By Paula Henriquez

Photo: Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES – It’s been a while now that the issue of a so-called “egalitarian society” has been on my mind. I guess that many people may think it’s an irrelevant or, quite simply, an unknown issue, especially for our younger generations.

Truth be told, an egalitarian society is only possible in the utopian ideology of a dreamer. It’s different in reality.

Social classes have always existed and continue to exist and, as a result, the needs of these classes depends on their purchasing power. Impossible dreams become boring for some because they are excessive, while for others it’s because they are repeated to death. This has always been the case.

It’s not enough to have a good education to reach the next rung on the social ladder. The relationships you are able to form, being sharp or having mid-to-long-term vision, your eloquence and powers of conviction are much more important. Although in most cases what you need is a privileged surname..

Generally-speaking, the latter are normally the ones who climb the ladder the highest, and with the least amount of effort, of course. It’s not unusual for many people to lack the key ingredients to win over the space they are in.

So, we see them filling management roles in companies and other important positions. And, as you can imagine, this is where bad decisions or inefficient management stem from. The population pays the price.

Going back in time

I sometimes remember my childhood years, with nostalgia. I think that was the closest I ever came to that utopian dream of an economically egalitarian society.

It goes without saying that back then, my age didn’t allow me to comprehend the twists and turns of the era… nor was I interested in learning the reasons behind what was happening around me. Maybe this is why I remember it as a golden age in my life.

Then came the collapse of the Soviet Bloc and the dismemberment of what we knew as the Soviet Union.

This is where the most notable class differences began. Huge gaps opened up between people’s lifestyles.

At that time, I was old enough to begin to see it. Thirty years have passed since and nothing has changed for the better. Every year, you dream that the next might be better than the present year, and so on. Maybe this is the perfect mechanism to push your mind and keep going.

The truth is that many lucky people were already at the top and they continue to enjoy the same privileges. Another few, closer in age to my generation, managed to climb up a rung or two on the social ladder. They combined some of the above ingredients that are so important to “get you to the top”. 

It’s not that I spend my days haunted by the idea of climbing the social ladder, it’s a matter of luck at the end of the day… nevertheless, I still hold onto my dreams and, every once in a while, I stop and look back to the past with nostalgia, thinking back to that utopian dream of social equality.

Read more from Paula Henriquez here.


Paula Henriquez

Paula Henriquez: Since childhood I have been told I should be careful what I say in public. "Think before you speak, especially in front of others," my mother would say, and it was more of a plea than a scolding. Even today I hear her and I obey her, just that I do not speak, I write. Letters and words are my escape, my exit and daily catharsis, which printed on paper, revive me. And this picture is my refuge.

13 thoughts on “Are We Equal in Cuba?

  • I suggest reading “Another Now – Dispatches from an Alternative Present” by Yanis Varoufakis for an alternative. If tradeable shares were banned then capitalism wouldn’t exist. Ideally every sizeable company should be a cooperative with each employee having a single share and a single vote on all major strategic decisions.
    The Harry Ramsden’s Fish and Chips are nice I have to admit. I would describe the man himself as an entrepreneur. Unfortunately the company has strayed wildly from its origin and now is a typical international restaurant chain owned by shareholders who have nothing to do with the company. But they make a lot of use of the brand name.

  • Hi dani ! I for one, do not consider that capitalism is without problems – but it is preferable to the alternative. Nick, considers that somehow chalk and cheese can be combined in a hybrid of capitalism and communism, which to me appears to be a weird form of hypothetical hyena.

    Given the alternative of capitalism or communism, I would always choose the former. Is there an alternative? If so, please describe!

    As a side comment, I recall being able to purchase a piece of fish for fourpence along with two pennies worth of chips (240 pennies to the pound). The local owner of a Fish and Chip shop, was a fellow named Harry Ramsden, who had a chauffeur driven Rolls Royce, and who pre-second world war, was charging 1,000 pounds stg. for the right to sell ice-cream at his car park. Poor old Harry went shooting in Wigton. Post-war he counted Elizabeth Taylor as a visiting customer. I in my innocence, would have considered Harry to be a capitalist, but perhaps you can re-assure me that he was but a humble urban peasant.

  • Carlyle and Nick,
    When people talk about Capitalism it isn’t the the local owner of a Fish and Chip shop or even normal trade and free markets. Did you know 90% of the firms on the New York stock exchange are owned by just three companies – Vanguard, Black Rock and State Street (https://theconversation.com/these-three-firms-own-corporate-america-77072). We are talking here about real and absolute monopoly of power and money. Is there an alternative? Of course there is. I suggest reading Another Now – Dispatches from an Alternative Present by Yanis Varoufakis which maps out how things could be run differently and democratically and without needing a strong state.

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