Authoritarian Socialism in Cuba and the Change We Need

Osmel Ramirez Alvarez

HAVANA TIMES – Ever since Raul Castro formally came into office in 2008, his slogan was “Towards a prosperous and sustainable socialism”. A lot more encouraging, given the circumstances, than what Fidel used to promote: “resist, resist and resist”.

Diaz-Canel doesn’t have his own slogan. He is still upholding Raul’s and seems to sincerely believe that he will be successful in achieving this. At least that’s the message he wants to transmit on TV during his days at the Council of Ministers, saying that we now have to do what we haven’t been able to achieve in the past 60 years.

In order to convince those who have put him where he is, he says over and over again: “we are continuity, we are continuity”. However, the truth is that the new President “appointed” by the Communist Party is working in a lot more adverse situation that his predecessors.

After ten years of superficial changes and a meek opening of the private sector, he is obligated to uphold the nationalized, centralized and bureaucratic economic system that has sunk the country into misery. Because if he dares try something new, the same person who put him in this position [Raul Castro], can just as easily take it away from him. If he does have refreshing ideas, they’ll need to wait.

Under such circumstances, there is less and less socialism in Cuba as the days pass by. In terms of social benefits because the political and economic systems are anything but socialist. The prosperity we’ve been promised is almost a joke. Wealth seems to be the enemy of our economic system, not poverty. And, poverty and migration seem to be the only two things that are sustainable.

There is no doubt that the Communist Party’s main plan is to stay in power, no matter what the cost. It isn’t patriotic or nationalistic, it’s biased and sectarian. Fidel felt he needed to keep the vast majority of the Cuban people in a trance in order to do this. Raul proved that you don’t need everyone’s support, not even the majority’s. You just need a small percentage when you have the repressive forces to control society. Especially the political police who are called “State Security”, whose actions are well and above the Constitution and national laws, so they can deal with any act of dissidence.

We don’t have anywhere to go to demand our few rights because the judicial system doesn’t have jurisdiction over repressive forces and is dominated by the political police.  In three simple words: they follow orders. Anyone can be taken to trial for whatever they want and the only thing that kind of holds them back is the country’s international image and the popular ability to make complaints, thanks to growing, yet limited, Internet access.

They have the safeguard of a political system designed to keep them in power, which in hand with their almost monopoly control of national media, make the perfect combination for social manipulation and control. So, they are imposing a political and economic system that ensures the totalitarian control that the PCC has grown accustomed to. Which it doesn’t want to give up, at the expense of giving up on progress and basic human rights.

The worst thing is that the Communists in power are a minority group in our society. I’d venture a guess and say approximately 10% of the adult population. With the exception of a few dissidents who have openly declared their stance, the rest either cooperate with the regime out of convenience or tolerate it because they depend on it and are afraid. Not fear of the physical torture that crude right-wing dictatorships inflict, but of things much worse, more refined, that play with your mind and cause panic.

As a result, we have a great paradox here in Cuba: Communists are a minority and they lost the people’s hearts a long time ago, but they hold absolute control of the threads of national politics, the economy, the armed and repressive forces. That is to say, they aren’t representative, but we are being controlled and are in chains, without the sovereign power to free ourselves of them or choose another path.

Their objective of improving things by 2030 might as well be moved to 2130, they won’t be able to achieve anything then either. They won’t find a way to move the country forwards towards progress even in a thousand years with today’s political and economic system. The slogan of “a prosperous and sustainable socialism” is also a lie, something impossible to achieve without first making profound changes in our society, starting off with the promotion of a democracy, economic freedoms and human rights.

The ideal thing would be to wipe them out as if by magic and for other, more skilled, political groups to take provisional power and encourage this change. However, ideal things don’t exist or are very rare. The Communist Party will never take a step back because of a sudden bout of patriotis, nor is it easy to draw it out of them. Truth be told, they hold all the country’s power and they can delay the democratic solution for a long time.

That’s why we have to plant our feet firmly on the ground and be ready to negotiate. Putting forward an Action Plan for Change that is democratic and also feasible. Which must include the Communist Party whether we like ir or not, just as much as rejecting it is hard and accepting it represents a starting point towards a new future, a fairer future, for every sector in society.

There are many examples of democratic transitions in History and the only way to get out of a totalitarian system is to place a lot of pressure, but to also give way at the same time, so you can reach a mutual agreement, for the sake of moving towards a democracy. Which we know doesn’t come from a coup d’etat, but from slowly building democracy with intelligence and tolerance.

Osmel Ramirez

I'm from Mayari, a little village in Holguín. I was born on the same day that the Vietnam War ended on April 30, 1975. A good omen, since I identify myself as a pacifist. I am a biologist but I am passionate about politics, history and political philosophy. Writing about these topics, I got to journalism, precisely here on Havana Times. I consider myself a democratic socialist and my main motivation is to try to be useful to the positive change that Cuba needs.

12 thoughts on “Authoritarian Socialism in Cuba and the Change We Need

  • May 7, 2019 at 8:08 am

    Democracy and freedom in Cuba should not be thought of as a binary choice between the status quo and becoming a puppet of their northern neighbor. In fact, Cuba has the opportunity to become whomever they choose to be. I believe that as long as a Castro remains in charge, such change for the better will not come to pass. But there is hope afterwards….

  • May 6, 2019 at 10:29 am

    About the most realistic analysis of the dire situation in Cuba i have seen.
    Osmel Ramirez knows.
    Problem is the communists will do anything to stay in power for forever.
    Best just escape the dungeon.
    The communist tyranny is like the mafia it eliminates it’s enemies on the inside.

  • May 5, 2019 at 7:18 pm

    I saw those bridges to nowhere and the buildings half finished with Russian support when I was a tourist in Cuba seven years ago. The tour guide pointed them out. So sad that the Cubans can’t be independent. I really admire those of you that say it like it is and can dream for the day of freedom and liberty for all.
    You are not alone, China has a hold on most the world it seems including a lot of USA debt.

  • May 5, 2019 at 1:05 pm

    I couldn’t put it better.

  • May 5, 2019 at 1:03 pm

    Great answer.

  • May 5, 2019 at 11:28 am

    That Martin is because despite your six months in Cuba, you have not grasped the methods by which the Castro communist regime maintains control. Your conclusion that there is a lack of spine among’st Cubans is in my experience incorrect. Yes, there is a helplessness as they see any who even murmur against the regime jailed and the realization that protest will lead inevitably to jail, separation from their families and loss of those pathetic earnings. Cubans cannot take to the streets which is forbidden by enforced law, or “stand up and free themselves” and it is insulting to suggest that they “choose to be slaves of the corrupt and authoritarian system.”
    Look at the history of Russia and the formation of the USSR communist block. I knew many who fled from the oppression by crossing the Iron Curtain from Czechoslovakia and Hungary into Austria, but many died on the wire in such endeavors. The implosion of the USSR brought the freedom of thirteen countries, none of which chose to be slaves. Dig more deeply into the history of communism and think of those approximately two million Cubans, who in despair had to seek freedom elsewhere.
    As a side issue, I am intrigued to know how you got a visa to stay in Cuba for six months, unless married to a Cuban?

  • May 5, 2019 at 11:11 am

    Yes Lynda, for those who actually care about the people of Cuba, the frustration of being unable to do anything to assist them to break those bonds that communism has tied around them, grows. As I have commented previously, I look at my lovely eight year old God-daughter and mentally pray that in her lifetime she may know the freedom that we in the free capitalist world take as a right.
    As illustrated by Martin in his comments (below) most foreigners – even in his case claiming to have lived there for half a year (what kind of visa did he have?) do not comprehend how the communist system works. The walls have ears – that was the purpose of Fidel Castro introducing the CDR based upon the East German Stasi who actually gave instruction, and it is why Cuba although having low crime rates, has the fourth highest level of incarceration in the world – the CDR and MININT goons work together under the tender control of the KGB educated Alejandro Castro Espin – truly a “chip off the old block, father Raul. It is too easy to talk in ignorance of demonstration when apart from those organized by the PCC – like the “demonstrations” in Revolution Square, when both organizing and/or taking part in such a demonstration is illegal – those jails await!
    The Ladies in White soon found that out!

  • May 4, 2019 at 3:22 pm

    Excellente analysis. Very brave as well to put this on paper without hiding behind a mask. The Cubans need to take their future into their own hands, but I have never seen any form of open protest on the streets of Cuba living their as a European for half a year in a community of ordinary Cubans. I still don’t understand why the Cubans don’t stand up and free themselves, basically choose to be slaves of the corrupt and authoritarian system for decades. Cuba needs people like Osmel. People with a spine.

  • May 4, 2019 at 12:19 pm

    Carlyle, I always appreciate your comments ,as one who really knows about and lives in Cuba. I, too, have spent a great deal of time there, not as a tourist. I, too, know and love cuba and cubans, and my heart breaks for their hopelessness and despair. All I can do is keep going, keep loving my friends there and keep praying for a miracle.

  • May 4, 2019 at 11:33 am

    Brian, you are fooling yourself if you consider that Cuba can “Slowly become your own democratic socialist country”, Cuba is locked in the iron grip of the Communist Party of Cuba, with zero chance of that grip being released voluntarily. To that party, the thought of actual democracy with democratic socialists being permitted to stand for election in competition with the communists is anathema and indeed doing so is forbidden within the new constitution which only permits the one-party communist government.
    Cubans would love to be self-reliant, but are not permitted to develop commercial businesses – only to purchase a licence to practice one of the occupations defined by the regime.
    Like you, I would not relish the idea of Cuba reverting to US domination, but there are other preferable democratic political systems.
    Fidel Castro can in some respects, be described as having been a puppet ruler for the USSR, until its implosion in 1989, for he was dependent upon Soviet aid and was used for military purposes by the Russians both within Cuba and in other countries. The loss of Soviet aid brought about the “special period” and Soviet projects -the autopista for example – were abandoned. (There are still bridges across the autopista with no attached roads, and it suddenly ends in a vacant field never getting close to Santiago its intended destination). There followed dependence upon Venezuela which has become a failed state and now China which practices financial colonialism and to whom Cuba becomes ever more in debt.
    It really would be nice to see Cubans themselves able to decide their own government in open free elections. Whether that would result in your obvious preference for socialism, is debatable. Cuba has already achieved Winston Churchill’s description of socialism:
    “The inherent vice of socialism is the equal sharing of misery,”
    “El vicio inherente del socialismo es lo mismo que compartir la miseria.”

  • May 4, 2019 at 6:31 am

    Sure it would be nice to see a democratic socialist government in Cuba some day, but not at the expense of your beautiful country being annexed and possessed by the United States.
    History would repeat itself and they would install a puppet ruler as they have done time and time again in various regions of the world to what avail?
    You would be back in the days of Batista. That kind of capitalism does not do anybody well except for the elite , the republican way of power and the 1% that control the wealth.
    Be careful what you wish for. Slowly become your own democratic socialist country, be self reliant and proud, and do not let anybody else influence your way of life and culture.

  • May 3, 2019 at 3:15 pm

    I understand Osmel that about 7% of Cubans are members of the Communist Party. I get a sad smile when I pass our municipal office and see the tattered banner hanging across its face, with those words ‘prosperous and sustainable” painted on it. The broken windows of the offices on the floor above, patched with brown paper reflect to truth!
    Alejandro Castro Espin’s MININT goons ensure control of the citizens, aided by the CDR.
    As you illustrate, there is always plenty of money for the Propaganda Department of the PCC to construct their hoardings. Miguel Diaz-Canel is subservient to Raul, who is still in control as First Secretary of the PCC. You may note on TV that at events where both are present, Raul takes precedence.

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