cuba, Says World Bank
By Jim Lobe, IPS, 1 May 2001

WASHINGTON, Apr 30 (IPS) - World Bank President James Wolfensohn Monday 
extolled the Communist government of President Fidel Castro for doing "a 
great job" in providing for the social welfare of the Cuban people.

His remarks followed Sunday's publication of the Bank's 2001 edition of 
'World Development Indicators' (WDI), which showed Cuba as topping 
virtually all other poor countries in health and education statistics.

It also showed that Havana has actually improved its performance in both 
areas despite the continuation of the US trade embargo against it and the 
end of Soviet aid and subsidies for the Caribbean island more than ten 
years ago.

"Cuba has done a great job on education and health," Wolfensohn told 
reporters at the conclusion of the annual spring meetings of the Bank and 
the International Monetary Fund (IMF). "They have done a good job, and it 
does not embarrass me to admit it."

His remarks reflect a growing appreciation in the Bank for Cuba's social 
record, despite recognition that Havana's economic policies are virtually 
the antithesis of the "Washington Consensus", the neo-liberal orthodoxy 
that has dominated the Bank's policy advice and its controversial 
structural adjustment programmes (SAPs) for most of the last 20 years.

Some senior Bank officers, however, go so far as to suggest that other 
developing countries should take a very close look at Cuba's performance.

"It is in some sense almost an anti-model," according to Eric Swanson, the 
programme manager for the Bank's Development Data Group, which compiled the 
WDI, a tome of almost 400 pages covering scores of economic, social, and 
environmental indicators.

Indeed, Cuba is living proof in many ways that the Bank's dictum that 
economic growth is a precondition for improving the lives of the poor is 
over-stated, if not downright wrong. The Bank has insisted for the past 
decade that improving the lives of the poor was its core mission.

Besides North Korea, Cuba is the one developing country which, since 1960, 
has never received the slightest assistance, either in advice or in aid, 
from the Bank. It is not even a member, which means that Bank officers 
cannot travel to the island on official business.

The island's economy, which suffered devastating losses in production after 
the Soviet Union withdrew its aid, especially its oil supplies, a decade 
ago, has yet to fully recover. Annual economic growth, fuelled in part by a 
growing tourism industry and limited foreign investment, has been halting 
and, for the most part, anaemic.

Moreover, its economic policies are generally anathema to the Bank. The 
government controls virtually the entire economy, permitting private 
entrepreneurs the tiniest of spaces. It heavily subsidises virtually all 
staples and commodities; its currency is not convertible to anything. It 
retains tight control over all foreign investment, and often changes the 
rules abruptly and for political reasons.

At the same time, however, its record of social achievement has not only 
been sustained; it's been enhanced, according to the WDI.

It has reduced its infant mortality rate from 11 per 1,000 births in 1990 
to seven in 1999, which places it firmly in the ranks of the western 
industrialised nations. It now stands at six, according to Jo Ritzen, the 
Bank's Vice President for Development Policy who visited Cuba privately 
several months ago to see for himself.

By comparison, the infant mortality rate for Argentina stood at 18 in 1999; 
Chile's was down to ten; and Costa Rica, 12. For the entire Latin American 
and Caribbean region as a whole, the average was 30 in 1999.

Similarly, the mortality rate for children under five in Cuba has fallen 
from 13 to eight per thousand over the decade. That figure is 50 percent 
lower than the rate in Chile, the Latin American country closest to Cuba's 
achievement. For the region as a whole, the average was 38 in 1999.

"Six for every 1,000 in infant mortality - the same level as Spain - is 
just unbelievable," according to Ritzen, a former education minister in the 
Netherlands. "You observe it, and so you see that Cuba has done exceedingly 
well in the human development area."

Indeed, in Ritzen's own field the figures tell much the same story. Net 
primary enrolment for both girls and boys reached 100 percent in 1997, up 
from 92 percent in 1990. That was as high as most developed nations, higher 
even than the US rate and well above 80-90 percent rates achieved by the 
most advanced Latin American countries.

"Even in education performance, Cuba's is very much in tune with the 
developed world, and much higher than schools in, say, Argentina, Brazil, 
or Chile."

It is no wonder, in some ways. Public spending on education in Cuba amounts 
to about 6.7 percent of gross national income, twice the proportion in 
other Latin America and Caribbean countries and even Singapore.

There were 12 primary pupils for every Cuban teacher in 1997, a ratio that 
ranked with Sweden, rather than any other developing country. The Latin 
American and East Asian average was twice as high at 25 to one.

The average youth (ages 15-24) illiteracy rate in Latin America and the 
Caribbean stands at seven percent. In Cuba, the rate is zero. In Latin 
America, where the average is seven percent, only Uruguay approaches that 
achievement, with one percent youth illiteracy.

"Cuba managed to reduce illiteracy from 40 percent to zero within ten 
years," said Ritzen. "If Cuba shows that it is possible, it shifts the 
burden of proof to those who say it's not possible."

Similarly, Cuba devoted 9.1 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) 
during the 1990s to health care, roughly equivalent to Canada's rate. Its 
ratio of 5.3 doctors per 1,000 people was the highest in the world.

The question that these statistics pose, of course, is whether the Cuban 
experience can be replicated. The answer given here is probably not.

"What does it is the incredible dedication," according to Wayne Smith, who 
was head of the US Interests Section in Havana in the late 1970s and early 
1980s and has travelled to the island many times since. "Doctors in Cuba 
can make more driving cabs and working in hotels, but they don't. They're 
just very dedicated," he said.

Ritzen agreed that the Cuban experience probably cannot be applied 
wholesale to another poor country, but insisted that developing countries 
can learn a great deal by going to the island.

"Is the experience of Cuba useful in other countries? The answer is clearly 
yes, and one is hopeful that political barriers would not prevent the use 
of the Cuban experience in other countries. "Here, I am pretty hopeful, in 
that I see many developing countries taking the Cuban experience well into 

But the Cuban experience may not be replicable, he went on, because its 
ability to provide so much social support "may not be easy to sustain in 
the long run".

"It's not so much that the economy may collapse and be unable to support 
such a system, as it is that any transition after Castro passes from the 
scene would permit more freedom for people to pursue their desires for a 
higher standard of living." The trade-off, according to Ritzen, may work 
against the welfare system which exists now.

"It is a system which on the one hand is extremely productive in social 
areas and which, on the other, does not give people opportunities for more 

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