Editorial 27. May-Jun-2012
Fear of change always paralyses us. One of those fears is the supposed lack of projects and protagonists for the transition and the future in Cuba. Very often the authorities and some international observers whose interest is that nothing should change in Cuba argue that changes are necessary but the problem is that there are not viable projects or serious actors who can lead them; this is one of the traps that obstruct the way to democracy.
Nobody would be so irresponsible as to open a process of structural transformations if there are no projects, persons and groups that lead and channel these urgent and necessary changes in a civilized way.
If that were so Cuba would be destined for ever to living submitted to authoritarianisms of all signs. The country would be seized with political mafias and auctions for corrupt entrepreneurs. Cuba would unviable and no one would be able to live in this land. So serious is the fact of disregarding or bury the existence of projects and protagonists under deceiving propaganda. Who could be interested in this future for Cuba? What is the purpose of disregarding, discredit or sending to the catacombs the best thinkers, the most viable and moderate projects and the most independent part of the social actors?
By acting like that Cuba would be the only country in the world that would condemn itself to live in social anomie, in political vacuity and in the mercantile pillage in the hands of a few who do have viable and profitable economic and commercial projects.
The three bars of the internal blockade to democracy and three proposals for the future.
Three fundamental factors constitute this trap that blockades the way to structural changes from inside.
1. To disregard or exclude social, political or economic actors that have very diverse opinions because they are not recognized or accepted by the government is to leave the inclusive project of transformations leaderless and it means to leave all the responsibility and the partisan acting of changes in the hands of the ones who hold the power. Some who still think with leadership or messianic mentality complain that there is not “one” notable leader that should be “the illumined”, “the voice” of the Nation, the one to be followed by all. This would not be the best thing for Cuba because it leads directly to new ways of populist authoritarianism. There is no democracy or change to democracy with no actors of political opposition, with no enterprising persons of an economic diversification and free competition, with no protagonists of the wide range of alternatives of an independent civil society. To say that they don’t exist or to let them out of the place where transformations are emerging is to amputate the Fatherland, to exclude one part of its children and to reject pieces of the national puzzle. It doesn’t matter where the puzzle starts to be done; the important thing is that all pieces should fit in the process and be on the table.
In view of the exclusion of the social actors we propose: The ways to a participatory democracy and to a modern State of Rights are the ones that favour institutional spaces where the protagonists should be and find equal opportunities and equal means to serve the Nation among all and through public and participatory debate as a body of limited and shared leadership, as a community of elected actors controlled by their voters. Nobody shall be above the law and the democratic institutions. The support of the voters will be gained by the ones who are more inclusive and the ones who serve the Nation more, the servers who show that they know how to work in a team, how to be respectful of other protagonists who are equal in dignity and opportunities; the servers who are able to observe alternation in power; servers and not leaders is what Cuba needs.
2. Disregarding or excluding some or all of the political, social, economic programs and projects which are alternative and pacific is to deprive the Fatherland of its dreams and hope; it is to close the way to a civilized and gradual change in peace as we all want. Some who still think with totalitarian or exclusive mentality complain that there is no “project” which “unites all”, which “represents the Nation” and should be its new perfect and finished utopia. That is not what other Cubans, women and men want for Cuba because it leads directly to new authoritarianisms and new exclusions.
In view of the exclusion of projects and social programs we propose: The ways of inclusive democracy and modern State of Rights are necessarily plural, diverse and dissenting; or they are not democratic. To think that unity is uniformity is not only a political mistake but an unacceptable ethical attitude whatever its color is. There is no national and democratic unity if it is not a unity in diversity. That unity in diversity can only be achieved by opening public spaces of proposals, debates and decision taking that should convene and include all political, social and economic projects which are pacific, gradual and respectful of national sovereignty and the sovereignty of citizens. The majority support will be gained by those programs or projects which are more inclusive and which propose the search for the common good of the Nation with more efficiency and realism and not the partisan privileges.
3. Disregarding or excluding the source of thought for the present and the future in Cuba is to sever the spirit and the mystique of the Nation; it’s to hinder its creativity and the ideation of the itineraries to democracy. To silence the pacific thinkers whatever their philosophical, political, economic or religious schools should be means to make the Nation’s soul wither. Some who think that there should be only one ideology for the changes or those who don’t think first of “thinking” because they are paying attention to the every day strive for survival do not notice that a “hatchery” of thoughts is appearing inside Cuba and in its Diaspora.
In view of the exclusion of the schools of thought we propose: The most wide and diverse rainbow of ideas is articulating among the thinkers of all ages, of all political affiliations or not specific affiliation. There is no country with only one ideology. The schools of thought that will convene a greater number of Cubans, women and men will be the ones with wider range, the most tolerant and the most pacific ones; the ones that should submit themselves more to the scrutiny of dialogue and public debate; the most inclusive ones.
What Cuba needs in order to construct, piece by piece, the way to democracy.
Then we could say that Cuba does not need more than this to the ones who paralize or try to monopolize, for their sake, the process of changes by arguing that there is no outstanding leader or viable project. Cuba past and recent history absolutely shows where these two messianic and exclusive aspirations lead.
On the contrary Cuba needs to believe and convince itself that democracy is made block by block, step by step counting on all the pieces of the national puzzle. Winston Churchill used to say this very serious joke: “Democracy is the worst of all political systems with the exception of the rest of them”. This can be one of the lessons on politics Cuba needs most in order to get out of its civic illiteracy. Perfect and unreformable, everlasting projects shall be never sought again. Democracy is the art of sizing up with no improvisation or opportunism and without unethical pragmatism. And the sizing up means not to tie up ourselves or the Nation to any exclusive political, economic or social project and in no way to one project which considers itself the Kingdom of Heaven here on this Earth.
What Cuba needs is to learn how to do the national puzzle patiently without rejecting, disqualifying or destroying any of its “pieces” which are not pieces but free and responsible citizens or pacific and not sectarian groups; protagonists and projects should not either be considered as pieces of a machinery manipulated by only one group or person who believe without transparency that they will be able to lead the people-flock toward a future which is being “cooked” in the backyard of the Nation.
What Cuba needs is to create viable and plural thought in order to start conceiving its own future consistent with and faithful to its historic roots, its cultural patrimony, its spirituality and its idiosyncrasy.
What Cuba has got.
This is not the space to catalogue a list of social actors, programs and thought creators. It would be a laudable project to make this list and make it as inclusive as possible without the influence of sectarian ideologies but we will mention only some examples inside the Island and in the Diaspora for those who don’t believe if they don’t “touch” reality:
Some thought creators for the future in Cuba: The universities in Cuba and abroad where scholars who study Cuba in the Diaspora teach and publish, for example: Georgetown, Pittsburgh, Harvard, Princeton, Yale and Michigan Universities, Florida International University, Miami Dade College, among others; study or investigation Centers from the Academy of Sciences, the Academy of Languages and the Academy of History; San Jerónimo College in Havana with its masterly conferences; Inter American Dialogue in Washington, Cuban Consensus with more than 30 groups from the Diaspora, the group of University students of Cuban origin named Hope Roots and other groups which deal with scientific, social and literary studies about regional policies or about economic and social policies; they belong to the Cuban State or to the exile. University professors, economists, sociologists, anthropologists, historians and other specialists who have devoted part or their whole lives to studying and proposing thought for the future in Cuba in different geographic and philosophical shores.
Other thought creators are the different spaces for study and reflection sponsored by Churches and fraternal Associations: Catholic Social Weeks (1991-2011), Centro de Reflexión y Diálogo (Center for Reflection and Dialogue) in Cárdenas, Martin Luther King Center, the Civic and Religious Education Center in Pinar del Río (1993-2007) with its educative, economic and information society thought itineraries; Enrique Pérez Serantes Institute in Santiago de Cuba; Janssen Institute in Holguín, Study Center in Santa Clara Diocese, Aula Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas and Dominican Fathers Center in Havana; Félix Varela Cultural Center in Havana, John Paul II Bioethics Center; Protestant Seminar of Matanzas, Masonic Study Higher Center, Yorubá Association of Cuba, Summer Schools for Educators, María Reina Institute belonging to Jesuit Fathers and other Centers from religious orders such as the Pious Schools, the Passionists, the Salecians and some others. Besides we must bear in mind all the official or independent publications which are thought hatcheries devoted to creating proposals and perspectives on the future for Cuba; Catholic magazines and magazines from other denomination and associations for example, Vivarium, Palabra Nueva, Espacio, Bifronte, Espacio Laical, Vitral, Enfoques, Cocuyo, Amanecer, Iglesia en Marcha.
We should also mention the civic publications and encounters such as the Cuba Economy Study Association (ASCE), Cuba Study Institute (IEC), Cuba Study Group, Latin American Studies Association (LASA); Socialist Trend, Studies, Consensus, Cuban Institute of Independent Economists, Social Study Center and other spaces and Cuba study centers inside Cuba and in United States universities, Latin America, Spain and other academies; as well as the socio cultural magazines such as Criterio, Temas, Caimán Barbudo, Catauro, La Gaceta de Cuba, Convivencia, Cauce, La Gaveta, Voces, Revista De Cuba, Renacer, Nueva Prensa Cubana, Miscelánea, Primavera de Cuba, Cuba Nuestra (belonging to the Cuba Study Society from Sweeden), Arte Cubano, Herencia (belonging to the Cuba Cultural Heritage Association), Encuentro de la Cultura Cubana, Revista Hispano Cubana, Diario de Cuba, among others. Not everything in these publications is thought for the future in Cuba but especially their editorials and essays are. Those essays and editorials are much appreciated. Some of these magazines are still being published, others are not but they have got an ethical, civic, religious and cultural thought in their files and this thought must be taken into account. Other sources of thought are the spaces for reflection and the audiovisual productions: Omni Zona Franca, Observatorio LGBT, Sex Education National Center (CENESEX). Razones Ciudadanas, Estado de Sats, Observatorio Crítico, 1Cubano+; some programs on Cuban Television such as “Vale la pena”, the space by the economist Terrero broadcasted during the TV space “Diario de la Mañana”, among others.
Of course this is an unfinished and insufficient list. These previous spaces and all spaces known by the readers can vouch that it is false to say that good and viable thought is not being created in Cuba for the future. We have only mentioned some of the centers for debate, dialogue, thought creation and alternative proposals for the future in Cuba. These spaces work with a respectful perspective which does not disqualify anyone. These spaces have a wide and inclusive view and each one of them maintains its own profile and dynamics. This enumeration which is clearly incomplete would be useful to recall other centers that have not been mentioned: they are evident examples showing that certainly there are thought issuers in Cuba which have roots in our most authentic patrimonial sources. No matter their diversity, divergence or contradictions. We can agree or not with something published or studied in those spaces; this is, in our opinion, the best and desirable thing. It’s the frank and mixed process, sometimes dialectic and sometimes dialogic; it’s the always unfinished search for the best things for Cuba and its happiness which is and should be the common denominator. All of these sources and all things they have published and debated have left a heritage of thought which is still dispersed and not yet interwoven but which should be compiled and published without exclusions.
Some projects and programs for the future in Cuba: The 19th century in Cuba witnessed the emergence of the foundational projects of the Nation. Medardo Vitier has called these projects “changing agents that grant denseness to an epoch”. For different reasons among which there are leadership, regionalism and frustrations, these projects did not culminate immediately in the independence of the country. The same author points out that those ideas and foundational projects remained unfinished as “not unfolded germs in the 19th century”; we must turn to them; the majority of projects which are thinking for Cuba in the early 21st century turn to them.
For example, one of these projects is the Varela Project which was named after “the first person who taught us how to think”. Varela was the Father of Cuba nationality and culture who devoted all his life to organizing projects for Cuba independence and freedom. The Varela project which is an initiative by the Liberation Christian Movement was an achievement of the joint work by many in civil society among which there was the outstanding participation of the “Todos Unidos” (All United) Movement. This project led to a reaction by the Cuban government: it declared that this kind of socialism in power was irreversible. Much earlier, during the 70’s the first Cuban Rights Committee had been founded and it had an essential and elementary program to defend the liberties and rights of all Cubans; this program has been maintained by all the successors of the first committee among which there is the Cuba Human Rights and National Reconciliation Committee. We also recall the effort by “Concilio Cubano” (Cuban Council) which was an incipient advance of what would come later. Other examples are: the different organizations for help to prisoners and their relatives, the projects of Independent Libraries, the Cuban Writers Club, the Eastern Young Writers Association, the Letter of Intellectuals, the “La Patria es de Todos” (Fatherland Belongs to All) Manifest, and the group of 75 prisoners of conscience. This group of prisoners used to have a diverse origin but it became a symbol of unity and commitment to the Cuba cause. Among the efforts for conceiving projects for Cuba also was the Assembly to promote Civil Society.
Other many projects show that Cuba civil society has learned how to take its first steps of group organization designed to create, in due time, strong and efficient democratic institutions which should be mutually controlled and should put a stop to new leaderships or sectarianisms. There are in Cuba today projects and programs of liberal inspiration such as the liberal Alliances and parties; projects of Christian Democrat inspiration such as “Todos Cubanos” (All Cubans) and the “Heredia” Project; there are programs of social democratic inspiration; projects and programs of socialist inspiration such as the Cuba Democratic Socialist Trend, the Arco Progresista (Progressive Arch) the project “Nuevo País” (New Country) and its Forum; projects of Marxist inspiration such as the “Observatorio Crítico” and others; besides the present official project which is expressed to be an updating of socialism, etc.
Other examples of associations that have their projects and programs are: La Corriente Martiana, the Committee of Cuban Citizens, the Party of Workers and Farmers, Cuba Liberal Movement, Democratic Solidarity Party, 30 de noviembre Party; Eastern Democratic Alliance and Pinar del Río Democratic Alliance; Young Men for Democracy Cuban Movement; Cuba Human Rights Foundation; Liberal Party of Cuba; Young men from Bayamo Movement; Unión Patriótica de Cuba (Patriotic Union of Cuba) (UNPACU); Latin American Federation of Rural Women (FLAMUR); Unitary Council of Cuban Workers (CUTC); Corriente Agramontista de Abogados; Movement for Race Integration; the Human Rights Lawton Foundation; Asociación Jurídica de Cuba (Juridic Association of Cuba) and a long mixed etcetera. They exist all along Cuba and not only in Havana. Some present themselves as typically partisan projects, others as union or labor union movements; some of them as new kind social movements; others as socio cultural projects, or social communication, or economic studies, or genre programs or programs of respect for sex preference or against discrimination or exclusions of all kinds. The Ladies in White, the blogger Movement, the independent journalists, the Cuban Network of Communitarian Communicators and each one of the diverse independent press agencies all over the country; they not only open windows to freedom of expression and association but they turn the life of the Nation, the prominence of civil society and the events in all corners of the Country more and more transparent. This movement, the program of which is to reach a society of information and communication among citizens has already become unstoppable and it has changed the quality of transparency in the information and association in Cuba.
“In the processes of human association progress is marked by differentiation”.
We can’t mention all of them but it is necessary to show, through examples, that they exist and they have programs, more and more, which are either in a process of conception, or consolidated or under way. Each one of them with its ideological and humanist orientation, all of them pacific, all of them put Cuba in the first place. Some observers argue as a deficiency that these associations are many, that they are dispersed and small and that they are much differentiated to each other. This cannot be considered a handicap because we are at the beginning of a new projection toward a plural, inclusive and democratic society. This phrase by Medardo Vitier, written in one of the books that every Cuban must read and study, describes the foundational moment which has an astonishing and urgent validity nowadays:
“The outstanding Cubans who projected political reforms in the colony in the early 19th century were based on a certain degree of maturity reached by the community gradually. The mere human aggregate was gaining features of nationality though still incipient. Declared or not by them that was the sociological fact. In the processes of human association the progress is marked by differentiation. They originate slowly in the demographic, economic and intellectual aspects… and in a certain period (rather than in a moment) there is a sense of community which is suitable for governing itself or at least for having a participation in the government of the public thing. Cuba, the mere colony beyond the sea was starting to perceive its own identity. The homogeneous and amorphous thing was turning heterogeneous… Of course, the ideal nation, the one sometimes defined by writers, never appears in history… the seed stayed in the furrow. The structure of the colonial society made its fabric more and more diverse. The need for reforms increased”.
We can state that what was happening during the transition from the colony to the republic in the 19th century is similar to what is happening in Cuba today. The differentiation of the fabric in civil society is a sign of progress and reinforces the need for reforms.
Some protagonists for the present and the future in Cuba.
None of these schools for thought and social, economic, political, cultural, religious, civic projects and programs could exist, grow and create, reflect and propose if they hadn’t in their heart and in the head of their diverse structures, a growing number of leaders, actors, organizers, who are all protagonists of the Cuba which is brewing with urgent need for pacific changes.
This is not either the space to make a list of persons of both sexes, young and adult, historic and emergent, political and civic activists, bloggers and independent journalists, academicians editors of religious or socio cultural magazines, jurists and farmers, artists and writers, graffiti artists and musicians, defenders of human rights and genre equality and defenders of sex preferences. All of them are part of the present protagonists of the future in Cuba and they can’t be ignored or disqualified because such thing would inflict an important damage to the Nation’s soul since their work and projects speak for them. And they exist and grow in conditions that cannot even be compared to democratic societies. Cuba is not a normal country due to the asymmetric and reversed relation between government and citizens.
In order to know the names of very well known persons inside and outside Cuba and the names of other little-known persons but as hard-working and sacrificed as the former ones, we can look up in two investigation works which list names and projects. These works are: “Organizaciones de la Sociedad Civil Cubana no Reconocidas Legalmente” Alberto F. Alvarez García, sponsored by the Fundación Canadiense par alas Américas (FOCAL), 2004 and “Quién es quién en la Política Cubana” 2005 coordinated by J. A. Aleaga Pesant.
These and many other protagonists not cited in these investigation works who are even less recognized are today and could be considered tomorrow to be “our guides”, in the middle of the “drowsiness of the spirit”; the ones who “interrupted the monotonous enjoyment and sent signals in the night”.
Some like Márquez Sterling consider that Cuba has always been “a people suffering from a messianic obsession”. This cannot lead us to satanize, discredit or disregarding the role of leaders as social actors. It’s just necessary to discern very carefully, according to their work, the way they lead and their capacity to work in a team, if they are authoritarian or democratic leaders and thus, try to promote the civic education of the first ones and give citizen support to the latter.
Martí is one of the models of inclusive and democratic leader; he managed the widest and most plural call in our history including the very “good Spaniards”. His words invite us vehemently today:
“With the pain of the whole Fatherland we suffer and for the good of the whole Fatherland we build and we don’t want revolutions of exclusions or opposite sides… we neither get worked up nor get scared. We neither compel nor exclude. What is the greatest freedom for but to use it in favour of the ones who have less freedom than us? What is faith for but to inflame the ones who don’t have faith…? It’s true that only the republican souls know how to discern and obey the first signs of the rising peoples… and this is what we do here and we carve out a future here without showing off; a future with space for all of us”.
After 110 years of the birth of that first Republic of Cuba on the 20th of May 1902 we still are in the middle of the including and inclusive carving out in which there should be space for all of us. Faith is still necessary not as a power or alienating escapism from reality but to inflame and encourage faith in Cuba, of all Cubans without exclusions or opposite sides.
It’s a work inspired by Martí. As republican souls may we help to discern, recognize and respect the existence and growth of schools for thought, projects and protagonists for the present and the future in Cuba.
Watching the dispersion of this thought for Cuba as well as the projects and protagonists and the need to put them in common within reach of everybody we propose to create a web site named “Para el Futuro de Cuba” (For the Future of Cuba) that should have three portals: Thought for the Future in Cuba, Projects and Programs for the Future in Cuba and Protagonists for the Future in Cuba. This open and plural site, of free concurrence would be a space with no criterion of admission other than the two criteria which mark Cuba identity: that the thoughts, projects and protagonists should be pacific and should not attack or offend others. Everyone could send his thoughts, programs, projects and protagonists to this site with the only purpose that scholars and persons interested in Cuba may find, in pacific coexistence, the widest information in order to have an analysis as accessible, objective and plural as possible about Cuba reality, inside and outside the Island.
Pinar del Río, May 20th 2012 On the 110th Anniversary of the Birth of the Republic of Cuba.