The Return to Poverty

Esteban Diaz

Lean times.  Photo: Caridad
Lean times. Photo: Caridad

Less than a year ago, there began to appear a considerable number of people in the streets of Havana who reminded me of my country.  Beggars had re-emerged.

In the beginning, I thought this involved only a few Cubans who were simply trying to take advantage of tourism to pocket some easy change.  To my surprise, however, I can now confirm a feeling I’d previously refused to believe.

These people have staked out their spots in the city; and not only are they soliciting handouts from foreigners, they’re also approaching fellow Cubans to beg for charity.

It might seem exaggerated, but it’s now common to see people bent over and rummaging through garbage dumpsters; I’ve even seen them eating directly from this trash.

It’s ironic, but close to Revolution Square you can see people sleeping on the street, which contrasts to the pristine high-rise buildings of the various State ministries around there.  What’s more, there are clear signs that this will continue.

Instead of advancing, the Revolution is going backwards.

To take urgently required measures, a rigorous study of the development of the Cuban Revolution is needed to understand what is producing this regression. This would help to prevent us from continuing to commit the same errors.

This is indispensable not only for all Cubans but for the world as well, given that the collapse of the Cuban Revolution would not only harm the island.  The workers of the world, especially those of Latin America, would be demoralized in the face of such a situation, delaying the outcome of the world revolutionary process in which we now live.

3 thoughts on “The Return to Poverty

  • i think it’s important to consider the impacts of 48 years of economic embargo, too. it’s kept the capitalistas away, but it’s also denied cubans access to trade markets. like many canadians, i’d hate to see cuba become just like everywhere else after the embargo is lifted. but ultimately cubans have the right to determine their own futures. those of us forced into the increasing control of corporate capitalism often look to co-operatives as one sane way to function within an otherwise greed inspired economic model. we used to have a version of socialism in canada too, to an extent, with universal health care and public education and funding for the arts and housing. it’s all slowly being eroded …. underfunded and replaced with a usa style “i’ve got mine” system. don’t let that happen to cuba, please!

  • As I’ve said before, the 51-minute BBC film “The Mondragon Experiment” may be seen on-line by going to “” Also, the 27-minute US film “Democracy in the Workplace” is available there.

    Thanks, Esteban, for a fine, constructive article.

  • Just as the workers of the Mondragon, Spain cooperatives still consider their enormously successful enterprises, bank, college, etc. an “experiment,” the Cuban Party should do the same with the Cuban experience. This simply means being more scientific and flexible. If the official ideology really is scientific, it would mean applying the step-by-step Scientific Method.

    The Party should look at the “hypothesis” upon which the last fifty-year “experiment” has been conducted. That hypothesis, as I understand it, is “concentration of all the means of production in the hands of the state.” The results of this experiment should be analyzed and, if it is appropriate, a new hypothesis should be formulated for the further socialist experiment.

    Our US socialist movement recommends a new hypothesis of “conversion of most means of production into worker/state co-owned cooperative corporations.” This would be bringing the positive aspects of Mondragon to Cuban socialism.

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