Every…every… every day when I leave my house or come back home, I run into the bulletin board of the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR). This organization —like the Copelia ice cream parlor, schools, hospitals and, in short, all that is good and almost all that is nonsense— was founded as a brainchild of Fidel Castro.
The CDR is an organization “of the masses” whose main function, as its name indicates, is to defend the Revolution.
In the preceding period when we weren’t so “developed,” but were indeed more fervent, it was not strange for neighbors to take the initiative to fill up the CDR bulletin board with their own personal initiatives: revolutionary phrases taken out of some book or from their own inspiration, hand-drawn caricatures of “imperialist Yankees,” photos of martyrs cut out of a magazine, winning drawings from some local children’s competition celebrating historical date, etc.
Although the concrete problems of the neighbors will never directly end up on this bulletin board, I’d say there existed a better relationship between the abstract and the concrete…that’s to say between the heroes and our leader on the one hand, and real flesh-and-blood people on the other.
But the 1980s harmony between national and local initiative began to dampen during the Special Period economic crisis of the 90s. The presidencies of this organization at the neighborhood block level began to fall into the hands of people interested in concealing illegal activities (that’s to say actions that are formally prohibited and sanctioned, but generally accepted by the community).
Contrarily however, national initiatives exhibited themselves as more abstract and formalistic than ever, or as they like to emphasize: “In line with Fidel.”
Today it seems the central office of the CDR has at the same time more resources and more desires than ever for people to be passive and not rock the boat. That office has created a group of colorful posters to be put up on the bulletin board of each CDR across the country.
Through these boards we are alerted as to what our tasks as CDR members should be. We are reminded of the concept of the Revolution (with a big photo of its inventor) and are explicitly made aware of which political activities we should participate in: only those “DIRECTED WITH QUALITY” (or, less euphemistically, only those directed from above).
Fifty years on we’re still being instilled with values and guided in political activities, while almost all spontaneous grassroots initiatives are viewed with suspicion.
That’s why every day when I leave the house and run into this bulletin board it makes me think the years are going to go by and wonder what will happen. I wonder if everything is going to pass right by me and remain the same… And I think, if no one’s looking, I should tear off a corner of the board.