The State of Beliefs: What remains of Castroist ideology? What do Cubans
really think and want?
MIGUEL SALES | Málaga | 16 de Diciembre de 2016 - 08:39 CET.
Well into the third week of the Year I of the AC era, which started at
midnight on November 25th, the question looms: what is the status of
beliefs in Cuba? What remains of Castroist ideology, which for over half
a century was the sole, official and indisputable school of thought for
11 million Cubans?
We are already familiar with the beliefs of the State. They are
petrified for eternity in the untouchable Constitution, and are the same
ones the leaders swear to embrace, and mechanically repeat in their
speeches – although there are some signs suggesting that these
convictions might not be as sincere as they seem. Now it would behoove
us to explore the deep beliefs harbored by the Cuban people, those that
make up what in a society less subjugated by state control would be
called "public opinion."
The task is a difficult one, because the subject of the investigation –
Castroist ideology – has been somewhat chameleonic, and because those
who have assimilated it developed a mechanism that allows them to think
one thing, say another, and do a third without even blushing at the
contradiction. This dissociation between ideas, personal expression and
actual activity is what in other pages I have called Cuba's "three-fold
On the long and winding road from the attempted coup of July 26, 1953 in
Santiago de Cuba – a terrorist attack that left 70 dead, an imitation of
Hitler's putsch 30 years earlier in Munich – until Castro's farewell
speech at the Seventh Congress of the Communist Party, which he
stammered out in April, arrayed in an Adidas tracksuit, there have been
a long litany of ideological contradictions and inconsistencies.
Nationalism, social democracy, Liberal constitutionalism, Tropical
Socialism, hardline Stalinism, bellicose Third Worldism, heroic
Communist resistance, 21st-century socialism, State Capitalism: all this
and more has formed part (sometimes simultaneously) of the ideology
preached by Castro I and his followers.
In view of these mutations, since 1959 the safest course for his
subjects was merely to parrot the slogans in the Maximum Leader's last
speech, without endeavoring to remember what he had said or written
before it, and not daring to compare the ideas of yesterday with those
of today. In this context, ideology was at the mercy of the
Conspirator-in-Chief's moods and tactics, as he could not spend hours
during his hectic days devising an elegantly coherent body of thought,
busy as he was promoting anti-Yankee insurrection on a global scale and
evading the hundreds of attacks that the CIA organized every week
against the great revolutionary.
But, with the caudillo dead, and the people orphaned, deprived of his
guiding words, what are the beliefs that prevail today on the Island?
Let us put aside the spectacle of the funeral procession and the urn of
glass, the tears shed in public starting from the moment in that his
brother Raul snapped his fingers and ordered: "Mourn!" (three days after
the death) and the ridiculous liturgy which forced millions of people to
file before a portrait and a few anachronistic medals under the monument
to Martí. None of this actually reflects the ideas and feelings that
Cubans harbor within themselves regarding the regime.
Many today sobbing at the cemetery of Santa Ifigenia dream of escaping
to the United States as soon as possible. Others who enthusiastically
applaud the new/old president, are already plotting how to ask for
asylum on their next international mission. Under the current conditions
there is not one survey, study or calculation that can yield an accurate
assessment of the status of beliefs in Cuba. The three-fold
schizophrenia prevents it.
But, beyond what Cubans tell the press, or pretend in public, some
individual and collective behaviors do point to certain deep
convictions. Let us proceed with caution:
There seems to be consensus as to the non-viability of the nationalized
economy system. An increasing number of people are struggling to make a
living outside the formal apparatus for the production of goods and
services. Many of these initiatives are supported by relatives and
friends living abroad. It is not fashionable to be a civil servant.
This suggests that there is a certain wariness regarding the country's
direction and the vision of its leaders. Events since the fall of the
Berlin Wall and the foreseeable loss of Venezuelan subsidies have
undermined faith in the bright future of socialism and the eternal
nature of communist dictatorships. Apparently, most believe that in the
future everything will depend on a bilateral relationship with the
United States and the degree of capitalism that the government tolerates.
This impression is reinforced by the demographic crisis and the increase
in unauthorized emigration. Cuban women are having fewer and fewer
children, while young people flee the Island any way they can – even
risking their lives in rafts. These trends have been around forever, but
they have worsened in recent years.
Great confusion reigns with regards to policy. Most seem to be unaware
of their inherent rights and what freedoms they should enjoy under the
international law that the Government itself theoretically recognizes,
and pretends to abide by, but ignores in the interior of the country.
This ignorance is complicated by the habits of subservience induced by
the regime's prolonged domination, and fears sown by PCC propaganda (the
threat of a return by the "Miami mafia," the exploitation of "savage
capitalism," the potential disappearance of "free" schools and hospitals
if the government changes, and a long list of clichés and falsehoods,
almost all based on a fear of freedom, as already explained by Erich Fromm).
But, at the end of the day, these conjectures are just that.
How, then, can we know what Cubans really want and believe? The only way
would be to allow them to freely express their preferences, both
regarding politics and other areas of life. This would lead, ultimately,
to the holding of free elections under international supervision.
And political groups and parties freely espousing their philosophies,
and citizens voting for the candidates and platforms that they prefer.
Only in this way would it be possible to know if they wish to continue
living under the regime that Castro I bequeathed to them, or to shift
towards a model based on liberal democracy and a market economy. But the
right to choose a government, approved by the majority in free and
secret elections, enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights, is what the PCC, the generals and the Castro dynasty are
determined to prevent, by any means.
Democracy and freedom are not inevitable, but quite the opposite: the
fruit of arduous and complicated efforts to secure them. Opponents
should not incur in the Marxist superstition that changes in the
economic foundation will automatically result in the transformation of
the political superstructure and a transition to a democratic regime.
Since the consolidation of Castroist totalitarianism, circa 1962, Cuban
society has demonstrated an almost unlimited capacity to silently endure
material hardship and the suppression of its rights. The possibility of
fleeing abroad and remittances from Miami have served to significantly
alleviate the suffering imposed by the system. But both of these are
factors that also contribute to the regime's stability.
Democratic transition, if it ever happens, will not will come from
economic reform, or the good will of some fatigued bureaucrats. Nobody
is going to bestow on Cubans the rights and freedoms that secretly
(perhaps) many aspire to enjoy, if we ourselves do not start to demand them.
Source: The State of Beliefs: What remains of Castroist ideology? What
do Cubans really think and want? | Diario de Cuba -