Where is Cuba’s Ideology?
Even after the collapse of communism and the Soviet Union, the Castro brothers continue to tow the communist line in Cuba. It is now up to General Raul Castro to preserve the revolution’s espoused ideology, or to deviate from the previous rhetoric and embrace a system in which Cuba’s economy, and society, can prosper. Yet it is doubtful that Raul will depart much from his brother’s legacy.
Fidel Castro’s legacy emphasizes anti-Americanism, internationalism, and support for Marxist-Leninist ideology at home and abroad. “Dentro de la revolucíon todo, contra la revolución nada” (Within the revolution everything, outside the revolution nothing) Fidel Castro categorically declared. Anyone that did not support his ideology was considered outside the revolution, and thus, treated as a threat.
As José Azel noted in his new book Mañana in Cuba, one must “recognize fully that Cuba’s politico-economic system is not reformable as in a Darwinian evolutionary process….a philosophy of citizen empowerment is necessary to begin the return to individual responsibility from the collective legacy of a failed ideology.” The corollary of this inescapable fact is that General Castro cannot break from the stated dogma of the past 50 years and still hope to maintain his totalitarian grip on power. He will not become the next Gorbachev. In choosing between structural change or continuity, between his Scylla and Charybdis (the literal version of “between a rock and a hard place” from classic mythology), Raul will choose to be loyal to the rock that is his ideology- personal testimony of those who once were close to him suggests that he will do so more than Fidel-and accept all necessary economic losses to insure his ultimate survival.
Raul’s continued embrace of failed socio-political principles leaves Cuba’s “new opposition” – the term being given to Cuba’s youth – with little or nothing to which to cling. Over 2.5 million Cubans, almost a quarter of the population, have been born since 1991, after the fall of the Soviet Union. (1) They grew up during the “Special Period” (a period of austerity and emphasis on the ideology of the past) and have no real sense of what the revolution was meant to represent. Knowing only the hollow ideological rhetoric of the Castro brothers, and the economic and moral scarcity that it has caused, a majority of Cuba’s youth find the revolution’s ideology either irrelevant or an obstacle to their daily lives. Dario Reyes, a professor of Political Culture at Cuba’s IPVCE - Instituto Preuniversitario Vocacional de Ciencias Exactas – recently said that none of his “students are interested in studying the revolution’s ideology…They want to study subjects like math and science that will prepare them for the future in or outside of Cuba.”
Cuba’s youth desire a better future for themselves; they yearn to develop economically and as human beings, to have the capability to pursue their happiness wherever it may be found - with the revolution, against it, or independent of it. As the well-known Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez wrote in one of her articles, “Most young people’s eyes are looking to the outside because they see that they cannot make a change in their country. They desire to take a plane to Miami or Europe and in ten hours change their lives completely.”
Recently, Silvio Rodriguez, a well known singer inside the island known for his steadfast loyalty to the revolution’s ideology said, “It is time to review loads of things, loads of concepts, even institutions. It’s time for more freedom of expression and the removal of the ‘R’ in revolution because Cubans are crying out for ‘Evolution.’”
Speaking at the closure of the Congress of Communist Youth in Cuba, Raul Castro said, “Cuba’s young revolutionaries understand that to preserve the revolution, they must continue to make sacrifices.” He went on to call on Cuba’s youth to be prepared to replace the founding generation of the revolution. Young Cubans are not interested in making more sacrifices unless they have a voice in the process of change to restore the personal freedoms they so desperately want. But as Raul has made clear with his appointments of octogenarians – many of whom still don their military uniform, he is not about to give a voice to Cuba’s youth.
Cuba’s ideology is hollow; its
economic and foreign policies frequently deviate from communist dogma
when the ruling elite deem it necessary. However, Raul will continue
to cling to it because he does not have the will or is unable to change
it. He knows the alternative presents too much of a risk to his totalitarian
control. The youth will continue to feel that the current ideology is
irrelevant, some will chant “viva Fidel” for personal benefit
or because of fear. However, they will do so while having their sights
set on a future away from Cuba, the revolution, and its ideology. In
Cuba, communist ideology seems lost.
*Dr. Andy S. Gomez is Associate Provost and Senior Fellow, Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies, University of Miami and Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution.
Vanessa Lopez is a Research Associate at the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies.
We wish to acknowledge the assistance of Giselle Recarey,
UM research assistant.
The CTP can be contacted at P.O. Box 248174, Coral Gables, Florida 33124-3010, Tel: 305-284-CUBA (2822), Fax: 305-284-4875, and by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The CTP Website is accessible at http://ctp.iccas.miami.edu.