News and Facts about Cuba

Capitalism Straight Away, or the Chinese Method First?

Capitalism Straight Away, or the Chinese Method First? / Rafael Alcides
Posted on January 11, 2015

By Rafael Alcides — It’s December 17th. The majority (and right now
there are about 30 of us in line at the pharmacy) is celebrating the
agreements between Raul and Obama; if there had been firecrackers, they
would have lit them. Anyway, implicating everyone with her finger, a
woman with a child in tow and a voice choked by emotion was saying:
“Saint Lazarus has made this happen!”

As I was saying, the majority, because among the old guys (there were
eleven, counting me, and I’m not from that neighborhood; I’m just in
line there because my pharmacy didn’t have my medicine), there are three
in opposition: one who says that, without the mediation of dissidents,
the agreement constitutes a betrayal by Obama, a betrayal that will be
recorded in history with words of mourning.

The others shoot back with what about the people* in this
long-awaited moment, they’re thinking about their piece of the pie; and
the man, a chubby guy who looks like a lawyer, noting the lack of a
quorum and all the unfriendly faces, leaves without offering anyone his
place in line.

Another one is a dentist, who later they will tell me is not one of
those Human Rights people, but while his cohorts debate the future of
Cuban socialism, he’ll continue saying that without an elimination of
the on the horizon, the agreements between Raul and Obama have
been nonsense and it’s obvious that Raul is not Fidel.

And the other old guy who opposes is wearing dark glasses, is very
respected by the group, and totally rejects the agreements. That’s why,
in order to debate things fully, and because these guys are old, we
follow Jose Marti’s old men in “Los zapaticos de Rosa**” and distance
ourselves; meanwhile, there in the entrance to the pharmacy the majority
continues, with the Saint Lazarus devotee as their leader, believing
capitalism is already here.

“No sir, as a former military man,” some cross-eyed guy assures the man
with the dark glasses, “I can tell you that the general has not
handed the keys of the city over to the enemy. You are right when you
say Fidel himself has said one thing one day and the complete opposite
the next, but that’s politics. It’s the political chess game. With each
new power play the scene changes. It can’t be any other way.”

“For that very reason,” insists the man with the dark glasses, “I don’t
believe Raul when he says that this has been done without sacrificing
our principles, and tomorrow I’m turning in my Party I.D.; I don’t want
to have it on me when they let the businessman off the plane who will
take charge of cleaning up the garbage, and the one who will take on the
issue of transportation, and the one who’s already budgeting for the
construction of two hundred thousand houses in six months, for starters,
and I won’t go on because the rest you can figure out on your own.”

“Stop posing as a national oracle,” admonishes the military guy, losing
his temper. And in an even worse mood, the man with dark glasses replies:

“The oracle here is still Fidel, and with his flaws, Raul. I abide by
the law of physics. If you remove a brick from a dam, just one brick,
you’re bringing about the end of the dam. Look at the Chinese, look at
the Vietnamese. Tons of Chinese millionaires today. Tons, thousands. And
leading the Party. The only thing missing now is what the bourgeoisie
and the lackeys of imperialism call ‘democracy.’”

“In any case,” says the man dressed in bermudas and
an Industriales baseball cap, “is that good or bad? Because what I want
are busses that me, trucks that pick up my garbage, and for my
family to not have to live in barbacoas [jerry-built tenements], cramped

“But not by those means, because that would be the end of socialism,”
objects the military guy, agreeing with the man in dark glasses.

“But what’s more important: the means or the end result?”

That came from one of the old guys who hadn’t spoken yet, apparently
someone of authority in the group and who addressed the crossed-eye guy
and the soldier as “my brother.” His summons surprised the one with the
dark glasses:

“So then, for you principles don’t matter. Very strange considering your
history. A guy like you.”

“I trust Raul,” says the historical one. “You were talking about the
Chinese, but we aren’t Chinese here. And if it’s necessary to be
Chinese, we’ll become Chinese. And if we have to do what the Chinese
haven’t done yet, we’ll do that, too. Socialism hasn’t worked at all
anywhere in the world, and Raul, who’s in touch with the world, has seen
this. That’s why he’s done this, so get ready for what’s coming.”

Since the historical one seemed to know a lot about what was coming, the
group got quiet, willing to listen. The quietest one was the man with
dark glasses; but, suddenly, as if coming to his senses and more
interested in his present than in the future, he unexpectedly asked:

“And what about me? You know me; the sixty-four awards, seals and medals
I have at home say something, the son of mine who died in an
internationalist war, and everything else you know. Outside of Cuba, I
could live like a king. So tell me, can he who has suddenly made it all
clear, at the end of his life, stand to see us back where we were when
we started this thing?”

Except for the man with the dark glasses, everyone sided with the man in
bermudas and baseball cap. Rectifying things is the work of wise men, he
was saying. There was no agreement, however, on whether or not Raul
would take the necessary steps to dismantle the system, whatever those
were, without causing damage, doing it without seeming to, one step
here, another there, taking his time.

“But, what about me?”

“Raul doesn’t have time to do things slowly,” said a fragile but
energetic-for-his age doctor who had intervened twice before.

“And what about me?”

Nobody paid attention to the one in dark glasses, he kept repeating his
“what about me’s” but the people ignored him. Their attention was on the
argument between the doctor and the military guy.

“The Army general has all the time in the world,” the military guy
insisted angrily. The one in bermudas and baseball cap backed him up:

“These people last a thousand years. Gallego Fernandez is 100 and look
at him still standing stronger than a light post.”

“No sir, Gallego isn’t 100 yet,” specified the historical one.

The doctor explained himself, appealing to their common sense:

“I’m saying that Raul doesn’t have time to waste making changes one baby
step at a time; not in the crushing conditions the country finds itself
now; whatever he is going to do, he has to do it quickly, he’s opened
the gates and that’s very delicate, he no longer has the outside enemy
as the excuse that allowed him to keep the non-conformists here on the
inside in their place, and they will become more courageous. Without
stopping to think about whether he hurts one or one million, he has to
do it like Fidel did when, suddenly, at a burial he said that when I
said digo [I say] it was really Diego, and in the process turned us into
socialists. In fact, that was also on a 16th day of the month. Just
like that, the way you rip off a Band-Aid. That’s the kind of time he
doesn’t have.”

The historical one didn’t understand the objection. He spoke for everyone:

“Everyone has their methods, and in the one I’m talking about, Raul
would avoid responsibility and end up as the one who corrected Fidel’s
mistakes. For starters, this is about Cuba, not the conceited fame of
anyone. Do you remember the last interactions between the Godfather and
his son, Mike Corleone? Imagine Diaz Canel acting like he’s talking and,
behind him is Raul—who has resigned, alleging that he was really really
sick but in reality he’s healthier than all of us—speaking for comrade
Diaz Canel. We are, as my pal and neighbor used to say” — then he
signals for the man with dark glasses — “in the very moment when the
Chinese, after wasting thirty years making cement in the back yard with
a cauldron and wood fire as if they were frying pork rinds, enter
history. Talk to the Chinese about those lost years. In the same way,
anyone here today who has felt deceived, will applaud later.”

It wasn’t a finished debate. There was still hardly any blood. Someone
was saying that maybe a Chinese method was coming that didn’t use Cuban
capital, recalling the economic philosophy of the bonsai*** set forth by
Murillo; for his part, the dentist continued to repeat like someone
obsessed, that without an elimination of the embargo, Obama and Raul’s
agreements were nonsense, even more so considering that not so long ago
Raul had claimed that we could withstand the embargo 55 more years.

Then the doctor, perhaps fed up with that guy’s lamenting, raising his
voice and confronting him, said that the plural in Raul’s “we could” was
an exaggeration, that Raul hadn’t experienced one second of the embargo,
that during 55 years Raul had woken up in air conditioning, that he had
sat in an air-conditioned car, walked into an air-conditioned office,
gone to bed with air conditioning and had only gotten sweat on his shirt
when he went out to review a military unit, catching some sun on the way
in order to synthesize his vitamins, or when he went hunting.

And that’s when it started. The military guy demanded the take back his
words; audacious, the doctor refused; and while those two old men were
being subdued by the group, I heard a woman who had been cleaning her
upper dentures with a nail file say to an old man who had just arrived,
as she put her teeth back in, energetic and ready to interject:

“With these changes that are coming, I would like them to do what the
Chinese still haven’t done; if for no other reason than for the people
here to be able to say what they think without things like this happening.”

This post by Rafael Alcides was hosted on Regina Coyula’s .

Translator’s notes:

*This phrase does not refer to any specific organization; the
“human rights person/people” is widely used by Cubans to refer to anyone
engaged in any way in working for democracy and human rights in Cuba.

**”The Little Pink Shoes” is a very famous poem in Cuba by José Martí.
It tells the story of Pilar, a privileged little girl, who while playing
on the beach sees a poor little sick girl with cold feet and no shoes.
Pilar gives the girl her shoes, telling her, ‘Oh, take mine, I have more
at home.’

***Marino Murillo is Cuba’s Minister of Planning and . The late
Cuban economist , a regime opponent, coined the term
“bonsai businesses” to refer to the types of small private businesses
now allowed by the regime: bonsai, of course, are very small, and are
subject to constant “trimming” to make sure they are not allowed to grow
to any significant size.

Translated by: Kathy Fox

10 January 2015

Source: Capitalism Straight Away, or the Chinese Method First? / Rafael
Alcides | Translating Cuba –

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