What is Real, Possible and Desirable / Miriam Celaya

The recent Congress of the CCP, with all its greyness and its whiff of pre-epitaph – since it is probably “the last” where the so-called historical generation will be in attendance — has clearly demonstrated some issues that, until now, were cause for speculation among the Cuban reality analysts: behind the charade reform of the “new” Cuban President, only the conservative nature of the regime is concealed, something that should not be a surprise or a mystery to anyone.

The quasi-Shakespearean essence of the Cuban government’s dilemma (to change or not to change) lies in its very controversial and intractable nature: a totalitarian system cannot change, because change is precisely the genesis of its own destruction. The contradiction is compounded if we consider that, irrefutably, it is urgent to introduce changes to allow a breathing space for the Cuban economy and to make allowances for a grace period for the lords of the manor to consolidate the permanent control over the territories, already distributed among its heirs and acolytes.

At this point, one might wonder whether those in power really believe in the possibility of the “renewal” of an obsolete model, or if they just seek to sow this ingenuous belief among the slaves of the plantation, to encourage hope in them in the midst of an infinite wait. I favor the latter. This will keep the rhetoric of “revolutionary”, touched up with critical nuances that literally fall in a no-man’s land. In the official discourse there is a disembodied group of defendants on the bench: “bureaucracy”, “the inability of those in charge of enforcing the above guidelines”, “a lack of knowledge about the functioning of the economy” and a lengthy and timely “etcetera” which, once again, serves to cover-up under a pious cloak the sins of the olive green caste and its responsibility in the precipitous national ruin.

The surprise statement by the General of a breach in the agreements arising from each of the five previous congresses has been interpreted by some analysts as a veiled criticism of his older brother. Whether this conjecture is true or not, no official document has been disclosed that reflects changes in the original guidelines of the order to the VI Congress, the agreements stemming from that event are unknown, and no clear strategies were offered to guarantee that, this time, the new phantom accords will be met in five years, a period of time established by the statutes of the PCC of holding the single-party new congress, and the time appointed by the General to start to reap the fruits of his work as head of the government.

An interesting aspect to analyze, beyond the formal requirements and the undeniable will to cling to power — as it is reflected clearly, for instance, in the structure of the Politburo, where calculating radiocarbon age is more practical than calculating the ages of those in charge — would be the real ability of controlling an eventual “reforms” situation within the Island. They have at their disposal the monopoly over all the economic, social and political structures, regardless of their obsolescence, with an almost total orphan Cuban civic society and the whole repressive apparatus at their service, ready to be fully activated at will. Against them is the time factor, the failure of half a century of experimentation – with its undeniable decline in people’s conviction — and an international panorama not favorable to dictatorial repression.

When viewed from the perspective of the possible, the next five years could mean an opportunity for alternative groups that have been generated within Cuban society since the last decade of the twentieth century, with a slight upward trend in the increase of new civic phenomena in the last ten years of this century. A slow process, as befits societies under totalitarian regimes, but a progressive sign that could constitute a major breakthrough in the promotion of democratic venues if political opponents, independent journalists, bloggers and dissidents of all stripes would take advantage, with their intellect, of the scenarios that could be drawn from an influx of new economic and relatively autonomous factors, in which might underlie the seeds of new interests and the beginning of a long-restrained social mobility.

In this case, the challenge of the various groups seeking more radical and effective changes than the government intends to implement, if they really intend to gain space and mobilize wills, is to try to reconcile the interests of broad social sectors found in the alternative proposals, a road to long-lasting collective and self-realization, a difficult task to accomplish under current conditions in Cuba, and whose platform signage should be the broad and inclusive nature of its proposals. In this regard, we must not neglect the role that some groups could play in the face of eventual change processes, those groups that have reform propensities, that today are among the “revolutionaries”, and that are sending interesting signals. In the next five years, dissidents must seek consensus, alliances and strategies that will allow them to overcome the status of survivors in a hostile environment, for which they will need to explore real growth. Beyond ideological trends, most of these groups share minimum essential elements: hopes for a democratic Cuba, the vision of the need for changes in order to achieve it, the commitment for a peaceful and gradual transition, and the will to continue to work towards these goals. That could be a start.

The Sixth Congress has been the consecration of the stagnation of the Cuban system, a goal in itself, perhaps the swan song of the Antillean communist experiment. No renewal is possible within the old structures of the regime. The so-called irreversible socialism is nothing more than a meaningless slogan, and it has aptly proven its failure after half a century of setbacks. Now it is the duty of the citizens to transform what is real and possible into what will be desirable for most Cubans, a dictatorship-free Cuba.

Translated by Norma Whiting

(Article originally published in the Diario de Cuba dated April 4th, 2011)

May 10 2011