Vicente Morin Aguado
HAVANA TIMES — I still remember the question put to me when I applied to become a history teacher, right after finishing the twelfth grade: “Do you maintain any type of contact with relatives living abroad?”
You will have to forgive me if I haven’t reproduced the phrase exactly. In essence, however, that was the question asked, and posed to me again when I applied to become a member of Cuba’s Young Communists League. It would be repeated on other occasions as well.
It still pains me to have written a “NO” in the questionnaire. What hurts most is that it was actually true: I didn’t keep in touch with my uncle and godfather, quite simply because I was forbidden to do so by my father, may he rest in peace, who had also told my mother not to do so.
While still in Cuba, my uncle had been like a second father to me. He had always helped us however he could, even though the nascent socialist revolution had taken away his properties from him.
I wasn’t exactly a critical thinker when these things took place. I had no political consciousness and I simply suffered the decisions of others, inspired by how Cuba’s Communist Party did things at the time.
I am a convinced socialist and can understand the need to nationalize certain properties. What I will never understand or accept is having been forced to break all affective ties with my uncle, a situation which lasted until his death and that of his ideological rival, my father.
This is one example, among many, of a new type of ostracism created by the Cuban Communist Party (PCC), whose objectives and statutes proclaim that it is resolutely against any form of discrimination.
One’s loyalty to the PCC (real or supposed), determined directly by those officials entrusted with giving one the “green light”, demonstrated in practice, will be an essential requirement to be able to qualify as an “internationalist brigade worker.” One’s professional qualifications are secondary.
It is quite clear: they were simply not true to their platform when they gave rise to a new form of social segregation, to political and/or ideological discrimination.
When I wrote that “no” on the questionnaire, I told the truth, but I was not true to my conscience, because I wanted to get to know that person I was forbidden to contact for years, told by family that, if I did so, I could throw away my career and my mobility within the new society.
My family’s concerns were not unfounded. A different answer would have brought serious consequences back in those days (the seventies and eighties). I can assure you that, in different ways, this is still the case.
Just ask any of the thousands of Cubans anxious to take part in international aid missions (in Venezuela, to mention the most prominent example) and you’ll get a similar answer.
One’s loyalty to the PCC (real or supposed), determined directly by those officials entrusted with giving one the “green light”, demonstrated in practice, will be an essential requirement to be able to qualify as an “internationalist brigade worker.” One’s professional qualifications are secondary. The revolution as such continues to be our main export.
Something similar happens in Cuba in connection with one’s career, in professions such as law, teaching and journalism, to name only a few. It is important to point out that, in my country, on the basis of a State (i.e. partisan) decision, the government is the only existing employer in these fields. In brief, it is a closed and, I dare say, vicious, circle.
Is this not, ultimately, a form of discrimination?
Up to this point, I have chiefly addressed the political side to this, decided in each of the PCC’s secret meetings and by this and that influential figure within the State bureaucracy, who decide what is to be discussed or not.
Today, the ideological question is not exactly at the center of these debates, for the crisis of socialism sparked off by the collapse of the Soviet Union and its satellite states in Eastern Europe have resulted in the discredit of the philosophy which once sustained those socialist projects.
In Cuba, very few people put any stock in philosophy, busy as we are trying to earn our daily bread, in a country whose situation remains unpredictable, even to the best economists, at home and abroad. Few people dare make individual or family plans here, so, collective projects based on philosophical ideas are unlikely indeed.
Even so, prejudices against those citizens who propose the creation of any type of alternative organization continue to exist, and they are stigmatized as an ideological opposition by the government officials tasked with guarding the current postulates of the Communist Party. Havana Times, for which I now gladly write, is an eloquent witness to this.
A possible exception to the zealous practices of this apparently highly-orthodox bureaucracy are religious institutions, now favored by the agreements adopted during the Fourth PCC Congress (held in 1991) – agreements which finally did away with the mythical image of an institution composed entirely of declared Marxist-Leninist atheists.
Considering the tangible progress the Cuban revolution has made in terms of eradicating traditional forms of social segregation, it strikes me as contradictory that Cuba’s one Party, standing above the State as the leader of all society, should have created and maintained a new (and inadmissible) form of discrimination, which ultimately runs contrary to its stated aspiration of becoming the organization which represents the whole of the Cuban people.
Vicente Morín Aguado: email@example.com