What does a victorious revolution do after a half century in power? “We shall continue to analyze with the people, particularly with the workers, with the same transparency and confidence we’ve always had.” Speaking July 26 in Santiago de Cuba at the former Moncada Barracks, President Raul Castro pledged, “We shall continue to care for, prepare and listen to our youth.”

The occasion was the 55th anniversary of the attack that launched the current phase of Cuba’s long revolutionary struggle. The fact-based, pragmatic tone of Castro’s remarks was appropriate to a national agenda of repair and adjustment.

Castro shifted from citing Communist hero Ruben Martinez Villena’s reference to the “tenacious scab of colonization,” to former President Fidel Castro’s 1973 condemnation of waste and depletion of resources, and to cataloguing ongoing water and road projects in Eastern Cuba aimed at renewing storm-damaged infrastructure.

Castro covered oil refineries and fertilizer factories, direct distribution of milk from producers to stores, coordinated truck availability, reduced tourist industry costs, and the return of retired teachers to the classroom, with pensions plus salaries, in response to Cuba’s shortage of 8,000 teachers. He reminded listeners that Cuba and the entire global south are endangered by food shortages, rising prices and climate change.

The president touched upon pressing problems he has dealt with in other settings, particularly in his July 11 speech to the National Assembly. Government leaders and the media have reviewed origins and potential impact of problems and summarized reams of data with the object of securing people’s understanding and a coordinated approach to solutions.

Food import costs, for example, are up 30 to 40 percent this year, to $2.5 billion. Cuba imports 70 percent of its food. Half its agricultural land lies idle. Under Resolution 259, recently passed by the National Assembly, landless farmers may on their own use up to 33 acres, and those with land up to 99 acres, both on a renewable basis. Under the legislation, the agricultural ministry was decentralized and credit made available to farmers for equipment and materials.

Another area of major uncertainty is support for retired workers. Those older than 60 make up 16.6 percent of the population now, but in 40 years that number will have risen to 30 percent. In 2025, there will be 2.3 active workers per retiree; there were four in 1990. Who will pay, asks José Alejandro Rodríguez, writing in Juventud Rebelde (Rebel Youth).

The need, he suggests, is to “energize the still insufficient work productivity in Cuba, by spurring deep transformations in our economy that come closer to offering a system of pay commensurate with appraisable results.”

Other commentaries stress that solutions will occur incrementally, over time. Stopgap legislation envisioned for later this year would gradually advance the retirement age for men to 65 and for women to 60 between 2009 and 2015. President Castro said, “The process of study and consultation with all of the workers will begin next September.”

Cuban leaders have introduced the notion of salaries based on productivity and work quality, with determination potentially at the work site, especially by cooperatives. Discussions on salary are ongoing in workplaces and unions throughout Cuba.

It is necessary to explain difficulties, President Castro said, “So we can be better prepared to face them. We must get used to receiving not only good news.” He pointed out that “We cannot spend in excess of what we have, [and] to make the best of what we have it is indispensable to save everything, foremost fuel.” He called for “efficiency in the use of our economic and human resources [and] the courage to rectify the mistakes made on the side of idealism in the management of our economy.’

The socialist thread in the current phase of Cuba’s development is evident in state planning, popular participation in decision-making, universal and equitable sharing in the benefits and pain of policies, the factoring out of profit and corporate power, and the promotion of international solidarity. And farmers use land, not own it.

atwhit @roadrunner.com

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