Cuban Documentary “Between Changes”

May 19, 2017 | Print Print |

By Dmitri Prieto

HAVANA TIMES — “Entre cambios” (Between changes) is a documentary dedicated to a specific generation of Cubans: the one who had to live through the fragile limbo when the Soviet Union collapsed. We concentrated particularly on speaking to those who experienced these changes there, in the places where the events took place.

One of the most recurring testimonies that this documentary provides – and the research we did to carry it out – is that of people who went to COMECON (The Council for Mutual Economic Assistance) countries under the sugarcoated notion that there they had a more advanced version of socialism that the Cuban version, and instead it turned out that they would be the witnesses of its downfall.

This is where the irony lies: surely, a lot of things used to be better off there than they were in Cuba, even under the centralized State system that the Kremlin imposed on the majority of the territories under its control, but everything “went downhill” between 1988 and 1991.

In the documentary, we can hear accounts from those who were in countries such as Hungary, and in several Republics of what used to be the USSR. We tried our best for these opinions to be diverse and critical.

There wasn’t always enough space for all of the material we had collected for the documentary – and we have faith that the extensive research we did will have the opportunity to be covered in other media platforms, or maybe there will even be sequels to this documentary.

However, we tried to maintain a respectful, friendly and proactive dialogue that prevails throughout the film, in order to anchor the diversity of social coexistence today.

Cuba’s “post-Soviet” generation – the one which lived in situ with the geopolitical collapse that led to the Special Period disaster here, to the capitalist reforms in Europe and the “excessive ‘90s” in Russia and its surroundings, with quite a few localized conflicts where a lot of today’s jihadist terrorism was born and awful government administrations who justified well-established authoritarian run countries today – is a very active generation nowadays.

Both inside and outside of our archipelago, it has given rise to artists, intellectuals, engineers, bloggers, doctors, scientists and social activists from all kinds of political movements.

It’s no coincidence that it was a generation that experienced a great shock (whether in Eurasia, or here in Cuba, where we also experienced a great time of change – but in a different way). We believe that their experiences – which haven’t been published widely in explicit terms, which are what we have tried to collect – can contribute to preventing a lot of the negativity that is taking place in Cuba today.

We have to learn our lessons from history, something which clearly wasn’t done in the post-1959 period, when existing critique of the then “USSR” was dismissed in Cuba.

This documentary is the result of a co-production between the independent production company “CreActivo” and the research team “Post Soviet Cuba” which is a member of one of the teams from the Latin American Council of Social Sciences (CLASCO).

Entrevistados: 1. Mery Lozano, Lic en Bioquímica (Colombia) 2. Nana Sartania, Lic en Bioquímica (República de Georgia) 3. Alberto Lescay, MsC Artista de la plástica, escultor (Cuba) 4. Alina Peraza, Lic. en Bioquímica (Cuba) 5. Rolando Almirante, Documentalista (Cuba) 6. Yociel Marrero, Ign Ambiental y Emprendedor (Cuba) 7. Dmitri Prieto Samsónov, MsC Antropólogo y activista (Cuba- Rusia) 8. Anice Rubio, Lic en filología y Literatura Rusa (Cuba) 9. Sergio Acosta, Periodista (Cuba).

What's your opinion?

  • bjmack

    Pretty intense stuff. Thanks for the link. I’m just an outsider but gained some very important data.

  • N.J. Marti

    The Soviet Union failure is a lesson not to be ignored of the internal structural problems with communism. Capitalism is a brutal system until you experience communism.

  • George

    As Tony Benn used to say: “every generation has to fight the same battles over and over again”. This documentary is an important start to an analysis that is desperately needed to be made of how to move forward without losing the gains of the past. Those who see things in simple “failure or success” terms do not know the relationship between structure and life. All structures fail, in that all structures are eventually superseded. It is as simple as adding one. However, it famously took Bertrand Russell and Alfred Whitehead some three hundred pages to prove one plus one equals two. Sometimes adding one is not so simple as it seems, and many intermediate structures have to be explored whose relationship to progress and regression is seemingly unordered. This is the nature of life. It is ultimately a choice. The Soviet Union was destroyed both from within and from without, both by the leadership and the masses. To say it was a failure, is to deny the reality. My cousin, like so many from developing countries, studied in the Soviet Union for free, and that experience contributed greatly to providing her with the prosperous life she now leads. A book that I haven’t read but would like to is “From Solidarity to Sellout: The Restoration of Capitalism in Poland” by two prominent intellectuals in the Solidarity movement:Tadeusz Kowalik and Eliza Lewandowska. It documents the history of Solidarity and the dynamics within it from the perspective of those who actually took part, detailing how their dreams of authentic socialism failed to materialize and analysing what went wrong. In tandem with this documentary I believe it would be a book worth reading. Thank you.

    • Carlyle MacDufff

      For those who have read George’s contribution and wonder who “Tony Benn” was, let me shed some light. Anthony Wedgewood-Benn was the Third Viscount Stansted and socialist of very left persuasion who in order to sit in the British House of Commons, renounced his title to become Anthony Wedgewood-Benn. He then shortened his name to Tony Wedgewood Benn and then to Tony Benn – pursuing a sort of inverse snobbery.
      His mother had a small estate on the bank of a river in Essex. In England the public have a right to walk along the banks of rivers, but “Tony Benn” fenced off access along the river bank for the proloteriat. His son is now an M.P. in the Labour Party of Jeremy Corbyn who is intent upon turning back the clock and for example nationalizing the railways of Britain.
      I was much amused George by you writing of “authentic socialism” and wonder if you can define it?

      • George

        Thank you Carlyle for your response. Tony Benn was much respected across the political spectrum for his principles. Perhaps he had the advantage of being born a Lord, and so the establishment continued to look after their own albeit with some amusement as to his ideological convictions. However the left and most ordinary people embraced him as a true democrat and someone who was on the side of the disenfranchised. Like Fidel he never lost the opportunity to recount history in his speeches, telling of all the victories of the left that have brought us to this juncture, the workers struggles for the right to form unions, the right for the vote, the formation of the Labour Party, the creation of the NHS, etc. He finally left parliament in his later years believing that real politics took place outside of it, perhaps a continuation of what you describe as inverse snobbery, though I myself see it as a desire to be closer to the people. With regards to defining “authentic socialism” I could say one that is supported by the people, but that would include the National Socialism of Nazi Germany, so I suppose one should add the indiscriminate principle of to each according to their needs and from each according to their capacity. The great problem with this principle is defining “needs”, and this is where the support of the people is required. If they feel that their needs are being met, or that the structure is moving towards meeting their needs then that is enough. One other factor is imperialism, Britain, even after Thatcher, maintains many of the socialist structures that were put into place after intense struggle by the left, however it finances these through imperialism. I should add that the existence of the Soviet Union did much to aid the left in Britain’s victories, if only by providing the counter balance that scared the establishment into conceding ground, lest they lose everything. Thank you.

        • Carlyle MacDuff

          But George as I illustrated with my comment about the identity confused “Tony Benn” fencing off the river bank at his mother’s residence, as you put it: (his) “desire to be closer to the people” was the perception he sought whilst protecting his own position from the common people seeking to fulfill their right to walk footpaths.
          The difficulty with your definition of “authentic socialism” in suggesting that it is a reflection of the support of the people, is that it all depends which people and whether as in Cuba, they have been subjected to prolonged and persistant indoctrination.
          I speak about the process of indoctrination in Cuba with a reasonably deep knowledge of the ways and means by which it is practiced – from those giant hoardings pursuing the cult of the personality, to the schoolbooks of each school level. It is not for naught that the Communist Party of Cuba actually has a Department of Propaganda.
          You make reference to the deceased Soviet Union which was based upon the concept of a collective mind. In 1956, the Polish poet Adam Wazyk wrote of such claims in his own country, that “a group of stupid or narrow-minded people do not become more brilliant by pooling qualities.”
          Richard Wright a black American writer who joined the Communist Party of the USA subsequently wrote:

          ” An hour’s listening disclosed the fanatical intolerance of minds sealed against new ideas, new facts, new feelings, new attitudes, new hints at ways to live. They denounced books they had never read, people they had never known, ideas they could never understand, and doctrines they could not pronounce. Communism, instead of making them leap forward with fire in their hearts..had frozen them at an even lower level of ignorance than had been theirs before they met Communism.”

          I do not think that there is an “authentic socialism” and certainly those who claim to have pursued it have demonstrated a very wide spectrum of interpretations.
          In reference to the UK and its supposed socialist Labour Party, we have witnessed an amazing confusion of viewpoints, from M.P’s who were also members of the Communist Party, to those like Corbyn, to those like Ernest Bevin – who was a virulent opponent of Communism – to Tony Blair.
          I have friends who are democratic socialists and I have pointed out in these columns that national health services commenced in the UK with Aneurin Bevan being the Minister – credit where credit is due – but still am unable to discover “authentic socialism”.

  • editorht

    It will be passed around from pen drive to pen drive. Cubans can’t watch videos on line.

    • Ken Hiebert

      I am sorry to hear that this won’t be shown on Cuban TV, but I am intrigued to hear that this will be passed from hand to hand, prompting a serious discussion about the future of Cuba.
      Will the people who pass it along have reason to fear punishment from the government?

      • Carlyle MacDuff

        Ken, i have a step-daughter who fairly recently graduated from the University of Havana. She and her fellow students had cell-phones and circulated much information. Also a fairly common practice amongst students at that level is the use of “lema”, those are expressions with double entendre – for example:
        “To be a good Communist one needs to think like Che.”
        Although that is not in praise, but cannot be used by the regime to restrict the activities of those using it and similar phrases.
        There is much discussion by students about the need for change. Cuban youth is no different from the youth of our own countries over many years. Many are radical seeking change in their society. They look with critical eyes upon the current form of dictatorship one party government and see the need for change.

        • Ken Hiebert

          I am pleased to hear that, “There is much discussion by students about the need for change.”
          In some countries there has been such repression that people are afraid to share their thoughts even with those closest to them.

  • Ronin

    Great documentary. It just goes to prove that no matter what system of government or country, you cannot eliminate the evil that lurks within the hearts of man. Racism and corruption will always exist on this earth despite all good intentions.