Be Wary of Decontextualization: A Warning to All Cubans

Vicente Morin Aguado

Guillermo Rodriguez Rivera. Photo:

HAVANA TIMES — As I write a second article about my stay in Miami, in response to a number of comments prompted by my first post, I call on readers to keep an eye out for an old and common practice of the mass media. I want to begin by reminding readers of what the prestigious Cuban essayist Guillermo Rodriguez Rivera said of Joseph Stalin, referring to the notorious communist leader as a “master of decontextualization.”

Let me say, from the outset, that I am speaking of a well-known anti-Batista activist who holds a PhD in philology from the University of Havana, someone who is also a personal friend of singer-songwriter Silvio Rodriguez. Referring to freedom of the press under socialism, specifically the form of socialism he and I have experienced as Cubans, the professor from Santiago de Cuba said: “Socialism has a glass jaw.”

When, in my first article, I spoke of Miami’s police presence, someone commented that “police officers in the United States were killing black people,” pointing to a number of places where, it is true, law and order officials and common citizens have had confrontations with people because of the color of their skin, and, in all likelihood, unjustifiable abuses of power stemming from racist attitudes have taken place.

Racism is a long-standing phenomenon in the United States and it is still far from being eradicated as a form of discrimination towards sectors of the population, which continue to be classified with the term “coloured.” The term is indeed sad, but, I wonder: does this have any direct or reasonable connection to the verifiable fact that Cuba – and Havana in particular – is an authentic police state, while one is hard pressed to see a uniformed officer in the streets of Miami?

This is a clear example of decontextualization, whose essence consists in taking a truth out of context and the moment in which it is valid, in order to use it as a kind of excuse for things that are removed from that original context and to eclipse other, undeniable charges before the eyes of the world. It is the type of trick played by a thief who, trying to avoid capture, points to someone else who is running and yells: “Catch him, he’s getting away!”

Decontextualization can express itself in many ways. I have addressed one of the simplest and most puerile forms. Others, such as saying that Cuba is doing great because it has an infant mortality rate lower than Washington’s, omitting the fact that we are unable to offer each child born in our country even one glass of milk, are more complex.

The communist project of so-called socialist societies we have known to date always uses and abuses political comparisons out of context. When I studied Marxism-Leninism, a subject which, as a professor, I am proud to have studied, I was continuously urged to study the “classics” extensively, to contextualize these, in order to understand the real scope of their propositions.

To quote different authors, refer to certain facts and point to specific passages of works considered “infallible” (the Bible, for instance) is something politicians and decision-makers have been doing for a long time, but we should be wary of this practice (and even the things I write), for it is a common mistake to take things out of context and to try and present ideas as universal truths.

I therefore urge my readers to distinguish information and facts that are objective, real and available for corroboration from opinions, which are as varied as the number of people voicing them. It’s not that truth is relative. Truth exists and we must reveal it through arguments that are capable of sustaining it.

It is easy, dear friends, to discredit something without real arguments, opportunistically quoting half-truths taken out of context, creating confusion in order to complicate a discussion, clouding the message through a veritable tit-for-tat.

Taking things out of context is easy and it is a truly efficient weapon, because it does not rely directly on lies, but rather on half-truths, taken out of the context in which they are valid. It is a long-standing practice of dishonest communicators, typical of the communist societies we have known so far.

It reveals that, for dishonest socialists, accurate information is a dangerous enemy. Rodriguez Rivera has already said it: such regimes cannot withstand many strikes to the chin, for they have “glass jaws.”
Vicente Morín Aguado: [email protected]

7 thoughts on “Be Wary of Decontextualization: A Warning to All Cubans

  • Who cares about how you label a government or a regime ?! The question is: are the people happy ? If given the chance to leave in another place, are they coming back after a year ? After 2 , or never ?! And why they don’t come back. Then, are the people of that country allowed to leave ? Do they have the resources to leave or they are allowed to come back ? How ? Are they free to move, speak out, express themselves ? Can they call the president idiot in public without being arrested ? (they might be sued, but this is understandable , the person can be offended they we can use the law , I repeat the law ! Not the police ). These are the questions to ask.

  • “decontextualization” is the “weapon” of many regimes, either democratic, socialist, fascist , whatever label you’d like to use. Actually that labels itself are “decontextualizations”. How do you define Scandinavian countries ? The best welfare of the world that no other form of government had never known with full respects of human rights ? Decontextualization is the typical approach of individuals also. You want to prove your theorem , then you invent the proof using parts of truths from here and there, and you can fabricate the best conspiracy. That is what writers are paid for, but also politicians, journalists, country leaders have used and still use this approach. How can we defend ourselves ? Education, first and use your brains. Weave the information from different sources, get away from “opinionist”, unless you’d like to read novels, have an open mind, stay away from sterotypes, labels, classifications. The world and the people is way more complex than a bunch of silly labels, that don’t mean anything and often confuse people. If you have a certain label attached a group of people will listen to you and another will not. And what you really say doesn’t matter.

  • Hubert,
    I now only read this website but do not care to participate in conversation.
    But …fyi, I am a futurist-anarchist and as such have major differences with my fellow anarchists who believe the workers will inherit the Earth.
    I am of the Bookchin, Kropotkin, Bakunin thinking on anarchism and central, primary to my belief sets is democracy .
    If you take anything away from this , it should be that I am a democrat and believe deeply in majority rule.
    My quarrel is with totalitarian minded people.
    Regrets on not responding further on this but I would be repeating myself..
    If you will read ZNet , .. my main source for socio-political info -you can see how I think about a great many things .
    Paul Street and Noam Chomsky are my two favorite writers -check them out.

  • John,
    i agree with what you said in this post. That said as a libertarian socialist because socialism without liberty is slavery I just keep wondering have you never ever read Sam Dolgoff’s The Cuban Revolution; A critical perspective (1974). You say you are an anarchist. How can you even begin to defend in previous posts the annihiilators of your Cuban comrades?
    I do hope you will respond.

    Saludos corduales

  • Good ole’ John has once again made it perfectly clear what “socialism” isn’t. It would seem that the fatal flaw in this ill-conceived system is that it relies upon taking power away from owners and giving it to workers and taking risks away from workers and giving it to owners. The good news is that John will not reply.

  • Still churning out Chomsky. But thanks again for the promise not to respond!
    Obviously socialism and communism are myths for no one practises either? All the countries that claim or have claimed to practise one or the other have I suppose been lying through their teeth?
    In reality all those who say that they belong to either the socialist or communist creed don’t know what they are talking about?
    The Che T-SHIRT wearing brigade are being fooled by the Castro family regime in thinking they are witnessing Socialismo in practice?
    The answer is Mr. Goodrich that you have been fooled by Chomsky and others into still thinking that socialism and communism have something to offer to humanity – if only practised according to your gospel. They don’t!
    There is no answer!
    I would be the last to suggest that HT should cease publishing your contributions, freedom of speech is one of our privileges in the free democratic world – but not when socialism or communism reigns in practice!

  • I am again posting this because of what I consider the incredible ignorance of various writers and posters as regards what communism and socialism are and are not .
    I will continue to post this as needed or until the management decides that it does not want to hear it and tells me so .
    Cuba is neither socialist nor communist.
    The following was written by Paul Street:
    “Does the misery and collapse of the Soviet Union/bloc really discredit Marxism or other forms of anti-capitalism ?
    ‘One can debate the meaning of the term socialism” Noam Chomsky noted in the collapse of the S.U. “but if it means anything, it means the control of production by the workers themselves, not owners and managers who rule them
    and control all decisions, whether in capitalist enterprises or an absolutist state”
    Bearing that consideration (true to Marx) in mind and adding in the question of who controls the economic surplus , the U.S. Marxist economist, Richard Wolff reasonably describes the Soviet experiment as a form of “state capitalism” .
    Under the Soviet model ( and Cuba’s) , hired workers produced surpluses that were appropriated and distributed by…..state officials who functioned as employers.
    Thus , Soviet industry was actually an example of state capitalism in its class structure . By calling itself socialist–a description of “Marxist ” Russia that U.S. Cold Warriors and business propagandists eagerly embraced for obvious reasons –the Soviet Union prompted the redefinition of socialism to mean state capitalism”
    (End of excerpted quote)
    Try to absorb this .
    Cuba has a state capitalist economy.
    The Soviet Union had a state capitalist economy .
    China had a state capitalist economy and now has a mixed state and private capitalist economy.
    Vietnam had a state capitalist economy.
    The DPRK has a state capitalist economy.
    The old Soviet bloc nations were all state capitalist economies.
    If people at the top orf an economic system take the economic surplus produced by the workers for WHATEVER reason, that economic system cannot be called socialist and certainly not communist .
    Feel free to think about this in my absence.
    I will not respond to replies .

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