From Emancipation to Repression

Erasmo Calzadilla

foto librosHAVANA TIMES — I would love to know when, how and why the metamorphosis took place. This is not idle, historical curiosity. At one point, we will have to go back to the time everything went wrong and try again, with or without a worldwide crisis.

Nearly all Cubans I know maintain that Cuba needed a revolution. Overthrowing Batista, restoring the constitution, reducing the excessive (and, for many, noxious) influence of the United States, distributing the land among peasants and undertaking a series of radical social reforms on behalf of the underprivileged…these were popular demands that half a century of governments in the republican era had not managed to address (or seemed at all willing to address).

Refusing to hand the cake over on a silver platter to the political class was, in my opinion, a brilliant move by Cuba’s young revolutionaries. I can also understand why they continued to wear their military uniforms during serious aggressions. But what happened later? Did they try to implement some type of democracy or did they simply become entrenched in power? Did they do everything possible to soften conflicts with the United States, or did they rather learn to draw political advantage from it?

At one point, the revolution began to set up more bars than it was tearing down. It turned police stations into schools, but these schools soon began to imprison ideas. When and how did this happen? It’s hard for me to say, exactly.

By the 1970s, the shoddiness of all this was already quite evident. As the seventh decade of the revolution begins, it is entirely clear that Cuba is burdened by yet another tyrant.

Fidel Castro, however, was not a tyrant like the ones that are typical in the region, the kind subordinate to the interests of imperialism and focused on fattening their pockets. Castro was a dictator who was genuinely concerned about the health, education and spiritual becoming of the people, or what he understood as such. This paternalistic gesture and his rabid anti-capitalism earned him the sympathies of half of the world, particularly from those who longed for a better world.

The above paragraph is the preamble o to a project I would like to present you with. Some days ago, near the trash, I came across a bundle of “revolutionary” books (it’s very common to see this type of literature in the garbage these days). One in particular caught my attention: it was a collection of speeches delivered by Fidel Castro at every anniversary of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, from 1960 to 1967.

This is a magnificent way of following the evolution of this process, year by year. I intend to read it carefully and, if you’re interested, share my impressions with you here.


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.

15 thoughts on “The Transformation of the Cuban Revolution

  • I can picture the scenes you describe. My wife kept the family in funds for food during the special period, by running illicit rum one way and fresh eggs the other, between the town where she worked and the city where we live.
    My knowledge of the contents of the CDR files, was gained when having difficulty at Jose Marti airport. I was taken into an office by a fellow (obviously important) with three pips on his shoulder. He sought the name of my wife and our home address. When entered into his computer, the first thing that popped up was a photograph of my wife and then he scrolled four complete pages of information including our marriage date. So, yes they retain files on everybody including you and I. All that information is retained by MININT.
    It would be illegal for much of the information held by the regime about my wife and possibly you and I, to be held by the Government of Canada.
    I have no doubt that as the population has become more and more subjugated, and that there has been less dissent to report. It is actually astonishing that there are still so many dissenters and defectors who have only ever experienced the Communist dictatorship, and have been educated with all the indoctrination that the schools are obliged to provide.
    The guy who lives directly opposite our CDR Presidente has a nice little sideline going on with hardwoods. Where the stuff comes from, I don’t know, but being Cuba have little doubt that it is illicit.

  • Carlyle, we’re completely on the same page together regarding everything you wrote. We want the same things for Cuba and the Cuban people. Spot on. And yes, I’ve seen her files… she even has a file on me. Although she has a ‘tough as nails’ persona, she’s also very laid back…ignoring all of the illegal mom and pop backyard enterprises feeding the bolsa negra. I have an amigo who lives directly across the calle from her casa illegally bottling soda in his backyard…quite an interesting little operation he has. I’m sure he’s feeding her something for her support. She’s of the kinder gentler new breed of CDR…her main roles are now arbitrating disputes between neighbors in the barrio and organizing block fiestas. It seems to be perfectly fine to talk negatively about the Castros in front of her in a group setting. But she’s told me that she would take real exception if she learned that others were doing so privately and with the intent of plotting to undermine the revolution.

  • I am totally in favour of Cuba’s right to self-determination and sovereignty and agree that it should be free of US intervention.
    Where we disagree Terry is upon the definition of “Cuba”. To me Cuba is not the totalitarian dictatorship of the Castro family regime. To me, “Cuba” is the people of Cuba being given the right to free open elections, to freedom of speech, to freedom of the media, to freedom of the individual. Cuba is the country of the Cuban people not a fiefdom.
    As regards your relationship with the President of the CDR on your block, have you asked her what her responsibilities are as laid down by Fidel Castro Ruz when he established the CDR? Have you asked her whether she keeps a file on every person on her block and how she reports? Finally, have you seen an individual file? Yes, I have.

  • So is mine, after spending much time roughing it in the barrio with my extended Cuban family and friends. One of my best amigas is the President of the CDR. We’ve had many private and not so private long winded debates about the past, present, and future of Cuba. No subject is ever off-limits…including life after the Castros. Sometimes things get heated too…but never over Cuba’s right to self-determination and sovereignty free of US intervention, subversion, manipulation, and control.

  • Did you know that Fidel’s oft quoted boast, “History will absolve me!” was lifted from Hitler’s work, which Castro had read?

    “You may pronounce me guilty,” declared Adolf Hitler during the trial in 1924 for his failed Rathaus putsch, “but the eternal court of history will absolve me.”

    When the Castro regime finally falls and the truth of what his disastrous rule over Cuba inflicted on the long suffering Cuban people is out, then history will finally condemn Castro as the villain he is.

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