HAVANA TIMES — Two teenagers were talking at a bus stop. With the habitual idioms that characterize the parlance of a good many Cubans these days, one of them was showing off his IPhone 5, saying to the other: “Bro, this thing’s off the chart. Look at the cell my old man got me, it’s smokin’. It’s a got a ton of killer apps, but you can’t use many of them here.”
I recalled that, some days before, I had read an article from Russia Today titled “Marx Knew it All Along”, which mentioned the five systemic characteristics of contemporary capitalism presaged by the theories of the German philosopher 150 years ago.
The article didn’t only enumerate these characteristics but also described them as chronic and noxious aspects of the capitalist system itself. Repeating the phrase “unlike socialism”, it referred to the illusory needs Karl Marx had predicted over a hundred years ago as one of the features of today’s system.
Marx had defined the creation of false needs among people as an inherent tendency of the capitalist system, explaining that this system makes consumers long for high priced products that have very little use for, ultimately turning them (and I quote) into “the slaves of inhuman, refined, anti-natural and imaginary whims.”
He predicted the situation in currently existing States, which enjoy high standards of living and nevertheless look for new means of distraction, making people feel a constant impulse to buy more and more things, when they actually have no need to do so, owning similar appliances that work perfectly well.
When the socialist bloc collapsed, Cuba remained as a kind of museum-piece, as one of the few countries still set on maintaining the postulates of the socialist system as Marx understood them. I say this bearing in mind that China’s socialist praxis is rather sui generis and the “socialism of the 21st” century allegedly practiced in some Latin American countries does not proclaim itself Marxist.
This day and age, Cuba continues to close its Party congresses with the International and continues to carry the torch of an egalitarian society that will one day give birth to the “New Man” (after many miscarriages).
Since 1959, the Cuban State has eliminated all vestiges of the so-called bourgeoisie. Cuban men and women, like their revolutionary leaders, were called on to say no to the ideological weakness promoted by advertisement, consumerism and the puerile nature of the media.
Something, somewhere, went wrong. The passage of time, technological breakthroughs, the inadequacy of certain theories and hard everyday life have turned Cuba into a society that is more and more susceptible to those “sensationalist ills” Karl Marx railed against.
Most of our young people today are only interested in brand clothing, foreign fashions, videogames and the last, showy manifestations of technology: Iphones, Blackberrys, IPods and 3D plasma TVs.
What happened? Weren’t socialists supposed to be immune to such contagious ills? What would Marx have thought?