Lately I’ve become a Wikipedia junky. I have a downloaded version that entertains, solves problems and expands my knowledge in all directions.
Browsing through this encyclopedia, I found an article on university reform that suddenly made me think about the call that was ignited in Cordoba, Argentina and exploded in Cuba as student struggles extended throughout the first half of the last century.
One would suppose that a mass-based socialist revolution such as the one that triumphed on January 1, 1959 would carry those demanded reforms to term, but real-life events took a different turn.
As a result of the Batista dictatorship, the institutions of civil society were so battered they could not resist the new force that swept the nation. Sooner or later they were all overwhelmed by this momentum.
The university was no exception. Everything fell under the influence of the “revolutionaries,” to such a point that from then on (and according to words of Fidel) these would be exclusively for revolutionaries; that is to say, for those who enthusiastically adhered to the moral codes and tasks emanating from above.
The new university in fact echoed these reforms and it did so in an exemplary way, though not in all of its points: only those attractive to the poorest of society (like open and free admission). Notwithstanding, these did not affect the yearnings of an ideology anxious for hegemony.
Massive access and Latin American solidarity is a great thing, but what is the merit of massive access if it’s not accompanied by freedom? – other than indoctrinating the greatest number of people.
Those issues of university reform were aimed specially at preventing control by the thinking of the powerful then in place (an indispensable condition so that the central agency of knowledge could enjoy some credibility). This control was eliminated at the initiative of the new university that was born. I am thinking of:
– University Autonomy
– Departmental Freedom
– Parallel Departments
– Free Departments
The pretext was to prevent the university from remaining in the hands of a powerful bourgeoisie and its ideologists, but in the end it fell into other powerful hands – though not exactly those of an empowered people.
It doesn’t seem to me that many students and teachers in higher education in Cuba even know what university reform was. Accordingly, I don’t believe there is anything here resembling an environment of struggle to achieve what our predecessors fought for almost a century ago.
But what else is there to do but continue working – even against the current and at great risks, at least to disclose the experiences of those conflicts.
All things big begin small and fragile.