By Osmel Ramirez Alvarez
HAVANA TIMES — Much is said about socialism inside and outside of Cuba, about whether there is “Cuban socialism” or whether this is just the Caribbean version of the Soviet model. The latter continues to be wrongly named “real socialism”, a very damaging historic habit. This does a huge favor and gives honor to the radical Left’s tyranny, giving it a generous and incorrect meaning.
But, what is socialism? Did Marx, Lenin or Fidel invent it? Of course not, it preceded all of them as the ideal for social justice and equity. Marx didn’t even use the concept to differentiate between the many aspects of socialism during his time: he preferred the term “communism”.
Socialism is just that: social justice and equity. It shouldn’t be framed within a production model, be that a private, collectivized or nationalized model. It was only the ideas and experiments that were believed to be viable that negatively stigmatized it. It was the historic moments when utopia was the only relief to the masses’ redemptive longing, who were oppressed and humiliated by a capitalist class who had inherited the aristocracy’s revulsion of the deprived.
However, this isn’t the prevailing scenario anymore. Descendants of Europeans, to give you an expressive example, whose predecessors going back three or four generations used to crowd together in smoky factories for 14 hours or more, along with their wives and children who used to live in poverty-stricken shacks, are no longer these semi-slaves.
They are now citizens just like the industrial capitalist who employs them. They use Smartphones, they are constantly connecting up to the internet, they earn enough to live a dignified life, have they have basic culture, technical knowledge and even university studies, they work 8 hours or less a day and they aren’t humiliated by their bosses without there being legal consequences.
The landscape has changed and political doctrines continue more or less intact, frozen in time, like child’s clothing wanting to cover an adult’s body. This is the paradox that can be seen when a current debate about socialism is analyzed, on any media platform, especially on media platforms where we Cubans try to find an outlet for our civic impotence in the face of the tyrannical socialism that is imposed on us.
Roughly speaking or “taking a wild guess” like we say, we can see trends. Within Cuba, the majority of the population doesn’t despise the socialist ideal, more or less 75%. After they leave the island and losing even more heart about the system that exploited them in every way possible, they react by holding the name of the system in contempt. Then, this percentage is inverted and only about 25% continue to value the socialist idea independently of not sympathizing with the Cuban socialist model.
These figures aren’t exact, as they are the result of an informal survey, with too small a sample group and isolated to be significantly conclusive. Even when people weren’t told that they were being surveyed. That is a very important detail here in Cuba, because people aren’t sincere if they aren’t in an environment of discretion, even those who live abroad.
A hundred Cubans on the island, 20 of whom are self-employed, half of whom were under 35 years old and 38 of which were women, were surveyed. There were 22 residents abroad, with no distinction, just my luck of having had contact with them in these past two summer months, where there have been many family visits. It’s worth noting that 16 of these were under 35 years old and there were only three women within this group.
These figures don’t really help but to confirm what we already know: for whatever reason, our people, Cubans in and outside of Cuba, don’t mainly despise the socialist ideal. However, when asked: do you believe that the Cuban system, the socialism we have here in Cuba, is good? 100% of emigres and 97% of Cuban residents answered “NO”.
The Cuban socialist model, in Marxist-Leninist style, is USELESS, and there are more than enough signs of this. We have had almost six decades of economic failures and no real democracy. However, the socialist ideal of social justice and equity needs to be respected, as it is the principle wish of our people. And that’s why we neo-socialists, the “Democrat socialists” from the new Cuban political scene, exist to represent the rights of this majority group of our people. In order for the new Cuba to have what we are missing and to conserve what we don’t want to lose or we only want to fine-tune, not destroy.
Cuban politicians from the opposition sometimes dispute this reality. Their radius of operation is mainly between Cubans abroad and in Cuba, mainly dealing with people who have a similar way of thinking, which can be understood.
They are also very active on online media platforms where opinions from Cubans abroad also dominate, as Cubans living on the island hardly use the internet. This gives them an anti-socialist feeling which doesn’t really exist among the Cuban people if you take a closer look.
Change will come to Cuba at some point and it needs to be the kind of change that the Cuban people want and need. New political actors, who are hypothetically the agents of change, need to know the Cuban people’s wishes and respect them if they want to be sincere representatives of our people. They must never make the mistake again of allowing a small group of smart-asses to go against majority consensus, who take advantage of this “people in misfortune’s” passions and wishes, so as to impose their own particular vision.
We can understand the suspicions, hate and fear a lot of good Cubans have when they hear the simple word “socialism”. It was the shield that those who harassed and forced Cubans into exile used. However, the battle for change in Cuba shouldn’t be a battle of hate, rancor or revenge, but rather a battle of love, peace and harmony. This is exactly the respectful and constructive change that Cuba needs. We need to be ready, now when this time for change could be around the corner.