Victims or Perpetrators?

Erasmo Calzadilla

Fishing on the Havana Malecon Seawall.  Photo: Caridad
Along the Havana Malecon Seawall in Havana. Photo: Caridad

As usual, I got home late, after my family had already gone to bed.  But a couple of Saturdays ago I was taken by surprise when I opened the door.  In the dark, sitting on the sofa with her head in her hands was my grandmother, who had waited up for me.

My grandmother, as I suppose happens to almost all grandmothers, can’t sleep when she senses something bad has happened to a grandchild, in this case me.  On this occasion she had gotten worried after seeing a report on the evening news about an incident that had occurred in Havana, one which she had somehow associated with me.

With her edginess calmed by seeing me enter our home safe and sound, my father’s mother told me about what she had heard: “Some young people had gathered, singing and dancing, in a public festivity in the Vedado neighborhood, when suddenly they realized that among them was a group yelling things that nothing had to do with the celebration – these outsiders were chanting counterrevolutionary slogans!”

“The broadcast showed the young people starting to shove and beat the people who had not been invited and were unwelcome,” described my grandmother, though I couldn’t find her story believable.

I stayed up to see if the late-night news would rerun the story, but my vigil was in vain; the anchorman only reported about crops harvested by volunteer work brigades and other achievements like that.

It was the following day I was able to piece together a less fantastic story from bits of information I heard here and there.  In his blog, Reynaldo Escobar (the husband of blogger Yoani Sanchez) had challenged to a verbal duel the security agent who had roughed up his wife; that incident had occurred when she was picked up on her way to a demonstration a couple weeks earlier.

But instead of that officer of the law, what showed up was a very worked-up group of people who pushed and shoved him around while shouting the old slogans of the 1980s, ones which used to be vigorously employed in rallies lambasting people considered counterrevolutionaries.

Hours later I was able to view the video that appeared in the foreign media, but nothing about it indicated that this was an “energetic response delivered by the people, furious and spontaneously assembled,” as the Cuban media wished to make it seem.

My suspicions were later confirmed when someone at INSTEC (a university within the Ministry of Science, Technology and the Environment, where I used to work) told me that a dean of that institution -in a public address- had recognized and congratulated several students “for their valiant participation in the call to combat a faction of counterrevolutionaries right out in the street.”

I discussed all of this recently with some friends.  We had to ask ourselves, are those “heroes” of INSTEC in fact victims or perpetrators? I have to believe they’re both at the same time.

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.


10 thoughts on “Victims or Perpetrators?

  • December 19, 2009 at 1:47 am
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    Mark, what would be gained is a reasonable preparatory period, to ensure that imperialism is not given a free hand to manipulate the pending elections. Cuba is under constant attack from the evil empire, and this “at war” situation conditions everything.

    Regardless how we might feel as individuals, we cannot simply expect the Cuban state and Party to snap fingers and transform instantly.

    The most important thing in preparation for the hypothetical elections hvr would be “economic” conversion to a new form of socialism. This would be a new hypothesis for socialist experimentation. Instead of full state ownership of all, the new form would reintroduce private property rights and the free socialist trading market.

    It would build on the cooperative mechanisms proven workable at Mondragon, Spain over the past half-century. It would go to worker-state co-ownership thru cooperative corporations, plus many, many small, independent businesses. Cheers!

  • December 18, 2009 at 10:51 pm
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    Grady, thanks for your answer to my earlier question, though I’m not sure what would be gained by waiting two years to hold multiparty elections. If Cubans were immediately granted rights to free speech, association and media, such a delay might contribute to political instability rather than certainty.

  • December 17, 2009 at 7:10 am
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    Addendum: Mark G., you said to be constructive, so let me add:

    Socialist Cuba’s problems are not mainly in the political sphere, but in the economic. The political absolutism in Cuba (as it was in the SU and elsewhere) springs from the necessary absolutism of the Marxist hypothesis–state-owns-everything in sight w/ abolition of private property & the trading market.

    When private property and the market are abolished, the only way left to run a modern economy is massive bureaucratic planning and administration, together with one-party, political absolutism. In both the economic & political spheres it then becomes necessary to “force” social production with an unnatural, dysfunctional socio-economic mechanism.

    Modern coop socialism calls for a new, non-Marxian hypothesis for Cuba, and for all countries. We call for a Cooperative Republic, and this is what Cuban can and should advance to. It’s what we call for and are struggling to build a party for in the US.

  • December 17, 2009 at 3:04 am
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    Mark G., No . . . Not right away. The Party should maintain things as they are for a limited period, but guarantee multi-party, free elections according to a set, reasonable time-table–perhaps two years. During this preparatory period an unfettered press and media should be provided and guaranteed. These political changes however are not the most essential change that needs to take place.

    Most important, Cuba needs to change its “concept” for having and building socialism. This would be a change in the conceptual hypothesis upon which the present system is based (proven good in some areas but miserably bad in others, especially the economic).

    By changing economically in this way, the Party would simply be using the Scientific Method of hypothesis, experimentation, analysis, conclusion, & if necessary, new hypothesis (not the Marxist, cult, scriptural method.)

    New hypothesis: private property and market; employee coop corporations w/ partial gov’t ownership.

  • December 16, 2009 at 6:36 am
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    Erasmo, Estoy feliz de haber descubierto tu blog. Lei un articulo por el bloguero, escritor, y fotografo Orlando Luis Pardo en la revista In These Times. Pardo te menciono como allguien valiente y honesto y ya veo que tiene razon. Tengo mi propio blog que se llama El Yuma. Como peudes ver alli estoy muy interesado en la blogofera cubana. Estoy escribiendo un post sobre este tema. Que me puedes decir sobre el grupo de colaboradores en Havana Times? El proyecto me parece fantastico y inovador y ya veo que hay muchos proyectos de este perfil ahora en cuba. Conozco a uno de tus colegas – Alfredo Prieto – quien visito mi universidad desde hace unos anos. Suerte y estamos en comunicacion! Ted

  • December 16, 2009 at 6:36 am
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    Erasmo, Estoy feliz de haber descubierto tu blog. Lei un articulo por el bloguero, escritor, y fotografo Orlando Luis Pardo en la revista In These Times. Pardo te menciono como allguien valiente y honesto y ya veo que tiene razon. Tengo mi propio blog que se llama El Yuma. Como peudes ver alli estoy muy interesado en la blogofera cubana. Estoy escribiendo un post sobre este tema. Que me puedes decir sobre el grupo de colaboradores en Havana Times? El proyecto me parece fantastico y inovador y ya veo que hay muchos proyectos de este perfil ahora en cuba. Conozco a uno de tus colegas – Alfredo Prieto – quien visito mi universidad desde hace unos anos. Suerte y estamos en comunicacion! Ted Henken

  • December 15, 2009 at 11:09 pm
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    Grady, I can’t speak for Erasmo other than defend his right to express his opinions. Maybe you would gripe as well if you lived in a country where people lose their jobs, are assaulted or imprisoned for holding opinions different from those in power.

    I have a question for you. Do you think the Cuban government should give up its monopoly on political power and hold free and fair multiparty elections? I demand you be constructive and answer my question.

  • December 12, 2009 at 5:23 pm
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    Mark G., Thanks for your comment. Yes, I agree that he has “every right” to express himself. I wasn’t arguing the contrary, and I hope you don’t imply that I was.

    You say that Erazmo is under no obligation to engage in dialogue with me or anyone else. Sorry, but I can’t agree. He is an educated Cuban citizen. He has made bold to write articles in HT about what’s happenin’ now in Cuba. He waxes on and on in a critical vein about the miserable Marxist perversion of socialism that is in the process of destroying Cuban socialism.

    In the past I’ve attributed to him the glory of being a patriot with the good of his country at heart, and I still feel the same. (I can’t unfortunately attribute all of the bureaucrats in the Cuban Party of the same noble motivation.)

    What I can do, and have a right to do, is ask him to contribute concretely and meaningfully to the critical discussion on reform, rather than just gripe, gripe, gripe. I “demand” that he be constructive.

  • December 12, 2009 at 2:54 am
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    Grady, Erasmo is under no obligation to engage in a dialogue with you or anyone else. He also blogs blind which means he rarely able to read the comments of his readers, certainly not in real time as you and I are able to do.

    I found Erasmo’s diary entry insightful. He expressed his opinion about a recent event in Cuba that received considerable media attention, as he has every right to do. Don’t you agree?

  • December 11, 2009 at 7:05 pm
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    It’s a puzzle as to why you, a philosophy professor, will not, on the one hand, engage in a serious dialogue with people like Alberto N. Jones, Pedro Campos, and me regarding how to make Cuban socialism “workable”; yet, on the other hand, you pick at every mis-step of the Marxist bureaucracy. Do you really believe that history calls you to muckrake trivia, while the larger discussion on economic reform deserves your attention?

    What can be wrong? It’s a puzzle.

    In the US we are seeking a workable vision of socialism that can win the hearts of 200 million of our fellow citizens. We have jettisoned the false, state-owns-everything-n-sight socialism of Engels, Marx and Stalin. We have envisioned a Cooperative Republic where there are private property rights and the trading market. We have called for co-ownership between employees and the state of most industry and commerce through cooperative corporations.

    You seem only to gripe, with no concrete program. Why?

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