Power Elites Here and There
August 17, 2012
HAVANA TIMES — In an attempt to understand modern capitalism, I learned
a lot about "socialism" here in Cuba from the progressive Canadian
researcher Naomi Klein.
The Shock Doctrine, one of her best known works, reveals how certain
power elites intentionally generate social crises to implement dramatic
changes. Their goal is to achieve widespread generalized political
regression whereby people lose their nerve, quit struggling and submit
to the free market reign of those same elites.
A few days ago Cuban television viewers saw "No Logo," a documentary
based on Klein's book of the same title. The film shows how commercial
firms experiencing unbridled growth have been replacing the public sphere.
A mall isn't just a large collection of stores, it's also a place for
entertainment, relaxation, meeting friends and strolling. The only hitch
is that — since it is ultimately a private space —certain activities
aren't allowed there (such as protests, filming freely, etc.). That's
what the streets are for, if they haven't been privatized as well.
The height of this tsunami sweeping away the public sphere, the
researcher believes, are towns being developed by firms in line with the
lifestyle associated with them. The example presented is Celebration, a
Florida town that is without billboards, for example, only because
everything is under the control of the Disney Corporation.
A little further south
But if Klein had continued her journey southward, a few miles beyond
Florida, she would have stumbled upon a place where the screw has been
turned even tighter.
Throughout "socialist" Cuba there is no public space where one can
protest freely or film since "the street belongs to Fidel and the
revolutionaries." Here, private walls and fences aren't needed since
they are erected around and through the entire nation (the exception is,
perhaps, inside houses).
Klein complains that firms hire cheap labor in the Third World, paying
workers less than a dollar a day, not allowing unions and achieving
their goals using methods of persuasion that accept the suspension of
labor guarantees as natural.
As a professional who has worked in various institutions of the Cuban
state, I don't ever remember receiving take-home pay of more than a
dollar a day, or where unions really protect the workers.
Where the salaries were a little higher, the Enterprise Improvement
Program gave the green light to the bosses to fire whoever they consider
"unsuitable". (I'm speaking in the past because this was my previous
experience, but that system still exists.)
I think if Ms. Klein were to visit here – and if the same thing that
happens to leftists regarding Cuba doesn't happen to her – she could
find inspiration for her next book.
Note: Surely there are places that are worse. If you know of them you
can take advantage of the comment section to denounce them.