Changes in Cuba: Violence, Reforms or?

By Repatriado

Photo: Adriana Lema

HAVANA TIMES — If we draw comparisons between the political climate in the late 19th century, Cuba at the end of Batista’s dictatorship, and our current situation, we will find lots of similarities.

During all three of these times, the island suffered a tyrannical power which restricted its political and economic freedoms, as it was more interested in upholding its status quo than encouraging progress.

During all three of these times, there were also strong indications that this power was in its last moments and standing dangerously on the brink of its collapse, already established by using repressive force and absolute social control, without anything new to offer other than its own extinction.

During all three of these times, the power was left out of step with the times by humankind’s own evolution, thereby proving its absolutism and stark blindness.

Some men in the 19th century opted for leading an armed struggle against the opressor and they imposed this on the rest of the country. This resulted in horrific devastation and the even more horrific loss of hundreds of thousands lives, hundreds of thousands, where they were from was irrelevant. Wouldn’t it have been better to have waited for things to have evolved better, with the obvious decline of the Spanish empire, building political pressure internally and pressure from the US’ emerging Imperialism? I don’t know and we’ll never know now.

Batista (l) with Richard Nixon in 1954.

In the ‘50s, other people chose the same path against Batista and they imposed their armed struggle on the rest of the population which rekindled the dictatorship’s repressive violence and caused thousands of deaths in a civil war where atrocious acts were committed by both sides. Wouldn’t it have been better to have waited and supported the reformist changes that were already in the works in national politics and to apply pressure without violence, allowing the 1958 elections to take place for example? I don’t know and we’ll never know now.

Today, many accuse the Cuban people of having the government they deserve because we aren’t taking to the streets to overthrow them in a “revolutionary” manner. People who think like this don’t understand the extent of mental control that the government holds nor the subtleties and branches of this crafty but ironclad oppression that has infiltrated the very souls of the Cuban people. They don’t understand the civic acephalism, ineffectiveness and extreme de-politicization of the population.

Something people who think like this really don’t understand is that fact that violence isn’t a tempting option, very few governments born from violence have been beneficial once in power, while these always take many lives and cause a great deal of pain.

State-led reforms aren’t an option neither as this reformism isn’t a step forward but an adjustment on a horizontal level, the kind that seeks to improve urban transport or speed up agricultural distributions. Focussing on these small battles is a way of tacitly accepting the current State. A dictatorship with better supplied agro-markets and thousands of buses continues to be a dictatorship.

Fidel Castro

Recently, we found out that the Cuban agricultural sector produces 455 million CUC (= to the USD) per year and it loses 165 million of this in overcomplicated bureaucratic procedures. Horizontal reforms would aspire to reduce losses due to bureaucracy but even so, national agriculture would still only continue to produce 455 million CUC which divided by 10 million Cuban people would give us 45.5 CUC per year of crops to each Cuban, which would be 3.80 CUC per Cuban per month. With 3.80 CUC being the equivalent of 91 regular pesos (CUP) and spread out evenly between all of us, we would live off one pound of pork steak, 3 bunches of radishes and half a watermelon per month; that’s what the dictatorship is offering us after nearly 60 years of being in power and assuming that they manage to perfect their bureaucratic system.

I am interested in reforms which ask for constitutional change that facilitates and opens up a debate about the system; I am interested in reforms that ask for electoral changes based on getting rid of the anti-natural single-party state; I am interested in reforms that demand a free economy, and I am interested in reforms that are more interested in individual needs than national sovereignty, in families’ dignity rather than national dignity.

Let’s not fall into the trap of dressed-up reforms, the kind that want to change a lot by not changing anything. The debate in Cuba shouldn’t be about settling and finding ways within the current dictatorship, it should be about finding a true, free civic space where we can build our country, because we never forget, this is our country, ours.

  • Eden Wong

    It’s a nice fantasy, somehow imagining that all these wonderful reforms will magically fall into your lap, but you’re dreaming.

    Absolutely nothing will ever change while the Cuban population is content to do nothing except complain continuously over a domino game while drinking rum.

    • Carlyle MacDuff

      I think Eden that ‘Repatriado’ does endeavor to explain the difficulty when he writes:
      “People who think like this don’t understand the state of mental control that the government holds nor the subtleties and branches of this crafty but ironclad oppression that has infiltrated the very souls of the Cuban people.”
      Like the people of Eastern Europe, Cubans have no way of throwing off the communist yoke. The repressive system is well operated and in my opinion, the Cuban regime will like that in communist Russia (USSR) have to rot from within. You may recall my previously quoting my late father saying in 1952 that the west was “pursuing a holding action as eventually the communist .system will rot from within.” His was a particularly well qualified opinion and his forecast came to fruition, but note how long it took!
      You may well respond that the people of Russia having never known democracy rapidly returned to the autocracy of Putin.

      • Eden Wong

        “… Like the people of Eastern Europe, Cubans have no way of throwing off the communist yoke…”

        That’s my entire point.

        • Carlyle MacDuff

          Yes Eden, the Cuban regime controls the Union so repetition of the Gdansk ship-workers uprising is prevented. There are few if any weapons possessed by the general population, the CDR is in good health and the MININT goons circulate.
          In my view there are only two ways in which political change can occur in Cuba. The first is a power battle between Raul Castro’s family and the second is if like the USSR the regime rots from within.

  • Joseph Marti

    Although I admire the author’s courage in speaking outside of Regime lines, I must point out that for the vast majority “during all these times,” Cuba has been led by dictators and/or incompetent, corrupt hacks. It pains me to use the phrase. but here goes – Banana Republic.

    • Carlyle MacDuff

      In October and the first half of November, we could not even obtain bananas Joseph. So maybe Cuba is only an 80% Banana Republic.

  • Moses Patterson

    I am reminded of the quote from civil rights icon Fannie Lou Hamer, who said “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired”. When Cubans have finally had enough of the Castros and their failed dictatorship, they will replace them.

    • Joseph Marti

      Love that quote.
      Via (another) revolution? I don’t see how it could be peaceful.

    • Eden Wong

      “… When Cubans have finally had enough of the Castros and their failed dictatorship, they will replace them…”

      If only that would ever happen.

      Now, back to the domino game and who buys the next bottle of rum…

  • Carlyle MacDuff

    It’s a nice photograph of the Plaza in Trinidad. Until the building on the left was made into an archeological museum, the lady who hand makes hats used to sit there. she now operates from her home with her musical husband. I wear one of her hats when not in Cuba and it is much admired. I used a different picture of the Plaza as the frontispiece of ‘Cuba Lifting the Veil’, It’s also a good picture of Fidel Castro clutching the national flag of Cuba. Note that the national flag is the property of the people of Cuba, not the PCC.