In Its Rightful Place / Fernando Dámaso

The word “opponent,” according to dictionaries, means: He is who opposed to another, who is in disagreement, the dissenting. It’s simply one word like any other in general use. In Cuba, during the Republic it was an accepted and respected word: the government of the day had opponents and these, when they constituted the government, also had opponents in their turn. It was a healthy practice: forcing the leaders to submit themselves to a continual valuation of their acts and to be held accountable for them.

Grau, Prío and Batista had opponents: the majority of historical leaders were opponents of these presidents and their governments. There were stages when the opponents employed peaceful methods, and others in which they used violent methods. Within the opposition there were differences, as is natural in any human group. To be in opposition was not a stigma, but rather simply that one did not conform, was not in agreement with what was happening and proposed other solutions. Opponents, in their respective times, also included Villena, Mella, Torriente Brau, Guiteras, Roa, Chibás, Marinello, José Antonio, Frank País and many others. The list would be endless.

On the establishment of a new regime, the opponents were declared persona non grata and, the same word, excised from the national political lexicon. It was established that the people and the government were the same and, therefore, anyone not in agreement with the government was not with the people. In its place classifying nous and adjectives were introduced, including the current “dissident.” This responded to a logic of power: the opponents, who almost always start as a minority, at a determined moment become the majority, and finally, the government. This, which was and is normal in any democratic country, couldn’t happen here. The dissident, however, being a black sheep, someone who leaves the fold, will always be in the minority without access to power. In general one speaks of the government and opposition, and almost never of the government and dissidence, as different options.

For a government to BE GOOD and, what’s more, efficient and just, a GOOD OPPOSITION is necessary. It’s not healthy for a government to look only in its own mirror, as this is not a counterpart of anything or anyone. When this happens, it is what happens with us: we walk on the edge of the abyss and, in many cases, we find ourselves at the bottom of it.

A serious and responsible opposition, active, open to public opinion (we once again put the word in its proper place), will always be positive for a nation and for all its citizens, whatever they think and whatever policies they defend. Without confrontation there is no development. It is a law of dialectics that has been conveniently forgotten for many years. Dialog is not only an exchange of opinions, it is also confrontation, listening and discussing respectfully, in order to find better solutions to different problems. Our reality has demanded this for a long time.

June 13 2011