Conversation with a Cuban Half-Wit

Rogelio M. Díaz Moreno

Street in Cerro.
Havana street scene.

HAVANA TIMES — Every time I run into Harry Half-Wit I have the urge to rush off somewhere. Do you know what he asked me the other day, out of the blue?

“Hi Rogelio! How many political parties are there in Cuba?”

“My word, you’re dying to get me in trouble, aren’t you! Don’t you know there’s only one, legal political party in Cuba?”

 “Well, it’s just that I was watching the news about the FEU and the CTC, and I thought maybe they were political parties.”

“No, Harry Half-Wit, they’re not. The FEU is the Federation of University Students, and the CTC is Cuba’s worker’s organization.”

 “Really? Why is it, then, that when I read about the FEU congress in the papers, say, Granma or Juventud Rebelde, all I see are spiels about supporting the government? I would expect the leadership of a student organization to devote its attention to the concerns that young university students have about their present and future.”

“That’s probably the reason why these same newspapers let you know – subtly, it’s true – that the FEU base and leadership are heading in completely different directions. The fact of the matter is that, tasked with defending what the leadership calls the “indestructible revolutionary unity” of the people, the FEU, as per its statutes, is duty-bound to abide by the directives of the Young Communist League (UJC), the Party’s youth organization. That means that the FEU adheres to the Party’s agenda, which is to defend the policies of the State, or government, or whatever.”

 “Even if such policies spell less unity within the FEU base and leadership? What would happen if the students decided to create a new organization? Do you know of any law that would forbid this?”

“Look, Harry, that’s why I get upset with you, ‘cause you’re always getting me into sticky situations. You can’t create another student organization in Cuba, it’s forbidden and that’s that. I don’t know what law actually forbids it, or who made up that law, the point is that no one in their right mind would think of doing that. To start with, anyone who tries would be told that the “university is open only to revolutionaries,” and kick them right out.”

A typical Havana street scene.
Pick-up truck on a Havana Street.

“Even if they insist their organization will be truly revolutionary, that it will sincerely represent the interests of its members?”

“Even then. If you’ve got nothing else to ask me, I’m gonna take off.”

“No, no, wait a second. I have one last question to ask you. How many CTCs are there?”

“Man o’ man, what do you mean “how many”? There’s only one, of course!”

 “Oh, sorry. See, I’ve seen announcements from the CTC at State companies. They say that its main task is to ensure workers are efficient and dedicated, that they save on materials, that they clamp down on illegal activities, heck, that they see the government’s plans through, even if such plans involve laying them off. That’s why it sounds like another political party to me.”

“Well, that has been the norm in all countries which implemented the Soviet model. What’s so strange about it?”

 “Maybe nothing. By the way, the papers also insinuate that the CTC is similar to the FEU in this regard, that many of its members see its work as an empty formality, that the organization doesn’t address any of their concerns, that it collects membership payments only, and that people just go through the motions of meeting and discussing things, nothing more.”

“I wonder why.” I didn’t quite manage to conceal my sarcasm, and Harry Half-Wit noticed.

He went on, animatedly:

 “The thing is, I’ve also been hearing that the CTC wants to represent the self-employed, converse with them and earn their trust, convince them that they ought to be officially represented and have someone defend their interests. That’s why I thought there may be another CTC, and I wanted to leave the one I’m in and apply for membership in this other one.”

“That’s enough, Harry! You’re gonna get me in a world of trouble. Good day to you, sir, and stay away from me until you’ve cleansed your mind of such dissident nonsense!”

 “Hey, wait, look, I didn’t mean to-”

I didn’t hear the rest of what Harry Half-Wit said. No sir, I don’t mingle with such disaffected types.

One thought on “Conversation with a Cuban Half-Wit

  • I love your ironic sense of humour, Rogelio.

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