According to the ITU (see below), 61.8% of Cubans used the internet in 2019, though other sources have lower numbers (49.1% in 2020, according to Wikipedia; 40.3% in 2020, according to InternetWorldStats). Whatever the exact figure, there is no question that current levels are a sharp increase in a short period of time – doubling or more in the last five years.
There is also no question that a great many Cubans still do not have access to the internet and the access of those who are connected often leaves much to be desired.
In this context, Cubans have resorted to an interesting alternative: el paquete semanal (‘the weekly package’). Each week, 1 terabyte of internet content is downloaded onto hard drives and distributed, physically, across Cuba, from which individual Cubans can purchase select content on USB drives or downloaded onto their mobile devices. In that sense, the internet is to a large extent an offline phenomenon in Cuba.
We have been challenged to design our own ‘paquete’ as an exercise.
If I was to put together a curated package of my favourite sources to share, it would undoubtedly consist principally of e-text resources – below, I’ve divided those into ‘classics’, ‘politics’, and ‘science fiction and fantasy’. If we ignore that Cubans speak Spanish while I speak English, my curation would presumably be of greatest appeal to an audience of artsy-political-intellectual bibliophiles like myself. It would have a horrible deficit of telenovellas and K-pop. It’s quite possible that little in it would not already be available from other sources. But one might hope it could still find a decent audience.
What would be interesting would be what kind of political resonance it would have.
I do not blame the inadequacies of our society, of which there are so many, on ‘democracy’, but rather on the lack of democracy. In the same way, I do not blame the inadequacies of the Soviet Union (when there was a Soviet Union) or China or Cuba, of which there are also many, on ‘socialism’, but rather on the lack of socialism – which, for me, is just another word for ‘democracy’ in any case.
Of course, we are all encouraged (let’s be polite) to see ‘socialism’ as the problem in Cuba and China, and this is sold to us as solidarity with their people. This encouragement goes double for the Cubans themselves. Their government, like all governments, endlessly pitches how their country is the best place on Earth, a rose-garden of infinite delights, unsullied by suffering of any name (save perhaps the inexplicable ingratitude of the ruled). In Cuba, lauding the history of the state means rolling out much socialist-revolutionary rhetoric. Not surprisingly, Cubans are at best rather dubious of all this. And anti-democrats the world over, but especially amongst the Cuban diaspora, make no bones about where they think the problem lies.
The upshot being, sources of a radically left-wing bent are not as self-evidently aligned with dissent and opposition there as here. But I’m confident that the texts offered through the sites below are not ones that would offer succour to any state. The Cuban government undoubtedly prefers people to laud Che’s memory than imitate his example.
That said, here are some sources I would recommend (and would ‘package’ wholesale):
- The Internet Archive (this is no longer simply ‘an e-text collection’ – I suppose it never really was – but it is always the place to start in sharing such collections!)
- Project Gutenberg (need one say more?)
- Perseus Digital Library (comprehensive collection of classic Greek and Roman materials, as well as a selection of Arabic, Germanic, 19th century American, and Renaissance materials)
- Online Library of Liberty (an anti-democratic American repository that is, nonetheless, a superb source of classic texts, especially in the history of philosophy – the old version, the Liberty Library of Constitutional Classics is also still available and useful)
- Christian Classics Ethereal Library (wide variety of classic Christian texts from the 1st century on, including many non-canonical ones)
- Internet Sacred Texts Archive (out-of-copyright texts from many traditions, including all 50 volumes of the Sacred Books of the East)
- Folktexts (Folklore and Mythology Electronic Texts)
- Multilingual Folktale Database (browsable by Aarne-Thompson-Uther classification)
- the Ex-Classics Web Site (collection of no-longer-canonical titles)
- Classics in the History of Psychology (see also the Mead Project)
- Archive for the History of Economic Thought
- Monoskop (“a wiki for arts, media and humanities” – home to a large quantity of contemporary theory – it would also be worth scraping the content at digamo.free.fr, though the only way to view that is with a Google search)
- Revolutionary Democratic Politics
- Marxists Internet Archive (as it says on the label)
- The Library at nothingness.org (small collection of anarchist texts, particularly strong on the Situationists)
- Nestor Makhno Archive (writings of the Ukrainian anarchist leader and his movement)
- Library at libcom.org (anarchist writings and blog)
- Readings from the Left (book chapters and pamphlets on socialism, including works on Cuba)
- Spunk Library (mirror of the original Spunk Library of anarchism)
- Communists in Situ (wide variety of interesting texts contemporary and historical)
- Open Source Marxism at the Charnel House
- The Anarchist Library (editions in 16 languages)
- A collection of the writings of Ivan Illich
- Science Fiction and Fantasy
- Lightspeed Magazine
- Strange Horizons
- The Cascadia Subduction Zone
- Beneath Ceaseless Skies
Of course, el paquete is not something bound by copyright laws and bogus paywalls. That being the case, scraping and sharing JSTOR, Wiley Online Library, ScienceDirect, SpringerLink, and Routledge/Taylor & Francis would be a worthwhile contribution.
It should be noted that I’ve been accumulating e-text repositories for decades, not all of which are still online. Some of the texts I have links for are for single works, not large repositories. So going through all of these and picking out a selection actually takes quite a while. I’ve tried to choose the items that would have the greatest breadth. Hopefully they’ll help others find material of interest!