By SJ Otto
One of my main interests of going to
Cuba was to see
the operations of an actual socialist country. There are the communist
countries of China, Vietnam and Laos.
They are run by communist parties. But they seem more interested in integrating
their economies with the world capitalist economy. Democratic People's
Republic of (North) Korea
claims to be socialist, but has declared
Karl Marx and V.I. Lenin obsolete. They have removed their statues of Marx
From the left we have heard the arguments that
Cuba and all of
the pro-Soviet block nations were state capitalism. After seeing the real Cuba,
I feel that label is ridiculous. The cultural differences between the US and Cuba
show clearly that Cuba
is not capitalist. For example there is very little advertizing in Cuba. In the US, it is in
our faces and it is everywhere.
Another left argument is that
Cuba is revisionist. That label
came about as a way to distinguish Maoist or Asian versions of Marxist-Leninism
from the pro-soviet block countries and movements. With the fall of the Soviet Union, this label seems useless. There is only one
and almost no real Marxist-Leninist rivals—at least not countries. The label in
many ways is obsolete.
From the right we get the argument that history shows us that socialism doesn’t work. My two weeks in
Cuba convinced me that such a
statement is blatantly false. Since 1959 socialism has worked in Cuba and I saw
that first hand.
Another statement I’ve heard is that people who live under socialism are miserable. Again I had two weeks to test that theory out and I found it totally wrong. The people I saw and met did not seem to me to be miserable. I saw many people doing all the things I expect people to do in a country, they go to work in the morning, some sit outside their homes after work and I saw people enjoying themselves at their favorite bars in the evening.
I will have further discussions on the merits of socialism later in this piece.
I took notes from several of the meetings I went to. I also went out on my own to see what the people of
Cuba were like. I did have some
trouble not knowing Spanish very well. But I did the best I could. I will be
writing on the experiences I had.
From the right, people will argue that I paid no attention to all the political prisoners in
Cuba, or that I ignored people’s
lack of human rights. Every Bourgeois journalist who has covered news on the
island has focused, or even obsessed with such issues. There are plenty of
articles on that issue and the same old “lack of political rights” that always
come from a western journalist. I did not come here for those issues. I came
here for my own agenda and not for the political purposes of defending Bourgeois
ideology, culture and politics.
in the capital Havana
(La Habana in their language) we stayed at the Martin
Luther King Center. I took the time out to go to a park right in front of
the center. The is in a common
working class neighborhood. It is not in a tourist area. I was glad of that
since I wanted to see what the common people live like. Here are some things I
I saw a woman in the park with a cell phone. She had pink hair. It seems that people here have the same rights to different hair cuts and styles as we have here in the
That debunks another image I got from all the anti-communist propaganda=
everyone is suppose to dress and look alike. I saw a few people with cell
phones. At least some people own them. I had read were almost none of the
people here had cell phones. I was also informed that there is an internet café
where ANYONE can buy time on a computer and access the internet. There is also
a Wi-Fi park where
people can access the internet. A few people own their own computers. I was
surprised that the government does not seem worried about its people accessing
the internet and viewing foreign opinions.
The first night we were in town, I walked the streets and neighborhoods with some of my fellow caravanistas. We saw little stores and homes. Most of the people there live in small homes. They have electricity. They have appliances, such as refrigerators. Some folks have TVs. While we walked around and while we sat in the park, we saw no police. No one looked like they feared they were being spied on. There weren’t cops everywhere or soldiers. This looked nothing like the horror stories I have read about the people who live under communism. We walked past a house, were a young man had locked a fence to protect his 1950s style car. Those cars were everywhere. There were also some foreign made cars. I was told they were Russian. I’m not that knowledgeable about cars. So I had to take people’s word for what they were.
A lot of people sat outside their homes as we walked by. Others went to near by taverns.
On the last night I was there I ventured into a tavern just a few blocks away. It was a regular working class bar, with a few patrons hanging out. This place had no air-conditioning. I found a lot of businesses with air conditioning but this place did not.
While I was in the local tavern, I was able to talk just a little to some local people. I asked the waitress if she was a communist and she said no. The owner of the place spoke some English and he said “your government and mine don’t along.” I said yes, but I don’t represent my government and we seemed to get along just fine. All the people in that bar made fun of our President Donald Trump and they all complained about the blockade.
When the waitress told me she was not a communist, I figured I must be getting some honest opinions from these folks.
A little more than 10 years ago I visited
El Salvador and Nicaragua. Those countries were
extremely poor. I had figured that Cuba might be like that. I was
wrong. In El Salvador and Nicaragua there
was no air-conditioning after we left the air port. Most of the people there
had no electricity. Bars had only rum and beer. Most stores had only two types
of any product, be it camera film, soap or anything else.
I did not find those kinds of conditions. There was electricity and air
conditioning. There were bars with whisky and other types of liquor. I was told
that people here in Cuba
are poor. They have a hard time stretching their money for food. The blockade,
which our group is trying to get rid of, causes a lot of hardship on the
people. It causes a lack of medicines and other necessities of life.
Ironically, the people hardest hit by the blockade are the common people.
The first place we went on our tour was some of the communities that were hit by a tornado back in January. Tornados are rare here so it was a difficult time for the people here and the damage was extensive. The government had restored the electricity in five days (compared with nearly one year in
Rico). Within a few months the government had rebuild the homes
and furnished the people of Villa de la Guanabaco with various appliances they
needed. All of us caravanistas were surprised that these homes could be
replaced so quickly. And in the US
the government would never replace people’s appliances like that.
One more observation was the advertising that I saw when I first came to the air port. There is very little advertising in
were a few advertizing posters, but nothing like the US where it is everywhere and inescapable.
Buses had no ads on them. And there is NO ADVERTISING on TV. I studied marketing in while at ,
while getting my journalism degree. The whole idea is to convince people to
want and buy things they really don’t need. It annoys the crap out of me and I
find it one of the most repulsive things about Wichita State University US capitalism.
Political messages like this were more common than ads.=>
Political messages like this were more common than ads.=>
We saw this beer advertized everywhere. Ironically the beer was hard to find. Local people told me the tourist drink it all.
The point of this part of my report is to establish that I found a kind of normality to life for the average person living in
Cuba. It is a
poor country, but not destitute. It is hurt by the US economic blockade. We went to a
lot of meetings where we met both officials of the government and leaders of
non-government organizations. I have more to report on and that includes a look
at the various methods of socialism here, government owned enterprises, coops
and a few private businesses and farms.
To be contined=>
 Communism refers to the final stage of Historical materialism, also known as the “materialist conception of history” according to Marx. Communist countries are supposedly practicing Marxist-Leninist socialism. Communism comes when the need for a government is gone and society evolves in which all peoples fulfill what ever their society needs.