Archive for February, 2012

The Guidelines Project: Simple Enunciations

Orland Luis Pardo Lazo

The Sixth Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba demonstrates that the paralysis recedes. its place is taken by a new scenario wherein the subject that leads the changes is the same as the one that has held power over half a century. The Cuban government is both past and present, thought that tries to hide it, and bears the responsibility of good and bad happened in that half century, so they can not cope with the current problems as they could when they took power in 1959. This feature is vital to understand the reason for the limited, winding and contradictory character of the current reforms.

Without achieving the purposes outlined in the previous Congress and violating the statutes requiring its celebration every five years, the next event will take place in a context in which the current model — non-viable by its very nature — is completely exhausted, as evidenced by the Project Guidelines of the Economic and Social Policy to be discussed at the party conclave that is to come up in April 2011.

The project contains elements that we compare to what exist up until now which could be positive. Among other things it recognizes the need for decentralization of the highly centralized model; plans to give greater autonomy to enterprises over the control of material and financial resources they manage; base the control of business management mainly in economic and financial mechanisms; provides independence for approval of their objections; suspends the operation of the Councils of State and Municipal Administration in their management; raises banking services, including lending to the sector of non-state economy; and recommends flexible formulas for the exchange, purchase, sale and rental of housing, among other things. At the same time, the document is full of contradictions, absences and limitations that prevent satisfactory results, as follows:

1 – An alternation in power, and a sign of political health, is required for development, because social change always require new actors with new approaches. This fact is crucial to any analysis of the present and future of Cuba, as the changes Cuban society demands imply the negation of what exists now, which means denying oneself, and for that you need a doses so high that they exceed political will. This is compounded if the interests join together, and it is evident that no circulation of political power constitutes a braking mechanism.

2 – The recognition of the existence of “low efficiency, decapitalization of the productive base and infrastructure, and aging and stagnation in population growth”; and so that the acceptance of the most recent experiments — such as the replacement of catering and transport workers by other modalities and the leasing out of barber shops, hairdressers and taxis to the employees of these activities — have been insufficient, is contradicted by insisting that economic policy in the new stage will correspond to the principle that “only socialism can overcome the difficulties and preserve the conquests of the Revolution,” and that the socialist planning system will continue to be the main route to the direction of the national economy and that “planning will prevail and not the market.”

If the failures and the current crisis occurred within the current socialist model, to consider that only it can overcome the difficulties is the same as announcing negative results in advance. The current setbacks oblige them to recognize that the model was poorly implemented or that it did not work. The first case involves the responsibility of those who applied it, the second, the need for its replacement. In both we see the glaring errors of the previous government, which is the same as the government now.

3 – The refusal to recognize the proper role of private property is one of the greatest obstacles to economic efficiency. For many years in Cuba they have tried to solve that problem by all means other than the property reform. In that effort we have come to have the most technology, tractors, irrigation and fertilizer per hectare than other countries, not to mention appeals to conscience and ideological campaigns. However, the productivity obtained was lower. Why? Because recognition of the social function of property is attributable to all forms, including private, and that recognition involves the right of Cubans to be owners and entrepreneurs. However, the Guidelines state that they will not allow the concentration of ownership in legal entities or individuals. This conduct is a straitjacket that keeps the economy subject to ideology, and therefore doomed to inefficiency.

4 – The decision to “update the model” and other decisions affecting all Cubans have been taken by the elite of power without participation, since the lack of freedoms and rights prevents any positive result. Thus, freedom of expression — requisite for debate — free access to the Internet, freedom of assembly, association and movement, are an essential condition of modern development, for without them, in the information age, any positive results are unthinkable. In our case also it means an unjustifiable waste to confer a high education on people and then to deny them their inalienable rights. Anyway, Cubans are not treated as an end but as a means of preserving an inefficient and worn out model, where man is an entity subordinate to the state, which is contrary to human dignity. Thus, the issue of ignoring human rights in any attempt to improve the situation in Cuba, is the main deficiency of the Draft Guidelines.

5 – The absence of the comprehensive nature of the changes in the face of a structural crisis that affects all spheres of society and each of its components is another limitation of the Draft Guidelines. The problems that once were limited to the economy, now cover the spiritual realm. The time when partial changes could be introduced in either area are exhausted and comprehensive changes are also running low, which shows a total ignorance of the role of time in social processes.

6 – The Guidelines pose: “Seek alternative funding sources to stop the process of decapitalization of the industry and productive infrastructure of the country.” However, this possibility is denied to Cubans whose relatives abroad constitute a not insignificant source of funding. Instead it proposed, in an exclusive manner, “to continue to encourage the participation of foreign capital.” So it pretends to keep the socialist model with the help of capitalist financing, that is we need capitalism to save “socialism” without the participation of Cubans.

These six factors, among others, convert the proposal into simple sentences: exploit the farm land that is still idle and recuperate the export capacity in this area; restore and enhance export markets for seafood (lobster and shrimp), achieve a rational exploitation of fisheries resources, and increase production levels and efficiency; increase gradually the production of sugar and cane derivatives; make the delivery of land for farmers conducive to productive results resembling those currently in the cooperative and farming sector.

The main value of the Guidelines is the recognition of the need for change and its limitations and contradictions, in canceling out the proposed objectives, generate new contradictions which will require the deepening of reforms, in a context unfavorable to later reversing them.

November 26 2010

Categories: Dimas Castellanos

University Reform Without Autonomy

On the 50th anniversary of the University Reform enacted in January 1962, the newspaper Granma published on Monday, January 9, 2012, an article entitled University and Society  by Armando Hart Dávalos, in which he proposes that “after the triumph of the Revolution university reform was essential to realizing the final link between the university and the people and the new national socio-economic reality … ”

In the article he omits the most significant: the history that led to the loss of University Autonomy as the nerve center of civil society. This simplification of the antecedents allows Hart to confer a definitive character on the reform of 1962, as if social processes have a point of closure.

Jose Ortega y Gasset, in Mission of the University and other related essays, declared: “Man inherently belongs to a generation and every generation is not installed in any place, but with great precision on the previous. This means that it is forced live up to the times and especially to the height of the ideas of the time.”

Between the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Father José Agustín Caballero,  Tomás Romay Chacón, Félix Varela, José de la Luz y Caballero, José Martí and Enrique José Varona, among many others, made strenuous efforts to situate education at the height of its times. It follows that education reform is an ongoing process that does not support “definitive” and that from this continuity emerged University Autonomy as unavoidable necessity of modernism.

In the Republic, Carlos de la Torre, in his inaugural speech as Rector of the University of Havana in 1921, outlined a program to reform the university and achieve University Autonomy, which for him was: “to authorize the University to manage in all its affairs in full independence, except as regards the management of its funds.” The following year the Rector of the University of Buenos Aires, Joseph Maples, gave a lecture on “the evolution of Argentine universities,” in which he explained the process begun with the manifesto of Cordoba, 1918, which led to a university reform whose centerpiece was the autonomy and the involvement of students in university government.

In this context a group of Cuban students published a manifesto in which they called for the formation of student association, which was founded in December 1922 under the name of Federation of University Students (FEU). Subsequently, on January 10, 1923, the fledgling federation issued the Document of the University Reform Program in Cuba, which called for “The status of the university and its autonomy in economic and educational matters.” To remedy the situation, Enrique Jose Varona proposed creating a commission composed of professors and students to study the project, which upon acceptance led to the establishment of the Joint Commission, composed of the Rector, teachers and members of the FEU and recognized by Presidential Decree.

The project was analyzed by the Joint Commission, the Rector, the Board, teachers and students who went to the Presidential Palace and submitted to President Alfredo Zayas, the bases of the bill for University Autonomy. Zayas, before the force of the reform movement, legally recognized the FEU and authorized the creation of the University Assembly, composed of professors, graduates and students. The advance led reform in October 1923, at the First National Student Congress, which demanded the repeal of the Platt Amendment and agreed to establish the José Martí Popular University to open the doors of the higher educational establishment to the workers.

During the government of Gerardo Machado the University Assembly was dissolved and the FEU outlawed, but the struggle continued. Finally on September 10, 1933, after the fall of Machado, the Government of the Hundred Days, led by Ramon Grau San Martin issued Decree Law 2059 of October 1933, which enacted University Autonomy. Subsequently, the failure of the March 1935 strike, the University was taken over militarily and the government revoked the autonomy.

In 1939, under President Federico Laredo Bru, University Autonomy was restored and the Constituent Assembly was convened which adopted and drafted the Constitution of 1940, which, in Article 53, upheld the constitutionality of the Autonomous University as follows: “The University of Havana is autonomous and shall be governed in accordance with its Statutes and the Law by which they will be tempered.” Thanks to this they could form the forces that faced the military coup of 1952, though Fulgencio Batista overthrew the dangerous University Autonomy with the repeal of the Constitution of 1940.

In January 1959, rather than the promise of restoring the 1940 Constitution, as we read in History Will Absolve Me, it was reformed, without consultation, to confer to the Prime Minister the powers of Head of Government and to the Council of Ministers functions of Congress, an amendment similar to what Batista had done with the statutes that replaced the constitution after the 1952 coup. It then proceeded to dismantle civil society and all its instruments, including the University Autonomy.

To accomplish this, the Supreme Council of Universities was created, made up of professors and students from three universities in the country and government representatives. This Council developed the draft University Reform presented on January 10, 1962. That same year, the Cuban Communist leader, Carlos Rafael Rodriguez, in an article published in the press, stated that the new university would be governed jointly by teachers and students, but said, “to the extent that the university revolution is the work of a real revolution and that socialism presides over the transformations, we can not think of teachers and students as two opposing groups… A professor of revolutionary consciousness, guided by Marxism-Leninism and a member of that ideology for years [he was referring to Juan Marinello], will have no need of the watchful presence of students with him in the governance of the University, because he will have the maturity to approach problems of higher education with certain criteria. ”

Thus, University Autonomy, without having been lawfully repealed, in fact ceased to exist. Since then the University, one of the most important sources of social change in our history, was rendered inoperable for that purpose. One of its worst consequences is that under such control, the State raised the slogan of “The University is for the revolutionaries,” which resulted in the expulsion of hundreds of students and teachers who did not share the ideology of the system.

The result could be no other. With the intention of giving finality to a changing process, the University, with the loss of autonomy, ceased to be nerve center of civil society. Therefore, the changes that are taking place in the economy have to be complemented by changes in the rights and freedoms, including University Autonomy, which is an inescapable necessity to put the University in step with the times.

(Published in Diario de Cuba on Monday, January 16, 2012:ía)

January 20 2012

Categories: Dimas Castellanos