My Mom’s Fears

Erasmo Calzadilla

Sunday was Election Day in Cuba. Photo: Caridad

On Election Day last Sunday, I was wrapped up in a family drama.  As I didn’t sleep at home the night before, I called my mother early that morning to tell her I wasn’t going to vote.

For years I had been mustering the courage to do something like this, but this was the first time I had reached the point of taking action.

I’ve heard that these types of neighborhood-based elections are among the most progressive and revolutionary in the world, but here in Cuba at least, they serve as the perfect mechanism for keeping things just like they are while also legitimizing them with the popular vote.

The explanation of the details of the Cuban system electoral I’ll leave to the theoreticians so that I can continue with the story about my mother.

Before she began calling and hassling me to show up and vote, I took the initiative and explained my decision to her on the phone.

It was then that the moaning and groaning began.  She started telling me I was going to get a bad name in the building, I won’t ever get a good job again, etc. etc., and she may be right.

Understanding that she wasn’t going to achieve anything that way, my mom switched to a second tack: She used the story (not completely farfetched) that doing something like that would harm the family.  Her argument was strong, and in past years it would have created doubts in me, but this time I wasn’t going to buy it.  I have accepted them, even though they don’t think the same way as me, so they should do the same.

In a last attempt to “fix” things, Olguita (my mom) proposed lying to the people from the board of elections when they came to our house asking for me. She was going to tell them I was out of the province and wouldn’t get back in time. However, I also quashed that idea of hers. The courage I had marshaled ended up being enough to prevent me from going into hiding.

The main reason for not exercising my right to vote is precisely my non-acceptance of such mechanisms like pressure that put fear in the heart of mother; I simply don’t want to legitimize something like that.

13 thoughts on “My Mom’s Fears

  • Luis I disagree
    Do you think Obama is the same as Bush?

    So voting does make a difference!
    Big difference.

  • No Julio, I don’t think that – you’re putting words in my mouth… again.

    But what do I think? Well, let me only say that Emma Goldman made a lot of sense when she said that ‘if voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal’.

  • Since the beginning of the revolution, the bureaucrats weren’t actually required to do anything but take consultation with the workers. Guevara as ministry of industry held the bureaucrats’ feet to the fire to make this a meaningful process but as soon as he was gone, meaningful participation in the economic decisions by the people was streamlined to tokens, so that the lives of the bureaucrats would be easier. No more visiting the work places every week, no more working with the various work places on monthly basis. Just their cozy air conditioned offices, luncheons, the best facilities like housing, etc.
    This is simply a coordinator class and a betrayal of the revolution. Even the most ardent sons and daughters of the revolution, from major revolutionary families see through the consultations and participation at the low levels like neighbourhoods as nothing but a reuse. Meaningful participation by the people hardly exists.
    Abajo con la clase coordinadora!

  • Well turnout was 94%, so the majority voted. One assumes that this blogger had not studied the candidates enough to allow him to make a choice.

  • So Luis do you think Erasmos’s mom does not fear for her son not to be able to find a job? or a job he likes?
    Was it too long ago he was fired from a job teaching?
    What was the reason they fired him from the job?

    Erasmo, I know this is personal to you but could you please let us know what you think about that?

  • No, Julio.

    Social pressure is different from legal obligation and cohertion. Erasmo himself proved it.

    In many ‘free’ countries (including my own) voting is compulsory. So your point is…?

  • With regards to the war George.
    The Cuban regime is at war with its own people. Those that oppose their absolute control of Cuba.

  • George
    If people are pressure to vote then they are not voting out of their own free will.
    They are basically force so that the regime can claim a sort of legitimacy!
    Is that right then?

    People may not want to vote for many reasons
    Like for example they are not represented
    or because they like to change things and change is no option
    So the end result is people have fears if they do not vote as Erasmo was saying they may not get the job they like or other problems that they could get into.
    Is the old carrot and stick a carrot to stimulate them to behave a certain way and a stick if they do no behave the way they want you to behave. Paternalism!
    When is paternalism going to stop?

  • My point therefore, Erasmos, is what do you achieve by not voting. Yes you challenge the pressures to vote from fellow Cubans and the fears of not voting. But these are only the symptoms. The root of the pressures is the fact that Cuba is engaged in a war. By not voting you are not challenging these pressures at all. It is the war that has to be addressed. How to stop the pressure from those who want to destroy the Revolution. For if that pressure were not there, it would not be so important to have a high turn out. Of course the best way to deal with the external pressures is to be so internally strong (in an unforced sense) that Cuba can be indifferent to the attacks. To do that, Cuba needs to develope economic autogestion. But this brings me back to my first point about what are the correct channels to engage with changing/improving the system.

  • Erasmos it is of course your right not to vote. The question is why you would not want to. As I said, the municipal elections are not the place to change the system, though by not voting you are sending a message that you are disatisfied with the system and so increasing the pressure for change. However I think your other point about the pressures to vote that instill fear is more pertinant. These pressures are a direct result of the global struggle Cuba is engaged in. Cuba is essentially at war. To win it needs to be internally strong. The high turn out plays an important role in demonstrating the internal strength of the Revolution to the world. However if it is forced then it is obviously a fake display of strength. But where does this force or pressure come from? It is an internal reaction to external pressure. In other words, Cuba must strengthen itself intenally, but the real source of the pressure is those who are trying to destroy the Revolution.

  • The thing about the municipal elections is that they are not meant to be political, they are meant to be managerial. The role of the delegate is to manage the municipal resources according to the will of the people, not to propose changes to the system. This is fine and an example of worker control, so long as the system is deemed to be working. Now that questions are being raised about how to change the system, to make it more socialist, there is a confusion between these types of elections and elections in the capitalist world, which are supposed to be political. I think it is a mistake to confuse the two, but that leaves open the question “how to engage with changing/improving the system?”. If the municipal elections are not the correct channels what are?

Comments are closed.