If Dissent Isn’t a Problem…
Taking into account both the words of the President of the Cubans Councils of State and of Ministers about promoting open discussion and not seeing a problem in dissent but rather a source of the best solutions, as well as his earlier statement that structural changes and the related and necessary changes in concepts should be introduced, I would like to state, expressing myself as a democratic socialist, my opinions on some of their planned approaches from April 4, at the close of the Ninth Congress of the Union of Communist Youth. I refer to the following four aspects:
1 – Without a strong and efficient agriculture … we can not hope to sustain and increase the nutrition of the population that still depends on imports of products that can be grown in Cuba.
2 – Unless people feel the need to work to live … We can never encourage a love for work, or solve the chronic shortage of builders, agricultural and industrial workers, teachers, police and other essential offices that are slowly disappearing.
3 – Without the formation of a strong and consistent social rejection of illegalities and various manifestations of corruption, it will continue that more than a few will get rich at the expense of the sweat of the majority.
4 – If we maintain inflated payrolls in almost all spheres of national life (it is estimated that there is an excess of workers of over one million people) and pay wages without any link to results, raising the amount of money in circulation, we can not expect prices to stop their constant rise, deteriorating the purchasing power of people.
As ideologies assume that everything can be explained without taking into account actual experiences, once purposes are defined the difficulties start when you begin to implement them. According to the Cuban president, we must break the hold of dogma and assume implementation with firmness and confidence, already underway, of our economic model. This statement contains an insoluble contradiction, for it is impossible to guarantee the survival of socialism in Cuba by updating the model that generated the crisis.
The State and civil society are two elements of the same system and if the State cancels civil society, as has happened in Cuba, it prevents citizens from being political subjects. The policy concept is broader than the state and the latter’s monopoly in all spheres generates binding rules that convert anyone who questions their legitimacy into enemy. That reality is at the root of the difficulties in which we are immersed. Therefore, if this is true, the way out is to be found in the substitution of democratic and participatory model for the current totalitarian one. Insisting on the above is to announce, in advance, a new failure.
It is necessary to renounce the pre-established schemes. Democracy has to do with the sovereignty of the people, and recent government statements presuppose that citizens share their values. This presumption underlay the Revolutionary Offensive, which ended all vestiges of economic independence of citizens in 1968 and in addition was responsible for: the process of correcting errors and negative tendencies of 1986; the timid reforms initiated in the early years of the decade of ‘90‘s of the past century; the counter-measures from 1995 to 1996; the thousand battles lost against corruption; measures in agriculture announced in July 2007; and the minimum plan submitted in February 2008, of which the most significant has been the Decree Law 259 for the delivery of land in usufruct.
This latter is a project created by the failure of the insistence to preserve the land the property of an incapable State, while farmers are prevented from owning their own land. Now, two years later, a similar program begins with the lease of their premises to barbers and hairdressers, an odd and isolated little experiment, but nevertheless one of a limited set of measures that could be effective if they were part of a program of structural changes.
The experience of the past 42 years has shown that none of these measures can possible resolve what they were intended to, for two reasons: one, the complexity of business in each country prevents absolute centralization, and two, the lack of civil liberties makes it impossible to implement. With socialism, in all its variants, all you can do is to deny the idea of a socialist democracy, without which it is impossible to solve any of the announced purposes. Rather non-democratic socialism has led the country into a state of disrepair ranging from economics to morality and generated rejection of the concept of socialism.
At this point, which has been compounded by having no policy framework — a fact recognized in the speech of April 4 — no new project can come from a group of persons, whether or not they are experts, nor from a political party because the party as indicated by its meaning, is only part of society. It requires the participation of all, with that all being the Cuban people, without exception, political, ideological or otherwise. A people prepared to have every right to participate in defining their nation. In short, we are and will be unable to leave the current state of stagnation and recession without the willingness to abandon the essentially totalitarian system, so that Cubans can enjoy fundamental rights and freedoms such as those of opinion, assembly, association, access to the Internet, freedom to exit and enter the country, to own property, and to receive a salary corresponding to the cost of living. Freedoms and rights are impossible to implement from the current model. Therefore, the solution to the crisis must be citizen participation, which means the public debate to define a consensual direction.
Finally, with regards to implementing the model it occurs in an international context unfavorable for such purposes. The international community is beginning to show increased attention to the state of civil liberties in Cuba, which further limits the ability of government with regards to international relations and the economic support needed. In such a situation to implement internal changes would be to show the “enemy,” but especially Cubans, the will, ability and confidence in the people. That is, responding to the external campaign with an internal debate.
It is not giving in to “blackmail” but the needs of Cuba. This way, different from the dilemma of “concede or disappear” consists of “change for the people, the only way to legitimize permanence, what would be permitted would be not only what has been resisted for half a century, but also and above all, the necessary internal solutions for the country. Sooner or later Cuba will have to undertake profound structural reforms, and these processes take time and the time to initiate the changes, if not already long past, is at its limits.