Seriously, are there trade unions in Cuba today? Is there really a Central de Trabajadores de Cuba (CTC)? Do they represent and defend workers? Were the unions before 1959 forced to create brigades of henchmen for the Batista dictatorship?
Questions such as these come to the fore recently when the CTC initiated, at all state labor centers, a process of assemblies as a "practical exercise to validate the mobilizing role of the unions" and for the workers to be "material and intellectual protagonists of the processes of production and services," and to achieve "success" at each work center, explained the CTC’s Secretary General Ulises Guilarte de Nacimiento.
Two things should be noted from the outset: 1) these assemblies are not convened to critically examine the deplorable conditions under which Cuban workers toil, nor the paltry wages they are paid; and 2) the phrase "mobilizing role of the unions" means that after the events of 11J and 15N more pressure is being placed on the unions to force workers to be repressors at the service of the dictatorship.
We are talking about the 18 unions that the CTC has in more than 78,000 union sections with 3.3 million members, of which more than 250,000 work in the private sector.
An encyclopedia defines a union as "an association composed of workers to defend and promote their labor interests vis-a-vis their employers."
In other words, the official Cuban unions, especially in the state sector, are the very antithesis of what a union is. They are no such thing. In Cuba unions have two clear missions: firstly, to fulfill the Leninist dogma that unions are mechanisms by which to impart to workers the orders of the dictatorial elite, the bosses; and, secondly, to organize brigades of henchmen in them, the latter a contribution of the Castro brothers to totalitarianism, whether communist, fascist or theocratic.
The Castroist CTC is much worse than Mujal’s CTC
When Fidel Castro seized power one of the first things he did, on January 22, 1959, was to order the dismissal of the so-called mujalista leaders of the CTC and its unions and federations, down to the very grassroots level, throughout the country.
The words mujalista and mujalismo were derived from Eusebio Mujal, a former communist activist and later radical anti-communist and senator of the Republic for the Authentic Party (Partido Auténtico), who in 1947 became the secretary general of the Confederation of Cuban Workers (CTC) when, under the governments of Ramón Grau San Martín and Carlos Prío the communists were dislodged from the control they had maintained since the founding of the CTC in 1939. Mujal was the secretary general of the CTC until January 1, 1959, when, due to his close ties to the Batista dictatorship, he took refuge at the Argentine embassy, and then left the country.
While Mujal was supported and sustained, in good measure, as the leader of the CTC by three successive governments, Fidel Castro went even further. Just 12 days after arriving in Havana he took over the CTC by means of a law he invented, appointed himself head of the National Council of the CTC, called a congress in November 1959, and placed the CTC at the exclusive service of his personal dictatorship. Then, in November 1961 he installed Lázaro Peña as its general secretary at another congress at which Castro I ordered the dismissal of several CTC leaders who were not submissive enough to him, and decided that the organization should be called the Central (instead of Confederation) of Cuban Workers.
The official Castroist website Ecured says of Mujal: "A Cuban trade union leader who was corrupt and sold out to the interests of the bosses (...), he faithfully served Fulgencio Batista until he fled."
Labor exploitation worsens and unions are used as repressors
Are not the CTC, its general secretary, and the official Castroist unions more sold out than ever before to bosses, and at the service of a totalitarian dictatorship infinitely worse than Batista's?
Under Castroism, the union movement grovels before its bosses. It prevents workers from demanding better wages in an organized manner despite their measly earnings, which no longer allow them to even buy basic groceries for their families. Raul Castro's CTC exacerbates the poverty and dramatic want suffered by the Cuban people.
Also, very importantly, it is one thing to say that Mujal and many union leaders were obedient to Batista, but it is quite another to say that all the unions were submissive to the bosses; in the 1950s, during Cuba's greatest economic expansion, unions, in fact, obtained benefits and wage increases from their bosses.
And, before that, in the 1930s and 1940s, they made progress that was included in the 1940 Constitution? which Castro I abolished on February 7, 1959 with the Fundamental Law (drafted by him with the help of Osvaldo Dorticós) that replaced it.
Among the workers' achievements stipulated in that constitution, one of the most advanced of its time, was an eight-hour workday, the right to strike, minimum wages according to agreements between employees and employers, and the settlement of labor disputes through commissions made up of employers and workers, in addition to others.
But the worst thing about Castro's "unionism," which constitutes a crime, is that it obliges workers, in writing, to become street henchmen when the dictator so orders; this is the "mobilizing role" mentioned by Guilarte de Nacimiento, alluding to mobilizing workers as repressive forces in the streets.
In April 2010 the PCC imposed on the CTC a "Plan against alterations of order and counterrevolutionary disturbances" (PAODC). "Rapid Response Units" (DRR) were created at each work center, without uniforms, to give the world the impression that they are civilians outraged by the actions of the "counterrevolutionaries."
There is an aggravating factor here: when the Rapid Response Brigades (BRR) were formed in the unions in the 1990s, workers were not required to sign any official document, which allowed many to avoid taking to the streets. Now, however, they have to sign a paper in which they commit to beating fellow citizens who demonstrate peacefully against the dictatorship.
Through the PAODC, the regime handed out sticks and even rifles to state workers to go out and pummel peaceful demonstrators in July 2021, and it organized them into brigades to batter those who took to the streets on November 15, 2021.
Never before in the West, as far as we know, has anything like this been seen. Batista did not do this in Cuba, nor Machado before him. Not even Pinochet or Alfredo Stroessner did. Hitler's brownshirts and Mussolini's blackshirts wore uniforms, were voluntary, and also included criminals and opportunists in search of personal benefits. They were not unionized workers forced by the regime.
Neither did Stalin. In the USSR those who repressed, murdered and tortured people wore uniforms. They were not workers forced by trade unions to do so. Mao Tse Tung did not force workers and their unions to be "red guard" inquisitors, murderers and torturers during the "Cultural Revolution." Rather, they were young, ideologically alienated fanatics; whether they were volunteers or not, and all wore military uniforms.
In short, the Castroist CTC is much worse than the Mujal’s CTC, and than all the previous ones in the history of Cuba, and probably worse than any other trade union in recent world history. It is, without a doubt, a national disgrace.