Selling Us Their Capitalism

Daisy Valera

Feria del Libro 2010. Photo: Caridad

The image of the Havana Book Fair this year was quite similar to those of previous years; a mass of people of all ages began arriving at the Cabaña fortress early in the morning and stay until the late afternoon engaged in all types of activities.

For many people, the fair is an excuse for hanging out with friends, for enjoying the host of food stands or an opportunity to sit in the grass and sing with the accompaniment of guitars at the expansive fort, which —like the books— is full of life.

The guest country of honor this year is Russia.

Consequently, Cuban publishers came out with books that haven’t been seen in Cuba for more than 20 years; among them Tolstoy’s War and Peace, Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, and stories of Anton Chekhov.

For many years Cuba was tied culturally with Russia.  A number of generations of Cubans did their university and other types of studies in several of the republics that made up the USSR.

As a result, for many older people I saw at the fair, the Russian language is not strange (though it’s perhaps somewhat forgotten by them due to a lack of practice).

Like all countries selected to head up the fair, Russia has a pavilion for the presentation of its books, which —to the displeasure of many youths who travelled there— were all in Russian; one could only enjoy the elaborate bookbinding and pictures.

In a certain way, to me the most uncomfortable aspect about the Russian pavilion were the titles and authors they chose to exhibit at a book fair in Cuba, a socialist country.

Everywhere one could find books by Russian authors from the aristocratic epoch.  The majority of children’s stories dealt with the age of czars and princesses, and the sense of alienation in current Russian modern magazines was on par with those of countries like the United States.

In short, the Russians came in the shining suits of their capitalism.  There was not a single book on the socialist revolution in that country; nor was there anything by writers of the Soviet period, though they had previously distinguished themselves in many forms of literature such as science fiction.

Russia didn’t bring a single book about socialism or Marxism.  I didn’t find one book by Lenin or Trotsky, though I did see a volume titled “Stalin’s skyscrapers” – incredible but true.

I went away from this 19th annual fair with a bitter taste in my mouth.  What for me could have been an interesting search for information about another culture, left me frustrated.  The Russians have forgotten a part of their history whose memory is indispensable for the world in these times of crisis.

They came with the sole intention of selling us the image of their capitalism.

Daisy Valera

Daisy Valera:Soil scientist and blogger. I write from Mexico City, where Havana sometimes becomes so small that it disappears. However in others, the Cuban capital is a city so past and present that it steals your breath.


11 thoughts on “Selling Us Their Capitalism

  • March 15, 2011 at 2:29 pm
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    Tovarish,

    As a Russian whose passport says born in Moscow, USSR, albeit 1985… I find it sad that we sometimes try to forget that for which millions of our forefathers fought and died for, for bread, for peace, and justice.

    Yet the attachment to our Czarist, pre-revolutionary past is not simply a case of celebrating and showcasing our “capitalism”.

    Today, we are a nation seeking to find a new national idea and we do it by embracing all periods of our history where such greatness can be find, be it the Soviet Union or the Russian Empire, ideology aside.

    This is why our government has restored the Soviet anthem, but at the same time celebrates the Imperial era through state sponsored films.

    I have been to Cuba three times in the past five years, driven across most of the island, stayed at peoples homes. I feel both sad and optimistic. Sad because I see a nation permanently stuck in a “perestroika”, much like the USSR, this time brought a rapid decline of moral and social values, loss of faith in the system, and at the same time greater hopes and expectations for the future.

    All I can really say is that you should never destroy the old system, until you know what to replace it with. No matter how sad this perestroika is, it is better than the alternative of chaos and decline. I have been to other places in Latin America and the Caribbean and nowhere did I feel safer and more at home than in Cuba. A counter revolution would just transform this great nation into another Dominican Republic, and thats a best case scenario after a long recovery period. I hope this never happens.

  • March 6, 2010 at 8:30 pm
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    “do not put words in my mouth that I haven’t uttered.”

    Liset, but you did put words on Daisy’s mouth, saying that she was “glorifying the barbarities committed during the Soviet Revolution”. Also, you called her stupid/alienated right off the bat, if that isn’t ‘extremist’ arguing, I don’t know what it is… wait, on second though, I do know what it is – that’s ‘trolling’.

  • February 25, 2010 at 4:03 am
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    BTW, I said right wing, because sometimes it doesn’t matter if it is left or right, extremists are always wrong.
    If you are wondering though, my ideals are more to the side of the left, but I do not narrow myself to a party, because none of them fit me.

  • February 25, 2010 at 3:59 am
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    uuuyyyy, I see this is a nest of the radical right wing.
    The only problem is that people like my friend Fidel down there (‘Fidel down’ what a nice combination of words) are too narrow minded and extremist to have an intelligent debate with. They will never stop hating.
    However, I will have to disappoint you: I am not from Miami, I am not a Yankee (please not the spelling) and most importantly, Capitalism is NOT ‘my model’.
    My problem is that I was born, grew up and lived most of my life in Cuba and Cuba is not better than capitalism, on the contrary. But, do not misinterpret what I said. I criticized Daisy because she only sees darkness when she doesn’t really know anything other than Cuba. do not put words in my mouth that I haven’t uttered.
    Lastly, I am not American, dear Fidel, I am Cuban. And will always be, because even though some people have destroyed my country, I love it and I will never forgive what they have done to us.
    Good bye, Lenin, I mean Fidel…

  • February 23, 2010 at 4:55 am
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    “The U.S. is an over-rated waste-land, filled mostly with idiots!” LOL! Oooh! Aaah! Whip me some more! Those insults are sooo delicious! Acutually, Nik Fidel, is there any country on the face of this planet whose populace is not, figuratively speaking, filled with idiots? Whether in Cuba, or the U.S., or Burkina Faso, it is a struggle to arrive at the truth, and this struggle takes motivation and imagination. Actually, it is probably more of a struggle here in the EE.UU., where there are so many more distractions which waste our precious time, and the mass media is so much more sophisticated in its propaganda. Still, they can propagandize all they want, but the help wanted advertizements in our local newspaper, after several months, continues to list the same pathetic twelve jobs, and the empty store-fronts along Main Street continue to multiply, so all the smoke-and-mirrors about the economy’s “recovery” is not fooling most folks.

  • February 22, 2010 at 4:46 pm
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    follow up

    Huge unemployment, 37% in some areas foreclosures, homeless people living in tents, crime, suicide, and still more double talk that the bible doles out? A near trillion dollar deficit and murder rate that is blasting thru the skys..amerikkka needs all the help it can get..And last guess what..it wuill not come from China.. and when and if the imperiallists are able to get out of this it will be because of the silver slippery tongue of the now Pres Obama whose ego and poor leadership skills are such that he will sell his own mother a expired ticket, knowing that the event has taken place.

  • February 22, 2010 at 4:38 pm
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    Daisy..as my grandchildren say/..U GO GURL!! I AM PROUD OF YOU

    As a Cuban who is getting medical checks in Matanzas after 2 mths in Haiti.i can tell you that the imperialists(amerikkka) is at the head of all of the insanity related to the efforts to sell Cuba the flim-flam related to CAPITALISM. For one thing the US is owned by China, Dubai and Dios only knows where else..So my thoughts are that they (Russia)have nothing to do other than try to stay in the imperialists good graces.

    As i remember what Russia did when they sold Cuba out back on the 70’s i am not shocked ,but am wondering what is in this still needs the so called evil empire to do tits bidding .And all anyone need do is sit and watch the outcome..MalcolmX once said..THE CHICKENS ARE COMING HOME TO ROOST.can u guess where they are roosting again ? 😉 Look North

    Great piece of work..

  • February 22, 2010 at 11:16 am
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    Liset, let me guess, your a Yankie and from Miami!

    I found the article 100% spot on and the points raised very valid.

    It is you, Liset, that is brainwashed and have ZERO concept of a world without the silent tyranny of your GREEDY Capitalist model!

    The US is an over rated wasteland, filled with mostly; idiots!

    Sorry, the truth must be told! Barely 20% of u Yankies even have a passport, so how the hell can you comment about world affairs! Your history books are filled with the lies and twisted history that you Americans buy into, hook line and sinker! Sad!

    Also, the US has the highest level of illiterate people in the G20 and Western World!

    A REAL MODEL TO ASPIRE TO!

    NOT!

  • February 22, 2010 at 4:35 am
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    Seems like the Chinese (and the Germans) have more to say about successfull (and state-regulated) capitalism than the Russians. Meanwhile, in Russia life expectancy and birth rates are down, the age of its citiizens is up, and the percentage of its citizens who are alcoholic or addicted to drugs is up, too. What does this have to say about the quality of life in the social Darwinist, post-Soviet epoch?.

  • February 21, 2010 at 6:20 pm
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    Daisey is 100 % correct in her analysis, they like the Chinese are their to sell you their capitalism.

    But comrade Che didn’t even like their system back in the day, if they had brought books in spanish it would have been an improvement and none by Lenin ot Trotsky is a sin.

    Granted the Russian people are good people but they have to live with these crooks like Putin and a bunch of gansters which I am sorry for.

    And I live outside and you would not like seeing humans who live and treat people like animals and always thinking on or how to get over on them…

    Rojo Rojito

  • February 21, 2010 at 4:39 pm
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    Daisy, your lack of knowledge deprives you of any reason you might have. It’s amazing that a Nuclear Quemistry student would have such simple ideas without any other explanation.
    To read you is not to understand you, is not to believe you.
    When you say “and the sense of alienation in current Russian modern magazines was on par with those of countries like the United States” you are talking about, yes, a big percentage of the American magazines, but you are not taking into account that there are many serious excellent magazines, as the National Geographic for example. In the US there are many stupid and evil people (like in ANY OTHER COUNTRY, including Cuba) but there are also a lot of intelligent people doing good things.
    Also, you are glorifying the barbarities committed during the Soviet Revolution. One day you will really SEE the world outside and you will realize how naïve these ideas are. I hope.

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