Why Has The Left Become a Difficult Problem For Cuba?

Yasser Farres Delgado

Foto: Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES — A little over six years ago – six months after I left Cuba and had unlimited access to the Internet, incidentally – I read an article by Portuguese sociologist Boaventura de Sousa Santos that I would never have come across in an official Cuban publication. Titled Why Has Cuba Become a Difficult Problem for the Left, the text was published in both Spanish and English-language journals. To develop his thesis, Sousa Santos first defined what he understood by “the left” and by “difficult problem”:

“By “the left” I mean a set of transformative theories and practices that, in the course of the past 150 years, has resisted the expansion of capitalism and the economic, social, political, and cultural relations it has generated. The basis for this resistance has been a belief in the possibility of a postcapitalist future and an alternative society, generally called “socialism”: a fairer society, intent on satisfying people’s real needs, and a freer society, focused on creating the conditions for the effective exercise of freedom. I submit that, for the left just described, whose theory and practice has evolved immensely in the past 50 years, Cuba has become a difficult problem. (From the point of view of the left that has eliminated socialism or postcapitalism from its framework, of course, Cuba is not a problem but a hopeless case. I am not concerned here with this version of the left.)

“By “difficult problem” I mean the problem that poses itself as an alternative to two polar positions: that Cuba is a solution without problems and that Cuba is a problem without solutions. To declare Cuba a difficult problem for the left involves accepting three ideas: (1) under the current internal conditions, Cuba is no longer a viable solution for the left; (2) the problems Cuba faces, while not insurmountable, are very difficult to solve; and (3) if these problems are solved within a socialist framework, Cuba may once again become an agent for the renovation of the left. In this case, Cuba will be a different Cuba, bringing about a different kind of socialism from the one that failed in the twentieth century and thereby contributing to the urgent renovation of the left. Without such renovation, the left will never make it through the twenty-first century.” (Latin American Perspectives, May 2009, vol. 36 no. 3 43-53)

Saliendo del Ministerio de Comercio Exterior. Foto: Juan Suarez
Leaving the Ministry of Foreign Commerce.  Foto: Juan Suarez


What we have witnessed fifty-six years after the revolution is that, in effect, Cuba has definitively ceased to be a viable solution for the left (so much so, in fact, that all measures aimed to “update” Cuba’s economic model have a markedly neoliberal slant and continue to support State monopoly). Far from overcoming problems, Cuba faces increasingly complicated ones, and the country seems to steer further and further away from any renewal in terms of social policy: the environment is being damaged with greater and greater haste, any talk of existing racism is met with government censorship (recall the case of Roberto Zurbano) and pretty much the same holds for any demands for greater gender and sexual diversity and egalitarian marriage laws.

What we’ve seen is that “the left” continues to stand at the threshold of the 21st century, supporting governments mired in the kind of favoritist and authoritarian “socialism” that characterized the 20th century, in the style of the Cuban regime. Venezuela’s increasingly illegitimate and corrupt government is a case in point.

In view of this state of affairs, I ask myself: why has the left become a difficult problem for Cuba? When I say “left,” I am of course referring to the same “left” Boaventura speaks of, that collective that continues to support the “slow but sure” reform process impelled by Cuba’s current president (there are some exceptional individuals within this collective, but they constitute a small minority).

This left makes no respectable declarations about Cuba’s political prisoners. On the contrary, it reproduces the discourse of the dictatorship, which criminalizes these individuals, calling them “common criminals,” “mercenaries” and the like. Political prisoners are invisible for this left.

This left makes no respectable pronouncements about Cuba’s growing corruption. For instance, a few weeks ago, I posted news about Antonio Castro’s luxury yacht vacation in Turkey on a Facebook group page, and several people questioned my source (I had posted a news article published by the Miami Herald). Someone even suggested it wasn’t Fidel’s son but Tony Castro, a renowned yacht designer.

Nicolás Maduro y Raúl Castro en la Plaza de la Revolución de La Habana, 1ero de mayo 2015. Foto: Ricardo López Hevia / cubadebate.cu
Nicolas Maduro y Raul Castro in the Plaza of the Revolution, Havana on May 1, 2015. Photo: Ricardo López Hevia / cubadebate.cu

Neither should we expect to hear any respectable pronouncements about Cuba’s migratory crisis, not from this left. The broadcaster TeleSur, for instance, offered a brief coverage about the more than 1,500 Cubans trapped between Costa Rica and Nicaragua, but it makes no mention of the Cuban government’s responsibility. Of course, the channel defends Nicaragua’s posture.

What more does this left need to acknowledge the gravity of Cuba’s situation? Do more people need to die in prison? Do they need for someone to set themselves on fire at Revolution Square? (An action which, in my opinion, would likely not unleash a “Cuban Spring,” given the dictatorship’s total control over the media).

This left needs to set aside the hypocrisy of speaking about “international solidarity” when Cuba isn’t involved and “non-intervention” when it is involved! This left has to stop being a difficult problem for Cuba, in its efforts to change into a truly just society!

28 thoughts on “Why Has The Left Become a Difficult Problem For Cuba?

  • November 25, 2015 at 7:41 pm

    Correct, I do not view democracy as a dependency condition to reforming a failed economic model. The freedom from want requires a productive society. I do not have a problem with people that accumulate large sums of money. We need more such people not less. The government is in place to regulate fair play and collect taxes from the more wealthy. Little question that Cuba would be better off if it had millionaires and billionaires investing in the country. Everyone is better off when a society gets richer. Equality is for the birds. Reward the most productive and then tax fairly and spread the gains to society. So we are clear, I started life a poor Cuban. I am no longer poor. I pay lots of taxes and proud of it. I would never trade for $20 a month salary and an infantile vision of equality just so that others would not have more than I.

  • November 25, 2015 at 10:40 am

    It has been that long since the Cuban people have been allowed to think for themselves, only by making some mistakes will they ever make progress, let them learn as they are going forward. The world and the castro family must trust the cuban people to decide for themselves what their future is. Cuba for the truly free Cuban people. And yes i can just imagine all the political know alls who will just sneer at my simple sentiments, but at least give the people a chance of creating a better future. History is in the past and let it remain their, what the people of Cuba want and deserve is a better tomorrow.

  • November 24, 2015 at 3:16 pm

    The US relationship with Saudi Arabia is complicated and not above criticism. That said, the US record in defending Human rights around the globe, while not perfect, is far and away the best in the world. More American blood and treasure has been spent on foreign soil for the freedom of others than any other nation. Of course the embargo is political. That’s undeniable. Where we differ is that it is more than political. The human rights abuses in Cuba help to sustain the political argument that has justified the US embargo.

  • November 24, 2015 at 3:08 pm

    This is how this works. You make a claim, then you have to back up that claim. Socialist USSR, China, and now Cuba do not support democracy. If you claim that socialists DO support democracy, then what socialist country are you referring to? By the way, enough with what level of understanding that I have. You opine profusely over all matters Cuban and by your own admission have never been to Cuba. Talk about wading in intellectual waters over your head. You are still in the boat.

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