Can We Progress in Cuba under the Current Model?
By Osmel Ramirez Alvarez
May 29, 2017
I couldn’t help but think about the analogy of this popular Cuban saying when reflecting upon the prospects we have of our economy progressing by 2030, while reading about a case in the Juventud Rebelde newspaper last week.
It talks about the solution to a rice farmer’s complaint because of outstanding payments for his sales to the State, which had been overdue for a ridiculously long amount of time. And they still want to pick up this country by 2030! At the rate the government is going, and with its dysfunctional system, this won’t happen even in 2230.
According to the newspaper, solutions only appear once a public complaint has been made that is covered by the media, which don’t appear spontaneously. Yusbel Valera Mesa, from Campechuela, is the farmer who complained. However, it’s very common to experience delays of months (and even years) in receiving payment for a harvest you’ve sold to the State.
It’s common at my cooperative and we always hear “we’re working on resolving this issue”; not only at a local level, but at a central level too. However, they’ve been “working on this” for 58 years and it still isn’t working. Maybe it just doesn’t work? Another laughable phrase at this stage is: “so many thousands of tons are being produced, but we are still unable to satisfy the population’s demands.”
Tell me, with only 10 million inhabitants in a country with the agricultural capacity to feed over 100 million people more than enough, what would happen if the Revolution had inherited resources from capitalism like Mexico City, which has almost double the Cuban population? The queue to buy tortillas would be a kilometer long and a child would be able to cross Paseo de la Reforma without any trouble at rush hour.
The emancipating ideology of these “socialists”, which takes away the sovereignty of its people behind the guise of a noble ideal, is like an herbicide: wherever they act everything dries up. Their ways are arbitrary, bureaucratic and unnatural. They are so far from the real socialist ideal! I see more socialism in the Scandinavian countries and in Canada than in any Marxist-Leninist system, the ones that called themselves “real Socialism”. In my opinion, this is just radical socialism or pseudosocialism.
I can’t help but think about the parallel between the way of tackling the problem of outstanding payments for rice farmers and the tobacco farmers’ struggle to receive a fair price for tobacco. The solution in the rice farmer’s case and the problem being dealt with, in our case, only appears once we complain to the press. Nothing comes out of, nor can we hope for solutions from official channels of action.
The farmer from Granma reported his problem in Juventud Rebelde; I reported my problem on alternative digital media platforms, such as Havana Times (How can you fight injustice in Cuba?). After more than four months of complaining and forging agreements at meetings that are then archived, Cubatabaco finally came to the cooperative to analyze the price problem we have. However, they didn’t go to the Farmers Assembly, the came directly to the farmer, the one who publicly denounced the problem, which was me in this case.
Of course, I pointed out the fact that this wasn’t a personal problem, that it was something all tobacco farmers were suffering. However, the unfair price for tobacco continues. Resolving injustices in Cuba is a titanic task, especially if whoever should be defending us by law (the National Association of Small Farmers in Cuba ANAP) admits that “defending farmers is our responsibility, but our first and foremost task is to defend the Revolution.” These were the words of a politician who gave an speech on May 17th at the party for Cuban Farmers’ Day. If there is a dichotomy, farmers interests fade away into the background and we are the ones who pay the ANAP a high tax on our incomes.
Furthermore, defending the Revolution isn’t “changing everything that needs to be changed” according to them. This idea, which doesn’t cease to be a concept of pure propaganda, is never implemented because it might be the case that the ones who are raising this flag might be the same ones who need to be changed. That’s why everything is the opposite: they try to keep this concept static, under the mistaken concept that highlighting this or that mistake and trying to rectify it, is a dissident and counter-revolutionary act.
So of course I must be considered a “counter-revolutionary” for wanting a fairer price for tobacco. If I were robbing the Cuban people or giving manipulative-coercive political speeches to make them work for measly salaries, then they would consider me to be a true revolutionary.
I’ll put it like Hatuey did: If those men are true revolutionaries I don’t want to be like them, nor do I want to go where they are heading. But, of course, I won’t stop being a socialist, nor believing in the struggle for a better world, because of the simple fact that this noble ideal is being abused. If we were to stop dreaming of this and fighting for it, we would also stop being human: this was the spirit that got us out of the caves and brought us to the skyscraper era.
These examples aren’t an exception: if we were to analyze any example taken from Cuban daily life, it would irrefutably prove the fact that the Cuban system is unfeasible. There isn’t any chance of progressing under this current model. There won’t be any improvements, without more profound changes, that need to stem from a democratizing process of society as a whole.
Of course Raul Castro wanted to leave a legacy of a growing and developing Cuba, if he really is going to step down next year: but this is already impossible. Cockroaches also wanted to sit down, but they don’t have buttcheeks. That’s how the saying goes: What does the cockroach have? It isn’t enough to want it; we have to do the right thing to ensure success.