Swimming Among Dictatorships

Erasmo Calzadilla

Cuba, 100% Free. Photo: Caridad

From the time I was a small boy there was a lady dictator in my house.  She established order, which was comfortable and accepted by all – at least until I grew up.

In my daycare center, and later in all my schools, all of the teachers were in one way or another fond of this same dictatorial method.  This was the most effective way (they believed) for controlling brats, of which there were plenty in the classrooms of marginal neighborhoods like mine.

Dictatorship was also well-rooted in all of the mass and political organizations that I participated in, from the CDR block committee to the Young Communist League, where the secretary-general decided —on his own, or at least not with anyone from “below”— what issue to discuss at each meeting of each local chapter.

I, in turn, was a dictator with my first girlfriends (who, by the way, unconsciously expected that).

My first group of friends, though long-haired and nonconformist, required control by strong leadership (or else our circle would have collapsed in internal struggle).

Most of my bosses were of course also little dictators, and those who resisted being one were looking for trouble from their superiors.

Still today, as a teacher, the dictator in me sometimes surfaces.  But more than that, all the courses I teach are designed (not by me) with a dictatorial educational perspective, though it’s more or less subliminal.

A firm structure extends throughout all of Cuban society with roots sinking so deep in our history that it would be impossible to weed them out overnight.  Any change toward another way of establishing personal relationships will be (as is logical to expect) the outcome of a long evolution and a long struggle, one that must be waged also against ourselves.

For that reason, I don’t believe —as do some of my compatriots— that dictatorship in Cuba is imposed by a family, a party or any office, and that it will therefore topple with the collapse of any of these – or with the “natural solution.”

No.  A new dictatorship will be regenerated again and again as long as we fail to develop a solid culture of freedom that includes individual freedom sustained by spiritual development.  Though this change seems rather distant, we who desire it should rally our forces to promote it and bring it about.

2 thoughts on “Swimming Among Dictatorships

  • Erasmo, have you read any of the works of Wilhelm Reich? (I don’t know if they have been translated into Spanish.) Starting out as one of Freud’s followers in the 1920’s, during the Weimar period he set up mental hygene clinincs for German workers; eventually, he was expelled from the German Communist Party (for being– surprise–“unorthodox”) and later, with the coming of National Socialism, fled to the U.S. “Even” here he ran afoul of the authorities (for continuing to produce his “orgone accumulators” which, amongst other attributes, he claimed increased sexual virility and, err, helped cure cancer.) Eventually, he was jailed, where he died of a heart-attack in the Federal Penitentury in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, in 1957. He wrote some interesting works on how the (patriarchal) family structure creates and perpetuates dictatorial and authoritarian personalities.

  • feminist theory is about egalitarianism and consensus based decision making …. which goes a long way towards eliminating hierarchy and dictatorship. interestingly the quaker faith, which acknowledges the universal life spirit that exists within each of us (rather than a “god” that rules over us), shares these precepts and has also been inspired by feminist philosophy. the trouble, i believe, is patriarchy. socialist experiments have failed because they try to plug a philosophy of egalitarianism into a system of hierarchy. it’s a lot of work to unlearn the old top-down pyramid model. in economics, the co-operative movement encourages a move away from assigning authority to a single source, and instead encourages consensus based decision making, sharing, and of course co-operation.

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