The Cuban Revolution Seen through the Eyes of a Commoner

By Lynn Cruz

HAVANA TIMES – Lately, I’ve been reading the views of different philosophers throughout History about the evolution of good and evil. According to Utilitarians such as Francis Hutcheson, “That action is best, which procures the greatest happiness for the greatest number” and he transformed this into the definition of good.

If you look at the radicalization of the Cuban Revolution from this point of view, it left minority groups out of the equation, and was the reason why it gained so many followers. Of course, when we look at this phenomenon from afar, there are great rifts between this glorious past and the disastrous path Cuba has taken. Populist measures were taken.

I’d like to talk about the concept of “citizen”, today. According to the Greeks, you couldn’t be a citizen without being politicial. The word “politics” come from the Greek word “polis” = city. Police and cosmopolitan also derive from this word. Politics is the art of citizens, social art, the art of living in society.

That said, what were the political prerogatives in Ancient Greece? These correspond to the citizens’ right to participate in political affairs.

What were the legal prerogatives? One of the citizen’s fundamental privileges was the right to property and access to courts and legal safeguards.

When did we stop aspiring to be citizens and turn into slaves? It’s important to note that very few Cubans were landowners before 1959. However, determination, the driving force of the class struggle and the important role of Cuba’s union movement, expressed these ideals. This is why Fidel Castro began with the agrarian reform process, giving out parcels of land to farmers.

That said, this intention disappears when the concept of private property was made obsolete, and replaced by the State. Our problem is still rooted in the nationalization of US companies and the expropiation of the middle and upper classes. In other words, the politics of looting or Robin Hood. 

Why don’t the Cuban people rebel? Those living abroad often think that those of are living on the island are either sheep or cowards. According to Nietzsche, there is a comfortable oblivion and a lack of historic spirit amongst his contemporaries. The concept of good breaks away from plebeians being “noble” and “evil”. Notions of “good” are established and organized into a hierarchy by aristocrats.

Why did Cuba’s upper middle class and wealthy flee in 1961? For the same reasons that the working class did in 1980, 1994 and 2015 with the crisis of Cubans stranded in Central America. Because Fidel Castro introduced an authoritarian regime. He repeated the same structure: chopping off heads and digging his heels in whenever he saw his power under threat. However, migrants gradually moved away from the landowners, who, as a result, don’t consider them citizens either.

Cubans abroad see the revolutionary government as a usurper. Meanwhile, the revolutionary government believes it is the absolute landowner, if you bear in mind the fact that we Cubans don’t have civil rights.

Our fellow Cubans in Florida respect the 1940 Constitution, in which stipulates that if a person leaves the country for over 30 years, they lose rights over their property. I have read some comments about this, whenever I have posted these questions on my Facebook wall. They argue that they didn’t leave the island out of their own free will. That the Revolution forced them to leave.

Those who conquered Miami were the first ones with legal status, which the US government granted them because they were political refugees.  They left with intangible heritage, they spoke English, others had done business with US companies from Cuba. We can deduce that it wasn’t so hard for them, especially during a time when capitalism presented other advantages, such as wealth accumulation. 

I’m not trying to minimize the tragedy. This isn’t necessarily a synonym for happiness. There is nothing more traumatic that having to suddenly leave your land and leave everything you own behind. Especially well-to-do ladies as we say here in Cuba, who had never had to work a day in their life and ended up working in factories.

However, am I to blame, 61 years later? My father is from a rural town and he enlisted in the army to get ahead. The Cuban Revolution gave him opportunities, just like it did to many other people from provincial towns, where he tells me there was great poverty.

Yet, it’s been 15 years since my father has seen his rafter son. Do you think that even those who have defended the system for their own reasons, haven’t suffered loss as a result of totalitarianism? My father was in a war that had nothing to do with him. He fought in Africa. Why is it that when we speak about the grief of the exile community, only tangible property counts?

Who will give me back the 11 years that I didn’t see my brother? He was refused entry here in Cuba in 2007, because he had left illegally. He doesn’t want to be humiliated again. I was able to see him again thanks to the visa program during Barack Obama’s term in office.

27 thoughts on “The Cuban Revolution Seen through the Eyes of a Commoner

  • Nick, the funny thing is that many of the reforms were actually approved by Raul Castro and Co. several years before but were never put into effect. Obama provided a window of opportunity to speed up the incredibly slow process and Fidel and Raul preferred to continue on Raul’s “without haste” approach which can mean decades or never.

  • Mr MacD,

    When is the penny going to drop?

    President Obama wished to promote change in Cuba.
    The response from the Cuban Government was largely negative.
    This is all blatantly obvious and for anyone to refute this would be beyond absurd.

    But the reforms were never in the slightest dependent on the response of the Cuban Government. President Obama had no wild expectation of some sudden dramatic change in Cuba because he is not an idiot.

    For the final time, the reforms were unilateral.

  • Nick – and this is my final comment – do you deny that Obama in his speech sought reciprocation? Do you deny that the letter from Fidel Castro appeared on the front page of Granma (and continued to cover some four pages? Do you deny that Bruno Rodriguez Parilla on March 29, 2016 said that: “There will be no reciprocation.”? If you do, then you are avoiding the truth.
    Obama opened the door and it was Fidel Castro on March 28, 2016 followed by Bruno Rodriguez on March 29, 2016, speaking as Cuba’s Foreign Minister, who rejected the overture. They both represented the Cuban Regime, not the US. It was a Cuban decision! It may be that you are too obstinate to accept the reality, but that reduces your credibility on the matter.
    Nobody is denying that Trump the following year, took a series of measures to increase pressures upon Cuba. But much as one likes to criticize him, he cannot be apportioned blame for Cuban regime decisions.

  • My Dear Fellow Contributors,
    I know that in the modern era the leaders of the Capitalist world have sought to establish a Brave New Post-Fact World, but let me mention this:
    I don’t side with the likes of Fidel Castro, with his ghost or with anyone else – I side with the straightforward facts such as they are in this case:
    President Obama reformed the USA’s policy toward Cuba. These reforms were unilateral.
    These reforms were overturned to a significant extent by trump.
    These are the facts.
    The rest is opinion and pure conjecture.
    As President Obama once said ‘If you put lipstick on a pig, it’s still a pig’.
    Now someone can dress up their opinion and conjecture as much as they wish and smother it with all kinds of lipstick flavours, but it will always remain what it is – opinion and conjecture.

  • Well Lynn, you most certainly got people’s blood pumping with this one. The Havana Times is blessed with some obviously intelligent, sometimes eloquent and always passionate readers and contributors. Your article drew response from the heavy hitters out there. Mr. MacDuff, Mr. Patterson, Nick and the usually quiet Mr. Robinson. Keep up the good work Lynn, I enjoy your opinion articles and FB posts.

  • I agree with Circles. I believe that Lynn is reflecting on the fact that she was able to see her brother in the US 4 years ago who at the time had been out of Cuba 11 years. Today, 4 years later, her father still has not seen his son in 15 years. One more point: both Nick and Carlyle seem to agree that Donald Trump is bad news. Where I read the difference in their opinions is to what extent Fidel Castro is bad news as well. I have found that many extranjeros like Nick have a fealty to Fidel Castro based largely in their support of the Cuban people. That is to say, you can’t love Cuba without being at least somewhat loyal to Fidel. On this point I side with Carlyle. I love Cuba and, at the same time, hate Fidel. I realize that it sounds black and white. Harsh. Over the top. It is, quite purposefully. The Castro dictatorship has survived largely because of people like Nick. Most Cubans love their country. They have been brainwashed to believe that criticizing Cuba is unpatriotic. Funny isn’t it that Trump is shoveling the same crap. To be clear, Cuba had an opportunity, albeit brief, to leapfrog towards a better economy and more freedom during the Obama administration. But because of Fidel, they blew it. Trump came and the window closed. The current situation in Cuba, even with Trump temporarily in charge in the US, would be a lot better had Fidel not put the brakes on the economic and political reforms that Obama spoke of as a necessary response to US rapprochement. Carlyle is spot on. Nick should realize that Fidel was, and has always been, the problem in Cuba.

  • Fidel Castro had countless followers in real life to carry out a revolution in Cuba that had a long devastating impact on all Cubans. Millennials today have countless followers in social media to participate in rapid monetization that has little or not much lasting impact in real life.

    If you really want to change things in Cuba in the real lasting way Fidel Castro did you will have to stop relying fundamentally on Millennials’ economy of attention and social media’s rapid monetization.

    True lasting changes come when we act locally and social media is just another handy tool. If you cannot call to action or influence with your ideas real ordinary Cubans in Cuba your political activism is just armchair politics for personal monetization even if that isn’t your real intent.

    Remember this, Fidel Castro did little. It was the Cuban people who were ready for changes but they were deceived by Fidel Castro’s own political agenda. Ordinary Cubans will have to be ready for the changes you would want to bring about for them but do not forget: Leave behind your own agendas. Do not give motives to your own enemy to judge you for what they would never admit Fidel Castro doing.

  • The sought for reciprocation was denied by the Castro regime within eight days!

    That Nick is the fact! End of story!

    Rambling on about what Trump did a year later, doesn’t change that fact.

  • Mr MacD,
    I entirely respect your opinions on this matter. I have a certain degree of respect for all conservative and capitalist opinions. Due to my travels and varied experiences in life I also respect the opinions of those who have contrasting opinions to yourself including those who are of Communist persuasion.
    But in my comments I don’t refer to opinion, I refer to fact. The facts are that President Obama’s reforms were liberating in respect to U.S Citizens’ freedom to travel to Cuba if they so wished and they were entirely unilateral and 100% non dependent on any official Cuban reciprocation. These are concrete facts.
    What President Obama wished for in terms of expectations or potential reciprocation is entirely a matter of opinion.
    As I have previously stated, it is important to differentiate between fact and opinion.
    My own personal opinion is that President Obama was not anticipating any sudden change but was ‘playing the long game’ and that we should hope that his sensible reforms are ‘de-iced’ (to quote Lynn Cruz who’s articles are always compelling and thought provoking).

  • Nick, the key word is reciprocation. That is what Barack Obama sought, and that is what Fidel Castro followed by Bruno Rodriguez Parilla denied within eight days. I recall the hope that Obama instilled in Cubans with his televised address, and the distress following Fidel and Bruno’s rejection.
    “We stand on the side of those who want to be free.”
    “In the long years to come, do not despair, do not yield.”
    Remember that was said to the people of Cuba, in the presence of Raul Castro Ruz, Bruno Rodriguez Parilla, Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez and the usual bunch of aged generals sitting on the balcony. The hopes raised obviously were anathema to the communists and had to be crushed.
    Yes, almost a year later, Trump removed the visas and proceeded to pander to the Miami exiles following his visit to meet with them in Miami and make promises (broadcast on CNN – I watched him smooching).
    But it was the Castro regime as named above, who rejected the Obama overtures.

  • Again thanks for your comments The de-icing of Obama is the best way to change the Cuban reality. Most people I’ve met from eastern European say it’s better to go gradually instead to change in a violent way. I can see the conscience awakening when the people take more power little by little. I don’t want another Revolution.

  • Mr Circles R,
    Thanks for the further clarification.
    My understanding therefore, is that the five year multiple entry visa was scrapped under the trump government.
    The article you provided a link to has a comment from Bob Michaels which is a very good take on the matter.
    My clear understanding is that Obama’s reforms were intended to provoke and inspire change in Cuba. He was not naive enough to expect any immediate change but intended a change in the long term (I agreed wholeheartedly with this wise approach). The ailing Fidel Castro was largely negative in his response. But the reforms in themselves were entirely unilateral. Some of these reforms were subsequently reversed by trump. I understand this to be factual and not an opinion. I find it important to differentiate.

  • Mr MacD,
    The aspects of the President Obama reforms that have been reversed, were reversed by trump. He did this after Fidel Castro died. Cuba has not ever reversed any of these reforms. It would have been impossible to do so as these reforms were unilateral. Fidel Castro’s much publicised response did not reverse one single aspect of these reforms.
    If it somehow makes you happy to try and pin the actions of trump on a dead man, then please carry on…….

  • Mr Circles R,
    Thank you for the clarification.
    So do President Obama’s reforms regarding Cubans travelling to USA still stand?
    Or did this aspect of the much needed reforms get rejected and reversed within the other rejections and reversals instigated by trump ?

  • Again you succumb to that Trump fixation Nick. The letter from Fidel Castro was posted in Granma and on Cuban TV on March 28, 2016. Bruno Rodriguez Parilla spoke on March 29, 2016 saying:”There will be no reciprocation.”

    Donald J Trump was sworn in as President of the USA in January 2017,

    That Nick is the chronology – and no matter hard you flog your dead horse, you cannot change it. It was the Castros who slammed the door shut.

  • I think Lynn was talking about the program that made it easier for Cubans to legally visit the US not the other way around.

  • Mr MacD,
    I described the article as ‘thoughtful’. You try to spin this around and imply that I am being critical in some way and I have no idea why. I made absolutely no reference to the article being either opinion or factual. I have just now re-read it. The article is quite clearly a mixture of opinion and fact. As is perfectly normal.
    The article referred to President Obama’s visa program. This was Lynn’s only mention of President Obama. You said ‘Note too her gratitude to Barack Obama, who to Cubans, opened the door to an all too brief chink of the light of freedom, before Fidel Castro slammed it shut.’
    This door was slammed shut by trump when he reversed the visa policy that Lynn referred to. And Mr MacD, this is where you are flailing at the same old broken drum. Your chronology is all messed up. As I said, there are surely enough grounds for criticism of Cuba’s governance without trying to pin trump’s actions on a dead man. This particular door was slammed by trump after Fidel Castro had gone to the big politburo in the sky.
    Have you heard of the proverb ‘Dead men tell no tales’ ?
    Well let’s alter it slightly: ‘ Dead men slam no doors’.

  • Well now I understand why you find yourself unable to contribute to discussion about Cuba, without a tirade about Donald Trump(f), as Havana Times is predominantly about Cuba.
    My detestation of the Castro regime is unrelated in anyway, to Trump(f), the narcissistic bully. In that respect, Cuba is an exception, for in general Trump(f) has an evident admiration for dictators whether communist, autocratic or fascist.
    You can search Havana Times for all the years that i have contributed and not find a single example of anything to suggest that I could possibly be an apologist for that individual.
    I note with interest your use of the word prevailing, to describe the current US President, who has been in power for some three and one half years. I am surprised that if your use of the word is consistent, and as you have been travelling to Cuba for many years, that prior to Trump(f) even being a candidate for Presidency, Cubans always mentioned him, or was that a reflection of your fixation?
    Regarding Lynn Cruz, the simple difference between your view of her article and mine, is that you term it her opinion, and I term it as factual.
    Unlike those Cubans with whom you discuss, Lynn Cruz did not mention Trump, and neither did I.

  • Mr MacD,
    I find the articles of Lynn Cruz to be both thoughtful and thought provoking. I categorically do not discard anything that Lynn Cruz has written either in this article or any other.
    It is a bit unworthy of you to suggest this.
    How can anyone discuss the topic of Cuba without mentioning the prevailing U.S President?
    As you say, I have spent much time in Cuba and have discussed politics and current affairs with a whole wide range of Cuban people from all walks of life, with all kinds of views and from all parts of their beautiful island. These conversations have never not included mention of the prevailing U.S President.
    It was definitely and categorically trump and he alone who closed the door on President Obama’s policy regarding visas and U.S. citizens right to freedom of movement. He definitely did this for the reasons I have stated.
    Be wary Mr MacD, of the possibility that your overt detestation of Fidel Castro may turn you into a trump apologist.

  • No, only the upper class left Cuba 1961. Castro was telling the world that ppl who were leaving were the country the rich and the aristocracy the minority that were using the ppl to become richer that was the narrative but I remember the mulata neighbor of my grandfather a domestic worker leaving by that time and ppl from the working class in my neighborhood. By 1961 were so many ppl leaving or waiting to leave that the narrative of rich ppl wasn’t making sense. So the term Gusano was created then in 1965 Camarioca exile started with only working class, 1968- 1971 the Fly if freedom, 1980 Mariel, 1994 Balseros, and the dictadura this time changing the narrative that those are not political disidentes they are like Mexican or any other latinoamericans leaving their country in better of economic future. Castro turn a country that in 1958 was richer and more developed that Belgium and Spain with the higher aristocracy in Latino America. Yes we use to have Marquise, duchess rich ppl super rich the higher middle class I’m LA working class, poor, and very poor. Now the rich militaries in the top the Castro monarch and a ruined nation.

  • Manuel E,
    Independence is indeed costly. Cuban independence particularly so.
    Have you ever read the Bible (or the Torah) ?
    How about if Goliath simply puts a trade embargo on David, sits back counting his collection of Alligator shoes for a couple of centuries and then goes back to see what’s happening?
    The reasonable, intelligent and well-read man known as President Obama is a student of the Bible amongst other many other tomes. He could see clearly that the whole of the world, apart from the USA’s Middle East subsidiary, was against the USA’s pathetic Cuba policies. Therefore, once he no longer had need of FLA electoral college votes, he declared that the USA would no longer play the role of Goliath in this never ending saga…….
    Then along trots his chubby little ‘democratic’ successor who’s political career was founded on the lie that President Obama was not born in the USA. He decides he wants to go back to being Goliath. He wants to be the King of the Alligators.
    Meanwhile the good folk of Cuba, as ever, are caught in the middle contemplating the fact that independence is indeed, costly.
    Especially when you have taken it from under the nose of Goliath.

  • Nick: It’s all a game against the most vulnerable. Alligator does not eat alligator and aren’t those alligator shoes expensive. Alligator shoes prices are through the roof.” Caiman no come caiman.”

  • Mr. Castro said it ; ” We don’t care what dance you dance to but you will dance to The Revolution.” There are no Holy Free Markets in this world. It, who has the most dictates the price policy and maybe as it’s said ” in the ghetto only the strong survives.” Independence is very costly.

  • it is obvious Nick, to any reader, that you endeavor to drag in President Donald Trump at every opportunity, regardless of reason and regardless of Lynn Cruz not even mentioning him.

    I don’t change a single word of what I wrote.

    You may choose to discard the value of Lynn Cruz’ factual descriptions as “opinion”, but that is all that it is, your opinion! The obvious difference is that I believe her! Although you have been visiting Cuba for many years, it appears evident that you have yet to realize the pain that the Castro regime has chosen to inflict upon thinking Cubans as Lynn demonstrated.

    “When did we stop aspiring to be citizens and turn into slaves?”

  • It’s obviously fine to express an opinion Mr MacD and I always enjoy reading yours.
    But what I always find odd is this:
    There is, without doubt, plenty to criticise when it comes to the way Cuba is governed without having to put a spin on it.
    For someone of your conservative political opinions, surely there must be enough to go at without trying to twist stuff round or trying to present opinion as fact ?
    In this thoughtful article Lynn Cruz refers to the ‘visa program’ during President Obama’s term in office. President Obama hoped that his changes would be permanent regardless of the opinion of the ailing Fidel Castro and hoped that they would provoke and inspire gradual shifts within Cuba moving forward. The aspect of President Obama’s reforms which allowed U.S. citizens and residents the freedom to travel to Cuba was quite clearly overturned by trump. He reinstated this restriction on the freedoms of U.S citizens in order to spite his predecessor and to hold on to FLA Electoral College votes. This particular door was most certainly and inarguably closed by trump and he closed it after Fidel Castro was already dead.
    It doesn’t matter how many times you keep trying to bang it Mr MacD, this particular tired old drum is always gonna have a big, fat hole in it.

  • I much admire Lynn Cruz’ ability to “say it like it is”. That is because for her, the consequences of the revolution and the repression of the Castro regime are the reality of her life. Lynn is not a casual visitor, taking a tourist interest in a country locked into a time-warp and openly displaying rabid propaganda. Cuba is home to she and over 11 million others.

    It is their country where they have to exist with all the challenges that entails, of repression, looking over ones shoulder, keeping an eye on the CDR and MININT goons, and finding sufficient food within an incredibly meagre income.

    The regime speaks of their military involvement in thirteen other countries with pride. Lynn’s father was a participant. Fidel Castro dismissed those who fled on makeshift rafts or by peculiar routes, as “scum”. But note, Lynn’s brother despite his father’s service, was one of them.

    Note too her gratitude to Barack Obama, who to Cubans, opened the door to an all too brief chink of the light of freedom, before Fidel Castro slammed it shut.

    The intellect displayed by Lynn Cruz in her writing, is not unusual in Cuba, what is unusual is her courage in taking the risk of openly displaying it.

    Viva Cuba Libre !

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