—Upon reaching ninth grade, which is the third year of secondary school, Cuban students have the opportunity to become members of an organization that is very important in Cuba: the Young Communist League (UJC). This organization is supposed to gather into its ranks those young people who are noted for their exemplary and revolutionary attitudes.
When I was 14, I was able to witness how adolescents entered this organization. One day a teacher came into the classroom and informed several of us students that we had been chosen to form part of the ranks of the UJC.
My idea was that belonging to the organization was nothing more than recognition for having done well on exams and participated in all of the activities sponsored by the school. Almost all of us felt flattered.
Several days later, though, I asked the teacher not to include me in the entrance process. I reasoned that I didn’t even know the meaning of the word “communist,” and I felt incapable of belonging to a political organization without any knowledge of it.
Later, when I entered the pre-university Institute (tenth to twelfth grade), I became very interested in knowing how the UJC functioned, despite not being part of it. Several of my classmates were activists, and I asked them what they did.
They commented that when they reached the pre-university, they were told by teachers belonging to the Communist Party that they had to have meetings every month, pay dues and discuss political articles-generally speeches made by the leaders of our country. Several said that these political discussions had no importance for them and that they understood very little.
Now I’m in the university, and here too the UJC story repeats itself. I find that many of the members in my class see the monthly meetings as unnecessary. They rarely look interested in discussing a theme that someone else has chosen for them.
On occasions, I have asked some of them why they continue belonging to the organization. The majority told me that it was for convenience, in order to obtain a good job; others believed that resigning could create problems for them.
After all these years, my impression is that instead of developing activists, it seems that the UJC is just collecting numbers.
It’s well known that this organization is meant to shape the future members of the Cuban Communist Party. This seems very contradictory to me, because my classmates reportedly have never even received talks explaining clearly what the purpose of the UJC is, or what rights they have as members; nor have they tried to teach them what communism is.
To me, many of the young people in the organization are far from being a vanguard; instead they appear stifled, unable to make decisions about the themes they’re interested in discussing. In private, many say that it’s a static organization incapable of revolutionizing our society.
Why don’t the leaders begin by explaining the characteristics of a socialist society; why don’t they give a course on what communism is; why don’t they discuss Marxism?
All of this, in my way of thinking, constitutes a very grave error that the UJC has yet to overcome. There are very few in its rank-and-file who really identify with the organization because they are seen only as numbers and not as protagonists.
I ask, how can you be a protagonist if even the topics that you have to discuss monthly are imposed by someone you don’t know and who is incapable of explaining to you their importance?