[Marxism] Not the Cuban fiesta planned for Castro's 80th (MSNBC)

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Fri Aug 11 07:45:22 MDT 2006

Particularly interesting report by MSNBC's Mary Murray, including 
comments by Ariel Dacal, co-author of a recent Cuba book on the fall 
of the USSR called "Russia: from Real Socialism to Real Capitalism"
published last year, Cuban-American sociologist Nelson Valdes who
looks at Cuban society through a broad social and historical lens,
as well as dissident leader Oswaldo Paya who observes the process
occuring here as one opposed to the island's political leadership.

Ariel Dacal Diaz has been studying Soviet affairs for some time
and is the author of an essay, THE FRUSTRATED TRANSITION:

Prologue to "Russia from Real Socialism to Real Capitalism"

Oswaldo Paya: A call for peace and reflection:

Nelson Valdes is the director of Cuba-L listserve, a prolific and
comprehensive bi-lingual news source following Cuba for the past
twenty years. I sometimes like to say that Nelson Valdes has forgot
more about Cuba than I will ever know.

Walter Lippmann, CubaNews

Not the Cuban fiesta planned for Castro’s 80th 
With their leader in an undisclosed hospital bed, 
	Cubans ponder their future
By Mary Murray 
NBC News

Updated: 7:33 a.m. ET Aug. 11, 2006

HAVANA — This is far from the birthday Fidel Castro’s loyalists
planned for when the Cuban leader turns 80 on Sunday.

Havana intended to throw a major bash with plenty of pomp,
circumstance and a dash of the fanciful.

Coming to town were partygoers from overseas — famous writers and
actors, heads of state and friendly CEOs, and even a delegation of 40
Turkish men —oddly all named Fidel — who covered the airfare with
private donations.

The national festivities were to stretch across days — from an
academic symposium to look at the iconoclast’s mark on the world, to
nights of outdoor concerts with top Latin artists. Art galleries
framed photos of his green khakis and bushy beard image, and
thousands of little kids hoped to eat cake doled out by professional

Instead, the guest of honor remains hospitalized in an undisclosed
location, tucked far away from public view as he recovers from
emergency abdominal surgery.

The party now has been postponed until December, when Castro is
expected back on his feet.

But some suggest it may be close to being over.

Some celebrate expected early demise

A noisy fiesta erupted some 90 miles away to celebrate Castro’s
rumored death instead of acknowledging his life.

Closer to home, an early birthday wish ran across the electronic
ticker at the U.S. diplomatic mission, proclaiming: “All Cubans,
including those under the dictatorship, can count on our help and

It’s been just two weeks since Castro’s operation and, in engineering
student Orlando Lopez’s opinion, probably too soon for most people to
pay attention to Washington’s message.

“The Americans should wait and see what happens before they bury
Fidel,” said Lopez, 19, confident the communist leader would pull

At the same time Lopez does not envision his future in Cuba.

Like thousands of other college students, he plans to take his degree
elsewhere — to Canada or Chile or even Australia — “a place I can
earn money.”

Professionals complain constantly that their low salaries in Cuban
pesos lag far behind the cost of living, and that they can’t buy
essential items available only in convertible currency. Lopez’s
desire to emigrate, he insists, is not political but economic.

Questioning the future

Like 70 percent of the people here, Lopez knows no other leader or
government system. Born after Castro swept to power in 1959, he said
he and his country have only experienced “hard times.” But he is
quick to absolve Castro from blame. “He’s not at fault.”

True or false, during almost half a century of rule, Castro has left
his stamp on every aspect of life here — leaving people like Ariel
Dacal, 32, to question the future.

“It can’t be the same and it shouldn’t be the same,” he said.

A social historian, Dacal, does not advocate a return to capitalism.
Quite the opposite, in fact, he gripes that Cuba is not egalitarian

He advocates “collective leadership” with a big dose of “popular
participation” and “popular control over decisions” — in other words,
more democracy within the communist context.

No one can fill Castro’s shoes, he ruminates, nor should the country

Castro just might agree. Temporarily abdicating power after his
operation, he named not only his younger brother Raúl but six trusty
confidantes to run the country. At first glance, it looks like he’s
turning his one-man decree into collective rule.

Look just a bit deeper before drawing any conclusions, suggests
leading dissident Oswaldo Payá, 54.

“This represents no change at all. 
 For three generations we have
lived without rights, under a regimen in which Castro and the
Communist Party have run our lives,” said Payá.

Pronouncements are not enough, insisted Payá. “What do we want?
Peaceful change—through dialogue, with Fidel dead or alive. That’s up
to God!”

Engaging Cuba’s youth

With every year that passes, Castro accelerates his push to get young
Cubans involved. The goal — to preserve his legacy and energize a
generation seemingly more interested in the material than the

Last year, Castro came clean to a university audience: Cuban society
was rife with corruption and theft. He challenged them to help set
things straight.

“This revolution can destroy itself 
 and it would be entirely our
fault,” said Castro.

One example he gave was that half of all gasoline sales at government
pumps ended up in people’s pockets instead of public cash registers.

To curb the vice, Castro fired every last gas station attendant and
hastily trained some 30,000 young people to work the pumps. Within
the month, gas retail revenues had jumped over a quarter of a million
dollars. His youth army was on a roll.

Or, is it?

Cuban American sociologist Nelson Valdés believes that the assumption
that “youth are revolutionary by nature” gets turned on its head in
Cuba. Other factors play a role including income, environment and
life experiences.

Young adults born after 1980, who spent their formative years during
what the government here calls the “Special Period” — after the
Soviet Union collapsed, sending the economy into a tailspin and
everything was in short supply — may view Fidel Castro and his
government in a different light than their parents.

“People born since 1980 have not seen the best times or results of
the revolutionary regime,” said Valdés.

Lydia, 19, who asked not to publish her full name, pumped gas for
almost a year and “hated every moment.” She answered Castro’s call
because a parent had insisted the high school dropout find work.

“My mother made me do it,” she laughs. “She’s a militante and agrees
with Fidel that the stakes are high.”

Fighting until the end

Since the president took to his sick bed, Lydia’s mother and
thousands of other Cuban Communist Party members have poured into the
streets to stage pro-government rallies across the island.

“Retirees are willing to die fighting until our last drop of blood,”
said Luis Martell, 89, a former trade union official.

“We have taken measures to guard against the enemy within and
without,” warned Serge Medina, 40, a local Communist Party official.

As the speakers droned on at a recent rally, Lydia edged away from
the crowd towards an ancient park bench. One could apathy in the
teen, but deep concern as well.

“I’m worried about him. There is no one who comes close,” she said.
“I can’t imagine what we will do without him.”

The idea, she admitted, frightened her.

Mary Murray is an NBC News Producer based in Havana, Cuba. URL:
© 2006 MSNBC.com

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