The Price in Cuba for Thinking Differently

Osmel Ramírez Alvarez

The Catholic Church in the center of Mayari.
The Catholic Church in the center of Mayari.

HAVANA TIMES — I hope readers will excuse me for not writing about what I see around me or politics today and for focusing on a personal story, on my disagreement with the regime and my experiences with Cuban State Security. It could prove interesting for you.

I’ve been a rebellious (albeit non-violent) person since I was a kid. My rebelliousness stems from the fact I cannot accept things I consider unjust. Jose Marti’s sense of ethics and patriotism reaffirmed me in this posture a lot. To be entirely honest, so did a young Fidel Castro. For years, I embraced Marxism and believed what I was taught sincerely.

I pursued a career in the natural sciences, however, and I have an eminently scientific spirit. Had I gone into the social sciences, I would have been at a disadvantage, I think. In Cuba, you are taught only to repeat ideas, to believe in dialectics and to deny it at the same time, to celebrate “eternal dogmas” that must be constantly deciphered.

I began to find inconsistencies around me and became a constructive critic. This means I believed orthodox socialism could be viable if a number of things were touched up. Little by little, experience and a more profound knowledge of human history and political philosophy convinced me of the contrary.

I think Marx was an altruistic person, I have no doubts about this, and that he imagined a world that was more just than the one he saw in the 19th century. He thought that what England had accomplished then was the peak of capitalist development. He also believed the working class was always going to be illiterate and unable to defend itself. Hence, capitalism had to be destroyed and a dictatorship of the proletariat was needed for this, headed by a vanguard. The debacle stems from this, from this historical mistake.

If Marx could come back to the world today and observe his beloved workers, who can now read and write, carrying phones that connect them to the Internet, many of them holding technical or university degrees, informed from watching television, listening to the radio or accessing the World Wide Web, he would probably have a heart attack and willingly tear up his Communist Manifesto.

The little trafficked Main Street Mayari.
The little trafficked Main Street of Mayari.

I don’t believe we need a single (allegedly vanguard) party, a dictatorship of the proletariat or destroying the capitalist mode of production. Of socialism, we need only preserve the ideal of social justice, as a complement of democracy, the democracy that has been stigmatized as “bourgeois” to date.

In connection with this last point, the issue of democracy, I defend minimizing the role of money, so that it does not continue to be the veiled dictatorship of Capital. We must also strike a balance between the economic power of the capitalist minority and the numerical power of the “have-not” working majority.

As I see it, the capitalist mode of production must be deprived of its dictatorial power, the one that hides in the wings of contemporary democracy. It would put laissez-faire practices, which, as I see it, are an obstacle to social justice, in check.

I see capitalism as a vigorous mare. If it is left out in the open, unchecked, it destroys things and hurts people while making progress. If it is properly bound to the carriage of society, if its overwhelming might is controlled, it can offer us invaluable services. To put the horse down would be suicidal. Suffice it to see where those who tried this once ended up.

With this vision of a more just society, I began to write. State Security, which controls everything, found out about this. On one occasion, I was headed to the capital and they decided to detain me, take me to a police station and check my luggage.

They confiscated some documents I always carried with me and an 8 Gb USB drive, which contained everything I’d written. I always took those things with me wherever I went. They didn’t manage to intimidate me and I didn’t resist. I thought back to Socrates, the renowned Athenian philosopher of the Classical era, when he said that, if he hadn’t struggled to change unjust laws, he had to submit to them.

Photo: Lucas Garcia Molinari

They didn’t hold me for long or mistreat me. On the contrary, they were even respectful, beyond what their questionable work allowed. They kept me under intense scrutiny for two years, which doesn’t mean they’ve stopped altogether now. After you’ve made it to the black list, you never get out. I was regularly summoned to appear before the authorities, they kept watch over my neighborhood and even recruited close friends to spy on me.

So many file recovery programs were used on the USB drive that the drivers were damaged. When I demanded it be returned to me, it was useless. Luckily, I had several hidden copies of my articles and essays. One of them actually came to be known in the Department of Philosophy and History of the University of Moa, the closest to me.

I was invited to deliver a lecture about new socialism before the department. I went and it was a highly positive experience and it prompted a good debate among the more recalcitrant professors and much enthusiasm among the young. State Security found out about this a few hours later. One of those fanatical professors was likely an informant. They intimidated the department heads, telling them I was a member of the opposition under watch, for they believed the “enemy” was behind my actions.

When I heard about this, I was afraid they would try and destroy me in the neighborhood, where I am very much respected. I began an informational campaign to neutralize attempts at discrediting me. I even shot a video, a self-interview, where I explained everything. It went viral in the area and beyond, creating many expectations. I had to put together another video.

One day, they paid me a visit and gave me back the things they had confiscated. They told me they had completed their investigation and that I continued to be a person of interest because of my potential appeal to “the enemy.”

The head of the Ideology Department of the provincial Party headquarters, the head of the Party School and a philosophy professor at the University of Holguin met with me to convince me to stop thinking about socialism, that it wasn’t even something they could do, only those above could do that. That is what I took away from those meetings.

Numerous dissidents got in touch with me. Jose Daniel Ferrer even wrote me a letter inviting me to his home. I also had a meeting with Eliecer Avila. I was exposed to their ideas.

Photo: Lucas García Molinari

Since my ideas are a bit different, and even though our aims are similar, I never felt the desire to join their movements. I was more enthused about the idea of putting something new together, a proposal for a new form of democratic and market socialism for Cuba. I believe in this path. Numerous people became organized around me and some demanded we formed a movement under my leadership.

I considered it, worked on the proposal and have desisted for the time being. There was much fear and we didn’t have the needed resources to have so many people break with the State. One need only live in Cuba to understand the price of being excluded from the system. It wasn’t a problem for me, I had and continue to have the spiritual strength needed to resist. But my comrades had doubts and I didn’t want the organization to die before even being born.

That is when I decided to do independent journalism. In Cuba, one does not have the right to participate in politics or ideology, not if you distance yourself from the official discourse. On the other hand, the movements that have survived and found foreign financing are the most reactionary. Since I am a different kind of socialist, the government has contempt for me and keeps an eye on my actions, while dissidents regard me as someone who is lost or proposes more of the same.

As for me, I will pay the price for seeking “full justice,” as Jose Marti taught me to do. I will continue to show the people my ideas, the best way I can, little by little. That is my guide and it will ultimately decide whether I am mistaken or not. I am grateful to Havana Times for giving me the opportunity to move forward in my search for a better Cuba, “with everyone and for everyone’s benefit.” I am also grateful to you who, agreeing with my ideas or not, assess what I write with respect. That is what I work for.

8 thoughts on “The Price in Cuba for Thinking Differently

  • Your “500,000 killed” is one of those internet lies that nitwits love to toss around as if it was fact.

  • Ex Secretary of State ,Hillary Clinton just had ex-Secretary of State Madeline Albright come on stage to vigorously support her presidential campaign.
    Every U.S. Secretary of State is a murdering son of a bitch .
    Each is in charge of putting the American Holocaust in a good light while killing millions to preserve and extend capitalism .
    Madeline Albright served her term during the embargo on Iraq that killed 500,000 CHILDREN in ten years through lack of medicine, clean water and other factors directly tied to that embargo.
    When asked in later years what she thought about killing all those children she is notorious for having said “… was worth it”.
    So Moses, the people whom you support says everything anyone would want to know about your lack of humanity and historical knowledge.
    You’re probably one of the nitwits who runs around asking:
    “Why do they hate us.”
    Just because we killed 500,000 children as a deliberate policy ?

  • Bernie is a DEMOCRATIC socialist .
    He has to add the “democratic” because a vast majority of the American public have been brainwashed to believe that socialism is what existed in the old Soviet Union, China, Cuba etc.
    Even Cubans who ought to know better are calling their system socialist when the top-down totalitarian nature of both the government and the workplace precludes that system from legitimately being called socialist .
    For those who still believe that the Soviets , Cubans etc. were/are socialist I encourage you to disabuse yourselves of that ignorance.
    Go to You Tube and request “Chomsky on socialism ” and learn what is what .
    I would bet that Bernie opposes the U.S. assault on the Cuban revolution as imperialist but cannot publicly say that to the dumbed-down American electorate and be understood to be anything other than being from Pluto such is the lack of historical facts abroad in the USA .
    I seriously doubt that he supports the dictatorial nature of Cuba’s
    totalitarian STATE CAPITALIST government and economy.

  • Bernie claims to be a “democratic socialist” but he only recently joined the Democratic Party. For decades he praised and supported the very undemocratic socialist dictatorships of Cuba and Nicaragua.

    So what has changed for Bernie, his opinions of just his rhetoric?

    I wouldn’t call Hillary a war monger, but she is throughly corrupt and incompetent. I defy anybody to name any of her accomplishments as a Senator or as Secretary of State.

  • “War-mongering Hillary Clinton”? You “Code Pink” folks are just as extreme to the left as those wackos in the right-wing Tea Party folks.

  • What a beautiful essay. We are fighting to elect Bernie Sanders as our democratic socialist president. The struggle is against war-mongering Hillary Clinton. God be with you. Lynn Delaney coming to Cuba with Code Pink in April.

  • Wonderful spirit. Do not stop …

  • Thank you for sharing a little of your history. Such stories give me faith. Throughout history there continue to be folks, like you, who have integrity, who are open about their beliefs, hopes and assessments of the societies in which they find themselves. I love your figurative language of the untamed mare of capitalism harnessed to the carriage of society. You seem to be a modern-day Socrates. (I hope you don’t suffer the same fate! Had you lived in the Soviet Union between, say the early 1930’s to the early 1950’s, it probably would not have been prudent to express your beliefs so clearly–unless, of course you had suicidal tendencies, but then those days suggested either writing for the desk drawer, or being very subtle in your social criticisms, or being utterly outrageous, like the comic writers Ilf and Petrov, who even under the worse years of Stalin, were able to communicate their disdain, but under the cover of a rather full-blown comic satire). In any event, I think your analyses are correct. Rather than trying to suppress your ideas, or trying to coop you (both of which I feel would be impossible), your ideas should be adopted and incorporated into Cuba’s flavor of socialism as it evolves into a mixed system.

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