For A Real Battle Of Ideas in Cuba / 14ymedio, Regina Coyula

Sign on a street of Havana. “The Revolution is Invincible” (EFE)
Sign on a street of Havana. “The Revolution is Invincible” (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Regina Coyula, Havana, 7 February 2016 – Whether it is a Cuban government presided over by a member of the Communist party, or by someone else elected by the direct and secret vote of the citizenry, the challenges that lie ahead for this future government are immeasurable. In an environment with a free flow of information, where stating an opinion is no longer perceived as a punishable activity by some, or potentially dangerous by others, Cuba, as unanimous as it seems to be, will become a tempestuous stage for disparate opinions.

The workers, who today serve the goals and wave the flags of the collective vanguard, will demand rights and organize strikes. This country that seems so quiescent today will become a Tower of Babel. That is why it is so important that the different visions of Cuba not ignore each other, and above all that the government does not ignore them all. Even common sense suggests that within the ranks of the apparently monolithic ruling party, there are opinions far removed from the party line and that it is thanks only to the mortar of so-called democratic centralism that they are not noticed.

Among citizens, anyone who wishes to engage in serious politics, if they want to attract interest and get votes, must be explicit and convincing with respect to preserving a system of healthcare, education and social security that covers everyone, although these activities do not have to be exclusively free. The inequalities that are currently shamelessly on display, are precisely in schools and health centers.

The lack of a sense of ownership and the feeling that “everything belongs to everyone, so nothing belongs to anyone,” has had disastrous results. Different forms of ownership have not been implemented except on an exceptional basis. Faced with limited private property (home, auto, cemetery vault, furniture, personal belongings, farmland), the rest has been overwhelmingly state-owned, not owned in common, however much they try to explain otherwise.

The economy needs to be renewed. It is urgent to modify the timid Investment Law so that the most motivated (Cubans, regardless of their geography) can participate. The state must become an efficient administrator and coordinator and must reform its bloated and unwieldy structure. Not making the necessary layoffs to pare the state structure is a political decision with an economic burden that also affects the lack of equality.

Fiscal policy (fair, based on production and productivity) should finance social policies and the strategic development of the country, but with full transparency about the uses of this money. It is disrespectful to taxpayers to force them to support an enormous and inefficient state apparatus. Planning must be realistic, and set aside volunteerism, historical anniversaries or “tasks handed down from above,” and should be a natural part of the autonomy of these businesses.

The market can no longer be subordinated to politics; in any event it must be subordinated to social interests. State intervention in the prices of agricultural products is viewed with suspicion and the critics didn’t take long to appear.

To articulate democratic participation and obedience to the law without exceptions are the greatest challenges, and we should not fear a real battle of ideas. If citizens feel their participation is truly voluntary and that they are honestly informed, their participation will be massive and spontaneous.

A good plan for the future should be based on José Martí’s idea of a republic for all and for the good of all. In a project like this there is room for all Cubans, on the island and abroad, ready to debate and to respect what is decided at the polls, and there is a great deal that will need to be voted on in the coming years.

As in any joint venture, no one will emerge the total winner. Negotiations will be open, as the development of a plan for the future must be open if it is to succeed after the secrecy of all these years. And citizens, through their votes, must have the last word.

We are not inventing anything. There is a wealth of experience in our history and in history in general about how to do things that come out better, versus worse. Personally, I have many doubts about how it should be, but I have none about how it should NOT be.