Cuba’s Federation of University Students Wants the Party to Lead

Erasmo Calzadilla


HAVANA TIMES — I hadn’t seen a spectacle as ridiculous and sad as the now-concluded congress of Cuba’s Federation of University Students (FEU) in a long time. As I watched the young students speak their minds at the gathering (in the segments shown on TV, at least), I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

The FEU still had a bit of life left in it while I was still studying at the University of Havana at the close of the 90s. The organization was, if you will, still convalescing at an intermediate care unit. I recall I was once invited to participate at a plenary session of a congress and I went out of sense of duty, thinking it would be very boring. That wasn’t the case.

A group of student leaders (belonging to the Faculty of Biology, if memory serves me right), called for the elimination of the statute which stipulates that “University education is open only to revolutionaries.”

They even took a vote and had almost approved the motion (to present it to a higher authority) when, suddenly, out of the blue, a government official joined the meeting and began to deliver a patriotic speech, evoking the martyrs of the revolution and the aggression from US imperialism. He concluded by saying that such a motion could not be passed. The issue wasn’t mentioned again.

This year’s congress, however, simply blew my mind, in a negative way, I mean. It left me with a feeling that nothing has really changed since the 80s, that we will never crawl out of this dark pit.

What can we ever expect of this country if those who are supposed to be the most rebellious and politically radical of the lot act like well-behaved children, seeking the approval of their ideological mentors, and acting as passively and in such orderly fashion as is “expected” of them?

Don’t take my word for it, read the final declaration (in Spanish) adopted by the congress. One of the principles exposed there reads: “Unity of thought, strategy and action in a single Federation, made up of one (communist) vanguard youth, under the guidance of our one (communist) Party.”

One of the students who spoke during the congress was an outspoken guy from the sticks whose appearance reminded me a lot of Eliecer Avila, the student from Cuba’s Information Sciences University (UCI) that made the president of the National Assembly of the time sweat at a meeting at his college with his difficult questions.

This guy had the same bodily gestures, the same melodious rural accent, but, instead of denouncing government secrecy or demanding accountability from high officials, Eliecer’s surrogate declared: “Let us step up our vigilance, so that no professor who has ideological problems can come into our classrooms to confuse us,” or something along those lines.

In the South, the young people of Brazil are protesting measures by their “progressive” government. I am moved by the Turks, who today risk their lives, confronting the State’s repressive apparatus. But, dear Lord, what’s happened to Cuba’s youth, what organ did you take away from them?

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.

10 thoughts on “Cuba’s Federation of University Students Wants the Party to Lead

  • I’m in the position to appeal to authority here, pal – have you ever, EVER been in touch with social movements? I have. MST and all. I saw the changing banners and slogans over time. I saw fascists expelling political banners and raising the national flag in a – you’re LUCKY there’s no proper translation of ‘ufanista’ way – I saw military demanding military intervention, with my own eyes, dammit!

  • Your over the top lies won’t change facts, Luis.
    You are out of touch with reality.

  • Is that all? Pathetic. You seem to be easily manipulated like the desorientated masses, and haven’t a slight idea of the delicate situation here now. Many things are dangererously similar to the days prior to the ’64 coup.

    Alas, during a protest in the slums three people were shot to death by the police. – – that didn’t got much media attention. Yeah the middle/upper class white people get a different police ‘treatment’ from the poor black people. If this happened in Cuba, OTAN would send their troops for an all-out military occupation right away.

  • And by ‘media’ I mean corporate media.

  • It seems you don’t care about real politics:trying to improve the lives of people.

  • I happened to be in one.

    The lack of politics drove me out – nothing I’d expect from an electoral propaganda and what the media says was missing and nothing more was there either.

    The spectre of *cough* Carlos Lacerda *cough* is out there.

  • Confusion is the first step in knowledge. Professors should try to question students “who know it all.” Lenin himself admitted that there was no absolute truth. But Cubans should be aware there is no real democracy in the USA-we have 2 political parties but they are really two wings of the same Party: the party of the rich.

  • Completely predictable that the leaders of this organization would be the most ardent supporters of the one party dictatorship.

    If a democratic civil society is to develop in Cuba, dissenting students need to establish their own independent, non-state sanctioned organization. So must other organizations championing issues like women’s and LGBT equality, the environment, neighbourhoods, media, and political concerns.

    I’m in no way underestimating the challenges involved with setting up independent civil society and political organizations, and the state repression that will inevitably follow. But there really is no other path to political pluralism and democratic governance.

  • The Brazilian president seems to disagree with you. She praised the protesters.

    “Brazil clashes after President Rousseff praises protests”

    The abuses of some do not change the good intentions of most.

    The middle class in Brasil aren’t a-political. Protests are for better government, less waste, less corruption, less impunity, less violence on the streets, … Those are political issues. Politics isn’t about economy and dogma alone.

    All these items people in various countries have protested about. Look at the outcry against the murder rate in Venezuela.

    You also seem to forget that the Cuban revolution, as Che confirmed, was a nationalistic middle class revolution inspired by corruption of the Batista regime. Che himself admitted that the revolution wasn’t communist. in fact: at the time the communist party supported Batista and did so from 1940 to 1958.

    The FEU, like all mass organizations, have always been controlled by the regime. The requirement to be a “revolutionary” (translated subservient supporter of the regime) shows that. the hardening of the position that the author points out and regrets, is a direct consequence of the fear of the regime that students can become a focal point of protests. Dissenting students that spoke out have often been removed from university in Cuba. Others have been sanctioned. That repression often achieved the opposite effect as the case of Eliecer Avila shows.

  • Erasmo, updated information has not yet reached you yet. Here what has began under a legitimate banner against the rise on public transportation fares has been hijacked by a mass of non-politized, reactionary middle-class youth, who has for example been beating up fellows who carry a party banner and calling for military intervention, much like Plinio Salgado’s Integralists and the infamous ‘March of the Family with God for Freedom’ which suppored up the ’64 coup. The protests look like much a celebration of a soccer World Cup along empty slogans against corruption. They are confusing ‘non-partisan’ with ‘anti-partisan’ in a fascist way. Things are getting pretty dangerous.

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