Cuba and the Scars of Fidelismo

Veronica Vega

Fidel Castro.  Foto/archivo:
Fidel Castro. Foto/archivo:

HAVANA TIMES — Watching a film whose plot unfolds in Nazi Germany, I noticed how similar all autocracies are, how they are all grounded in a (distorted) sense of the good and, in order to establish themselves, manipulate the common substance of human dreams (the aspirations for justice and equality), setting in motion the most basic of egotistical drives (the self-preservation instinct, physical needs, the longing for comfort, vanity, and other proclivities).

I also noticed how we all share the impulse to correct others but dislike being corrected and how, while things are going well for us, it is very easy to assume that the underprivileged are guilty of their own misfortunes.

I must admit I continue to be surprised by how some Cubans are able to see the inhumanity inherent to fascism with absolute clarity, while at the same time defending Fidelismo (which is what actually developed in Cuba under the false name of “socialism”) with sincere devotion.

They refuse to accept the fact that they are defending a system whose aim was never the freedom of Cubans but the control of their will, the annulment of the individual rather than their empowerment. I know many will not agree with me, but even the first, altruistic gestures, unfurled with a great song and dance, contained high doses of hysteria, manipulation and extortion. They were performances of goodness, staged by a revolution that would demand unquestioning servility in return.

Ignorance, lack of objectivity and judgment, a blinkered mindset, skepticism and even the fear of what’s different, all of them engendered by a one-idea system, isolation, the absence of other references, political stigmatization and its tangible consequences, are the remnants of a phenomenon we witnessed here and actively participated in for more than half a century. Like actors under a massive spell, we have slowly awakened each one of us at our own, individual pace.

Despite the decadence that surrounds us, the anxiety of our daily struggle for survival, the lack of proportion between wages and prices, television programs that always shy away from the tough reality Cubans face and the evident failure of this long experiment (to which some have already devoted their entire lives), I can understand how, out of shame or sheer obtuseness, there are still those who adhere to what they defended for many years.

What I find incoherent and ultimately frightening is that people who dissent from the position of a Left that claims to be truly committed to the common good and to democracy, a Left that has turned the demands of some marginalized minorities into a personal cause, should react with verbal violence and use insulting language to respond to anyone who, faced with a given aspect of reality (political and not) thinks differently than they do.

That is when I start to question what concept of humanity these activists have, and whether they translate their defense of some minorities into the right to discriminate against other minorities (and even majorities). That is when I see the shadow of the authoritarianism that has been hammered into us, its counterpart, and I wonder what would become of Cuba if, by a twist of fate, they ever had access to power.

It would basically amount to replacing one tyrant with another. I’ve seen it in articles and comments published in Havana Times: remarks that resemble vomit more than arguments, and it is terrifying that so many years of political fanaticism, intolerance and injustice could become the cause of more disguised injustice.

It has been said that one only gets to know someone well when one fights against them, for it is only in the midst of conflict, fueled by the longing to be understood or to prevail, of conciliating or subjugating, the true nature of people is revealed.

Just as respecting other people’s rights is a means to ensure peace and those rights include the ability to express differing opinions, the respect with which such differences are expressed and considered reveals the intentions of those who debate them. It determines the possibilities of arriving at a consensus and guarantees that new proposals serve to establish a truly plural society.

Respect is the main premise we need in order not to reproduce a version of the Fidelismo that has torn Cuba apart and from which we are now only beginning to recover.


38 thoughts on “Cuba and the Scars of Fidelismo

  • The Castro regime survived with repression.
    The Cuban people survived by stealing from the government and by receiving aid from abroad.

  • The author seems to have a fundamental misconception about her place in the world. We are all equally powerful because we are all unique. Our reality is our own. The world is our imagination, not in our imagination but actually our imagination. We imagine people above us and below us in order to have things to aim for and things to avoid. This will always be the case so long as we seek to order our world. Order is necessarily a hierarchy if it is infinite, or else circular and finite, but a finite world offers nothing but more of the same. Both are illusions. I am reminded of a line from the Yi Jing: “One who is in a low position should look above for an example; one who is in a high position should not only look within, but should also survey his/her surroundings in order to better understand the situation.” Everyday Muslims pray for a King, a Sultan, the shadow of Allah on Earth, to look after their needs. Nothing is seen as better than this. Western democracy that promotes ego over responsibility is seen as the worst of all systems, as bad as tyranny. The author is looking at her Sultan and finding him wanting. She is internally imagining herself as above him, which doesn’t match the external reality. This is the definition of tyranny, the world upside down. I do not presume to say who is a better Sultan, Fidel or the author, as I said we are all Sultans in our own right being equally powerful as we are all unique, but I would ask the author to consider what qualities she has that mark her out as better. Then perhaps, momentarily accepting the finiteness of the world, in a circular fashion, there can be an exchange of energy.

  • How has Castro regime managed to survive for 56 years?

    First, they lived off the accumulated wealth of the nation which the State seized in the 1960’s. Then they received billions of dollars in subsidies from the USSR, equivalent to ten Marshall Plans.

    When the USSR collapsed and subsidies were cut off, the Cuban economy collapsed into the Special Period. Castro responded by turning to tourism. European & Canadian hotel operators (Capitalists, egads!) invested billions to develop the Cuban tourism market. As a side deal, the Canadian mining company Sherritt International took over operating the Moa nickel mine when the Russians left, who had taken over from the expropriated American firm who developed the mine in the first place.

    Then along came Hugo Chavez who agreed to provide Castro with billions of dollars worth of oil, and to pay for thousands of Cuba medical workers and “security advisors”.

    You see? For 56 years, the castor’s have always found a sucker to bail them out. Today, it seems they found a new one in the White House. That is how they managed to survive.

  • Communist regime have both created mass starvation as a result of mismanagement of the economies and – as you correctly point out – have deliberately created it using it as a weapon against the people. The famine in Stalin’s genocide against the Ukrainian people is one example. Mao’s “great leap forward” and “cultural revolution” resulted in years of famine. North Koerea is in a permanent state of famine.

  • Well, John. The 35% of GDP subsidies from the Soviet Union kept them alive though rationing and scarcity always was always present due to the mismanagement of the economy (see the “10 million ton zafra” for example). Didn’t you know that?

    The remittances go directly to the people. They bypass the dictatorship. Trading with Cuba has only benefited the dictatorship. Cuba spends more on the military then on food for the people. It is the Castro regime that has impoverished the country. Within two years of the Castro coup Cuba lost 50% of its rice production. Your attempt to blame the food shortages on the sanctions is easily exposed a a lie with Raul Castro’s own words:

    “Castro took a few swipes at the U.S. trade embargo that has been in
    place since 1962, but made it clear Cubans have only themselves to
    blame for agriculture shortages.”
    Castro calls for tight finances in Cuba – (26 July 2009)

  • All Latin American nations have had problems with colonial powers and corrupt dictators. Most of them have some form of more or less effective democracy. Only Cuba remains an entrenched in a dictatorship. That is the responsibility of the Castro regime.
    The Castros can in no way claim any “high ground” on Batista. They installed a more repressive dictatorship, killed more people than Batista, destroyed the relative prosperity of Cuba, … Corruption and prostitution are also back. The only thing that hasn’t come back yet are the casinos, though the “bolita” still exists.
    The destruction of Cuba can be squarely blamed on the Castro regime.

  • In Cuba it is just the Stalinist elite that is resisting the US. The Cuban people in their overwhelming majority like the US. Most have family or friends there. Lots receive remittances from there. So your propaganda “grito” sounds very hollow.
    As far as the regime goes: it should not be “free to go on” and repress the Cuban people. It isn’t on a path to a “democratic socialist state” as that is – as history has shown over and over again – a contradiction in terms. A real anarchist would be demanding an immediate end to the Castro regime and would not support a Stalinist elite as you clearly do so allow me to seriously doubt you description of yourself as “anarchist”. In all your posts in support of the regime you show yourself to be just another Stalinist in my opinion.

  • And, Ernesto,
    How did they manage to survive for the 50 years before such remittances were allowed ?
    How do the remittances stack up as against the economic losses suffered because the U.S. embargo exists to impoverish the island which Cuban officials say cost the Cuban economy US$ one trillion dollars since its inception ?
    When you choose to deliberately not mention the U.S. war on the Cuban economy , your posts deserve to go out into the manure pile.
    Your argument is trash.

  • A very good point! As is your comment about North Korea. It is a bitter irony that John would mention starvation, given the well documented history of Marxist-Leninist socialist states, from Stalin’s USSR, to Mao’s China, and Mengistu’s Ethiopia, have used organized mass starvation a means to implement their dystopian regimes.

  • Again an excellent analysis!

  • Totally agree! A total disaster since 1960 the trend though is shifting rapidly. The Internet is bringing trickles of truth which is a blessing. In the USA as well!

  • Capitalist countries, through the exiles, send over 5 billion dollars a year that Cuban families use to buy food. recent changes in US law will even increase that amount. That is what keeps the Cuban people from starving.

  • Capitalist countries contribute and distribute billions of dollars worth of food, medicine and other humanitarian aid every years, dwarfing the contributions from Cuba, China, the USSR & etc. In 2012, the US contributed $31.2 billion in economic aid (non-military) to dozens of countries around the world.

    If the capitalist world were to adopt the economic policies of Cuba, the world economy would collapse like an old Havana apartment building in the rain. World-wide systems of food production & distribution would fail and hundreds of millions of people would die in the ensuing famine.

  • In North Korea hundreds of thousands of children starve.
    In Cuba over 280,000 children under 6 need food aid from the WFP.
    Cuba does not succeed in distributing the “essentials” to the people. the people survive with the help of remittances from abroad.

  • I’m working my way through “Cuba, a History” by Hugh Thomas, an excellent read. To be sure, many of the problems Cuba is wrestling with today go way back to the Spanish colonial era. The Americans added to it, as did the corrupt Cuban politicians and the dictators Machado & Batista. But Fidel certainly added new and profound problems of his own creation. The fact that he (and his brother) have had 56 years in power has made the Castro’s responsible for the bulk of the problems that Cuba faces.

  • Moses and Cubaqus,
    In the capitalist Third World some six million children die every year from the effects of capitalist induced poverty.
    None of these children would die were those countries to adopt just Cuba’s means and methods of distributing the essentials of life.
    You nitpick the Cuban situation for any and all negatives in a system that is trying to provide the necessities of life for ALL its people while turning a blind eye towards the atrocities of the systems you support.

  • I am indeed familiar with that billboard and I know it is a lie. Independent reporters have often reported on families sleeping out in the street.
    I remember the story of various families in Havana whose house had collapsed that lived in the street as no suitable accommodation was available. People that have been evicted from their homes also ended up on the street.
    in addition: Cuba has large “barrios” with people living in shacks without water and sanitation. Rural housing is also of very bad quality. Overall there is a high deficit of houses in Cuba: 500,000 houses need extensive repairs and lots more need to be built. The result is that Cubans are living with three generations in cramped conditions in houses meant for one family. That is Cuban reality.

  • A billboard John? Is that your moral guidepost? To be sure, there are many Cuban children sleeping in shelters that anywhere else in the world would have been condemned because of unsafe conditions. Is it the streets? No, but the roof over their head is quite likely to fall on top on them. I saw families sleeping together outside or in a single room for fears of their “homes” collapsing while they slept.

  • I would invite you to visit ZNet, read the names of the authors on the daily article and then tell me where else in the U.S. corporate media can you find these authors published.
    And before you say they are nobodies remember that Noam Chomsky who has been recognized as the top intellectual in the world and one of the most accurate critics of U.S. imperialism is a frequent contributor to ZNet yet unknown in the corporate media.
    Just as counter-revolutionaries with ideas dangerous to the revolution are excluded in the Cuban media , so too are serious critics not just of the tactics of imperialism but of the basic of capitalism and the U.S. oligarchic electoral systems, excluded from the U.S. corporate media.
    “Any power structure, long enough in power becomes self-preserving, corrupt and totalitarian “:
    Anarchist axiom.
    Both countries media assure self-preservation of the totalitarian systems that have arisen in both countries from what looked like promising beginnings.
    The big difference : The systems o the USA are set in stone . They cannot be seriously challenged or seriously reformed .
    The corrupting influence of money is too strong to allow that to happen .
    Cuba has the chance to live up to its self-proclaimed but as yet unrealized socialist goals once the imperial ceases its half-century hostilities.
    That cessation seems very uncertain given the hard-core imperialists in both wings of the U.S. Capitalist Party.

  • You should be familiar with a revolutionary billboard that was up in Havana that read:
    “In the world today, millions of children sleep in the streets.
    That’s shorthand for: in the capitalist world some 6 million children die of starvation and curable/preventable causes every year .
    Fidel and the Cuban revolution that follows him never killed 6 million people
    Capitalism kills that many every year.
    Multi-party electoral systems are a cruel hoax that are always corrupted and bought by big money .
    No finer example of that axiom is the GOUSA..
    You cannot have a democratic SOCIETY with a capitalist economy .
    You can have one or the other but not both because they are mutually exclusive.

  • Bravo! Thank you, to let those updated leftist dreamer have it with facts.

  • …..No that was Fidel 🙂

  • The Castro elite – partying with capitalist empty brained socialites – is worse than any capitalist elite.
    The Castro military – political elite cares nothing about the Cuban people. It is worse than any “robber baron”.
    As far as creating a democratic system in Cuba: that will only happen when the current “socialist” (Stalinist) elites falls and when a true – non “socialist” – multi-party democracy emerges.

  • Yes I have.

    I also have read what top communists said:
    “Armando Hart, a member of Castro’s innermost ruling group, made the extremely significant observation that: . . . it is certain that capitalism had attained high levels of organization, efficiency and production that declined after the Revolution. . . (Juventud Rebelde, November 2, 1969; quoted by Rene Dumont, Is Cuba Socialist?)

    Theodore Draper quotes Anial Escalante, (before he was purged by Castro) one of
    the leading communists, who admitted that: …in reality, Cuba was not one of the countries with the lowest standard of living of the masses in America, but on the contrary, one of the highest standards of living, and it was here where the first great . . . democratic social revolution of the continent burst forth. . . If the historical development had been dictated by the false axiom [revolutions come first in
    poorest countries] the revolution should have been first produced in Haiti,
    Colombia or even Chile, countries of greater poverty for the masses than the
    Cuba of 1958. . . (quoted in Draper’s Castro’s Revolution: Myths and Realities;
    New York, 1962, p. 22)

    I also can speak from my own experience about the degradation of civil society since the “special period”.

  • What !? Have you ever read a single book about Cuban society from 1900 to 1959 ? I suggest “A History of Havana’ as a start.It should quickly disabuse you of the common fallacy that all Cuba’s problems started w/Fidel.

  • You don’t really want to confound Moses with facts unless you happen to like irrational responses.
    He blames Fidel for everything .
    Who do YOU think put that iceberg in front of the Titanic ?

  • There is no more selfish way of life than life under capitalism under which love of money trumps love of our fellow humans .
    It is supremely totalitarian and badly corrupts humanity’s intrinsic mutual aid way of life that was the way of humanity for some 100,000 years prior to the rise of both the state and capitalism .
    Cuba should resist this global evil as the existential threat to human kindness that it is and move towards its socialist ideals as soon as normalization is a reality and those moves possible .
    That said, if you think that the past 54 years of U.S. hostilities were harsh, wait to see what happens if Cuba actually creates a democratic ( socialist )society that challenges the totalitarian systems that are the US way of life. .

  • The Cuban people have been resisting U.S. imperialism
    which seeks to re-impose free-enterprise capitalism on the island for some 54 years . This was explicitly intended to have the effects on Cuban society that it has had except that it failed in creating a will amongst MOST Cubans to surrender
    You would throw those sacrifices out the window because you can’t either understand the (likely) reasons for grim conditions in Cuba in both the economy and the distortion of the original revolutionary intentions or you are just impatient for any kind of change.
    As stated many times before, I am an anarchist and deeply believe that (at least throughout history) all governments or bodies long enough in power become self-preserving, corrupt and totalitarian . Cuba may well go the route of all other parties led by a party that calls itself (falsely) Communist.
    Cuba’s revolution is autochthonous. It is uniquely Cuban .
    Cuba’s once Stalinist Communist Party is a Fidelista organization and is free to go its own route when conditions allow it and if Cubans remain true to revolutionary socialist (democratic) principles.
    It has the chance to become a democratic socialist state if it works from its socialist style of distributing essential goods and services for the benefit of all the people and into a democratic ( coops etc) economic system as mandated by socialist principles. ONCE ALL HOSTILITIES FROM THE U.S. CEASE .
    A democratic economy will lead to a democratic electoral system.
    As an anarchist , I expect the worst .
    At the same time I hope for the best.
    Despite the 54 year siege, IMO it’s a bit early for you to be despairing of a better Cuba, especially with normalization dawning.

  • The biggest crime of Fidel Castro is that he destroyed the moral and civic fabric of Cuban society. The “new man” is a selfish man that has lost work ethic, sense of family and ability to fight for the common good. The CDR and other repressive organs have reduced the Cuban people to moral stupor.

  • Exactly which part of my comment causes you heartburn? Cubans really do think they dance the best.

  • Did I mention that that whole “once you go black, you never go back” thing? Hehehe!

  • It has helped my marriage to blame Castro.

  • So essentially what you are saying is a woman who was born and raised in Cuba and has lived her entire life in Cuba, knows nothing abut Cuba, ….while you, in the UK, know better?


  • Ummm Moses. In this instance, that sense of superiority is a Cuban thing, not a Castro thing.

  • You can’t see the difference can you? As an example this article can be published in the “free speaking democracies”, as can your drivel. Whereas in Cuba this could never see the light of day. And if the security apparatus found out that you were even thinking of publishing this you’d end up in a deep dark whole.

    By the way, what exactly did you disagree with in this story. …How about a dialog instead of invectives?

  • This article is drivel of the highest order. The writer talks about respect for others views and then launches a vicious attack on the left. This is common in the so called free speaking pretend democracies she no doubt admires and I have to suffer. The first comment is even worse

  • Sez you Moses, sez you.

  • Fidel’s legacy among Cubans goes far beyond the political stench he has left behind. He gave Cubans a false sense of superiority in a variety of silly and irrelevant things. Ask any Cuban who dances best? Ask any Cuban who has best fashion sense? Or who can fix something broken? Most Cubans think Cuban doctors are the best-trained. Most Cubans think Cuban boxers and baseball players are the best. When I first began dating my Cuban wife, more than a few of her friends wondered how long it would be before she “missed’ a Cuban man. Hehehe, they couldn’t have been more wrong!

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