Cuba: A Discussion on Retribution

Vincent Morin Aguado

Newspaper seller. Photo: Caridad
Newspaper seller. Photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES — There are people who demand “retribution” in Cuba as if they’re pursuing some sort of a vendetta, hoping to liquidate the current historical leadership of the revolution – who they see as needing to pay for their mistakes and disappear from the political scene forever.

Does this require only a change of leaders? Does history show such settling of the scores in a positive light? I’ll try to summarize the gist of the comments supporting these views.

These people believe that the current leaders of the revolution are to blame for the country going through a true catastrophe and should pay for this, and that it’s not acceptable what they’re trying to do now to move towards an economically feasible form of socialism that’s much more democratic.

Firstly, we have to ask ourselves if we’re really experiencing a catastrophe, even though I recognize the failure of the socialist experiment up until today. In my opinion, there’s a marked difference between the extremes posed. The model experimented with — copied almost entirely from the Soviets — was insufficient respect to its objectives, but Cuba isn’t a disaster.

Exploding nearby, I can’t help but notice the veritable civil war taking place in Mexico, with tens of thousands of deaths, mostly innocent people, caused by the confrontation between the police, the army and drug traffickers. Chicago and Al Capone have nothing on them. In Colombia, fortunately, there’s an effort to try and end another civil war. Haiti is trying to return to governability and give jobs to 70 percent of its workforce.

Meanwhile, Cuba receives more tourists each year than the previous one. These visitors’ opinions are varied, but they praise the island’s tranquility and safety, and they marvel at the contradictory images of our streets.

There are buildings collapsing and kids begging for money wearing expensive Adidas tennis shoes. The currency exchange centers are crowded while other people are asking for milk for their children over seven (who are therefore ineligible for practically heavily subsidized rations of the product).

Recently, a Swiss friend accompanied me to an elementary school in Old Havana. He saw the computers, the gardens cultivated by the students themselves and their clean and pressed uniforms.

Havana Street.  Photo: Caridad
Havana Street. Photo: Caridad

He also found them were wearing brands of shoes and socks imported from developed capitalist countries. He was shocked to even find even some American stars and stripes on the ankles of one young pupil.

Cuba’s streets are much quieter than many of the countries that send thousands of visitors to our shores. We have many things that need to change, our own demands, but we’re not going through a “disaster.”

I’m convinced that those who want us to return to capitalism need to present our situation like something truly catastrophic.

Secondly, I need to deal with the demand for retribution. History demonstrates truth and it’s wise to learn from it. What would have happened in South Africa if Mandela had encouraged “retribution”?

There are plenty of reasons to argue for this approach, just as there are many of its supporters who want to carry it out. The great historical merit of Mandela was to understand the need to look forward and build a new country with the efforts of everyone.

During his difficult years of unjustified imprisonment, Mandela reflected on history’s lessons.

The Chinese could have asked for accountability from Mao for his “War of the Sparrows” and his other adventures – considered stupid among us. Instead, they preferred to follow the leader of that extraordinary revolution to his grave, and then they changed things.

What is being done today in the Asian giant is completely opposed to the doctrines of Mao Zedong. History is judging the leader and his top followers, while the Chinese people are moving towards a better world — though not exempt from new contradictions — by fully embracing the market economy.

Retribution cost the French a river of blood in its interior, that spilled all over Europe by the Napoleonic armies. Only after the failure of the second Napoleon, when they founded the so-called “Third Republic,” did the French recover their common sense and aimed at becoming one of the most advanced nations on the planet.

British idiosyncrasies proved their worth when following the necessary dictatorial period of Cromwell came the “Glorious Revolution” and later liberal reforms. Karl Marx was able to live and study relatively quietly in London, where he’s now buried in High Gate and considered a celebrity whose tomb is visited by thousands of tourists.

Tourism is up in Cuba.  Photo: Caridad
Tourism is up in Cuba. Photo: Caridad

Retribution is also ethically unjustifiable. The Cuban Socialist Revolution is not the actions of a few powerful who usurped state power. It’s a mass movement like few others in the world, one that has actively involved millions of people since its inception.

What’s behind retribution? It will take a provisional government and a power that guarantees the transition. Who are seeking to control that process? For the moment, in the powerful North there’s an official, appointed by the president and at the request of Congress, responsible for ensuring this supposed task at hand, complete with a plan designed for that end.

In the meanwhile, the current electoral process has ended here – with purely voluntary participation and without pressure, and one that involved over 90 percent of the electorate. It’s limited to one party; however, everyone can express their personal disagreements in secret. Scrutiny of the ballots is open to anyone willing to attend at the closing of each polling station.

The 612 elected deputies met and elected — also in secret and directly — the 32-member Council of State including its president, six vice presidents, including the first vice president (who constitutionally is the successor to the head of state).

The facts tend to be stubborn.

To contact Vincent Morin Aguado, write: [email protected]

5 thoughts on “Cuba: A Discussion on Retribution

  • Another excellent post by Vicente Morin.

    The tiny cooperative republican movement here in the US are with you, Vicente, 100%, on the question of “retribution.”

    In our country the crimes against humanity by the old regime are so numerous and so horrendous as to boggle the mind. Even so, we do not believe or advocate that the US people, when they establish a socialist cooperative republic, should engage in any sort of retribution against the criminals of the old regime. Our four cardinal principles are non-violence, legality, openness and persuasion, and we embrace these sincerely.

    It may not be true in many other countries, but the building of a vanguard party and the winning of 200 million citizens to our banner in the US can never be successful if we focus on, and look forward to retribution against the supporters of monopoly capitalism. We must concentrate on a maximum program of peacefully and democratically re-focusing the creative energies of all citizens, including even the most retrograde of the old order, toward a new and better society.

    With this in mind, we call ourselves transformationaries, rather than revolutionaries.

    I hope that those in Cuba, both within the PCC and without, who may be waiting for the chance to turn Cuba away from the state monopoly perversion, will not think in terms of retribution against those who have made mistakes, and supported one-party absolutism in the past.

  • Griffin, the ‘Mandela’ example is limited in its applicability to what can possibly take place in Cuba should regime change prevail. Mandela, for his part, was perceived as the greatest among equals in his call for reconciliation. Many believed, and rightly so, that if he were willing to forgive his transgressors, who among black south africans could make a greater claim to do otherwise. Presently, there is no single Cuban with the same level of gravitas to merit the same level of respect.

  • Retribution is a dangerous human emotion to unleash. Once let out, it tends to expand beyond the original targets and doesn’t stop until far too many people are dead. Arguably, the spirit of retribution lead to some of the excesses of the Cuban Revolution. The revolutionary retribution continues in the daily repression, the repudiations and arrests of dissidents, critics and opposition leaders.

    The example of Mandella’s South Africa is a good one. Will Cuba be introducing Truth & Reconciliation Commissions, too? That might be a very good idea, but I do not see the current rulers, nor the Party nor the FAR ever allowing such a thing.

    However, the author put forward several strawman arguments:

    “These people believe that the current leaders of the revolution are to blame for the country going through a true catastrophe and should pay for this, and that it’s not acceptable what they’re trying to do now to move towards an economically feasible form of socialism that’s much more democratic.”

    First of all, there is nothing about the reforms Raul Castro has introduced over the past few years that are in anyway “much more democratic”. The government has specifically ruled out any political reforms. It’s ironic the author would even express it that way, given the Party line that the Cuban system is already perfectly democratic. Why pretend the reforms are more democratic then? The mask slipped. The rulers and their apologists know the Cuban system is not at all democratic.

    As far as the Cuban government is concerned there will be no political reforms, no democracy, and no Truth & Reconciliation commissions. Why talk about avoiding retribution against the revolutionary leaders? The more pressing question is, will there be an end to the daily retributions carried out against the Cuban people? Deal with that real ongoing retribution now, and the motivation for future retribution will fade.

  • ‘Retribution’ on it’s own is a battle cry, and one that history has shown us to be a very costly on many levels. Scores of countries and displaced citizens of all stature have, during the course of revolt or war, lost everything, only to find themselves starting over with little or nothing. Yet it has been done, over and over with success. I find it difficult to continually hear that those who escaped the revolution or were able to find refuge in other countries demand that their properties be returned or they will continue to uphold a useless embargo. The circumstances of Cuba’s current financial woes are political in nature, and until the ideal and the reality of change are balanced it will be difficult for the people themselves. Outside influence though is a danger in terms of an onslaught of capital coming in and ‘rebuilding’. Cuba is a cunundrum, but if handled correctly that balance which benefits everyone is achievable.

  • Vincent writes “however, everyone can express their personal disagreements in secret”. Clearly he does not realize that therein lies the problem. It is the PUBLIC expression of personal disagreements that marks true democracy.

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