Cuba's CDR Committees: Bringing Back the Dead
December 29, 2015
HAVANA TIMES — There were no excuses: it wasn't raining, people had been
notified in advance, the meeting would be held before the sacred soap
opera came on and the "visitors" would arrive early. We had only to wait
until the clock showed 8 pm to start.
For two years now, none of the building's tenants have wanted to become
the chair of the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR). Put
that way, it would seem we are seeing a form of popular resistance, an
act of defiance against decadent organizations. Some might even think we
are approaching the date in which Cubans (or at least those living on my
block) decide to take the reins of their lives and send the
"revolutionary" abominations they suffer straight to hell.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves, tis best not to allow ourselves to
The blessed "visitors" were from the district Party office, that is to
say, members of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) who are retired and
continue to offer services in their place of residence.
The PCC secretary made it clear at the very beginning that she wasn't
there of her own free will, that it was a duty she had to fulfil. "What
we do is offer guidance and supervise, but, owing to the problem that a
CDR without a head represents…"
Yes, I asked myself the same question: what is the Party doing trying to
"solve" a problem faced by "genuine civil society"?*
The official continued in a very calm tone of voice: "If we don't elect
someone today, I'll have the difficult task of reporting this, and it'll
be a shame, because, in the past, this building held very nice
activities, had a pretty garden and people had enthusiasm."
No one said a word.
Then, she pulled the oldest trick in the book, appealing to veteran CDR
members: "Will no one step forward? If you elect a young person, so much
the better, but it can also be an elderly person who knows the neighbors
well, who knows each of their personalities. Will no one speak? Am I to
believe no one has an opinion on this? The district coordinator, who
lives in a different building, by the way, can't continue chairing this
CDR, that's not her job. There are valuable people here, why won't
anyone say anything?"
It was true: there was deathly silence.
In view of this situation, other officials – only women spoke – took the
floor to remind us that CDRs are "our way of life." In an effort to
offer something more substantial, they turned to the constitution:
"Chapter 4 speaks of the importance and duties of the family." Then,
they invoked illustrious figures: "It's no accident Jose de la Luz y
Caballero said that one's education begins at home, and home is where
the family is, and families are part of the CDR, as are all neighbors."
But people remained silent.
So, looking desperate, they took out the magic wand. While children are
frightened straight with the "boogey man," one word serves to horrify
Yes, this late in the game, people still jump up when they feel they are
being accused of being counterrevolutionaries. I know it's hard to
believe, but it's the truth.
The uncomfortable murmuring immediately began to be heard. An elderly
woman from the old, CDR guard took the position. There was no vote. It
didn't matter whether people agreed with this or not, the meeting was
There was applause. The word "dignity" caused a certain degree of
euphoria among those present. "We don't want anyone to come tell us what
to do, we know how to do things well, and we'll do them together. No
one's a counterrevolutionary here."
I should clarify that the uproar wasn't caused by any concrete fear. It
wasn't the fear of incurring the disfavor of others or receiving a poor
assessment**, it was more along the lines of having one's "honor
I love seeing the people I care for together, getting along without any
conflicts, overcoming differences, sharing things, etc. However, it is
pathetic that our union should be imposed on us by appealing to
something as confusing and absurd as the CDR, a dying organization that
fights tooth and nail to remain alive. No one believes the media when
they tout the vitality of the organization and very few see any reason
for it to exist at all, but there it is, still holding on to dear life
in our neighborhoods.
* During the Summit of the Americas, the Cuban government defended the
idea that the island's CDRs and other grassroot organizations are part
of a "genuine civil society." If that were so, it would have no need of
guidance or supervision from a Party.
** Some workplaces approach the CDR to confirm an applicant's
revolutionary credentials and social behavior. Many a time, getting the
job depends on this process.
Source: Cuba's CDR Committees: Bringing Back the Dead - Havana Times.org