CUBA - SOCIALISM INTO THE 21ST CENTURY

FRFI 201 February / March 2008

Between 21 February and 7 March representatives of three generations of revolutionary Cubans will be speaking around Britain. They bring with them direct experience of a working class in power. Cuban socialism has placed human beings at the centre of society and development. Cubans enjoy a system of social welfare provision which is among the best in the world. They have created a system of democratic representation which gives an active role to all sectors of society. The Cuban revolution has become synonymous with international solidarity, sending doctors and educators around the globe. All this achieved despite nearly 50 years of military and political aggression from the United States, including a brutal economic blockade.

Cuba’s example is an inspiration to those fighting imperialism all over the world.

Now a united front has been formed in Latin America. Governments representing the working class and oppressed of Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua have united with Cuba to create the Bolivarian Alternative, directly challenging the regional and global hegemony of the US and its allies.

While the British Labour government wages a brutal war against the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, undermines democratic rights, implements racist policies to impoverish, imprison and deport asylum seekers and other immigrants, and privatises essential services, Cuba demonstrates what an alternative to capitalism can look like.

Come along to a meeting near you, listen to what the Cubans have to say and get involved in building a movement in Britain against racism and imperialism, and for socialism.

The cubans are coming

ORLANDO BORREGO
Orlando Borrego was born in 1936 to a peasant family who identified with the Orthodox Party, a progressive, anti-cor­ruption party led by Eduardo Chibas. In March 1952, weeks before the general election which the Orthodox Party was expected to win, General Fulgencio Batista carried out his coup d’etat with support from the US administration.

Secondary school students rebelled. Among them was Borrego, who joined the 26 July Movement led by Fidel Castro, which went on to attack the Moncada Barracks in Santiago on 26 July 1953. When Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara’s Rebel Army column arrived in the Escambray Mountains in central Cuba in October 1958, Borrego joined them, becoming a first lieutenant by the time of the triumph of the Revolution on 1 January 1959.

In late 1959, Che was named head of the Department of Industrialisation with in the National Institute of Agrarian Reform (INRA) – formed by the first Agrarian Reform Law of May 1959 as the principal vehicle for pushing through revolutionary change as old state institutions were dismantled. While members of the liberal bourgeoisie offi­cially ran the government, INRA was under control of the revolutionaries, backed by the armed force of the Rebel Army of workers and peasants.

As director of the Department of Industrialisation, Che took with him only three individuals from his guerilla column, one of whom was Borrego. A month after the Department officially began work Che was named President of the National Bank. Borrego was left to run the Department of Industrialisation, which grew in importance as busi­nesses, factories and plants were appropriated and nationalised by the revolu­tionary government. Borrego had regu­lar midnight meetings with Che in the bank offices to discuss progress.

In February 1961 the new Ministry of Industries (MININD) was inaugurated with Che as Minister and Borrego as Vice Minister of Basic Industries. As Che’s responsibilities expanded, along with the ministry, Borrego was named First Vice Minister, dealing with most of the daily management of the ministry.

Borrego was part of Che’s inner circle of vice-ministers and advisors in MININD. He was one of a small team involved in weekly Capital reading seminars with Che, taught by a professsor sent from Moscow, who was pushed to the limits by analytical debates with Che. Borrego was central to the development of the Budgetary Finance System (BFS), an alternative economic management system for transition to socialism in the concrete conditions of 1960s Cuba. This system set out to prove that it was possible to build socialist consciousness simultaneously with the productive forces in the initial stages of transition to socialism.

In June 1964 Borrego became Cuba’s first Minister of Sugar, in a country dominated by the sugar industry. He took the BFS to the new Ministry of Sugar (MINAZ), working closely with Che to improve the system. MINAZ carried out innovative projects at a national level to assess the correlation between consciousness and production. In April 1965, Che left Cuba to fight in the Congo, leaving behind three volumes of Marx’s Capital for Borrego with a note that read:’Borrego, this is the source, here we learnt everything together, in fits and starts, searching what is still barely intuition…Thank you for your firmness and your loyalty. Let nothing separate you from the course. A hug, Che.’

The campaign in the Congo failed and Che went underground in Tanzania and Czechoslovakia. During this time he wrote his critical notes on the Soviet Manual of Political Economy. His intention was to write an alternative manual for the transition to socialism, appropriate to Cuban and, perhaps, Latin American conditions. Che sent his notes back to Borrego to guard in Cuba. In 1966, Borrego caught up with Che, who had entered Cuba in secret and was preparing his group of guerrillas for the campaign in Bolivia. During this period of preparation, Borrego visited Che to discuss socialist political economy, the critique of the USSR manual and the BFS.

Today Borrego is adviser for the Minister of Transport. Since 2004, he has been invited to Venezuela on several occasions to lecture economists, revolutionaries and policy makers about Che’s economic management system. Borrego’s book Che: El Camino del Fuego, 2001 (Che: The Path of Fire), about Che’s work as a member of the Cuban government and his ideas on socialist transition, has since been published and widely circulated in Venezuela, leading President Chavez to declare in 2005:

‘Che was more than just a martyr, more than just a heroic guerrilla fighter, he was also a minister in the Cuban government and developed many ideas on how to build the new socialist society...we must study and learn from his thoughts.’

Since then, Borrego has written a book of anecdotes which captures the rich human experience of working with Che and another book analysing the seven different economic management systems adopted in Cuba since 1959, Rumbo al Socialismo, 2006 (Heading to Socialism). Borrego’s importance and contribution lie not just in being a comrade and companion working under the leadership of two great revolutionary communists: Che Guevara and Fidel Castro. His intimacy with, and insight into, the problems, contradictions and possible solutions in socialist construction, means he has a great deal to offer and debate. He remains sternly principled yet anti-dogmatic in upholding Guevara’s approach to revolutionary socialism.

JESUS GARCIA
Jesus had just turned seven at the triumph of the Revolution in January 1959. He graduated with a degree in physics at the University of Havana in 1973, before carrying out research into magnetism, and marine and atmospheric physics, between 1974 and 1980. He studied philosophical sciences at the Academy of Sciences in the USSR, being awarded a doctorate in 1986.

Since 1982 he was a researcher at the Institute of Philosophy, part of the Ministry of Science, Technology and the Environment. In 1986, Cuba initiated a period known as Rectification, a push to improve and deepen Cuban socialist development, pulling back from the Soviet model and returning to the essence of Che Guevara’s concepts of socialist construction. Jesus was involved in studies examining the state of Cuban society and development, focusing on dialectical relationships between the economy and the political sphere; the Cuban state and the development of democracy; government and popular participation. He has led national studies by Cuban experts examining the interrelationships between socialism, political economy, democracy and governance. In 2005 he joined a group of researchers convened by the Communist Party to study the causes and characteristics of corruption in Cuba.

Jesus gives postgraduate courses to both Cubans and foreigners on the development of Cuban society. He is a postgraduate professor at the Cuban University of Computer Sciences. He has travelled abroad to Europe and Latin America giving courses and conferences on economics and politics in socialist development in general, and analysing the Cuban experience in particular. He cooperates closely with the revolutionary government, academics and policy-makers in Venezuela.

Jesus is the academic coordinator of the international conference on the work of Karl Marx and the challenges of the 21st century hosted in Havana at two yearly intervals. He is the author of five books and dozens of articles about the Cuban economy, the state, and interactions between these and the analysis of Marx, Engels and Lenin on capitalism, revolution and leadership in transition to socialism. His work has been published in the former Soviet Union, Chile, France, Brazil, Mexico, Spain, the US and Cuba.

Jesus is also a political activist and representative in Cuba’s grass roots democratic system. At 18 he became an activist in the Union of Young Communists (UJC), where he had diverse responsibilities for 13 years, as well as being a trade union leader. In the 1980s he was elected by his neighbours for six consecutive years as the President of his local Committee for the Defence of the Revolution. He was elected as his area’s delegate to the Municipal (borough) Assembly of People’s Power from 1986 to 2000, and re-elected between 2005 and 2007. Between 1989 and 1998 he has also represented his municipality on the Provincial Assembly for the City of Havana and served as the President of the People’s Council in his area. During this time he has continued to participate in permanent study commissions.

YOSELIN RUFIN
Yoselin began training as a teacher at university in Matanzas Province in 2000 where she joined the movement of student assistants and became the gen­eral secretary of the UJC in the Humanities Department.

When Cuba launched a campaign to reduce class sizes to 20, Yoselin answered the call for emergency teachers and began practical work as an Integrated General Teacher whilst studying in her second year at one of the new micro-universities set up at municipal level.

Yoselin was elected president of the Cardenas municipality Federation of University Students (FEU) and remains president today. She has received many awards as a distinguished student and graduated with a Gold Diploma.

Since 2004, Yoselin has been a member of FEU’s National Council and in 2006 she was on the national organising commission for the 7th FEU Congress. She has continued as a member of the UJC and in 2007 became one of the youngest members of the Cuban Communist Party. She is a member of the government’s Permanent Commissions for Candidacy, Recreation, Social Prevention and Drugs.

Speaking tour itinerary

LONDON
Thursday 21 February
6.30pm, Public meeting Bolivar Hall,
54 Grafton Way, London W1T 5DL,
hosted by the Venezuelan Embassy in
partnership with the Cuban Embassy.
Tel: 07964 814 365
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

NOTTINGHAM

Friday 22 February
2pm, Meeting Cuba Research Forum,
University of Nottingham NG7 (contact CRF on
0115 951 5800 to attend)
7pm, Public meeting and social event, venue
tbc contact us for details

LIVERPOOL

Saturday 23 February
2-6pm, Public meeting El Rincon, Roscoe
Street (off Hardman Street), Liverpool, L1
followed by social evening 8pm till late
Tel: 07956 458 331 E-mail:
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

MANCHESTER

Sunday 24 February
2pm, Public meeting Mechanics Institute,
Princess Street/Major Street. Doors open 1pm
Tel: 07940 988 203 E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Monday 25 February
12 noon at Manchester Metropolitan
University, The Wesley Centre, Crewe
Campus. Speaker: Yoselin Rufin
2pm at the University of Manchester, Theatre
5, Stopford Building, Oxford Road. Speakers:
Orlando Borrego and Jesus Garcia

LEEDS

Monday 25 February
7pm, The Common Place, 23-25 Wharf Street,
Leeds LS2 7QE

NORTH EAST

Tuesday 26 February
12-3pm, Public meeting hosted by North East
NUM, Miners Hall, Red Hill, Durham DH1 4BD
7-10pm, Public meeting Murray House
Community Centre, Diana Street,
Fenham/Arthur’s Hill, Newcastle NE4 6BQ
Tel: 07858 346 276 E-mail:
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Wednesday 27 February
1-4pm, Public meeting Northumbria
University Student Union, Stage 2, Sandyford
Road, Newcastle NE1 8SB

 

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