Cuba: Revolt of the Rabble

Erasmo Calzadilla

HAVANA TIMES — One of the most significant socio-cultural events Cuba is witnessing today is something we could call the “Revolt of the Rabble”. This issue is cause for concern, particularly for those who feel most affected by it: the older generations, people who have other values and are unwilling to renounce them, intellectuals and those interested in social matters.

In “normal” countries, the rabble, if it exists (I wonder if there is any nation without rabble), is marginalized or kept at bay by other social groups (the middle class, for instance). Being considered “rabble” means being very low on the social ladder, which is why people try not to act like rabble, even when they are part of it.

In Cuba, however, this trend – at least since the triumph of the revolution – has been inverted: the more trashy you appear, the greater your chances of survival, of defeating your enemies, of solving day to day problems and even appealing to people and hooking up with someone – which is why many people here try to act this way, even when they are not like that at all.

The attitudes typical of the rabble have become hegemonic in Cuba. The everyday wisdom, manner of speaking (content, pronunciation and body language), music and fashion which predominate in the country are those of the rabble. It represents, not only a mass phenomenon, but a totalitarian culture as well, for it is intolerant towards other trends, identities and alternative lifestyles.

Causes

The revolution set out to create the New Man and ended up engendering our reggaeton-listening youth. It pictured itself giving birth to a mature, educated and conscientious working class (the world’s most cultured people), but its offspring turned out to be a rag-tag of criminal underlings. Now, it must reap what it sowed.

In its fight to the death with the bourgeoisie and the remnants of Cuba’s capitalist past (everything that wasn’t communist fit these categories), the revolution ended up throwing out the baby with the bath water, impoverishing the nation’s cultural fiber dramatically.

True, it redeemed the poor and favored the underprivileged sectors of society. But, simultaneously, it implemented political, labor, economic and other practices which have eroded the best things these people had.

State centralization, egalitarianism, the curtailment of liberties, paternalism, Soviet subsidies, measly salaries, the incitement of political violence, the establishment of an information monopoly – these are some of the social practices, unleashed years ago, which today encourage the consolidation of the rabble.

Political Trashiness

An alienated social group, the rabble never expresses itself as a politically-conscious subject. It would be ridiculous to refer to it as “civil society”.

The State takes advantage of the rabble’s political illiteracy to provoke it and set it loose on its opponents. Neither the State, nor any political vanguard, could ever rely on the rabble to improve socialism or create a more just society. The rabble can only destroy, it can never create.

In this and many other senses, the “Revolt of the Rabble” is an undesirable phenomenon and, as such, many well-intentioned people are looking for ways to contain it.

To expect the rabble to put its ways behind it of its own decision would be rather naive. Culturally speaking, the rabble likes the way it is and is even proud of itself.

Some set their hopes on a return to capitalism (something which doesn’t seem so distant now), which they feel will set things “in their place.” Capitalism may, in effect, be able to hold back the tide of the rabble, but it would also propagate its own vices, which look even worse than those of the rabble.

Since I don’t have an answer and I am not convinced by those of others, I’m going to join the rabble. If anyone has a problem with that, well…they’ve got plenty of work to do.

Erasmo Calzadilla

Erasmo Calzadilla: I find it difficult to introduce myself in public. I've tried many times but it doesn’t flow. I’m more less how I appear in my posts, add some unpresentable qualities and stir; that should do for a first approach. If you want to dig a little deeper, ask me for an appointment and wait for a reply.


2 thoughts on “Cuba: Revolt of the Rabble

  • July 11, 2013 at 8:04 am
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    The definition of “rabble” is essential here as in the definition of the “proles” in Orwell’s 1984.
    The real “rabble” Raul Castro sees are the dissidents that speak out and the Cuban people that quietly work around the system. Raul’s “rabble” and “antisocials” are those that do not quietly confirm with his wishes. His army background demands obedience. Most dissidents share with the “rabble” that works around the system the sense that things can’t go on like this. They are just those prepared to take the risk to put their hears above the masses of disaffected Cubans. As such they are more representative of the Cuban people than any of the Castro elite will ever be.

  • July 10, 2013 at 2:11 pm
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    Castro’s revolution was designed to liberate the “rabble” from the oppression of the Batista dictatorship. So-called ‘free’ social services of the Castro regime like education and health were initially attractive to Cuba’s mostly poor people. However once people prosper and or have access to money, they will quickly seek to differentiate themselves with ‘special’ services bought by the money they have acquired. As a result, the Castros needed to maintain a certain level of economic poverty to maintain control over the people. They needed a permanent ‘rabble’ population dependent upon the State for all their needs and available to do their bidding, i.e. repudiation rallies and May Day marches. After nearly three generations of keeping the rabble in check with their list of ‘freebies’, the regime is now struggling to maintain the same level of service provided by these freebies because of declining resources and deteriorating infrastructure. As education, housing, health care and guaranteed employment falters, the increasing discontented rabble will revolt. The Castros see this better than most and are implementing patchwork reforms simply to buy time. Tick, tock….

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