The First Part of the Trial

With some of the neighborhood kids
With some of the neighborhood kids

This past March 26 (coincidently the date Cuba celebrates State Security Day) the first part of my trial took place in the Municipal Court.

In it, I am taking legal action against what I consider an unjust and arbitrary measure taken by the administration of the university where I taught.

I had never been in a courtroom before; it was quite small with long wooden benches, like in the movies. The judges and lawyers were dressed in long black gowns, which I imagine must be hot as hell in the summer.

The atmosphere seemed to be one of justice and equity, though the energetic manner in which lawyer on “their side” presented their accusations did indeed provoke a bit of fear in me. To him, this wasn’t merely a matter of law, but a moral question that was in the balance… He spoke like someone who had been grievously offended by all the impertinences of such a snotty brat – and that brat was me.

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Nevertheless, they were not able to break me psychologically, because both inside and outside the courtroom were groups of people supporting me. There weren’t many, around fifteen I would say, but I could not have hoped for better company.

Those on “my side” stayed until the end to accompany me out. We lingered a while talking about what had happened… it was, in short, a good chance for everyone involved and willing to support me to meet each other, even when things begin to look ugly.

The institution, for its part, also invited a group of workers. A bus from the university shuttled in a group of professors, though one of them personally admitted to me that he didn’t know why he was there. His superiors had entrusted him with the mission of attending, and so he did. I had to shed light on what the case was really about (my version of course).

An incident happened with another professor. When I reached out to shake the hand of this gentleman, who was until recently the head of the teachers union, he responded to me scornfully saying, “How can you dare try to shake my hand? Have you no shame for the embarrassing situation you’re putting this institution in?”

Later a student recounted to me that that this same professor -who in the same tone and with the most varied arguments- had tried to convince him not to support me. “They seem terrified,” that student later commented to me.

Concretely, in this part of the trial (the next one will be on April 17), I was accused of not teaching the school’s Studies Program. “The Program of Studies of the subject Philosophy and Society,” the lawyer said, “is a document created under the direct oversight of the Central Committee of the Party, due to the political importance of this subject. Therefore under no circumstance can it be modified by the professors who teach the subject.”

This accusation is debatable to me, because I believe I did everything possible to accommodate such a document. From what I can see, It doesn’t look like there will be a philosophical analysis of my classes by an impartial expert appointed by the jury, which is what I really would have preferred.

They are also accusing me of missing classes, which is false, and for all of that violating the work contract and not fulfilling the concrete tasks of a professor – which are not true.

Lastly, they accuse me of changing the bibliography established by the Central Committee of the Party for one that I liked, which also is not true (though, admittedly, I would have loved to have done that).

Other elements necessary to follow the sequence of this story can be read in previous pages of this blog. For those of you that read Spanish and would like to have a look at the content of my classes you can click here:

After the 17th, I’ll finish the story, when the trial has concluded.

2 thoughts on “<em>The First Part of the Trial</em>

  • For one thing, the process you describe above illuminates the fact that this university is not a democratically-run institution. In fact, it seems to operate in a thoroughly and typically bourgeois manner. Which makes their claimed defence of Socialism (and the Party) here, all the more ludicrous. As the first commentator points out, a truly socialist university, at the very least, would involve all the faculty in a democratic discussion over what would — and wouldn’t — be appropriate for the syllabus. And this body of study would indeed likely change over time too. But more than that: a truly socialist university would have devolved much power onto the student body as well. Students would indeed be representatives of their communities in most every sense, as well as being pupils. They would know much about what they wanted and needed to study, if not the details of it, and how this would serve the wider socialist society they are a part of. And so the students should very much have a democratic say in the running of their institution. But then where would this leave the bureaucratic careerists, eh?

    As for the lawyers: legal robes, etc. are a symbol of the bourgeois, and even feudal, past. Who are they trying to impress with this finery, in socialist Cuba? Are these people an example of the New Socialist [Hu]Man at work? I think not, from what you write above. Same old bag of cheap lawyers’ tricks is what you’re getting, seems to me. And simply the fact that such robes are highly inappropriate attire in a tropical climate should give a big, fat hint as to where this whole institution is coming from. Even if you have air-conditioning.

    Much work to be done on the socialist front. Much work indeed.

  • Dealing with institutions, such an experience.
    First, in this case, the formal accusation it’s not the real motive, of course, the reason to expulse Erasmo from his work is not the modification of the program of studies because in that case we would have much more trials against mostly of university professors that systematically modify their programs in order to give their students better information. All programs of studies should be analized with teachers -old teachers as well as young ones- who are in position to know what is really useful for students and what new thinking tendencies can serve to nourish and update the studies program.
    This trial is really against the act of join together and discuss such issues that really worry people. But in another level here we have the tendency of stopping new ideas and proposals. This resistance to the new is a phenomena of many contemporary societies, but not all of them are so obvious. So, one step beyond, we can expect for sure that there will be a great resistance in our path, so we can see it before it has come. We still want to be heard, as a catharsis necessity due to many years of repressing expression, rather than a real purpose of free and responsible expression. Instead of that we have to know what is that we want to change, how are we gonna do it and if we are capable to do something together, to get a profound agreement without bad feelings, internal disputes, with any mistrust and suspicion. Otherwise, we can separate people in two: those who want to change and those who just don’t. Who wants to change doesn’t feel superior to anyone nor inferior to those who have the power. Arrogant people and people or institutions that use their power to suppress others, they are doing their job of sustaining the state of things immobile. Let’s do our own job. We can transform the feeling of not being accepted or heard into the feeling of being responsible for everything that happen in this world and having a mission to fulfill. At this point, new challenges will show up and new questions. We have one right no one can give us or take from us, we are citizens of the earth, it’s a natural right we have and a responsibility to take care of this world and make it a better place to live in. That give us the necessary calm and equanimity to do anything. From that position we can start thinking which is the best way to deal with resistance.

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