What’s to Learn in Cuba from Poland’s Example
It’s something I see pretty much every day. Crowds of people in different places, waiting to get food or other basic essentials.
It’s something that’s always existed, to a lesser extent in the past, but ever since mid-2019, it’s got a whole lot worse. It’s so obvious that you don’t need to be a good observer to see it. People transpire stress, uneasiness and frustration in the face of situations that are out of their control.
The year 2021 has kicked off with a rough start. The so-called Tarea Ordenamiento (economic reforms) has done nothing but make Cubans even more uneasy. Wages have gone up, but so have the prices of electricity, medicine, transport, food, and a long list of etcs., which expose the awful reality of our failed economy.
We are living in a vicious cycle, with no way out it seems. The only hope Cubans have left is that the COVID-19 pandemic will end and that there will be a change in US-Cuba policy, after the upcoming administration takes office in the US. A false hope that doesn’t guarantee our future.
The 1980s were extremely hard years in Poland
I recently watched a documentary about the decline of socialism in Poland. The 1980s were hell for this country. The interesting thing is that pictures from that time are very similar to what we see today in 21st century Cuba.
They were experiencing a great socio-economic crisis, like we are now. I could see the familiar image of poverty and huge lines to get food, which confirms that we aren’t experiencing anything new. That this is a constant in every country where a Leftist totalitarian regime has enjoyed power.
The only difference is that they reached a point where Communist leaders sat down to negotiate with the Polish people. They put their Homeland first, thereby initiating a transition process to democracy, accompanied by a package of reforms that has converted this country into one of Europe’s strongest, economically-speaking. They didn’t even suffer a recession during the 2008 financial crisis, and its GDP continues to grow even amidst the current COVID-19 pandemic.
However, what’s sad for us is that our hardline ruling class isn’t willing to give up its privileges. So, they try to perpetuate “continuity”, more of the same old, a proven cancer for our country. To do this, they have turned to the same resources they always have: propaganda and repression. Recent events linked to the San Isidro Movement are proof of this.
On the other hand, there was a movement in Poland that was widely supported by the population. Workers’ strikes and people’s protests became a daily occurrence. Although it’s true that totalitarianism there didn’t hold the same iron-fist control the Cuban version has.
Opposition unity is key
All in all, the lack of unity between Cuban democrats is crystal clear. Suspicions and internal divisions have meant that the so-called “opposition” hasn’t been able to articulate a movement like Poland’s old Solidarity movement, forcing the regime to modify its conservative politics at the very least.
However, in spite of all this, if there’s one thing Poland teaches us, it’s that we can attain a democracy, no matter how hard it might seem.
Let’s take a look at some statements from Solidarity’s leader Lech Walesa.
“It wasn’t until 1980 that we managed to unite the shipyard strikes to every social movement in Poland, and we even received displays of solidarity from abroad. We were able to tell the Communists: You always lied to us, we are the majority, we don’t want you here anymore! After that blow, they couldn’t do anything else.
“It was worth it. If I could choose, I’d do it all again. In the past, I never thought that Poland would be a free country and that I would be alive to see it, that we were going to recover what previous generations had lost, and that we were going to free ourselves from the yoke of slavery and Soviet power.”
If only we are able to become the Poland of the Americas, in the short or medium-term, with a peaceful transition to democracy, without trauma and hate.
The good people of Cuba deserve this.