The Guardian 26 October, 2005

Book Review by Vic Williams

Cuba: Beyond our Dreams

Cuba: Beyond our Dreams by Silvia Martinez-Puentes, presents the achievements of the Cuban revolution from 1959 to 2003. It was written as basic consultation material for more than 700,000 union cadres and activists, 50 percent of them women, who give grass root organisation to the Cuban Workers Union of over 3,2356,000 members and growing.

When President Bush on June 1, 2002 called on Cuba to succumb to his resolutions, the Cuban Workers Union organised the Cuban people in a march nine million strong on June 12, 2002. They called for an amendment to the Cuban Constitution, declaring socialism in Cuba is irrevocable and prohibiting any form of negotiation under pressure or threat by any foreign nation.

The Cuban Government endorsed the amendment strengthening the Constitution.

The leading role of the Cuban Workers Union in this action is understandable in the light of its position in Cuban affairs. Every six months the national leadership of the unions meet with the main figures of government and state. Together, they analyses the most important current economic and social issues of the country. In six years more than 150 agreements between the two bodies have been adopted and carried out.

There are 1,472 basic organs of Labour Justice where workers can appeal if labour rights have been breached. In practice almost all cases are solved.

A Management Improvement system was made law, with workers no longer waiting for decisions from "on high" and salaries linked to work outcomes. This has contributed to a great extent in the sustainability and development of the Cuban economy.

The Gross Domestic Product of 2001 increased 3 percent despite the negative effect on tourism and the hurricane Michelle which lashed 45 percent of the island. The unions were very active in rebuilding and restoring 180,000 damaged houses.

Labour productivity has shown a big improvement.

Cuba has built a national health system for the entire population. It faced an enormous problem when at the time of the Revolution half the doctors went to the USA. Disease was rife and the USA imposed a complete ban on medicines being sent to Cuba.

But the Cuban Government took enormous steps to build up the numbers of medical and paramedical personnel from 1958 with 7886 to 375,000 by 2003; 65 percent are women. Cuba has paid great attention to the application of science to problems of health. It has been very generous in sending doctors and medical staff to struggling countries, from Algeria to Venezuela.

This has resulted in a huge fall in infant mortality in Cuba, from 60 per thousand live births to 6.3 per thousand in 2003. At the same time life expectancy rose from 60 to 75 years.

Silvia Puentes gives a comprehensive view of all the developments of the Cuban people under socialism, of how they offer the generous hand of friendship to other struggling people, and how they will fight with all their power to retain their independence from US imperialism.

Cuba: Beyond our Dreams by Silvia Martinez-Puentes,
reprinted by Advance Press, Perth, 424 pages.

Available from SPA Bookshop, 02 9699 8844; 74 Buckingham St, Surry Hills, NSW 2010
at close to cost price $20, plus $8 p&p.
It is also available at CFMEU offices or by ringing Vinnie Molina on 0419 812 872

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