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?

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • bjmack, it’s pretty simple. Marxian state-monopoly is an incorrect principle for socialist economy. All Cuba needs is for socialistically-conditioned private property rights to be restored; and for ownership of the means of production to pass directly to the cooperative corporate workers and independent, land-owning farming families.

    The socialist state could still do the macro-planning; and obtain its necessary revenues by one-third ownership of enterprise via “preferred” stocks.

    The socialist state simply does not need to own and manage everything productive in sight.

    As long as the PCC were running things rationally and democratically, that party would retain leadership of the state.

  • The word democracy did not appear in your post.
    Not even once.
    I’m not at all interested in YOUR idea of what should be if it does not include direct democracy.
    IMO you’d be happier under totalitarian free enterprise or the totalitarian Cuban state capitalism.
    Your freedoms seem to be centered around the ability to amass vast sums of money rather than freedom from want which in a world with a 40% poverty rate is far more important and democratic rationale for a society.
    You don’t really want majority rule do you ?.

  • And where will you be when both Raul and Fidel are dead and gone and the Cuban people vote to essentially retain the systems they have ?

  • The reason for the universal poverty in Cuba is the 54-year USG embargo .
    Were the fault to lie with the Cuban systems, the USG would only have had to let it run its course and stand back and let it fail.
    But the truth is that ALL USG administrations since Eisenhower have enforced and strengthened the embargo because it has achieved the first of its two aims: island-wide poverty while obviously failing to achieve the second part which was a counter-revolution .
    Your post necessarily refused to acknowledge this fact and if just for that reason alone, is just inaccurate and empty rhetoric.

  • You cannot both claim to support democracy and capitalism.
    Capitalism is totalitarian by nature.
    Prove it isn’t .
    All socialists support democracy around which socialism, by definition, must be based.
    You have a high-school level understanding of these things.
    You are wading into intellectual waters way over your head.
    As usual.

  • An article about the “left” written by someone with a clear right bias, cannot be taken seriously.
    While many points are valid , many others are so obviously in error (but not to the author) that it renders the piece worthless.

  • Love….a bit much I would say, seems more like falling in love with someone you really know little about, since info into Cuba has been so restricted, other than BS movies about life in US, how many so called movies have shown the REAL Miami, New York, LA, none my friend. How many news casts have shown the daily shootings in US. Sad but true fact that the average Cuban has never seen the real US, grant you the mid west is still somewhat sane, as for the rest its one madhouse of greed, bigger, better than the next. still standing, yes, but for how much longer, you and I cant run our affairs with a debt year after year, a yearly deficit occasionally, possibly, but not continuously. Don’t care how you cut it the end will come, sooner or later.

  • Thanks for the heads up

  • Assuming you are correct Jones, it’s still the number one country to do business with and that’s a fact. I have faith in it’s citizens especially; elon musk, zuckerberg of facebook fame- funny, a few communists have facebook accounts, the late great steve jobs, tommy edison of light bulb fame, del webb, who i was privileged to have worked for, he built massive retirement homes for the average wage earner, carl sagan, steve Spielberg and star wars film director and writer George Lucas, B. Obama, black and us president, martin luther king,moses patterson, dorothy day, union presidents who stood on the front lines to get a fair shake for their members. The list is quite a few so we might have problems and our past, like perhaps all of us, but we’re still standing and last i looked Cuba loves us!

  • Grady, I’m not a fan of socialism but you sure have an optimistic view of Cuba. Have you been there? Are you Cuban or part Cuban? The world I see out of Cuba is a broken country that needs fixing. Now keep in mind things move fast so who knows where Cuba will be in two years.

  • Kennedy, let me get this out fast, the US has a tainted past and you are somewhat correct, especially with regards to slavery. Slavery, in my opinion, is one of the worst offenses I can ever imagine happen to a race of people. The US still has major issues that need to be addressed and we have the right to not only express those but also give ways to improve as well. Let’s be realistic and look at the advances that have been made within a society that has given us computers, cell phones and a new window to have this dialogue. The average Cuban has no real capability to do this and freedom of expression is important to most of the world. I’ve stated many times I am adamantly opposed to the embargo and despise not being able to travel and spend my money freely in Cuba. I generally vote conservative but will not vote for any candidate who continues on that path. Glad to have you back as I thought you were dead.

  • IC, I agree with you regarding Havana Times. Circles Robinson has done an outstanding job giving many the opportunity to allow us to view opinions in and around Cuba. I feel it’s the best balanced of all the blogs and just a reminder to all- PLEASE READ THE EDITORS NOTE ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF THIS BLOG!!

  • The author attributes a uniform view on Cuba to the left as he understands it. I think he is wrong. See, for example, this statement.

  • Mr Castro knows exactly which side of his bread is buttered, he and his cohorts have managed to keep the Cuban people down for the best part of nearly 60 years. It is time for the Castro family to step aside and to let the Cuban people decide in which direction they wish to go. He was a man for his time, which has long since passed. Step down Mr Castro!

  • America has always stood by and ignored human rights violations. I could rattle off a whole list of past and present regimes where this is/has happened. There are regimes in the middle east which support ISIS financially and with arms, yet are also best buddies with the US and the UK. The reasons for the embargo are purely political and if Cuba agreed to allow the US free rein to buy up their assets, they’d be only too happy to welcome them on board. This fact always seems to hit a blind spot in your thinking.

  • bjmack: You’re correct, but only partially so. There have been many enormous successes, and Cuba and her leaders have changed the world for the better. Anyone who does not understand this is simply ignorant.
    Even so, the “system” overall has failed; but what exactly has failed?

    It is the state-monopoly concept of socialism that has failed and been thoroughly disproved. It ought to have not taken the PCC comrades a half-century and the miserable economic performance to see it–and be in danger of losing state power, as well.

    But, if the hypothesis of state-monopoly has been disproved, what is an alternative hypothesis for the further socialist experiment? In my view both the Cubans and the revolutionaries of the United States should reconsider authentic, workable socialism as a revolutionary cooperative republic. The manner in which Cuba ought to reconfigure is the same manner in which the United State ought to be transformed.

    Both Cuba and the US should become socialist cooperative republics.

  • The reason Cuba is able to “continue to support State monopoly” is that Engels and Marx established state monopoly as the ironclad core principle of their version of socialism in 1848, on the next-to-last page of the second chapter of the Communist Manifesto.

    Projecting this “formula” for socialist construction as an ironclad principal, rather than as a hypothesis for experimentation, locked the socialist intelligentsia into a deadening cult of personality; and it immediately split the peasantry and small bourgeoisie generally from the proletariat and its revolutionary party.

    As Raul said in a speech several years ago, they “read” the Marxist classics and accepted the idea that the state should own–i.e., monopolize–all the instruments of production.

    Raul and the PCC do not have to fall out of love with K. Marx; but he and they have to discard the incorrect idea that the state should own everything in sight.

    The state needs to reestablish private property rights and give legal ownership of most industry and commerce to the workers on the Mondragon cooperative corporation model. It is not the existence of private property rights that makes capitalism; what matters is who owns the private property under revolutionary government and a socialist National Plan.

    The state could then get its necessary revenues quarterly and automatically without taxes and tax collection bureaucracies, by owning about a third of these worker corporation’s preferred stock.

    This would also reestablish the strategic alliance of the small bourgeoisie and the proletariat.

  • If the only problem that the US had with Cuba was that we differed on economic systems, your argument to “give Cuba a chance to develop itself” would be valid. But, the Castros have spent 57 years violating the basic human rights of Cubans. To stand by and simply ignore this would not be consistent with who we are as Americans. Moreover, the Castros have actively sought to expand their totalitarianism. This too is unacceptable. You clearly disagree with capitalism. I am likewise opposed to socialism. The difference between us is that I support democracy, even for socialists. Socialists, historically, do not support democracy. Given your criticism of Havana Times, I suspect that you would, if you had the power, shut down Havana Times and it’s anti-CASTRO editorial side. Doesn’t sound very democratic to me.

  • If you or your Castrista ideals are so thin and shallow as to be unable to stand up to criticism then perhaps you should reconsider them. personally I find Havanatimes.org to be the most balanced Cuba news source out there. Circles, regardless of his political leanings, manages to publish stories that span the ideological spectrum. He even allows your diatribes to appear within it’s electronic pages. And the reason havanatimes.com does not concentrate on the “ill’s of American Capitalism” however is a very simple one….because this is not a website about the USA, it’s a website about Cuba. There are plenty of other forums you can troll to post your anti-american tirades.

    I’d like to point out a few other misleading statements you make for the benefit of readers who may not be familiar with the subject.

    – Capitalism, as you know it today, was not in practice back in 1776. The American colonies, as did most other countries, practiced a form of Capitalist Mercantilism. The Capitalism you are familiar with didn’t really emerge until the mid / late 19th century.

    – The ill’s you mention; “racism, slavery, genocide, unequal opportunities, plunder,oppression,exploitation,prostitution, illegal drug trade” are a result of the human condition. Certainly racism, prostitution, slavery, plunder….” have been around as long as society itself. Man’s inhumanity to man can not be laid at the doorstep of any one political system. So it’s more than a little disingenuous to try and blame that on Britain and the USA.

    – The real reason there was a revolution in Cuba was to remove Batista and restore the 1940 constitution. We know this because Fidel Castro said as much. The one who truly betrayed the revolution was Castro who set himself up as dictator for life.

    The Cuban economic model has failed, if it ever truly worked to begin with. The system was kept afloat through Soviet Subsidies and now Venezuelan oil. ….Ironic that Cuba now needs to turn to Capitalism to save itself eh? So as a Cuban who’s family suffered under the brutality of the Castro regime, you will forgive me if I take your metaphorical beam and break it over your metaphorical head.

  • Give me some examples of countries that are better off since the US has come and gone from them. The US comes into a country ONLY for their own gain, not for the people who live there. Kennedy Earle Clarke says it all. I don’t see the US as a friendly nation at all, only a self-serving nation. Had any other country bombed a hospital like the US did, killing doctors of different nations, sick and wounded people and children…..well the outcry would have been enormous, take note very little has been said about it, and even less done about it. The “most technically advanced country in the world” making this horrific mistake….???? The most colorful snakes are often the most poisonous. A country that charges import taxes to stop legal trade, then is taken to court over said taxes, loses the case and REFUSES to return unjustly charged taxes…. once again I repeat the US is only looking out for themselves, no one else.

  • How can I use a system which enslaved my African Brothers and Sisters, which discriminated against them which exploited them, which degraded them, which dehumanized them and liberate myself. No leader can use the capitalist system to liberate their people; If it is a black leader, black oppressors will emerge’ if it is a white leader, there will be white oppressors. The system is an exploitative system, the system is an unequal opportunity system, so, why should Cuba revert to that system? The reason why you are spewing propaganda on Cuba, is because Cuba is different. If the country was another capitalist enclave, Havana Times would not be condemning it: If a white man stands on my feet and makes me uncomfortable by squeezing my toes, I would push him off: If a black brother stands on my toes and cause me the same discomfort, I am going to push him off because, oppression is oppression, regardless of the source. Give Cuba a chance to develop itself!.

  • I would like to advise the readers of Havana Times that there is another Media Outlet named “Cuba Si”, which they can read to obtain a balanced diet of information to the anti Castro and Cuba propaganda that Havana Times vomit out. I find this article revolting. Why don’t you concentrate on the ills of American Capitalism which has been in existence since 1776? Cuba is an Independent and a Sovereign Country. The United Nations Charter has given it the right to pursue it own economic development. Why not leave it alone to do so? There was a time in the history of mankind when the King was the sole ruler of the land before what they now refer to Democracy was introduced. It is said that Democracy was first introduced in Greece, but the slaves had no participation in the system. Cuba has the right to forge its own model. Tell me truthfully, “Is the American and British capitalist systems not replete with racism, slavery, genocide, unequal opportunities, plunder,oppression,exploitation,prostitution, illegal drug trade, lynchings, you name it? Cuba does not need to use this system which is a scourge to mankind because, to use it would be a great disappointment and a total let down to those who gave their lives to the Triumph of the 1959 Revolution and to the rest of the oppressed peoples of the world who are seeking other ways of developing their countries. The reason why there was a Revolution was to bring about change from the same capitalist system under which they lived. Give Cuba a chance to develop its own economic system. Why don’t you criticize and condemn America and Britain for not improving their economic systems so that the whole population could reap the prosperity of the land? Thank God that there is another publication (Cuba Si) to your rancid, biased form of propaganda against Cuba. Let the capitalists take the beam out of their own eyes before they could attempt to take the speck of dust from Cuba’s eyes!

  • “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.” The core problem has been that socialism is a redistribution model. It needs a funding mechanism. Mixed economies provide both the production efficiency of a free market incentive based economy and the humanism sought by socialist dreamers. Cuba is moving in the right direction towards having a market. Individual freedom will emerge latter although it is long way off given the authoritarian legacy.

  • The system is broke and the experiment with marxism/communism has failed! One need only look at Venezuela, where the world’s largest oil happens to be and now Nicaragua, to simply understand this. No need for a Ph.d, just look around and make a verdict, you can’t have a society that has no incentive for it’s working class. Looking forward to a days work in Cuba rarely happens. Perhaps the new entrepreneurs have found a solution but that’s not marxism. It is truly a disgrace how the so called leaders of Cuba continue to exist and only do so because of the evil empires who have an economic system that generates enough money to travel and spend in Cuba. Also, the millions or perhaps billions that’s transferred to Cuba by expat’s who have worked 80 or more hours a week so as to have the money to do so. I am adamantly opposed to the embargo and any restrictions placed on US citizens to travel and do business with Cuba. That excuse has been around too long for those
    who run the show in Cuba and it’s time to end the BS!

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