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    At 55, Cuba’s Young Communist Union Loses Relevance But Does Not Want To Retire

    At 55, Cuba’s Young Communist Union Loses Relevance But Does Not Want To
    Retire

    14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, 4 April 2017 — There was a time when its red
    card was a source of pride and most teenagers dreamed of entering its
    ranks. But those days have been left behind for the Young Communists
    Union (UJC), an organization that turns 55 this Tuesday, with an aging
    image and a noticeable decrease in its membership.

    Founded in 1962, the UJC was a copycat of the Soviet Komsomols, creating
    a youth front that served as a quarry for the Communist Party of Cuba
    (PCC). In the midst of the enthusiasm of those years there were massive
    “processes of growth,” with the signing up of numerous members, but
    today many evade or reject this opportunity.

    “I never questioned whether or not to enter the UJC, it was what all my
    classmates did and I joined,” recalls Gladys Marrero, a retired nurse
    who worked with the organization for more than a decade. “In those years
    everything was different, people believed much more what was said in the
    meetings,” she says.

    Marrero was sanctioned in her local committee in 1980 for not
    participating in acts of repudiation* against those who emigrated during
    the Mariel Boatlift. “In the polyclinic where I worked a lab technician
    asked to step down to be able to leave [the country] and the UJC
    prepared a rally to ‘say goodbye’ to her,” she remembers. She didn’t
    want to participate in “those antics” and turned in her card.

    Of the nearly three million young people living in Cuba, according to
    the most recent Population and Housing Census of 2012, only 300,752 are
    affiliated with the UJC, which operates through 33,000 base committees
    across the island. The figure is much lower than almost 600,000 members
    who were on the rolls in 2007, when the country was in the midst of the
    effervescence of the Battle of Ideas.

    Yosvani, 25 years old and resident of Aguada de Pasajeros in Cienfuegos,
    was one of the young people who enrolled in the UJC during those
    years. “Several municipal leaders came to our high school and said they
    were going to undertake massive growth throughout the country, with more
    than 10,000 new militants,” he tells this newspaper.

    Over time, the young man lost interest because “there were too many
    meetings” and “they summoned us for anything.” One day he pretended that
    he had a serious health problem and asked for his discharge. In his
    local committee alone “more than half of the militants left,” he
    says. Some alleged family complications, but Yosvani believes they
    actually did it out of “lack of interest.”

    In Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, several young people waiting to enter the
    United States also once had the organization’s red membership card in
    their pockets. Richard, a fictitious name to avoid retaliation, has been
    stranded for two months at the US border after the cancellation of the
    wet foot/dry foot policy that allowed Cubans who stepped foot on
    American soil to stay. Although he calls himself a “revolutionary” he
    does not plan to mention his affiliation to US immigration officials
    should they “reverse Obama’s decision and let the Cubans in.”

    The migrant, who spoke with 14ymedio through videoconferencing, served
    as general secretary of his local committee and believes that “the UJC
    helped many young people not to fall into delinquency and to direct
    their lives.” However, he believes that the organization “fell into a
    rut” although “it still has a large presence in schools and workplaces,
    so it could take advantage of that structure.”

    In the middle of last year a young Cuban migrant was declared
    “inadmissible” by the US authorities because she confessed to having
    belonged to the Young Communists Union between 2010 and 2013.

    The absence of leadership has also hampered the activity of
    these komsomols. Of the UJC’s dozen first secretaries since its
    creation, more than half ended up being ousted while they leading the
    UJC or in later positions. The most famous cases were Luis Orlando
    Domínguez (1972-1982), Carlos Lage (1982-1986) and Roberto Robaina
    (1986-1993). The fear of ending up like them slows down many who would
    like to present themselves as more active and creative. Charisma is paid
    for dearly in these types of responsibilities.

    “People do not want to take positions inside the UJC to avoid getting
    into trouble,” says Yosvani. “That’s a tremendous burning,” he
    quips. The young man criticizes the “lack of power of the militants who
    go along with many things in the meetings but they do not have ability
    to influence decision making.”

    In 2015 and during meetings of the organization before the 10th
    Congress, the militants expressed their concern about the UJC’s
    stagnation. “It needs to be a living organism that has diversity, is
    truly transformed and represents young people,” said Han García, a
    student at the Victoria de Giron [Bay of Pigs Victory] Faculty of
    Medical Sciences.

    In an attempt to revitalize the organization and during an extraordinary
    meeting of the UJC in the middle of last year, the psychologist Susely
    Morfa González was named first secretary of the organization, replacing
    Yuniasky Crespo Baquero. Shortly afterwards, her meteoric rise continued
    when she was chosen as a deputy to the National Assembly of People’s
    Power and made a member of the Council of State.

    The young woman had turned in a combative performance at the Summit of
    the Americas in Panama in April 2015, starring in several acts of
    repudiation in which she labeled activists and exiles who participated
    in a parallel event with civil society as “lackeys, mercenaries,
    self-financed, underpaid by imperialism.”

    On Tuesday, in an interview with the official press, Morfa stated as a
    purpose of the UJC “to add to it so that it is an organization for
    everyone, so that each young person feels ever closer to it.” The
    secretary general estimates that among young Cubans “the vast majority
    is revolutionary,” although she acknowledged that “some people are
    questioning whether the new generations are aware of their social role.”

    But the functional paralysis and the diminution of its ranks are not the
    only concerns for the leaders of the UJC. The growth of the private
    sector has widened the phenomenon of young people who are outside the
    organization’s control and who work in a system governed by the laws of
    supply and demand.

    Of the more than half a million self-employed workers on the island,
    159,563 are young. The UJC has set out to capture young entrepreneurs at
    any cost but does not seem to have found much enthusiasm.

    “What I like about my work is that there are no meetings, no union, and
    I do not have to donate part of my salary to the Territorial Troop
    Militias, much less go to UJC meetings,” says Roland, a worker in a
    restaurant in Chinatown, in Havana.

    “Provincial and national leaders have come to talk to the young people
    here to raise awareness and make them militants, but people just aren’t
    up for that,” he reflects. “Now life is harder than when my parents were
    in the UJC, you have to earn money with a lot of effort and there is no
    time for so many meetings,” he finishes.

    *Translator’s note: This video – “Gusano” (Worm) – is about a current
    day repudiation rally and the opening scenes show video from the Mariel
    Boatlift repudiation rallies.

    Source: At 55, Cuba’s Young Communist Union Loses Relevance But Does Not
    Want To Retire – Translating Cuba –
    translatingcuba.com/at-55-cubas-young-communist-union-loses-relevance-but-does-not-want-to-retire/

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