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 24, 2015 at 2:40 pm

    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.

  • November 24, 2015 at 12:23 pm

    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 ?.

  • November 24, 2015 at 12:17 pm

    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 ?

  • November 24, 2015 at 12:15 pm

    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.

  • November 24, 2015 at 12:07 pm

    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.

  • November 24, 2015 at 12:01 pm

    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.

  • November 24, 2015 at 10:53 am

    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.

  • November 24, 2015 at 7:22 am

    Thanks for the heads up

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