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Issue #1590      April 24, 2013

A more efficient socialism

Australian Cuban Friendship Society Consultation

It was heartening as a member of the Australian Cuban Friendship Society to attend the annual Consultation with the Cuban Ambassador which this year was held in the lush green Queensland capital city of Brisbane at the Kurilpa Hall, West End.

Participants at the Cuban Consultation at Kurilpa Hall in Brisbane.

The Cuban Ambassador Pedro Monzon on the Saturday morning gave the opening address to the Consultation. Mr Monzon reaffirmed his country’s belief in being “Marxist and followers of our apostle Jose Marti.”

The task of the Cuban people included, “The need to protect their country from a powerful and expansionist neighbour to the west” which continues to make life difficult for the Cuban people through the harsh and cruel economic blockade, the presence of the illegal military base at Guantánamo Bay and the ongoing imprisonment of its Five Cuban patriots now approaching their 15th year in captivity.

Monzon spoke at length about the changes to the Cuban economy, perhaps anticipating the vigorous discussion which would follow his address.

However, Monzon said there was a need to “make a more efficient socialism” and that this “would not go towards a capitalist economy”.

He said with the changes they have made there will be some mistakes, but that Cuba had to continue its challenge to find the way between social justice and efficiency. It would only be with efficiency that employment would be created which would in turn create value which generated income and fed and housed the people.

This meant, “increasing employment in the non-state sector through the “cuenta propia” system or the holding of one’s own accounts (small business).

This system of economic activity was continuing to be concentrated in the development of services and small business which he emphasised, “does not mean we are going to privatise the economy; the state sector will maintain production of the most vital sectors.”

In conclusion Pedro Monzon assured the Consultation that, “The (Cuban) economy will be run with greater efficiency but still with socialist principles.”

This would be guided by “our democracy which will be participatory and not representative.”

Following Monzon’s address the floor was given over to questions of which most were related to the new economic direction of Cuba.

In regards to some of the difficulties being encountered by people with “cuenta propia” he said that Cubans were not used to taxation but that the monthly fee of 80 Cuban pesos was not much considering the turnover of some businesses.

In regard to a question from Melbourne delegate Joan Coxsedge who was concerned that Cuba has taken some measures that are capitalist in nature, Monzon replied that Cuba needed to make changes to stimulate production and that, “the law of value cannot be avoided even; if you close your eyes it will not go away.”

Another delegate remarked that, “increasingly people were questioning capitalism around the world and the shortcomings it produces,” to which the Ambassador responded by asserting, “A high level of socialism produces paternalism” but that Cuba wanted to “maintain our society with socialist characteristics.”

Another highlight was the presentation by a Cuban trained doctor from Timor Leste, Dr Merita Montera who was also President of the Australian Cuba-East Timor Friendship Association.

Dr Montera addressed the Consultation on how the concept was first born when the then Cuban President Fidel Castro in 2003 met with then East Timorese President Xanana Gusmao to discuss the training of doctors and provision of medicine for East Timor.

This was brought about through people being selected in East Timor to be trained in Cuba for six years and then being returned to practice in all regions of the country including some of its more remote areas where there were often no roads. As well as being trained as doctors they were also trained as social workers to facilitate measures of prevention which often saved more lives than medical intervention.

Dr Montera noted that there was also the ability of East Timorese to go to Indonesia to study medicine but that because this was expensive, when the medical interns came back to East Timor they preferred to stay in the urban areas to practice medicine as that was where they could make money.

Saturday night concluded with a dinner and cultural evening which included performances by the Combined Unions Choir, Jumping Fences, Venezuelan folk dancing by Vanessa Losada and the highlight of the evening being a performance of vocal harmonies by four related Guatemalan women led by Marina, Leonor, Amabilia and Elba Orellana who perform under the name Tikal.

The Communist Party of Australia expresses its solidarity with the Cuban revolution and support for the work of the Australia Cuba Friendship Societies around the country.   

Next article – Legal action over Hakea detention

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