Sixty Years After the Drunkenness
By Carlos Alberto Montaner
Translating Cuba - 14ymedio
December 24, 2018
“We were in the hands of some ’enlightened’ revolutionaries, guided by slogans learned in coffee shops,”
says the author. (Archive)
On January 1, 1959, Fulgencio Batista fled Cuba and the Cuban Revolution began. It has been six decades since that ominous date. A group of us boys got together. I was 15 years old and I was a skinny, hopeful and politically illiterate kid. I felt very happy. I do not know how, where or why we went to see, or found, the lawyer Óscar Gans. He had been Prime Minister for Carlos Prío, the last Cuban constitutional president. He had a reputation for being honest and intelligent.
Gans listened with interest to our excited chatter and only managed to say to us an enigmatic phrase that I have not forgotten: “Revolutions are like great drunkenness… the problem is the hangover.” The hangover was the feeling of weariness, of satiety, of bad digestion, of “why did I get drunk and ingest that absurd mixture of alcohols that makes me feel so bad today.” The hangover is what in other latitudes they call the “mouse.”
A few months later I understood what Gans had wanted to convey to us. The hangover started. We were in the hands of some “enlightened” revolutionaries, guided by slogans learned in the coffee shops, ready to change at gunpoint the hallmarks of a society that was several centuries old. A country that, until that moment, with its ups and downs, had been a net recipient of immigrants, the best known index to measure the quality of any human conglomeration.
Fidel, Che, Raul Castro, and a few other types, bold and ignorant, were determined to liquidate an imperfect liberal democracy, governed by a social-democratic Constitution, fully perfectible, and transform that State into a pro-Soviet dictatorship without private property, or human rights, and much less separation and independence of powers. Simultaneously, they put on the shoulders of Cubans the responsibility of “confronting Yankee imperialism” and transforming the planet, to impose by blood and fire the “marvelous” social model spawned by Moscow in 1917.
They acted quickly. Within 20 months they had achieved 90% of their domestic goals. In October 1960 there were no vestiges of press freedom. There were no political groups other than the “single movement” created and in the iron grip of the Maximum Leader, so that, at the time, it was easy for them to call it the “Communist Party.” There were no private schools or universities. There were also no medium or large companies held by “civil society.” All were assumed by the State through a simple decree. The totalitarian dictatorship had been consummated, I repeat, by 90%.
The remaining 10% occurred on March 13, 1968. On that date, Fidel Castro gave an extremely lengthy speech in which he announced the “Revolutionary Offensive.” It did away with any private businesses or self-employment. In one fell stroke, almost 60,000 micro-businesses were swallowed, and the island was turned into the “most communist country in the world.” To fix an umbrella, a pair of shoes or a fan you had to turn to the State. Logically, the disaster was absolute and the nation became a waste dump. The thousands of brave people who opposed that fate were shot or imprisoned for many years.
How was that revolutionary madness carried out? Three “enlightened” ones are not capable of performing a task of this magnitude. Simple: putting their hands in the pockets of the likely adversaries. First, they created a huge political clientele by giving “to the people” everything that did not belong to the Commander.
They reduced rents and the cost of electricity and telephones by 50%. They disposed of the land as they pleased. They knew that the economy would collapse as a result of the manipulation of prices, but the goal was not to achieve prosperity, but to create a legion of grateful stomachs that wouldn’t hesitate to tighten the screws.
While they were disposing of the property of others (and they kept the best houses, cars and yachts for themselves), they gave over to the Soviets the repressive mechanisms. From the beginning the political police and the heart of the Ministry of the Interior were assigned to the comrades trained by the KGB.
A few weeks after the Castros were installed in the government house, the always discreet “brothers of the socialist camp” began to arrive. In mid-1962 there were just over 40,000 advisers. When the “bowling pins” — as the Russians were irreverently called on the Island — went away, they left the cage installed. Embraced within it, millions of fearful and obedient Cubans.
Sixty years later the Castroists know that the “Cuban model” is totally unproductive and unfeasible. They are slave-owners who live by renting professional slaves from which they extract a surplus value of 80%. Or policemen who assemble on a turnkey basis the new dictatorship, as they have done in Venezuela. And they live on the remittances from the exiles, on the donations from the churches, or on the tourists in collusion with foreign businessmen who do not care about the local partner’s name, as long as it makes them profits. That’s what revolutionary hangovers are like. They tend to be very long and very sad.