[Marxism] Empty Cuba blather
lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Feb 9 12:53:50 MST 2013
On 2/9/13 2:42 PM, audradavid at aol.com wrote
> I have genuine exchange with my boss, too. He's a truly nice guy. He often listens to my suggestions and occasionally follows them.
> And if I cross him in any serious way, he would fire me in a hot second. This is bullshit.
No, what is bullshit is wasting time with superficial jibes like this on
a mailing list with 1500 subscribers worldwide trying to understand
Cuban society, the politics of their own country, or problems facing the
One of the reasons I blog is that it allows me to organize my thoughts,
do research, and write in the fashion of the Russian left of the early
1900s. I don't say that I am the equal of a Preobrezhensky or a Bukharin
but when I read their articles on www.marxists.org, I see how high a
level their conversations and debates were conducted at.
I established Marxmail in 1998 with the hope that it would encourage
serious debate among Marxists. The longer it is around, the more
pessimistic I become.
I think comrades participate in these "debates" as if they were
opportunities to wise off. I almost never see anybody writing anything
of substance, or citing scholarly material. It is enough to make me
consider flushing it down the toilet.
Edward Boorstein, "The Economic Transformation of Cuba":
By October 1960 most of this administrative and technical personnel had
left Cuba. The Americans and some of the Cubans were withdrawn by the
home companies of the plants for which they worked, or left of their own
accord: they found themselves unable to understand the struggle with the
United States, unwilling to accept the new way of life that was opening
up before them.
The Revolutionary Government had to keep the factories and mines going
only with a minute proportion of the usual trained and experienced
personnel. A few examples can perhaps best give an idea of what happened.
Five of us from the Ministry of Foreign Commerce, on a business visit,
were being taken through the Moa nickel plant. In the electric power
station--itself a large plant--which served the rest of the complex, our
guide was an enthusiastic youngster of about 22. He did an excellent job
as guide, but his modesty as well as his age deceived us and only toward
the end of our tour did we realize that he was not some sort of
apprentice engineer or assistant--he was in charge of the plant. I
noticed that he spoke English well and asked him if he had lived in the
States. "Sure," he answered, "I studied engineering at Tulane." As soon
as he finished, he had come back to work for the Revolution and had been
placed in charge of the power plant.
In another part of the complex, the head of one of the key departments
was a black Cuban who had about four years of elementary school
education. He had been an observant worker and when engineer of his
department left he knew what to do--although he didn't really know why,
or how his department related to the others in the plant. Now to learn
why, he was plugging away at his minimo tecnico manual--one of the
little mimeographed booklets which had been distributed throughout
industry to improve people's knowledge of their jobs.
And so on throughout the Moa plant. The engineer in charge of the whole
enterprise, who had a long cigar in his hand and his feet on the desk as
he gave us his criticisms of the way our Ministry was handling his
import requirements, was about 28 years old. His chief assistants were
about the same age and some of them were obviously not engineers.
Yet Moa was made to function. Even laymen are struck with its delicate
beauty--a testament to American engineering skill. 'Es una joya'--it's a
jewel, say the Cubans. It is much more impressive than the larger but
older nickel plant at Nicaro. Shortly after the nickel ore is clawed out
of the earth by giant Bucyrus power shovels, it a pulverized and mixed
with water to form a mixture 55 percent and 45 percent water. From then
on all materials movement is liquids, in pipes, automatically
controlled. The liquids move through the several miles of the complex,
in and out of the separate plants, with the reducers, mixing vats, etc.
Everything depends on innumerable delicate instruments, and on unusual
materials, resistant to exceptions high temperatures and various kinds
of chemical reaction. The margin for improvising in repairing or
replacing parts is small-much smaller than in the mechanized rather than
the automated Nicaro plant. Yet the Moa plant was in operation when we
were there: two of the main production lines were going-and all four
would have been going jf it had not been necessary to cannibalize two
lines to get replacement parts for the other two.
Except that Moa was an especially complex and difficult operation, jt
was typical of what happened throughout the mines and factories, and far
that matter in the railroads, banks, department stores, and movie houses
that had been taken over. The large oil companies had expected that the
Cubans would not be able to run the oil refineries. But they were wrong.
When a co-worker and I talked to the young administrator of the now
combined Esso-Shell refineries across the bay from Havana, he said, only
half-jokingly, that he was about two lessons ahead of us in his
understanding of how the refinery worked--and I wondered how it was kept
going. But we had been around the ten minutes earlier and there it
A textile plant was placed in the charge of a bearded young man of about
23 who had impressed Major Guevara with his courage and resourcefulness
in the Rebel Army. The former Procter and Gamble plant, which each year
turns out several million dollars worth of soaps, and tooth paste, was
run by a former physician who, besides being generally able, knew some
chemistry. For many months, the Matahambre copper mine was in the charge
of an American geologist, a friend of mine. After coming to Cuba to work
for the Revolution, he had been pressed into service, though he was not
a mining engineer and had never run a mine, because he was still the
most qualified person available. He had to educate himself rapidly in
mine ventilation; this was one of Matahambre's biggest problems at the
time. I went through the mine with him once end it was obvious from the
way the men treated him that he had gained their respect for the way he
was handling his job.
Once an economist from the Ministry of Industry and I visited a large
plant near Matanzas that produced rayon for tires, textiles, and export.
We sensed at the plant that the harassed, outspoken administrator,
almost the only engineer left, was all but sustaining the whole
operation by himself. We got into a conversation about him with one one
of his assistants. It turned out he had a bad leg of some sort which was
giving him trouble; his father, who had owned valuable property in the
nearby swanky bathing resort at Varadero was out of sympathy with the
Revolution; and his brother, also an engineer, had left for Venezuela or
some such place. But there he was, holding a meeting with his staff at
11 P.M., using all his energy to help keep the rayonera going.
When you walked through a Cuban factory, you didn't need to be told that
it was under new management--you could see and feel it everywhere. In
the Pheldrake plant for producing wire and cable, formerly owned by
Dutch and American interests, the whole office of administration was
filled by men in shirt-sleeves who were unmistakably workers; the
engineers had gone and the workers had taken over. On the main floor, a
group of them were struggling--using baling wire techniques--to repair
one of the extrusion machines so that the wire required by the Cuban
telephone industry could be kept coming. In a large tobacco factory, the
administrator was black; in the metal-working plant formerly owned by
the American Car and Foundry Company, the head of a department turning
out chicken incubators was black. Black people had not held such
positions before the Revolution.
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