Cuba and the Value of Silence

Veronica Vega (Amrit)


HAVANA TIMES, April 29 — Last night I attended a meeting in my building to appoint a new president of the CDR (Committee for the Defense of the Revolution).

The previous president resigned nine months ago, but after several attempts at holding a nominating meeting, none has ever succeeded at obtaining majority representation of the 30 apartments.

It appears that no one was willing to take over the office.

The CDR person that came to the area specially to chair this most recent meeting, stressed the urgent need for someone to assume the post.

“They’re requiring that I find someone, it will be important when they do the checking,” she explained.

Those few in attendance only maintained their reticent silence.

Despite the repeated call for a possible candidate (even a self-nominated one), the general reaction remained one of silence. Thirteen representatives from thirty apartments was not a very flattering figure. Yet, the gazes remained blank, without even a shadow of guilt.

I’ve lived in different places in Havana, so I’ve also witnessed other meetings of committees to defend the revolution, and I can say that there’s one common element in all of them: apathy.

People’s opinions are silent or whispered, and you’ll see suppressed yawns, glances at the clock and gestures of annoyance. Nonetheless, there was a vast difference between this and the first CDR meetings that I went to in this building back in 2001.

Not only has the passing of time marked my neighbors’ faces (and mine), but we’ve also seen the surreptitious erecting of this wall of silence, denial and skepticism.

While the woman from the area council was trying to encourage ideas, I was tempted to express one: Why not dissolve the CDR all together? An organization is only maintained by the free will of its members.

Free will is not the same thing as obedience, that aberrational substitute for civic duty. No association is sustainable by outside pressure, no matter how much it’s facilitated or forced from the outside – the inner fibers rot and tear.

“What a shame!” said the woman. “If this isn’t resolved today, representatives from the municipality are going to have to come. There’s going to have to be another meeting. Do you understand what I’m saying? You’re going to have to be bothered again,” she continued to harp.

“But if it’s such a bother – why does it have to persist?” I thought. We’ll get together to look at each other again, all concealing what we really think: that the harsh demands of survival no longer allows for the sustaining of a relic that only continues out of inertia.

However, among the complicit whispers and glances as the gathering finally broke up, one thought made me almost happy: we were (by choice) not practicing freedom of speech, but at least we had the freedom of silence.


8 thoughts on “Cuba and the Value of Silence

  • In Canada I have been to Riding Association meetings which are so poorly attended that a busload of people can change the outcome, Other times candidates have to be parachuted in from other jourisdictions by the political party’s overseers due to the riding not having a candidate, or more likely not picking one that the party approves of.
    I belong to a unionized company with over 1500 members & we have abolished meetings & suspended business due to a lack of quorum of 25. Unions, as you know, are free associations that work to benefit the membership. Ours is castrated by it’s own members. The conclusion that I have come to is that people, especially once they’re over the hill, like to play the victim of society & will actually sabotage their own wellbeing in order to live out their manifest destiny.

  • Why not dissolve the CDR all together?
    Cuba has many very fine museums. The most boring one I have ever seen was the museum of the CDR on Obispo.

  • Sometimes there is a gap of time with the moderation of the comments because I have to step out. We do the best we can. Please don’t be impatient.

  • communism was always state monopoly capitalism. nothing has changed. a few well connected people are soaking up the CUCs with overpriced imports in the tourist shops full of cubans. the so called luxury products for sale to tourists are of no interest to tourists. basura. at the same time little is done about exports. cuba imports mangoes for tourists. cuba could have one of the world´s biggest tropical fruit industries and berries of all kinds would grow in the mountains for airfreight to cold countries in the winter. russia, canada and japan. cut flowers would be easy. but there is no planning. foreign capital may be needed. the dutch are growing flowers in china, the french in cote d´ivoire. indians are farming in ethiopia and chinese in zambia. cuba has the same population density as france and france is one of the great agricultural countries. cuba has 1/3 the population density of britain. there is vacant land everywhere. eventually, with a very long coastline, and enough fish feed, cuba could be one of the great fish farm countries. shellfish like green mussels don´t need feed. no research or planning is being done.

    i notice that my comments on real and practical economic subjects were not posted. i hope to be back in cuba soon. i have some expertise in a lot of subjects but it looks to me like no cuban government ministry does economic research. the real economic debate should be about what kind of capitalism/socialism mix people want. for example, sweden is an oligarchy, like most if not all countries, but with very high taxes and very good social benefits. swedes complain about their taxes, about 65% of income, but they don´t complain about social benefits. like cuba, sweden has very little street crime. hongkong must be the most capitalistic place in the world but must have the lowest street crime in the world, even lower than cuba. count your blessings is an old expression. no money for cars means clean air, unlike manila, sao paolo, shanghai etc. anyway, as deng shao ping said: it doesn´t matter if the cat is black or white. it´s a good cat if it catches mice.

  • Thank you, Veronic, for telling it like it is. Why speak up and get into trouble, when you can remain silent and stay out!

    Q: Why can’t Cubans look at the results, both positive and negative, of the half-century Cuban experiment, and analyze them with a scientific frame of mind?

    A: It is because the core state monopoly principle of socialist economy formulated first by Engels (the capitalist) and seconded later by his (bourgeois) co-conspirator Marx–a principle designed to attack the property of the peasantry and urban small bourgeoisie and split them from the working class and socialism politically–needed socialism to be converted into a personality cult. The cult victims could strut around and swear to be scientific, but be nothing of the sort.

    No one can speak up with fresh ideas or propose solutions because the unnatural statist mode of production, and the absolutist political status quo that is needed to enforce it, kills both economic initiative and free social discourse. Cuba’s great contribution to socialist theory seems to be how not to run socialism.

  • australian politicians, even the prime minister, are lucky to get 20 seconds on the evening news. much of the world, except the muslims, is apathetic. the chinese model is the roman model. give the people bread and circuses. or argentine beef and shopping.

  • This seems to reflect the ultimate consequences of “top down” management, where folks on the block or apartment level have no real power, but are seen as just the end of the transmission belt for implementing “orders from above.” Any real reform will reverse this direction, or at least make it into a genuine dialogue, where the grass roots communicate with the higher ups, and the higher ups actually LISTEN to what they are saying. Hope it isn’t too late to reinvigorate the CDR’s, making them true community organizations, where neighbors break through the barriers of isolation and alienation, and by helping their communities also help themselves. When such organizations are truly voluntary and need based, they flourish. This has been the case in several community organizations with which I’ve worked in the past. (For the past twenty years I’ve lived out in the sticks, but even here we have periodic social get-togethers and, on a community-wide level we have our annual town meeting, in March, when we decide on the school budget, the roads budget, etc.)

  • What a shame that still there are people assisting such meetings for such represive tools!!!!!!

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