By Osmel Ramirez Alvarez

Periodismo oficial. Ilustración por Yasser Castellanos
CUBA’S OFFICIAL JOURNALISM.  Illustration por Yasser Castellanos

HAVANA TIMES — On the last page of Granma newspaper on August 1st 2016, a long article written by the government sponsored blogger Iroel Sanchez was published. It was entitled “State, people and the media: shall we surrender?”  I read through it thoroughly and this article made me write this post.  I think it’s appropriate and fair because it touches on a lot of red-hot issues in our debates.  And more so, because he questions the very essence of the right we have to express our opinions through a different lens in unofficial media.

The title itself suggests a hypothetical quandary: continue on and shut off from the rest of the world in our radical socialist revolution (which supposedly protects us from the capitalist monster) or succumb as a people, including our government and media, to this greedy enemy.

We all know that what Iroel defends in his articles is also paid for and it seems to be well paid, if not in his salary, in his privileges. However, Iroel criticizes and criminalizes any kind of help received by dissident Cubans, or those who exercise journalism in a different way to him.

What hypocrisy! He talks about the declarations of employees at the US Interests Section [now US Embassy] have given, about multi-million dollar funds which are used to pay the opposition, about plans of creating opposition abroad; about the lack of freedom of speech where the media is free because Capital uses it for its own ends and imposes its own “truth”; and about our own media and access to it, where everything is ok, because “they belong to the people” and they should be able to use them freely “in favor of the revolutionary cause”. He mentions paid courses and labels any dissident to the Cuban state system a “neoliberal”.

First of all, I’d like to say that I’ve read very little of Iroel’s work because he publishes most of his work on the internet, on his publicized blog, and this is a prohibitive means for me as an ordinary Cuban. As a paid fighter of the Cuban system “with a pen in his hand”, he has free access to the Internet; I have to pay 2 CUC (around $2.30 USD) an hour for this privilege and I’ve never come across a single cent of these millions that the Yankees are throwing left, right and center, according to what we’re told.

Panaderia 2
BAKERY. Photo: Juan Suarez

It’s sad to see so much intelligence and talent tied to childlike servility. Or: how sad it is to see so much intelligence and talent diminished by a black and white lens! It’s one of the two, so as not to judge without giving room for error. Iroel may be sincerely blinded by this extremist ideology; or he may be an opportunist who lives off of the system and knows how to say what’s appropriate so he can maintain his privileges. I’m sure of only one thing, I do write what I think without being in the middle of small-minded interests or conditioned pay checks; and I’m sure that my colleagues of HT and other similiar media platforms do the exact same thing.

It’s even right that we receive funding, donations, pay for our work. If some NGOs, governments or people feel like they can contribute to our cause, of us Cubans who disagree with the system, it’s their right to do so and there’s nothing shameful or wrong about receiving this financial aid. What would be wrong and punishable is if this help was conditioned by foreign interests which aren’t our own, as a country. This would consititute a mercenary and stateless attitude.

In my opinion, if the US or another country that sympathizes with our fight for democratic change in Cuba gives us money through foundations or NGOs, it isn’t a crime to take it; if they don’t impose any conditions on our writing and they only do it to show their solidarity with our cause, there isn’t a problem. What does it matter if behind the scenes there are hidden interests? Cuba can’t give up on democracy, nor the human rights of its citizens just out of fear for taking these risks. It’s normal and it happens everywhere in the world. It’s like shutting yourself up at home because you’re afraid accidents will happen, the consequences of never leaving your hide away are much worse.

CANDY. Photo: Juan Suarez

Iroel should know that we aren’t all neoliberals. I myself irrefutably oppose this extremist market doctrine but that doesn’t mean that just because I do I’m going to sympathize with a state-led centralized economy, which cripples our productive forces and only creates misery and bureaucracy. I believe in a mixed economy, in the possibility of well-being for everyone, in individual and collective economic freedom, in democracy as a political space which is better suited for achieving the highest level of social equality possible.

I don’t like the non-democracy of the Left’s tyranny which has been promoted by gifted leaders who would apparently lead the oppressed masses to paradise on Earth. I don’t like Capital’s dictatorship either which renders democracy unfeasible and promotes neoliberalism. I like democracy, capitalism and social equality, which are all possible together once a social balance has been achieved. Where neoliberalism rules, there can’t be a social balance; where one-party states and state-run economies exist, even less so.

Just don’t let Iroel tell me that capitalism is uncompatible with social equality or with democracy please. Let me answer him in advance: in Denmark and Sweden there is more social justice and equality than there ever was in the Soviet Union or which today or tomorrow the Chinese can ever have; not to mention Cuba. Social democracy is more feasible than radical or market socialism, just because there is democracy and an appropriate dose of social balance can only come about with democracy.

At the end of the day, its Iroel who “sleeps on warm hay and has tasty and big oats” given to him by the system; while we, those of us who are independent journalists, “a criminal monster”, are condemned by the government’s press and propaganda. Let him come to his own conclusions after he reads the great poem written by our Apostle Jose Marti “Yugo y Estrella” and let him figure out if he’s chosen “oppression” or “the stars”.

I personally know what my path is very well: “the star that illuminates and kills” (Jose Marti), because it’s the only way we can create and grow.

One thought on “Responding to Leftist Extremism Regarding Cuba

  • Likewise, I believe it is entirely possible to hate Castro tyranny and remain highly critical of the dictatorship yet support the Cuban people. It is not unreasonable to support the ultimate goal of the US embargo, that is freedom for the Cuban people and yet acknowledge that it has failed to accomplish all that it was designed to do. Castro bootlickers would have the world believe that to oppose oppression in Cuba is to prefer a return to the oppression of the dictatorship that preceded the Castros. Nothing is farther from the truth. Osmel reflects the opinion of millions of Cubans. Freedom of the press is not a threat to Cuban democracy. In fact, real democracy in Cuba can only exist once Cubans can express themselves freely.

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