The Cuban Revolution: Heaven or Hell?

By Osmel Ramírez Alvarez  (photos: Juan Suarez)

pizzeriaHAVANA TIMES — Some love it, others hate it, yet others don’t know whether to love it or hate it. What’s certain is that the Cuban revolution awakens much passion in people.

It’s striking to see the images of a successful revolution, aired on television and sold to the world: smiling children being vaccinated or heading to school in colorful uniforms, hospitals and clinics offering free services, full of apparently satisfied patients, athletes leaping, running or batting a homerun and thrilling fragments of passionate speeches.

On the other hand, we have macabre accounts of repressed dissidents, scandalous convictions imposed on people who defend different ideas, angry fits by leaders that lead to privation and unnecessary death and hundreds of thousands of people crossing oceans and jungles, risking it all for a better life.

Important intellectuals, artists and politicians from around the world enthusiastically visit our country, singing praises for the revolution, but people who are just as valuable question the revolution with objectivity.

The same holds for a line of people, a meeting, a bus, wherever you go in Cuba: everyone criticizes the government, but there’s still many who sincerely love the system. This reality won’t change any time soon, and it cannot be denied through either love or hatred. There are contradictory emotions with respect to Cuba.

So, why this madness? Let us begin with the original intentions of the revolution, its initial impulse and program, traded in for socialist ideology after its triumph. The true aim was to bring justice, equity, prosperity and good governance to our people. Jose Marti was then its main inspiration.

It is no accident the revolution had followers in nearly all social sectors and even sympathizers within Batista’s army. When the revolutionaries took power, the stage was hostile – it was the tensest period of the Cold War.

After school.
After school.

Fidel Castro then adopted Marxist communism, an ideology he knew and had seduced him. The idea to bring about justice, democracy and good governance had to be reshaped. They truly became convinced of this and took up a new political paradigm, a new “truth.” To date, they continue to defend it tooth and nail, despite the evident failure of the model.

The model has used a lot of social investment, a lot of populism, economic volunteerism and an highly active foreign policy. The people were isolated from the world and exposed to only one, indoctrinating and always “well-intentioned” voice. To keep us in line and united, we were fed a heated nationalism and told the “enemy” was always looming on the horizon. We ended up becoming a caricature of Orwell’s Animal Farm.

Power seduces and can corrupt even the best of intentions. It blinds people and becomes an addiction. It is in our genes to aspire to become an alpha male, a leader, and this is something we share with the opposite sex. An alpha male does not yield power to a more capable leader out of conscience, he dies defending his position.

The founding fathers of modern democracy understood this well and devised the separation of powers, the multi-party system, popular sovereignty and presidential terms, because of this.

The good intentions of the revolution are still there and continue to seduce some, but, today, they serve only to justify an illegitimate and dysfunctional system. The revolution has been living off its past for more than 25 years and hasn’t shown anything significant in terms of social wellbeing since.

One of the paranoid suggestions it deploys is the claim that “the enemy besieges us.” The media hammers this into us like a conditioned reflex. It is a phrase spoken by Fidel Castro to describe the phenomenon of a different kind of propaganda, that which encourages consumption – but it’s ultimately the same stance.

The people not only fear the State in this society, where nearly everything is controlled by the State – they also fear being included on a State Security blacklist. What Cubans on the island fear most, however, is democracy, the multiparty system and capital. Decades of manipulation, a one-idea system and indoctrination have powerful effects: they produce fear, panic even.

We cannot blame the people for it, it would be like blaming a Chernobyl victim for having leukemia. The contaminating agent saturates the environment, one cannot help but breathe it in.

La promesa.
La promesa.

It’s natural to see some confusion in such an aberrant environment. Those who awaken from the idyllic dream grow furious and full of hatred, and begin to refer to the revolution and its leaders with extremism. Those who refuse to wake up out of blind faith or a self-preservation instinct fervidly consider the good and the bad, chalking up the latter to the axiom that no human work is perfect.

The same thing happens abroad but for different reasons: Cuba’s expensive and efficacious foreign policy captures wills and persuades well-intentioned idealists. They love the revolution, see only positive things and, this way, justify the bad. Those who hate and criticize the revolution, on the other hand, don’t even acknowledge its achievements.

We want a better world, of course we do, but the Cuban paradigm doesn’t offer one. It fails at the most important things and we have to fix it. Of course we can preserve the good things, and they will work a whole lot better when we are a normal country. But that is a different issue.

That is what the stage looks like, like a leaf that’s green on one side and gray on the other. This reality holds back democracy and prosperity. But we will not cease in our efforts, we will trace the path of love and harmony among Cubans, respecting our differences, one day at a time. One day, we will have a new country!

16 thoughts on “The Cuban Revolution: Heaven or Hell?

  • (Are you agreeing you’re naive?) In any case, you are sadly misinformed. You do understand the term “oligarchy,” don’t you? The US has democracy really in name only, any more. If the Trump phenomenon continues to an unfortunate conclusion landing him in the White House, which I pray it doesn’t, then you will be correct, for a change, and this increasingly failing system will end, ushering in Batista-like governance on our own shores.

  • Yep, America has a Democracy and Cuba does not. Great country versus a disaster brought about by socialism gone bad. Change will come to Cuba, failed systems always end.

  • Cuba cannot be accused, as can the US, of being responsible for the murder of hundreds of thousands, even millions, in all the wars our young men and women have been sent to die in, or the proxy wars we’ve provoked, promoted, and/or funded over the centuries- in the name of business and profits. The US doesn’t force its will on other countries??? “All they do is encourage a certain lifestyle?” That’s sweet you’re so naive (or a paid propagandist). And you are supremely uninformed about the history of this country. What this country has done to millions around the world over the years (Native Americans, Mexico, Hawaiians, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Guatemala, South Africa, Phillipines, Nicaragua, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Haiti, Panama, Dominican Republic, Chile, Indonesia, to name just a small sample) to keep them in abject poverty, or under the constant threat of death squads and brutal tyrants “in comparison to what the Castros do… is night and day.”

  • Are you naive enough to think the citizens of the US actually control their government?? You’re a sap for believing the propaganda of the oligarchical machine-run media and government, just as you accuse Cubans of doing.

  • He’s responding, appropriately, to the previous post.

  • The only thing that I find stunning is that your comments either attack the commenter or promote the otherwise obscure book ‘Killing Hope’.

  • Is their any similarity/connection between the people fleeing from Syria to get to Europe and hopefully a better life and to people fleeing from Cuba to the USA? What makes people want to flee their homeland for another? Never mind history, what is important is what is taking place now, here today, these people fleeing would surely prefer to stay and live in their own country? Why do they feel that things will be better somewhere else?

  • John this article is about Cuba not the United States. No need to repeat your comments from other posts. Why not address aspects of the commentary at hand?

  • Yes it must be true.
    All 11 million Cubans are so brainwashed that they no longer can determine what is good for them and need you to tell them what kind of society they should have . .
    Your arrogance is just stunning.

  • The U.S. is an OLIGARCHY; an unelected dictatorship of money . The people get five minutes in a voting booth every four years or so to vote for the choice of the wealthy contributors after which there is no democratic involvement and the government tells you what to do.
    The U.S. killed 2-3 million in southeast Asia during its invasion, It killed 500,000 Iraqi children in ten years by instituting a trade embargo on the country. Madeline Albright said those deaths were “worth it” within the aims of U.S. foreign policy – ( which you unquestioningly support) .
    I have a very long list of the deaths directly due to the U.S. Holocaust which you would not read if I typed them but suffice to say to anyone with a modicum of intelligence and the ability to count , that Cuba’s crimes have no possibility of coming anywhere near close to those of the imperial USA in controlling the world’s economies.
    I have a reference on all this on the part of the U.S.:
    “Killing Hope” , both the website and the updated book .
    And your references are ?


  • Yes, big difference between democratic system where the people control the government and one where the government controls the people. The consent of the governed makes all the difference.

  • You have misunderstood N.J. Marti. Cuba replaces the will of the Cuba people in general with the will of one man and his close followers. The US, like many free countries, requires that people in general submit to the will of the majority of the population. There is a real difference between the two. The US does not force France to submit to US domination. South Africa is under no overt pressure to bend to the American way. Neither is Sierre Leone, nor Nova Scotia. However, the US does encourage a certain lifestyle and we are good at convincing other countries that Justin Bieber is an actual singer. But what the US does in comparison to what the Castros do to control the Cuban people is night and day.

  • You are probably right. It’s Stockholm syndrome on a national level at it’s worst.

  • I completely disagree. If what you are saying is true, then that means that each of us are also victims of submission to our individual governments each time we are forced to obey the many laws of our lands. Each country’s government has their own definition of an aspired civil society that is nurtured within the confines of their economic limitations. Cuba’s civil society, while not perfect, is still a remarkable example of what can be accomplished with very limited resources, all the while being held hostage under the repressive policies of their northern neighbor that are still intended to force Cuba’s submission. In truth, it’s America’s system of forcing the submission of individuals and governments worldwide to the will of their state that diminishes humanity. America’s cruel and tyrannical interventionist policy towards Cuba, still locked by congress, is undoubtedly the most extreme and insane example of their disgraceful holier-than-thou hypocrisy. Set the Cuban people free… humanly repeal the economic embargo and the Helms-Burton Act. Everything else for the betterment of humanity then becomes possible.

  • A system that requires the submission of an individual to will of state diminishes humanity.

  • It’s certainly your country and I think there is significant change happening that gives hope to the remedy. I still think if Cuba had an election held in six months, with opposing candidates, the present government would get at least 30%.

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