Supreme Court Upholds My Firing

Erasmo Calzadilla

Photo: Caridad

I’ve previously commented in Havana Times about the “little problem” I had when I worked as a philosophy professor at INSTEC, a technical college here in Havana.  It cost me my job and stained my record, hampering me from securing other employment.

I’m now returning to that issue to discuss the final ruling of the People’s Supreme Court (the highest level for appeals in cases like mine), which rendered its decision a few days ago.

The accusations leveled against me by the administration at INSTEC were absurd enough to cause one to die laughing.  They held that I wandered about the school, that I treated my assistants poorly (I didn’t have any assistants), and that I enabled the entry of foreigners into restricted areas of the institution (with the “restricted area” being the lawn in front of the campus and the foreigner being a young Argentinean med school student who visited the campus frequently since he was the boyfriend of a student at the college).

The city court didn’t accept such nonsense; however, according to the official document that they provided me, they upheld the overall decision against me, considering such factors as:

– I had offended Marx and Marxism by asserting that philosophy is a tool.

– My students had poor grades (apparently the testimony given by the administration was more convincing than the exam dockets signed by a group of my fellow philosophy professors, which included the head of the department.  Among my students there had not been a single failure)

As the appeal of my firing moved forward, such “evidence” —like the stages of a rocket— continued to be discarded and dropped to the ground.  However the Supreme Court upheld a couple, just two, but these were sufficient to sustain the disciplinary measure.  Below, I am citing an excerpt from the official ruling in which they stated the two “reasons” that were ultimately decisive.

“…the classes given did not correspond to the approved academic program.  In addition, to meet with students from and outside the school to discuss topics that do not correspond to the study plan constitutes a serious violation of job discipline…”

These accusations are no less absurd than the previous ones.  Is there a law that prevents teachers from meeting with students to discuss “topics that do not correspond to the study plan”?  This goes without even mentioning the fact that these meetings were approved by the department head, who herself even participated in one of these meetings and praised me for the initiative.

Concerning my inability to adjust to the program, I admit that – partially.  I was straying from the program while trying to fulfill an immanent philosophical priority, that of motivating critical and responsible reflection on questions that are urgent for life in this country and on the planet.  This is almost impossible to achieve by respecting the current program titled “Philosophy and Society,” dictated by the ideologists of Central Committee of the Party.

The Party in Cuba is very fearful that its rosebuds might be misled.  It’s necessary to witness with what readiness they’re become engaged and dished out punishment when someone proposes an independent initiative.  However the burnt out teachers who have trudged around for almost a half century repeating the laws and categories of dialectical materialism, these are the ones they leave alone, or in other words, those who they’ll let die happily.

Such is one of the daily practices that have sunk this country.  It will be necessary to sideline it as well as its promoters and their causes to get us out of this mess we’re in.

Note: “Philosophy and Society” is one of the substitutes for philosophy and is obligatory in all Cuban universities, though I believe they’ve now returned to calling it “Marxism Leninism.”


7 thoughts on “Supreme Court Upholds My Firing

  • April 13, 2011 at 2:30 pm
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    . . . as distributions from cooperative industry and commerce, instead of from taxes.

    You and I need to talk seriously and productively about such questions. Let’s stop wasting time and get to it.

  • April 13, 2011 at 2:24 pm
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    Dear Michael N. Landis: I’m sorry to write this so long after your comment, but you deserve a reply.

    The thing that gets my goat re Marx is not his bourgeois status and income. It is the fact that he, along with his companion Engels, took hold of the socialist movement that was rising and trying to define its ideology and program, and foisted upon it a “state-ist” concept of what socialism is, and how a socialist economy ought to function.

    This really gets my goat about people like you. You will not discuss the fundamental issue of the time, and time therefore is running out for civilization. You apparently are a highly educated and cultured individual. And yet, you cannot focus on the critical issue at hand.

    The issue is how a workable socialist economy can and should function. Should the state own the land and all the instruments of production? Yes, or no?

    If it should not, then how should the land and instruments of production be owned?

    You do not address such questions, but dilly-dally with inconsequential stuff.

    Marx and you and people like you who are still wandering faithfully in the ideological fog will not even discuss what is fundamental. Instead, you make references to Marx’s income or my remarks about it. Are you sane? It’s not about you or me or Marx and his income. It’s about a correct definition of workable socialism.

    I have tried over and over to get you and people like you to focus on what is essential. I’ve proposed that under workable socialism private property rights and the trading market should be retained, respected, valued and used by the socialist leadership party for socialist construction.

    I’ve proposed that those who do the work in significant productive enterprise should own that enterprise cooperatively through the proven Mondragon, Spain model.

    I’ve proposed that that the socialist state should take significant but non-controlling co-ownership of this enterprise and get its revenues quarterly…

  • September 14, 2010 at 6:34 pm
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    Those are the mistakes (horrors) we are carrying. Some people don’t see them as an inherent part of our system, but I think those procedures are in the very basis of our model. It’s so sad to see how many damaged people we are producing, and the system will never ask to be forgiven.
    Erasmo, thank you for sharing your personal experience. It is very useful for us, since we can be aware of the concept of “Law” and “Justice” of these counterrevolutionaries. And I really think you are in a better place now. I feel sorry for the students at INSTEC.

  • September 13, 2010 at 5:29 pm
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    Grady, there’s something about Marx that really seems to get your goat! So what if Marx was supported by Engles, his wife, his family, etc.?! Weren’t most outstanding artists, composers and writers supported by aristocrats and wealthy capitalists until well into the 19th Century (and, in fact, many still are by artistic, scholastic and research foundations)? Of course in the latter cases, the piper oft has to play the tunes requested by those who pay him or her.
    Amidst all the conclusions he was wrong about, there were many original and cogent perceptions, too. I think it a mistake to judge folks from the past, especially brilliant political economists like Marx, by hindsight and our oun limited perceptions. (I’m sure, however, that in future we will be similarly judged by folks who have little historical perspective.)

  • September 13, 2010 at 9:04 am
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    Erasmo, I’m very sorry to hear that your case has been denied by the supreme court.

    May I say that Marxism-Leninism is not a philosophy but a non-scientific formalism–that is, a secular religion. There is not a sliver of science in it.

    Lenin was a great revolutionary, as is Fidel. Marx however was an egotistical bourgeois who would not make a pimple on Lenin’s or Fidel’s backside. He never had a real job, but was always supported by his rich family, his rich wife, his capitalist friend Engels, and especially by the rich German bankers who set up his two bourgeois democratic newspapers. Linking Marx up to Lenin is like linking Geo. W. Bush up to the Mahatma Gandhi.

    Is this fact or just my opinion? As any philosophy professor will know, the one does not exclude the other.

  • September 13, 2010 at 5:24 am
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    Dear Erasmo, Sorry to hear that you were not reinstated, although I was really not surprised. No doubt the decision was made in advance, regardless of any evidence presented. Once again, as I’ve said before, this is a real tragedy for your potential students, who would have greatly benefited from your creative style and unorthodox pedagogic methods. I still have rather unpleasant memories from over 40 years ago of plodding through the 717-paged “Fundamentals of Marxism-Lenisism Manual,” (Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow. c.1963) Only later, when I started reading philosophy on my own, (including Papa Marx) did I begin to develop a true love for wisdom. Just remember that “when one door shuts, another opens!” I am sure you have already landed on your feet.

  • September 12, 2010 at 1:31 am
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    Erasmo, it is so sad how the cut youth and creativity out.
    What a sad and unjust system.
    Hopefully one day soon all of this will change.

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