By Osmel Ramirez Alvarez
HAVANA TIMES — We always manage to find in the Cuban media a news article or report which is an allegory for the Cuba-US conflict; or a reminder of the acts of sabotage and terrorism committed by mercenaries paid by the CIA; or adversity brought on by the trade embargo. Even though these are real, historic and current events and facts, they focus exclusively on keeping an anti-imperialist, anti-US and anti-capitalist sentiment alive.
These three concepts have been combined into one “box” and we must direct as much hate as possible towards it and fight against it. As a supplement, they show us horrifying videos of starving and dying African children, with flies circling their faces (as if to say: without the Revolution look what’s waiting for you) and, in the background, we have Che’s discourse which urges us “to not give even a tiny bit away to imperialism.”
While the other side of the coin, the system is praised and any shortcomings are presented like unconscious people are to blame, not the radical socialist political model that’s been established. Anything good that has happened in this country has been thanks to the initiative our great historic leader once took and now, only his brother, who has many merits to his name and is of the same heroic breed, can protect us from the enemy. Another three concepts have been grouped together in a mistaken and opportunistic way: Homeland, socialism and revolution. This has become the other “box” which we must sacrifice ourselves for, defend and surrender ourselves unconditionally towards it.
This is our national panorama, where the people heavily criticize the Cuban system and I, without exaggerating nor taking away merit nor hiding truths, do the same thing. According to the Cuban government there are only two groups: those who support and praise the system unconditionally; and those who criticize it and fight against it, however they can. The latter includes a different kind of socialist, like the one I am.
If you try and defend a different idea and want to expose it to or run it past the people, it’s not only difficult to do this because of the media monopoly we have and the iron hand that scares the public into practicing caution in the face of an alternative line of thought; but also government authorities demonize you, subtly or openly, portraying it as a kind of sin or “crime against the homeland”.
The only “respectable” Cubans who think about Cuba and its future were apparently born in the “Cuban Cradle”, a small impoverished rural community called Biran [birthplace of the Castros] which is very near to where I live.
For some very strange reason, I’m someone who has a strong civic sense of duty innate to my being. Like the rest of my contemporaries, I was indoctrinated to not be interested in “public affairs”, to support the hero-party leaders unconditionally. And I can see how this nullifying strategy has worked quite well on those around me, but not on me. I care about my country, I care when I notice that our political system isn’t right, I care about everything that seems unfair to me or that can be improved.
It’s horrible to have a sense of civic duty in Cuba because, quite simply, you don’t fit in and you’re left hanging outside the system. You appear on the blacklist and if you don’t have your ideas set out straight, you become a reactionary, an extremist and even a person full of hate. Inevitably, it’s what happens to the majority of Cubans who disagree with the Revolution. In my opinion, it’s the worst thing they can do to a human being and to a whole country of people; I believe it’s one of the Cuban system’s greatest crimes: to invoke hate and extremism amongst fellow Cubans. Luckily, I’ve been able to avoid these evil feelings.
It’s not about a fistful of bitter capitalists who had their riches taken away by the Revolution; nor is it about a small group of so-called “sell-outs” who join the imperial enemy out of opportunism. This rhetoric doesn’t fit in with Cuban reality. You have to be stupid to believe that. There are millions of Cubans inside and outside of Cuba who relentlessly criticize the Revolution, the political system it imposes and its leaders. Are they all capitalists? Have they all been recruited and paid off by the CIA? Of course not! The vast majority are simply selfless workers who oppose it out of pure conviction, because of their hurt souls.
Is it the right thing to do for a socialist revolution to go against a significant majority of its working population? Surely it’s not only capitalists who oppose orthodox socialism? Does the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) actually think it’s the vanguard of Cuban workers who live abroad? – They need to check their doctrines because according to even the most hardcore classical thinkers, communists don’t have borders, much less throw them up against their fellow Cubans, even if they live in exile.
It’s because of this kind of contradiction, (one of thousands), that I can’t fraternize with radical socialism. I believe in real social justice; I believe in the just socialist values of equality; and I believe in a true representative and participative democracy. I don’t believe in a working class dictatorship (which has never been achieved here); nor do I believe in the one-party socialist dictatorship (which has disguised itself as a working-class dictatorship). In short, I don’t believe “the end justifies the means.”
It’s because of my civic duty that I disagreed with the official political model and wrote down my thoughts and handed it to the PCC in my province, to the Party official who sees to the population. It was my duty to do so and even though I’m not an idiot to believe that this might actually do something, I’ve fulfilled my duty. When a commission paid me a visit from the province’s PCC, made up of an ideologist, the party’s political school director and a Doctor in Philosophy, a professor at Holguin University, I quickly caught onto their strategy. They wanted to convince me to focus on doing something else and to leave public affairs well alone.
They tried to intimidate me intellectually with the Doctor’s dissertation on super abstract topics within modern philosophy. I listened to them and I told them that it was true, I didn’t have the faintest clue about what they were talking to me about and I asked them a simple question: Will that help resolve the problems Cuba’s socialism currently has, which are “to fill the democratic void; to seek out a way for working people to have power without a dictatorship; and to manage to meet the needs of our economy without the fear of going back to a capitalist dictatorship?
Their answer was no. So I told them that I concentrate on what our country urgently needs, not an abstract global theory, which is what the professor seemed to be dealing with.
Once they realized that I had my ideas clear about me, they told me quite frankly without beating around the bush, “that at the moment the government isn’t interested in revisionist ideas, because they intend to “try out” orthodox ideas once again in order to be successful; that maybe in 10 years or so my ideas would be most welcome, but not now.”
Of course I’m not going to wait 10 years so that a small group of Cuban citizens, who are just as Cuban as I am, tell me when I can defend what I believe in. If I were capable of doing that, then I would be skilled enough to stand alongside the orthodox system and live happily.
Cubans and foreigners who read and respect my criticisms of the system do so because I stick to our reality, without giving it unworthy praise. I don’t hate my ideological adversaries: whether they are capitalist or radical socialist fundamentalists. I respect them and I fight for them too, because they too have the right to have their own space in a new Cuba. I’m just another kind of socialist, who disagrees out of civic duty; and I only want to help, in my own humble way, to build a better Cuba which we all need.