Friday, December 17, 2010

This is from an interesting interview Playboy magazine did with Saul Alinsky...

Alinsky had his own take on things a lot of people wouldn't agree with; others do. He obviously had a big influence in the left movement.

[It's a long ten part interview but really very interesting.]

PLAYBOY: What was your own relationship with the Communist Party? 

ALINSKY: I knew plenty of Communists in those days, and I worked with them on a number of projects. Back in the Thirties, the Communists did a hell of a lot of good work; they were in the vanguard of the labor movement and they played an important role in aiding blacks and Okies and Southern sharecroppers. Anybody who tells you he was active in progressive causes in those days and never worked with the Reds is a goddamn liar. Their platform stood for all the right things, and unlike many liberals, they were willing to put their bodies on the line. Without the Communists, for example, I doubt the C.I.O. could have won all the battles it did. I was also sympathetic to Russia in those days, not because I admired Stalin or the Soviet system but because it seemed to be the only country willing to stand up to Hitler. I was in charge of a big part of fund raising for the International Brigade and in that capacity I worked in close alliance with the Communist Party. 

When the Nazi-Soviet Pact came, though, and I refused to toe the party line and urged support for England and for American intervention in the war, the party turned on me tooth and nail. Chicago Reds plastered the Back of the Yards with big posters featuring a caricature of me with a snarling, slavering fanged mouth and wild eyes, labeled, "This is the face of a warmonger." But there were too many Poles, Czechs, Lithuanians and Latvians in the area for that tactic to go over very well. Actually, the greatest weakness of the party was its slavish parroting of the Moscow line. It could have been much more effective if it had adopted a relatively independent stance, like the western European parties do today. But all in all, and despite my own fights with them, I think the Communists of the Thirties deserve a lot of credit for the struggles they led or participated in. Today the party is just a shadow of the past, but in the Depiession it was a positive force for social change. A lot of its leaders and organizers were jerks, of course, but objectively the party in those days was on the right side and did considerable good.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Good article for discussion: Cuba bows to pressure to reform its economy

Cuba bows to pressure to reform its economy

By Marc Frank in Havana

Financial Times
December 13 2010

Rising debt charges are forcing Cuba to reshape its Soviet-
style economy, with leading creditor China among those
cheering on the changes.

A Cuban Communist party congress, scheduled for April, will
discuss and likely ratify policies that are already starting
to be implemented. These include cutting 20 per cent of state
workers, cutting social benefits, eliminating state
subsidies, improving Cuba's trade balance and liberalising
rules for small business and foreign investment.

ChartCuba, which is the subject of a strict US embargo and is
excluded from most international lending organisations,
depends on China as a creditor of last resort. Its proposed
reforms are remarkably similar to those typically required
under International Monetary Fund bail-outs - although
privatisation of state assets is not on the agenda.

In a recent closed-door meeting of 500 senior officials
chaired by Raúl Castro, president, Cuba's economy minister,
Marino Murillo, reportedly stated that mounting debt and the
need for fresh credit had left the government no choice but
to put its economic house in order.

A video of the November meeting, called to discuss plans for
next year's congress, is making the rounds of Havana's elite.
Cuba faces rising principal and service charges over the next
five years and simply does not have the money to meet them,
Mr Murillo, reportedly said on the video.

Cuba last reported its foreign debt at $17.8bn in 2007. Most
analysts agree it now exceeds $21bn, or close to 50 per cent
of gross domestic product and 30 per cent more than annual
foreign exchange revenues. Many creditors have tired of
Cuba's debt reschedulings. China is a relatively new member
of Cuba's creditor club, having provided billions in loans
over recent years. But it is now Havana's biggest creditor
and second largest trading partner, after Venezuela.

According to a number of people familiar with the video, Mr
Murillo specifically talks about the need to repay China on
time. Plans to develop oil refineries, ports, railways, the
nickel industry and power generation will require billions in
fresh credit.

Mr Castro's point man for economic reform reportedly argues
in the video that state-run companies should be freed from
government administration and defends plans to shift hundreds
of thousands of workers to 'non-state' jobs such as small
businesses, farms and co-operatives.

'Mixed-capital companies, co-operatives, farmers with the
right to use idle land, rented property landlords, self-
employed workers and other forms that contribute to raise the
efficiency of social labour must be recognised and
encouraged,' adds a 32-page discussion document prepared for
the congress, which will set out Cuba's social and economic
policies through 2015.

Cuba is counting on China and Venezuela to provide fresh
development credit. Some of its debts to Beijing will be
backed by Venezuelan oil as collateral. A diplomatic cable,
released by WikiLeaks last week, describes a US diplomat's
breakfast meeting with the commercial attachés from Cuba's
biggest trade partners. 'Even China admitted to having
problems with getting paid on time,' the cable reported.
'[Officials from] France and Canada responded with ‘welcome
to the club'.'

According to Asian diplomats in Havana, Chinese and even
Vietnamese officials have repeatedly 'suggested' Cuba
modernise and offered their assistance. Discussion documents
for next year's congress, the Murillo video and government
statements all indicate that Havana may finally be heeding
their advice.

Fidel Castro, former president, recently praised China's
'rectifications' and told university students: 'China is
worth studying.'

'Cuba is prepared to take advantage of China's experience in
developing reform and opening up,' Ricardo Alarcón, a long-
time politburo member, added while visiting China last month.
Such words will surely be welcomed in Beijing as it ponders
further loosening its purse strings.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2010