Let’s Lay the Foundations of the New Cuba

Hundreds of Cubans were arrested during the July 11th demonstrations. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ariel Hidalgo, Miami, 2 October 2021 — Since the Cuban people have finally conquered freedom, since true liberation begins in the human spirit, it is time to start laying the foundations of the New Cuba.

Those who still believe that they govern the country, ignorant that no one governs without the consent of the governed, will believe that they have finally managed to put the noose on the people, and that they can deceive them once again as if by magic, making changes here and there so as not to have to change anything.

They do not understand at all what has really happened. Just as they did not believe that July 11th could happen, they now think that everything will return to its place, that everything will continue as before that date. They don’t see reality or they don’t want to see it, and that can be dangerous. Nobody will deceive the people again, because they have become aware of their rights and, sooner or later, they will come out to demand them. And it will not be like that day, but multiplied by ten. Now it could be the State that is expropriated, as in the 1960’s the leadership did with the population, including independent workers.

The State seized all the wealth of the country by force in the name of all the people.  It seized the lands, the factories, the shops, the banks, the hotels and even the most modest means of subsistence of humble workers who made a living through their own efforts, without exploiting anyone. Who got liberated? From that collective looting began the subjugation of all the people, who have lost all their freedoms since then. They were no longer able to express their opinions, associate freely, make their own way in independent economic activities, so they stopped being an entity in order to become a mere screw in the State machinery.

That leadership only succeeded in creating an immense monopoly, though it claimed to have put an end to large Estates and all monopolies

That leadership, though it claimed to have put an end to large Estates and all monopolies, only succeeded in creating an immense monopoly, the largest concentration of wealth that could have been conceived, which later engendered a corrupt bureaucracy, administrations designated by that State which has squandered all the goods that did not belong to it, and has dragged the population to a life of needs and calamities.

Now, only one owner has to be expropriated, the supreme landowner, the only monopoly that has been left standing. Now it is up to the State to be expropriated by those people whom the current constitution itself recognizes as the legitimate owner.

Now that people have the right to expropriate the expropriators and get rid of all those corrupt administrations that control those companies, not one by one, but all at once, urging all the grassroots groups in the centers and companies under the guardianship of that State, and, on their own account, create democratically elected workers’ councils to direct all those means of production instead of that bureaucracy.

Each work nucleus is more productive if it feels that the center belongs to it and that it is going to obtain part of the profits from what it produces, and those councils, should they deem it necessary, will hire the ones who will direct them most efficiently.

The people must declare the State as incompetent, for having entrusted and appointed all those corrupt bureaucrats. They must replace it, due to its lack of ethics and for having systematically violated their rights. Not only rights of free expression and association, but even of life, having ordered the sinking of two ships on two different occasions, the Río Canímar and the 13 de Marzo. Both events led to the deaths of numerous citizens, as well as thousands of executions in summary trials lacking any procedural guarantee.

That Government was never elected, but rather it was handpicked by others who were not chosen by the people either. The Constitution was drawn up by constituents who were also handpicked by the sovereign will of a so-called historical leadership with all-encompassing powers based on the supposed glories of a distant past. Therefore, this Government lacks any legitimacy and must be temporarily supplanted by a civic council of men and women who have earned the admiration and respect of all the people. Not to govern, but to restore the rights and freedoms of the citizenry, to convene a new constituent, and to organize free elections.

There will be those who say that I am delirious, that I am building castles in the air, but a rebellious philosopher of the great American nation, Henry David Thoreau, who influenced great men like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and José Martí, said: “If you build a castle in the air, you haven’t wasted your time. The castle is there. You just need to lay its foundations.”

Translated by Norma Whiting

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The Cuban People Have Already Conquered Their Freedom

Young man with a placard during the July 11 protests in Cuba. (Capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ariel Hidalgo, Miami, 20 September 2021 — When José Martí was preparing Cuba’s war of national liberation from exile, he wrote in the newspaper Patria that the objective was not a change of clothes, but “a change of soul.” It could be understood that the root of the problem did not consist of transforming institutions, not excluding economic relations here, but a change of consciousness and, in this case, a much deeper and more generalized consciousness than would have been a class consciousness like the one that Marx advocated.

This was probably related to what Martí expressed in his article about the act carried out in New York in honor of Marx posthumously, where, after praising him, he added this criticism: “But he walked quickly and somewhat in the shadows, without seeing that children who have not had a natural and laborious gestation are not born viable, neither from the bosom of the people in history, nor from the bosom of a woman in the home.”

Martí, more influenced by Emerson and the American transcendentalists, did not see the class struggle, and violence in general, as the appropriate way for the triumph of social justice. For him the important thing was not the number of weapons in hands, but “the number of stars on the forehead,” from which it is understood that a patient struggle was required to generate that consciousness that was not class, but transcended the social classes towards a civic conscience of the entire population. “Trenches of ideas are worth more than trenches of stone,” he said.

Thus, the only revolution that could bring about the rights and freedoms of a people was the one carried out in the human spirit.

Political prisoners who individually had become aware continue reading

of rights that are inherent to human nature were not afraid to speak out their thoughts. They were even freer behind the bars than the jailers who guarded them. When a State Security captain threatened me with a new charge for a “subversive” manuscript that they had found in my cell during a search, I replied: “Well, when you understand its pertinence, send for me to sign the papers.” And when he warned me that if they found an anti-government leaflet out there they would come looking for me, I told him: “If it isn’t signed by me, don’t bother, because I sign everything I write.”

To use violence to overthrow communist regimes is to confront it in a field that those regimes know all too well. All the violent attempts against the totalitarian regime imposed in Cuba were defeated. But when half a dozen political prisoners created a group that instead of violence denounced human rights violations along with other peaceful actions, that was the starting point of a non-violent movement that grew and spread throughout the country and that could never be defeated, because the regime had prepared to counter any violent opposition, but not a peaceful struggle.

Curiously, of the six of us, two had been professors of Marxism, and another two came from the ranks of the old communist party, the Popular Socialist Party (PSP). Little by little we came to understand that more than denouncing international public opinion, our most important mission was to create an awareness in the population of their rights. It was a patient process that in reality turned out to be a long and tortuous path of almost forty years from which only the two professors of that small founding nucleus survived. But it was very necessary because it required, as in Martí’s criticism of Marx, “a natural and laborious gestation.”

In the first days of 2021, we both wrote an open letter to the Government alerting it of what was coming so that it could make the radical changes that could prevent that imminent social explosion, but they did not want to listen. And when the people finally took to the streets on July 11, the behavior of those massive demonstrations that took place in dozens of cities in the country was peaceful, unlike the social explosions in other Latin American countries.

The violence was later initiated by the regime with ruthless repression. But Cuba could no longer be the same, because finally the people had awakened and had become aware of their destiny. And this is a more important conquest, even, than the possible collapse of the dictatorship, because it is a conquest for all time. That people did not take to the streets because a caudillo ordered it to. No leader led it.

Remember how this dictatorship was imposed. The leader was applauded, they compared him to Christ, and in fact many took down the images of Galileo from the walls to place their own. Many people offered him their homes: “Fidel, this is your house.” When someone expressed their mistrust, they said to themselves: “If Fidel is a communist, put me on the list.”

And in the tumultuous mobs they called out for “to the wall” [execution] for their adversaries. If it is idolized, if an idol is raised to an altar, from there our destiny will rule with an iron fist. The Cuban people, with their cries for freedom and “Patria y Vida” [Homeland and Life], have just brought down from that altar all those who today have tried to establish themselves as supreme sovereign.

None of the Eastern European countries that escaped this totalitarian dictatorship had a history of civic struggle as long as Cuba’s, and consequently as fruitful for the collective consciousness of its people. Even from the brutal response of the repressive forces we have accumulated valuable experiences.

Threats, gags, and jailings don’t matter. A people who are not afraid to say what they think and who act not as unjust laws dictate but as their own conscience dictates, is already, in fact, free.

Because freedom is not granted by governments, nor by laws, not even, in the end, by bars and chains, but by the will to be free in thought, in words and in actions. The rest will follow.

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And After July 11th, What Comes Next?

The Velvet Revolution kicked off the arrival of democracy in the former Czechoslovakia. (DC)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ariel Hidalgo, Miami, 25 August 2021 — In the worst days of the Special Period crisis, when I was asked during a Miami radio program if I thought that people in Cuba were going to take to the streets, I replied: “The only street where people could launch themselves would be the Malecón, trying to leave the country,” because he knew that the population had not yet developed the necessary conscience to take to the streets.

A few days later the so-called Maleconazo took place, in which many Cubans, desperate and frustrated because they had come to the seawall there uselessly, with the expectation of getting on a boat to cross the Straits of Florida, began a massive anti-government protest that was brutally repressed. Days later, the regime lifted the surveillance of the coasts, and that action began the exodus of the rafters. And everything was there.

But today things are very different. Regardless of the fact that now the escape valve from mass exoduses has been permanently closed with the end of the United States policy of wet foot/dry foot, there is already a civic awareness in the population that was evident in the massive demonstrations of July 11, with thousands of people in each of the more than twenty towns — some have calculated forty — in all the country’s provinces, which surprised many of the regime’s leaders.

In reality, what is surprising is that they were surprised, given that they have such effective State Security that they always anticipated potential conspiracies, even before the conspirators themselves became aware that they were conspiring, as happened in the Ochoa case. continue reading

It also happened in the late 1970s, with the arrests of dissidents who were trying to form the first human rights group, which was not created then because several of the members went to prisons where, ultimately, the Cuban Pro Human Rights Committee was founded in 1983.

Of course this time, with the 11th July protests, they couldn’t detect any conspiracy because there simply wasn’t. Everything was spontaneous. Nobody planned it. However, it was something that could be seen coming. What was coming was an open secret and some of us warned about it. Writers published several articles talking about its imminence. The latest of them, Cuban Dissidence Should Get Ready for a Social Explosion, was published in CubaEncuentro and later reproduced in Havana Times on June 24, less than a month after the outbreak.

Probably for now there are no more demonstrations with the magnitude of those that occurred, due to the fierce repression and all the surveillance measures taken, as well as a new regulation to penalize opinions on the Internet that damages “the prestige of the country.” But the effect of the events of those days is enough so that Cuba does not remain the same as before.

First, with the demonstrations it has become clear to everyone what a large part of the population already knew: the myth that the Cuban people supported that Party-State leadership has collapsed; and second, with the brutal repression, many of those who still doubted the ruthless nature of that regime have now awakened to reality, and this became evident with the attitude adopted publicly by many sectors of civil society, mainly students, which leaves no doubt that fear has already has been lost.

Knowledge of History provides a vision of the future based on present events. Let’s go to Czechoslovakia in 1967, where something very similar happened, perhaps to a lesser extent. The antecedents of what became known as the Prague Spring began with peaceful student demonstrations due to the economic crisis in the country.

The violent crackdown on students ordered by the country’s President and Party Secretary General Antonin Novotny resulted in his loss of popularity, even within the Party itself. In a meeting of the political organization, on 5 January 1968, he was openly criticized by other senior leaders who replaced him in the leadership of the Party with another who aroused more sympathy among the population, Alexander Dubcek. Two months later, Novotny also had to resign as president.

The Cuban leadership is currently suffering a deep popularity crisis, especially in the case of Díaz-Canel and his prime minister, Manuel Marrero, who have lost the power to call others to action, something that became evident in the call for an ’act of revolutionary reaffirmation’ when many, especially students, not only refused to participate but publicly criticized the event.

The latest has been the harsh response of numerous doctors through audiovisuals and letters against Marrero, who has blamed healthcare workers for the country’s health problems. It is to be hoped, then, that it is already “cooking” among the historical leadership to wash their hands and sacrifice, as scapegoats, these two leaders, and replace them with alternatives more palatable tor the population.

But if the situation in the country does not improve, and it cannot improve as long as there is an unsustainable model such as the one that caused the social explosion, sooner or later the outbreak will occur again and no longer will it be thousands who take to the streets but hundreds of thousands. In that case the Party-State will have to surrender to the real changes or get out their tanks and carry out a massacre such as has never occurred in any country on the continent, and in that case the repressors will have nowhere in the world to hide to respond to international tribunals at the level of the Nazi genocide.

There are very well founded hopes that very possibly the examples of the students and the doctors will be followed by other sectors of the Civil Society and, all, united, will raise their voices loud and firm, and this tragedy can be avoided. In Cuba, the artists took the first steps in their demands before the Ministry of Culture on November 27.

In Czechoslovakia the decisive step was taken by the literati. A small group of members of the Writers’ Union — some were even members of the Party, including Milan Kundera — published their discontent in the Union Gazette, and suggested that Literature should be independent of the Party’s doctrine. It was not an inflammatory and damning allegation, of course, but quite the opposite, moderate and very cautious, as it had to be. As expected, they were rejected by the Union leadership, and the Party decided to transfer the Gazette and some editorials to the Ministry of Culture. But that was the spark of a discussion among the writers, many of whom began to defend the authors of the declaration, and the debate even extended within the Party itself.

But there was already a civic awareness of rights and freedoms that allowed, by declaring non-interventionism during the Russian perestroika, the so-called Velvet Revolution to take place immediately, led by a playwright named Václav Havel.

That civic conscience already exists in our people to carry out something similar that I would dare to describe, in tune with our country, our “Silk Revolution.”

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Five Cuban Generals Die After July 11: Strange Coincidence or Purge?

Agustín Peña, Marcelo Verdecia Perdomo, Rubén Martínez Puente, Manuel Eduardo Lastres Pacheco and Armando Choy Rodríguez, the five high-ranking Cuban military personnel who died this July. (Collage)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ariel Hidalgo, Miami, 29 July 2021 — Although I am not a fan of conspiracy theories, I think it would be very necessary, to heal open wounds and put the accounts clear for history, to have a commission without political and ideological prejudices to investigate, seriously and professionally, many mysterious deaths reported in Cuba from 1959 to the present.

I am not referring to opponents such as the case of Oswaldo Payá, who although there is no conclusive evidence, it is generally presumed that he was murdered. Rather, above all, I’m talking about people from the regime itself. The list of “injured” or “suicidal” people would be very long, longer than a moderately informed reader would believe, and I will not be the one to list them. The task will be left to that future commission.

But what cannot wait, due to the relevance of the circumstances, are the successive deaths of five generals of the Armed Forces, one at the time, in just a space of nine days. I say five generals and I do not know if the number will increase by the date this article comes out. [As of 29 July the number is now six.]

The deaths began six days after the massive popular demonstrations took place on July 11 in nearly forty towns in continue reading

the 14 provinces of the country, beginning on the 17th with Agustín Peña Pórrez, head of the Eastern Army, followed on the 20th; Marcelo Verdecia Perdomo, Brigadier General of the Reserve, then on the 24th; Rubén Martínez Puente, director of the Military Agricultural Union of the Ministry of the Revolutionary Armed Forces, on the 26th: Manuel Eduardo Lastres Pacheco, brigadier general of the Reserve, and on the same day, Armando Choy Rodríguez, brigadier general and general coordinator of the Group of History of the Las Villas Combatants.

All these deaths have in common that the causes of their deaths were not revealed and that their bodies were cremated immediately without receiving the honors normally given to high officials. The hypothesis that they were all of advanced age and that they probably died from the Covid, as some people disaffected to the regime have suggested, face some questions: Did they all agree to die in the days after the protests and the subsequent brutal governmental repression? How many generals died in the two weeks before the protests? Does anyone remember them? Were these five successive deaths a few days after the protests just by chance? Something that I have learned in these 62 years is that in the political world of Cuba there are no coincidences.

I do not affirm anything, but these deaths are very similar to the purges that were carried out in Stalin’s Russia. He executed so many Red Army generals that he later found himself in a tight spot when Nazi troops invaded the Soviet Union. If this is the case in Cuba, obviously it would have to do with those events that occurred in the previous days.

In the first place, we must take into account what it must have been like for many of those who dedicated their lives to defending that regime, to realize that the vast majority of the people, for whom that “revolution” was supposedly carried out, repudiated that regime.

It was not a demonstration in a neighborhood or in a town, but in all of Cuba, and they were not demonstrations of 20 or 30 people, but of hundreds and thousands in each of those populations.

And second, it must have been shocking for many of those high officials to see the repression so brutally carried out against the people, first in the streets and then in the homes, house by house, to violently remove people who were presumed to have participated in the protests.

The soldiers of the Revolutionary Armed Forces have not had a history of repression against the people as has the Ministry of the Interior and, in particular, State Security. It has been said that one of those generals was the one who gave the order to shoot down the Brothers to the Rescue planes in 1996. In reality, the one who gave that order was Raúl Castro according to the wish of his brother-in-chief, and the pilots were very well chosen: the stepchildren of Wilfredo ’Felo’ Pérez, the one who piloted the plane that fell in Barbados by a bomb allegedly planted by the enemy.

That in the present circumstances a soldier or a sergeant expresses concern about the demonstrations and repression and thinks that changes should be made could get him fired, but that a general does so, with the influence he can exert on his troops, can be considered as treason.

Commander Húber Matos, when he was still at the head of the rebel troops in Camagüey, served 25 years in prison for asking for the leader’s resignation. They simply, could have replaced him, since he had the support of the people at that time, and yet they did not take that risk. Now, with the regime’s weakness, do they have the luxury of letting it go.

So it will not be at all strange that high officials continue to die for unknown reasons.

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What Led the Cuban Regime to the Current Explosive Crisis

The same resource is used again to justify the tidal wave of mass protests throughout the country: the “imperialist blockade” is blamed for the lack of food. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ariel Hidalgo, Miami, 20 July 2021 — The model born in Stalin’s Russia and imposed by communist parties in each country where they have succeeded, carries, by its very nature, a degenerative evil that makes it unsustainable: since there are no private owners, only administrators appointed by the state leadership, real productive stimulus does not exist.

These bureaucratic administrations are not officially allowed to take full control of the profits of the companies they run, but they do have access to them, so the State also requires other officials in charge to carry out audits.

But auditors are also human beings, vulnerable to corruption. Thus, a corrupt bureaucratic caste is being generated which is responsible for constant “deficiencies” and resource diversions that are undermining the economic system and giving rise to a permanent, structural crisis.

Consequently, the Party-State elite will always need two external supports to survive: an ally with sufficient resources to subsidize its survival and an external enemy to blame for the situation of precariousness of the population finds itself in and for provoking internal protests.

If the first one is missing, a terminal decomposition process begins. If the second is lacking, the Party-State elite remains naked before continue reading

the population and international public opinion as the main culprit of the internal evils.

A corrupt bureaucratic caste is being generated which is responsible for constant “deficiencies” and resource diversions that are undermining the economic system and giving rise to a permanent, structural crisis

In Cuba, these two supports were taken into account for many years. In the first two decades there was not much need for the first one, because they counted on the high prices of sugar in the international market, profits that were used in military adventures, especially in Africa and in support of Latin American guerrilla movements. Meanwhile, here at home, the population suffered housing and transportation crises and shortages of food and clothing, not to mention the successive blackouts, something similar to what would later occur in Chávez’s Venezuela despite the high prices received for the oil exported by that country.

When the so-called socialist camp in Europe collapsed, the Cuban economic system appeared in its true nature. The critical period that began then was not, in fact, a “Special Period”, as Fidel Castro baptized it, it was the same as always, a structural and permanent crisis, but without the subsidies the Island had received until then.

Then, “on the edge of the abyss” — these are not my words but Raúl Castro’s — they managed to find a new ally to sponsor them: Chávez’s Venezuela. Thus, they were able to postpone the implosion of the system for a while longer. But as Venezuela followed in Cuba’s footsteps, it began to endure more and more of the same mayhem. Halfway through, some Venezuelans lamented that they were “hitting rock bottom.”

I told them in an article: “No, we Cubans know that you are not there yet.” Until they finally did learn what it was like to hit rock bottom. Many wondered how a country so rich, so prosperous, has fallen into such misery.

For Cuba, this meant the loss of the subsidiary source once again. And of course, the start of a new “special” period was announced. But since that word brought traumatic evocations, the term “conjunctural” arose, with the implied additional meaning of “temporary.” Whatever it is called, it is the system just as it is, with no one to subsidize it. As no new sponsor appeared, the country collapsed and the people took to the streets.

How did they not realize that this was going to happen? Many inside and outside of Cuba warned and advised them: you have the solution in your hands: open the markets, lower taxes, let the agricultural workers sell their products to whoever they want and at market prices, allow “roundtables” so that people voice their opinions and we all look for solutions. But they did not listen.

Now, when the people cry out for the resignation of those who are truly responsible for the disaster, they bring out the police, the Black Berets, the riot forces and the paramilitary mobs with batons, bats, firearms and even anti-aircraft guns. The exact number of detainees, and of the wounded and dead, is not yet known.

“No, we Cubans know that you are not there yet”. Until they finally did learn what it was like to hit rock bottom

From that moment on, the second resource – the external enemy to blame – was required more than ever: “the imperialist blockade.” When you say “blockade” you tend to think that all ports are obstructed by military ships to prevent the entry of food and other merchandise, but in reality, it is about another nation that refuses to trade with Cuba due to the property confiscations carried out at the beginning of that regime. That said, many still wondered how there is also a shortage of countless food products produced in the country itself that were never lacking on Cuban tables.

Cuba has diplomatic and commercial relations with around 70 countries in the world, and, as if that were not enough, after the end of the Cold War, the United States became Cuba’s main trading partner in terms of agricultural products, though under the condition that Cuba must pay for its purchases in cash, simply because it has lost the trust of its creditors due to an astronomical debt that Cuba has not been able to pay.

Many opponents have naively argued that the embargo should be maintained because it can be used as a “bargaining chip” to achieve concessions from the regime, but a bargaining chip only serves when the one to whom it is offered is interested in receiving it, and that leadership has repeatedly shown that it wants just the opposite. To pressure Cuba, instead of intensifying the embargo, it would be preferable to threaten to lift it, because despite the fact that Cuba publicly condemns it, behind the scenes it uses its continuation as a justification.

Many examples could be cited from Gerald Ford’s presidency, when Carlos Rafael Rodríguez secretly negotiated with Henry Kissinger for a rapprochement like the one made with China, but it was sabotaged by Castro himself when he sent Cuban troops to Angola.

Then, there was another process in Carter’s time, starting with the dialogue in ’78 and cut short in ’80 with the Mariel exodus.

In 1996, when the Helms-Burton Bill to intensify the embargo was about to suffer a crushing defeat in Congress, Cuban forces shot down two civilian airplanes operated by ‘Brothers to the Rescue’, resulting in the death of four exiled young men, which only hastened approval of the Bill.

Negotiations with the Obama Administration led to the reestablishment of diplomatic relations and could have culminated in neutralizing the fangs of the embargo, but the Cuban leader, now officially retired, forced a political turn with his critical ‘Reflection’ article, titled Brother Obama.

A bargaining chip is only useful when the person to whom it is offered is interested in receiving it, and that leadership has repeatedly shown that what it wants is the opposite

Now the same resource is being resorted to again to justify the tidal wave of mass protests throughout the country: the “imperialist blockade” is blamed for the lack of food and medicine that has led to the deaths of tens of thousands of people, including many children and the elderly, and the despair of a large portion of the population.

Even the decision to take to the streets was diabolically forged abroad by the “empire and its lackeys.” Of course, they don’t mention that they repeatedly denied permission for aid from abroad and even from a humanitarian corridor, because Cuba, a “medical power,” does not need it.

But the vast majority of protesters were humble people with very low resources whom no one can accuse of being wage earners of the “empire.” If at this point, after 62 years of a Revolution supposedly in favor of the poorest, there are so many “confused” people, better pack your bags, because this country has already begun to write its own history.

Translated by Norma Whiting

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

The Cuban People Have Already Started Walking and Are Not Going to Stop

A moment of the demonstration this July 11th in the city of Santiago de Cuba. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ariel Hidalgo, Miami, July 13, 2021 — The Cuban president de facto (because he was never elected by any vote) has blamed U.S. policy for the social explosion that shook the entire country this past Sunday. According to him, it was this policy that generated the critical situation, both in the economic and health spheres, which caused the people to despair.

But any Cuban who lives or has lived in Cuba knows very well that the responsibility for most of the calamities they have suffered for many years does not lie in a supposed external blockade, but in the internal blockade imposed by the government leadership itself against free economic initiative – through high taxes, high cost of licenses, and multiple prohibitions.

The well-known policy of not doing and not letting do: they neither carried out the structural reforms that could have freed the population from so many tribulations, nor did they allow them to improve their living conditions by their own means.

They were not even being asked to return to capitalism with a neoliberal policy. Congress after congress of that ruling party, intellectuals and groups of Cubans formed within that system, demanded an opening toward a more democratic and participatory socialism that would encourage greater productivity and generate an improvement in the country’s economic situation. As that path meant having to renounce the absolute power continue reading

that they have enjoyed up to now to the detriment of a population in the worst conditions, they did not want to listen.

This government has even rejected offers of humanitarian aid on several occasions, especially in recent months, with the worsening of the epidemic, and has refused to open a humanitarian corridor to help the most affected regions.

Sick people of all kinds deteriorate from lack of medication. The elderly die from lack of antibiotics, and children die, not only from the virus but from malnutrition. Many patients are sent home to die because nothing can be done in the hospitals. The suicide rate, especially among the elderly, has risen alarmingly. All of this they try to hush up. Moreover, during the first quarter of this year, the Government has allocated only 0.003% of its budget to public health and social assistance.

So who are the real instigators of these protests?

Díaz-Canel has also said that “counterrevolutionary” elements within the country have been instigated from abroad, but as he cannot deny that the protests have been massive in more than twenty important towns in all provinces – something in the style of the now disappeared Commander in Chief would be a plebiscite with a very clear result: “out” – he argues that many people are “confused”. But for more than six decades that dictatorship has maintained a monopoly on information by controlling the mass media of communication and dissemination. Who’s carried out the job of confusing the people?

No one can say that they were not alerted. Yesterday’s social explosion was like a chronicle of announced rebellion. At the beginning of 2021, the two survivors of the original nucleus of half a dozen political prisoners that started the dissident movement published in this newspaper and sent to Díaz-Canel’s office a proposal to begin, peacefully and in an orderly manner, a process of changes for the solution to the Cuban problem that would be satisfactory for all, and we warned that discontent “could explode massively with serious irreparable consequences.” The author of these lines himself published on May 21, in the Havana Times digital magazine, the article “The Cuban Leadership is Sleeping on a Powder Keg.”

The government response was not only to ignore the calls, but to further increase the precariousness of the population. In January, with the unification of the currency, purchasing power fell despite the increase in nominal wages, because the prices of goods and services rose greatly. And on June 21, it suspended deposits in dollars, which had allowed citizens access to the products of the basic shopping basket.

Did you think that the population was going to continue indefinitely with folded arms and bowed head, enduring so much neglect and so much injustice?

Now, his response is brutal repression: “The order to fight is given. Revolutionaries take to the streets!” And he clarified, so that there would be no doubts: “We are ready for anything!”

The demonstration was peaceful, a universally recognized right, until police repression and government mobs began, generally repressive agents in civilian clothes.

Many wonder what will happen now. The only thing I know is that the Cuban people have already started walking, and they are not going to stop.

Translated by Tomás A.

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

I Don’t Think, Therefore I Survive

After being prohibited from publishing their work, several prominent Cuban literary figures were condemned to permanent silence. (Cubarte)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ariel Hidalgo, Miami, July 7, 2021 — The sole political party that governs Cuba created a bureau on ideology to determine whether people could think or not — “don’t worry about thinking; we’ll save you the trouble” — because thinking something other that what the party had decreed could be dangerous. You had be careful what you thought, and especially careful about articulating those ideas with words. If you disobeyed, your fate could be ostracism or prison. Thus, the inverse to the Cartesian method became the norm. Instead of the philosophical formula described by Descartes in “Discourse on the Method” — I think, therefore I am — people were forced to follow a quite different one: I do not think, therefore I survive.

Magazines were shut down, writings were censored and writers were oppressed. Everyone had to toe the party line. Any books that did not meet the “requirements” were removed from library shelves and placed under lock and key in well-guarded spaces. In a meeting with intellectuals, the caudillo [Fidel Castro] outlined the formula that writers would have to follow: “Within the revolution, everything; outside the revolution, nothing.”

Prohibited from publishing their work, several prominent literary figures were condemned to permanent silence. One of them was even arrested and forced to issue a humiliating mea culpa. Attention then turned to professors, and even to members of the party itself, in what became known as the “microfraction* case.” Some were expelled from their positions. The most prominent among them were imprisoned. continue reading

Officials began monitoring classes taught by a young professor of Marxism and reviewing his students’ notebooks. They came to the conclusion that he was basing his lectures on the classic works of Marx and Engels rather than the manuals written in Stalinist Russia. They searched his home and found the evidence. Not firearms or explosives but something worse: none other than a dangerous manuscript.

The jealous guardians of politically correct opinion read the text and were terrified. The young professor had been using Marxist methods of analysis not to criticize capitalism as Marx had done but to criticize the social systems of regimes ruled by communist parties.

He was immediately arrested and banned from teaching for the rest of his life. Once released, he continued expressing his ideas and was detained again. State Security attributed his behavior to mental problems and sent him to the psychiatric hospital in Mazorra. He was kept in a ward where neither doctors nor guards dared enter, surrounded by mentally unbalanced prisoners, among whom there was no shortage of murderers and rapists.

When some of them asked why he had been imprisoned there, he explained it was for writing against the government. In their eyes this made him the craziest one there and they distanced themselves from him. The psychiatrist evaluating him did not find anything seriously wrong and, when he learned why the man was being imprisoned, diagnosed him with a “personality disorder” and returned him to State Security.

He was sent to jail along with other political prisoners. But in prison he continued sharing his ideas with fellow prisoners. He was held in solitary confinement in a narrow, enclosed cell intended for death row inmates, behind four iron doors, cut off from contact with other prisoners and family members, where the little food he received was served in a dog’s bowl passed through an opening at the floor covered with a flatiron plate that only opened from the outside.

This “special area,” where speaking loudly could result in a brutal beating, was reserved for those sentenced to capital punishment and dangerous persons who had committed violent crimes. But it seems he was the most dangerous of all because he had committed a heinous crime: thinking. The only time they took him out was to stand trial, where he was summarily sentenced to eight years in prison for having committed “revisionism.”

What does revisionism mean? If you look it up in a dictionary, you will find this entry: “tendency to subject doctrines, interpretations, or established practices to methodical review for the purpose of updating and sometimes denying them.”

Since he had written many magazine articles, and even a book, on the history of the labor movement that were cited in the supplementary bibliographies of many writers’ works, they added this edict to his sentence: “And as for your writings, they shall be destroyed by fire.”

The young professor who was confined in that narrow, enclosed slave pit for one year and twenty days is the one writing these words today, forty years later.

Why so much fear of the words of an isolated, nearly naked man?

In a capitalist world, Marx evangelized for the creation and development of class consciousness among workers, who would unite and overthrow the bourgeois state. But once that state was overthrown, the doctrine’s interpreters created such a tightly controlled social regime that no one could raise awareness of anything else.

One of the reasons this new form of dictatorship is so difficult to overthrow is the almost absolute control it holds over ideas. The man who would later impose this iron-fisted system published, from a prison cell, several articles in the country’s magazines in opposition to the regime of Fulgencio Batista.

It was unthinkable in the 1960s, when the current dictatorship arose, that a political prisoner could do the same. By that time all publications, magazines, periodicals, and broadcast stations had either been shut down or had come under the control of the state, which exerted oppressive censorship.

“They married us to the lie and forced us to live with her.” Truer words were never spoken by the one who, after saying them, imposed his own social system on the nation.

None of it was true but most people believed it. And when a prisoner got out of prison and described the horrors he had experienced, they called him a liar because in Cuba prisoners were not being beaten. The did not believe him even after he showed them the scars from the bayonets. “He probably got those from being cut up in a bar fight.” And if people were not going believe it, how would the world believe it?

Therefore, a year after being released from confinement, half a dozen political prisoners created the first human rights group, the germ of what later became the dissident movement.

Today, with personal computers, mobile phones and the internet, the world of the lie is beginning to fall apart. Blogs, social networks, magazines and independent newspapers have filled the cyberspace with ideas and information. Meanwhile, the nomenklatura remains entrenched in its bunker, increasingly isolated and increasingly in need of psychiatric services to deal with a new illness: panic attacks caused by ideophobia.

*Translator’s note: For those who want to explore this further, in different sources the term is variously “microfraction” or “microfaction,” and is occasionally spelled with a hyphen or as two words.

See: Other articles on TranslatingCuba.com by Ariel Hidalgo

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Cuba: The Two Blockades and the Awakening of the People

According to many of those who criticized Obama’s policy towards the island, he made concessions without getting the same reciprocity from the Cuban government. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ariel Hidalgo, Miami, 3 May 2021 — Cuban government officials lament that the current president of the United States, Joe Biden, does not want to return to the open policy towards Cuba of former President Obama, in effect at a time when Biden was vice president. Cuban officials forget that it was they who closed the process of rapprochement between the two countries after the then retired Commander-in-Chief (Fidel Castro) published his critical reflection El Hermano Obama (Brother Obama) and that, in general, the Party “toughs”  stopped that process and reversed many of the changes in recent years.

Now this whining reminds me of the laments of the last sultan of Spain at the loss of Granada which earned him this deserved reproach from his mother: “You do well to cry like a woman what you failed to defend like a man!”

The question that should be asked, then, is why they were frightened when, according to many of those who criticized Obama’s policy, he made concessions without having the same reciprocity on the part of the Cuban government. Or could it be that the Commander and the Party toughs were more insightful than the toughs on the opposite shore in realizing that this policy of rapprochement was more dangerous for them than a policy of tensions? continue reading

The crux of the question was probably not whether or not the Cuban regime made the concessions, but the impact that approach could have on the population. The fact that Obama was able to speak without restriction before the entire Cuban people and the cheers and other euphoric reactions of the population towards him, possibly was an alarm bell for them. It seems that now, with the rope around their necks, they are reconsidering the matter.

But the chances that Biden will return to that policy of rapprochement in the immediate term seem nil, not only because of his statements that Cuba is not a matter of immediate interest for his foreign policy, but because it is very likely that he wants to win back the Florida voters who denied him their votes in the last elections if he wants to win a second term. He knows that the decisive weight in that defeat was Cubans and, although he managed to win the White House, Florida continues to be of vital importance. A policy change could only be made after the next presidential elections. But it is evident that the Cuban situation cannot wait four more years.

The hard-line opponents, therefore, clap their hands, because they, especially those in exile, always bet on the policy of the pressure cooker: tighten and tighten the embargo and reduce travel and remittances as much as possible, until the people, out of desperation, take to the streets.

It is not very decorous, by the way, to encourage calamities from afar so that others are the ones to launch themselves into the fire. The writer never advocated that policy, not only so that no one, from within, would tell him: “Come and go hungry yourself, suffer calamities, and then take to the streets,” but because it seemed an unwise strategy to me. The reasons are many and in another era I enumerated them. But in case you have forgotten them, I repeat now the most important ones:

1. Because the regime justifies the disastrous effects of its internal economic policy by blaming the external enemy. Still many of the fanatics and opportunists who continue to support the regime continue to use the rhetoric about “imperialism.” If the embargo imposed by the United States did not exist, the regime would be completely unmasked before all the people and before the world.

2. Because it achieves the solidarity of international public opinion by diverting attention from internal contradictions with the myth of the heroic island resisting the siege of a voracious empire. Year after year, at the United Nations, the United States is condemned almost unanimously, with very few exceptions, for maintaining the embargo against Cuba.

3. Because it justifies the internal repression of critics and dissidents by accusing them of being agents of the powerful external enemy and, therefore, traitors to the homeland. When in 1996 it was clearly seen that the Helms-Burton Act, which would strengthen the embargo, was going to be defeated in the United States Congress, the Cuban government decided to assassinate four peaceful opponents in exile by shooting down two civilian planes, and as a result the law was passed. Hence, many called it, ironically, the “Helms-Burton-Castro Law,” because with that excuse, it allowed the regime to openly muzzle all internal dissent, dissolve a legal institution with reformist projects such as the Center for American Studies (CEA ) and imprison 75 leaders of the dissent.

4. Because the people in Cuba, pressed solve their immediate economic problems such as, for example, a mother who has nothing to put on her children’s plates, do not have the time or mindset to think about holding demonstrations in the streets, but only to wear out their shoe leather looking for food.

5. Because a policy is required that, on the contrary, strengthens the victims by making them economically independent from the State, and prevents the latter from exercising economic coercion ever them, which is why it is preferable to facilitate travel and remittances. When Manuel Moreno Fraginals, author of El Ingenio, already in exile, was asked why the Cuban people, who had previously been so heroic, did not rebel against the dictatorship, he replied: “Because the middle class, the main protagonist of those struggles, was totally suppressed.”

However, the deep crisis facing the country has not really depended on what the Government of any other country has dictated, no matter how powerful it may be. The insubordination of the people in the streets is not due to an external blockade but to the Cuban leadership’s own internal policy stubbornly maintained despite so many setbacks, and above all, to an awakening of the collective conscience. Today they regret that the powerful neighbor to the North does not advance towards a process that ends the external blockade, but they themselves insist on continuing to maintain an internal blockade against their own people.

They could get the country out of this crisis by allowing farmers to sell freely to whom they wish at market prices, lowering the cost of self-employment licenses, as well as abusive taxes, allowing investments by Cubans from abroad as well as aid to their relatives in Cuba so that they can freely promote new small businesses, among other economic measures, and allow artists and intellectuals in the country to express themselves freely to contribute their ideas in the search for a solution that can only come from the consensus of the whole nation in all its diversity.

But they do not, simply because their current policy allows them to maintain absolute power and continue a life of privilege, turning their backs on the growing precariousness of the population, with a blindness only comparable to that of Queen Marie Antoinette of France shortly before the outbreak of the French Revolution, who responded when told that the people were starving: “Let them eat cake.”

But that absolute power has begun to break down, and they must be aware that they can also absolutely lose it if they do not realize in time that the true revolutionary process is not the one they stubbornly claim to be leading, a revolution that ended already more than half a century ago, but the one that is already beginning in the streets and neighborhoods of man Cuban cities.

The people have already woken up, they have stopped believing the lies with which they have been deceived for more than six decades and have become aware of their rights, and since no one governs without the consent of the governed, if they do not obey, the governor leaves the government.

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Ten Proposals for Change in Cuba

The model established in Cuba since the 1960s of the last century has shown, by its results, its inefficiency in solving the fundamental problems of society. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ariel Hidalgo/Elizardo Sanchez SantaCruz, 1 January 2020 — After almost forty years of organized civic struggle of the dissident movement in Cuba, the survivors of the half dozen political prisoners who began that struggle in 1983 call for a dispassionate reflection on the general situation of the country and the opportunities of the present moment, without the anxiety of the spotlight and thinking only of the good of the Cuban people.

On Balance:

  • The model established in Cuba since the 1960s of the last century has shown, by its results, its inefficiency in solving the fundamental problems of society. The very goals of achieving universal access to education and health care for the entire population were undermined by an irrational economy, by restricting productive stimuli and citizens’ aspirations for self-improvement, and by supporting a parasitic bureaucracy.
  • It is not about the false dilemma between socialism and capitalism, since the actions of the Central Committee of the Hungarian Working People’s Party in 1955, the “Socialism with a human face” of Czechoslovakia in 1968, alternatives brutally frustrated by the Russian tanks, and the path of the self-governed Yugoslavia, these were options rejected by the Castro leadership. Even though the Soviet bloc had disappeared, Castro preferred to continue maintaining the model of state centralism that demonstrated its ineffectiveness in the Soviet Union itself with its implosion in 1991.
  • It was Castro himself, the political leader who promoted the establishment of socialism in Cuba, who confessed before he died to a journalist from The Atlantic magazine that this model “no longer works, even for Cubans.”
  • The economic restrictions of the United States on Cuba in response to the confiscations of American properties and later reinforced as an instrument of pressure on the Castro leadership has not only failed in its objectives, but has also increased the precariousness of the people and has only served to divert responsibility from that leadership for the dire consequences of its ineffectiveness and its internal blockade of the people.
  • The denial of fundamental rights, such as free association and expression of ideas, gave rise in the 1980s to the birth of a peaceful current of opposition and human rights known as “internal dissidence,” which spread throughout the country and it has not been able to be silenced, much less exterminated, despite threats, intimidation, ostracism and imprisonment.
  • However, this movement has failed to date to achieve the desired changes for the country. It has not been able to emerge from its social marginalization due to the general fear of the population of government repression and, above all, because many of these groups, influenced by opposition organizations from abroad in a different context, adopted the confrontational rhetoric in support of the politics of the besieged that distanced them from most of the people, and especially from critical intellectual and academic sectors that, in other ways, were seeking solutions to the national conflict.
  • The deep economic crisis in the country, particularly the energy crisis, exacerbated the calamities of the population and its discontent, although much of the frustration is not yet openly manifested out of fear, but could explode en masse with serious irreparable consequences, which would not be healthy for anyone, neither for the leadership, nor for the dissidents, nor for the people.
  • The regime can no longer ease internal tensions by resorting to large mass exoduses, such as Camarioca, Mariel and the rafters of ’94. All this is in the past after President Obama’s decree to return all refugees who arrived illegally, while for the population individual liberation through emigration is no longer so easy, which accentuates the urgency of an internal solution to the conflict.
  • Cuba no longer has a secure and stable supplier of fuel, as the Soviet Union and later Venezuela used to be. The possible improvement of relations with a new Democratic government in the United States could mean new opportunities to put an end to that lack, but after the experience of the Obama Administration, it is very difficult for the new administration to take actions without concessions from the Cuban regime in the field of human rights.
  • Opponents can no longer expect radical changes in Cuba, neither by a military intervention after the end of the Cold War, nor by expeditions on their own without sufficient armed resources or popular support, nor coups d’état based on effective intelligence or counterintelligence, nor by a social explosion that would only bring chaos and many deaths.
  • The physical disappearance of the “historical leaders” for biological reasons will not bring positive changes, but will leave unscrupulous business mafias at the helm of state companies, with enough power to negotiate with drug cartels that seek safer routes for that traffic to the desirable North American market.
  • The electoral result achieved by the regime for the approval of the current Constitution shows that, even without counting the absence of guarantees and the general opinion that many approved it out of fear, the figure provided by the government itself regarding the minority that expressed their disagreement is a sufficiently significant percentage as to be taken into account.

continue reading

Conclusions: what can be done?

  1. Cubans cannot count on factors other than themselves to solve their problems. The dissidents could find support from the international community in favor of their fight for human rights, while the leadership could find aid from allied countries to alleviate the oil shortage, but neither of the two contending groups will be able to definitively resolve their conflicts if it is not between them and the Cuban people.
  2. The regime-dissidence contest has long since fallen into a stalemate in which the former, with all its power, has not been able to liquidate the latter, and the latter has not been able to advance much further for a change in the system.
  3. That the Castro regime has not been able to end the dissident movement, as it did with all the armed opposition attempts, shows that the solution to the Cuban conflict cannot be resolved through violence and force, or through imprisonment ordered by that leadership, nor by the breaking of windows by potential protesters, but through peaceful solutions and putting confrontations aside.
  4. However, the present conditions are creating a favorable terrain so that both that dissidence and a reformist intelligentsia in the legal frameworks can continue advancing in their proposals. The possibilities opened up the internet and social networks have opened access for the population, not only to information, but also to the massive and instantaneous disclosure of both proposals and complaints. This became very clear recently in December 2020 by the number of people who came out, both to support the hunger strike of the San Isidro Movement for the release of rapper Denis Solís, and to join in the concentration of artists who requested a dialogue with the Ministry of Culture.
  5. It should be emphasized that in the cases cited, a factor that stimulated this popular involvement was the peaceful nature adopted in these protests, which denied the government accusations against the demonstrators of “mercenaries paid by the empire.” Dissidence will not be able to gain ground with these technological opportunities if it maintains unpopular rhetoric, such as supporting US economic restrictions on Cuba, particularly on travel and remittances. On the contrary, it must condemn all the blockades and restrictions that affect Cuban families economically, both those imposed by the United States Government and by the Cuban Government against the people in their struggle for subsistence.
  6. The Castro leadership should take note of the symptoms of popular support for those who peacefully request an end to the harassment of both artistic manifestations as well as the economic activities of independent citizens. This support is not only evident in the streets but even in the networks among many personalities who, until now, had supported the regime, and weigh what could be worse: whether to make the concessions that would end the tensions or deny them and militarize the cities with the probable consequence of a social explosion. Those who are inciting violence are not dissidents, or intellectuals, or artists, but the Government itself, by refusing to dialogue with the more moderate segments that only ask for a peaceful understanding and mutual respect.
  7. The leadership must free all prisoners of conscience and stop persecuting those who make use of their rights of free expression and association, and dissident organizations, must make it clear that they do not favor revenge against those who have perpetrated human rights violations, and advocate for a general amnesty that benefits both dissidents who face prison or other penalties and government elements who have committed abuses of power. This does not mean that the truth is not restored and responsibilities are assumed, as happened in South Africa under the Mandela presidency.
  8. The dissidence must build bridges with those Cubans who, although they have not broken with the regime, maintain critical or independent positions, and try to iron out rough spots and resentments with other compatriots who are offering their contributions for a better Cuba in other ways.
  9. The regime has the opportunity to achieve a change in the attitude of governments and international institutions that condemn it for human rights violations, changing its own position towards activists, ceasing to see them as enemies and valuing the usefulness of their work in detecting arbitrariness and abuses of power by some of their own officials that damage the image of the Government and generate discontent among the population. If they authorized the creation of a national committee of activists elected by the human rights groups themselves, who raised their complaints to the highest levels in exchange for their receiving due attention, the activists would not have to broadcast their complaints internationally, and the regime would receive the approval of the world community. Don’t kill the messenger.
  10. The Government should allow, in universities or convention centers, panels where representatives of the Government, critical intellectuals, reformists and dissidents discuss what changes could be implemented to get Cuba out of the crisis, without ideological dogmatism, but thinking pragmatically about the welfare of the population and the destiny of the homeland. We exhort all Cubans of good will, regardless of their political ideas and country of residence, to contribute to the joint mission of healing all the wounds of the great Cuban family and raising the national home, for the sake of a future where peace, fraternity and progress reign.

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Cuba Needs a Civilizing Revolution

When activists, intellectuals, academics, religious figures, artists, students, professionals, and workers rise up and take a step forward, the door will be opened to a future of peace, brotherhood, and prosperity. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ariel Hidalgo, Miami, February 28, 2020 — The English Revolution of 1688 was called ’Glorious’. It happened 48 years after the first one broke out in 1640. That one was against the absolute monarchy and was violent, and the king was sent to the gallows. But the second one was peaceful, freedom of the press was declared, and the first declaration of human rights was approved.

The final result was an order so stable that it has lasted until today. “The spirit of this strange revolution was opposite to all revolutionary intent,” the historian G. M. Trevelyan would say. Another historian, Juan Pablo Friso, explains why it is called that: “To be glorious a revolution must bring together this: that it is driven by impulses like moderation, consensus, pragmatism, prudence, and impartiality.”

That is what we Cubans need to put an end to the coven of these 60 years. If in 17th-century England it was to correct the errors of a bourgeois revolution, in 21st-century Cuba it would be to correct those of a supposedly socialist revolution. continue reading

The aim of socialism, according to Marx, was “to put an end to the divorce between producers and the means of production,” (in other words, workers should be the masters of the instruments with which they work) and that was a principle shared by other socialist theorists, like the anarchist Proudhon, who imagined a society of artisans and small business owners.

Of course, workers didn’t have the power to expropriate the bourgeoisie and take hold of those means, which is why they needed, according to Marx, to topple first the bourgeois State and raise in its place a revolutionary State responsible for carrying out this task: expropriating capitalists and landlords to then transfer those means to the hands of the workers, that is, two steps or phases: expropriation and empowerment.

But the Russian revolutionaries of 1917 made their own interpretation of socialist revolution, something then copied by their followers everywhere they triumphed: carrying out only the first part, expropriating but not empowering.

They invented the sophism that the revolutionary State, by representing the workers’ interests, should be the one managing those goods in their name. It was a very simple syllogism: “Everything belongs to the people. I represent the people. Therefore, everything belongs to me.”

The leaders of the Cuban Revolution followed that same line, expropriating the bourgeoisie without empowering the workers, and handing over to a new bureaucratic class the properties, which they distributed not based on ability but rather on “political reliability.”

And then they made their own contribution, marching in the opposite direction of the map of the route drawn by Marx, by expropriating as well, in 1968, from those who possessed their own means to make a living for themselves. This they called a “Revolutionary Offensive.”

The result was the most extreme form of monopolist capitalism of the State, with absolute control of the nation: legislative, judiciary, prison, sole owner of the press and all means of communication, of industries, banks, and companies, to which everyone must submit and serve, because not to do so was “antipatriotic,” and the cost could be ostracism or prison.

If revolution is a radical change of the structures of a society, then that revolution ended 52 years ago, with the “Revolutionary Offensive,” the last of the measures that radically transformed the structure of Cuban society. In all that time, at most there have been reforms, and to reform means “to change the form” while the essence remains intact. And if in all that time there has not been revolution, neither have there been “counterrevolutionaries,” but rather people unhappy with an unjust order.

However, when the structural crisis deepens and conditions mature for a new revolution, many of these unhappy persons who until then were adopting attitudes of rebellion, come to form the revolutionary crop of the new times to carry out a radical change of the structures established by the first revolution.

Now it would be a question of expropriating the only great monopoly that still remains, the State, in favor of the workers; that is, taking the second step that was never taken.

If that State has satisfactorily demonstrated its inefficiency in managing the goods that according to the Constitution itself belong to all of society, to the point that a large part of the industries in which Cuba used to excel have been destroyed, it must be removed for incapacity as an administrator of those means and transfer them to grassroots collectives.

Cuba is experiencing the greatest crisis of its entire history due to an order that blocks or checks all the means of productive forces. The Cuban leadership turned its back on a fundamental principle of Marxism mentioned by Engels during Marx’s funeral: “Man needs, first of all, to eat, drink, have shelter and clothing before he can create politics, science, art, religion, etc,” which is why it’s required to stimulate the creativity of human beings.

Cuban liberals, to demonstrate the superiority of capitalism to that socialism imposed on the Island, highlighted the fact that it is not the same when interest in productivity is only held by a small group of the Central Committee, than when that interest is held by thousands of capitalists. Following the same reasoning, the result would be even more significant when millions have that interest.

Individual or family ownership, for example, like the so-called self-employed, must be stimulated by reducing taxes and licensing costs, as well as eliminating the prohibitions intended, disloyally and unfairly, to protect the state-controlled companies from the competition of small owners, something that is paradoxical, since what normally occurs in capitalist countries is that laws are passed to protect small business owners from the voracity of monopolies, like the United States’s Sherman Act of 1890, which forced monopolies to dissolve or divide into various companies, and which even sat Rockefeller himself in the dock of the accused.

In Cuba, on the contrary, the State protects its monopoly with laws that limit the activity of the private sector, as one trying to protect a tiger from the possible aggression of a harmless kitten. This fact is revealing in itself, because if the State sees it as necessary to adopt coercive measures to counteract the competition of small businesses, this clearly demonstrates that state companies are inefficient, and moreover, the high efficiency of workers when they work for themselves.

What to do, then, with those inefficient state businesses? The key question would be why they are not efficient and why are private ones efficient. The answer is obvious: the State’s salaried employees lack incentives, while private employees are indeed stimulated. Thus, the solution is handing over to State workers a part of the utilities they produce, thus giving them a voice and a vote in the direction of the companies and businesses where they work. Is this capitalism? Quite the opposite. It would be a form of labor organization more in accordance with the original conception of socialism.

But this is not an ideological question, but rather the pragmatic search for the most effective methods to get the population out of the deepest crisis that this country has experienced in its entire history and prevent social explosions that will drag the country into total chaos.

And that is not the only danger: given the methods in which the decentralizations have been carried out, it is almost certain that there will be the birth of a business mafia which, without the control of the so-called historical leadership now at a point of disappearing, will have no qualms about making pacts with the big drug cartels needed for new routes to the United States market.

How could this new revolution be carried out in a peaceful manner? First, why does it have to be peaceful? Because a violent revolution would repeat the ways of thinking of the same civilizing paradigm in which was implemented the order that we want to supplant, in this case, the patriarchal thinking of armed violence and executions, which means falling again into the same errors that lead again to the starting point to repeat the same cycle. A glorious revolution need not be only political and economic, but rather, above all, civilizing, that is, in the consciousness of citizens.

Second, is a peaceful revolution to empower workers and restore citizens’ rights and freedoms possible? Carrying it out does not require the power of a revolutionary State, as Marx believed. Starting with the principle that no dictatorship is sustained without the collaboration of the people or part of the people, one concludes that nobody governs without the consent of the governed.

If civil society becomes aware of its responsibility for the salvation of a people on the edge of social explosion and chaos, it will have to act in unity and demand the necessary transformations. It will have to be conscious of its own force, what the leader of the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia, Vaclav Havel, called “the power of the powerless.”

If, as everything indicates, that leadership does not commit to taking the steps that would avoid the approaching disaster, then it could become essential, before it’s too late, that the most conscious elements of the citizenry come together to make clear that necessity before civil society and call on it to wake up.

And when activists, intellectuals, academics, religious figures, artists, students, professionals, and workers rise up and take a step forward to demand, peacefully, without hatred, but energetically, the door will be opened to a future of peace, brotherhood, and prosperity.

Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Protest Time

If arrogant and contemptuous do not take urgent measures, and just sit around waiting for the protests, the next thing to arrive will be nothing other than Armageddon.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ariel Hildalgo, Miami, 6 November 2019 —  On Cuban tables the plates are almost empty, at the bus stops there are swells of people on the hunt for crowded transports, many homes on the verge of collapse are overcrowded with three and even four generations, and the blackouts and so-called “energy savings” increase the exhaustion and despair.

In Cuba, the current president of the United States, Donald Trump, is blamed for the calamities, his restrictive economic measures providing huge help to the leaders of the Palace of the Revolution by granting them a great alibi, despite the fact that the so-called período coyuntural (temporary period/crisis) was announced long before. But what does the latter matter? Is it not well known that people have little memory?

But they cannot deceive the academics, artists, journalists, professionals, civic activists and students, among others. That many today do not speak openly, or say otherwise, does not mean that they do not know. What they do is one thing, what they think another, and what they say something else, so far. continue reading

But everything has a limit. Despair and outrage can reach a point where they overcome prudence and fear, and empty pans can become musical instruments* of a national concert. This would not be all, because that symphony could be only the prelude to a storm. Any spark can light a fire.

A complaint on a corner can turn into a neighborhood protest and, from there, growing to a tsunami that sweeps the whole city is a matter of the blink of an eye.

Then there will be no mobs of repudiation or quick-response detachments that can stop crowds ravaging the stores, nor raging concentrations in the Plaza of the Revolution. What will the party leadership do then? Take to the streets in tanks? Repeat another Tiannanmen Square massacre? Cuba is not China, nor are we on the other side of the world, far from the West.

Then it will not be the fault of those who only sinned out of despair, or of the dissenters, or of imperialism, but of those who have not wanted to hear the voice of the people in time.

No one in their right mind who really loves their homeland wants this. Such a scenario can be avoided, and not through threats, arrests, or states of siege, because there will not be enough prisons to lock up so many people.

So far, only reforms have been made, but reform really means changing the structure. What needs to be done now is more than that. They can call it or interpret it as they wish, perhaps as a “revolution in the revolution,” but if they don’t make radical constructive changes from above, there will come changes, also radical, but destructive and from below.

What, then, should leadership do to avoid the latter? The keyword is called freedom. Proceed according to the advice of Abraham Lincoln, who said he destroyed his enemies by making them friends. Convert the self-employed into allies by lowering taxes and licensing costs.

Issue permits for many other professions and provide them with means of work, as well as permits to acquire microcredits from abroad, and you will see how in the midst of tribulations, miracles will be present everywhere, with people solving their problems on all sides.

The treasury coffers will be filled with money, because a swell of small informal producers will leave the black market to integrate into the formal economy. And if they want more productivity in state industries, share the profits with the workers who produce them and grant them the right to have a voice and vote in the affairs of their workplaces or companies.

Grant small agricultural producers freedom to sell their products at the market price to the population. Then many others will want to and give them land, because the State has enough to give and we will see how in a very short time the markets will be filled with fruits, vegetables, grains, and many other foods.

And if they want to get rid of the alleged “internal” enemies, allow human rights activists, those who have more credibility among the critics, to form a National Committee with access to all prisons on condition that reports of violations are delivered to them, which would be very advantageous.

First because they will have the opportunity to correct these evils without the need for international organizations to condemn them, and secondly because constructive criticisms would allow them to provide detailed information on what happens in the multiple instances and sectors, in order to correct them and prevent corrupt and abusive officials who might encourage anti-government animosities. Don’t kill the messenger!

Allow dissidents to run as candidates with the possibility of obtaining seats in the National Assembly, which will have, as an advantage, broadening the horizon of views in conflict resolution, and the framework of ideas that allow a greater variety of proposals for the prosperity of all the people.

I know that making these recommendations or similar ones is almost like demanding pears from the elm tree. But if only a small group of that leadership had the courage to ignore the warnings of the so-called “hard core” (those who are filled with dread even on hearing someone say “democracy”) and begin to take the steps that circumstances demand, they would not be alone, because the entire people would support them.

But if they ignore those who propose things like these and cross their arms, if they do not listen to the warnings of those who only wish to avoid greater evils to the country, if they continue to be arrogant and contemptuous ad do not take urgent measures, and wait for the time of the cacerolazos* — the protests — next will come nothing but Armageddon.

*Translator’s note: The original title of this post is “La hora de cacerolazos”: commonly in Latin American countries people protest by beating on empty pots and pans (cacerolas).

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With Lie Detectors Instead Of Ballot Boxes, It Would Be Very Different Story

A group of people waiting to vote on the constitutional referendum. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ariel Hidalgo, Miami, 27 February 2019 — Almost two and a half million Cubans refused to support a constitutional project that perpetuates the condition of the country as a private fiefdom of group that has ruled its people with an iron fist for six decades. And there would have been many more, if the police had not repressed the opposition campaigning for a NO vote, if they had not exercised intimidation over the voters and over volunteer observers who had the courage to watch the vote counting, and, finally, if they had not delayed, without any justification and very suspiciously, the announcement of the results.

However, despite all these irregularities, this number of citizens who did not approve the proposal, and that the oppressors could not hide, clearly shows, in my opinion, two things: the existence of a not insignificant share of the population that disagrees with the current situation in the country, which, even if it is a minority, because of its sheer size cannot be ignored, not only by the rest of the population, but also by world public opinion, and it is a share whose rights must be respected. And, on the other hand, it shows a growing advance in awareness, not so much in all the people, as in a generation born when this sexagenarian dictatorship had already entrenched itself in power. continue reading

They can no longer say, speaking categorically, that the people of Cuba support what they call “Revolution,” as they did up until now, when their support at the polls exceeded 90%. The ‘others’ whom they labeled “anti-patriotic,” now make up almost a third of the people. Starting now, if they want to be precise, they would have to recognize, consistent with official data provided by themselves, that part of the people do not support them.

And this story does not end yet; later we will see who are the people who are truly “anti-patriotic.” Because if we talk about the majority who did support them by marking YES, they did so out of fear, because of that psychotic condition they’ve been infected with from above: the incoherence between thinking, speaking and acting.

Because if there were lie detectors in the polling places instead of ballot boxes, it would be a whole different story. The main chains around the people, they carry inside themselves. It is necessary to break them. What is missing among almost everyone in this electorate who voted Yes, is not an awareness of the illegitimacy and fateful operation of this regime – which almost everyone is already convinced of – but the willingness to change.

If, under a dictatorship, the citizens cease to idolize the rulers, if they stop believing in the invincibility of the oppressors, if they believe they can reach a better future, if they stop fearing that the power will excommunicate and repress them, if they perceive that they could prosper a lot better than they do from receiving the gifts of the oppressors, and if they become aware of their rights and perceive themselves as free people, that single conviction will set them free, because they will begin to act as such, and then there will be no tanks or armed squads that can stop them.

The governed have the ability to make the rulers change their way of ruling, because those who rule need those who obey and no one governs without the consent of the governed. If they stop obeying, they stop ruling. If the ruler is on one road and the governed are on another, governability is lost and the ruler is forced to rectify the course.

Who doesn’t remember when, despite the fact that paladares (private restaurants) and the US dollar were prohibited during the Special Period, there was a paladar in every neighborhood and a great share of the people had dollars, and the government was forced to legalize them? But if the rulers cling to their whims, the response will be non-compliance, and just like there are not enough prisons to arrest millions of people, the ruler no longer rules and the ruled become the ruler.

Thus, the oppressed can conquer freedom without hatred or violence. Because “the powerless,” united, are more powerful than the power.

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Twenty Reasons to Vote No

The text that will be subject to the plebiscite was not the result of a consensual labor among the diverse currents of opinion of the citizenship. Billboard: “My will, my Constitution. I am participating in the drafting of my Constitution.” (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ariel Hidalgo, Miami, 5 February 2019 — Why should we vote “No” in the February 24 referendum on a new constitutional project? Of the many reasons, these twenty seem the most important.

1. Because the text that will be submitted to plebiscite was not the result of consensual labor among the different currents of opinion of the citizenship, as it would be in a democratically elected constituent assembly, but rather it was written by a team handpicked by the elite of a single party. Party is derived from “part”, so that said text is only the work of the interests of a sole line of thinking.

2. Because that constitution would institutionalize in perpetuity a one-party dictatorial regime implicit in Article 5, as well as the concentration of the three branches of the State, legislative executive and judicial, in the hands of that same elite. continue reading

3. Because this project aims to reaffirm the institutionalization of systematic violations of fundamental rights such as freedom of expression and of association, when in reality the opposite should be sought, the rule of law.

4. Because voting “Yes” would mean giving carte blanche to the same group that in 60 years has not been able to solve vital problems of the population such as the crisis in transportation, in housing and in shortages and that continues to offer the same failed remedies over and over.

5. Because Article 22 seeks to institutionalize the principle of equality in misery for the vast majority of citizens regarding the limit on properties that they may possess, even if they are acquired honestly by their own efforts or by their talent, which blocks the stimulus of creativity and productivity.

6. Because we need a Constitution that offers a legal framework for the protection of workers and retirees and, in particular, self-employed workers, artisans and artists to be free in their creativity and free in economic initiative for their prosperity, which allows freedom of unionization, right to strike and public demonstration.

7. Because the current project does not guarantee ending the policy of excessive restrictions and obstacles to self-employment, as well as the elimination of discrimination against Cubans living abroad in investing in their own country.

8. Because the new Constitution continues to perpetuate a politicized education under the exclusive control of the State, which implies generating culturally one-dimensional citizens, while at the same time, by excluding private education, parents are deprived of the right to choose for their children the type of education they prefer.

9. Because the deletion of Article 68 that defined marriage as “voluntarily arranged union between two people” leaves a gap in the constitutional text regarding the possibility of members of the LGTB community for cohabitation contracts that ensure basic rights such as that of inheritance.

10. Because the text leaves undefined a topic as vital as the death penalty, suspended but still officially in existence, which, because of the dramatic connotation in our history, must be abolished constitutionally. The life of any human being, regardless of his criminal responsibility, must be considered sacred.

11. Because if we can demonstrate that a considerable percentage of the population supports the No vote, even if it is not a majority, it would allow to demand, before international organizations, that the Cuban government be required to respect the rights of that significant part of the population in disagreement with the official policy.

12. Because a high number of No votes would help to create a civic conscience of resistance in the population before the arbitrary impositions of the current power — or any other power — against their rights and begin undermining the mentality of indolence or blind fanaticism.

13. The belief that voting Yes or No is irrelevant because there will be fraud does not take into account that many of the thousands or tens of thousands responsible for the fraud being carried out will not be able to negate their relatives and friends if there is a really significant number in favor of the No vote, and this would be important in raising the consciousness and willingness for change in the citizenry, the first step towards open expression in favor of a better Cuba.

14. The government’s thesis that voting No signifies opposing the supposed achievements in education and medical care by the regime does not hold, because those benefits whose iterations already existed before 1959 such as emergency medical care and public schools are seen as increasingly diminished by an unviable economic model, as the new Constitution does not propose any alternative model but a continuity of what has already failed; so voting No would mean, on the contrary, opting for a different  form of ensuring these universal rights.

15. The thesis that going to the polls, even if voting No, would mean legitimizing a fraudulent election, does not take into account that in many cases in which a dictatorship agreed to popular consultation in the belief that it would win, not even the potential frauds were enough to circumvent the popular decision, as was the case in the famous plebiscite in which Pinochet was defeated, or in the case of the electoral failure of the Sandinistas against Violeta Chamorro.

16. Because the option of abstaining is indirectly a Yes vote, since generally in no country is it interpreted as a rejection but more as a careless attitude of someone likely to vote Yes who doesn’t due to indifference. Silence gives consent. The No vote, on the other hand, leaves no room for doubt.

17. Nevertheless, due to harassment by pro-government elements to go to the polls, the vast majority of citizens who disagree with this proposal are more likely to attend and vote No, since they fear that their refusal to vote will mark them as malcontents by the regime.

18. Every annulled or absent vote subtracts power from the opposition against an adversary that never splits their vote, because it would be as if the opposition presented three separate candidates against the sole candidate of the authorities. They have only one slogan: Vote Yes. The opposition must not act differently with respect to the No vote, but keep the unique slogan: Everyone Vote No!

19. Because this continent lives a historical moment in which the dictatorships of the so-called “socialism of the 21st century” are in retreat thanks to the decisions and courage of the citizens of those countries, and taking into account the role played by our country in that process, we should do no less but instead go to the source of the evil to eradicate it, and this is justly the first step: vote No!

20. Finally, taking into account all the above reasons, it is necessary to vote No, also for our personal satisfaction, not only because it is our duty as citizens, but also because we must be true to ourselves and act accordingly to how we think. Every time we reject an arbitrary and unjust imposition, something very beautiful is reaffirmed within us.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Rescuing Jose Marti from His Kidnappers

Part of the image from the cover of the book The One and Only José Martí: Principal Opponent of Fidel Castro.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ariel Hidalgo, Miami, January 28, 2019 — Photographs of José Martí were never missing from the offices of any of the Cuban presidents. It didn’t matter if their actions contradicted the ideas of that great master who would have pronounced these words from the prophet Isaiah with respect to the Castro regime’s leaders: “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”

They considered Martí “the intellectual author of the attack on the Moncada Barracks,” and although many of those who fought and died in that action felt truly committed to those ideals — The Centennial Generation, they called themselves — they were all betrayed when that leadership not only prolonged the wrongs against which they had fought by not restoring the Constitution or holding free elections. continue reading

It deepened with the installment of a military dictatorship with absolute powers and institutionalized the violations of fundamental rights and freedoms, something that they want to reaffirm now with the approval of a spurious Constitution.

Much repeated is this phrase: “Martí promised it to you and Fidel fulfilled it for you.” In my opinion this is the worst mockery and the worst calumny that can be thrown against any honorable man. Now, to top it off, this thing that they call “Revolution” is described as “Marxist, Leninist, and Martí-ist.”

Under this regime the Seminars for Martí Studies are held each year, and a center for the study of his thoughts was created. Although more than a few intellectuals hide behind Martí to make a covert complaint against Castroism, his appropriation by the oppressors was carried out with the pretext of his Latin American and anti-imperialist ideas.

It is true that Martí advocated the unity of the peoples of Our America, for what he conceived as a great homeland (“From the Rio Grande to Patagonia there is no more than one people”), and that he opposed the expansionism of the United States (the “seven-league giants”). But he himself had expressed that he loved “the land of Lincoln” just as he feared “the homeland of [Augustus K.] Cutting,” two interests at odds still today.

These aspects of Martí thought were taken advantage of by the group installed in power with the intention of gathering the support of the Latin American peoples and of maintaining, in the international arena, the idea that the Cuban problem was summed up in the contradiction between a small country that was supposedly fighting for its sovereignty and the aims of a large empire that was trying to subjugate it, to conceal the real contradiction: a group that has turned an entire country into a large fiefdom and a people subjected to the most humiliating conditions.

Many thousands of Cubans have passed through prisons without having attacked or insulted anybody, without destroying even a lightbulb, only for having expressed ideas different from the policy dictated by the ideological secretariat of the governing party, be it under the cause of “enemy propaganda” or that of “contempt,” something diametrically opposed to the ideology of Martí.

In Martí’s conception of democratic revolution, the right to free expression is sacred. This key principle in his thought, which is an insurmountable wall between him and that leadership, can be read repeatedly in his Complete Works. “Respect for liberty and different thought, even of the most unhappy entity, is my fanaticism: if I die, or they kill me, it will be for that,” he wrote. Or: “I feel as if they kill a child of mine every time that they deprive a man of his right to think.”

Another type of Martí’s thoughts that the authorities try to sidestep are those that refer critically to ideological aspects that touch them closely. Of those, the one that they have most dared to cite is that of Martí’s reservations about Marx, because along with the criticism there is some praise, like this: “Profound observer of the reason for human miseries and the destinies of men and man eaten by the yearning to do well.”

But he also declares: “He went in a hurry and a little in the shadows, without seeing that children who have not had a natural and laborious gestation are not born viable, neither from the womb of the people in history, nor from the womb of the woman in the home,” which seems to indicate that Martí reflected upon the importance of a development process of civic consciousness in order to achieve, peacefully, a just social order, which he reiterates when he says: “Shameful the forced turning of some men into beasts for the benefit of others, but a way out of indignation has to be sought, so that the beast ceases without getting out of control and frightening.”

Martí, it is necessary to clarify, was not only an apostle for independence but also of social justice, but he didn’t stop harshly criticizing those who, in the name of that justice, intended to raise themselves up and lord over humble people.

In the article Future Slavery, about an essay by the English philosopher Herbert Spencer, Martí refers very clearly to the model known as state socialism, later incubated in the gloomy Russia of Stalin and which Cubans have been suffering for 60 years.

In these societies where all riches would be under the control of the state, he warns, “the number of public employees [would increase] in a terrible manner. With every new function, a new stock of officials would come.” He adds: “From being his own servant, man would pass to become the servant of the state. From being the slave of capitalists, as they call him now, he would go to being the slave of officials.” And he concludes: “The servitude will be lamentable, and general.”

Another text is the letter to his friend Fermín Valdés Domínguez in 1894. The latter had communicated his participation in activity for May 1 along with socialists and anarchists, and Martí warned him about “the dangers of the socialist idea.” Among them “the arrogance and furtive rage of the ambitious, who to raise themselves in the world begin by pretending to be, to have shoulders on which to rise, fierce defenders of the helpless.” But at the same time he warns him that such objections do not mean the abandonment of the ideal of social justice, because “of how nobly must be judged an aspiration: and not for this or that wart that human passion puts on it.”

Today, when the citizenry is expected to approve by referendum the constitutional institutionalization of the violations of their fundamental rights and liberties, it’s necessary to rescue Martí from those kidnappers with the same bravery with which Agramonte rescued Sanguily in the middle of the scrubland. To make very clear that the emblematic image of those rights and liberties is that of Martí, and that, as a consequence, we, defenders of those guarantees, have more right than they to claim it.

If all those groups opposed to that sacrilege meet in a place of cyberspace in a campaign to vote No on the Constitutional referendum on 24 February, and declare themselves in permanent convention, even to face the tasks that duty will set for us after the referendum, that cause itself must carry the name of José Martí.

No image brings together more Cubans than his does. Martí unites. Martí includes. As far as I’m concerned, that convention in honor of Martí not only must be created, but must not be dissolved until those rights and liberties have achieved a definitive victory.

If its members claim that name before global public opinion and do not respond with insults to their offenders, nor resist arrest before their oppressors, it would be a great victory if the international media reports that the followers of Martí, only because of their being that, are being persecuted and harrassed in the homeland of Martí.

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

The Triumph and Defeat of the Cuban Dissidence

Photo taken in the Combinado del Este prison, in Havana, during a visit made in 2013 by the national and international press on the Island. (EFE/Archivo)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ariel Hidalgo, 14 January 2019 — The dissidence, as an organized civic movement, wasn’t born in Cuba until 1983. At the beginning of October of that year, I found myself in Combinado del Este prison, serving eight years for a manuscript critical of the political system, when I met a new prisoner: Ricardo Bofill had been active in the Youth of the Popular Socialist Party and had already been in prison in 1967 for the charge of “Microfaction” (expressing differences with the Party line). For several weeks, we exchanged impressions and ideas.

At that time I was worried about the subhuman situation of a friend in solitary confinement in the walled off cells and Bofill said he had connections with foreign press agencies to send them a complaint. He even offered to help me write it, but he maintained that we had to sign it with our own names so that it would have credibility, something that was until then inconceivable in political imprisonment. continue reading

We wrote it, on the back he wrote his name and underneath I put my own. To my surprise, at the end Bofill added: “Cuban Pro Human Rights Committee.” Then, next to his name he wrote “president” and next to mine, “vicepresident.” I didn’t attach any importance to that.

I didn’t make a note of the day as a memorable date. For me it was only about helping a friend, but when the information reached abroad, the headline wasn’t his case, but the creation, for the first time in Cuba, of a committee of human rights.

Right away, Bofill sent messages to Gustavo Arcos Bergnes, who had participated with Fidel and Raul Castro in the attack of the Moncada Barracks and who was isolated in a separate cell, and to Elizardo Sánchez, social democratic activist, who was in Boniato prison in Santiago de Cuba. Both responded positively. Three more prisoners in Combinado joined up.

The Committee was already created, but repression didn’t take long. Some were put in isolation, among them Bofill, who was then admitted to a room in the prison hospital. He remained there for a long period of time until they took him out for an unknown destination. We didn’t know if they had taken him to another prison, to his home in Cuba, or abroad, which is why in a meeting of the Committee members, I was elected, on a provisional basis, acting president.

Then began the development of a strategic plan. Prison became an immense laboratory, a model for what could later be the dissident movement throughout the country.

We helped to group together many political prisoners according to their activities: an association of writers and artists, another of religious figures from different churches, and the Liga Cívica Martiana [Martí Civic League].

The writers’ group created their own magazine, El Disidente, which we used to write by hand and came to number more than 60 pages, so perfect that it seemed printed. Various copies circulated around the prison, and some were even covertly taken out and circulated through the streets, others were sent abroad and some extracts were published in El Nuevo Herald in Miami.

Sometimes, State Security raided our cells and we had to start again, so we had to hide each page we produced really well. All the groups ended up working in such a united way in the interest of the prisoners that, one way or another, each and every one did some type of job, so that the authorities had to rely on us for any change in the criminal division.

That was how, more or less, we wanted it to be on a societal level. A support committee should have been founded from every social sector in defense of its interests: for journalists, for teachers, religious figures, artists, self-employed people, and so on.

When all these committees were strengthened with the support of their respective branches, they should have joined together in a federation of social self-defense to peacefully confront, in the name of all of civil society, the totalitarian power. We calculated that, carrying out this plan like we intended it, it would not take 10 or 15 years for the great changes that we desired to be made. And we were in 1985.

Our complaints led to an international scandal and the Government found itself obligated to allow the inspection of prisons by representatives of different international bodies.

In 1988 I accepted an offer of freedom on the condition that I left the country, a form of unofficial exile. On the afternoon of August 4, a little more than a month before a UN commission would enter Combinado del Esta, they took me out of my cell and I was brought to José Martí International Airport.

The Cuban Government was condemned at the United Nations. The movement spread all over the country and has been the only one in the opposition, in six decades, that has managed to remain without being destroyed despite threats, harassment, persecution, arrests, and long sentences.

This meant a great victory. The answer is that new dictatorships, whether they are communist or of the so-called socialism of the 21st century, prepare to confront their adversaries on a level of violence, but when faced with nonviolence, they are disoriented.

However, the movement failed in the most important thing: obtaining the support of different social sectors. What went wrong?

The main reason was a shift of discourse in many groups. Abroad, until the middle of the 90s, a great majority of exiles viewed the dissidence as a governmental trick to fabricate an easily manipulated opposition. Among the few who believed was the activist and actress Teté Machado. Together we founded the first center of support for dissidents, the Buró de Información de Derechos Humanos [Information Bureau for Human Rights] (Infoburo).

For several years Teté was the voice of the entire dissident movement at the most important conclaves all over the world. But when some dissidents overshadowed the leadership in exile, powerful political organizations offered material and media support to several of their leaders in exchange for support for their own demands, like supporting the embargo and opposing travel and remittances.

Those who accepted, by adopting a rhetoric totally contrary to the interests of the population, lost contact with her and were moved to social marginalization. Other groups, although they did not adopt that rhetoric, did not fully assume their social commitment.

So we arrived at a dead end: neither the Government was capable of exterminating the dissidence, nor was the dissidence capable of defeating the Government. Only those groups — very few — loyal to the original commitment, received large support and became the most numerous.

With these reflections I would like to invite others to make a critical analysis.

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.