Cuba Shakeup Merits Explanation

By ERASMO CALZADILLA

The antithesis of socialism isn’t capitalism but alienation (photo by Darko Perica)
The antithesis of socialism isn’t capitalism but alienation (photo by Darko Perica)

HAVANA TIMES, March 6 – With time I am more and more convinced that at least in Cuba, the relationship between ordinary citizens and politicians is more sentimental than rational.

We see them on television during difficult times alongside the population, getting drenched in hurricanes, and amid the rubble that follows. The people evaluate their words and their gestures and are aware that they speak their same language and not that of academics. They appear worthy of respect, not a facade, and look sincere and show bravery. But what the people can never judge is their true performance in their government posts.

How can we evaluate that? Where can you find the commentaries of specialists, essayists and critics that assess our representatives during a given period of time? In what paper, website or library can I find concrete data about an official’s performance?

No, it’s nowhere; we have to rely on their superiors to evaluate them. This brings to mind a difficult question. Who evaluates the superiors?

On March 2nd the midday news made public that 12 important government leaders had been dismissed, including two younger ones who were well known by the population, I’m referring to Carlos Lage Davila, the executive secretary of the Council of Ministers; and Felipe Perez Roque, our foreign minister.

The Official Note, published on March 3, states that the changes occurred in accordance with the words of President Raul Castro, who a year earlier had said, “Today we need a more compact and functional structure, with less public organizations and a better distribution of duties to be carried out.”

But contradicting the Note, on March 4, in one of his reflections titled “Healthy Changes in the Council of Ministers,” Fidel put forth a very different justification for what had happened. He stated, “The sweet nectar of power for which they hadn’t experienced any type of sacrifice awoke ambitions in them that led them to play out a disgraceful role. The enemy outside built up their hopes with them.”

The contradiction between the article by Fidel and the Press Release is evident, and that makes people feel, once again, not respected by those responsible for giving them the exact information about what occurred.

Who evaluates the superiors? photo by Darko Perica
Who evaluates the superiors? (photo by Darko Perica)

I am one more of a general public that knows little about the work of our leaders. My criterion is also supported, like theirs, in appearances.

Personally, Carlos Lage seemed to be a hardworking man, of few but accurate words, sincere and serious. I liked him because he wasn’t an ideologue, and didn’t repeat the empty phrases of those who like to fake an expression of hate when referring to the enemy, those who never stop smiling to their superiors. Carlos didn’t seem like any of that, and for that reason he had won my respect. It was just the opposite with Perez Roque, and I barely knew of the rest who were dismissed.

Despite usually paying attention to political matters, what happened was totally unexpected and incomprehensible to me. We’re not talking about private employees or people holding secret military jobs, but instead leaders holding public posts, and the public should be informed as to why such drastic decisions were made.

The antithesis of socialism isn’t capitalism but alienation, it doesn’t matter where it comes from, but I don’t believe that those that govern this country think that way.

Why so much education and so many municipal universities if when push-comes-to-shove the people are treated like illiterates that must accept the decisions made from above?

Amid this situation it occurred to me to ask some peoples’ opinions. Here’s what I jotted down:

Housewife: “I heard that they were opposed to something the government wanted to do. They weren’t in agreement. But it must have been something as a group, not individually, because they are not all going fall at the same time by coincidence for different reasons. I think that the matter lies in the country’s economy, because all of those fired had something to do with that area. It appears that the country isn’t performing the way it should, as if it we’re stagnating.”

Primary school teacher: “I heard it was discovered that they were diverting resources via the corporations, but really we have never been privy to the changes that come from above.”

Medical student: “They were changes made with justice, only for the better. Those that were replaced either weren’t doing their job or it’s because they will be given another post. It could be that they were involved in corruption or wrongful spending; or perhaps it was similar to the minister of education, who spent so much time traveling and didn’t carry out his duties. Raul has made it clear that he is going to replace those that aren’t doing their job.”



7 thoughts on “Cuba Shakeup Merits Explanation

  • I am sure many Cubans would agree with me when I say that “this is not socialism”. It is a distorted form of socialism imposed partly by external circumstances and partly by the Cuban system. I stand in solidarity with the Cuban Revolution but also with the Cuban people. Ultimately power must rest with the people or there will never be real socialism.

    Reply
  • Agree with John, above. The participants in a revolution, like a marriage, can never fully live up to the ideals of either institution (and process); nevertheless, they try, no matter how much thier efforts fall short. The danger seems to be when these efforts are given up as futile, and the ideals of the revolution become mere window-dressing to obscure the rot within. This has been the case for all previous revolutions. Still, the over-all efforts of the human race seem to march towards economic and political justice, equality of opportunity, etc. Since we exist in conditions which are far from perfect, it can only be expected that we can’t help but being contaminated by personal greed and selfishness, ambition, pettiness, etc.; we are also aware, however, that there is something better–“a better world is possible,” than this, since we are of a mixed nature, in part divine, and hence we seek to storm the Olympian heights (and, I might add, overthrow and pull down those who “created” us).
    O.K., so the guardian class still thinks that they must make the decisions in order to safeguard the Revolution. Still, there comes a time when they must begin to trust the people to make their own decisions, to themselves judge the positives and negatives of their leaders and potential leaders. Let us hope this comes sooner, rather than later. Otherwise, as Erasmo has perceptively articulated, alienation between the people and their leaders, and ultimately, between the people and the Revolution, will continue to grow.

    Reply
  • “The antithesis of socialism isn’t capitalism but alienation.” What the heck is that supposed to mean? Antithesis means exact opposite. So the exact opposite of socialism is alienation? Yet, the rest of Erasmo’s diary entry suggests he feels alienated about the leadership changes. So, is this intended to be an back-handed indictment of Cuban style “socialism?”

    I teach philosophy at a university, so I’m inclined to feel kinship with Erasmo. Yet, if a student submitted a short essay with the reasoning exhibited by Erasmo’s diary entry, I’d give it a low mark. Why? Because of a failure to make clear arguments for a point of view, and a failure to get to the point. On the contrary, the diary entry is a good example of opaque reasoning.

    Reply
  • Yikes! These professors of philosophy! Mark, would you really give him a low mark just for his muddled thinking? How harsh! It would be better to hand the paper back with your red-penned comments in the margins, at the bottom, and on the back of his pages, and suggest how/where improvements may be made for a revised paper. The purpose of an education is NOT to give grades, but to TEACH and to LEARN, for both teacher and student. At least Erasmo is thinking. If anything, this journal entry is a rough draft, as journal entries often are, and by putting down a series of inarticulate ideas on paper you begin to re-arrange and clarify your ideas. Even if you are teaching a large Intro. to Philosophy lecture section, and don’t have the time or luxury to critique each-and-every of your, say 38 students, still, you can hand a share of the papers around to colleagues, lovers, and friends, and have them help out in the critiques. Sure, he mixes categories, but in the end alienation is the result of actions which are not fully explained, and are taken without the participation of those being affected by the decisions being made.

    Reply
  • Michael, I have no doubt that Erasmo is a highly intelligent person and an accomplished academic. I do appreciate reading his diary entries.

    I generally don’t like to speculative about the motives of other people, but I’m going to make an exception in this case. In the diary entry prior to this one, Erasmo hinted that he was placing himself at risk with the authorities with his writings. In this entry, instead of making declarative statements, he often frames them as questions. He points out a contradiction between Raul and Fidel’s explanations for the changes, but doesn’t tell readers his opinion.

    I can only assume that Erasmo is afraid of the repercussions if he tells his readers what he really thinks.

    Reply
  • Too bad if Erasmo feels he has to couch his ideas ambiguously so as to avoid repercussions, which, in the end, however he expresses them, will probably result in problems. Still, I hope he pushes the envelope. Cuba has come a long way from the political and cultural repressions which characterized the 1970’s, and I feel that this is in part due to the Revolution finding its own way, rather than slavishly following the Soviet model, or any other model for that matter. It seems to be that for the past two decades the authorities have been moving in the direction of less control from above, but it is often two steps forward, one back. It is good he’s thinking on his feet, for himself, and not just taking Fidel’s and Raul’s comments at face value. I think in the end Fidel and Raul encourage this. After all, they don’t want to leave the Revolution in the hands of some second-rate synchophants. I seem to remember Fidel saying that his own father was impressed at Fidel’s rebeliousness against (the father’s) wishes. Hence, what Fidel appreciated in himself (rebeliousness) and in his father (an appreciation of his son’s rebeliousness), he cannot help but encourage in others.

    Reply
  • You have great blog and this post is good!

    best regards, Greg

    Reply

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