Cuban Diary. Part 4
Communists of a different type
… Let’s try to remember now with what sort of cynicism did we all think about our Communist party “apparatchiks” in the beginning of perestroika (and many of us – long before it!). “Everything for man's well-being, everything for the sake of man,”- as the official slogan used to say… “I have seen THAT human being!”- as we used to say in an old joke.
We, those who witnessed since childhood how the local party apparatchiks were selling imported merchandise on the black market, can hardly believe that there can be different people in power in any country in our day and time. Conscientious people of the same type, like, for example, the Bolshevik Narkom (minister) of Food Tsuryupa who was fainting from hunger.
That was my attitude towards the professional party workers – before I came to Cuba and had the chance to observe their life here.
… I am in the building of the Cuban Communist Party Central Committee. There are no any armed up to their teeth security people around me, and the security guards and other people who work here, do not have the arrogance that was so typical for any person working in our Soviet leading party offices, down to the receptionist.
I am talking to Noel Carrillo – member of the Central Committee who is hardly older than myself (30 something). Noel is apologizing for the fact that air conditioner in the room where we sit, does not work.
“You probably know of the recent hurricane Michelle and the devastation that it brought to our island. The central part of the island was hit particularly hard. Almost the entire electricity network was destroyed. Now it has been partially restored, but we in the Central Committee have decided to shut down all the air conditioners – in order to save the electricity for the country. That is also something what all the state organisations are doing.”
Noel is telling me about himself. He speaks perfect Russian; long time ago, in the 80s , he studied in the Komsomol Academy in Moscow. . He is laughing now when he remembers how he was learning to walk on ice and snow. Today he is a member of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist party.
“Sometime in the 80s, when you had your perestroika, and it was just beginning, Fidel said in one of his speeches that it might happen that there would be no Soviet Union anymore, and that we should be prepared to this possibility and to the situation where we would have to continue our revolutionary struggle under the objectively new conditions. To be honest with you, at that time we could not imagine that the Soviet Union could possibly be no longer – how can it be that there would be no Soviet Union? But now we see how right he was, and how good it is that we were still mentally able to cope with this…. Not immediately, of course. In the beginning of the 90s, immediately after the dissolution of USSR, we became terribly pessimistic. But we’ve overcome it now – and today we do believe in ourselves!”
Speaking with Noel, I realized that there was a different kind of communist in front of me. He was different from those members of the local and central party committees of our former CPSU whio lived off the fat of the land. The Cuban revolution is over 40 today, - but the members of the Cuban CC still go to work by buses. They do so not to gain cheap popularity as Yelstin did when he became the Moscow party chief. For Cuban party workers this is a way of life. Noel, his wife and their little daughter are still sharing the apartment with his parents-in-law. He has moved now temporarily into the apartment of a friend – a Cuban diplomat who is at present working abroad. “My friends are very kind – they even have allowed me to use their fridge!” – he says. They don’t ask him for money either: it is still not something that Cubans would do to each other on a large scale. Just as they still don’t take money from those whom they give a lift on the road. Many Cubans get to work and back home by hitchhiking, and no passengers or drivers are afraid of each other.
By the way, members of the Central Committee in Cuba do not live in some sort of “elite! Houses, but in common Cuban “Khrushchev type” apartment blocks, on the outskirts of Havana. They also go to work with any other “common” people. Many of them are taking yellow buses – exactly of the same type like for school children or workers of certain hospitals – to go home from work. And now just think of our “party bosses”, with their “Volga”’s “Chayka”’s and ZIL’s and personal drivers…
And the Cuban communists are doing this not because their country wouldn’t have means for that – here is also a small number of “new Cubans” who are pretending to be such important persons by buying out all the frozen meat in the dollar shops and by having an expensive fashionable race of dog. They do it because – unlike our communists of Gorby type – THEY DO HAVE PRINCIPLES.
There is no such thing as a perfect society. Especially when you have to live and to struggle under such conditions, in such a contra-revolutionary period of the world’s history. Because of the economic necessity dollar was introduced into Cuban economy – on a limited scale. But I have noticed that the state in Cuba – again, unlike ours, - is controlling the situation quite steadily: the Cubans can buy in dollar shops only after showing their ID’s (the details of large transactions are being written down), the number of tables in private restaurants is limited.
“We have many difficulties, but we are not in denial of it,”- - Noel says. “Many things we have copied from you!”- he laughs. “For example, also the bureaucracy. But many things we also invented ourselves. The most important thing is not to lose our goals out of sight and –social justice! Yes, we have rationing system at the moment. But we can also say proudly that every single young child is getting a litre of milk per day. Every single, without an exception.”
I am telling to Noel what strikes me so much in Cuba: that the children seem to be so happy at school that nobody is rushing home after it. That I have never seen a crying child in Havana streets – only happy smiling children faces. That Havana streets are so wonderfully clean – comparing to all the large cities elsewhere in the world that I have seen. That people seem to be constantly busy with something: cutting the grass, laying down new pipes, constructing new buildings… Everything around us is shining from cleanness: despite financial difficulties and lack of paint for houses.
“Even now, under these difficult economic conditions, in Guantanamo province people continue to work on completion of 100% electrification of our country!2 – confirms Noel proudly. We also speak about the successes of the Cuban sport: in all championships of the world this year , combined together, Cuba has won so many medals that it takes number 8 place in the world! Higher than many of the so-called “rich” countries of Western Europe. “Even in comparison with China, where they have population of 1 billion, we, 11-million Cuban nation, have won only 4 medals less than the Chinese!”
When I speak with Noel, I am thinking of another country in the region where I used to live some time ago – Curacao, Netherlands Antilles. It’s far from the poorest islands in the Caribbean: many others, people fro Haiti, Dominican Republic, even Colombians are eager to emigrate there. In some ways it reminds me of Cuba, but there is no free medical care, no free education, there are no conditions there that would allow people to survive if they have lost their job.
That is exactly why many thousands Antilleans are moving to the Netherlands annually. And there they are being met by racist prejudges and hatred – while rich “makamba” (Dutch colonisers) are taking the island over from them and buying their houses for near to nothing…. For covering up of its policies and pretending that they actually do something for the locals, the Dutch government has hypocritically invented “repatriation scheme” of giving to each Antillean who would manage to find work back at home and return from the Netherlands, a premium of 16.000 guilders per family. It’s just not clear how to manage to find this work – if there are no new working places created in Curacao, and even if they do, they are often being divided already in the Netherlands “among the whites”…
How can a normal human being voluntarily want this kind of life? The problem is that some Cubans think – just as many Russians thought in the past!- that their media are lying when they write about capitalist reality. Especially if they get 24 hours a day sweet fairy tales from CNN En Espanol… We, Russians, know the real price of these fairy tales now. We and the other Eastern European know it all too well - as we are paying it every day.
“Some Cubans might think that once we’d have capitalism, we’d live “like in America”, - Noel says. – “In reality, of course, that is not so. Haiti is a more suitable example of what we would have had under capitalism.”
But even in America who is continuing to rob the whole world just as brutally as it was done in the past but colonizers of other nations, not everybody is having such a nice life as the media – through the “pink glasses” of the infamous CNN!- would like us to believe. And how can a harmonically developed personality – those who were brought up and still exist in big numbers under socialism, unfortunately to the global capitalism! – can be satisfied by a selfish, stomach-centred and primitive “American dream”? “Dinner time – sacred time for the idiots..”- according to my favourite writer Kir Bulychev.
Harmonically developed personalities are far more attracted by the romantic image of Che and Fidel. And they are coming to Cuba from all around the world, seeking to see this alive miracle. This spark of hope in the far corner of our planet, reminding of the fire that Prometheus has taken for saving the humanity - from the soulless icy winter of capitalism, with the ice pikes of its shiny shops’ windows, that in reality would melt into water in your hands…
It’s marvellous that there are communists of a different type in the world. Different from those who have sold our their comrades, decided that from now on he should be called “Mister”, but in reality became the lowest servant under the door of the foreign Dragons.
It’s wonderful that there is such an island on our planet – The Island of Freedom whose communists can’t be bought.