Por Michael Wiggin*
HAVANA TIMES – I am a Canadian who has visited Cuba many times and have come to love Cuba and its people. I am distressed to see the conflict between Cubans, between the Cuban government and Cubans who demonstrate to protest living condition or to protest government policy. I have found much to like about Cuba despite the poor economy and some repression of expression.
Walking without fear at 2:00 in the morning along the poorly lit streets of Centro Havana; sharing the joy with people from the broken seats at a baseball game; hearing of the enthusiasm of many young people for The Revolution leaves me the impression that there is much good to build on – but room for improvement.
But during the two years since my last visit, as COVID-19 and the US embargo conspire to create unacceptable conditions in Cuba, I think that Cuba has reached a critical juncture in its history, a time when there are many hard decisions to be made. Accept that I am speaking from my comfort in Canada and doing my best to be constructive – not sharing the current pain in Cuba.
It seems to me that it is time to revisit priorities, to think hard about the most important things to achieve. Is it to achieve a pure socialist society? Or is it to listen to Marti advocating a society “con todos por el bien de todos” (with all and for the good of all). Marti did not specify what was the right political and economic structure for the Cuban people. He focused on the key principles or objectives that should underpin the future path for Cuba.
Or look at the example of Che Guevara. While advocating the importance of “conciencia” and the need for the “new man”, he also recognized the importance of management skills and asked Julio Lobo, the Sugar King, to stay in Cuba to help oversee the national sugar industry. (Lobo declined, but the recognition of his value was there.) More recently, consider the ever-pragmatic Raul Castro who stressed the importance of productivity and the need to learn “even from the capitalists”.
At this critical juncture for Cuba there is a need for new thinking under the new conditions. It is not enough to blame it all on the embargo, there is room for internal change. Marti lived in the USA for many years and rejected its policies that focused on materialism and that encouraged economic inequalities. He stressed the need for developing a way that was good for Cuba and Cubans.
There is neither need nor benefit in copying the US example. Many US residents miss many of the rights and services available to Cuban’s (when the economy allows it) yet, there are lessons on the way the economy works. And look at the Nordic countries and even Canada where elements of socialism and capitalism have been integrated for the good of the people.
Countries with inclusive economic and political structures all face criticism and demonstrations but they listen and improve. Marx predicted that capitalism would, through allowing or encouraging extreme inequality, collapse and make way for socialism. However, he did not see that demonstration or criticism followed by reflection, consultation and possible change could, democratically, modify capitalism, including incorporation of socialistic policies and make improvements for the benefit of the people. There is no pure solution but a need to consider the right blend of policies and economic behavior “for the benefit of all.”
In closing, the US should note that their covert funding with the aim of regime change, just gives a reason, historically often correct, that some criticism or opposition is caused by US support. But, somehow, this must be controlled and not the cause of fear or rejection of the criticism of the many Cuban people who love their country but who believe that change is possible.
We all know that the US supported the Batista regime and the US mob who controlled much in Havana, and needed to be overthrown. When an oppressive, exploitative or extractive government is replaced, as in The Revolution, it still leaves its mark. The hate and disgust for the Batista years has led to a rejection of all characteristics of that era – including potentially useful economic structures. It is time to not taint today’s decisions with total contempt for earlier corrupt governments and society and to find the parts that worked to enhance Cuba today – without losing the many aspects that make Cuba so special. It is time to focus more on Marti and less on Marx.
*Guest writer Michael Wiggin is from Ottawa, Canada