My Impressions of the Sixth Cuba Social Forum (Part II)

Dmitri Prieto

The 6th Cuba Social Forum organized by the Observatorio Critico.

HAVANA TIMES —The priority of those of us who organize these forums has always been to encourage contacts and cooperation between people who actively do things (and not simply think or write).

I think the most difficult thing in achieving a truly transformative potential is precisely that:  taking action. There are many people in Cuba who attempt this, with results that are more or less impressive – but they try.

That’s why I was pleased that projects such as Talento Cubano, Garage 19 and Miscelaneo (organized by Adolfo Cabrera and Miriam Real), as well as La Joven Cuba (presented by Harold Cardenas, et al.), were the most debated presentations in the first session of the forum.

I had the impression that there was much more than talk possessed by those presenters, but time was short, so — as usually occurs in these events — the conversations continued in the lunch room (the buffet included a vegan alternative for those who didn’t eat animal derivatives).

The forum isn’t convened to be merely a debate of ideas (we’re absolutely in favor of ideas being discussed, but for this we generate other opportunities), but to exchange organizational experiences, as was indicated by this year’s slogan: “@uto-organizing ourselves?”

But for the first time we decided to structure the conference with something like two roundtables: one on ideologies and the other on spiritual and cultural traditions (because traditions and ways of thinking also matter – obviously).

The first “roundtable” (there wasn’t a physical table, but, oh well…) had two questions as its point of departure. These were posed to the speakers (Felix Guerra, who talked about poetry; Juan Valdes Paz, focusing on Marxism; Sautié Felix, from a theological standpoint; Pedro Campos, Marxism; and myself, Dmitri Prieto, from a libertarian socialist vantage point). All of that deserves to be reproduced here:

“The term ‘ideology’ has its detractors as well as it defenders from distinct schools of thought. Is it possible to define a critical conception of this term such that it loses its unpleasant quality for the ‘common people?’ Inferring from that opinion, do contemporary societies need one or more ideologies?”

Nevertheless, it wasn’t the intention to have everyone express the principles of “their” ideology, but for people to speak critically of the explicit need for ideologies themselves.

It must be said that there was in fact complete consensus around the need for pluralism, as well as recognition of the value of diversity and dialogue between different modes of thinking. Members of the Critical Observatory (OC) spoke publicly about the need to respect this plurality in public settings.

But the issue of ideology isn’t only a Cuban problem, but the effect of the major changes which since around 1968 have been happening in the world. In these, social movements have tended not to make use of “ideological packages,” as has been tradition in certain types of political parties.

For example, almost all the current mobilizations bring together people with great diversity among themselves, and these usually don’t have “structures for political and ideological work.”

Rather, each individual arrives with their own thought, enters into dialogue, and then comes the action. I’m abridging and simplifying this idea a little, but — I think — this is how it occurs in most cases. There is no process of training or “indoctrination,” as used to happen.

I think that — beyond some excellent reflections from the panelists and the audience — the result of the roundtable was a tie between those who thought that ideologies are “needed” and those who didn’t, with the latter thinking that each person should follow their own initial opinion.

In general, I think the OC and other social settings in Cuba are intuitively promoting a correct critical distance from ideological codes…

The second day (May 27) was another similar “roundtable,” this time bringing together participants from various spiritual and cultural traditions present in Cuba: Jorge Luis Aleman, the biblical tradition as key in the theological critique of liberation; Ramon Torres, the Afro-Cuban Abakua tradition; Mario Castillo, the tradition of the Cuban proletariat; Tato Quiñones, the Yoruba-Osha-Ifa tradition; Veronica Vega, the yoga tradition; Wollette Tsehay Gabriel Tafari, the Rastafari tradition. I served as moderator of that gathering.

The intention was to have a moment and a place to start talking from positions of equality, which society often precludes, among people for whom a particular spirituality is important.

In the face of essential and inevitable changes in Cuba, we wanted to get an indication of how participants could help those diverse viewpoints and approaches — those worlds-of-life with ancient references — for building a better country and a better future.

From this came the question we posed to each of the speakers: What contribution can your traditions of self-organization make towards improving our lives in Cuba both today and tomorrow?

To be concluded with next installment…