A Concept Hijacked in Cuba

Cuban propaganda. Photo: Heriberto Machado


By Heriberto Machado (El Toque)

HAVANA TIMES – The word “Revolution” comes from the Latin revolutio, which means “to take a turn” (I understand it better if I call it “influence” or “change of direction”), therefore, in the face of out-of-date and backward powers, of the need to relocate social order and life of a country that is bogged down, this word has come to represent those who want to implement new policies, these are our “revolutionaries”.

When I studied the “Right” and “Left” in Sociopolitical Theory, I would get very confused. The Right were represented by conservative governments who encouraged individualism and private property, most of whom were outdated and lacked the tools and channels to satisfy and rectify problems in society. Meanwhile, the Left were represented by those who stood up to this old order with an arsenal of fresh ideas and spaces which favor greater collective participation.

Because I know nothing in this world is absolute, I have always asked myself to what extent these two forces can confront each other without resembling one another. What happens if a government which belongs to the Right manages to reach a balance of justice and civil equity? What happens if a Leftist government doesn’t achieve anything but dreams and sacrifice in vain after years and years of struggling, no matter how noble the end goal is?

Sometimes I ask myself whether the Cuban government continues to belong to the Left or whether it has now actually become a right-wing government. Just like I ask myself whether this so-called “socialism” we have here in Cuba is nothing more than capitalism in disguise, where citizens work and don’t see the fruits of their labor.

Personally-speaking, I recognize myself as a Leftist and I would also like to have the opportunity to cast my lot with the poor, but I first stand up to those in my position if I know that they have lost reason before taking on those who hold a different position to me.

I know that the Beast to the North’s appetite is damaging, I know that the Blockade is more than a platitude, but a lack of dialogue can’t take refuge in our need to stick together against “the enemy”, just like a phobia against all kinds of individual thought, even the mildest line of questioning, can’t.

Jose Marti wrote precisely this in one of the first pages of La Edad de Oro: “A man who hides what he thinks or does not dare to say it has no honor.” Today in our country, it seems that the kind of people being promoted are those who have no dignity and those who treat others poorly. People who aren’t able to fight a lie or fight for an ideal. People who have forgotten the ideals that helped to build our country.

When we want to achieve something, it’s much better to give tough criticism which is hard to swallow than criticism which is nothing but flattery, praise and ambiguousness. And if there’s something our government, or its main political organizations, haven’t known what to do that’s to argue intelligently against ways of thinking that are different to their own, but could also compliment or enrichen their own.

Sometimes, I want to call myself a “revolutionary” if I understand the term to mean what Fidel Castro said when he said Revolution “is changing everything that needs to be changed” (and if there’s anything we have in abundance here in Cuba it’s things we need to change), but this term has been hijacked so painstakingly that I have no way of defining myself. I’m not a counterrevolutionary; maybe I’m a dissident, subversive, but not in the way our upper echelons understand these terms, as I don’t wish for anything bad to happen, only good, like the so many of us who have been separated and backed into being against them.

Our government insists on calling itself “revolutionary”, but they haven’t been able to fill the shoes of this term for a while now (decades, I would say), because there isn’t a permanent state of revolution for any abstract or tangible body here in this country. However, the most vigorous reason lies in the fact that our government could bring about a state of strict and much-needed change by passing on the baton to our wasted youth, by opening up real spaces for participation and dialogue, because life doesn’t move at the pace of an old man.

And I’m not referring to the Cuban youth who repeat prefabricated slogans, the ones who lower their heads or respect those who give them orders without thinking first themselves. I am referring to our headstrong youth, our controversial and nonconformist youth, those who ask questions and never falter to say what they are thinking. I’m sure these young people would love to be able to call themselves “revolutionaries”, but they feel usurped, slandered and sometimes even like they’ve been cornered to turn to a hypothetical opposing side.

Today, the so-called “revolutionaries” call anyone who dares to criticize the “Revolution” and its institutions, “counterrevolutionaries”. Today, while the majority of Cubans don’t dare to voice their opinions out of fear of being defamed or labeled the enemy, statism is engulfing us and tomorrow is looking even more austere. Today, it would be a good idea for us to sit down and go over every concept, not only “revolution” but “democracy”, “citizen” and “Homeland” too.

6 thoughts on “A Concept Hijacked in Cuba

  • Karl Marx has been dead since the later part of the 1800’s. The context he wrote about long ago passed. So has the context for the 1959 revolution long ago passed. The revolution that is needed in 2018 Cuba is one that deals with current realities. State enterprises need to be remade or closed, dual currency needs to be unified. A legal structure and adequate tax system built to manage the private sector. Perhaps the engineer can bring change, because doing the same thing is not a revolution.

  • A very interesting observation jon!
    The CDR looms over Cuba and the defined purpose includes:
    “so that everybody knows who lives on every block, what they do on every block, in what activities are they involved and with whom they meet.”
    Living in Cuba as I do, one becomes well aware of that fear of disclosure of personal opinions. People warn of the possibility of being reported to MININT through the CDR. MININT maintains a file on every single Cuban.
    The Communist Party of Cuba has a Department of Revolutionary Orientation which maintains a file upon every Cuban child. Their “Code for Children, Youth and Family” states that a person who teaches their child ideas contrary to communism can be sentenced to three years in prison.
    Such laws and regulations do bring fear and that is their purpose!
    It was because no Cuban would dare or have the means of publishing a book about the reality of Cuba, that I wrote ‘Cuba, Lifting the Veil’. Now published also in Spanish, it is obviously not going to appear at any of the book fairs so beloved by the regime as a method of distributing ever more copies of the writings of Fidel, Raul and Guevara.

  • I have to say Nick that I find your methods of subtly promoting and supporting communism both interesting and devious.
    The bloodbath to which you refer in Russia with the implosion of the Soviet Union was almost insignificant compared with that which took place year after year under the rule of Josif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili.
    You obviously choose to ignore the bloodbath and purge that took place in Cuba following the revolution. Oh you may say that it was merely of thousands rather than millions, but was a bloodbath non the less.
    Cuba and its people deserve freedom. To achieve that, the Stalinist Cuban model must be abandoned. How Nick can that be achieved? Platitudes do not suffice,

  • To initiate and participate in a referendum would lead to arrests. Ie a form of civil disobedience. Either Cubans are too comfortable despite strictures, or too afraid, or too despairing, but it seems not likely to happen any time soon.
    Also a referendum is more talking. But is the only way to go other than back to the Sierras.

  • Mr P – you come yet again with simplistic solutions to complex issues.
    If only things were as straightforward as you seem to think they are.
    Anyone who is aware of the history of these issues would know that this sudden lurch toward your so called ‘democray’ was trialled in Russia.
    Anyone who witnessed this will refer you to the bloodbath which ensued.
    If the sudden shift in Russia had involved a bit more talking, then an awful lot of innocent people who got caught up in the bloodbath would still be alive today.
    The very worst outcome possible for Cuba would be to experience the same bloodbath as Russia went through only to come up with the system of governance that the Russians have (far worse than the governments of the later Soviet era).
    History proves that complex issues are not solved by simplistic disney-style solutions or lame sloganeering.

  • The author, Heriberto Machado, closes his post with a pithy suggestion that “it would be a good idea for us to sit down and go over every concept”. In other words, more talk. The one thing in nearly 60 years of the tyrannical Castro dictatorship, the one thing Cubans have done plenty of is “talk”. Sometimes at great peril, even until death, Cubans have talked and talked and talked. And to what end has all this “talk” come? I think the time for talk is over. What Cuba needs is Democracy (big D). That is too say, Cubans need to hold an open and independent referendum on the Revolution. Anyone who knows and loves Cubans knows that Cubans seldom agree politically. Majority rule through democratic principles is the only real solution. Simply talking solves nothing.

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