Cuba: From ‘Soldiers of the Revolution’ to Market Rule

While updating the economic model… What about education? (Part II)

Rogelio Manuel Díaz Moreno

Photo: Don Morrison
Photo: Don Morrison

HAVANA TIMES — In my previous post I concluded by implying that the ultimate goal of our country’s educational system was to create a malleable, alienated and acquiescent youth population, though what’s officially proclaimed is something different: the “Soldier of the Revolution” doctrine.

In reality though, carrying out this maneuver in a conscious manner implies a level of Machiavellianism that I don’t believe our inept national bureaucracy is capable of. What I do think is possible is that in the unfolding situation, the dominant strata perceived a climate favorable for its underhanded dealings.

This is why they cling with such staunch fanaticism to established directives and the reason they combat every sign of the need to change the rules.

In any case, in light of the reform process now in full swing, it’s time to consider a few issues.

Imprinting and reproducing a military mentality only makes sense (imposed sense, not a democratic sense, but sense nonetheless) within the model in which the almighty Daddy State requires complete obedience and, in return, assumes all responsibilities.

Soldiers march but they don’t have to worry about their boots, barracks or ammo. They take it for granted that these will be provided by their logistical command center. Now though, everything related to this matter is changing here. Daddy State has publically stated that it can no longer ensure the maintenance or well-being of those who up until yesterday constituted its soldiers.

These individuals are going to have to take care of themselves on their own, though the state might continue taking care of their health and training – excuse me, their “education.”

On the other hand, John Q. Public will now have the opportunity to exchange their uniform and boots — by this time pretty worn out, in any case — for name-brand tennis shoes and designer sports shirts from the store (assuming they can afford them).

Likewise, they’re being forced out of their barracks – though it’s just as well, those were going from bad to worse.

Photo: Jennifer MacDonald
Photo: Jennifer MacDonald

But now, without creating a scandal, they’ll be able to try to make ends meet under another colonel – oops, I should have said “under another boss.”

Thanks to the new transformations, they’ll even be able — assuming certain levels of competence — to be candidates for becoming new entrepreneurs and will have the hope of becoming winners.

Moreover, we’ll now have to assume this to be ethically good and compatible with whatever the arbitrators here refer to as “socialism.” And, especially, we’ll have to assume that all this isn’t rigged from the start.

Here is where the need to transform the education system down to its roots is evident. The instruction of students cannot continue as it did in the previous model, which emphasized the type of commitment required of the social system in exchange for certain types of security (which were sometimes only promises of security), in addition to subjecting students to many, many conscious-raising sermons.

Some of this is already happening. At least the absurdity of churning out massive numbers of university graduates for whom there don’t exist jobs in their fields, especially in the humanities, has been perceived and is now being corrected.

Nevertheless, the important question remains as to what to do with college graduates in whatever field once they finish their two or three years of social service. In the past they were guaranteed a job — a better or worse one, depending on many factors — but soon they’ll be on their own in a situation governed by the most cut-throat laws of the capitalist labor market.

I strongly doubt that today’s boys and girls are being educated in schools to adopt the mindset of independence and self-management that will be required in the immediate future.

In the coming years, according to various official sources, work for the state will be an option for less than 50 percent of the labor force, perhaps less than 40 percent. This implies that most people, left to their own devices, will obviously need professional and social skills adapted to the new situation.

I strongly doubt that today’s boys and girls are being educated in schools to adopt the mindset of independence and self-management that will be required in the immediate future.
Beyond the education and health sectors, which will remain public, the relationships established between citizens and businesses — even those that which remain government-owned — will be no other than under market conditions, like those now applied in a number of sectors of the economy.

Beyond the question of whether this is good or not implies the need for appropriate training to increase chances for individual progress.

Likewise, fiscal issues (those of taxes, taxpayers, etc.) will need to be addressed. The government insists on the need for citizens to contribute to the treasury, which is reasonable, but it’s opening Pandora’s Box: taxpayers’ rights to know how their money is managed and to express their opinions about how it should be used.

Have the functionaries in the Ministry of Education figured out how to promote these civic values? I suspect that the first part (paying) will receive much more attention than the second (rights).

Photo: Byron Motley
Photo: Byron Motley

At the ideological level, inevitably present in all societies, those here who are responsible for developing new doctrinal lines will have lots of headaches.

How can they explain to young people that the nation is socialist but that they approve of the exploitation of people by people? How can one promote the value of equality in an economic context of market relations where, as we know, all inequalities are taken advantage of in order to maximize profits?

The development of culture — or at least instruction — among the public poses other challenges that are no less significant (for example, the existence of many people with appreciable training in computer science who demand the right to access computer communications resources).

Finally, those people who are economically independent of the state (thanks to income earned in private companies) can develop and they’ll inevitably take on a political culture that’s also independent.

Is the Ministry of Education teaching young people to recognize socially positive civic values even if these emanate from alternative views of power? Or will they turn their backs on this need given the inertia of the dogmatism and authoritarianism way of the ruling bureaucratic caste, united around the programmatic and ideological vacuum of its opportunistic spirit?

In short, as the government now wants the Cuban model to become closer to and look more like those in the rest of the world in certain respects, for better or worse, it will be unable to prevent its citizens from also experiencing new conditions.

Ideally we would all be able to participate — everyone, democratically — in the planning of tomorrow, including educational policies. But this is not what’s happening. We’ll see what comes out of this.

5 thoughts on “Cuba: From ‘Soldiers of the Revolution’ to Market Rule

  • i will tell you what we have a son who is a MD in Cuba and one who is an Atty and neither want for anything We also have 18 grandchildren spread throughout the Afrikan diaspora and they want for nothing WHY is that? Struggle determination and home schooling when possible One need not become part of the prob

  • What you’ve said about the Vietnamese patriots killing millions of their own people is a monstrous lie. The US dropped three times more bombs on Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia than were dropped by all sides during WWII.

  • Let’s be clear about what it means to murder: the people who pulled the triggers did the killing. The 58,000 Americans killed in Vietnam were killed by the NVA and the Vietcong, who were a branch of the NVA. Are you aware that more Vietnamese died in the fighting after the US left that during the period the Americans were involved? The NVA killed far more Vietnamese that the Americans did. They were killing them before the Americans arrived and they carried on killing them for years afterwards.

    The Americans made a lot of stupid mistakes in Vietnam, and they committed some horrible atrocities, but nothing compares to the atrocities and war crimes committed by the Communist armies they were fighting against.

    In your absurd accounting, the US is responsible for all the people their military killed, plus all the people the Communists killed. It must be nice to live in such a guilt free world, where all crimes you commit can be projected onto the bad ol’ USA.

  • I have to agree with you on one level. Cuba does need a form of socialism that is natural, entrepreneurial, with private property rights and a price-fluctuating “free” market, where competition is refined and utilized adroitly by the political party or parties for workable, authentic socialism.

    But the competition in such a system would not be so much “cut-throat,” as regulated and conditioned to prevent monopolization, on the one hand, and to valued as a progressive, dynamic, socially-liberating force, on the other.

    What you–and perhaps others who are locked in the prison of pro-capitalist ideology–do not understand is that socialism is the only hope that humankind has to defeat the monopoly banks and their military-industrial allies, and to allow the peoples of the world to survive and to achieve liberation and freedom.

    You (and your tag-team partner) hammer away every day at Cuba and other Latin American nations seeking independence from US and EU imperialism; yet, you never say anything meaningful or consistent against your evil masters of the monopoly capitalist Empire.

    Your government murdered 58,000 Americans and 3 million people in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, and yet you only strut around and wax horrified at the stinky results of Marxian state monopoly socialism in Cuba.

    The list of horrors and murder carried out under your stinky capitalist system is too long to be reflected in these short columns; and yet, you and your co-thinker spend all your valuable life time and energy spewing hate and slander against the Cuban leadership.

    Physician, heal thyself. Say something positive and dynamic for making our own country truly democratic, peaceful and non-imperialistic.

  • Those “cut-throat” laws of the capitalist-labor market are otherwise called competition. They help to ensure that the employer can hire the best available employee and the employee can receive the highest possible salary. Cuba cut use a little “cut-throat-edness” to improve its low productivity.

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