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Money Bristles, Yesterday and Today

Money Bristles, Yesterday and Today / Miriam Celaya
Posted on July 6, 2014

About the previous post, which -as expected- elicited many well and
ill-intentioned comments, I noticed one in particular, a reader
commenting about what used to be our digital magazine Consenso, which
the commentator himself referred to as having opened a Cuban window on
the world. I happen to agree with him and, as part of the management
group and the editorial board of that magazine, I thank him for the
memories and the praise.

But the truth is that his comment inspired me to search through those
articles that were published at the time in Consenso, among which I
found one from my friend and colleague Reinaldo Escobar relating to the
subject of the debate: money. Because, though some were biased in
reading my post and tried to twist the meaning of what I said,
attributing it to my personally attacking those “who did not
like14ymedio.com”, when read correctly, it shows that what I attack is
the vice of envy, questioning other’s finances, exactly the same matter
that Reinaldo Escobar discussed in Consenso in 2007. Contrary to my
habit of not posting here articles I have not authored, I reproduce it
today, with the previous authorization of the writer. You be the judge
about its worth, and I hope you enjoy it.

Money Bristles

Reinaldo Escobar

It seems almost superfluous to explain that any political activity
generates costs, from the essential existence of a professional staff,
dedicated to party work on a full time basis, to the development and
dissemination of documents, including trips involving transportation,
food and lodging outside the cities where they reside; organizing
seminars, meetings or press conferences, or simply connecting to the
Internet. Can you think how it would be possible to carry out politics
without these things?

There isn’t the slightest possibility for an entity in the nascent Cuban
civil society to establish anything like a lucrative business to cover
the costs of political work. There are no cafeterias, rental rooms,
bicycle repair shops or birthday clown entertainers willing or able to
meet those expenses. Not even one of the leaders of the internal
opposition has his own resources, family assets from before the
revolution, or has jewelry to sell or an inheritance to enjoy; most of
them do not receive a salary, they are unemployed. However they engage
in politics in a professional manner, they secure their own
transportation and stays away from home, they undertake conferences,
print documents, receive and send emails. Where does the money come from?

The Cuban government’s answer to this question is that the money comes
from the US, be it Florida exiles, independent foundations, or the
American government itself, which, if there ever was any doubt, has just
approved an $80 million budget to this effect. It is known that some EU
or Latin American countries also contribute, but it is clear that,
according to the official interpretation of the facts, this last source
of funds is, when all is said and done, from the US, by way of an
extensive and tangled pathway.

Perhaps the most interesting question is not where the money comes from,
but under what conditions it is received.

José Martí raised funds for Cuban independence from selfless Tampa
cigars manufacturers, but also from wealthy American, Mexican and Cuban
philanthropists. There used to be a picture at the Museum of the
Revolution, long ago removed, where Fidel Castro was seen sitting at a
table in front of a mountain (a small mountain) of dollars. The photo
was taken in New York, while raising funds to buy the yacht Granma, plus
weapons for the 82 revolutionaries. Were these donations subject to any
conditions? Of course they were! The funds were donated, in the first
case, to end the humiliating Spanish colony and in the second, on
condition to overthrow Batista’s dictatorship. There is no evidence, not
even hallway gossip, giving the impression that the money was used for
the personal benefit of the apostle [as Cubans call Jose Marti], who
always wore the same threadbare black suit, or on luxuries of the
foremost leader, who, it is rumored, did not cross his legs in public so
none could see the holes on the soles of his shoes.

The triumphant Cuban revolution received lots of aid from the Soviet
Union and other socialist countries, and I am speaking just of what is
euphemistically called “fair trade between poor and developed
countries”. I’m talking about ships full of weapons and other war
supplies, about college scholarships, technology transfer, collaboration
of police intelligence, even of space travel, which would have never
happened if Cuba had not complied with the condition of becoming the
first socialist country in the Western Hemisphere. It is a historical
fact that when Che Guevara traveled to China, a joint communique was
issued on completion of his trip, as is the custom, in which the
Chinese, bragging with sincerity, objected to the qualification of
“disinterested” made by the Cubans about the support the Asian giant was
giving the small island.

In those early years, parallel to the subsidy of the revolution, the
financing of the counterrevolution began. It is well documented that at
least between 1959 and 1965 almost all the opposition activities were
directly funded by the CIA, the Pentagon, and the US State Department.
The central characters themselves have stated so, and all of them
justified this financing, so obviously stipulated by the fact that the
government of Fidel Castro was supported by Communist powers.

Today, Cuban dissidents are imprisoned when it is shown, or when there
is a conviction, that they have received money from the US. That was, in
every case, the heaviest accusations resulting in disproportionate
sentences to which the 75 of the Black Spring of 2003 were subjected.
This went as far as to include in the same boat journalists receiving
payment in exchange for articles in foreign newspapers. It led, among
other consequences, to new divisions among the internal opposition:
those not receiving money and receiving it through the U.S. Interests
Section, and those who did not receive funds from the US, but from
independent institutions in Europe and Latin America.

What almost no one asks is where the money comes from today to publish
all those costly national and provincial newspapers, organs of the
Communist Party, of the Union of Young Communists, or the Central Cuban
Workers Union. How were the open forums financed all this time, the
militant marches, the whole material base of the “Battle of Ideas”, the
campaigns for the rescue of the five combatants of the Interior
Ministry, jailed in the United States, the trips abroad, the foreign
guests at political events, billboards on highways, t-shirts with
slogans, or the little flags.

Would it be possible to pay all that with the monthly member
contributions to these organizations, which isn’t even enough to pay the
salaries of thousands of professional cadres scattered throughout the
whole country, in every province, in every municipality, occupying
premises that do not pay rent, where water and electricity are consumed,
where there are phones and secretaries, gas-guzzling cars that include a
chauffeur?

Political work involves disbursements, be it from the opposition or the
government. If the party in power has at its disposal boxes of public
funds to cover expenses and those in the opposition, besides not having
even legal recognition, also don’t have, literally, a place to drop
dead, what is the recommendation? To let the government do whatever it
wants without offering the slightest resistance, or to limit the action
only to within earshot, without even a megaphone to amplify it?

The only option the members of the opposition on the island have been
cornered into, in order to be able to exercise their specific political
tendency, is that of accepting financing from whomever offers it, unless
they are OK with being a “family faction” without the least echo in
society. This is part of the deliberate intention on the part of the
government to disallow any alternative of political change in Cuba. This
intention stretches from a long series of die-hard slogans (socialism or
death, we are ready to shed the last drop of blood, the Island will sink
in the sea first…) to the modification of the constitution to enact the
immobility of the system. The harder it is to dissent, the better for
the government. If the material and legal obstacles aren’t enough, if
fear of going to jail is not enough, that’s where the ethical scruples
(prejudices?) come in, preventing decent people from accepting funds
that automatically turn them into mercenaries of the imperialism.

Ideally, the Cuban media should not be the party’s fiefdom, but a public
space for all political persuasions; with the state budget partially
allocated to fund the work of civil society and of political parties
duly registered under the law. If the state, instead of distributing all
these funds and resources in an impartial manner, funds that proceed
from the working class, monopolizes them only for the favored party, it
loses its moral right to ask where the opposition’s money comes from.
Additionally, it should not deny anyone the possibility of becoming a
disinterested donor or a calculating investor. The state should protect
those citizens who have a political proposal, the right to defend it and
have it compete publicly and on equal terms, without being forced to
sell their souls to the devil.

Translated by Norma Whiting

Posted 9 June 2014 by Miriam Celaya

Source: Money Bristles, Yesterday and Today / Miriam Celaya |
Translating Cuba –
http://translatingcuba.com/money-bristles-yesterday-and-today-miriam-celaya/

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