SANCTI SPIRITUS, Cuba - Traveling around Cuba you get a feel for how Cubans struggle every day to develop their country. As an American it makes my blood boil to see how the U.S. government blockade of Cuba helps enforce poverty and underdevelopment on the Cuban people.
I met a young American doctor on a five hour bus ride from Baracoa to Santiago. Riding through the beautiful rural countryside he told me that what impressed him most about Cuba was how, even with all the apparent difficulties and underdevelopment, he didn't see hunger and homelessness. "They all pitch in," he said. "My bus from Havana broke down and a bunch of us got off to help the driver fix it. Really. Right there on the side of the road passengers and drivers passing tools, suggesting fixes and helping clean parts. You see that spirit all over the place."
So what does all this have to do with socialism USA and jobs you ask? It got me thinking about what building socialism is all about. It really is about developing resources to solve problems. It's about basics.
Why are communists, socialists, labor and the left so identified with the fight for jobs and full employment? Sure jobs are essential to well being and living, but it goes deeper than that. What is common to most societies trying to build socialism? Look at the Russian, the Chinese, the Vietnamese, and the Cuban experience and efforts. Take a look at all the emerging countries that had to throw off the yoke colonialism or neo-colonialism to move their countries forward and provide for their people. Or look at places where the left has won local control.
In all these efforts a common thread is concentration on the basics of development - jobs, education, health care, food, and housing, agrarian reform etc. With all the problems, with all the missteps, hardships, failures and even victories of these socialist projects, each pursued policies of full employment and collective problem solving. Even in capitalist societies the left works for these basics. For example the communist parties in India became mass parties and won many electoral victories by developing mass literacy campaigns preparing people for better employment and education opportunities.
What all these basics have in common is that they center on developing the most important natural resource that every country has - its human resource, its people. This is, in part, why literacy and education are so closely linked to jobs and employment policies in efforts to build socialism.
So back to socialism USA. One thing the current economic crisis brings home is that capitalism has outlived its usefulness. It's not just that over 8 million jobs have been lost in this "great recession" or that there were already millions of unemployed and underemployed even at the height of the boom before the crisis. It is a terrible toll in human suffering to be sure. It is also a terrible waste of human brain and muscle lost every day through this terrible crisis.
All the incredible wealth and treasure locked away in the bank vaults of the giant corporations and the rich can't seem to solve the burning problems of the day. No solutions for poverty, homelessness, jobs and health care, not to mention war, global warming, aids, cancer, urban sprawl and on and on.
What terrible waste. The where-with-all and wealth exists. Smart, hardworking people we have in abundance. Simply applying the needed resources in the right places will lead to solutions.
Free education and training for all - as much as you can eat - will help produce the cultural level, the brains and muscle needed. Scientists and teachers to bricklayers and programmers to artists and doctors and all the other talents we need.
Health care for all to not only keep us well and productive, but to cure diseases and expand the horizons of medicine.
Housing, food, and recreation because comfortable, well rested and well fed workers are the most productive and are most likely to make breakthroughs in real sustainable clean energy.
You get the idea. And yes I hear you - if it were that simple then it would have been done by now, right? Well no. Capitalism has too many vested corporate/financial interests that only want to solve problems if they can make money on the solutions. Their system is preserved by restricting opportunity and consumption and dividing people with competition and discrimination. Is that a system past its prime or what? Cut back and restrict our most important resource in our greatest time of need!
The ideal for socialism is "the living is easy, the work is hard." We fight for jobs because with jobs and resources there are no problems that working people can't solve. American working people are like the Cuban people, hard working, problem solving, pitch-in kind of folks.
End the blockade against Cuba and end the blockade against jobs, opportunity at home and watch the world change for the better.
Photo: High school students on their way walking home in Sancti Speritis, Cuba town center. Scott Marshall/PW