The day after cannot be the same as before

Dave Kellaway continues our coverage on Cuba by sharing a recent article by Luis Emilio Aybar published in La Tizza.


Reproduced from the current issue of La Tizza – (Un lugar para pensar y hacer el socialismo desde Cuba = a site for reflecting on and developing socialism inside Cuba)

*At ACR we believe it is very important that the left internationally listens to what critical voices in Cuba are saying about the recent protests. We do not agree that you can divide the Cuban people into protestors who are all counter-revolutionary, delinquents, and manipulated by Miami or the US and the rest who support the Cuban Communist Party and are revolutionaries. We are very much against the US blockade. But we do not think all the problems facing the Cuban people can be reduced to this one thing, however a very important constraint. Left groups here pontificating about the problems and the way forward may be of some interest.  More important is to listen to those Cubans living in Cuba, who defend the revolution, attack the blockade but are critical of the CCP and the existing political structures.  The left internationally has a responsibility not just to challenge their governments and the US on the blockade but also to illuminate the political debate already going on in Cuba and to support measures to make that discussion easier and more effective.  We do this because, as this author suggests, failing to open up, actually pushes more angry people into the hands of the Miami gusanos and the US interventionists and weakens the revolution. (Dave Kellaway)

The most serious thing about the recent events is that a part of the people, those who were not paid to demonstrate, and who do not belong to opposition groups manipulated by the Yankees took up the imperialist slogans during the protests. Imperialists have been working towards this for a long time. But the question is not only how they achieved it, but also, and perhaps even more importantly, what weakening and fractures  internal to our system allowed the victims of the blockade to identify with the ideological instruments of those who apply it and those who defend it.

To reach this result, it is not enough that Cuban institutional policy is marked by inadequacies, negligence and errors at different levels, leading people protesting to hold the government responsible for their situation. Nor was it sufficient for the counter-revolutionary campaigns to develop powerful manipulation techniques. It was also necessary that the revolutionary and patriotic forces were unable to lead the struggle against this institutional negligence and inadequacy.

The vacuum we leave allowed the opposition sentiment that nestles in the hearts of many Cubans to be channelled by their international oppressors. This vacuum, built up over decades, is deeply contradictory to our beliefs: shouldn’t we revolutionaries  and communists be the first to fight corruption, bureaucracy, injustice, authoritarianism, wherever  they come from? How is it possible then that we don’t do it, or that, even when we do, everything is organised so that no one knows about it? It is clear that I am not referring to verbal disapproval, but to effective action to oppose these phenomena concretely at the various territorial, sectoral, institutional and social levels.

We have been trapped by a series of principles deeply rooted in Cuban political culture:

1. The State is the Revolution and, therefore, to oppose the State is to be counter-revolutionary,

2. Challenging people, policies and practices of the state affects unity,

3. Criticism must be made in the right place, at the right time and in the right way,

4. Being a revolutionary implies unconditional support for the leaders of the revolution,

5. Revolutionary discipline – understood as always waiting for directions and sticking to them – must be practised.

It turns out that the Revolution is certainly present in the Cuban state, but not in the whole of it. As such, our state contains practices, people and policies that contradict the Revolution’s project of social justice. The processes that harm the people are the ones that most affect unity when they are ongoing, because they demoralise social organisations, disappoint people and weaken their own ranks. What to do in those scenarios where for a long time things are said “in the right place, at the right time and in the right way”, and nothing changes? If it is not possible to question wrong decisions, taken or supported by leaders, how are we to rectify them? While waiting for guidance, the attitude of creating something from concrete reality is extinguished, and one’s own thinking, the immediate urgent response and sensitivity to the needs of the people are lost.

These are vices accumulated over decades, in which the worst interests have been hiding. They generate a very favourable environment for the arbitrary, dogmatic, discretionary and corrupt exercise of power.

In conclusion, what happened on 11 July can also be explained by the fact that we communists and revolutionaries did not fight with sufficient force and effectiveness against the harmful practices of the state. We defended unity in a way that actually harmed it. We were content to put things in the right place even if the solution did not come. We uncritically accompanied the leaders instead of rectifying the path.  We allowed ourselves to be disciplined when what was needed was to think and act with our own heads.

How else can we understand the decades of inadequate attention to agriculture, a major factor in the current hardship? How else can we understand the lack of popular control over the decision to establish shops in freely convertible currency, and the voracity with which this measure has been applied.  There are entire villages where there is hardly a shop left in Cuban Pesos, which is the currency of wages? We can ask ourselves the same question about the lack of a protagonist role by the Central de Trabajadores de Cuba (TUC) in the design and implementation of the Ordenamiento Monetario (when the dual currencies were unified), a high-risk measure in a context of crisis.

During 2020, half of the country’s investments were earmarked for hotel construction, in conditions of a drastic decrease in international tourism and an acute shortage of inputs for agricultural production. The whole country was suffering blackouts of more than five hours every day, many of them at night, in the middle of summer, but this did not merit priority coverage in the national press or the president’s attention. He kept a low profile as usual, to avoid a sense of chaos, so the new daily crisis took Cuban families by surprise. The power cuts in the town of San Antonio de los Baños, where the protests erupted, were accompanied by disruptions to the water supply. Those responsible for planning the blackouts removed electricity in the circuit where the pumping stations are located. How did we allow social and cultural policies to be dramatically weakened in the neighbourhoods that staged the protests in the capital?

Remaining passive makes us complicit in these problems. We become accomplices and victims at the same time, because we are part of the people. Quite the opposite of what corresponds to a communist, whose raison d’être is to fight for the welfare and justice for all people without ceasing in our efforts.

July 11 must mark a before and an after. We must begin to fight with the people against the institutional counter-revolution, which is more complex and subtle for various reasons. Hardly anyone challenges it because it is defined as opposition, it is disguised as loyalty. On the other hand, it involves people and vested interests that have to be removed from the state, but also comrades who are needed even if they are wrong. Within the same institutions creativity must struggle with inertia, commitment with insensitivity, equality with privilege, emancipation with domination and triumph, so that the orbit of the Revolution becomes ever greater on this island.

Let’s use the existing mechanisms of popular control, which are very underused, and develop new ones that give those below effective power, so that we can defend ourselves against those tendencies. We need the ability to veto decisions, revoke positions, plebiscite proposals, at different levels and above all in the administrative field; that is to say, to broaden the forms of direct democracy. We must not be afraid of more confrontational methods or public agitation when there is a clear lack of will or counter-revolutionary hindrance, after other means have failed. We have the right and duty to use such methods in a strictly patriotic way and because keeping quiet does more harm than shouting. Keeping quiet is the opposite of what should be the DNA of a communist, whose raison d’être is to fight unceasingly for welfare and justice for all people.

Banish the vice of running away from conflict, which then explodes in our faces. The Fidelista way of doing things is not to avoid contradiction, but to assume it and lead it.

How can we allow protests supposedly orchestrated by the Yankee opposition, carried out “in the wrong place, at the wrong time and in the most inappropriate way”, to get the government to adopt two measures it could have taken a long time ago. These were the unlimited non-commercial import of food and medicine and the possibility of internal migrants using the ration book for basic goods?

The outcome may not always be so beneficial. Failure to pressure the government from the left means that the right will take the initiative, eroding the correlation of forces in its favour, i.e. for more market and private property, less education and public health, and concessions of all kinds to the imperialist rules of the game.

We communists and revolutionaries have all the more reason to stand strong, because we are for total justice, a beautiful and subtle way of saying that we will not settle for just a part of it. We have even more reasons to do so because we commit ourselves to solving the problems of this country every day.  We don’t give sermons from a balcony or a sofa. Above all we seek a solution for all people, unlike those inside or outside the institutions, with or without party cards, who speak in the name of the people in order to make their own careers. The dissatisfied and discontented are also on the side of those of us who went out that Sunday to defend the homeland. This Revolution will be complete when the hundreds of thousands of us who took part in the acts of reaffirmation all over the country, armed with the justice we have achieved, say enough is enough!

*for a further interesting response from the Cuban left see an article by the Communistas here.

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Dave Kellaway is on the Editorial Board of Anti*Capitalist Resistance, a member of Socialist Resistance, and Hackney and Stoke Newington Labour Party, a contributor to International Viewpoint and Europe Solidaire Sans Frontieres.

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