Authority to Disagree, or Disagreement with Authority / Reinaldo Escobar

On Friday, August 10, the journalist Anneris Ivette Leyva published an article in the newspaper Granma where she urges citizens to voice their critical opinions about the wrongdoings. She goes on to say that the consequences of mistakes not criticized in time “weigh heavily on everyone’s shoulders.”

At the height of the tenth paragraph, and indirectly quoting the General-President, she clarifies that “compañero Raul has stressed the need to exchange views, to bring out the best ideas of a dialog between diverse interlocutors with a common purpose.”

So as to maintain the old rules of the game: If someone doesn’t have the same purpose as that which guides the Communist Party, they will not be recognized as a valid interlocutor, nor will they have the right to dialog, nor will they be able to point out or discuss civilly the worst of the mistakes committed: the introduction of an economic, social and political system discarded by history.

To use a model example, one may criticize the quality of the bread, but there is no desire to hear a proposal to allow a private bakery to be run as a small family business.

What our Granma colleague doesn’t quite understand is that as long as there is not a sufficient degree of freedom of expression that allows proposals, without fear of reprisals, the opening of a small or medium sized private business will continue to be a source of fear, as will denouncing the corrupt practices of a State bakery. The boundaries of dissent cannot be limited to the path that leads to the same end. We need to discuss different possible paths and in particular the various destinations where we want to go.

Dear Anneris: 25 years ago now I published, in the newspaper Juventude Rebelde (Rebel Youth) a piece similar to yours. It was titled, “The Optimism of the Discontented.” For writing articles of this nature I was stripped of the right to practice my profession in the Cuban media. I wish you the luck I had and may you some day throw off the heavy weight of censorship. Here are three paragraphs from that article. Tell me if you would not subscribe to them.

I think that Revolutionary optimism translates into the assurance that everything can still be improved, and paradoxically this is what I want to say, more or less, that nothing we have done is yet perfect; that the work undertaken is always susceptible to being submitted to the most severe analysis with the objective of enriching it.

This is why someone who, in an assembly, expresses his critical opinions about the progress of his workplace or school should be considered an authentic optimist, because he has confidence that his opinions are going to help correct the errors and because he has faith that what he says will be heard, that his participation will be decisive.

However, he who is thinking the same thing, and who doesn’t dare to make his disagreement public and knows to say only that to him it seems that everything is going very well, it is because he believes — pessimistically — that in fact it is not possible to improve the situation, or that it’s not worth it to try, or perhaps it can be too costly to oppose the wrongdoing.

13 August 2012