14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana | 18 September 2018 — I was preparing for this discussion with the energy and discipline of a high performance athlete who intends to break some sporting record. I arrived at the basement of my building five minutes before eight o’clock in the evening, the agreed upon time to hold the meeting to debate the constitutional reform project.
At this hour only the Party militants were there. I had the strange feeling of being the invisible man. Then came the others, with whom I exchanged the usual jokes. Then the baritone shouted: Attention! And we started singing the national anthem.
The person designated to lead the meeting was a man of only 25 who, with impeccable diction and a firm voice, read the almost 1,500 words of the introduction of the project. Then in groups we parsed the 675 paragraphs of the text.
At the table where the proposals were written down, there was a high value team: a senior official of the Central Committee of the Party, coincidentally a neighbor from the 12th floor, and his daughter Lisi, whom I lost track of afterwards, when she was no longer the president of the Federation of Students of the Secondary Education (FEEM) in the high school where my son studied.
She was the first to intervene to request the restoration of a paragraph from the preamble to the Constitution of ’76, which mentions “the ultimate goal of building a communist society.”
The leader of the meeting asked if there were any comment on Chapter 1, called Fundamental Principles of the Nation, precisely the subject on which I had a couple of “papers.” So I raised my hand to ask for the floor.
From there I read my opinion on Article 3, which describes the country as socialist and reintroduces the concept of irreversibility of the socialist system. I also proposed the elimination of Article 5, which proclaims the role of the Party as “the leading force of society and of the State.”
I had overcome my fear because in a previous inspection I carried out of the surroundings I could see that there were no indications that something similar to a repudiation rally would take place or that the restless boys of State Security would charge me or prevent me from attending to the debate.
I just had to appeal to the essential “nerve” that is required to raise your voice when you know you are in a clear minority.
The young man who ran the meeting, with better skills as an announcer than a polemicist, made a faint reply that said something like socialism was essential for the future of the country. The official from the 12th floor offered a long dissertation to convince the audience that thanks to socialism our children have schools and anyone can have surgery in a hospital without being asked how much they earn or what position they occupy in the Government.
He was followed by a senior officer of the Armed Forces who, in an emotional speech, recalled that socialism had been created with the blood of the heroes in the Sierra Maestra, in Girón and other battles and that, out of respect for the dead, the system would have to be irrevocable. Others piled on citing Fidel Castro, Raúl and even Miguel Díaz-Canel.
Out of elementary respect before so many angry people I left in my pocket the papers where I had written my diatribe against the Communist Party and its pretensions of being the leading force over the laws and the Constitution itself.
A young mother, who did not take the trouble to read the reform project, took the opportunity to complain that she had not been able to get a wheelchair when her 10-year-old son suffered a fracture and could not take him to school.
A desperate worker asked when there was going to be talk about the little that the working people earn, and a retired spy expressed her disgust before the article 215 that, when defining the functions of the armed institutions of the State, only mentions “the armed formations of the Ministry of the Interior” instead of simply saying “the Ministry of the Interior.”
There is a complacent way to disagree with the current draft of the constitutional reform. The two examples starred the baritone, who said he was against the idea that people who hold high positions can only govern for only two terms and that he did not like the 65-year age limit to be president of the Republic. Later he proposed that to the controversial Article 68, which opens the possibility of equal marriage, we should add the explicit prohibition that these people could adopt a minor.
That was the occasion when Antonio, a Cuban recently repatriated after living for a long time abroad, demanded an explanation of the motives of his proposal. “I am a homosexual,” he said, “and I have all the moral conditions to educate a child.”
The debate was about to be shipwrecked in the meanderings of a confrontation between the baritone and the returnee, until the young leader of the assembly closed the matter with a Solomonic sentence: “Here each one person can give their opinion if it seems appropriate to say it.”
After an hour and a half, there was no interest in deciphering the intricacies of Title VIII, dedicated to the local organs of the People’s Power. Only the young Lisi had something to say when she mentioned her displeasure at the title of “governor” for the person in charge of the government of a province, because that reminded her of “what the Yankees call those who run a state.”
It all ended with a loud applause and, as always happens in these cases, the groups of those who remained silent throughout the debate drew their own conclusions as they dispersed on the ground floor of our fourteen floors.
Below I leave the arguments I read aloud to rebut article 3.
I propose to reformulate Article 3 of the constitutional draft to read as follows:
ARTICLE 3. The defense of the homeland is the greatest honor and supreme duty of every Cuban.
Treason is the most serious of the crimes, and whomever commits it is subject to the most severe sanctions.
Citizens have the right to fight by all means, including armed struggle, when no other recourse is possible, against any external aggression that threatens the sovereignty of the nation.
The proposal is aimed at eliminating allusions to the political system based on an ideology.
The homeland does not need political surnames because it belongs to everyone, those who believe in socialism and those who do not believe in it; those who defend it as an option and those who want to change it for another model. This was our homeland long before socialism was proclaimed in Cuba.
When you add the qualification of socialist to the country it is inferred that not being in agreement with that system and exercising the right to substitute another system can be considered an act of treason to “the socialist homeland” and, consequently, a Cuban patriot may be subject to “the most severe sanctions” just for trying to modify the system.
This proposal also involves withdrawing what is referred to as “the irreversibility of socialism” and for that I appeal to the following four arguments:
The first argument:
Establishing the irreversibility of the system is in contradiction with Article 16 of the chapter on International Relations, which states that the right to self-determination of peoples is expressed “in the freedom to choose their political, economic, social and cultural system,” which implies the possibility of changing at any time, by popular will, the system that is in force.
We can not recognize for the rest of the peoples of the world a right that we are denying ourselves.
The second argument:
The current generation of Cubans has no right to prevent future generations from living under another type of system, which will surely be infinitely better than what we can imagine today.
The third argument:
Even in the glossary that accompanies the printed brochure of the project, it is not clear what this socialism is that is irreversible.
Since this amendment was introduced in the constitutional reform of 2002 to impose the system’s irrevocability to date, there have been notable conceptual changes, among them, the disappearance of the term communism and no mention of the socialist conquest of eliminating the exploitation of man by man. These changes have been introduced not only in this constitutional project, but also in the conceptualization of the model approved in the Seventh Congress of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC).
In the system under which we Cubans are living in the second decade of the 21st century, the rule of giving back to the worker with the formula “to each according to his work” is not fulfilled because what everyone receives today as a salary is barely enough to sustain the energies used in the productive process.
The fundamental law of socialism which is “to satisfy the ever-increasing needs of the population” is still far from being fulfilled. Instead, we see the insistence with greater force that state companies must “make a profit” which is the supreme law of capitalism.
Of socialism as a system, which now is intended to be declared irrevocable, all that remains is the social property of the fundamental goods of production and the planning of the economy and even then these bases are undermined by accepting the role of the market and private property.
The fourth argument, which can be better defended by communist militants, is based on the following:
Not satisfied with having eliminated the term communism in this reform of the Constitution, the drafters of the project go so far as to prohibit it constitutionally, by declaring socialism as irrevocable.
In any basic course of Marxism-Leninism one learns that socialism is a transition to communism and that in fact, when the State is eliminated, in that superior stage that is communism, the dictatorship of the proletariat, the undisputed essence of socialism, is revoked. To declare the irrevocability of socialism forever constitutes an explicit renunciation of the final goal, although in public declarations outside the constitutional text, the opposite is said.
By the way, from Article 224 dedicated to the reform of the Constitution the reference to the fact that “in no case are the pronouncements on the irrevocability of socialism and the political and social system established in Article 3,” should be eliminated.
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