Do Cuba’s Youth Support the Revolution?

By Rogelio Manuel Diaz Moreno

revolucion-2HAVANA TIMES — Foreigners visiting here tend to ask us questions that aren’t the least bit easy to answer. A short while ago, a friend from abroad asked me if I believed young Cubans supported the revolution.

The first thing I asked myself is what today’s youth would understand “the revolution” to be. To support or oppose something, it is convenient to define that something first.

For instance, during Batista’s dictatorship, the revolution could have been regarded as the overthrow of the regime and the re-establishment of the previous, liberal democratic system, with a few, progressive social measures added to it. Something along those lines was proclaimed by the 26th of July Movement, and many people supported it.

For many among the dispossessed and starving masses, the revolution meant access to a standard of living far higher than they could reasonably aspire to within the previous system. With measures such as the agrarian and urban reforms, lands and houses were redistributed, employment for all was guaranteed, the electrification of the country was undertaken, free health and education began to be offered and other social measures were implemented. This came at a price owing to internal distortions and US imperialist aggression, but, at the time, it was easy to say “this is the revolution” and to be for or against it, or to try and defend its positive aspects while fighting its negative side. In short, it was not hard to assume a position.

Muchachos en la cuadra
Kids on the block.

Years later, the word “revolution” began to be associated so directly with the government, State and Party that one couldn’t tell anymore. Supporting the revolution, in the view of leaders, meant supporting everything instructed “from above,” including such absurd schemes as the Revolutionary Offensive, the 10-million ton sugarcane harvest or the mandatory and mass nature of countryside boarding schools.

What structured notion of the “revolution” could those who came into this world after the fall of the Berlin Wall have? It seems as though this dilemma was clear to the leadership, as, on May 1st, 2000, then President Fidel Castro offered a definition that has been widely quoted:

“Revolution means having a sense of the historical moment…changing everything that ought to be changed…defying powerful forces…placing one’s life at risk to defend ethical principles… selflessness, altruism, patriotism…”

The goal of the pronouncement was clearly pragmatic. These statements were developed and reproduced by the official media in speeches given by leaders, in banners and in other media.

Cuando sea grande
When I grow up.

However, it is still hard to get one’s bearings. How can one feel they support a “sense of the historical moment”? What’s more, how could one oppose that? No political subject has a monopoly on “what ought to be changes.” President Obama changed US policy towards Cuba, but that doesn’t make him a revolutionary. Powerful forces are systematically defied by other forces, without there being any substantial differences between them in terms of their “revolutionary” nature. The ethical principles to be defended are defined in accordance with the morals of each class, which can be conservative, anarchist, communist, social democratic and so on and so forth.

It is telling that no pro-government intellectuals have analyzed, addressed or offered any theoretical inquiries into this definition.

In the years that followed this statement, defending the revolution meant supporting the policy of the new fast-track intensively trained teachers, restricting the scope of “self-employment”, working in the so-called “Revolutionary Programs” that made up the “Battle of Ideas,” making greater sacrifices without any prospects of individual realization, for the sake of a brighter future, etc. This didn’t last long, however, and, all of a sudden, the government took a 180-degree turn.

The new president, Raul Castro, promised people a new form of “prosperous and sustainable” socialism. Its program was made up by the Party Guidelines proclaimed during the 6th Congress of the Communist Party in 2011. Teachers were again encouraged to become specialized and undergo quality training, the revolutionary programs were cancelled and the self-employed were given the green light.

Artesanias
Souvenirs

Everything comes full circle in the end. What the leadership seems to like most when it calls on people to “defend the revolution” is being obeyed. Some salaried apologists like blogger Enrique Ubieta tend to encourage such an interpretation of things. If they have anything more profound in mind, it is hard to notice it, particularly when corruption scandals and desertions from this leadership are publicly acknowledged.

Young people have never been very obedient. One can see this in their alienation with respect to official political organizations. The emptiness of their participation in the system and their reluctance to occupy leadership positions or take on many responsibilities is evident. Emigration is also drastically decimating these generations.

Therefore, whether there is support for the revolution among the young must be decided on the basis of one’s own, fresh conceptions about the concept, those that struggle to make way in today’s complex social scenarios.
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Photos: Juan Suarez



11 thoughts on “Do Cuba’s Youth Support the Revolution?

  • This post meandered about but finally got around to saying ‘no’, Cuban youth do not support the Castro revolution. Why should they? What does the revolution offer to merit the support of the youth. Declining health and education opportunities. Bleak economic and job prospects and a physical infrastructure, namely housing that has long been inadequate and worsening daily. The aspirations of young people in Cuba, both spiritual and material can not be met with resources available in Cuba. The Castros have failed and young people in Cuba know it.

    Reply
    • Same old clap trap about the Castro’s. For the sake of humanity, give it a rest or seek help.

      Reply
      • Obviously you can’t debate on the merits. Is anything I write untrue?

        Reply
      • Well the difficulty Analyser is that the economy in Cuba is deteriorating with agriculture in particular having rapidly declining production. Coupled with that is that the means of production are controlled by the military and so are the systems of importation necessary to replace internal production. The consequences of the incompetent militarily systems is that Cubans have to scrounge supplies from each other. In addition to food this includes building supplies-hence the crumbling infrastructure.
        I can also tell you that the school teachers are experiencing a similar deterioration in the supply of educational materials and of maintenance of school buildings. the hospital in our city has un-replaced broken windows, missing door handles and broken plasterwork.
        In Cuba everything is controlled by the Castro family regime, so the problems described above are ascribed to the regime. It may be boring for you, but it is the reality.
        Is there an answer to relieve you of being bored by criticisms of the Castro family regime?
        My suggestion is that you spend say four weeks in Cuba – not in the tourist spots, but in communities in the interior heart of the Island. Although you will be unable to contribute to these columns during that period, you will be able to observe that what I and indeed the berated Moses are writing is correct.
        Claptrap about the Castro’s is written by those who approve their dictatorship, approve the Communist Party of Cuba, approve the CDR, approve Socialismo and have no concern for the individual or indeed for your invoked humanity.

        Reply
      • The Castros control the island like their Ranch and the Cubans as their slaves. Besides a Revolution doesn’t last 56 years.

        Reply
  • Over the generations, young people have tended to be radical. They look at the society in which they live, see it’s faults and seek change. Utopia beckons.
    For those who live in economically poor countries and who have access to knowledge of a better life in others, their desire is to improve their own country’s standard of living or to migrate. Change beckons constantly as they recognise that Utopia cannot be.
    Change necessitates politics. Barack Obama used that single word successfully to campaign and other politicians have followed suit.
    Fidel Castro also sought change and realised that in living in a dictatorship, violence was the only way to achieve it. Eventually violence enabled him to achieve power.
    Cleverly, he removed the tools necessary for further violence and introduced the CDR to watch for and report upon any who might again seek further change and established his own dictatorship.
    As a foreigner living much of my time at home in Cuba, I am approached by young Cubans seeking to extend their knowledge of the world which the Castro family regime seeks to hide from their eyes. Questions tend to be simplistic:
    “What is the difference between your economic/political system and ours?”
    “Do you have the Internet?”
    “How many people have cars?”
    “How much money do you earn?”
    “How cold is it in Canada?”
    Some questions can be answered statistically:
    In Cuba there are 25 cars for every 1,000 people, in Canada there are 479.
    Canada is only cold in the winter when the temperature in our city can drop to below -40C – the freezer in a refrigerator is usually set at about -22C. But in the summer we have higher temperatures than Cuba where the record high is 38C. We occasionally get over 40C.
    I am a pensioner, but the average household income in Canada is over $60,000 per year with low-end jobs – working in McDonald’s at $12 per hour. But understand we pay tax to our city, to our province and to our national government and our living costs are high
    Yes, I have the Internet when I am in Canada, but not here. Canada has more computers than people, with 132 for every 100 people.
    The difference between your economic system and ours, is that in Cuba the State has the money and gives some to the people. In our system, the people have the money and give some to the State it’s called tax. We the people decide which political party will form the Government and if we don’t like it, there is an election every four years and the governing party changes, and yes we have changes.
    Very occasionally a young person will enquire about my views of the revolution.
    This is a difficult one to answer. I tell them the truth, that as I was a mature adult in a managerial position at the time of their revolution and aware of the Batista regime, I was in favour of their revolution. That many western countries have had revolutions, the US, France, England before it became part of the UK, and Spain as examples. But that usually revolutions are usually to provide liberty and freedom for the people not to gain permanent political power, the exception being in Russia where eventually the communist system rotted from within.
    These views obviously reflect my opinion, but that is what these young people seek.
    When they ask what I think about Cuba, I respond that it is a very beautiful country with a deep history including the oldest house in the Americas and that the Cuban people are delightful and I am fortunate in being married to one.
    Viva Cuba!

    Reply
  • The 1950’s was a long time ago. That world exists no where. In South America, the left has risen. Today it is their policies that are under fire, the corruption of prior regimes being forgotten. The U.S. is a free market state but laden with regulations and a big safety net. A black man, a man of the left is President. It is a different world.

    Old revolutions are relegated to museums when their opponents are no longer. The new revolution is one of economic survival. As Raul Castro Ruiz has correctly diagnosed, a generous state needs an income stream. Oddly the way to save socialism is adopting capitalist earning streams. With Capitalist countries adopting a little socialism, it seems like ISIS is the bigger concern.

    Reply
    • You mention the current President of the United States, a black man (in Cuba he would be termed mulatto as his mother who brought him up, was white) as a “man of the left’, Barack Obama. In other western countries where there are socialist parties he would be regarded as a man of the centre and it was a Conservative Prime Minister in the UK who gave him perhaps the greatest honour that has been bestowed by the UK on a living President, by inviting him to address the joint Houses of Parliament in Westminster Hall. On the 25th May, 2011, President Obama met the challenge of that invitation by delivering a wonderful speech a the Mother of Parliaments and for the record and I hope pleasure of others, I provide some excerpts:
      “The wealth of a nation, comes not from what it consumes, but from what it produces.”
      “We believe in the rights of citizens not just the rights of nations.”
      “We stand on the side of those who want to be free.”
      “The future of our children and grandchildren will be greater if others children have prosperity.”
      “How we define ourselves as nations (by) believing in a certain set of ideals. Liberty and the rule of law.”
      “We (US and UK) are linked by ideals, not divided by differences. We have a shared belief in the future of human freedom and human dignity.”
      “In the long years to come, do not despair, do not yield.”
      To any socialists who may seek to disparage Obama’s speech I can only ask why it is that they have such objection to freedom of the individual and to personal dignity, why they object to seeking prosperity for ones family, why they seek a system that does not govern, but dictates?
      Outside the Westminster Parliament there is a statue of Oliver Cromwell who led a revolution in England in support of the freedom of the people. Having won and after a period of stabilization Parliament was restored – if only Fidel Castro had learned from that.

      Reply
      • I would not object to Obama being considered centre or even a man of the right in other countries. But neither does he represent the evil unfettered capitalist that Fidel claimed to be at the center of his revolution. The America of 2015 is much different than 1959, just like the situation in Cuba is not the same.

        The chance that in either Cuba or US, we will return to the 1950’s is zero. The challenge of our times starts with the present.

        Reply
        • Do you recognize that Cuba is in a time warp? We might differ about the reasons why, but I think it is a reasonably fair assessment.

          Reply
          • In many areas, yes. The world economy and social norms have been evolving rapidly. I do believe that Cuba recognizes the need to plug into the new world financial and trade arrangements and is moving to do so with the 2011 updates to their model.

            This is a technical report that highlights the many investments Cuba is making in partnership to evolve the economy. This is not a political document. The investments being made are within the Socialist model as currently in place.

            http://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/2015/3032/pdf/fs2015-3032.pdf

            I don’t know how much individual lives will improve from these advancements in the economy, but change at macro level is evolving quickly. A big danger to Cuba is if Venezuela can’t keep oil trade in place on current terms until Cuba has enough income to meet energy needs on open market.

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