Message Received, Over and Out

Alfredo Fernandez

Havana, Cuba

No, this is not the sign-off call from a Cuban police officer from their checkpoint, but the guarded voice of a generation that is seeing the culmination of an entire era of sterile sacrifice crowned always with the yearning for what’s basic.

This is a question that has disabled generations of Cubans from building a balanced and healthy existence, ethically speaking.

Here in Cuba, lying and deceiving are the norms; all you have to do is go to any Cuban market to find someone trying to cheat you in the quality of the product sold or when returning your change, to cite only two cases out of the wide range of ploys used in swindling across the country these days.

The response of the youngest and most qualified sector in the nation (university graduates) in the face of so much mediocrity has been emigration.  Now, in continuing to look at the situation, I would have to ask: Are young Cubans are being irresponsible when they leave the country without having previously done something to change it?  But it would seem to be a lack of seriousness if I responded to such a tough question in such little space.

Presently the nation is not fostering improvement.  The high hopes and expectations created by Cuban President Raul Castro in his July 26, 2007 speech have vanished.

At that time the leader thrilled us all with the possibility that each Cuban might have breakfast that included a glass of milk.  At the same time he encouraged a campaign against the Marabou (a weed that blankets and strangles a good part of the Cuban countryside).  Likewise, he spoke to the need eliminating unnecessary prohibitions, which he saw as unworthy of Cuban socialism.

What is certain is that after almost three years since that particular speech, the black market continues to be the main supplier of milk on the island, the Marabou has not suffered a significant reduction, and —what’s worse— the unnecessary prohibitions continue.

Some months ago, in a student protest around the horrendous food services for students at the Superior Institute of Art (ISA), the youths concluded their statement presented to the administration with a sentence that was obviously directed to the historical leaders of the revolution: “Thank you for the past, but the future is ours.”

I would like to enrich the message of the young artists with a euphemism extracted from the language of the Cuban police force: “Message received, over and out.”

Alfredo Fernandez

Alfredo Fernandez: I didn't really leave Cuba, it's impossible to leave somewhere that you've never been. After gravitating for 37 years on that strange island, I managed to touch firm ground, but only to confirm that I hadn't reached anywhere. Perhaps I will never belong anywhere. Now I'm living in Ecuador, but please, don't believe me when I say where I am, better to find me in "the Cuba of my dreams.

5 thoughts on “Message Received, Over and Out

  • You are correct!
    The wall people bump into while trying to change the system is difficult to understand.
    One have to conclude that something is wrong with the system. Because many had and are still trying to change the system but nobody seem to be listening. Or they may listen but do nothing.

  • There has been a lot of discussion about the problems with the Cuban system but it is also worth considering things in perspective. It is completely false to compare Cuba with North America and Europe. Both consume far more than their fare share of resources, (five times, and three times respectively) and they have achieved these positions through a history of slavery, war and plunder. They now maintain them through a combination of capitalism and military might. Almost all Cubans who emigrate go to these countries, as do the huge numbers of other people from other countries. But if we are to build socialism, we cannot be aiming to emulate these countries. In fact the opposite, what we really require is for these countries to lower their material consumption, to become in effect, more like Cuba. Seen from this perspective, despite the real and important problems that continue to challenge us, Cuba is very successful.

  • Addendum: It should be pointed out that a bureaucracy runs the economy in both the monopoly capitalist U.S. & in “Marxian socialist” Cuba. In both economies the wage and salary workers are employed by an absentee employer, & a controlling bureaucracy walks off with the bulk of the wealth produced by the workers.

    This takes place before our very eyes, but we seem unable to intellectualize the similarity.

    What it all boils down to is that a Marxian economy is–in an essential sense–a capitalist economy.

    What is needed in Cuba is not a “return” to capitalism, for–if the above is correct–Cuba is already de facto, crippled capitalist. What is needed is authentic, workable socialism. This would be a socialism in which private property & the market would exist, but the state would not own everything insight.

    Most industry & commerce would be owned directly/cooperatively by the workers, w/ partial state ownership to avoid a tax–based system of govt revenue.

  • We are watching the self-destruction of the Cuban Revolution in real time. But this is not the first time. We watched the self-destruction of the Soviet Revolution before. It’s sad.

    Yes, it’s sad, but what is even more sad is the fact that socialists both within and outside of Cuba can’t seem to understand what is causing this self-destruction.

    Look . . . It’s simple. Engels & Marx laid out a rough formula in the 2nd chapter of the Communist Manifesto for a socialist economy. The core element of this formula was concentration of all the instruments of production in the hands of the state. This core element has been implemented in many countries over the past nine decades, & it has proven dysfunctional & self-destructive in ever case.

    Michael asks “Why is progress at an impasse?” It’s simple. The core formula of Marxism = bureaucracy & paralysis.

    What would work is worker-owned cooperative corporations on the Mondragon model, with partial state ownership.

  • Why is progress at an impasse? We know the problems and the solutions. Why can’t we begin implementing them? Inertia? Fear? Lack of immagination? I can’t believe that. Cubans are bright, immaginative and corrageous. The great thinkers of The Enlightenment articulated their hopes and dreams of a more just and rational society. Why are societies instituted? Yet, If we don’t get moving I fear Cuba will become a Hobbesian nightmare where life is short, brutal and unpredictable.

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