Cuba, Communism, and the Inner World

Tuesday, July 2, 2017
Havana, Cuba


Cuba, Communism, and the Inner World

Communism’s failure is obvious here in Cuba.

The state-run, communist government — which has gradually introduced some capitalist reforms — nonetheless offers for advancing a better system, social democracy, throughout the world.

Cuba lacks the crushing poverty common in Africa, India, and even other parts of the Caribbean and South America. You see no homeless people.

Healthcare is universal, making it even more embarrassing and shameful to arrive from the world’s richest nation — the only industrialized one that lacks universal healthcare for its citizens. Average life expectancy in Cuba rose from age 57 in 1958 to age 79 in 2012 — the same as in the US.

Education is free, all the way through university. Cuba has literacy rates exceeding 95 percent. Violent crime is rare. The pervasive sexism of pre-Revolutionary Cuba has been replaced by equitable gender attitudes.

Residents of Havana, known as Habaneros, like to joke about Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution.

They speak of the three successes of the revolution:

Sports, medicine and education. 

They cite its three failures?

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Residents obtain ration books that barely allow for sufficient nutrition. Hospitals are worn down, and utilize generators in case power failure close down operating theaters mid-use. Many of the buildings, although colorful and pretty, are visibly crumbling. The average Cuban earns $20 per month — ironic and sad since it costs $15 for a cab from the airport to downtown Havana.

When asked to describe their lifestyles, Habeneros say,

No es facil. 

It ain’t easy.

I have students of psychoanalysis in China who read my blog, and many question my interest in politics.

What does the political have to do with the psychoanalytical?


Psychoanalytic psychotherapy works with patients who exist in multiple, parallel contexts. For example, their age, or their stage in life (which may or may not correlate with age), proves relevant to whatever troubles them. Fatigue in an 80-year-old differs in significance from fatigue in a 19-year-old.

In like manner, patients’ political contexts are extremely important. One of the more embarrassing features of psychoanalysis is its cost. In Pasadena, a single session by a licensed psychologist runs $200. Some clinics, like Rose City Center, offer psychoanalytic psychotherapy for much less, as low as $35 per session. Often, however, even this proves too expensive for the economically disadvantaged.

Politics, and more specifically, social justice, proves relevant to the psychoanalytic enterprise. Since it concerns itself with the human subject — the experience of being human — the sociocultural and historical context of humanity is front and central to psychoanalysis.

Besides, as many like Michel Foucault have noted, it is impossible to not have a political viewpoint.

Mine, obviously, calls for greater income equality, and universal healthcare, education and a basic income for all citizens.

If and when these values are adopted by governments, patients seeking help from psychoanalysts can focus on their inner worlds and their interpersonal relationships. They can address their capacities for balancing work, love and play. They can seek self-actualization freed from the painful distractions caused by wage slavery and other dark edges of capitalism.

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