Lair Of A Squirrel Red


Comrade Fidel announces retirement by korakious
February 19, 2008, 10:15 pm
Filed under: Cuba | Tags:

Enjoy your retirement comrade.

I shall not be commenting on this. I made a post about it not too long ago.

The struggle continues.

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Raul Castro’s Speech to the National Assembly. by korakious
January 12, 2008, 5:05 am
Filed under: Cuba, Latin America

The Lair reopens after the festive season with a follow up to my previous post about the change of guard in Cuba. This is a speech Raul Castro made to the National Assembly shortly before the end of 2007, on December the 28th. It’s quite interesting in that it bears traits of Andropovian self-criticism, as in opposed to being an “everything is great, we shall prevail” tirade. I promise to return shortly with an actual post.

Compañeras and compañeros:

We have had a good meeting on the Economic Plan and Budget approved for next year. Above all, it has been the briefest in history.

The objective of this speech is to share some reflections with you on the economic and social situation of the country.

Without any doubt this last year has been one of intense work with the active participation of all the people. Less than three months have gone by since the conclusion of the 215,687 meetings organized in the context of the discussion promoted by our Party, based on the concepts expressed at the central event for the 54th anniversary of the assault on the Moncada and Carlos Manuel de Céspedes Garrisons.

When our Party called for reflections on what was posed on July 26 in Camagüey, the objective was not for us to get to know about problems. Really, the majority of them are known and I talked about many of them on that occasion, at least on the ones that we consider fundamental to the well-being of the population and the effective socioeconomic functioning of the country.

That our appreciation is correct has been confirmed by more than five million citizens in the meetings for study and reflection that took place during September and October, and described as needed and useful.

Many of the proposals refer to local problems or are related to the deficiencies and errors of specific people; so those will have to be confronted and solved in a direct manner where they are occurring.

In response, the different leadership levels of the Party, government, mass organizations and workplaces have been directed to immediately adopt measures to solve problems that do not have to wait for a higher decision, which has been taking place.

The principal and decisive aim of this great effort has been to find, with the conscious and active participation of the overwhelming majority of Cubans, the best solutions within the reach of the country’s economic possibilities, given that, as I said recently, nobody here is a magician or can pull resources out of a hat.

Moreover, time is needed to study, organize and plan how to attain the proposed objectives with the greatest quality and efficiency. The former is not solely dependent on the will or interest of those involved in solving the problem; to a large extent it also depends on the availability of resources and the authority and qualities of the cadres involved and their constancy.

Experience demonstrates the importance of analyzing problems in an integral way, to conciliate decisions and act with rationality.

Of course, not all of the proposals and suggestions can be applied as a whole. A consensus will have to be forged decide the most rational and appropriate ones, as in more than a few cases, they are contradictory, and certain opinions reflect a lack of information, particularly in the economic sphere.

This process has ratified something fundamental: those occupying a leadership post must know how to listen and how to create an opportune environment for the rest to express themselves with absolute freedom. This is something that must be definitively incorporated into the style of work of every leader, in conjunction with the opportune instruction, criticism or disciplinary measure.

We would all like to move faster, but that is not always possible.

Our people receive information in many ways and work is ongoing to improve those ways and eliminate the harmful tendency to triumphalism and complacency, so as to guarantee that every compañero/a with a specific political or administrative responsibility systematically informs on their brief with realism, in a clear, critical and self-critical manner.

That is the objective of the recent TV/Radio “Roundtables” on national issues, with the presence of the heads of the agencies most centrally involved. These will continue to take place as long as there is something important on which to inform. The same thing should be done in the provinces and municipalities, not just by the media but also directly, in the barrios and in people’s workplaces, where many problems can be solved or explained.

WHEN PROPERLY EXERCISED, CRITICISM IS ESSENTIAL IN TERMS OF ADVANCING

The national press has also contributed to an analysis of the issues that are vital to the population and the country’s socioeconomic development. When it is properly exercised, criticism is essential in terms of advancing.

Many compañeras and compañeros are witness to the rigor with which the 1.3 million proposals put together from the 3,255,344 speeches made are being studied. They constitute a highly useful source of information both for the present and the future.

We are in agreement with those who have warned on an excess of prohibitions and legal measures, which do more harm than good. We could say that the majority of them were correct and just in their time, but more than a few of them have been superceded by life, and behind every incorrect prohibition lie a large number of illegalities.

In relation to one of the issues most raised in the meetings: food production and its high price; the country is working with the urgency that that vital matter requires, given its direct and daily impact on the life of the population, above all on those people with lower incomes.

There have been advances in the studies and we will continue to act, with all the speed that circumstances permit, so that land and resources are in the hands of those who are capable of producing with efficiency, so that they feel supported, socially recognized and receive the material retribution that they deserve.

I have not attempted to fully cover any one of the issued raised; we shall have to return to them time and time again. As we hoped, this has been a critical process, in which the majority of our compatriots clearly stated their support for our social system, the Commander in Chief and the Party.

Millions of Cubans expressed considerations and suggestions directed at improving our socialism. As I said a few days ago in Santiago de Cuba, it has been a sound demonstration of the people’s high level of awareness and political culture.

WHAT PARTICULARLY INTERESTS US IS THAT THE POSITIVE PERFORMANCE OF MACROECONOMIC INDICATORS IS REFLECTED AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE IN THE HOUSEHOLD ECONOMY

Progress in the economy is undeniable, expressed in the growth of the Gross Domestic Product in recent years, but what particularly interests us is that the positive performance of macroeconomic indicators is reflected as much as possible in the household economy, where everyday shortages are present.

Decisions directed at the gradual solution of different problems in education, health, transport, housing and recreation, just to name a few pressing issues, are being discussed, part of which may be resolved or at least improved in reasonable amounts of time, above all those stemming from subjective causes. The most important of these issues was addressed in the reports given to the deputies for this session of the Assembly, and which were previously thoroughly debated in the commissions.

The solution to many difficulties requires increasing the effectiveness of the investment process. Priorities must be established, labor and resources must be better organized and modern technology must be introduced. This effort should contribute to increasing productivity. And something essential: any investments begun must be concluded in the set time frame, otherwise resources are mobilized without any benefits being seen.

Various other complex matters, such as the existence of two currencies and deformations in the systems of wages and prices, require thorough study, which will be undertaken with the moderation, rigor and responsibility they deserve.

We should determine, with the active participation of everyone, what – under our conditions – are the most effective channels for ensuring sustained growth in national production and the country’s export capacity, reducing imports and investing our resources in well-defined priorities, for systematically seeking productive efficiency and improving the enterprise system linked to performance. Moreover, we are obliged to defend the country’s credibility with respect to its creditors, and to guarantee the necessary resources for investments that ensure a perspective of development.

As was said here, conservation is one of the greatest sources of resources for achieving what I have mentioned, but some citizens, groups of workers and institutions still have an insufficient awareness of its importance.

The criticism of the population is a just one regarding the irrational use of resources in certain state entities due to disorganization, a lack of oversight and exigency, while at the same time social and economic needs remain pending.

However, as I explained in Camagüey, not all problems and shortages are due to internal deficiencies. There is also the influence of an international economic situation that we cannot avoid, characterized by accelerated growth in the prices of the fuel and food that we buy, just to mention two basic lines, although in reality, almost everything we import has gone up in price and will keep going up.

In addition to that, as we know, there are the losses resulting from the economic blockade of Cuba and the need to deal with the consequences of natural disasters produced by climate change, which are growing in magnitude and frequency. Suffice it to point to just one of the climatological events in the eastern part of the country, where were forced to spend an unforeseen $499 million.

NOBODY DOUBTS THE FIRM CONVICTION DEMONSTRATED BY OUR PEOPLE IN THE FACT THAT ONLY SOCIALISM CAN OVERCOME THE DIFFICULTIES

As we can see, the challenges we have before us are enormous, but nobody doubts the firm conviction demonstrated by our people in the fact that only socialism can overcome the difficulties and preserve the conquests of almost a half century of Revolution.

A Revolution that belongs to all of us, given that it was born and has grown thanks to the efforts and sacrifice of many generations of patriots. Making it stronger every day until it is invulnerable in every aspect depends on the hands and consciousness of all of us, the Cubans of today and of tomorrow.

It would be suicide not to behave that way in response to a U.S. administration that, as compañero Alarcón has just explained, has intensified its aggressiveness against Cuba in order to satisfy the interests of the most extremist groups in that country.

Evidence of that is the intensification of the economic war as part of the reinforcement of the Bush Plan, which includes measures for putting on pressure and desperate and unsuccessful attempts at destabilizing the country, in order to mount new pretexts for justifying its hostile policy, against which there is increasing international opposition, including among ever-growing layers of U.S. society itself.

Our people take every threat very seriously. That can be seen by Operation Caguairán, which has made it possible to train approximately 430,000 reserve combatants and militia members, as well as other essential tasks like the modernization of our armament, the preparation of the theater of military operations, important maneuvers and the recently-concluded Moncada 2007 exercise, all of which substantially strengthen the country’s defense capacity and lay the foundations that will contribute to the successful execution, at the end of next year, of the strategic exercise Bastion 2008.

Given the intensification of subversive maneuvers and efforts to isolate us internationally, internal stability has been preserved, the country has continued to consolidate its socioeconomic development, and the international prestige of the Revolution has been strengthened.

During the year, as has been mentioned here, significant progress was made in the implementation of strategic programs, which has had a positive repercussion on the economy and on improving our people’s living conditions, such as the “energy revolution,” to cite just one example.

On the political level, the immense majority of Cubans resoundingly demonstrated their determination to preserve and defend the Revolution during the elections for People’s Power delegates this past October, and we are sure that it will be that way this January 20, when we elect our delegates to the Provincial Assemblies and the deputies that will comprise our National Assembly.

In the presidency of the Non-Aligned Movement, Cuba maintained its vitality and influence in important multilateral processes.

Once again, the U.S. government, despite enormous efforts, was unable to impose its attempts to condemn our country in the field of human rights, while at the same time it received a crushing defeat in the United Nations General Assembly record vote against the blockade.

The recent visit by President Chávez, the PETROCARIBE Summit and the progress made by the ALBA (Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas) have been important steps in consolidating regional integration mechanisms.

Our work in the coming year should be characterized by its systematic character; effective organization, planning and control; working for priorities and using resources rationally; increasing labor productivity and efficiency; and strengthening integration, cooperation and unity in the leadership activities of state agencies, the government, the Union of Young Communists and mass organizations on every level, in order to face together, under the leadership of the Party, the main problems affecting our people.

In the name of our Commander in Chief, of the Central Committee of the Party and of the members of this Assembly, we transmit to our compatriots well-deserved congratulations, despite all the difficulties and aggressions, for everything we have done to successfully arrive at “Year 50 of the Revolution,” which doubtlessly will also be one of modest victories in every aspect.

The deputies that make up this Sixth Legislature have known how to comply with the mandate of our people and deserve our recognition. Some of you have been newly nominated, others will no longer serve in this capacity and will continue to carry out your usual work, because as it is known, nobody earns one cent for being a member of this Assembly. I can assure all of you that one thing that won’t be lacking is plenty of work.

Whatever the responsibility entrusted to us, we will rise to the level of the trust that our heroic people have placed in us, and to the honor of being soldiers of a Revolution led by a Commander in Chief who, with his example and wisdom, has always led us to victory.

Being worthy of a people who for decades has faced, with courage and stoicism, every danger and difficulty; a people whose youth are demonstrating that they are acting in accordance with their glorious history, with one true example being that of our five heroes imprisoned by the empire, who next year will complete 10 years of unjust punishment in U.S. prisons.

I wish all Cuban men and women a happy 2008. Celebrate, rest, recover your strength, you deserve it.

And let’s all work hard!

Thank you very much.



Fidel hints of retirement from power by korakious
December 21, 2007, 3:25 pm
Filed under: Cuba, Fidel, Socialism, Theory


Sovietological conventional wisdom in the academic Anglosphere revolved, and to a lesser extent still does, around the paradigm of “Totalitarianism”. With the exception of scholars like Lewin and Cohen, academics believed that in the USSR, and by extension, in all Actually Existing Socialist states that followed more or less the same organisational principles, power rested on a single centre of authority with a stranglehold over all levels of society, the Party led by a supreme leader. In “Totalitarian” states, all initiatives came from the top and made their way to the bottom through successive layers of privileged bureaucrats. Change at the top was impossible as long as the leader was alive, because of his absolute power, while there was also no chance of oppositional political initiative coming from the bureaucratic middle class (which bourgeois social scientists tend to regard as a force for change by some bizarre logic) because it had a vested interest in preserving the system. Apart from its inherent methodological ineptitude – lumping together the special case of the USSR, the Eastern European states that were established after the war and those that were built after successful national liberation movements as if they were all one and the same – the Totalitarian paradigm came to be empirically discredited as well for as we all know, or should know, the fall of the USSR was the – immediate – result of an initiative from the very top and the power struggle that followed it at mid level. This brought to the fore the various bizarre ideologies held by the nomenklatura, a product of the bizarre nature of the Soviet system, from gang-ho pro-Western neoliberalism to corporatist nationalism, all of which are represented at different degrees in present day Russia’s political spectrum. It was certainly a far cry from the uniform, religious adherence to “Marxism-Leninism” which Totalitarianism analysts would have us believe.

On Monday, Totalitarianism was dealt a further blow when in a letter to Cuban national television, Fidel Castro hinted that he may soon be leaving the President’s office;. Fidel wrote that:

My elemental duty is not to cling to positions, or even less to obstruct the path of younger people, but to share experiences and ideas whose modest worth comes from the exceptional era in which I lived

This could very well mean that Fidel does not intend to stand for the Council of State, which the National Assembly will have to elect some time before the 5th of March. The most likely successors are Raul Castro and Cuba’s 42 year old Foreign Minister, Felipe Perez Roque. I do not favour any of the two, but I do admit to having a preference for younger leaders. Indeed, a young President would go a long way to fixing State Socialism’s gerontocratic image. In any case however, it is certain that both Fidel and Raul, as well as the rest of the Revolutionary generation will retain strong influence over politics, as do all well respected and popular leaders. And long may they live for their experience is an invaluable asset to the whole of the anti-imperialist wave that is currently sweeping Latin America.

The importance of this is that it is the latest in a series of developments that have included Raul’s encouragement to public debate on various issues, indicating a move towards grassroots democratic developments in Cuba. This is not the result of evil Castro’s withdrawal as various outlets seem to think, but rather the result of Cuba managing to survive the Special Period against all odds, a powerful demonstration of the resilient spirit of the Revolution. The Bolivarian process in Venezuela has also provided vital breathing space for the formerly isolated island, providing Cuba with cheap oil in return for doctors and teachers.

I personally welcome the coming to power of a new revolutionary leadership. I hope that Cuban communists have learned from history that there are many snakes amongst well meaning reformers and that any structural/institutional changes that may be implemented in the future do not in anyway harm the socialist character of the economy. It is very likely that a struggle for power will break out between the reforming elements of the bureaucracy, the Ligachev like conservatives and the Yeltsinites. The latter are the prime enemies of peasants and workers alike. As for the Cuban people – fully behind the revolution in their vast majority – it is necessary that they involve themselves in Cuba’s popular power organs to infuse any reforms with a true grassroots element and prevent those who wish to see capitalism restored from gaining even the slightest influence.

It is certain that the beacon of anti-imperialist resistance that is Cuba will soon be going through interesting times. Of course, there has hardly been an uninteresting time in Cuba following the revolution. The difference here is that in the not too distant future we will soon see the withdrawal of the revolutionary generation from the political stage.The power of the revolutionary spirit will be judged by the actions of those who did not live through the revolution itself, who do not remember the Batista years and the Bay of Pigs invasion. The nature of the revolution itself will also be reflected by the extent to which people who are not emotionally attached to it by personal experience are willing to defend it and deepen it. In short, what will be shown in the following years is the extent to which the revolution was successful in becoming a long term process, an everyday part of people’s lives, a true revolution, rather than merely an institutional change. I am quite confident that this is the case.



Castro smites Bush over biofuel by korakious
March 30, 2007, 7:37 pm
Filed under: Cuba, energy, environment, Fidel, Imperialism

I was very happy to see today that Fidel Castro wrote an article for Granma lambasting Dubya for his newly found love for bio fuel. I was excited because this is Castro’s first comment on international politics in quite some time, meaning that the old man is indeed getting better, and because it is always good to have such respected socialists commenting on environmental issues (the old left thinks environmental concerns are petty bourgeois).

On to the article itself now. The title of Guardian’s report , “Castro warns poor will starve for greener fuel” is quite misleading, whether or not deliberately. By the title alone, it would seem that Castro is against green energy per se. Anyone who has been keeping an eye on developments in Cuba will of course know that this is couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Castro correctly argues that the cost for producing biofuel from food will be paid by the poor people of the world as the third world countries that form the majority of agricultural producers will sell their food crops as fuel. What this implies is, in simple terms, a competition for food between the people of the third world and… cars:

Other countries in the rich world are planning to use not only corn but also wheat, sunflower seeds, rapeseed and other foods for fuel production. For the Europeans, for example, it would become a business to import all of the worldТs soybeans with the aim of reducing the fuel costs for their automobiles and feeding their animals with the chaff from that legume, particularly rich in all types of essential amino acids.

Further, he made the point that funding bio fuel production could lead to many poor countries to turn forests into farmland, thus exacerbating the problem of climate change. George Monbiot has been arguing along similar lines for some time now. The argument is supported by evidence of ever accelerating deforestation in the third world. The liberal sycophant will of course rush to tell you that this is because of “bad” and “irresponsible” governments – how strange that they only exist in the third world! – and that things would be far better if there was internal reform. Not once will it cross their mind that government corruption and deforestation is the product of the global North’s imperialist exploitation.

But enough with bashing imperialism. None but the most empty headed liberal or crypto first world chauvinistic Trot would assert that the third world is responsible for its own problems. Let’s take a look at what Cuba is doing to prevent climate chaos.

For one, Cuba has replaced all incandescent light bulbs and their ~90% energy loss with fluorescent bulbs that produce light of equal intensity at only 20% of the energy normal bulbs use. Cuba made this move 2 years before Australia enacted similar legislation. Of course, no major news source picked it up back then.

More importantly, Cuba and Venezuela have embarked on a joint effort to produce biofuel from sugar cane alcohol, thus sparing food crops. Forest protection and tree planting schemes will also ensure that Cuba’s woodlands will not become the victim of her energy needs.

That’s just a couple of the efforts that have earned Cuba the honour of being the only country with fully sustainable development. Meanwhile, in Britain, carbon emissions continue to rise while Brown and Cameron fight over whose policies are greener. The truth of course is that none of them is. There’s really nothing green about spending an obscene amount of money on renewing Trident, when it could be spent on providing Free Public Transport.

You’ve got to be red to be green.