Power Elites Here and There

Erasmo Calzadilla

HAVANA TIMES — In an attempt to understand modern capitalism, I learned a lot about “socialism” here in Cuba from the progressive Canadian researcher Naomi Klein.

The Shock Doctrine, one of her best known works, reveals how certain power elites intentionally generate social crises to implement dramatic changes. Their goal is to achieve widespread generalized political regression whereby people lose their nerve, quit struggling and submit to the free market reign of those same elites.

A few days ago Cuban television viewers saw “No Logo,” a documentary based on Klein’s book of the same title. The film shows how commercial firms experiencing unbridled growth have been replacing the public sphere.

A mall isn’t just a large collection of stores, it’s also a place for entertainment, relaxation, meeting friends and strolling. The only hitch is that — since it is ultimately a private space —certain activities aren’t allowed there (such as protests, filming freely, etc.). That’s what the streets are for, if they haven’t been privatized as well.

The height of this tsunami sweeping away the public sphere, the researcher believes, are towns being developed by firms in line with the lifestyle associated with them. The example presented is Celebration, a Florida town that is without billboards, for example, only because everything is under the control of the Disney Corporation.

A little further south

But if Klein had continued her journey southward, a few miles beyond Florida, she would have stumbled upon a place where the screw has been turned even tighter.

Throughout “socialist” Cuba there is no public space where one can protest freely or film since “the street belongs to Fidel and the revolutionaries.” Here, private walls and fences aren’t needed since they are erected around and through the entire nation (the exception is, perhaps, inside houses).

Klein complains that firms hire cheap labor in the Third World, paying workers less than a dollar a day, not allowing unions and achieving their goals using methods of persuasion that accept the suspension of labor guarantees as natural.

As a professional who has worked in various institutions of the Cuban state, I don’t ever remember receiving take-home pay of more than a dollar a day, or where unions really protect the workers.

Where the salaries were a little higher, the Enterprise Improvement Program gave the green light to the bosses to fire whoever they consider “unsuitable”. (I’m speaking in the past because this was my previous experience, but that system still exists.)

I think if Ms. Klein were to visit here – and if the same thing that happens to leftists regarding Cuba doesn’t happen to her – she could find inspiration for her next book.
Note: Surely there are places that are worse. If you know of them you can take advantage of the comment section to denounce 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.

5 thoughts on “Power Elites Here and There

  • is erasmo inviting readers to denounce countries worse than cuba? they are not hard to find. has erasmo ever traveled to other countries? as they say about a a certain south american country ¨the lucky tourists are robbed. the unlucky tourists are shot!¨ the same goes for residents.

  • there’s no such thing as rights. rights don’t come like a bird on the wing, you have to work for it, you have to fight for it, day and night for it and every generation’s got to do it once again.

  • I don’t totally agree with The Cuban government, because i don’t believe in Socialism in one country, but you must admit that you recieve more tha 1 dollar a day , because you receive your social salary like free health and education and none of this country have that and even in European countries we are losing our rights, many in european country can have free access to education and health service

  • Klein is an intellectual that I keep in high regard. I read The Shock Doctrine and I must say that’s a very interesting reading.

    Probably when Klein was referring to the cheap labor exploitation she had in her mind the also “socialist” China and other countries in southeast Asia that have become de facto the industrial park of our globalized economy.

  • Good post, Erasmo. It shows how both extremes of the political and economic spectrum can create similar conditions in a society.

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