—From the time that we enter elementary school at approximately six or seven years of age, Cuban students encounter two interesting words: “solidarity” and “internationalism.” The first national heroes that we are introduced to are Camilo Cienfuegos and Ernesto “Che” Guevara.
Over time, the latter figure became an interesting model for me and some of my classmates. The first motto that we learned and repeated every day in our first years as students was: “Pioneers for communism, we will be like Che.”
On top of being a rebellious youth and an adventurer, Ernesto Guevara was an internationalist. The word remained with us forever and with it the values that we were taught to attribute to him.
Despite many encounters with history and literature, Cuban youth still have not managed to comprehend the concepts behind these two words. Perhaps because in many ways the concepts of solidarity and internationalism have become nothing more than adornments for speeches and newspaper articles to which the majority of our population pays little attention.
For example, our people remember as internationalism the thousands of young Cubans who went to fight for the liberation of Angola, but it escapes their memories whether the decision to become internationalists came from them or from a few higher ups.
The word solidarity is currently presented to Cubans with other nuances: the brigades of doctors, teachers and athletes who are scattered throughout Latin America. In this case, the word really has been badly used.
My mother is a doctor and spent five years as part of one of those international missions in Venezuela, as did the parents of many friends and acquaintances. It would be an illusion to think that the main reason these people left their country and their family was to follow their conscience and express their solidarity.
The reality is that the chief motive in their decision to go was their economic situation, characterized by the impossibility of satisfying the basic needs of their families.
In countries like Venezuela it was easier for them. Moreover, the Cuban government puts a certain amount of money in the bank for them, with which they can maintain a stable financial situation for some time. Or, alternately, the government would build them a house for this same money, thus solving one of the most critical problems facing Cubans.
After analyzing this matter, we Cubans could well criticize ourselves for holding up a false banner of international conscience. It’s really not the problems of other peoples that worry us as much as our own -problems that fifty years of a paternalistic and not very participative system have failed to resolve.
True internationalism from a socialist country should be proletarian internationalism. The Cuban doctors and teachers are prohibited from talking about politics with the people of the countries where they go to work. Therefore, this so-called internationalism becomes nothing more than simple charity which doesn’t really help the workers in those countries to build a better society.