This newsletter opens with a comment on what seem to be the dampened prospects for significant economic policy change in
Lage continues the pattern of identifying problems with great clarity, but without pointing to policies that will solve those problems.
He opens by recognizing that the current generation of Cuban youth grew up in the “special period,” a time of economic dislocation:
“You were born or grew up when electricity went off ten hours or more each day, medicines were lacking, there was dramatic scarcity of food, and transportation was barely functioning on the streets, including in the capital.
“These circumstances changed our people’s life substantially, engendered bitter contradictions, brought about the expansion of vices and privileges that had been overcome by our revolutionary work, weakened social equity, and salaries stopped being a just compensation that could provide for the needs of daily life.”
He went on to call for continuation of the Battle of Ideas, “intense political activity” and “a genuine cultural life” that will yield “generations of youth immune to the siren song of capitalism, to the shop-windows of consumerist societies, and to the banalities of of the system whose values we reject.”
Taking Lage’s speech and other statements into account, going all the way back to Fidel Castro’s speech at the University of Havana in 2005 when he asked whether a revolution could destroy itself from within, there seem to be three lines of attack.
First, greater discipline and law enforcement, which we see through the social workers at gas stations, the new labor discipline regulations, etc.
Second, the ideological work to which Lage nods in his speech, which to my knowledge is the first prominent mention of the Battle of Ideas since Fidel’s illness.
Third is an option that has been identified but not employed: policy change to attack the root causes of low wages, low output, pilferage of state goods, widespread resort to black market activity, etc. The announcement that the study of state enterprises will deliver results “within three years” is a good indication that the study is on ice. I would love to be wrong on this score.
If there’s a positive note to take from Lage’s speech, it is his clear acknowledgement that salaries in large segments of the Cuban economy are not enough to provide for daily needs.
Good politicians usually don’t make speeches about deep social problems without eventually getting around to discussing solutions. And