The Duty of the Left in Cuba

Vincent Morin Aguado

Photo: Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES – Looked at both in a national as well as an international perspective, the duty of the left in Cuba is to preserve all the positive things that the Cuban socialist experiment has brought with it, as it struggles to move on towards a new model which – in the words of the currently fashionable jargon – is both prosperous and sustainable .

The right, masked or bare faced, has defined its approach quite clearly: a return to capitalism under the tutelage of the enormous power represented by the United States.

Apart from being political suicide, it is naïve to assume a new socialist model can be created by erasing the last half century of Cuban history, including its historic leadership. Only by accepting the past, with its successes and failures, can we build a better future.

Now – and this is a practical matter, for those governing this country today – we need to draw up a road map with access channels allowing freedom of expression to flourish within a broadly participatory society enabling the left to fulfil this duty.

The guidelines of the Sixth Communist Party Congress – plagued by inconsistency in their application – can only be viewed as a program of minimum reform, a first step towards “greater efforts in the mission to change everything that needs changing.” Even so, the scale of change – in my opinion –  will need to much greater than whatever is implied by whoever thought up this historical phrase.

Waiting for her turn at the clinic. Photo: Juan Suarez

We have seen political prisoners being released and yet still peaceful, law abiding  citizens holding opinions at variance with the official policy line, continue to be harassed.

The scope of self-employment has been expanded, going so far as to all what are even small business enterprises, while “operations” involving the police, restrict long-standing economic activities.

The Cuban press has said it will fight resolutely against the “secrecy” of the authorities, but when it comes to facing thorny questions that urgently need addressing because of their great political and social importance, it still sticks its head in the sand.

The current political process – a gradual one in accordance with the strategy of President Raul Castro –  does not, in my view, have many enthusiastic adherents among the various power groups, formed after decades of neo-Stalinist retrenchment.

A friend told me recently –  and I will repeat it – that today the social body of the Cuban nation has advanced beyond the body politic as a whole. And although we might naturally assume in such as situation that cart is now pushing the horse forward, the opposite is happening. The horse is digging in its hooves to brake the momentum of the cart. It is a paradox familiar in Cuban history. Nevertheless – to continue the analogy – as any farmer worth his salt will tell you, even with oxen – or horses- like these you still have to plough the soil.

I hope the usual suspects are not offended – I allude to no one in particular. I am referring to the body politic as a whole, which, naturally includes many exceptions. If that were not the case, the important steps taken so far, would not have been made.

I emphasize this paradox because of the peculiarities of our history these 54 years that have prevented the emergence of an alternative to the left, capable of proving a leadership able to ensure compliance with the enormous tasks in the making.

Internationally we face a giant with seven league feet, who – as Martí warned – desires nothing more but to put its boots on us. Such a Goliath exists, make no mistake, staking the earth, mumbling and threatening.

Photo: Juan Suarez

It is also good to consider the experiences of the New Left, especially in Latin America, whose revolutionary leaders are developing complex processes without sacrificing so-called bourgeois representative democracy.

Without the revolutionary work created up till now it would be impossible to attempt to undertake socialist reforms. The errors made, many of them, including those blown up out of all proportion by the media, are however no impediment to the impetus towards developing a genuine form of democracy, but certainly not one in which a single person is allowed to amass a fortune equivalent to the gross domestic product of some countries on a troubled planet in danger of extinction.

Socialism has failed so far to be truly democratic, but it is capable of being so because some of the economic concepts which underpin it are democratic.

Capitalism practices a formal democracy in certain parts of the world. But by its very nature, it abnegates at a political level the sort of democracy that is so essential for the present and future of humanity, so much in need of solidarity and common sense.

Engrossed in everyday life, trying to distinguish the forest from the trees, the left can not ignore the forest as a whole, which is precisely what is has undertaken to save.
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Vincent Morin Aguado : [email protected]



8 thoughts on “The Duty of the Left in Cuba

  • I am certainly no expert in Cuban culture nor do I have a crystal ball to foretell the future. I am a student of history and I know that there has never existed a socialist form of government that sustained itself through a free and open democracy. China, Vietnam, and the former USSR were all governments established and maintained by force. Freedom of speech, assembly and political association were all rights quickly taken away from the people in order for these “socialist’ governments to thrive. Vicente expresses a noble desire for a more open and democratic Cuba to emerge and at the same time hopes to retain the socialist nature of the government. Does he live in the same Cuba that I know? As soon as Cubans can truly speak their minds, assemble and organize themselves freely in a society free of state repression, socialism as Vicente imagines will disappear from the island. Is it any wonder that when Cubans are allowed to emigrate from Cuba to whatever country that will have them, only a miniscule number of them choose to remain socialists. On the streets in Habana and every other town large and small in Cuba, young people sit around imagining a future where they own their own houses, drive nice cars, and wear the latest style clothes. What socialist model, now or ever, will fulfill these dreams. Heck, it is hard enough to live this way under capitalism! While it may be true that there is a small percentage of Cubans who long for a socialist society where everyone is equal, and no one is left behind, the Cuba I know longs for a society where a job pays a living wage and people are free to live as they please and certainly as they deserve, regardless of whether or not their house is equal to their neighbors. Vicente’s utopic ideas may sound nice to some but Cuba’s reality is a future headed toward capitalism.

    Reply
    • I know many Cubans living in the US. I work with them. I would say at least half of them think that the Cuban system is superior to ours. (And that percentage is from people who have chosen to immigrate). Of course, they are not stupid. I doubt that they would express that opinion to a, to put it crudely but I think accurately, brainwashed Yuma. But it is what they truly believe, even after seeing “our side” up close and personal. My observations on the island point to an even stronger support for socialism. I have heard from not a few people in their 30’s of how nice life was before the special period, before remittances from abroad, when everybody was equal, no one had fancier shoes or different appliances, and what you owned wasn’t the measure of your worth.
      Socialist systems can’t survive with free speech ? You mean to say can’t survive with free speech and crushing imperialist subversion. There was plenty of freedom in Sandinista Nicaragua and Allende’s Chile, both government’s of which the US was dedicated to destroy by any and every means. They were free and open democracies and they were socialist. And we know (or should) how and why they ended as they did.

      Reply
      • First of all, Dan, Cuba largely existed BEFORE the Special Period, that is to say, the fall of the USSR, on the millions of rubles sent from their Soviet patrons to sustain the dictatorship. That Cuba was a fraud. Second, your anecdotal experience with Cubans in Miami does not line up with the facts. Cubans, as a group, are the wealthiest per capita among Latin American immigrants to the US. Better said, they own more businesses, have more college degrees, more likely to own their own homes, etc. to a greater degree than other Latinos. They are fully invested in the “American Dream”. Doesn’t sound like a majority of them are quietly longing for their socialist past at all. Miami Cubans are hardly afraid of expressing themselves to “Yumas”. Are you joking? Have you been to Miami? Cubans run Miami for chrissakes! Second, your argument about Cubans in Cuba preferring the pre-Special Period Cuba over current times is correct. Who wouldn’t? Life sucks in Cuba now, and it is getting worse with every building that collapses. But ask these same Cubans if they would prefer a life where they could earn a wage from their jobs that pays enough to live on for the entire month. Ask them if they would like to be able to actually vote for candidates of their choosing. Ask them if they would like to have access to the internet in their homes. You will find they are not as you would like them to be. Finally, you can not rewrite history. Sandinista’s Nicaragua and Allende’s Chile were far from the beacons of free speech that you imply. While these governments were socialist in their political platforms, both countries were completely capitalists. Similar to present-day Venezuela. Worse yet, as we are seeing in Venezuela, what freedoms that did exist were eroding daily toward the Cuban model they were patterned after. This erosion of basic rights is what provided the opening for their overthrow. Despite the US involvement in the demise of these governments, there was ample local resistance to their existence.

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        • Moses, who said I live in Miami ? It live in the Northeast. But to pursue your point, lots of the Cubans I know here come from Miami. They have a hard time making a living there, and they certainly don’t agree w/ you that you could possibly speak freely in support of the Revolution there. Are you telling me that you are unaware of the bombings, assassinations, vandalism, beatings, boycotts, ect. wherein the victims are not even socialists, merely not sufficiently anti-Castro ? And talking about ancedotes, I’ll give you one. I remember my return in 1993 to the Miami airport from my first trip to Cuba. I had brought back a poster of Fidel. I went to unroll it to show to someone in the airport who lived in Miami. As soon as it became evident to this person that it was Fidel’s picture he said “stop ! Are you crazy !?! You can’t have a picture of Fidel here” When I insisted and said ” Well, let’s see who’s going to stop me” he threatened to walk away.Not b/c he cared one way or another about Fidel, but because he was scared. And the gusanera is much more prone to using real physical violence than any CDR.
          Lastly, what citizen of ANY 3rd world country would’nt want to have the standard of living that (some) Americans (once) had/have. Moreover, I don’t know what your grasp of economics is or isn’t, but some very respected economists would probably say that current US living standards, built upon an enormous credit bubble, itself sustainable solely due to the fact that the $ is the world’s reserve currency, is every bit as “artificial” as Cuba’s during the Soviet era.

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          • Dan, you make the mistake of confusing the sometimes rabid ANTI-Castro sentiment in Miami with a non-existent resistance to leftist political beliefs. Most of my Cuban friends HATE the Castros, but openly reminisce about the safety of Cuban streets and the camaraderie they enjoyed in their Cuban neighborhoods. They have no fear to express their opinions which reflect a nostalgia for a simpler life. Yes, to openly support the Castros may get you a punch in the nose. But to say you miss Cuba, or Havana Club Rum or how easy it is to go to the doctor’s office is widely expressed. However, generally I find my Cuban friends on both sides of the Florida straits to be as close-minded to opposing political beliefs. Must be a Cuban thing. Yes, Americans are drunk with debt. There is a difference, however, between ‘borrowing’ to live a little better while you work your arse off to pay it back and schlepping around the world looking for sympathy and handouts to sustain a failed regime. Cuba’s Castro-style socialism does not work. It never has and it never will.

        • The “erosion of basic rights” under the Sandinistas, Allende’s Chile and Venezuela is just in your imagination and your country’s. But even if it were true where is the logic in supporting Pinochet and the Contras who were infinitely worse, not to mention the leaders of the coup against Chavez who immediately closed the National Assembly. Your comments prove the point that your country shouldn’t be put in charge of judging human rights and democracy as you have no understanding of the concept.

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          • One of the few cogent criticisms of my point-of-view here at HT. If you charge that the governments that the US has chosen to back to replace the governments that were deposed have many times turned out to be greater human rights violators, I would have to agree. While it does not mean that, for example, Allende did not deserve to be overthrown, it was a mistake to support Pinochet. The US is good at knowing a bad government when we see one. We are not so good at replacing the bad guys with good guys.

  • The duty of the left in Cuba is to respect democracy, freedom of speech and human rights.
    It does none of the above.
    The “left” should be democratic. Not Stalinist.

    Reply

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