On Cuba and the dialectic of the revolution

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By JOANA SALÉM VASCONCELOS*

Reply to the article by Alice Rossi & Lincoln Secco

The student Alice Rossi and the historian Lincoln Secco (who, in addition to being my professor, is a friend), published on the website the earth is round the article “The blockade of Cuba – a structural element of the crisis”, with the aim of criticizing my reading of the latest events in Cuba recorded in the article “Popular Rage in Cuba”, posted on the same site on July 27.

The interpretation that Alice and Lincoln gave to my article is wrong and results from a simplified reading of my argument. The authors point out that I would have reduced the importance of the blockade in the Cuban crisis. You should have realized, however, that my article has as its stated premise that the blockade is the “structural element of the crisis”. Based on this consensus, I decided to move on to another part of reality, without which it is not possible to explain 11J. Incidentally, this premise is consensual throughout the universe of critical thinking, including my research and publications, which were clearly disregarded by the authors for such a conclusion. Starting from this mistake, Alice and Lincoln reiterate in their text a consensual statement, producing a false polemic. The method they use, however, is problematic: they make use of the unidimensionality of historical explanations, since the structural character of the blockade (consensual point) is used as a subterfuge to deviate from the critical deepening of other determinations of Cuban reality. Now, if Professor Lincoln has been teaching us for years about the “synthesis of multiple determinations”, he must agree with the following points.

The blockade is the structural cause of the crisis: where do we go from there? My text was written on July 12th, when it should be properly contextualized (I'll come back to this later) and had very specific objectives. It was a quick conjunctural explanation, in the heat of events, to add elements to the debate that seemed absent or undersized. Which? First, it was important to avoid reductive labeling of the events of July 11th, because not all protesters were “mercenaries” (as suggested by Miguel Diaz Canel on the same Sunday). Second, economic dissatisfactions have many layers of causes, the most immediate being the side effects of Order Task. When trying to correct important problems, this measure has become a new catalyst for everyday difficulties – in a context in which the blockade, pandemic and tourism crisis (multiple determinations) are added. Third, from a historical perspective, Cuban social cohesion was the most important political strength for the longevity of the revolution, provided by the capacity for dialogue between party and society and by the extraordinary dynamism of popular power. Today these mechanisms are not as effective as before; and the production of organic consensus is an effort challenged by the generational transition (of power and youth) that precipitates new tensions. Fourth, the legitimacy of protests in defense of welfare gains brought about by the revolution itself was being undermined by imperialist opportunism and hybrid warfare actions, about which we must not be naive.

Unfortunately, the authors did not want to analyze the multiple layers of my arguments, nor did they touch on the Cuban debate on economic-monetary challenges, everyday difficulties, concretely existing feelings of dissatisfaction, the forms of popular power, the fertile ground for imperialist maneuvers without which these would represent little. By reducing the only possible fight to the end of the blockade, as an absolute one-dimensional factor, they avoid debating the challenges of real Cuban socialism, dependent and peripheral. The blockade, after all, will not end now. Fighting the blockade is like fighting for impeachment of Bolsonaro: fair, necessary and insufficient.

It was the Cubans who showed that it was possible to create an internal emergency agenda of political action and social work after 11/16: on July XNUMX, the government declared emergency economic measures against shortages, such as the opening of customs and the guarantee of basic food baskets for more than 200 Cubans not registered with the Ministry of Interior. On July 26, the Communist Youth Union (UJC) announced the creation of 220 Youth Social Work Brigades (BJTS), which will operate from August in 302 poor neighborhoods in Cuba, with community strengthening and provision of health, education, civil construction and social assistance services. In addition, the government created a distribution system for new free food modules starting July 30th, to alleviate queues and daily food safety challenges. In response to 11J, other countries also took new solidarity measures: on July 21, Cuba and China signed new cooperation agreements economic and technological, with a focus on food security and renewable energy; and on the 24th of July, two Russian planes arrived on the island with 88 tons of food and medicine. It is Cuban society that will say whether this is enough. The revolution's room for maneuver has always been narrow and, however, it has never stopped it from implementing creative policies to solve problems and exercising its sovereignty like no other country on the continent. To ignore the internal possibilities and dilemmas is to disregard the very agency of the Cuban revolution.

Cuba is a besieged fortress, as Fidel said. But Fidel was also the great analyst of internal contradictions, with his self-critical honesty and his extraordinary dialogic capacity. If the revolutionary government had no room for economic decision and political responsibility, however narrow, Cuban socialism would not be alive today. The blockade is a monster that has been mysteriously defeated for 60 years because of this internal agency. Popular politics within a narrow margin of maneuver and the dialectical understanding of the internal challenges of a besieged fortress is the great legacy of Fidel Castro's political thought.

In this sense, the Cuban debate needs to be more accessed by Lincoln and Alice, so that the dilemmas of dependent socialism are not reduced to the one-dimensional: the blockade that explains everything, the end of the blockade that solves everything. I suggest three readings that evoke such debates. O Dosier Cuba: 11th of July and the Cuba. new file from the Sin Permiso portal; and the article by Camila Piñero Harnecker, Different visions of socialism that guide the current changes in Cuba. The internal contradictions and challenges of socialism is a dynamic topic of debate among Cubans. In Brazil, these are semi-interdicted topics.

Lincoln and Alice question the “popular” nature of the July 11th protests using an abstractionist procedure, by insisting that it is a “questionable adjective”. Instead, however, they do not explain who the people who participated in the protests were and why they cannot be considered “the people”. Were all “mercenaries” and “counterrevolutionaries” funded by Miami? Well, this time it was Miguel Diaz Canel who disagreed with Lincoln and Alice when, on the 11th, characterized the protesters in San Antonio de los Baños in this way: “they were made up of people from the people who have needs, who are living part of these needs, these difficulties”, “revolutionary people who may be confused (...); asked for an explanation, and the first thing they said was: I am a revolutionary, I support the Revolution”. Realizing that there were “people of the people” in the protests in Cuba, expressing the emergence of everyday life much more than a poster “Down with the dictatorship”, does not mean ignoring the elements of imperialist opportunism and coup agitation. Again, this tension is directly analyzed in my article, but Lincoln and Alice sidestep this complexity.

On this point of the “popular”, I dwell a little longer, because I consider it a serious mistake. Following the reasoning of Alice and Lincoln, the word “popular” can only be used to characterize a certain social majority. Only a homogenizing and abstract view of the “people” regulates the use of the word “popular” in this way. Thompson called this procedure “Platonic Leninism” – the idea of ​​a homogeneous people who carry the revolutionary baton and outside which there is no people. Now, if the Cuban government itself recognized “people of the people” on the 11th, why do the authors cling to this Platonism? By rejecting the use of the word “popular” for expressions of heterogeneity, dissatisfaction and/or discrepancy, the authors show a dangerous germ of authoritarianism in their reasoning. This germ is revealed more fully when they write: “Joana Salem's suggestion that the internal political crisis can be resolved by opening channels of dialogue on the part of the Cuban government does not seem to us to be a good idea”. Now, the opening of new channels of dialogue between the Cuban authorities and the population victimized by the blockade should be a presupposition for those who consider the blockade a structural element and, therefore, without a short-term solution. Unless one admits repressions that evoke Stalinism, but are far from modus operandi dialogue of the Cuban revolution itself and the leadership of Fidel Castro.

Cuba is one of the countries with the highest degree of social consensus in Latin America, as demonstrated by the 86% approval of the new 2019 Constitution, giving impetus to a political triumph that began in 1959. May this consensus not be at its best today , is recognized by respected Cuban intellectuals such as Rafael Hernández, director of the magazine Temas. Of him, I recommend the recent article Conflict, consensus, crisis. Three minimum notes on the protests.

Finally, there is a final detail that is problematic in Alice and Lincoln's critique: they disregard the date of my article by pointing out that I did not pay attention to massive government calls. They were really important, but they were consolidated only a week after my text. This point of criticism hurt chronology and incurred the capital sin of historians: anachronism. As I stated on several occasions following the July 12 text, the Communist Party of Cuba managed to stabilize the situation in relative terms in the short term, precisely because the Cuban revolution has internal agency and because the party still exercises hegemony in society.

I conclude with a long quote from Rafael Hernández, which was perhaps enough for Lincoln and Alice: “Las protestas offer lecciones to all those who want to read them. It could teach some economists that the success of the reforms does not depend solely on solving technically the planning, the market, the socialist state company or the private sector, but on addressing problems such as the redistribution of income, the stratification of consumption, the spaces economically “luminous” or “dark” borders, territorial and local inequalities and constraints, the state of the so-called productive forces Workers. It has also demonstrated to politicians that the problem of national unity is the consensus, and that it cannot be resolved solely with calls and movements of revolutionaries, but through sustained dialogue with all citizens. It has shown to the Party apparatus, once more, that the effectiveness of a system of public media is not ideological, but political, and that it is measured by its credibility and ability to convince (the unconvinced, naturally). It has been confirmed that the forces of the order can provide first aid to the outbreaks of violence, but at the cost of other damages, and that they are not the ones who should deal with the social and political problems where dissentiment takes root. Finally, they have demonstrated to US politicians that their alliances with this bellicose opposition refute the hard line on both sides, and damage the real exercise of freedom and “human rights” in Cuba. The common denominator of these lectures is Cuban society, with its lights and its shadows. Knowing how to decipher your present, without bipolar route sheets, will decide what will sell”.

* Joana Salem Vasconcelos she holds a PhD in history from USP. Author of Agrarian history of the Cuban revolution: dilemmas of socialism in the periphery (Avenue).

 

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