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Yenisel Rodriguez Perez: I have lived in Cuba my entire life, except for several months in 2013 when I was in Miami with my father. Despite the 90 miles that separate Havana and Miami, I find profound reasons in both for political and community activism. My encounter with socio-cultural anthropology eight years ago prepared me for a commitment of love for cultural diversity.

The Promiscuous Ideology of the Cuban Government

May 22, 2014 | Print Print |

Yenisel Rodriguez Perez

Merchandise. Photo: Juan Suárez

HAVAN TIMES — Here’s yet another example of the absurd demagogy that characterizes Cuba’s current government: the official eighth grade Contemporary History textbook still contains the messianic phrase that crowned the introduction of its 1990 edition.

It is a quote by Lenin, which reads: “I am no prophet, but there is one thing that can be said with certainty: the old system [capitalism] is condemned to extinction.” Things like these are to be expected, I suppose, from a country that silences public opinion and prohibits freedom of the press.

The Cuban regime establishes its geopolitical alliances in such adventurous ways that it leaves behind a whole constellation of ideological inconsistencies in its wake, similar to the contradictions experienced by a child who sees a frequent change in step-fathers.

The government changes its political clothing from one day to next but does not feel obliged to rethink the decor of its ideological apparatus. Its power allows it to co-exist with dozens of demagogical Frankensteins. The regime contents itself with changing the drapes and leaving the rest in a dumpsite of hollow and decadent doctrines.

That is why, in 2014, Cuban teenagers still carry a textbook reeking of Cold War politics in their backpacks.

Today, when the Cuban government has approved a foreign investment law, turning to transnational capital in order to save Cuban socialism from economic collapse, Lenin’s phrase resurfaces tinted with morbid sarcasm. The Soviet leader was right to say, in the wise tone he used, that he was no prophet.

True, the capitalist system is sinking. The problem is that we (the champions of Leninist, Stalinist and 21st century socialism) are going down with it, thanks to a genetic affinity that has not allowed for many libertarian mutations.

It is important to stress that, even though the second edition of Cuba’s Contemporary History textbook was printed in 2005 and was reedited four years before, the “updating” did not incorporate any reference to the Stalinist genocide, an issue Cubans are aware of thanks to the informal distribution of TV documentaries aired by the History Channel (which has made dozens of documentaries on the subject).

Here’s yet another reason for Cuban students to disrespect their teachers even more: seeing that these conceal or disapprove of any reference to a past that has been turned into a kind of exotic legend in Cuba’s audiovisual imaginary.

This is akin to getting a bad grade for making a direct reference to the atrocities that take place in The Lord of the Rings.


What's your opinion?

  • Griffin

    A brilliant article. Well done.

    Your phrase, “dozens of demagogical Frankensteins” reminds me of a passage from Carlos Eire’s memoirs of life as a child in Havana in the early 1960’s. He described the process by which the Revolution was working like Stalinist Frankensteins, installing replicas of Fidel’s head onto the necks of every Cuban, fixed in place with the twin bolts of Fear and Propaganda.

    • Moses Patterson

      There is a widely-dispersed propaganda poster in Cuba that shows a single side-view photo Fidel on the left side of the poster. The words under his photo read “The face of the Revolution”. On the right side of the same poster are 24 smaller versions of the same Fidel headshot cascaded together in block form. Underneath this block of Fidel photos the caption reads “After Fidel”. The reference to “dozens of demogogical Frankensteins” is an excellent metaphor to the goals of the Castro oligarchy.

      • Griffin

        I recall seeing that one. What a creepy image, expressing perfectly the narcissism which lies at the root of Leftist ideology!

        The Personality Cults, the thinned-skinned reaction to any and all criticism, the fetish for uniforms and symbols, and above all, the rigid conviction that a perfect society can be created if only everybody does exactly what you say. Marxism is the perfect ideology for a narcissist.

        • John Goodrich

          Fidel, long ago banned all statues, official portraits of himself along with other manifestations of cult worship .
          He knew that as a revolutionary hero , he would be subject to such adulation and wanted to stop it from the beginning.
          He knew and knows that what was and is important is having the Cuban people understand what imperialism is, what capitalism is, what the alternatives are and all the other factual information that helps form a rational and humane
          society.
          His great many multi-hour speeches were long lessons in the reality of the world that the just becoming literate Cuban people needed in the absence of a population that could read well.
          Those lessons took very well and the Cuban people support their government in the face of the existential U.S. threat because they have this understanding of reality.
          Fidel is now out of the picture except for the rare appearance but his ideas and teachings remain very much a part of Cuban thinking and the society in general .
          Again, Fidel’s actual thinking on the matter and his anti-cult worship and his stepping down and completely out of government hardly mark him as a narcissist .

          • Moses Patterson

            John, there is a law in Cuba that says you can be arrested for ‘disrespecting’ Fidel and Raul. Can you imagine how Americans would respond if someone proposed a similar law for US leadership? This Cuban law is worse than narcissism. Like Sharia law for Muslims, where if you speak ill of Muhammad, you can be arrested, Fidel considers himself to be a god and should not be blasphemed.

          • John Goodrich

            During WWII in which the U.S. faced an existential threat , what were the laws as regards censorship on what could be said and not said against the government ?
            Cuba faces a bigger threat and its laws reflect that reality.
            Call off your immoral economic war on the Cuban people and THEN you,can say anything bad about the Cuban leadership and be taken seriously but not until .
            Your puerile demonization of Fidel and Raul is SO State Department .
            You have no intellectual shame.

          • Moses Patterson

            THERE WAS NEVER A LAW THAT SAID YOU COULDN’T SPEAK ILL OF THEN PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT! You make my point perfectly, In the midst of an ACTUAL (not existential or imagined) WORLD WAR, the US did not resort to trampling on our constitution. Sending people to jail for publicly disagreeing with Fidel and Raul makes them demons.

          • emagicmtman

            “the U.S. did not resort to trampling on our constitution. Sending people to jail for publicly disagreeing…” Hmm?! Exactly what did we do by interning all the Japanese Americans in concentration–oops!–“relocation” camps in the deserts?

          • Moses Patterson

            “…..for publicly disagreeing.” The regrettable policy that interned Japanese citizens reflects the imperfection of our society. But it was not aimed preventing the Japanese from “exercising their freedom of speech”. Although it took shamefully too long to be made formal, the US apologized for this wartime policy in 1990. How long will it take Cuba to apologize for the Castros?

          • Griffin

            There were indeed agents of Imperial Japan among the US and Canadian Japanese communities. From our perspective today, it looks like an excessive act to round up whole families and send them to interment camps, but at the time, there was little else to do. Spies & saboteurs were a real threat.

            You might want to compare that to the treatment of Canadian & British civilian nationals in Hong Kong when the Japanese invaded that territory. Twenty Canadian nurses were raped and murdered by the Japanese soldiers in the hospital ward where they had worked.

            And then there was the case of the Japanese-Canadian, nicknamed the Kamloops Kid, after the Canadian town he was born in, who enlisted in the Japanese Imperial Army. He worked as a guard at a POW camp which housed Canadian, British & American POWs. He used his natural Canadian accent to spy on the prisoners and took special delight in personally beating & torturing several of them. After the war, he was tried for war crimes by a British court, where his lawyers advanced the popular excuse of the time, “I was only following orders”. Later, after an appeal by sympathetic (read: gullible) Canadian leftists, the convicted war criminal was transferred to Canada where his Canadian leftist lawyers advanced the new argument that the accused was acting out in response the the racism he experienced as a child in Canada.

          • Griffin

            If you have evidence of some kind of censorship laws during WWII, please share them with us. FDR faced an often hostile media. No opposition politician was every jailed or shot for criticizing the government.

            As for a mentioning WWII, it is absurd to compare the actions of the Axis, with US hostility against Cuba. The Bay of Pigs was a stupid act of aggression by the US against Cuba, but it pales in comparison to the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor and the hundreds of other acts of war carried out by the armed forces of Japan, Germany & Italy against the USA.

            You have no sense of perspective or historical knowledge.

          • Griffin

            Norberto Fuentes was a close friend of Fidel for many years and for a long time a firm supporter of the Revolution. Eventually, he had a falling out with his hero and had to escape Cuba. He wrote a satirical book, “The Autobiography of Fidel Castro”, which is written in Fidel’s voice. It captures brilliantly the narcissism, hypochondria and machismo of the Cuban dictator. Highly recommended.

  • ronbobel777

    free enterprise in a system of social welfare is the scandanavian model cuba should be following. per capita incomes rising rapidly in the baltic countries and ukraine wants to follow them as should cuba. big mistake to nationalize all private enterprise in 1968. what did the government know about running a grocery store or other small businesses?

  • Heminwayonstage

    Strange, the USA blockades/embargoes Cuba with the aim to starve the people and foment a rebellion and you dare to criticize the Cuban government which wants its people to survive. As “Hemingway On Stage”, I visit Cuba often. It is a good country with good people who survive in spite of the terrorism wrought by America.

    • Moses Patterson

      Equally strange is how you dare to criticize a Cuban forced to live under tyranny while you have the fortune of visiting Cuba at your leisure and leaving just about when they run out of toilet paper. You might want to look up the word “terrorism”. It hardly fits US policy towards Cuba. What terrorists send $5 billion in remittances and more than 500,000 in tourists?

      • John Goodrich

        The people who send the money to Cuba to help the people survive the embargo are not officials in the GOUSA .
        You are attempting to credit the GOUSA for the largesse and compassion of ordinary citizens who , against the wishes of that GOUSA are sending remittances to a people being warred against by the GOUSA.
        This is much like saying those who have a valid criticism of the GOUSA “hate America” which is a stupid and transparent a smear attempt as one could contrive.
        Please learn to differentiate between the GOUSA and the people of the USA which are two entities with entirely different thinking on a great many subjects .
        You are probably unaware of it but the U.S. GOVERNMENT is trying to crush the Cuban revolution and has utilized, approved or financed terrorist methods in that attempt.
        Bombing wedding parties is an act of terrorism.
        The U.S. bombs wedding parties .
        You admit you are a supporter of Barack Obama and as a supporter , you are complicit in all the innocent people he has killed by direct personal order .
        You’re exactly like the good German citizen of Nazi Germany and your loyalty to the imperial USA killing machine is no different in terms of turning the blind eye to the atrocities of your beloved leader.

        • Moses Patterson

          Godwin’s Law is alive and well in your comment. You ask that I differentiate between the American people and what you sarcastically label “GOUSA”. Okay, done. It is curious that you fail to do the same when I comment about the Cuban people and the “Castros”.

          • John Goodrich

            The difference Moses is that the Cuban people are in agreement with their government IF ONLY because all Cubans are being attacked economically by the United States and all suffer.
            Fidel is revered by most Cubans.
            In the U.S. the also totalitarian government ( oligarchy) pursues policies that are in opposition to the will and opinions of the electorate according to every reliable poll on issues regarding universal healthcare, wealth distribution, foreign wars and a host of other domestic and foreign policies.
            Obama is disliked by a great many of those on both the left and right and his popularity rating is around 45% .
            As for Cold War thinking, I would urge all to go to ZNet and read Paul Street’s lengthy piece on U.S. foreign policy and the so-called Cold War.
            Teaser: It was not really about the danger of the “International Communist Conspiracy”
            I would challenge anyone to read the article through and find a single error of fact or even where Street’s opinions are in error.
            This should be mandatory reading for all those interested in the origins of U.S. foreign policy which is precisely the same now after the demise of the Soviet Union as it was 100 years ago .

          • Moses Patterson

            You have NO idea what Cuban people think. You have never been to Cuba, you don’t speak Spanish, you probably have never even had a conversation with a Cuban. Fidel Castro’s popularity in Cuba is waning dramatically. He remains iconic but he is not revered. His policies have destroyed Cuba and Cubans know it. Your pretense of speaking for Cubans is disgusting.

          • Griffin

            John wrote, “Fidel is revered by most Cubans.”

            You spelled “feared” wrong.

    • emagicmtman

      I enjoyed your performance at the Venezuelan Embassy a couple of years back, during the “5 Days for the Cuban Five” events. Not only was yours a convincing portrayal of Hemingway (on the level of Emlyn Williams’ Dickens and Hal Holbrook’s Mark Twain), but also very participatory, (with the audience all chugging down the infamous Hemingway cocktails)!

  • emagicmtman

    Instead of textbooks inspired by the tired old Marxist-Leninist tracts, they should be reading “Capital in the 21st Century,” by Thomas Piketty, or “The Unwinding,” by George Packer. (Or course it might be a tad unrealistic for most high schoolers to toting around in their backpacks such heavy, many-paged tomes, but if Cuba had readily available high speed internet, then at least the pre-university students could enjoy the perverse pleasures of viewing Linh Dinh’s blog, “State of the Nation,” including his “Pictures of the End of America,” which seems like a good update of Henry Miller’s “Air Conditioned Nightmare!”)

    • Griffin

      Ha! Piketty’s theories have been completely discredited. He started with a specific ideological bias in mind and then proceeded to construct an argument to support that thesis. The data he used was highly selective and manipulated to give the results he wanted. He ignored contrary data.

      A recent article in the Financial Times points out the arbitrary coefficients Piketty added to his equations without any explanation why they are there, except for the obvious inference that the equations wouldn’t “prove” his predetermined assertion otherwise. Then there were the several simple mathematical errors Piketty made. Still, the French economist does have his fans and the fraudulent nature of his work has not prevented him from making a great deal of money on a book about how it is wrong to make a great deal of money.

      On a more general note, you recommend to the Cuban authorities that they make available the work of foreign writers to their students. Not only is such an idea impractical, it runs counter to five decades of rigorous intellectual dogma established by the totalitarian Castro regime.

      The whole point to forcing students to read “tired old Marxist-Leninist tracts” is not to have them learn anything of value from them (because there isn’t), but as a means to enforce totalitarian control over the Cuban intelligentsia. The regime has the students read the mandated texts so that they don’t read anything else.

      • emagicmtman

        Don’t have time to waste on answering most of your retort; in today’s Huffington Post, there is a good answer to the “straw men” which Piketty’s detractors have constructed. Comparing his stats to a passle of the establishment’s kept economists, his research continues to be valid.
        Over on C-Span yesterday one of the establishment’s whore economists actually tried to make the case that for most folks it is now better to rent–and even continue in this situation for the rest of their lives–now that buying a home is out of reach for an ever-growing % of the population! Obviously that Yale whore has never been at the mercy of either the capriciousness, or greed, of a landlord. Then again, as long a capitalism exists, there will always be ideological whores who use their talents to give blow-jobs to–and for–their masters!

        • Griffin

          So your response is “whores & blow jobs”…

          Well thank you for your edifying insight.