Posted in CubaNet, February 2, 1999
by Jesús Zúñiga, Cooperative of Independent Journalists
Havana, February, 1999 - One of Castro's government's most widely circulated and manipulated fallacies during the whole 40 years of totalitarianism, is that the workers rule in Cuba.
During the recently concluded National Forum of the very governmental Cuban Workers' Union, it was emphasized, without anyone blushing, that it is essential to at all times guarantee the revolutionary power of the workers, by the workers and for the workers. We have no idea whether some useful fools abroad or the opportunists who enjoy the fruits of the senile but very profitable leftist ideology, have really ever believed that the workers rule in this ravaged and enslaved island.
The truth is that no one here accepts that worn out slogan -- not the well-off union bureaucracy which enjoys the fringe benefits of the regime, although no one counts on that bureaucracy for anything; not the higher echelon government officials, and certainly not those under them, that is, the working classes, who are forced to make sacrifices, and to obey and respect.
This last conference was attended by delegates appointed by the all-embracing government, simply to approve, without showing any signs of discrepancy, the assertions previously made and lavishly printed by the party theoreticians, and once and for all, the rules of the game were spelled out. The following is a summary of those rules:
And so on and so forth throughout the lengthy document.
But nothing will change. No one listens to the CTC or to the national unions, the government or the administrators of state-owned companies. And that's because they know that anything those entities and administrators decide will be supported by the trained union glee club: The workers. Because they are convinced that in Cuba no one can defend them against the almighty central bureaucracy, and if they are penalized by the administration and protest, the union would probably step in and demand a larger penalty against them, just to "set an example."
In republican Cuba, before Castro, when we had a democratic form of government sometimes interrupted by some military coup d'etat, sometimes with some contradictions and defects, but where the people had a voice, vote and rights, the Cuban union ovement achieved significant goals, and, when necessary, there was a union voice interceding for the workers in any disputes with employers.
Today, with only one owner in the entire country, the all-encompassing state lurking behind the ministry, the state-owned company or mixed corporations where the government has the exclusive right to contract personnel, there is no alternative for the worker. He either obeys the arbitrariness coming from above, or he is fired and mercilessly demeaned.
For the hungry, subjected and silenced common Cuban worker, the native form of official socialistic slogans on the power of the workers and government by the workers is a joke, the election of so-called workers' leaders, a mockery, the unconditional submission to and praises of the regime by the executive officer of the CTC, a perfidy.
The CTC, the unions and their imposed leaders never disagree with the government, never denounce an injustice, never discover an error or any corruption. The country, ruined, sick and deprived of hope, in the frivolity of their speeches, the intricacy of their ideological dogmatism, lives in the best of worlds. Well, at least these pseudo-leaders, without any given talent or charisma, live better that those whom they claim to represent.
In the meantime, unemployment continues to rise throughout the country; with salaries being an average of $150 pesos per month, a little over $7 dollars at the official rate of exchange, hardly enough for any worker to cover his most elementary needs. Very capable and hard-working professionals are forced to perform work in a disorganized and unprofitable agriculture. Pensions plunge retired people into a status of misery bordering on mendicity.
Cuban officials insist that the workers rule in socialist Cuba, while the people have little or nothing to eat and are desperate. With thunderous voices and vigorous applause, syndicalists, who memorize large portions of Marx, Engels and Lenin's writings, but who have never put in long hours in a factory, a mine or a sugar cane plantation, ask workers to make more and more sacrifices.
Not everything is pessimism in today's Cuban workers' movement, for a free, dissident syndicalism is rising against the governmental anti-worker Cuban Workers' Union. A force which brings cohesiveness and understanding with different groups, a force that has already been identified and can no longer remain unseen, a force that provides an avenue for honest and hard-working people who are hungry for justice, transparency and the truth. These workers and their leaders don't give any ovations, they ask questions and make demands of those who have the duty to comply: the deaf and authoritarian authorities.
Translated for CubaNet by Elena Treto