There have been already many and varied pronouncements about this topic of the exercise of citizen sovereignty and the election and the duration of public servers. One of the most interesting proposals has been the one made by the Editorial of the fraternal magazine “Espacio Laical” in which they propose, among other aspects, direct, secret and free elections of the president of the Nation and the participation of persons who are not members of the Communist Party in the National Assembly. These are positive proposals that we all should bear in mind and seriously meditate about them.
We would like to support them and besides make our contribution by expressing our opinion about these and other fundamental matters that only pursue the common good, the national sovereignty, the dialogue and the pacific way for the necessary structural changes with the maximum of inclusion of all Cubans wherever they live and however they think.
Diversity and inclusion: here are two key words in the present and the future of Cuba.
Diversity is a fact of human and social reality. We don’t have to look for it for it’s everywhere. It doesn’t have to be decreed because it is a condition of Nature. We only have to acknowledge it and create spaces where it can live, coexist, and express itself in all its dimensions. To deny political diversity is like denying biodiversity. Just as it is impossible to make the vegetable and animal varieties and species equal, human nature cannot be reduced to unanimity and uniformity. It is diverse in itself. To acknowledge only one party is like acknowledging only one race or only one culture or only one genetic map. By making this comparison we are not intending to use a biologic concept of society. It’s about a fact of human life.
From diversity to pluralism.
If we accept this unquestionable reality we can deduce from it that life in society has plurality as one of its essences. The world, societies, cultures, religions and nations are plural. All hegemonies imposed by some upon others are not only a fact of an anthropologic mistake but a serious injustice and a violation of the very human and social nature. To impose only one way of thinking, only one way of civic or political organization, only one way of property or religion is against nature.
From pluralism to freedom of association.
If we accept that one of the structural characteristics of society is plurality and that favouring this diverse essence is called pluralism, then the legal framework to organize different civic and political movements and groups becomes a social need. In these groups and movements every citizen should find spaces to participate democratically from the base to the upper echelons of power. It is not enough that persons who don’t belong to a party can participate; this is one step but it would become insufficient and inefficient in a long run if it is not accompanied by the possibility to participate in an associated way and not only independently. Nobody is elected for not being. We all should be elected for what we are, what we propose and what we do in a personal way as well as associated in natural or social groups, political movements and parties.
Those variants of civic and political organizations of diverse ideologies and proposals provided they are pacific and inclusive are, besides, spaces for participation, schools of democracy, and workshops for citizen initiatives to build the common good where the social and political leaders for the present and the future of the Nation can be educated. Therefore a new Law of civic, cultural, business, economic and political Associations is one of the structural reforms that Cuba needs in order to create the conditions for a gradual, pacific and organized change.
An advance from the Law of freedom of association to a new Election Law, always in a national dialogue and keeping the proactive and non-delaying gradualism should be achieved. This Law would recognize, channel and promote the effective participation of civic and political groups in the free, direct and secret election of public servers, fixing the periods for power exercise, the way to renovate, re-elect and revoke power; the way of giving equal opportunities to all parties and social organizations specially in the access to mass media; the minimum quantity of members to be acknowledged at the provincial and national levels and the organization of different ways of consultations for citizens.
Multiparty system and freedom of expression.
In this itinerary for the creation of spaces for gradual and pacific political participation would not be enough the possibility to organize civic parties or movements. It is also necessary the existence of one Law of Freedom of Expression that should open the legal framework so that all citizens and every civic and political group can have an equal and sufficient voice to announce their projects and programs. This law should also guarantee the spaces to criticize, propose, improve or denounce, respectfully, the proposals of the others. This is public debate. Without it there is no real democracy.
Public debate should be open, free, respectful and non-defamatory of persons and groups, non-degrading or slanderous. It should be based on truth, ideas and programs and never on privacy or human miseries of the close ones or the others. The culture and the ethics of a Nation can be measured by the quality of this public debate. The cleanliness of one country’s soul or one party is directly proportional to the decency of the debate it promotes.
For its part, non- partisan civil society should also have the legal framework and the means to exercise the universal right of freedom of expression. When we say that the new name of democracy is civil society it doesn’t mean that the role of political parties is intended to be reduced or eliminated but to be improved by contribution, criticism, denounce or cooperation made by the rest of civil society through its organizations and through the free, decent, respectful media which should make proposals.
Obstacles to democracy.
There are several obstacles to this democratic process. These obstacles could be overcome by Cubans, women and men, if there should be political will. We will mention two of them:
The first and main obstacle: the civic and political illiteracy. It can only be overcome by a system of ethical and civic education, plural and inclusive. Thus the responsible ones should be: all citizens, starting with families which are the first responsible for the education of their children; the State or private educational institutions; the ones who are protagonists in experiences of informal education and this is an irreplaceable complement for the culture of one country. Everybody, fathers, teachers and schools, churches and lodges, the groups of civil society, the very parties and movements should take care of the pacific education of their members, an inclusive education open to dialogue. Without civic education there is no possible democracy.
The second obstacle is the present Constitution, especially its Article 5, the Law of association and the Election Law. These should be modified through the channels that the very Constitution and the laws establish. That is why no law can be irrevocable. This will be a sign of the political will of placing our country inside the concert of nations showing a modern, efficient and inclusive State which seeks the maximum justice for everybody and also the maximum fraternity and participation for all without which, justice becomes unsatisfactory.
The organization of democracy should respect the traditions and the culture of the nation it serves. The criterion of pluralism as a framework that guarantees plurality and freedom of expression belongs to the most genuine tradition coming from Martí and to the rest of the Cuban political culture. We recall the words by José Martí in which he relates freedom with party: “It is always a misfortune to freedom that freedom should be a party”. (O.C. Volume II page 882). Ignacio Agramonte said it clearly “The very individual is the sovereign guardian of his interests, of his physical and moral health; society should not be mixed in human conduct as log as it doesn’t harm the other members of it. Disastrous are the consequences of the intervention of society in the individual life and even more disastrous when this intervention is aimed at the uniformity of society thus destroying individuality which is one of the elements of the present and future welfare of society. Man should choose the most convenient habits for his character, his likes, and his opinions and not adjust himself to the customs of the majority. It is very frequent the desire of imitating blindly the ones of our own level in the social scale and not a higher one. This way the free man turns into a machine because he loses the tendency to examine everything and the desire to understand and find an explanation to all he sees, to compare and choose the good and reject the bad… a society made up of the former ones in which the uniformity of customs, of way of thinking lead to the absence of different characters to extract partial perfections, in which everybody united in one whole can serve as a model will be paralyzed in its progressive course.” (Speech delivered at the Aula Magna of the University of Havana on the 8th of February, 1852).
The most notable of the senators who were born in Pinar del Río, José Manuel Cortina practically saved the proactive dynamics in the Constituent Assembly of 1940 when he said his most famous phrase which is currently in force for the present and the future of Cuba and with this phrase he does not establish the exclusion of the partisan life but the hierarchy of civic values and he places the common good above the partisan interests: “Fatherland, come in. Parties, out”!
The immense majority of nations in the World enjoy this democratic system with its advantages and inadequacies but superior to every authoritarianism and exclusion. The United States, Nicaragua, Venezuela and so many others. Let’s speak about this last example, maybe the closest to the present Cuban government and let’s ask ourselves: Why is it that Cuba cannot have an inclusive multiparty electoral system with freedom to be able to propose programs; direct, secret and free presidential elections just like Venezuela? This country has stated that it learned from Cuba how to build the 21st century socialism. Why did the media from the Communist Party of Cuba present the elections in Venezuela as an example to the whole world and a feast of democracy and we cannot do something at least alike to that multiparty and participatory formula that respects the results and calls the opposition in order to find new ways to prosperity and happiness for all Cubans from all shores?
Toward a modern State of the 21st century.
The opinion for a change toward democracy is created by the necessity and the internal and external circumstances. All we need is the political decision and the comprehensive call for the cooperation of all of us. The alternative scenarios would lead to violence, repression and a drastic and perhaps disorganized change. Cuba doesn’t deserve it. Let’s prevent it with our efforts and means.
We believe that Cuba has the ethical capacity, the citizen talent, the potential initiatives of the enterprising people, to prepare, gradually without delay, without exclusions and without attacking or discrediting the adversaries, in a short while, the agile and organized way toward a State of Rights in the 21st century.
If we are able to do it this way we are convinced that the international community will respond immediately and with solidarity and with a greater respect for the sovereignty of Cuba and the cooperation for development. All restrictions ethically unacceptable and symbols of days gone will be lifted. So the desire of the blessed John Paul II during his visit in 1998 will be fulfilled: “May Cuba open up to the world and the world open up to Cuba”.
Now that our magazine is about to be five years old at the service of these very Cuban purposes we wish very cordially that politics in Cuba should be a constant, patient and inclusive search for social coexistence in its highest degree by the first public server up to the last of citizens.
Pinar del Río, November 20th 2012.
Anniversary 224 of Father Félix Varela’s Birth.