Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Castro II and the mediating T-shirts

The most truthful words ever said about and from the Cuban “revolution” were those said by Raúl Castro during his coronation as Castro II, “Fidel is Fidel”. There is also no better phrase than this anti-dialectical tautology for expressing the intricate conundrum attributed to the French which says, “The more things change, the more they remain the same”.

In spite of a memo from CNN to its reporters urging them to report that Fidel “did bring racial integration”, the truth is that the “revolution” did not end racism in Cuba but transmuted it.

In fact, the social fabric from where social and political, and revolutionary and socialist criticism comes today in Cuba is not from Whites and their politico-racial continuity, but from the marginalized Afro-Cuban population. The same to whom it is not permitted to enter hotels or beaches for European Whites. In fact, the vast numbers of political prisoners are Black or Mulattos.

Those who should be more critical against this anachronism in Cuba should be the American Left. Unfortunately, and paraphrasing the late and salty Gov. Ann Richards, most of them “can't he'p it, they were born with an anti-American foot in their mouths”. But the anti-Americanism of some Americans does not equal Cuban reality, no matter how much Michael Moore imagines it.

It’s understandable how hard it is to realize one has been fooled, especially when it is by self-delusion. That is why we understand the sadness of some in the world’s Left in facing the truth. But change in Cuba is not a matter, contrary to what Frei Betto may say, of whether capitalism will return to Cuba or not. Capitalism has been operating in Cuba for a long time. What happens is that it is a capitalism of a military state, which is not open to the people and is the property of and operated by elites of wealthy military men.

It is not that one wishes a brute and inhumane capitalism for Cuba. Only that it would be good if the military capitalists that today manage Cuba would accept that they are capitalists and begin to democratize that capitalism for the rest of Cubans. Especially since, just as the rest of Latin America, the failure of the economy in Cuba it is not due to so-called “neo-liberalism”, but to the centralization of capital and the lack of democratic and popular capitalism.

The other thing that has been said in Cuba, and which qualifies as one the greatest idiocies worthy of “The Manual of the Perfect Latin American Idiot”, is the quote which appeared in Granma with the closing of the National Assembly or confirmation of the succession: “The peoples of America are more free and prosperous the more they distance themselves from the United States”. Would that be the reason why they demand an end to the embargo? So they can distance themselves more from the United States?

The succession, and the manner, in which the revolution has collapsed into a military dictatorship with state capitalism, are proof that there was never a revolution in Cuba but usurpation. In reality, it was always a personal and caudillo dictatorship.

Communist alienation

A few months ago the rest of the world celebrated the International Day of Human Rights and the Chancellor of Cuba, Pérez Roque, announced to the world that Cuba would finally sign international agreements on human rights, with some exceptions, of course. At the same time a government mob attacked 12 peaceful pro-human rights demonstrators. What did the mob yell at them? “Down with human rights!”

The mediating T-shirts

As one commentator has said, power in Cuba has become a kind of “Buena Vista Social Club” of the governing “socialist” class, a kind of nostalgic and exotic imaginary for North American academicians and the last refuge for those straggling in the gutters of history. And while that musical group reminds us of the delicious roots of Salsa—Cuban “rumba” and “guaracha”—the rebellious interlocutor of young Cuban society today is its “salsified” Hip-hop. Today, that youth which has been excluded from the power structure, and even reprimanded for suggesting any possibility of change is the one challenging ideological dogma.

Recently, the use of a group of young people as showcase of new openness backfired when they strongly questioned Ricardo Alarcón, among other things, as to why Cubans are not free to travel abroad. One of them wore a T-shirt with the “@” symbol, an intelligent protest against Internet control by state security. Somehow the video of the encounter went around the world causing great embarrassment to the regime for the paternalistic manner in which Alarcón answered.

The student was then “invited” to appear before the media to “explain” that he was not negatively criticizing the revolution and to deny the mediating meaning of the T-shirt. If that young student is typical of university students in Cuba, the future of Cuba is brilliant. What did the student do in order to please the demand of the government? He affirmed that his criticism was not against the revolution but in favor, to improve it. For those young people the words “revolution” and “socialism” mean something else. He appeared on the TV program wearing another T-shirt. No, not a T-shirt with the image of “Che” or Fidel, or any regime symbol. It was the face of Martí.

Spanish Translation