Homespun Anti-capitalists

Isbel Diaz Torres

HAVANA TIMES — A group of friends and workers’ self-management advocates who are members of the (new-left) Critical Observatory Network decided — on our own, (independently of the Cuban government) — to demonstrate against capitalism on Saturday,  May 12.

This was the date on which those involved in the worldwide 15-M movement did the same.

Clearly, what we were attempting to do wasn’t earthshaking. We merely got together in a park, put up some banners, sang parts of the “Internationale” (like I commented on regarding this past May Day celebration), and said a few words denouncing the advance of capitalist predation in our world (including in Cuba).

The excitement that erupted in the media (public sources as well as those concealed) reached the point that one would have thought we were about to storm the Bastille. This was something that after all, undeniably, had a certain grace.

The reality is that we achieved our goals. We held up a sign that read “Down with Capitalism,” while another one warned those of the bureaucratic class that: “If You Think Like the Bourgeoisie, You’ll End Up Living Like a Slave.”

We took a few shots at singing the stanzas of the “Internationale,” and though most people didn’t remember it very well, when it came to the chorus they sang it with all their might. Myself, even though I did in fact remember the anti-religious part, I chose not to sing it out of respect for the many good people I know who embrace that kind of spirituality.

Mario Castillo placed flowers on the head of the statue of Karl Marx – since there was no other place to put them. That was something that I was thankful to see, since the gesture was so iconoclastic, especially since he had brought those flowers all the way from Old Havana, as hot as it was. That was something I had to take my hat off to.

On the other hand, while Marx is a symbol of the struggle against capitalism, it seems to me that he isn’t worshiped like some kind of god by the folks of the Critical Observatory. The helpful Marxist thought is not without criticism; what’s more, it has been complemented by other dissimilar visions and spiritualties – far from the well-known (and dangerous) forms of sectarianism.

Personally, I would have liked to have heard a little more about the advance of the capitalist practices and logic in our immediate environment.

You readers already know the issues that haunt me:

– The reintroduction of predatory technologies in Cuban agriculture (A new Green Revolution?) with the subsequent allegiance to imperialist transnational genetic modifications, pesticides, herbicides and other purely profit-seeking approaches.

– The transfer of properties and land for life for 99 years to foreigners in environmentally damaging golf courses.

– The incredible degree of exploitation that is emerging in Cuba’s new private sector, with wage-laborers completely unprotected, receiving no holidays or standard working times, and subject to other forms of abuse.

Still, we have to admit we didn’t achieve the sought after debate. But not out of the fear of expressing truths – which have been raised more than once on other occasions.  It was due to the errors committed on the part of our organizing effort.

In addition to the small gathering, other Observatory activists participated in the conga line organized by the “Day Against Homophobia,” which was held that same morning. From this came the valuable statement by Grupo HxD (from the National Center for Sex Education) that urges the Cuban government to approve the proposed Family Code, which includes the legalization of unions between same-sex couples.

Another group of people from OC paid tribute to the anarchist Alfredo Lopez, a major figure in social and proletarian struggles in Cuba in the early twentieth century.

Anyway, it was a beautiful experience in the park, overshadowed only by the presence of a large number of plainclothes agents from State Security and those in police uniforms.

According to one resident who is also a member of the Communist Party, they were there to protect us from “the enemy”, whose attacks we never saw. But this is something we now know will always be there.

The OC could feel the warm solidarity that came from people in France, Mexico, Spain, Venezuela, Brazil and other countries. At the same time, we felt the almost complete lack of attendance, participation and communication from “leftist intellectuals” on the island. We missed the blogs of those self-described revolutionaries and other actors in Cuban public life.

In short, it was a day that was both horrendous and helpful, and I finished dead tired.

One thought on “Homespun Anti-capitalists

  • The author laments that the Critical Observatory May 12 demonstration: “We missed the blogs of those self-described revolutionaries and other actors in Cuban public life.” But in fact, I learned about CO’s demonstration through a (sympathetic) description from one such Cuban blog which provided a URL link so that I could read his own words. I salute your initiative, and those of other independent Cuban actors who are engaging in these public discussions. May Cuban civil society continue to grow.

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