By Rogelio Manuel Diaz Moreno
HAVANA TIMES — Without a doubt, the biggest news event of 2016 in Cuba, was the death of former president Fidel Castro.
I remember that around midnight on November 25th, I was walking with some friends of mine. We were strolling along 5th Avenue, in the capital’s Playa municipality, when some young kids, almost teenagers, passed us by. They had apparently just left some kind of night club.
Suddenly, they came up to us and gave us the news in a smug manner. As this rumor has already gone around a many times before, we didn’t really believe it. The next morning, the veracity of this news was already made clear.
Those young people moved me with their superficiality; carelessness, at least. They had no way of knowing who we were. In the worst case scenario, they could have run into security guards who would have really made them suffer. Judging by their appearance, they didn’t exactly come from a social class which experienced material poverty. Then I thought, what could these young people have lived through to make them hate somebody who remained inactive for the most part of their lives since they were cute little babies?
This encounter is just an insignificant anecdote. Fidel’s death immediately unleashed a media whirlwind which was to be expected. Government spokespeople reached a climax with their cult of personality speeches. It’s true that statues and using the name of the deceased for public institutions had been ruled out. However, government announcements, TV and national radio broadcasts were everywhere for weeks, if we can say that they’ve now finished. A tribute song, played to death, put the deceased on the same level as Jesus Christ at home altars.
The Cuban people’s attendance in masse at farewell gatherings will go down in history. I watched them with a mix of awe and skepticism. There’s no doubt about it, the deceased had extraordinary charisma, even after his death. All of us know lots of people in this country who truly defend his legacy.
For example, one of my professors from university chose to pay her respects on her Facebook account. She was attacked by people who couldn’t tolerate such an attitude and I wrote something in support of my professor. That said, it is significant that the majority of those people who we believe to be sincere in their tribute have already passed a certain age. You don’t see the same enthusiasm among the Cuban youth.
It’s a well-known fact that a lot of the people who took to squares and signed oaths weren’t even half sincere. A noteworthy number of them don’t have any other future plans but to emigrate and forget about all of this. Or prosper, thanks to privileges acquired on the established hierarchy ladder. Or pursue completely capitalist life projects at home. These people know; their teachers, their colleagues, their bosses, their staff all know. Our politicians and politicians abroad know. Journalists who wrote articles about the event know.
Raising their hands and shouting the trending slogan will temporarily please the people who live off of these things. Those who live against all of this, find the justification for their principles in this behavior. However, whoever really wants to contribute something to the anti-capitalist Left, won’t be satisfied with such superficiality. It’s a necessary strategy, both for today’s pressing matters and life tomorrow, looking to find sense and important points in this process known as the Cuban Revolution. With this in mind, it is crucial that we understand Fidel Castro’s role and influence.
There are people who identify the Cuban Revolution as the late leader’s ideal and legacy for different reasons. Both on the side of pro-government supporters as well as among the opposition. Fidel Castro’s persona seems to have taken on after his death an even more divine status, or diabolic one, depending on where you stand.
Government ideologues aren’t interested in anything other than unconditional praise. They completely dismiss recognizing his human nature, which leads the best of us to be dragged down by our weaknesses and to make mistakes, which are all the more terrible when they become unquestionable. Just imagine what others who wanted another kind of balance think. We might be able to understand somebody who has a healthy fear of the consequences of a slightly opposing comment, in an authoritarian environment.
At the end of the day, we have to have the courage to overcome this. The slogan “I am Fidel” has been heard from the mouths of too many people. From the mouths of young people like those I ran into on 5th Avenue, who will soon leave our country. Some will tomorrow become leaders that will then be tried for petty corruption crimes. Others will become bureaucrats stuck in their harmful ways.
We are facing unprecedented conditions, in our challenge to work for a better and possible world. It’s Nature’s law that the so-called “Historic Generation” gives way to following generations. The out-going US president, Barack Obama, has turned the course of our relationship with our powerful neighbor to the north on its head, from open conflict to a space where diplomatic maneuvers can come into play. The new leader, Donald Trump, will come into power like an aggressive and unpredictable meteorite. The boom in so-called “progressive” governments in Latin America, who were on friendly terms with Cuba, is ending. National and global economies are not thriving and there are many more factors which are making the landscape a lot more complex.
Opposition leaders have been revived with their dreams of reinstating Capitalism in Cuba. They are calling upon us, for the umpteenth time, to round up the advantages of a transition government which will lead us towards a “normal” system, with the myths of so-called market economies and multi-party democracies. They are heading towards this direction, from both economic and ideological standpoints.
There aren’t many forces within the government itself that support it. More and more conditions are being created which are prone towards and favor Capitalism in Cuba. No matter how beautiful the speeches they make are, the socio-economic reality has very clear and strong laws which have been seriously analyzed by serious Marxists. The path towards socialism doesn’t pass through giving our spaces to great international capital and the (not so) small local bourgeoisie.
Building an alternative society, which is more equal, more kind to human beings in a holistic sense and integrated into the environment, is a dream which some Cubans haven’t abandoned. In order to make progress towards this goal, we mustn’t be naive. It’s essential that we continue the critical and productive debate we have, in order to draw out favorable experiences in our national socio-political praxis. Many of us want to develop our Revolution’s complex ideals, its original design, and its dreams of freedom, solidarity and justice.
The Cuban people, or more specifically the working class, will have to lead the way in such a complex, romantic and possible development process, from its conception until its very end, in order for it to be legitimate.