No More Faces

By Erasmo Calzadilla

nd Fidel Castro, two of our main commandants.  Photo Irina Echarry
Raul and Fidel Castro, two of our main commandants. Photo Irina Echarry

There is no better evidence of the precarious health of this society than the oppressive reproductions of Fidel’s face on every corner, or the immortalized quotations by him and the rest of the commandants.  There is hardly one thoroughfare in this city that is not overwhelmed with hulking posters that represent them at different stages of their lives.

The only newspaper of importance in the country, Granma, the official organ of the Communist Party, comes out every day with at least one photo of its secretary-general: Fidel – though I have sometimes counted up to seven shots of him in this timid eight-page publication.

From this same man I once read an address, delivered at the beginning of the Revolution, in which he bitterly criticized the idolization of living leaders and the “cult of personality,” which must not take place – he trumpeted – in a truly socialist society.  However, with the passing of years he seems to have forgotten his own words. (Unfortunately I lost the copy of that speech and therefore cannot cite it textually).

I suppose that anyone with only a little bit of brains and sensitivity would realize the disastrous psychological effect that such a position generates in a nation that is still only crawling when it comes to self-confidence as a people, as if they were colonized up until yesterday.

One would think that those in charge of this iconographic frenzy either lack these qualities themselves or have business interests in these images.

These likenesses are visually abusive, boring, outrageous, and sad (I lack other better words…) and I sometimes imagine that I could emigrate if only to avoid seeing one more face.

6 thoughts on “No More Faces

  • There is nothing wrong with Socialism. But what Cuba has is a totalitarian regime disrespectful toward individuality. They truly believe Fidel Castro is the only one that could “save” us. That sounds a lot like religion to me.

  • Joel, you make some good points. What is being dealt with in this article and in this “comments” exchange is what we are calling “cult of personality.” We probably should be dealing with issues of economic, political and social program, and the struggle in Cuba–and in the United States–to define exactly what “real” socialism is. My humble definition is that real socialism is “workable” socialism. Workable socialism to me is modern cooperative socialism. Let’s talk about how to make Cuban state socialism workable. My humble offering is for Cuba to reestablish the institutions of private property and the trading market, and develop into a modern cooperative republic.

  • Grady I’m also in the Los Angeles, CA area but lived in Cuba for 30 years. We know USA is not a perfect country, but that being said, I have not seen a thing even close to the cult to Fidel Castro in Cuba here in the States. There is nothing noble about Fidel Castro.

  • Erasmo, another courageous and insightful post. That there is a cult of personality involving Fidel and Che in Cuba is pretty hard to dispute if you’ve ever visited there, or read Cuban state media.

    Wikipedia has a very good entry on the purpose served by personality cults: “Generally, personality cults are most common in regimes with totalitarian systems of government, that seek to radically alter or transform society according to (supposedly) revolutionary new ideas. Often, a single leader becomes associated with this revolutionary transformation, and comes to be treated as a benevolent “guide” for the nation, without whom the transformation to a better future cannot occur.”

  • Dear Erasmo, I’m in Santa Monica, California, and I appreciate your frustration. In our monopoly capitalist country we are not treated to the faces of revolutionary leaders ad nauseum. We are treated to the faces of leaders like Geo. W. Bush and a thousand other people ad nauseum who feed us, our beloved children, and vulnerable people all over the world to the dogs in so many, many ways. How wonderous it would be to have the faces of these charletans replaced by the faces of persons even one/onehundredth as noble as Fidel and others of the Cuban leadership. That being said, something else must be said. The unworkable economic and social model of socialism foisted on the socialist movement by Marx and Engles in the Communist Manifesto of 1848 has led to the subversion and self-inflicted defeat of socialism in every countried that has tried to apply it. The fault regarding too many faces, my dear Erasmo, is not Fidel, but a non-cooperative form of socialism that is not “real”…

  • If you emigrate to only not see the face of Fidel, you’ll find other faces, probably uglier and less credible.

    In Spain, for instance, Zapatero’s party launched a campaing against the right-wing parties and there were postesr all around spanish cities showing the faces of right-wing politician, namely Aznar, Bush, and Berlusconi. The message was negative: these were the people for whom people should not vote.

    Besides, you’d be overwhelmed and probably more manipulated by commercial advertising than the political propaganda showing the image of the greastest man world history has ever known.

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