Dimas Castellanos, 19 July 2021 — Men can speed up or slow down historical processes, but only up to a point. The forceful popular demonstrations of 11J (July 11th), unprecedented for their massiveness and spontaneity, definitively confirmed that the crisis in Cuba has no other way out than the participation of Cubans as subjects in the destinies of their nation, that is, through democratization. To ignore this is to lead the country to a tragic outcome.
The rejection of democratization with the false argument of defending the “conquests of the revolution” can lead, as the events that have occurred indicate, to a catastrophe of incalculable consequences. After the failures harvested, the arguments put forward to continue on the same path do not stand up to serious analysis:
1- The Defense of the Revolution
By definition, the Revolution is a change in the structure of power in a short period of time that elapses from when the revolutionaries assume power until they replace the existing institutionality with another, subordinate to their ends.
This process in Cuba — extremely prolonged — began in 1959 and culminated in the 1976 Constitution. After that date, there is no revolution in Cuba, only immobility and retrogression.
The immobility, induced to “safeguard the conquests,” is nothing more than a euphemism to defend vested interests and preserve power, which turns unresolved problems into sources of outbreaks, as happened on 11J.
The concept of revolutionary, which designates people who promote changes, is not attributable to those who choose to stop history to preserve what has been achieved. Defenders of the status quo can call themselves anything else, but not revolutionary.
[Ed. note: The American embargo on Cuba is routinely referred to by the Cuban Government as a ’blockade’, which it is not.]
The seizures of the properties in Cuba owned by individuals or companies in the United States, which began in 1959, the attempts to export the revolution to other countries in the region, together with the reestablishment of relations with the Soviet Union — in the middle of the Cold War –were responded to by the United States with the establishment of the embargo, the reduction and suspension of the sugar quota, and the breakdown of diplomatic relations.
Thus began a confrontational escalation that for six decades has been used by the Government of Cuba to restrict the freedoms of Cubans, whose worst effect has been Cuba’s retreat from the most advanced platoon in Latin America with regards to rights and freedoms, to the group of the most backward.
The solution to this dispute does not lie in advertising campaigns or United Nations resolutions, but rather in accepting the causes and bringing them to the negotiating table instead of using it to present Cuba to the world as David before Goliath, to conceal the internal deficiencies, and to use it to make believe that any idea different from those of the Government comes from the United States, which constitutes an offense to the intelligence, culture and professionalism of Cubans.
3- The Principal Cause
In the shadow of the confrontation with the United States, the revolutionary government implemented a package of popular benefit measures (lower rents and lower prices for medicines, improvements in education and public health, the delivery of 100,000 property titles to poor peasants and the subsidy of basic products and services).
In parallel, it replaced independent civil society with associations created by and subordinate to power, suppressed freedoms, concentrated power in the leader, and concentrated ownership in the state. The most negative effect of the populist measures and the establishment of totalitarianism was the disappearance of the condition of citizen: an effect closely linked to the failures harvested, the accumulated malaise and the simultaneous explosion of 11J.
Like any system alien to human nature, Cuban totalitarianism was born doomed to failure. Its long duration lies in the demonstrated ability to subdue people through control of property, education, culture, and the media.
The embargo must cease, but since the main cause of the crisis lies in the adherence to nationalization, centralized planning and the absence of freedoms, the way out is, first in the implementation of measures of change within Cuba and then in the bilateral negotiations with the US, to retrace the path traveled — since the nationalization of US properties and the enactment of the embargo — through dialogue and negotiation.
4- The Shield
As the effectiveness to retain power is not transferable to production, the Cuban nation stagnated and began to regress. The totalitarian model was unable to generate sustained growth to meet the needs of Cubans, which is reflected, among other things, in the lack of food and medicine and in the power cuts.
Faced with the inevitable crisis, instead of escaping forward, the Cuban Government stepped on the brakes and decided to shield the totalitarian model with the 2019 Constitution, whose text preserves the causes of the setback, namely: the existence of a single political party as the superior leading political force of society and of the State; state property, the cause of economic decline as the fundamental form of the economy; the prohibition of Cubans on investing and being entrepreneurs in their country; and freedoms and rights, limited to being exercised in accordance with the ideology of the ruling party; which explains why, in the 11J demonstrations, the common cry was for freedom.
The solution to the crisis depends in the first place on measures aimed at empowering Cubans and banishing the exclusions of a part of the people with that aberrant slogan, “The street belongs to the revolutionaries”, which constitutes an offense to the words of the Apostle [José Martí]: “Con todos y para el bien de todos” [With all and for the good of all.] Consequently, the recovery of the condition of citizen is imposed for participation as subjects, not as objects, in the solution of the nation’s problems, which are their own problems.
As the cause of the crisis is internal, democratization is the way out. It is enough to start with a minimum set of measures that allow Cubans to invest and create small and medium-sized production and service companies, produce and trade without the tutelage of the state company Acopio and Foreign Trade monopolies, leaving individuals free to associate in the way they desire, in matters of interest to them. These measures would necessarily have to be accompanied by the formation of a range of autonomous and independent associations without more state interference than is necessary for their registration, existence and operation.