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the new man in cuba
current status
by gonzalo fernández

In a letter to the editor of the Uruguayan weekly Marcha, published March 1965 under the title “Socialism and Man in Cuba”, Che Guevara addressed the issue of the "new man" (in Cuba) saying: “To build communism it is necessary, simultaneous with the new material foundations, to build the new man….This is the dictatorship of the proletariat operating not only on the defeated class but also on individuals of the victorious class…. Man under socialism, despite his apparent standardization, is more complete…. In this way he will reach total consciousness of his social being, which is equivalent to the full realization as a human creature…” (1)

“Many slogans and governmental actions were considered essential to create awareness of this new model of human being (“new man” in Cuba). A crusade was instituted to eradicate vices like gambling, addiction and prostitution, resulting in the closing of bars, pubs and nightclubs where said immoralities were prevalent. Army barracks were converted to schools, where children were interned, away from their families. Farming camps, called Military Units of Assistance to Production, (UMAP) were established to redeem misguided people (persons showing opposition to government directions, many of them gays.)..." Source: Cuba, the dictatorship and the new man, Nelson Núñez Dorta, Queretaro, Mexico, CUBANET.

Fidel Castro started indoctrination and brainwashing of the Cuban people from the beginning by taking control of all printed, radio and television media. Schools at all levels, trade unions and professional and other associations were put under control of persons representing his points of view. He established vigilante committees (Comités de Defensa de la Revoución, CDRs) in September 1960. The CDRs were, and they are, networks of informants at the block level in every city in the country, ensuring total adherence to the centralized government directives. All these apparatus tools have continued during the tenure of his brother Raúl Castro, in power after his illness forced him to relinquish power in 2008.

Shortly after Che Guevara’s death in Bolivia in 1967, Fidel Castro mandated to have all school children pledge, before starting daily classes, “seremos como el Che” (we will be like Che.)

In summary, the Cuban society has been molded at Castro’s will, in the creation of the so called “new man,” by his absolute control of all individuals since grade schools, and continuing at all higher levels of education, at work through the government controlled trade unions and in their homes by the indoctrination actions of the CDRs.

What is the overall current status of the “new man” in Cuba after more than fifty years of the brothers Castro’s government?

The answer has been given by Raúl Castro in front of the Cuban National Assembly on July 7, 2013:
“Raul Castro spent the lion's share of a prominent speech on Sunday scolding his countrymen for all kinds of bad behavior, from corruption and theft to public urination and the practice of raising pigs in cities.
Speaking before legislators at one of parliament's twice-annual sessions, the Cuban president railed against decaying morals, a deteriorating sense of civic responsibility and vanishing values such as honour, decency and decorum.

Castro aired a laundry list of complaints about illegal activities that he said did the country harm: unauthorised home construction, illicit logging and slaughter of livestock and the acceptance of bribes, to name a few.

He also fulminated against baser examples of "social indiscipline": shouting and swearing in the streets, public drinking and drunk-driving, dumping rubbish on the roadside and people relieving themselves in parks.” (2)

It is noteworthy the escapism present in Raúl Castro’s speech. After more than fifty years of government failures he recurres to putting the blame on scapegoats: the abysmal shortcomings of the economy result from the USA economic embargo, and now, the overall dismaying behavior of the Cuban “new men” results from pervasive attitudes of his countrymen.

In summary, in Cuba, “la culpa de todo la tiene el totí.”

“Blame it all on the totí,” is an old Cuban saying: a Cuban humorous and cynical portrayal of escapism, an inclination to retreat from unpleasant realities through diversion or fantasy.

“El totí” is similar to the black bird in USA. In real life it is a threat to crops when their swarms feast on sprouting rice and other grains. Surely, the “totís” do harm, but only some of it. Droughts, poor farming methods, Soviet styled collectivism and stiff government controls do far more damage. That old Cuban saying is extended to all kind of shortcomings.

The Castros, in their discharge of government duties, can identify shortcomings. By “putting the blame on the totí”, the Castros will never find ways of leading Cuba in the right direction.

(1) Source: Che Guevara: The Fish Die by the Mouth, CUBANET, by Humberto (Bert) Corzo.
(2) Source: Raul Castro rages against Cubans’ sloppy habits and decaying morals, Associated Press in Havana, The Guardian, Sunday 7 July 2013.


Gonzalo is a business consultant. He is one of the coauthors of The Handbook of Financing Growth, Wiley, Second Edition, 2009, Marks, Robbins, Fernández, Funkhouser and Williams. In Cuba's Primer, Lulu, 2009, he writes with the conviction and knowledge of a personal witness.

more about gonzalo fernández


no regrets
exiled cuban story
by gonzalo fernández
topic: general
published: 3.22.10

”mañana is always better in cuba”
presently cuba is walking on the edge of an economic abyss.
by gonzalo fernández
topic: general
published: 12.20.10


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