Michael Moore on Cuba TV

Dmitri Prieto

May Day 2010 in Havana

The day after May Day, also the day of the second round of the municipal elections, I saw Michael Moore’s new film, Capitalism: A Love Story.  As far as I know, this was the second time this documentary was shown on Cuban TV.  I watched it again to refresh myself on some of the information and to enjoy the jazz version of The International, which was played at the end of the film.

The documentary appeared on La Mesa Redonda (The Round Table), a national television program that emerged as a part of the “Battle of Ideas” campaign during the months that the demand went out for the return of young Elian Gonzalez, who was being held by relatives in the US against the wishes of his father here in Cuba.

The Mesa Redonda usually doesn’t present debate; instead it presents a succession of explanations given by specialists in line with a previously developed script on international issues, though a few shows have dealt with occurrences in Cuba.  On occasions the network uses the Mesa Redonda’s time slot to show documentaries on politically significant issues.

I’m glad that in the middle of Moore’s masterful and amusing demonstration of today’s disastrous capitalist crisis (comparing it to the good times in which his parents lived), Moore inserted sequences on alternatives to the current bourgeois system.  He included images of buildings taken over by their residents after being evicted by banks, factories re-occupied by workers, and companies that are self-managed cooperatively by their workers.

It is fantastic that exactly one day after May Day 2010, when a group of comrades went to march in Havana’s Revolution Square with slogans against the bureaucracy and in support of the leading role of workers, there appeared images on Cuban TV of US factories that are operated without the need for bureaucrats or capitalists.

“Socialism is Democracy – Dump the Bureaucracy!” - photo: Jimmy Roque Martínez

It was amazing to see the faces of those workers, who are also owners of their economic destinies and who control production and life at their workplaces.  For me, the best part of Moore’s documentary is where people speak about their own experiences.

Obviously, self-management —as emancipatory and equitable as it may be— doesn’t solve the problem at more than a micro level, since the global capitalist system continues to exist, imposing its laws and logic on the entire planet.  Nonetheless, it’s comforting to learn about experiments that can be the first fruits of a future society that is more just and democratic.

It would be great to participate in an experiment like that in Cuba.  I believe that the Cuban people —with the sympathies that characterizes us and with the experiences of solidarity we possess— are ready to initiate the journey along the path of cooperative self-management of workplaces.  Let’s hope that the reforms that the general secretary of the Confederation of Cuban Trade Unions referred to in his May Day address have something to do with that.

In any case, I’m fully aware that the words “self-management” and “cooperative” are increasingly heard in diverse Cuban environments, thanks basically to the activism of a handful of determined citizens.  I feel warmth in my heart when realizing that many people in Cuba consider the democratization of the economy a worthy cause to work and struggle for.

Like Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

The aftermath of International Workers Day is a good moment to begin rocking the boat…perhaps to the beat of The International, with a jazz rhythm.  This would remind us of Chicago’s Haymarket Square martyrs and the millions of proletarians who honored their memory on May 1, including the Cuban activists who marched through Revolution Square to the rhythm of congas, samba and rumba.

It’s a shame that many Cuban television viewers find the Mesa Redonda boring and that because of this they missed Michael Moore’s satire concerning the recent history of “Yankee capitalism.”  Nor did they see the flashes of what could be a democratic, socialist and cooperatively organized society.  This is a future that I believe is valid not only for the United States but also for other societies – including ours.

Dimitri Prieto-Samsonov

Dmitri Prieto-Samsonov: I define myself as being either Cuban-Russian or Russian-Cuban, indiscriminately. I was born in Moscow in 1972 of a Russian mother and a Cuban father. I lived in the USSR until I was 13, although I was already familiar with Cuba-- where we would take our vacation almost every year. I currently live on the fifth floor of an apartment building in Santa Cruz del Norte, near the sea. I’ve studied biochemistry and law in Havana and anthropology in London. I’ve written about molecular biology, philosophy and anarchism, although I enjoy reading more than writing. I am currently teaching in the Agrarian University of Havana. I believe in God and in the possibility of a free society. Together with other people, that’s what we’re into: breaking down walls and routines.

24 thoughts on “Michael Moore on Cuba TV

  • Indeed, truth is always revolutionary. But sometimes it’s difficult to know who’s speaking the truth…

    Also, I’d like to thank Julio for adding up my arguments with his own’s. But he still hasn’t replied me why, in another board here on HT (http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=23937), he suddenly changed the way he writes and talked as an US-born citizen in one of ‘his’ commentaries (http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=23937#comment-7270). Wonder why.

  • I think SICKO was Michael Moore’s best film – many discussions of the small section on the (far superior) Cuban health system miss the fact that this was an intimate and detailed indictment of the US health system. That is where it is most powerful.

  • Well said Dmitri!
    “TRUTH is always REVOLUTIONARY”.

    Yes, I was referring to SICKO and I have not seen the documentary by Michael Moore you are referring. My take is it is hard for me to believe or even see anything with his name attached since I know he had lied before. So he is not a credible source to me. He usually exaggerates things.
    I thought I was worth mentioning my point of view. He may or may not be telling lies about this other documentary. I really do not know. But because of the precedent. Anything he says is suspect.
    Glad to know you guys can read our comments.
    Best regards to all of you.

  • Julio:

    I haven’t seen SICKO, which I suppose is the film you’re mentioning, where MM praises the Cuban Health System. We know much better how our health system really is than MM does, I hope.

    What I’m writing about in my post is the self-management experiences carried out by some American workers’ co-ops, which really fascinated me. I would be happy if you could tell us whether the info Moore provides about such experiences is a “lie” as well.

    The usual praise of “Cuban realities” by the worldwide left isn’t a news at all.
    Regarding myself, I just follow Antonio Gramsci: “TRUTH is always REVOLUTIONARY”.


  • Luis
    Nobody goes into a Cuban Hospital filming without prior permission.
    He was given permission to do the propaganda he created.
    What is pitiful is that he try to passed propaganda for truth.

    What I said was that it is reasonable to expect that someone who lie one time lies multiple times.
    I am not attacking Moore I am refuting the validity of his statements by placing information that contradicts the implicit information given by one of his propaganda films.

    So instead of informing people he is misinforming them
    Attacking will be something else.

  • No Julio, I will not admit I’m mistaken.

    First, because I didn’t call YOU a troll. I said you were following the LOGIC of a troll in your arguments.

    Second, the one who brought an Ad Hominem argument was you, with respect to Michael Moore. Because Dmitri talks about “Capitalism, A Love Story” and you came up with “Sicko”. You say he lied on “Sicko”, so everything he says in “Capitalism, A Love Story” is a lie also – that’s your logic.

    Let me expand on the “Sicko” issue – you say “He just waltz his way into the hospital!” – well, he also “just waltz his way” into Canadian, English and French hospitals! That’s editing. Every film-maker edits his material in order to strengthen his/her point of view. We know it’s not as easy to get medical care in those places, too.

    Third, I still think you have yet to prove I’m mistaken, since I didn’t affirm anything in the first place. I just told my impressions on the subject. And what does CIREN being founded in ’89…

  • Luis
    “Julio follows a simple trollistic logic”
    People that attack another person and not their arguments easily demonstrate that do not have a way to counter the arguments of the other. Is a know logical fallacy name argumentum ad hominem


    I was hoping you could do better than that.
    Would you admit that you were mistaken?

  • Luis
    This center for attending paying foreigners was founded on feb 26 1989 way before Michael Moore did his documentary.

    “El Centro Internacional de Restauración Neurológica, CIREN, fundado el 26 de febrero de 1989, es una institución científico-médica de avanzada con un área y programas de investigaciones básicas que aportan ”


    Why do you do the same as Michael Moore?

  • Not so Luis
    I used I have friends that used to work at one of those places and it was long before in existence please do not also what Michael Moore does.

  • At the time Micheal Moore shot this, apparently there wasn’t any kind of health insurance requirement for visitors in Cuba, as a couple of recent news in HT indicate.

    Julio follows a simple trollistic logic – “if it’s a good thing about Cuba, then it must be a lie!”

  • Dmitri
    I remember seen the documentary that Michael Moore created about health care where he uses as an example the Cuban system and I was very surprise to see the outright lies he tells there.
    He took people from here to be admitted at the Hermanos Almejeiras. He just waltz his way into the hospital!
    I could not stop smiling about all the innocent americans been duped by Michael.
    The regime does offer service for foreigners but only after they pay dollars for it and naturally Cubans are not allow to go to any hospital but to the one they are assigned.
    As they say One a lier always a lier.
    So how could you believe this man that lies openly and misrepresent Cuba?

  • Sam, ok perhaps I am not getting the full picture, as I said I was relying on the international press, always a mistake 😉 However it would be nice to know a bit more about what is meant by “the stores themselves will still be owned collectively”. Is that a legal requirement? How does it work? etc.

    Incidently, has anyone tried to engage China on the subject of co-operatives?

    Perhaps http://www.peopleforum.cn/ would be a good place to start…

    We should all be enormously grateful for the experiments that Cuba, China and others have carried out, often at great sacrifice, for the help and guidence they give humanity in how to move forward, both through their successes and failures.

    Cuba’s experience continues to be a lesson to us all.

  • damn, i wish the post space was about 500 characters longer. Anyways, I feel China understands that Communism needs to bring economic development, but since Mao it too has failed to really implement any sort of democratic thinking. It swung from the absurdity and orwellianism of the cultural revolution to the cold economic market communism of the past 3 decades.

    Cuba can find its own way. The Castros need to be more decisive, but they also need to start letting the next generation take over. They should make a few key reforms, then retire and let a new generation take over.

  • George-that is true, however it seems that the stores themselves will still be owned collectively. From my understanding, it is only the barber’s chair that is rented. Seems good to me, the barber can set his own hours and work according to his own needs.

    What I’m interested in too is on what will be done about the faltering sugar industry. Is it going to need a Brazilian, Chinese or a Venezuelan partial buyout? More importantly, why the massive setback after what seemed like a few years of success?

    Anyways, I generally think that the real problem is the bureaucracy. Marx and Lenin only ever recommended state socialism as the interim regime which would set Communism up. The USSR forgot the real telos of its ideological agenda and instead committed itself to base militarism. When its military overproduction brought down the rest of its economy, it lacked the popular legitimacy to back it up. Cubans on the other hand seem to believe in socialism, but it also needs democracy.

  • Sam, as you say the challenge is to avoid the mistakes of the USSR and China. If someone is self-employed then that is simply a co-operative made up of one person. The moment we have a situation where one person employs another, legislation needs to be there to ensure that this relationship is a co-operative one. I know it does not seem so important in the case of barbers, no one is expecting a barber to become an extremely wealthy capitalist, but since this is the first experiment, the principles need to be put in place. There are issues for collective decision making, besides that of employment, such as the purchasing of equipment and other resources needed. The principles of collective worker control need to be established early on to ensure that Cuba avoids the negative aspects of the Chinese model.

  • The barbers rent out collectively owned public property. Seems pretty Communist to me. The thing is, a barber works on an individual alone, so there’s no real added benefit to collective decision-making there outside of the distribution of barber work.

    Cooperatives would work better for industry or intensive agriculture, where the inherent nature of the industry requires a greater degree of social cohesion. One of Marx’s big points was that it was the ever-expanding social nature of industrial production that necessitated socialist intervention and popular democracy, but barbers are more like taxi drivers where the collective can, at best, merely own the means of production, while the individual worker still needs to make independent decisions in the course of his daily work.

    Anyways, as long as Cuba avoids the mistakes of the USSR or China, I don’t have a problem.

  • this is an inspiring column. i live in the united states, and to be honest, things are much worse here than is reported. michael moore has to tone it down a lot of times in order to get his message across. . . . . maybe you noticed, but michael moore posted this column in his facebook profile. . . . capitalism is just an advanced and legal form of organized crime. . . . i have more hope for latin countries where people are united by a commonality. . . .

  • The Margaret Mead “quote” cannot actually be traced to her. She may or may not have ever said that. There is no record of her writing it; no recording of her saying it. The quote would take on a whole different meaning if someone like Hitler, Castro or Cheney originated it. Wouldn’t it?


  • Part 2: If businesses are going to be turned over to non-state management, then legislating that they must by law operate as co-operatives is essential from the very beginning. For once a capitalist class has emerged it will be much harder to reverse the situation.

    We already see this with China, where most of the successful capitalists in their hybrid system have managed to move into the upper levels of the communist party and so wield increasing influence.

    As I said, the barber shop experiment is the tentative beginnings of introducing markets into Cuba, and I am not totally against it. I am as always pragmatic. However, since it is the first experiment, the time is now to insist that legislation be brought in ensuring that non-state businesses be run as co-operatives.

    I think this is very urgent, though perhaps I have been mislead by the international press.

  • Part 1: I am slightly worried by the recent developments reported about barber shops and beauty salons in the international press, not because they are handing over responsibility to the workers, but because as far as I understand it there is no legal requirement for them to operate as co-operatives.

    This is a very important test case. We have already seen what has happened in China where workers’ rights are almost non-existent in the market run businesses.

    I still defend China because it still plays an important role in the anti-imperialist struggle and also on the grounds of how much suffering the Chinese people have had to endure in their experimentations with developing socialism.

    However it is vital that we learn from their mistakes as well as their successes…

  • What do you think about the cuban society? Is it an alternativ to capitalism? Is it socialistic?

  • yes i am so longing to comunity where i am only loyal to progration.my only enmey is povetry.no bad controling on people.pl help the palistanian

  • Nicely argued. I wonder if anyone will listen and follow through.

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