Slogans and Campaigns that Shackle Us in Cuba

By Jesus Arencibia   (El Toque)

Slogan of the Committees in Defense of the Revolution (CDR).  Photo: Jesus Arencibia.

The chatterbox overwhelms with quotes and slogans, with far-fetched and
coined phrases, with theoretical rhetoric. It’s like chloral hydrate
or phenobarbital or chlorpromazine. It leaves you stunned, makes you yawn, makes you sleepy.
-“The Chatterbox,” by H. Zumbado in Limonada (1978)    


HAVANA TIMES – You end up forming some kind of allergy, rash and swelling included, when you’re bombarded with the same pests, day after day. What’s the trending phrase at the moment in Cuban political discourse? The national economy’s “Productive chains”. The president says it, and then so does Tom, Dick and Harry, every booster and amplifier in turn.

Few people who have signed up to this trending slogan actually stop to think about the complexity of this term. They don’t realize, like academic Pedro Monreal has, for example, that before articulating chains, certain links need to first be detached, including “the Gordian knot” of Cuba’s dual currency and exchange system, and the conditions in areas such as agriculture and food service, operate in.

“Can an agricultural sector where [the state body] ‘Acopio’ plays a crucial role, have the kind of institutionalism […] needed to generate chains…?” economist Monreal asks. There have been decades of arguments to answer this question he poses.

Talking about responses and “chains”, when will we find out what the solution to the “Port-Transport-Domestic Economy chain” problem is? Used by the government and its media since the 1980s, the term continues to appear in articles which are critical, giving viewpoints and recommendations. The national economy knows full well how it (doesn’t) work: at the Port, products are stranded and delayed; and transport, well, transport is sublime in all its forms.

Back in 2017, Juan Carlos Rodriguez Portuondo, director of Frutas Selectas, talked to Bohemia magazine about cargo transportation: “…it’s bad; the Trucking company (UDECAM), for example, is unable to transport fertilizers from the port. Not even Almacenes Universales can meet the demand of national transfers.” Talking about the trucks in his own company, he lamented: “70% of them have been working for over three decades.”

However, the discourse doesn’t seem to warn others about their own ineffectiveness and it is recycled, dressed and imposed, so it can appear on placards again, be heard in chants, meetings, words of caution, campaigns, action plans, daily agendas, divine marketing. Maybe so “productive chains” do become a reality with their incantations, I think.

The more experienced will suppose now isn’t the time. If you take a look at the journalistic transcripts of past editorials, you will be (unfortunately) shocked to see the same old, from the header to the footer. Traveling in a flashback, some gems prove exactly this:

Headline: “Food demands can be met with current resources.” First paragraph: “Increase production and economic infrastructure to the max with less resources is a policy we follow in Agriculture, although we are tackling the tendency to ask for more instead of making better use of what we already have, the minister […] said.” [Trabajadores, June 23, 1989]

Headline: “COMMANDER IN CHIEF: Young Cubans face problems with vigor, bravery and optimism.” Third paragraph: “Every young Cuban will take on the responsibilities right now, accordingly, when everyone’s efforts are needed to face the effects of the current global economic crisis we find ourselves in, with greater arduousness and efficiency,” [Juventud Rebelde, October 1, 1976]

El Socialista, Pinar del Rio, February 19, 1966

Headline: “Why does electricity consumption in peak hours need to be reduced?”. Second paragraph: “With the enthusiasm and resolution which are characteristic of our people, a campaign to reduce electricity consumption in ‘PEAK’ hours has been developed under the Party’s guidance and the close collaboration with mass organizations (CDR, FMC, CTC-R, etc.).”  [El Socialista, Pinar del Rio, February 19th 1966].

Do more with less, give our best, reject individualism, tackle shock assignments, participate with optimism, bravery and faith in victory, show revolutionary commitment at all times, talk about problems at the right time and in the right place, don’t give the enemy the weapons it needs, build, save and overcome, IS EVERYBODY’S DUTY.

And so many times, everybody’s duty has ended up being nobody’s responsibility unfortunately, and gaps in the lives of many.

As if they weren’t concrete events, practices and actions (such as the daring and plausible pay-hike that was recently decided), that mark a movement in a significant way, creating optimism and commitment. As if they weren’t changes to policies and laws, and understanding the laws that govern our economy, the ones that are the catalyst for the abovementioned “chains”, beyond just campaigns and voluntarism.

In short, maybe we should get used to everyday bombasts of propaganda, and not be shocked by CDR (Committees for the Defense of the Revolution) slogans that are hanging on the corner of Cerro and Boyeros, in the capital of 500 potholes: “The CDR, an organization that was born to be never-ending.”

The headline of a page/poster that Hoy newspaper published on May 16, 1963, also refers to the everlasting and immortal:

“Eternal friendship”.
Hoy newspaper, May 16th 1963.

And, we all know how long eternity lasts.


9 thoughts on “Slogans and Campaigns that Shackle Us in Cuba

  • August 8, 2019 at 11:57 pm

    The amazing thing about all these slogans is how little they have changed since 1960!

  • August 3, 2019 at 6:55 pm

    “Labor is an offshoot of slavery” Manuel? So what do you propose? Maybe that people should sit all day twiddling their thumbs – a not unusual practice in Cuba? To suggest that it is: “our innate nature for greed and cheating” reflects upon the company you may have kept, rather than that of society as a whole.

  • August 3, 2019 at 8:26 am

    All of this while at last count 35 billionaires in The World at large possess 90% of the revenue. Labor is an offshoot of slavery, let’s remember that. Redistribution is always messy given our innate nature for greed and cheating.

  • August 1, 2019 at 2:09 pm

    Only the innocent (or will-full deceivers) could describe Cuba as a third world country. Examine the history of education including universities, study the city planning and architecture, look at the art and study the science, listen to the sophistication of the music. It is five hundred and six years since Trinidad de Cuba was established and the oldest house in all the Americas is in Cuba. Compare that to other “third world” claimants.
    Talk that the US is responsible for Cuba’s obvious woes is nonsensical – Cuba is the country which under Fidel Castro, was able to intervene militarily in thirteen overseas countries, was that the action of a “third world country”? Tell that to those whom Cuba as an ally of Syria, attacked in the Yum Kippur War!
    The people of Cuba suffer from the imposition of the 19th century philosophy of Marx and Engels as translated by Lenin and practiced by Stalin. Raul Castro is a faithful disciple of that form of communism envying and lusting for the power and control of dictatorship that he first witnessed in the USSR back in 1953. It was the Castro brothers and the Argentinian Dr. Ernesto Guevara de la Serna Lynch who in endeavors to mold the Cuban populace into a malleable mass held instruction classes and introduced the Committee for the Defence of the Revolution in order to deny individuality and the freedoms that those who live in the capitalist world enjoy. The latter has with along with democracy a multitude of faults, but somewhat obviously has freedoms that are far preferable to totalitarian dictatorship.
    Pursuit of the afore described communism has ground Cuba, its infrastructure and formerly developed agriculture into an economic bog. Some 34% of Cuba’s agricultural land is reverting to bush as a consequence of incompetence. But Cuba has done “very well”?
    Listing the various faults ascribed to the US, does not allay the responsibility for the self-evident corruption occurring under the Castro regime. Who controls all importation, who decides to purchase beer, chicken, pork, canned tomatoes etc. from the US? Could anyone’s palm be greased? Who ensures that those who question the system are jailed – is that corrupt?
    Endeavors to shift responsibility for the Castro communist regime onto the shoulders of others, simply is pursuit of a lie.

  • August 1, 2019 at 9:29 am

    Perhaps the world should wake up to the fact 1 Cuba is a third world country and undeveloped!
    Secondly, Cuba’s problems are not the results of an inefficient for good government but rather are the results of the Empires continuing War against this little Nation with all the embargoes and actual physical devastation caused occasionally!
    Unfortunately America does not only harass Cuba but any country that they try to bring a boat regime change in so America can profit.
    America is not a good Nation nor is it an admirable Nation. It is rather a corrupt Nation and history testifies of it corruption!
    Cuba has done very well considering all the hardships imposed upon it by the US!

  • August 1, 2019 at 6:50 am

    Slogan of the Committees in Defense of the Revolution (CDR).

    Tyrannies need slogans, they are running a failed undemocratic system that the people don’t really want.
    Tighten the belt is one of Cuba’s communist dictatorship favorites.

  • August 1, 2019 at 1:04 am

    Those idiotic slogans and campaigns won’t disappear until the last Castro is 6 feet under!

  • July 31, 2019 at 10:08 pm

    Finally American and Cuban foreign policy meet, Cuba always stopped illegal migration, now thanks to Trump administration, America and Cuba think same way.

  • July 31, 2019 at 4:51 pm

    I wouldn’t myself be an advocate of a one party state.
    But perhaps one advantage of a one party state would be that you would potentially only get 50% of the bombast, propaganda and sloganeering that you would get in a two party state ??

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