Unsolicited Questions, Part Two

Erasmo Calzadilla
Erasmo Calzadilla

When the union meeting was finished (see my next-to-last diary entry), the Communist Party members from my workplace asked the workers to please not leave because they were going to give a political talk and wanted to invite everyone to participate.

No one moved from their place and a female instructor began to talk about socialism in the twenty-first century, and how we should be open to changes, that this was a new century that brought new challenges, but even so we need to defend our principles, etc.

When she had finished, the teacher asked if anyone had anything to say. I couldn’t resist and got up and spoke to my colleagues of the fact that if we related the first part of the meeting with the second, that is linking the matter of the union dues quota to socialism of the twenty-first century, then we could see that the centralized management of the dues quota had nothing to do with the objectives of socialism in the twenty-first century.

The latter proposes precisely that workers take into their own hands the direct control of their workplaces and not leave this in the hands of a central organization, as was the style of socialism that failed so badly in Eastern Europe and other regions.

I also encouraged my colleagues to push immediately for the power to manage at least a part of the money that was collected by the university workers union, in accordance with the ideas expressed by President Raul Castro who at that time had spoken in these same terms, or similar ones.

No one applauded me. Some Party members immediately got up and spoke energetically with phrases that denigrated everything that I had proposed, treating me as someone who didn’t have any idea what he was talking about.

As is the custom, there was mention of those who were traitors to the revolution and how they were not going to impede its advance. Although they didn’t allude directly to my person, it wasn’t necessary: everyone know who they were talking about.

In addition, there was a teacher who clarified that the money from the dues quotas went to pay the union professionals and that even so, all that was collected monthly in the entire country wasn’t enough for this end, so that the government aided the national union to stay out of debt.

That was what happened and I was left like a shoe, without being able to defend myself and without anyone else to do it for me, with a tightness in my chest that didn’t go away for several days.

After a time, someone approached me to comment that those who were talking about socialism in the twenty-first century had never left the sixteenth century. Although I would have liked it if that person had expressed himself so the other day, the humorous comment was a relief to me.

2 thoughts on “<em>Unsolicited Questions, Part Two</em>

  • Hmmm! First, the responsables talk the talk of opening up to real democracy, pragmatism and decentralization–then BOOM! The same old shit! What are they afraid of? Why is it always so difficult to overcome old, rigid attitudes? Most folks seem to put their minds on “automatic pilot,” or “cruise control” and forget about the real hazzards ahead. What we have here is the classic struggle betwixt stasis and change. You would have thought by now, though, that Party members and responsables might have learned a thing or two about what happened in the former Soviet Union and the Socialist Bloc–and why.
    I wish you success, Erasmo, in your efforts to democratize you union and work place. Perhaps my optimism is misplaced; like you, however, I too have faith in the power of reason, and hope that through patient persuasion you may help these folks to see that you are not trying to destroy the Revolution, but instead are trying to make it more democratic, participatory. I could be wrong, though, and benneath the thin veneer of our reason may lie an abyss of resentment and revenge. Let us hope, though, that in the end we can arrive at less primitive ways of dealing with our fears of change.

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