HAVANA TIMES — It’s hard to define the “Revolution’s achievements”, not because there haven’t been any obvious improvements in Cuba since before 1959, but because allocating these achievements to the Socialist government because they overthrew the previous regime isn’t reason enough to give them all of the merit. The covariation points at, but doesn’t necessarily prove, cause and effect.
The rise in women being integrated into the worforce is significant when compared to the previous time period, but is that something the Revolution achieved? Hasn’t their integration into the workforce been a more widespread global trend?
Literacy is universal, but isn’t this the same achievement many other countries in the world have had without having a revolution?
Statistics in the health sector are of any first world country, but Cuba doesn’t belong to the first world, while countries who were in similar situations to Cuba before 1959 have not only made progress in their health indexes but have also gone on to form part of this first world or are on the verge of doing so, and all of this without a Socialist revolution.
I’m not denying the fact that these steps forward were achievements of the movement led by Fidel Castro, I just want to put them in perspective and try to distance myself both from triumphalism and defeatism which drive the pole extremes when analyzing these 60 years of Cuban socialism.
However, as it’s impossible that everything would have gotten better since 59 until today, I will focus now on current problems and try to keep the same level of distance in my analysis.
Over the past 60 years, Cuba has always needed a foreign benefactor, its centralized economy has been unable to maintain any kind of comfortable lifestyle for the vast majority of Cubans. The setbacks in the health and education sectors reveal the dangerous unsustainability and the possible loss of these because it wasn’t reached with an increase in wealth produced, but by distributing funds that political alliances (always temporary) have given.
Social indiscipline is worrying, it could be argued that the State has focused on using its repressive forces to keep political control, without having any energy left over to prevent indiscipline from invading every space, from the outrageous abuse you receive as a customer in any state-run or private establishment, to the invasion of physical and musical garbage wherever you go.
At this point in time, what could have started out as lawlessness due to a relaxing of state institutions’ responsibility over public order, has now become the norm, with its corresponding lack of respect and manners in everyday life.
The abnormal relationship that Cubans living on both sides of the migration phenomenon, which is a little more relaxed today, is just as sad. The stigma that surrounded both thouse who left as well as pressure applied on their families who stayed behind, marked generations and broke up families leaving deep and painful scars as well as a macabre and overfed population of sharks in the Florida Strait.
For some reason or no reason at all, young people have the widespread idea that there isn’t any hope for their lives improving here in the near future and this is reflected in their shared desire to go anywhere else, even countries in dire situations such as Haiti or places in Central America, but where they understand that the opportunity to fail or triumph is in their hands at least and not in the hands of a system that keeps them in a straitjacket.
Cuba’s demographic situation is a ticking time bomb. The birth rate doesn’t even reach the replacement rate of two children per woman, which is added to Cuba’s mass exodus. However the worst is yet to come, according to the government’s own calculations. I don’t know what the average pension is today, but the average of all the retired people in my family (all retired professionals) doesn’t even reach 15 USD per month and on top of all that, because they are retired they can’t embezzle much to improve their lives. Who will pay for pensions in the future?
And today’s embezzlement is another scourge that has taken firm root in Cuba. If corruption was a common practice among the highest political circles during the times of the Republic (1902-1958) and scandalous cases were revealed by the press at that time, today, corruption is now vox populi. While our media remain virtually silent the rest of society is in a state of metastasis “finding a solution” in order to survive. This being a euphemism which describes constant illegal practices in order to supplement their extremely low salaries.
The symbiosis between the Cuban people and State can be summarized in the popular saying: “they pretend to pay us and we pretend to work”, with a carte blanche to steal at a lower level as long as you don’t dare think about politics.
Our Marti said something like “the ungrateful only see the sun’s spots”, that might be true, but only a religious fanatic could deny the existence of these spots. Both extremes are wrong.
Like every society, Cuba’s has light and shadows, it’s hard to then place blame and merit.
But, is it really hard?