Moving Cuba toward “Socialism of the 21st Century”

Graham Sowa

2013-01-14_17-28-14_213HAVANA TIMES — “Socialism of the 21st Century” will be the legacy of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela.  Cuba should continue to take cues from this new flavor of post-capitalist governance and embrace new atheistic appeals of Socialism. Here I present a few ways Cuba can get a move on re-branding its somewhat dated style.

When sociologist Heinz Dieterich published the phrase “Socialism of the 21st Century” (often credited to Hugo Chavez) in 1996 he said that contemporary socialism needs to be aesthetically self-determined.

Here I’m going to assume Mr. Dieterich was subtly referring to the uniforms of the Cuban Ministry of Interior, because they are way past their expiration date.

Watching workers leave the Ministry of Interior building in the Plaza de la Revolucion looks like some type of sad, post-World War II East German documentary about collective workplaces.

It just smacks too much of the “Spy vs. Spy” mentality that Cuba is accused of having towards its citizens and antagonist foreign counterparts.

Havana Police Station
Havana Police Station

But this perception can be radically changed with just a bit of variation of wardrobe.  Instead of olive drab homogeneous uniforms lets talk about colors.  Look what Venezuela did with yellow, red, and blue.  ´

These three severely loud and clashing colors belong on a product marketed to impulse buyers.  However 21st Century Socialism has turned them into a unique, yet versatile, marketing strategy and declaration of political loyalty.

Cuba should abandon the official “I’m a government worker” uniform and get a color scheme.  That way people can wear whatever they want, as long as it falls in the right place on the color wheel.  This would allow for a perfect balance of individuality and wholesale allegiance.

Another way to get Cuba moving toward Socialism of the 21st Century is to put up some new Revolutionary billboards with classic images.  If tourism is going to fund a large part of the post-capitalist economy (please ignore the irony) then the tourists have to think they really are in a Revolutionary Socialist country.

Currently it seems that a lot of billboards that used to say thing like “Hasta la Victoria, Siempre” with a classic Alberto Korda photo are being replaced by “Varadero: Your Vacation Dream” with a generic white sands Caribbean beach photo.

Tourists don’t come to Cuba to see the same photo they saw on their travel brochure blown up to billboard sized proportions.  They want Revolution!  Who goes home from Cuba and tells their friends about the billboard of the beach they saw?

No, they go home and say that they saw giant Che faces everywhere and roadside pictures of a young, bespectacled Fidel jumping off of a tank.  Also, there is no shame in putting up some Revolutionary billboards in English.  Remember, Socialism of the 21st Century is just as much about appearances as it is about practice.

Next, if you are going to have a seemingly omnipresent police force try to tone down the authoritarian feel.  Cuba has already made strides in this regard by lifting bans on fingernail and hair extensions for its female police officers.


However, the National Revolutionary Police Force police stations still look like Medieval Times theaters with their 11th century architecture towers and palisades.  How about turning these somewhat oppressive looking structures into something less likely to be associated with civil rights abuses and put the police stations into more unassuming, low-key buildings?

Also, give the police some new progressive laws to enforce.  As much as tourists may like looking at Revolutionary Billboards most of them don’t like a 1960’s attitude toward cigarette smoke.

Show the progressive side of Socialism of the 21st Century and use those omnipresent police to enforce smoking bans.  Just because we are in 2013 doesn’t mean we can’t impose new laws on individual behavior, just as long as you do it in style.


Graham Sowa: I've been living in Cuba for three years now. I would like to blame my obvious hair loss seen in this updated photo on the rigors of life here and medical school, but it is probably just genetic. I've made some of the strongest friendships during my time in Cuba from other writers on this website. The strength of those friendships has almost restored my faith that the online world can lead to offline and real life change. On that same note I've adjusted to using internet one or two hours a month. In the meantime I have rediscovered things like flipping through the pages of books, writing stuff down by hand, and having to admit that I don't know something instead of rapidly looking up the answer on Google while the teacher isn't looking.

Graham has 89 posts and counting. See all posts by Graham

11 thoughts on “Moving Cuba toward “Socialism of the 21st Century”

  • Around here it’s hard to tell sometimes. When a military dictatorship is defended as a socialist paradise, as so many writers and commentators here do, it’s hard to tell when the pro-Castro propaganda ends and the satire begins.

  • Morning Graham – Chuck here :-)) I still read about the Cuban and Venezualian economic concerns. What’s up if Chavez foes win the election? How will Cuba offset loss of cash flow. Looks bad to me! Glad I got to be in Cuba last year.
    Will the overseas doctors start to come back? If so were is new wages for them?
    more later. Take care young man. su amigo Chuck

  • yes griffin, my text is an example of satire and irony. i’m surprised that people take everything they read so seriously. or then again, maybe i failed to be ridiculous enough not to be taken seriously.

  • You’re joking right? Name one time when ‘Cuban’ culture and Castro’s revolution came together, let alone if something wonderful happened. What the hell is ‘international consumerism’? Eating three meals a day? Earning a living wage? Accessing the internet? Walter, the difference between your comments and reality gets wider every time you write something.

  • Ah, communism… Come for the socialist utopia, stay for the gulag!

  • You’re joking, right Graham?

    How about a Cuban Revolutionary theme park? Tourists can play at firing squads in the La Caban Bang-Bang ride. Or how about braving sharks in a tiny raft in the Scary Florida Striaght Water Park? The kids will love cutting sugar cane for 12 hours in the UMAP Fun-Camps. And after a day of fun and revolutionary adventure, the whole family can enjoy a delicious meal from the food court where a sumptuous menu of rice and beans, or bean and rice, and if you’re lucky, once a month, a tiny portion of ground beef substitute. Yum!

  • Thank you Graham Sowa for your creative suggestions. In my view, the last thing Cuba should do for both it’s own culture and any prosperity is to adopt international consumerism. My experience in Cuba is that when the culture and revolutionary goals unite, wonderful things happen.

  • Chavez’s only legacy will be one of debt, inflation, corruption, crime, the loss of sovereignty, and the bitter disappointment of empty rhetoric. Good luck with “21st century socialism”.

  • Sweden is socialist. Sure it’s a bit drab but what do you expect when winters are so long and cold. Cuba on the other hand is a dictatorship. The sole purpose of a dictatorship is self-perpetuation. To move Cuba towards a socialist state in the 21st century will first require that the Castros no longer rule. Fat chance.

  • A caring society (socialist) can be a democracy. Humans need to quit sticking labels on themselves. The only questions we should be asking are “Is it good for the planet, and does it benefit humanity”

  • This is the society of spectacle Graham, all is the opposite of everyone expects it to be.

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