Neither Voting Here nor Signing There

Erasmo Calzadilla

HAVANA TIMES — Yesterday were our elections, and once again I decided not to exercise my right to vote. I don’t support the circus that has been staged to legitimize the regime.

But nor did I sign the “Urgent Call for a Better and Possible Cuba,” which was circulated by the Concordia group.

The problem (for me) isn’t that it’s a liberal democratic document – far from it. Elections, democracy, the separation of powers and the rest of the components that make up liberalism seem grandiose, and I count on them to always curb latent totalitarianism.

I have no allergies to any form of representation if in practice it achieves what its name says. But social democracy? Perhaps this would be the lesser of the possible evils if we were in Western Europe a few decades ago.

The problem is that for all such enhancements to be more than merely cosmetic, they require a certain degree of economic equality between the actors who are going to participate in the “game,” but equity has always been a bone and a dog wandered away with it in its mouth.

I believe that global inequality and our proximity to the United States, go terribly against any possibility of achieving such a goal in today’s Cuba, a poor country without a civil tradition of liberal democracy.

In the vast majority of nations that surround us there exists “democracy,” but almost all of them have social problems that are much more serious than ours. Again, I don’t support dictatorship and I would desire its disappearance right now, but I don’t want the arrival of a system that would assuredly bring economic prosperity for those who are well placed at the expense of appalling evils for most people.

In our environment, the disaster of “liberal democracy” is clear: violence at a level that’s unknown here, drugs turned into a social conflict, prostitution and child labor, serious crises within the public health care system, the displacement of business people by transnational corporations, and many more.

All these things occur in nations where there’s freedom of association, multiparty systems, the free press etc.

So, my dear friends, I’m like Buridan’s ass, unable to make one choice of the other. But since I don’t want to suffer the same fate as the creature in that fable, I’m opting for a third choice.

It’s not the one of Tony Blair but of the ant who — from below — tries to awaken its sisters, brothers, friends, colleagues, partners, enemies, etc. to desire to be free in a wider (albeit modest) sense of the word. I’d rather concentrate my energies in participating in the creation of an alternative.

Anyway, I’m going to keep thinking about it. Maybe sometime in the future I’ll change my mind. It’s comforting to me to think that my decision isn’t particularly important, as it’s the people as a whole who must choose or create their future. I don’t know if that will happen through democratic elections or though some other means.



Erasmo Calzadilla

Erasmo Calzadilla: I find it difficult to introduce myself in public. I've tried many times but it doesn’t flow. I’m more less how I appear in my posts, add some unpresentable qualities and stir; that should do for a first approach. If you want to dig a little deeper, ask me for an appointment and wait for a reply.

6 thoughts on “Neither Voting Here nor Signing There

  • It would be helpful, Erasmo, to know that your problem in knowing what to advocate and what to do is not peculiar only to you in Cuba. May I recommend that you to seek the common denominator in all the countries, with regard to both the problems and the solution.

    Please take a serious look at the solution we advocate for transformation in the United States. It is a non-state monopoly form of socialism we call “modern cooperative, state co-ownership.” It would value and utilize private property rights and a conditioned free-trading market.

    This re-concept of socialism agrees with a basic conclusion of by P-J Proudhon: A state is necessary in the foreseeable future, and so calling for its immediate abolition is pointless. What is needed in post-capitalism is a counter-balance to the raw power of the state, in order to keep it from becoming tyrannical.

    The only such power he could find was the institution of private property rights. This was similar to what was (and is) advocated by pro-capitalist thinkers, but he went a profound step further and said that the private property needed to be owned directly by workers cooperatively, and by peasants and other small business people individually, not by either monopoly capitalists or by a socialist state monopoly.

    State monopoly socialism has had its turn upon the historical stage. I suggest that you look seriously at modern cooperative, state co-ownership socialism, and possibly become a cooperative republican (i.e., in favor of reorganizing Cuba as a democratic cooperative republic under socialist state power). Best wishes.

  • Griffin,

    Erasmo is absolutely right when he asserts that problems such as ‘drugs, prostitution, violence and high rates of chronic alcoholism’ that exist in Cuba are really next to nothing when compared to other Caribbean/Latin American country.

    He is skeptical about both ‘worlds’. You on the other hand have a blind faith on liberal democracy as it is implemented today taking in (very) shallow arguments that invokes Francis Fukuyama’s bogus theory of the ‘end of History’.

    Political parties nowadays suffers today from a serious representative crisis. Almost nobody feels their opinions and expectations embarked on a party with the exception of Luis Fernando Verissimo’s allegorical character ‘Velhinha de Taubaté’. And when I talk about a ‘party’ I’m equally referring to the PCC, the Republican and Democrat party, and the absurd quantity of parties without programs neither ideologies that exist in Brazil.

  • Cuba has an increase in inequality partly due to the joint ventures and dual currency, but there is nothing like Carlos Slim or the Russian style oligarchy. There is also to some extent cuban control and ownership of joint ventures.

    There is not a huge drug problem and there is very little prostitution outside the tourist industry. There is also very little voilent crime. I haven’t once seen a security guard at a bureau de change. Erasmo is right to worry about the situation turning into Colombia or Mexico with their drug gangs, gun battles and turf wars.

  • Erasmo, you are right to be worried about the destruction of the social fabric of Cuba. Another potential danger would be that houses were bought up as second homes by people outside the island, killing communities and forcing house prices outside the budgets of Cubans.

    However I think you are being a bit over pessimistic. US influence in Latin America is in long term decline – just look at the situation when Cuba was thrown out of the OAS and today. I see the future of Cuba at the heart of the Alba movement and finding its own path to democracy, not trying to emulate a system that Former President Carter called “riddled with financial corruption” and “one of the worst election processes in the world”.

  • Erasmo wrote, “I don’t want the arrival of a system that would assuredly bring economic prosperity for those who are well placed at the expense of appalling evils for most people.”

    Guess what? You’ve already got it. It comes with the joint ventures between foreign corporations and state enterprises and is made possible with the double currency. And you also have the drugs, prostitution, violence and high rates of chronic alcoholism. The Cuban gov’t, acting as not merely “latent totalitarianism”, just doesn’t want to let you know about it.

    Liberal democracy at least gives you the chance to talk about the real problems and the opportunity to help make things better. You just have to give up the fatal delusion that humans can build a utopia with none of these problems.

  • Erasmo, the problems you believe exists in those neighboring countries are indeed a reality to greater or lesser extents depending upon the country but keep in mind that they exist alongside the possibilty of change. To resist change from the system you currently live in because out of fear of repeating the mistakes others are making in their respective countries ignores Cuban resolve. Moreover, your concerns reflect an either/or choice which is not at all your reality. The only choice which should give rise to your fear is no choice at all. That is the Cuban you live in today.

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