Generation Clash

Daisy Valera
Daisy Valera

This semester I’ve got another class with my civil defense teacher, but now he’s teaching a new subject matter that I believe even he doesn’t know what to call.

It would be better if they combined three subjects -Civil Defense, the Cuba-US Dispute, and Protection Against Weapons of Mass Extermination- into a single course with a more appropriate name.

My suggestion would be to call it “Easy Ways to Bore Students,” because boredom is in fact what my 70-year-old professor is inducing.

Unfortunately for him, he began by asking us questions that we knew the answers to concerning international news.

The response was quick: Chavez held a referendum that would allow him to remain in power much longer.

Based on that discussion, a bold strategy unfolded that would sidestep our esteemed professor’s dreary class plan.

A student asked whether Chavez wanted to do the same thing as Fidel, and many responded that this seemed to be the case.

Then the questions headed toward an even tougher issue: elections in Cuba. Comments were triggered again.

My nine classmates and I didn’t know how often a president is chosen in Cuba. To recall this we had to make a serious collective effort.

To several of them our electoral system -based on a representational structure, and not by direct vote- to many didn’t seem democratic. They asked the professor to give examples from around the world of a system similar to Cuba’s, where someone has remained in power for such a long time.

My professor’s limited patience was exhausted by a final comment: one student pointed out that a few years ago Cuban citizens were made to sign a document that ratified the socialist character of the Cuban Revolution, but that the endorsement did not specify that it would then be reflected in our constitution, making it impossible to form any other party in Cuba.

Our professor exploded, whipping out the conventional, timeworn arguments.

He asserted the matchlessness of our leaders, saying that the Cuban Revolution could not have survived without them. He insisted that there was no room for doubting, because this could be used by the enemy (the United States, of course!).

Finally, he proclaimed that there did not exist a more democratic system in the world, and that in our system all power was in the hands of the people.

These arguments no longer make me laugh; I instead take pity.

Many people around my professor’s age think the same way. The only thing they do is highlight what they did, without realizing that we understood the historic role of that generation a long time ago.

This is the classic clash between generations in Cuba. The young generation want to be able to think and speak, while the older generation is determined to prevent this – unable to give up their leadership role.

4 thoughts on “<em>Generation Clash</em>

  • The real problem with the professor is that he doesn’t have the answers needed — and he knows it. So he retreats back into what he is sure of — which clearly isn’t good enough for anyone, of course. Certainly a frustrating situation for all concerned.

    The problem is that the cuban political system is still stuck with its stalinist heritage (leaving aside the material poverty, which is another important factor in all this), despite all intentions to get out from under it, or grow out of it. One of the primary sticking points is that the issue of the monopoly of one socialist party is always being conflated — confused — with the issue of bourgeois parliamentary norms — when in fact the whole point of socialism is to transcend all bourgeois forms in their entirety. The proper logic instead is that having a multi-party socialist parliamentary system is NOT AT ALL the same thing as having a multi-party bourgeois-democratic parliamentary system (and you and your colleagues should be very clear about understanding this, Daisy). The difference is that no socialist parties would stand on a reactionary platform of re-introducing capitalism (for starters). That would be like having feudalist or fascist parties inside the bourgeois parliaments attempting to turn the clock back to the Middle Ages — and all present citizens into either nobles or serfs (and there are some of those parties out there almost, aren’t there..?).

    When the Bolsheviki contested for power inside the revolutionary soviets in Russia in 1917, they actually had to contend with other revolutionary/socialist/anarchist/centrist/opportunist parties for the hearts and minds of the workers, soldiers and peasants. They eventually won power by winning the support of the masses, because they followed Lenin’s and Trotsky’s correct revolutionary strategy (leaving aside the degeneration of this soviet democracy under circumstances of civil war and containment). What the Cuban Revolution needs to do next, then, is collectively understand that class and other issues still exist under present socialism (obviously) — and that there is really no problem with a relaxing of the monopoly of the Communist Party of Cuba, and allowing other socialist-minded parties or factions or tendencies to address the people of Cuba directly, aiming for their support in order to gain access to the National Assembly. The only non-negotiable point is support for the socialist revolution. It cannot be allowed that any pro-capitalist party infiltrate the cuban political process, for instance — with money from Miami/Washington/Wall St. behind it, certainly.

    The basic point here is that the monopoly of one party under socialism is all wrong. It would’ve been okay, perhaps, if we were talking about an advanced country with a large majority working-class, etc. Then, one large communist party, with the support of the entire working-class, could conceivably lead the masses to quick, decisive victory — and then into a fairly swift devolution of power to fully-democratic soviets at all levels of society, and a concomitant liquidation of parties as entities, etc. However, such is not the case today in the World, anywhere — and such is certainly not the case in Cuba or anywhere else in América Latina. Different and divided interests do exist on the Left — and will continue to do so under socialism for some time. And it behooves the Cuban Communist Party and its cadre to understand this; and to act on that knowledge — and begin actually championing the idea of relaxing its grip on the political process. Not entirely, of course. Just enough. But the Communist Party has to do its duty — and free the dialectical process of the development of the cuban masses in the political sphere at the earliest opportunity.

    It’s actually the socialist, democratic way. Can they do it?
    It’s hard to relinquish power, isn’t it..?

  • Daysi, this story seem so familiar to me and it’s so repetitive the attitude of the old-age person who defends at any cost something in which he has believed and he has held on to and it’s too late for him to question it. I don’t believe that the obstacle for communication is a difference of generation, I know people older than us who would listen, who would have the same perspective and would love to enrich the common view.
    At this point, in Cuba there are plenty of people like this professor, or even worst, people who are able to understand but they just don’t care about it. In front of this the only way is to prepare ourselves, to use our creativity, and to be awake enough not to become like those people who are reluctant to change and to listen.
    Otherwise, it’s such an art the capacity of preventing future and to be prepare for it. About the topic of free elections, for example, nothing assure us that these are better than the ones we have, even when this indirect elections is something crazy. I mean, in other countries of America people can vote and chose their president directly, but as you know, the candidates most of the time are corrupted, and when it happens to appears an honest candidate the powerful ones manipulates the elections to make him loose or even eliminate him physically. “Miracles” like Evo Morales or Correa are exceptions, and I say “miracles” because it doesn’t happen by it’s one, it needs people consensus and support. I think our first roll is to provide possible leaders to maintain revolution, leaders that of course are in position to give everything for the collective, who think always about the common wealth and not an elite profit, who has deep and wide vision of both society and human nature. Castoriadis talks about an ideal of society in which the premise is to keep always asking about what freedom is, so I think we have to start thinking in creative ways of sustain our society in terms of social justice, eco-balance and all human values we have dreamt of.

  • I think its time for the professor to retire.

  • Daisy, it sounds like you and your classmates are very perceptive, and that somehow, despite rigid curricula, teachers and professors, you have the ability to think on your feet, to ask hard questions, and not just accept the stale truism which are dished out. In this sense, your education–whether official or unoffial–has been successful. Too bad your professor became so defensive, and put his thinking on “automatic pilot,” rather than really listening to and reflecting on what you and your classmates were saying. Sounds like you have much to teach him. Try to be kind and gentle with him, though, rather than pushing him into a corner or, as we say, “pushing his buttons.” (i.e. trying to provoke an extreme reaction for your amusement). I have faith that through patience and reason every person is capable of modifiying his or her beliefs and behaviors.
    As for democracy, I believe we are as far from it up here as you are down there. Our founding fathers, like yours, knew what went wrong in the past, and tried to set up a system which avoided the failures of Greece and Rome, but in both cases anti-democratic realities intervened and subverted their efforts. The Cuban Revolution is but the latest attempt to make a more democratic society; since human beings are imperfect, however, and but children of their own times, these attempts are bound to fall short. I hope your generation can advance the banner a bit further, though.

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