The Age of Reptiles / Miriam Celaya

The times are propitious for the unveiling of the proverbial national fickleness. The blurring of the mythical figure of the supposedly invincible commander within the Cuban panorama–his disappearance from the Roundtable talk show and from the public eye in general–has unleashed a wave of criticism of the earlier period of this same process called the “Cuban Revolution,” which occurred during the absolute reign of Castro I.

With the inevitable (and forced) accession of Castro II, we have witnessed a spectacle which is as depraved as it is unexpected: like pilot fish who abandon the shark in disgrace, the servants, who until recently revered the patriarch of disaster and had only praise for his work, have changed masters and are hurrying to catch up with the discursive tone of the “pragmatic reformer” (every little king requires his own label), whose first step has been to harshly question the evils generated by bureaucracy, excessive state control, centralization and corruption, stemming from the “erroneous interpretation” of socialism. The General, of course, doesn’t throw the darts directly at his mentor, but the disquisition is clear considering that for half a century his brother was the absolute master of the helm, and monopoly of power leads inevitably to monopoly of responsibility.

Thus, until now, most reformist we’ve seen in Cuba in the last five decades is the official discourse, rapidly adopted by a choir in which we hear more or less the same voices, although they occupy different positions and tones on the stage. The same ones who yesterday deliriously applauded the caudillo, today criticize the evils unleashed under this government, as if they had been produced by spontaneous generation and without regard of the good intentions and purity of the leader. In fact, many avoid even mentioning the absent one.

The list of neo-reformists of the word would be so extensive and its composition so varied that I prefer to dispense with it. And they are not necessarily “young,” rather they swell the entire age spectrum of society. By way of example, let suffice the recent declarations of Alfredo Guevara, a stalwart of the regime, when he asserted to a group of university students that Cuba is producing a “ridiculous transition to a socialist society,” thanks to the reforms of Raul Castro. Guevara now says that it is necessary “to destroy this huge apparatus that has seized society.” In a display of criticism, the man who was the founder and president of the Cuban Institute of the Art and Industry of Cinematography (ICAIC), said that “today” dogmatic ideas don’t prevail in the high echelons of power, as they did for years, when they trained leadership cadres who studied Marxism “like a Stalinist catechism.” A word to the wise…

There is no need to dwell on the details, nor do they require much comment. One can only wonder what made this and the so many other functionaries and lackeys of the system avoid or warn of “the nonsense,” what and who says that the institution of which he was the top leadership was free of bureaucracy and of dogmatic ideas that mutilated, in small or large measure, creativity, and why he and his associates seem to consider themselves morally superior to the fundamental architects of the collapse.

But let’s not fail to consider a good sign. Undoubtedly, we are witnesses to the process of political mimicry that has characterized all the transitions of the old socialist countries, by virtue of which the most astute attendants of the dying regime remodel their discourse, re-accommodate themselves, and adapt to new trends to try to survive in the times ahead. Among them there will be no lack of the businessmen and politicians of the future, perhaps by then with an harangue completely opposed to what they hold forth about today, we shall see. It is, therefore, a sign of the process of decay itself that I prefer to view it with optimism, even though it stinks. It’s true that Alfredo Guevara–an octogenarian intellectual with a full life and relatively large body of work–whose eventual episodes of false rebellion have been mysteriously tolerated by a government never given to pardoning stupidities, means little in view of a period of changes that at some point on the road they will begin to hasten; but we know that we can count on the appearance of many more chameleons like this one. And it will be logical. They are the small lizards who try to survive the extinction of the dinosaurs. In short, we have to prepare ourselves to pass to a new stage that–despite everything–signals times of change. Meanwhile, everything indicates that we will still continue for some time in the age of the reptiles.

July 5 2011