Category Archives: Actually Existing Socialism

Korea Stands Strong: Kim Jong-Il in Context

The following is from Fight Back! News, the official organ of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization (Marxist-Leninist) in the United States. 

The morning of Dec. 19 started like a normal Monday for the Korean staff at the Hae Dang Hwa restaurant in Beijing. The greeting staff welcomed hungry customers at the front door, the chefs began prepping their fine selection of kimchi and other Korean dishes and the waitresses and waiters began taking down orders for their guests. All of that changed when a China Daily reporter mentioned in a conversation with a waitress that Kim Jong-Il, the head of state for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), had died that morning of a heart attack. In minutes, the entire Korean staff – from the waiters to the chefs in the kitchen – broke down in tears and, after apologizing to the customers, closed the restaurant early for the day so they could grieve the national tragedy together.

Several thousand miles away in Pyongyang, mass sorrow like that experienced in this Beijing restaurant took the swept the capital as men, women and children – from the most esteemed party official to the steel worker – took to the streets to mourn Kim’s death. Read the rest of this entry

Cuba: 50 Years of Revolution

What I would like to do here is provide a bit of a counter balance to the coverage of the revolution’s 50th in the bourgeoisie media. Unlike they, who will undoubtedly focus on the admitted negatives that are faced by the Cuban people, I will focus here on the real and serious gains of the Cuban people that are a result of the revolution. I hope you find these facts enlightening.Here is just a quick look at some before and afters:

Literacy Before & After The Revolution
1952 54%
2005 100%
Sources: (1) UNICEF & (2) Encarta Encylopedia.
Life Expectancy Before & After The Revolution
1950 55.8 years
2006 78 years
Sources: (1) UNICEF & (2) “The Health Revolution
in Cuba,”
Sergio Díaz-Briquets, University of Texas
Press. Austin, Texas. 1993. pp. 19.
Infant Mortality* Before & After The Revolution
1958 60
2004 5.8
Sources: (1) Statistics Bureau, Cuban Ministry
of Public Health & (2) UNICEF.

* The number of deaths of infants under one year old in a
given year per 1,000 live births in the same year.

And here are some stats about how Cuba ranks up against other Latin American, Caribbean and Western nations in various ways:

Infant Mortality:

Infant Mortality Rate*
Haiti 93.35
Bolivia 57.52
Guyana 38.37
Peru 38.18
Dominican Republic 33.41
Ecuador 33.02
Nicaragua 32.52
Honduras 30.48
Paraguay 28.75
El Salvador 27.58
Mexico 24.52
Trinidad & Tobago 24.20
Suriname 23.48
Colombia 23.21
Panama 19.57
Argentina 17.20
Dominica 15.94
Grenada 14.63
Jamaica 13.71
French Guinana 13.22
Barbados 11.71
Costa Rica 10.87
Puerto Rico 9.30
United States 7.00
Cuba 5.80
Sources: (1) Statistics Bureau, Cuban Ministry
of Public Health, (2) CIA factbook & (3) UNICEF.

* The number of deaths of infants
under one year old in a given year
per 1,000 live births in the same year.


Youth Literacy Rate
Haiti 67.0%
Honduras 86.4%
Brazil 95.8%
Colombia 97.2%
Mexico 97.4%
Argentina 98.7%
Cuba 100%
Sources: (1) World Development Indicators,
(World Bank, 1998, 1999) & (2) U.N. Statistics
Division, Millennium Indicators


Adult Literacy
Haiti 45%
St Lucia 67%
Dominican Republic 82%
French Guiana 83%
Bolivia 83%
Brazil 83%
Jamaica 85%
Peru 88%
Puerto Rico 89%
Ecuador 90%
Venezuela 91%
Colombia 91%
Paraguay 92%
Suriname 93%
Chile 95%
Argentina 96%
Cuba 100%
Sources: (1) UNICEF & (2) UNESCO Institute for Statistics.


Human Poverty Index*
Haiti 42.3%
Honduras 20.5%
Brazil 12.2%
Mexico 9.4%
Colombia 8.9%
Cuba 4.1%
Sources: United Nations Development Program (UNDP)
2003 Human Development Indicators and Project On
Human Development

* Lower is better.


Persons Per Doctor
Haiti 10,005
Honduras 2,500
Colombia 1,105
Dominican Republic 949
Brazil 844
United States 421
Cuba 169
Sources: (1) World Development Indicators, (World Bank,
, (2) “World Almanac and Book of Facts 2004,” (3) “Student
Atlas of World Politics 4th Edition,”
Dushkin/McGraw-Hill, 2000 &
(4) Encarta Encylopedia.


Persons Per Hospital Bed
Haiti 1,250
Honduras 1,000
Colombia 909
Dominican Republic 670
Brazil 370
United States 303
Cuba 185
Sources: (1) “Student Atlas of World Politics 4th
Dushkin/McGraw-Hill, 2000, (2) Encarta

Attended Births:

Proportion of Births Attended by Skilled Health Personnel
Haiti 24%
Honduras 54%
Colombia 86%
Mexico 86%
Brazil 88%
Argentina 98%
Cuba 100%
Source: U.N. Statistics Division, Millennium Indicators.


Unemployment Rate
Haiti 70%
Guadeloupe 26.9%
French Guiana 19.2%
Dominican Republic 17%
Uruguay 16.8%
Argentina 15.6%
Colombia 14.2%
Suriname 13.8%
Venezuela 12.2%
Puerto Rico 12%
Trinidad & Tobago 10.4%
Ecuador 11.4%
Peru 10.3%
Brazil 9.7%
Paraguay 9.2%
Guyana 9.1%
Chile 8.1%
Bolivia 8%
Canada 7%
United States 6.5%
Cuba 1.9%
Sources: (1) CIA World Factbook, (2) Encarta
& (3) “Investigating the Effects of
Withheld Humanitarian Aid,”
a report of the Haiti
Reborn/Quixote Center.


Inflation Rate (%)
Dominican Republic 51.20
Haiti 27.00
Venezuela 16.00
Jamaica 12.60
Argentina 9.60
Suriname 9.50
Paraguay 9.20
Bolivia 8.50
Brazil 8.20
Uruguay 7.40
Colombia 7.10
Chile 6.60
Mexico 6.10
Guyana 6.70
Puerto Rico 6.50
Peru 5.70
United States 3.20
Canada 3.00
Cuba 0.30
Sources: (1) CIA World Factbook,
(2) World Development Indicators,
(World Bank, 2004, 2005), (3) Latin
Business Chronicle
, 2002.


Proportion of Population with Access to Improved Sanitation
(Urban and Rurual)
Haiti 28%
Mexico 74%
Honduras 75%
Argentina 82%
Colombia 86%
Cuba 98%
Source: U.N. Statistics Division, Millennium Indicators.

Women in Government:

Women In Parliamentary Seats
Haiti 4%
Honduras 6%
Brazil 9%
Colombia 12.2%
United States 14%
Mexico 15.9%
Argentina 31.3%
Cuba 36%
Source: U.N. Statistics Division, Millennium Indicators.

And, leading on from the women in government stats, here are some other gains that the women of Cuba have made over the last 50 years:

  • The Cuban constitution guarantees full equality for women. Women receive equal wages as men for doing the same work, and sexual discrimination is forbidden by law.
  • By law, men must share equally in house work with women with whom they live.
  • Pregnant women in Cuba are guaranteed maternity leave, with full pay, before and after the birth of their child/ren.
  • 49.5% of all Cubans who have graduated college, and 62% of all Cubans who are currently university students are women.
  • Before the Cuban Revolution women made up less than 20% of the workforce (17% in 1956). One of the largest areas of employment for women was prostitution (mostly with tourists from the U.S.). Today women comprise 44% of the workforce in Cuba.
  • 66.4% of all technicians, 87% of all administrators, 53.9% of all service workers, 51% of all doctors, 43% of all scientists and 33.5% of all managers in Cuba are women.
  • 35% of the members of Cuban Parliament are Women. 16.1% of the State Council, 18% of the ministers, 22.7% of the Vice-Ministers, 61% of all attorneys, 20% of all officers in the armed forces, 49% of all judges and 47% of all judges in the Supreme Court in Cuba are women.
  • The life expectancy of women in Cuba is 79.8 years, several years higher than the average in Latin America.
  • Maternal mortality in Cuba is only 33.9 per 100,000 live births. The average for Latin America in 2004 was 94.7.
  • Infant mortality in Cuba is 5.8 per 1000 live births (the lowest in Latin America, and lower than that of the U.S.).
  • As for all Cubans, access to education and health services, including sexual and reproductive health is universal and free for all Cuban women.
  • Abortion, which was legalized in 1965, is free to all Cuban women on demand.
  • Childcare is provided in Cuba for all children from 3 months to school age at rates so low, it’s basically free.Eighty-five percent of Cuban women over the age of 14 are members of a grass roots Non-governmental organization called the “Federation of Cuban Women.” To a large extent, the success in implementing the legislation relating to the rights of women has been achieved thanks to the work of the Federation of Cuban Women. The Federation plays a major part in the debate and creation of laws that affect Cuban women.

And finally, here are some other facts about Cuba and its revolution:

  • Cuba is among the top five Latin American countries in protein and calorie intake.
  • Cuba has compulsory education through the ninth grade and available to 12th grade to all youth; university enrollment exceeding 200,000 with another 90,000 students graduating annually from one of 600 technical and professional training institutes — all absolutely free.
  • The average Cuban worker has ten years of education; one of every ten scientists in Latin America and the Caribbean is in Cuba (although Cuba makes up only 2% of the region’s population).
  • In Cuba, 50% of all skilled workers or professionals (including physicians) are women & 29% of management positions are held by women.
  • Ninety-four percent of the population has electrical service in Cuba, surpassing the rest of Latin America and the Caribbean by some 20%. Television reaches even remote mountain areas and Cuban radio covers the entire island.
  • The Cubans have built formidable pharmaceutical, genetic engineering and biotechnology industries, and have twenty scientific research centers investigating products from inexpensive pharmaceuticals to “green medicine.”
  • The UN recently announced that Cuba is the only country in Latin America that has no malnutrition.
  • The majority of Cubans own their homes. During the urban reforms in the early sixties, those Cubans paying rent to landlords who had fled to Miami, continued to pay the same rent to the State for a period of 5 to 10 years after which time the house or apartment became theirs. Servants who lived in the houses of the rich paid rent to the State and became owners of those homes after a period of years. New homes were bought with a government mortgage for approximately $5,000 (with a 2% to 4% interest rate payable over 20-30 years, paid off at no more than 10% of the chief breadwinner’s income).
  • Gas bills in Cuba average 2-4 pesos (8-16 cents) a month; electricity 5-7 pesos (20-28 cents) a month; telephone 6-8 pesos (24-32 cents) a month, the first 300 minutes being free. As you can see, all these services are subsidized by the State.
  • In 1999, the Latin American Laboratory for the Evaluation of Educational Quality (LLECE) tested 4,000 students in third and fourth grades in 100 randomly selected schools in 14 Latin American countries. Cuba’s Elementary Education came out on top. The Cuban children scored 350 points on a scale of 400. Despite the economic blockade, the State maintained free education with a 1,585 billion pesos educational budget in 1999. School enrollment is 100% on the elementary level, and 95% on the secondary level. There is one teacher per 40 children compared to one per 103 in the world. While in 1959 Cuba had only 3 Universities, it now has 47 which have graduated 600,000 students. In 1952, less than 50% of Cuban children went to school, over 40% of the population was illiterate, and 10,000 of the existing 25,000 teachers were unemployed. Now, every child has access to free education, remains in school through 6th grade, and then continues on with secondary education. In most Latin American countries 50% of all enrolled children leave by 4th grade.
  • The Cuban “Yes, I can” literacy method has been used to teach 3,192,000 people in 28 countries how to read and write.
  • A divorce usually takes about 3 months in Cuba and costs $5. Everything is split equally between the separating couple. If there are children involved, the ex-husband has to pay 10% of his wages as alimony, and usually leaves the house so that his ex-wife and children can live in it.
  • In Cuba, sovereignty resides in the people. Over 97% of the people eligible to vote, vote in an electoral system which serves to nominate and then elect those best suited to fulfill their position. There are three Assemblies: the Municipal Assembly, the Provincial Assembly, and the National Assembly. In the Municipal Assembly, neighbors nominate their candidates who are finally selected by secret ballot vote by the entire constituency. The fact that candidates are not nominated by the Communist Party but by the people themselves, itself marks the democratic nature of the process. In the same way, the election of the members for the Provincial and National Assemblies are selected by secret ballot vote by the people directly. The election process has two phases: it consists of (1) electing the delegates for the Municipal Assembly, and (2) electing the deputies to the Provincial and National Assemblies.
  • The Cuban Constitution (discussed and created through numerous public meetings and adopted by secret ballot in a referendum in 1976) states, in the First Article of the Electoral System, Article 131, that: “All citizens with the legal capacity to do so, have the right to take part in the leadership of the State, directly or through their elected representatives to the bodies of People Power, and to participate for this purpose and as prescribed by law in the periodic elections and people’s referendums through free, equal, and secret vote.” In Cuba, you will find grass-roots democracy never seen anywhere else in the world, where the people themselves nominate their candidates for election. A candidate must get more than 50% of a secret ballot vote to get elected. Every candidate nominated faces the electorate on his/her own merit.
  • The Communist Party of Cuba is forbidden by law to play any role in the elections. The only publicity allowed candidates is a posted biography with a photograph of the candidate. They are not allowed to spend money on furthering their chances for selection. Neither are State organizations permitted to issue statements favoring any candidate.
  • In order to join the Partido Comunista Cubano (PCC – Cuban Communist Party), Cubans must be chosen as model workers by their co-workers.
  • Cuba’s highest leadership body is the Council of State, of which Raul Castro is the elected President. He was last elected in 2008.
  • Cuba is a founding member of the Human Rights Council and the United States is not. Cuba was elected with the overwhelming support of 135 countries, more than two-thirds of the United Nations General Assembly, while the United States did not even dare to run as a candidate.
  • Despite all the media coverage of all the people leaving by boat, by percentage, few Cubans actually leave Cuba, and there are many issues involved. Firstly, before the Cuban Revolution the United States gave very few Cubans visas to come to the United States, but after the revolution the doors were opened wide. Secondly, the United States has held an unjust trade embargo against Cuba for 40 years (which has been condemned several times in the United Nations by almost every country in the world) which has caused the people of Cuba to suffer. Finally, the United States enacted the ‘Cuban Adjustment Act’, the only act of its kind anywhere in the world, which grants residency to anyone, no matter if they are a criminal or not, who leaves Cuba and reaches the United States in any fashion. Imagine if the same act applied to all of Latin America! How many people from other countries would leave for the United States? How many people leave places like Mexico and the Dominican Republic now?

Also, if you want to learn more, check out the the Cuba Truth Project.