Independence: Panacea or Tragedy? / Fernando Dámaso

Photo: Peter Deel

Writing on historical things, I dusted off the 19th Century in Cuba, and with it the related currents of annexation, reform, autonomy and independence. Elaborating on each of them, I came to some controversial conclusions, and going back in time, I carried them forward to our time, where some have become reality, although, in this case, changing the name but not the content.

Given the widespread crisis that engulfs the Cuban nation, a great majority agree, ever more strongly, on the need to introduce deep reforms of an economic character, without ignoring some, although tepid, of a social and political character. These new reformists, as is usual, have been resisted by the authorities, who stigmatize them, their preferred method. Not content with that, they have gone even further and enacted constitutional articles rejecting any possibility of change and making immobility eternal. To think that with laws and decrees they can put the brakes on social development is totally absurd, not to mention a denial of the dialectic, but it is a part of the everyday alienation of our tropical socialism.

From the official speaker’s platform, the defense of their positions has centered on raising the flag, once more, of independence as an indispensable condition for national survival. Although it is a word that sounds good, and has been too much used, to me it raises great doubts. After obtaining independence in 1902, our country enjoyed a very few years of true political peace, emphasizing the fratricidal struggles of the first quarter century, the dictatorship of Machado, that of Batista and the current model.

That built, despite all the setbacks, in the first fifty-six years of independence, has been destroyed in the last fifty-three years, also called, coincidentally, independence, and where the little voice of you-know-you has been present from the time you wake up until you go to sleep, including on holidays.

Furthermore, according to the official propaganda, in those first fifty-six years we weren’t independent, because we were subject to the government of the United States of America. Hence the derogatory epithets of “psuedo-republic,” “half-republic,” “neo-colonial,” etc. In the great majority of the other years, if we look at reality, we weren’t independent either as we were subject to the Soviets.

Perhaps — excuse me patriots — we would have been more developed and happier joined with the United States. At least we wouldn’t have had so many historic potholes, nor so many dictators, nor would we have lost nearly half a century, or fallen into the current devolutionary process that has brought the country back o the early 20th Century.

To speak of annexation today is an absurdity, not because it would be so terrible, but because it doesn’t fit with this time: currently the terms used are integration and globalization, which represent a free union of independent countries, in terms of their economy, politics, social projects, etc. So, over the years, the sacrosanct independence of the 19th and 20th Centuries, is not so much so in the 21st Century, and has lost its validity, giving way to reformism, utilizing the denominator that is used to name it. Everything changes and this is a demonstration of it.

Clinging to the past, recycling words discarded by time, is just useless entertainment. It imposes the new and, for that, changes are needed: without changes, without renovation, there are no solutions nor development. The criticized capitalism has demonstrated its capacity to transform itself, abandoning the outdated and accepting the new. The vaunted socialism was not capable of doing it and disappeared. To try to revive it by tweaking it is to lose even more time. To revisit the old banners of independence, sovereignty at all costs, and narrow patriotism, is to lack a historical perspective, and what’s more, if it is done in good faith, a mistake.

November 16 2011