The Regime’s Lost Cause – Preserving Its ‘Culture’
The Regime’s Lost Cause: Preserving Its ‘Culture’
ORLANDO FREIRE SANTANA | La Habana | 20 de Junio de 2016 – 3:27 pm.
Cuban leaders cannot shake off fears that the Castro legacy will be
completely extinguished when the “historic generation” of the Revolution
dies out, or when the first political reform measures are implemented in
society. They know that young people do not believe in Marxist-Leninist
socialism, and if some young people sing the Government’s praises, it is
almost certainly as part of the double standard that is eating away at
the nation’s foundations.
However, ratifying the old maxim that “hope is the last thing you lose,”
the ruling class has turned to what it calls “the shield and sword of
the nation”: its culture. In those terms it recently held the Third
Plenum of the Union of Young Communists’ (UJC) National Committee.
Those who addressed the plenary –Abel Prieto, Miguel Barnet, Yuniasky
Crespo Baquero, and company– urged young Cubans not to look to consumer
society figures as their idols, but to associate success in life with
spiritual rather than material values.
These are pretty words, but ones that clash with the reality being lived
on the island. After all, can a young person show up with his student or
labor credentials at a supermarket in Cuba and demand an item to satisfy
a basic need, like a bottle of cooking oil or a carton of milk, barely
covered by his monthly ration disbursal? Can a young man, armed with
nothing but his decency and honesty, ever go to a private restaurant
like the one where President Barack Obama ate, when the price of any
dish there is equal to or greater than the average Cuban’s monthly salary?
As for young people’s preference for figures from consumer society, this
is a process that has sometimes been fomented by the authorities
themselves. In order not to grant media coverage to Cuban baseball
players, who have increasingly abandoned the Island to play in the Major
Leagues in the United States (Cuban television broadcasts only one MLB
game per week, selecting those without any Cubans playing), television
programming is packed with international soccer games, particularly the
Spanish league. As a result, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are
today the supreme idols of Cuba’s youth, who, ironically, can barely
name one Cuban soccer star.
For those young people who have regular Internet access and, therefore,
are aware of national and international current events, this vapid
rhetoric at the plenary could have sparked laughter, if not for the
hypocrisy it entailed. How can one ask a humble Cuban to spurn
materialism while figures like Antonio Castro Soto del Valle are
frequenting luxurious international resorts and playing at exclusive
One of the most “original” propositions advanced at this Third Plenum
was articulated by Miguel Barnet, President of the National Union of
Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC). He stated that “we are a country
that has created too many opportunities for us to stay at home watching
garbage movies. I regret that there are not more young people
participating at the cultural programs in our theaters, and at
conferences and poetry recitals” (Juventud Rebelde, 11 June).
Clearly Barnet is out of touch with the Cuban reality, after too long
enjoying a car provided by the State, and with plenty of gasoline,
allowing him to cruise from Cape San Antonio to Punta Maisí. He seems to
be oblivious to the country’s inefficient public transport system, which
forces citizens, especially on the outskirts of Havana and the country’s
inland cities, to stay at home.
And Mr. Barnet’s attack on “garbage movies” could augur a kind of
Cultural Revolution, plagued by prohibitions and dogmatism. This would
also be in line with the reckless spirit of Point 219 of the National
Plan for Economic and Social Development until 2030, which calls for
inoculating Cuba’s young people against the “harmful messages” of the
hegemonic cultural industry.
Source: The Regime’s Lost Cause: Preserving Its ‘Culture’ | Diario de
Cuba – www.diariodecuba.com/cuba/1466429225_23205.html