Who is Writing History? / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya


Miriam Celaya, La Habana | Junio 02, 2014


No one could have anticipated a short time ago that the formulas to define the Cuban reality would be so radically transformed. In the last five years, we have been witnessing the gradual extinction of phrases and words that constituted an indispensable part of the official lingo, and the emergence of others which had been demonized, since they were considered remnants of a shameful bourgeois past which from which the revolution of 1959 had saved us.

Our language is foreseeing a scenario which is very different than that of the last 50 years. Lately, we rarely hear such terms as “comrade”, while in the official media, such phrases as “revolutionary intransigence”, “socialist emulation”, “voluntary labor” “collective vanguard” and “moral incentives” are infrequent, as are others, typical of the inescapable dialect of the old Soviet-Marxist period.

Thus, Cubans have once again become “señor” and “señora” and we have also stopped being “users” or “consumers” and have been transformed into “customers”. It is not the same or equal. It is a question of category based on a consumption level of access. For example, those who enter a store to buy the products of “local industries” in national currency remain “consumers”, but shoppers in stores dealing in hard currency are “clients”.

Now being a “comrade” means belonging to the lowest social ladder.

Cubans are also considered “clients” when they open a cellular phone account at the telephone company, as are those who can allow themselves a few vacation days in all-inclusive beach resort. It is worth mentioning that a Cuban client is not the same as a foreign client, because, after all, prosperity here always comes from “outside” No wonder foreigners or Cubans living abroad are the only ones who have a legitimate right to invest on the Island.

All this explains the extinction of the “comrade” among Cubans with greater purchasing power, and, by extension, among those who dream of attaining that level. Now to be a “comrade” means belonging to the bottom of the social scale or -to define it in the popular undying parlance- to be “broke”. Comrades are out of style.

At the same time, terms such as “investor”, “foreign capital”, “performance”, “competition”, “economic strategies”, “business autonomy”, “trade”, “tax culture” “legal guarantees for investments”, etc. have become commonplace, which point to the gestation of a paradigm diametrically opposite.to the old revolutionary discourse

We shouldn’t think that all euphemisms have been abandoned completely. To Cuban authorities, the private sector does not exist in Cuba, but “non-state forms of employment” do, and there are no Cuban-born entrepreneurs, but “self-employed workers”.

But the discourse is not being transformed from just the Cuban political authorities. Now that the interests of the ex-communist Castro regime graciously coincide with foreign capital interests, changes are also being observed in the discourse and the attitudes of certain Cuban-American entrepreneurs, as well as in intellectual and political US sectors.

The interests of the ex-communist Castro regime graciously coincide with foreign capital.

They are not limited to reinventing vocabulary terms, but they go beyond that, to interpret the so-called Raúl reforms as the driving force behind “significant changes” that are leading to the “development of business potential” of Cuban “citizens” by virtue of which “half a million entrepreneurs“ currently exist. These are the “leading democratic catalysts” that will “empower civil society”.  In fact, these “entrepreneurs”, forged in the heat of the reforms, are “starting to rewrite” the history of the country.

Inexplicably, a group of those who, at the beginning of this “revolutionary” process, felt compelled to pack and leave their homeland, but not before being stripped of their property and their capital, today seem to assume this “economic autonomy” as a possibility in the absence of political and civil liberties, and even believe that it’s possible to go forward with the democratization of Cuba by taking advantage of the economic “openings” in recent years and an imaginary Cuban entrepreneurship.

This formula is inconsistent with historical facts, since these same bilked-out millionaires, with their great capitals, did not stop the consolidation of the regime that bamboozled them at that time. In the new democratizing strategy, what possibilities could our measly native entrepreneurs have –taxi drivers, cart owners, trinket vendors, bike-taxi drivers, owners of small eateries and cafeterias– when they can’t even count on the basic right of free association

We are not against the vital need for change and the power of capital, but let’s not disguise certain private interests with rhetorical discourses and good intentions. Capital and good wishes have poured into China and Viet-Nam, those two exemplary jewels of innovation and prosperity that nobody would wish for themselves.

I agree that the history of Cuba is, in effect, being rewritten, but, so far, the Castro regime has been dictating its script.