Where I Differ from Elio

Alfredo Fernandez

Photo: Julie Webb-Pullman

HAVANA TIMES, Feb 25 — Several days ago, another writer with Havana Times, Elio Delgado Legon, saw fit to comment on my article “Cuba’s Chemically Aged Kids.”

Though my first impulse when reading his comment (in Spanish) was to respond in a similar manner, I decided to use his argument as a springboard and write this response, which touches on only a few aspects of the extensive dossier on the Cuban government’s responsibility for the situation we Cubans are suffering today.

Mr. Delgado began his comment by saying, “The writer speaks of disillusionment and disappointment. That’s exactly what the US government has attempted to create among the Cuban people through its genocidal blockade so that people will blame the revolution and rail against it.”

Let’s pause on that point made by Mr. Delgado, as I would like to respond to him with this question: Was it really the United States, with its genocidal blockade, that created the “disillusionment and disappointment” that mobilized hoards of people around the “Havana Greenbelt” (Spanish: Cordon de la Habana) and the “Brigada Che Guevara”?

It’s my understanding that both plans were designed to produce coffee (around Havana in the first instance and across most of the country in the second). Notwithstanding, the only outcomes of these programs were the clearing of forests and orchards.

The subsequent losses in the variety of fruits that the country once had is still felt — forty years later — in the shortages in Cuban agricultural markets.

I would also like to ask Mr. Delgado if it was actually the United States government that forced the Cuban authorities — refusing to listen to scientists and experienced farmers in the country — to undertake those famous “cross breeding” experiments on one of the largest populations of cattle per capita on the continent?

Prior to 1959 there were nearly seven million head of cattle, which the new “project” practically eliminated. Today Cuba has only two million head, despite a law stipulates up to 20 years imprisonment for anyone caught slaughtering a cow

Now the most interesting question: Was it the United States that ordered our leaders to stop our traditional sugar production almost entirely, in an industry that had been the world’s most efficient with an output of more than 7 million tons in 1957, a harvest that for its levels of profitability was much higher than the disaster that is now known in our history as “The Harvest of 1970.”

In another part of his comment, Mr. Elio Delgado asserts: “The Special Period crisis was not an invention of Fidel. It was a period of subsistence when Cuba was left without 90 percent or more of its previous foreign trade and when the US government tightened the blockage in an attempt to give the revolution its deathblow.”

“Fortunately, our people are educated and intelligent, and they understand who’s to blame for our shortages. Those who are fooled and fall for the game played by US imperialism have their punishment in their penance. If they had been here struggling alongside our people to advance the country, despite everything, at least they would have felt useful and wouldn’t be so rootless.”

For me, that comment by Elio puts in doubt that there was nothing wrong with what “our leaders” did to our country, such as with the economy, tying it feet and hands to the eastern bloc. Consequently, when that other system went “belly-up,” Cuba was automatically thrown into the abject poverty and misery that we continue to suffer twenty years later.

I therefore infer that nor does Mr. Delgado find major problems with the fact that — even after that previous near-fatal experience — the authorities are once again jeopardizing the country, this time by making it dependent on a single thread: the health of President Chavez.

The “historic generation” of the revolution is thus forever ruling out any experiments with real socialists choices.

I have more questions: Was it the United States that prevented the Cuban government from empowering workers to create cooperatives, ones in which they themselves could choose their own leaders – not the party?

I would also like to know: Is it the United States that up until now has prevented local presidents of the “People’s Power” assemblies in municipalities and towns across Cuba from acting as their name implies?

Has the US impeded these grass roots organizations from exercising real power or hampered them from acting as agents of change in their communities, abandoning for once and for all their role of merely justifying the central government’s failure?

As for the Cuban people being “educated and intelligent,” I agree with Mr. Delgado, and more than that, I believe that many of them do “understand who’s to blame for our shortages.” I simply doubt that all of them know, because of too many years of misinformation and forced submission have ended up distorting the ability of Cubans to analyze their reality.

This is why I have to ask this question to Mr. Delgado or someone like himself: Do you truly believe that the policies of the US government are solely to blame for two million Cubans roaming the world today and for many of those who still live on the island wanting to escape?

I don’t want to conclude without offering my apologies to Mr. Delgado for this obsession I have with using Socratic maieutics to continually ask questions that almost no one asks, even at the risk of someday “someone” or several of them forcing me to sip hemlock .
And finally, I pose this last question: Do you truly believe, Mr. Delgado, that with my questions I am attempting to defend the United States?

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.

Alfredo Fernandez has 177 posts and counting. See all posts by Alfredo Fernandez

3 thoughts on “Where I Differ from Elio

  • Thanks for this, Alfredo. You speak clearly and effectively. I was drawn particularly to your question: “Was it the United States that prevented the Cuban government from empowering workers to create cooperatives, ones in which they themselves could choose their own leaders – not the party?

    It was not the US of course that prevented the workers from creating cooperatives in which they could choose their own leaders. It was–and apparently still is–the core idea of Marxian socialism that private productive property rights are inherently contrary to socialism and must be abolished immediately. This crazy core idea–that originated with the privileged-class Utopians and was injected into the working class movement via Engels and Marx–is what has caused so much dysfunction and failure with all socialist experiments, to date.

    In Cuba, it’s as though imperialist agents had infiltrated the early PCC and ensured that the state would take over and try to run everything productive in Cuba, in order to guarantee the ultimate failure of the revolution!

    One thing is for sure . . . Socialism must keep private productive property rights intact, in order for the workers of industry and commerce to be the primary owners, directly and cooperatively, and also to make it possible for the small bourgeoisie to function, serve the people and participate honorably in the socialist bridge construction project.

  • The link should be working now. Thanks

  • Very good response, Alfredo. You used the “springboard” very effectively.
    Nice new ‘head shot’ too – great hat!

    [FYI: the link within this piece currently does not open to the earlier article, “Cuba’s Chemically Aged Kids,” but the link to it in the Category Archive list at the right works just fine.]

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