Nils Castro : The people take the initiative

The people take the initiative

Source: Rebellion published under creative commons licence
Nils Castro is an Argentinian born writer who has worked in Cuba as an academic. Here he provides his perception of the current situation in Cuba from a Marxist perspective that casts a very different light on the issues from that which is represented in the western media.

The unforeseen incidents of discontent on July 11, 2021 gave the Cuban leadership the opportunity to go on the offensive with one of the basic qualities of the Revolution: the ability to multiply dialogues with the people and stimulate their participation, in each sector and community, to undertake the solution to their problems.

Understanding this subject ‑‑ “if it is a struggle” ‑‑ in the sense that is both plural and inclusive with which in History will absolve me, he specified his concept of people . A meaning of ‘the struggle’  that maintains all the certainty and conviction that gave rise to it. [1]

We know that the annoyances which gave rise to the events of 11 July are the consequence of the overwhelming accumulation of damages – material and psychological – inflicted by more than 60 years of hostility and economic blockade that were intensified by successive governments of Washington against the Cuban nation and people, damages that were further aggravated by the effects of the Covid 19 pandemic. It was an accumulation of unrest and nonconformity that has now been methodically redirected to orchestrate, in some urban locations, another outbreak of predatory actions designed to assemble a greater counterrevolutionary spectacle on 15 November. A complex and expensive operation that, obviously, has not yet been completed. [2]

Probably, if the necessary participatory institutional and political work had been maintained in these urban areas, this manipulation of dissatisfaction would not have been able to take off. In other words, a certain reappearance, among the revolutionary ranks, of a work style contaminated with political self-sufficiency, bureaucratic insensitivity or lethargy in the face of changing social needs and mood also contributed to its incubation. Vices prone to immobility that the Fidelista Revolution already faced in 1986 with its “process of rectifying errors and negative tendencies” and, in 1998 through the “Battle of Ideas”, which currently give vigour to the great transformations of structure and management methods that this Revolution is promoting.

Streamline suitable instruments

Not to resolve this situation, but to go further and renew those rectifications and strengthen these transformations, it is necessary to return to the neighbourhoods, says President Miguel Díaz Canel. And not to intervene in them, but to revive and relaunch practices and experiences that have already proven their worth. For this, the essential thing is to listen to the proposals of the people, of the actors who are in the neighbourhood. Because the diagnosis, the proposals, the ideas – as well as the dissatisfactions – must come from them, to support projects that really help to solve problems and institutions of communities, families and individuals, which will allow us to effectively articulate the concepts of participation and democracy.

With this perspective, Diaz Canel points out that the important thing now is to extend this way of doing things to the entire country, “taking into account the characteristics of each province and each territory.” In this regard, it highlights the importance of strengthening the role of the Municipal Assemblies of People’s Power in this direction, and of its president in each municipality, because that is the fundamental structure of the Cuban State and Government. [3]

In that sense, we must strengthen the municipalities and the role of the municipal assemblies, points out Salvador Valdés Mesa, Vice President of the Republic. Encourage the functioning of municipal assemblies, their commissions and popular councils, and support the actions of the delegates of each constituency, such as permanent links with the population in their neighbourhoods and communities, adds Ana María Machado, vice president of parliament. Because “the delegate is the pillar of Popular Power, of the Cuban political system, of the Revolution in the community. Hence the importance of accompanying and supporting their work, their permanent bond with the population, ”emphasizes Homero Acosta, secretary of the Cuban legislature. [4]

The workforce: its replacement

A basic concept of Marxist thought that must give meaning to “this way of doing”, which Díaz Canel calls to extend to the entire country, is that of work, the labour force, its product and value, and its necessary replacement. It is worth recalling, in summary, what Karl Marx points out in the opening pages of the first volume of Capital , and its implications for the matter at hand here.

The capacity or workforce, he says, is the set of physical and intellectual faculties that a person puts into action to create a product, which has use value as long as it solves a need. In the respective society, this product also has exchange value with respect to products made by other people, with whom it is possible to exchange them. However, humans make an infinite number of different products, and what makes it possible to establish a market where they can be exchanged is not the characteristics of each one, which differ, but what they all have in common : they are products of the labor force invested in make them.

More precisely, the socially necessary labor time invested to produce a product determines its value and, consequently, the possibility of assessing the amounts in which both products can be exchanged. However, what allows us to estimate the value of the product does not say what is the value of the labor invested in making it.

The workforce is only made effective through its exteriorization: it is reflected only through the  work that the person performs. However, in the end that force is exhausted by the physical and mental fatigue that this causes, which requires replenishing it, to replenish the energy and productivity of the worker. Replacing them is a process that takes place in another environment, usually that of the family, in your neighbourhood or community. Consequently, the value of labor power is equal to the cost of the sum of the means necessary to sustain and reproduce the life of the worker and his family.

A satisfying social and family life is functional to restore physical, mental and work health on a daily basis. And the physical, psychological and intellectual energies that are recovered there are also those required to renew the essential skills for sociability, cultural development and creativity, not only for efficient work. This implies recognizing that the recovery of the workforce cannot be satisfactory in dysfunctional family and neighbourhood conditions.

Human existence is impossible without productive activities, and for the same reason it is not possible without replenishing the labor force required to sustain those activities. At the same time, the needs and expectations of workers and their families evolve throughout history. The cultural development of the country and its people generates progressively more complex spiritual and technical demands, which increase the costs of the replacement of the workforce while this, in turn, by acquiring a higher cultural qualification improves its productivity.

This requires clarifying three elements of the process : the nature of the restorative rest of the work force the nature and role of the family, and its environment and the role of the complex work of women who “do not work”, who make the work of men possible, in addition to raising the next generations of workers.

The concept of workforce replacement cannot be lowered to an animal level : sleeping, eating and loafing. As a human function, the replacement of the workforce includes changing chores, physical and recreational activities that help eliminate stress, coexistence where you can enjoy relationships and ideas, and cognitive challenges that stimulate learning and help you feel renewed.

Its normal scope is the family. In general, by family we understand a stable group made up of people of different sexes and ages, linked by kinship by consanguinity or affinity, among whom there is a regular coexistence and a certain atmosphere of privacy. There are such important things as personal maintenance, the replacement of the workforce, the primary socialization of children and, with it, the cultural reproduction of that social sector, in addition to the procreation of the next generations of workers. [ 5]

A satisfactory family situation, in an acceptable environment, are functional to restore physical, mental and work health on a daily basis. And the physical, psychological and intellectual energies that are recovered there are also those required to renew human aptitudes for sociability, cultural development, creativity and the capacity to innovate, not only those necessary to work. [6]

The opposite is also evident: when the family situation and its community environment are dysfunctional, the replacement of the workforce cannot be satisfactory either.

The neighbourhood in its ink

Families do not live in an isolated niche, nor does the recovery of the workforce happen out of context. They exist, coexist and evolve in the communities and neighbourhoods where they reside. These are stable settlements that, as Díaz-Canel observes, over time have formed their own material and socio-cultural characteristics, which in their areas congregate more heterogeneous populations than those gathered in large and medium-sized work centres. This implies that such collectivities must be approached with different forms and styles of management and politics.

In general, the basic organizer of workplaces is work directed to certain ends. It engages employees of working age, with similar or complementary technical or professional skills, organized to perform various tasks aligned to obtain a common purpose. In the defence of their interests and aspirations and in the class struggle, the historical organization of these workers is the unions and other forms of association such as professional unions and associations. Their struggles may take on big national themes, but these are seldom linked to a local population.

On the other hand, in the neighbourhoods people of all ages, different aptitudes and occupations cohabit, not subject to common tasks or bosses. In their space, the best workers and citizens share the same environment with housewives, students, casual workers, idlers and miscreants, agglomerated by a neighbourhood that usually has derived from their previous level of income, but not from the articulation of their work. .

In the work centres the physical and environmental organization are in charge of the administrative management. In the neighborhood, they correspond to the municipal authorities and the neighbours themselves, with the assistance of entities dedicated to that (local businesses, electricity supply, water and drainage, patching, garbage collection, etc.). Workers’ organizations, such as trade unions, are outside of this. In most Latin American countries it is not common to find permanent neighbourhood organizations; their disagreements and demands often surface through occasional local protests.

To resolve the problems and expectations of the neighbourhood, Díaz-Canel reiterates, it is necessary to “assume the heterogeneity of Cuban society as a strength, and this implies a differentiated political-ideological work.” It is necessary to strengthen the mechanisms of popular participation and promote a critical analysis of reality; practice self-criticism and eliminate complacency. Make sure that all our work structures listen, dialogue, give answers and also solutions , to renew the work in the communities, where the base of support for our Revolution lies, weaving and developing a genuine, inclusive, democratic and participatory process.

For this, he emphasizes, in municipal and community spaces it is essential to articulate and promote participatory forms that contribute more effectively to identifying and addressing the needs, dissatisfactions and priorities of citizens. It is necessary to direct the municipal management to avoid and prevent problems in the communities, to leave tolerance and justifications behind, and to develop a true and effective popular control. [7]

In recent times, the main action of the People’s Power has focused, at the national level, on the copious legislative effort required to implement the great transformations developed during these years. However, given the impetus that the revolutionary effort wants to reprint in the neighbourhoods and communities where people live , not only where they work, it is imperative to put a new emphasis on the municipal and local level of that Power.

A providential organization

We now need a comprehensive strengthening of the structures of the municipalities, as well as the role of the municipal and communal assemblies of the People’s Power, as essential elements of our political system and as a permanent link with the population in the neighbourhoods and communities, highlights Salvador Valdés Mesa , Vice President of the Republic. In particular, the priority of strengthening the role of the delegates is raised. Because to repeat the words of Homero Acosta, secretary of the Cuban legislature: “the delegate is the pillar of Popular Power, of the Cuban political system, of the Revolution in the community. Hence the importance of accompanying and supporting their work, their permanent link with the population.” [8]

The Cuban Revolution created, from its inception, a huge mass organization especially capable of assuming and energizing these objectives from within the neighbourhoods and communities throughout the country the Committees for the Defence of the Revolution. An inclusive organization, representative of the local interests, needs and expectations of a heterogeneous and changing national society, the Committees – made by the same people that make them up – are essentially participatory, democratic and functional groups.

Although they emerged as a massive popular response to defeat the counterrevolutionary aggression of the early days, the Committees immediately went beyond fulfilling that role. Because its creation was providential : they immediately mobilized as an instrument of the residents of every block and corner of the country to assume – without waiting for decisions “from above” and with their own resources – the other local priorities : ensuring that children went to school and that they are vaccinated, ensure that the shopkeeper complies with the rules of equitable distribution of what he sells, organize hygiene, sanitation and even local campaigns, help in the repair of houses, drains, sidewalks and parks, solve local disagreements, etc.

The Revolution, if it is about struggle, is not only a great national-liberating and socialist option, but also a civic responsibility of many levels, from the national strategy to the vicissitudes of each inhabitant in its neighbourhood. The Committees not only fulfilled their original mission, but at the same time they satisfied the common aspiration of creating an environment of coexistence where not only workers have participation, but also the elderly, minors, those who work on their own, housewives. home, the physically disabled, and even apolitical neighbours willing to help improve the environment they share.

That is, they satisfied the expectation of creating an immense integrative and expressive group of that heterogeneous majority that, in History will absolve me , Fidel identified as the Cuban people . Articulated from their own bases, the Committees constitute an essentially democratic, participatory and functional space. The most suitable given the priority of delving into the demands and just aspirations of the people, precisely in the neighbourhoods and communities, which today are the scene of political debate, both in Cuba and in other Latin American nations.

The CDRs, as a place of convergence and source of initiatives to improve the living conditions of their communities – urban and rural – and as a force that participates in their execution, is responsible for acting as a counterpart of the institutionality. Not to assume roles of local governments, but as citizen platforms before the authorities. That is, as promoters, actors and recipients of the ongoing transformations to, together with them, defeat once again a now more ambiguous and sophisticated counterrevolution. [9]

The next stage

Obviously, this is not the time to ask the leadership of the Cuban Revolution for more than the country’s economic situation can support. The sum of the material and psychological consequences accumulated for more than half a century of the commercial and financial blockade that Washington inflicts on the Island, plus the scourge of the pandemic, plus the scourge of counterrevolutionary manipulation, is well known. No other nation has withstood an aggression of such magnitude.

However, what already stands out in Cuban neighbourhoods is a revolutionary counteroffensive carrying enormous and fresh ethical and popular energies. The initiative to revive the community bases of the process of rectifications and new developments took advantage of the occasion afforded by the uproar of last June at the right time. But now, when expanding its scope, it is necessary to think about its development in the longer term, which will require foreseeing additional decisions in the other instances of the government and the State.

The trunk will always be ours, as José Martí would say, but the near future can be enriched by evaluating the experiences of other countries and processes of liberation and revolution, as long as they are adapted to Cuban realities. In this regard, it is worth mentioning part of the article “Some theoretical and practical questions about socialism and the road to socialism in Viet Nam”, by the general secretary of the Communist Party of that country, Nguyen Phu Trong. [10]

Its author explains that an important characteristic of its socialist orientation is to unify economic policy with social policy; increase economic growth while achieving progress and social justice at every step, throughout the development process. Do not wait, he says, for the economy to reach a high level of development to achieve progress and social justice, much less “sacrifice” progress and social justice to pursue economic growth. On the contrary, he affirms, each economic policy must be oriented towards social development objectives; each social policy should aim to create a driving force to promote economic development; stimulate that legal growth must go hand in hand with the eradication of hunger and the sustainable reduction of poverty, the care and attention of people with relevant merits in the service of the Homeland and of those who find themselves in difficult circumstances. This is, he asserts, a requirement of principle to guarantee sustainable and socialist-oriented development.

Certainly, wise suggestions when it comes to projecting the current offensive of the Revolution in the neighbourhoods and communities throughout the Island in the long term.


[1]. “We call people if it is about struggle, the six hundred thousand Cubans who are out of work wanting to earn their bread honestly without having to emigrate from their homeland in search of sustenance; to the five hundred thousand field workers who live in the miserable huts, who work four months a year and go hungry the rest, sharing the misery with their children, who do not have an inch of land to sow and whose existence should be more compassionate if there were not so many hearts of stone; to the four hundred thousand industrial workers and braceros whose retirements, all of them, are embezzled, whose conquests are being taken from them, whose homes are the infernal rooms of the barracks, whose wages pass from the hands of the boss to those of the garrotero, whose future is the reduction and the dismissal, whose life is perennial work and whose rest is the grave; to the one hundred thousand small farmers, who live and die working a land that is not theirs, always contemplating it sadly like Moses to the promised land, to die without getting to possess it, who have to pay for their plots as feudal servants a part of their products, which cannot love it, or improve it, or beautify it, plant a cedar or an orange tree because they ignore the day that a bailiff with the rural guard will come to tell them that they have to go; to the thirty thousand teachers and professors so devoted, sacrificed and necessary to the better destiny of future generations and who are treated so badly and paid; to the twenty thousand small merchants overwhelmed with debt, ruined by the crisis and finished off by a plague of filibustering and venal officials; to the ten thousand young professionals: doctors, engineers, lawyers, veterinarians, pedagogues, dentists, pharmacists, journalists, painters, sculptors, etc., who leave the classrooms with their titles eager to fight and full of hope to find themselves in a dead end. exit, all the doors closed, deaf to the clamor and supplication. That is the people, whose paths of anguish are paved with deceptions and false promises, we were not going to say: ‘We are going to give you’, but: ‘Here you are, fight now with all your might so that freedom is yours! and happiness! ‘ who leave the classrooms with their titles eager to fight and full of hope to find themselves in a dead end, all the doors closed, deaf to the clamor and supplication. That is the people, whose paths of anguish are paved with deceptions and false promises, we were not going to say: ‘We are going to give you’, but: ‘Here you are, fight now with all your might so that freedom is yours! and happiness! ‘ who leave the classrooms with their titles eager to fight and full of hope to find themselves in a dead end, all the doors closed, deaf to the clamor and supplication. That is the people, whose paths of anguish are paved with deceptions and false promises, we were not going to say: ‘We are going to give you’, but: ‘Here you are, fight now with all your might so that freedom is yours! and happiness! ‘

See on Radio Rebelde, History will absolve me (full text), October 12, 2021, at

[2]. While this is not the subject of this article, this is an inescapable reference.

[3]. See “Cuban President: We are going to support the neighborhoods, not to intervene in them”, in Cubadebate on August 19, 2021.

[4]. See “Comprehensively strengthen municipalities, essential working principle of People’s Power”, in Cubadebate of August 31, 2021.

The slim is a representative and spokesperson for his respective constituency. One is elected for each of the constituencies that make up the municipality, from two or more candidates. These are free to postulate in the respective neighborhood assemblies and, on the date of the elections, they are elected by free individual, direct and secret vote.

[5]. See INFOCOP, Valeria Colombo and Eva Cifre Gallego, “The importance of recovering from work”.

[6]. On the other hand, the treatment of the subject frequently omits the role that women play in making family life possible, and that this is an ideal place to replenish the workforce. The woman who “does not work” carries the bulk of the cleaning and maintenance of the house and clothes, taking care of children, cooking and procuring the necessary supplies for all that, while the one who “does work” does not leave those responsibilities. However, domestic work also consumes labor power, satisfies needs and has value. Even if a part of the worker’s salary seems to cover the housework, that hardly covers the expenses that she pays to the suppliers, not the value of the work she does, not her fatigue or the replacement of her energies.

[7]. Díaz-Canel, “We are prepared and willing to do anything to defend what is most sacred, what unites us”, by Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, in Cubadebate on October 25, 2021.

[8]. See “Integrally strengthening the municipalities, an essential working principle of Popular Power”, in Cubadebate of August 31, 2921.

In Cuba, the municipal Assemblies propose the subdivision of the territory of the respective municipality into constituencies, according to their physical and demographic realities. Each constituency elects a delegate from among several nominated by its residents. The election is often held in two rounds, because each delegate must be elected by 50% or more of the voters. The chosen one becomes a member of the Municipal Assembly representing the citizens of his community, and manager of their requirements and proposals before the Municipality and other local authorities.

[9]. See “In the neighborhood, with the people”, editorial of El Diario de Cuba, September 28, 2021.

[10]. See the Global Panorama digital bulletin, published by the Communist Party of Cuba, on September 17, 2021, the day before the official visit of the author – as President of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam – to the Island.