What If Official Cuban Bloggers Defended Socialism?

Haroldo Dilla Alfonso

Havana's Saratoga Hotel.

HAVANA TIMES, June 1 — I prefer not to analyze the writings of official Cuban town criers that swarm the blogosphere because frankly I feel, as Marx once said, they lie beneath criticism.  As always happens to extremists of all walks, they’re inane to the point of boredom.  Plus there’s no way to criticize nonsense, and even less still when the fools demonstrate themselves as being proud of their condition.

But now it turns out that while surfing the internet I found an enervating blog called “La isla desconocida” (poor Saramago!) put out by a soldier the Cuban government blogosphere.  His name is Enrique Ubieta.

He is a tedious writer, someone whose poor Spanish strikes with arrhythmic insistence against all the keys of common sense.  I never read that site and only wound up there following another trail, almost by chance.  If I paused at his blog it was because I found something interesting, which had nothing to do with Ubieta.

The story is as follows: a few days ago the Cubaencuentro website published an interview in two parts (in Spanish) by Luis Manuel Garcia with Professor Ted Henken; a fine gift from both of them.  Henken is not only a diligent researcher — presently immersed in the exciting topic of the Cuban blogosphere — but is also an intellectual activist.  From his New York classroom he has promoted conferences and stimulating debates on Cuba that have included people holding diverse positions.

His blog, El Yuma, reflects this commendable inclination.  The statements by Henken in his interview evidence his academic interest in diversity as he leads us on a journey — unprecedented, at least for me — through the puzzling labyrinth of this cyber-world that is an increasingly inseparable part of our daily lives and of world public activity.

Ted Henken has been so successful that the Cuban government warned him not to visit the island again.  I salute him.  This probably explains the attack on Henken by Ubieta, as if looking for a trench from where to demonstrate his combativeness as an insignificant fawn.

An ordinary Cuban

The response of Ubieta is always the same.  After insulting Henken in various ways — calling him conniving, divisive, the sponsor of counter-revolutionaries blogs, a glorifier of gangs — he confesses to us that he himself lives the same lifestyle as an “ordinary Cuban.”

This saddens me because it indicates that despite Ubieta’s troubles, he hasn’t even been included on the list of those slanderers who receive their pocket money in hard currency.  It seems he has now run out of the money left over from his trips around Spain at the service of the Stalinist “Friends of Cuba” committees swearing that the now-deceased hunger striker Orlando Zapata was a common criminal with schizophrenic tendencies.

What was new was in a comment to his article from a young woman named Elaine (Diaz), who publishes her own blog, La Polémica Digital, which is unquestionably more intelligent than Ubieta’s – which doesn’t take a lot of effort.  I recommend you read the comment. Elaine lukewarmly defends Henken and then goes on to criticize a certainly problematic fact: that some embassies offer facilities and services for opposition bloggers to work.

It’s not a desirable situation, but in the end one enters inside the morbid situation generated in Cuba where there is a state that denies people’s access to the Internet, doesn’t allow an organized opposition and itself turns out being so weak and fragile that it has to maintain the permanent harassment of any group of dissidents to guarantee its own stability.

Non-official bloggers have to look for people who will allow them access to the Internet and/or they pay at cyber cafes in hotels for an hour of frustratingly slow service, or they look for access from institutions that provide them the service for free – which, according to Elaine/Ubieta, some of the embassies in Havana do.  If the opposition were legal this wouldn’t be a problem, or at least it wouldn’t be a problem different from the ties that Cuban embassies maintain with the left around the world.

Would the embassies allow pro-socialist bloggers?

According to Elaine, the key question is if those embassies (including the US Interests Office) would allow her computer time “for me and even others to write posts in support of socialism in Cuba” (an interesting question for which I don’t have an answer).

But it’s worth the trouble to try to respond to her through an exercise.  If Elaine would like to defend socialism, she would have to argue in her blog in favor of a genuine socialization of power, which is ultimately the essence of socialism.

She would have to plead for a system with different forms of ownership; where a vigorous associative economic sector existed, and where private and state-owned properties benefited from participatory forms of management (co-management or self-management) that make managerial activity transparent in the benefit of the common good and in a convivial relationship with the environment.

This would also mean an equitable social system that substantially rewards merit and where the government protects the rights of common people as a duty.  It would not distribute misery, but wealth instead.

It would be calling for a political system of pluralistic democracy, elections, a free press and full respect for the civil and political rights of all citizens.  This characterizes a democratic participative system where people are entitled not only to speak but to demand their being taken into account.

Finally, she would have to plead for an alternative system that, according to Marx, would have to be “… an association in which the free development of each individual person will be the condition of the free development of all.”

If Elaine wants to defend socialism for Cuba like this, she has no other option than to denounce the existing state of things on the island: a decadent economy that is crawling toward bankrupt basic social services, a parasitic political class within whose breast is now incubating the emerging bourgeoisie of future Cuban capitalism and an authoritarian political regime that deprives people of almost all of their political and civil rights.

She would have to object to Cubans not being able to travel freely or to return to their country as is done by citizens from any other place on the planet.  She would have to forcefully attack those who deprive the freedom of those who think differently, just as was done by a Polish/German communist [Rosa Luxemburg] with respect to the Bolsheviks before being murdered, precisely for being communist.

She should vigorously oppose herself to the thick-soled collectivism that dissolves individuality under a concept of “the people” that is then absorbed by a party — a sole one — which is taken over by an octogenarian and corrupt elite.  She must, at a minimum, ask herself why people leave Cuba and why the population on the island isn’t growing.

And if Elaine really does that — meaning if she is in fact championing a socialist system in Cuba — I believe she’ll have no other alternative than to knock on the door of the Dutch embassy so that they’ll allow her to use the Internet..


One thought on “What If Official Cuban Bloggers Defended Socialism?

  • Haroldo,

    First, I must offer you my thanx for your kind words about me and my project. Let’s hope I can live up to your words of solidarity and encouragement.

    I think your simultaneous dismissal of Ubieta and serious consideration of Elaine’s argument/experiment is commendable. It is exactly young, energetic, honest, and reflective Cubans like Elaine who will ask and answer the hard questions whose answers will determine Cuba’s future. I do not always agree with Elaine, but she argues well and fights fairly. As do many other young bloggers of her generation like Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo, Claudia Cadelo, Erasmo Calzaldilla, and Sandra Alvarez. They do not have a lot in common with one another politically, but generationally and tecnologically they really do speak a different language than Ubieta’s generation and that found in other official discourse.

    Finally, I will add that I recently received a very instructive e-mail from Miriam Celaya where she answers Elaine’s and your hypothetical question (about blogger access to foreign embassies) – at least for herself.

    If I can get her permission, I will publishe it at El Yuma, along with your fine article and Elaine’s own commentary.

    Cheers and may the debate and dialogue continue!


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