Isbel Díaz Torres

HAVANA TIMES — The “Proposals for Our Immediate Future” published by the CASA-CUBA Laboratory (Laboratorio CASA-CUBA,) have furnished us with a magnificent tool for collective action.

I admit that, most of the time, I am wary of public documents or declarations of this nature (they often strike me as no more than dead words on paper). I must also recognize that, when these proposals are presented dialogically and with a certain transparency, they can have real, practical applications.

This is, at least, what I have perceived thus far. With the possible exception of the ill-informed and inaccurate impressions divulged by blogger Alejandro de la Cruz, the document in question has had very positive repercussions, including critical readings of the text, and managed to fuse, in one vigorous move, several currents of thought that populate the ideological panorama of contemporary Cuba.

This is what has inspired me, from a posture of humility and admiration towards the authors of these “Proposals”, to reflect on an idea, prompted by my reading of the document.

Item 12 of the “Proposals” calls on us to “Effectively secure the right to work and work-related guarantees, as well as all needed economic freedoms, and to subordinate economic measures to social and environmental commitments”.

Of course, I cannot but agree with this proposal. But this point made me realize that that “dreamed-of Cuba”, that “future Cuba”, did not propose a more deliberate change of our development paradigm, critical of our consumerist, environmentally-destructive logic.

These “environmental commitments” which the text vaguely alludes to, almost in passing, should be delved into more extensively, particularly if they are to govern the implementation of “economic measures”, as the document states.

Such clarification would not entail the imposition of a single developmental model, which would simply reproduce the authoritarian logic of hegemonic capitalism or of so-called “real socialism”.   It would, rather, consist of drafting a proposal (the document in question is already a concrete proposal, luckily) that can allow us to trace the contours of such a future Cuba, to make it “possible”.

The authors of this document are of course aware that securing a series of basic rights is far from enough. Such rights are proclaimed in all nearly all international documents of this nature, and they are later systematically ignored, while the underprivileged classes are busy going on strike or painting graffiti on walls.

Such rights are dearly and urgently needed, but, at the same time, what we need is a poetic proposal, a truly unprecedented, critical, disquieting, non-positivistic proposal that can furnish us with new tools for what we could call our personal and collective emancipation. Without such a proposal, there is really no sense in envisioning any kind of future.

I apologize for finding no better words with which to express this.

It suddenly dawns on me, for instance, that “work” or “development”, as such, may not need to be secured as “rights”, and that free time, on the contrary, could, as could art, peace or free will.

Here’s another thought: Cuban State companies have given the concept of the “eight-hour workday”, a right secured by the workers’ movement in England and the United States, a distorted meaning. The workers of the 18th and 19th centuries didn’t want to work eight hours, per se. They simply did not want to work more than eight hours a day.

When we dream of a different Cuba, we ought to be able to question what the prevailing global system has imposed on us as common sense: that development is inevitable, that the scientific method is infallible, that freedom means freedom to consume, that oil will make us rich, that we all want to be rich, and so on and so forth.

It is clear to me that this document cannot be expected to make such a concrete proposal, but, what it can do is suggest the collective construction of such a vision for the future, as a negation of the model which currently prevails on the island and around the world, and as the basis for the creation of a new Cuba.

Transgenic products, golf courses, oil platforms, deforestation…all of these are silently invading Cuba. Let us not be so naïve as to think that an “environmental education” alone can prevent these eco-cidal practices. The host of hypocrites and opportunists, who prosper under the protection of such labels, have long been exposed for all to see.

It is not enough to change an inefficient State with a workers’ collective that will, later, raze the island’s forests to the ground, while a group of ecologists takes a decade to impose steeper taxes on the forest-based cooperative for felling the last mahogany trees in Pinar del Rio.

That is where such “formal freedoms” can lead us, if they are divorced from a critical and poetic proposal that prompts us to undertake the actual destruction of the prevailing system.

These reflections are addressed to the friends who worked arduously to build this consensus document, to which I add my voice with enthusiasm, a critical spirit and hope.


Isbel Diaz

Isbel Diaz Torres: Pinar del Rio and Havana are my cities. I was born in one on March 1, 1976, and I’ve always lived in the other. I am a biologist and poet, though at times I’ve also been a musician, translator, teacher, computer geek, designer, photographer and editor. I’m very non-conformist and a defender of differences – perhaps due to always having been an ever-repressed “model child.” Nothing enthralls me more than the unknown, nature and art; these serve as my sources of mystery and development. A surprising activism has been born in me over the recent period. Though I’m not very sure how to channel it, I feel that it’s a worthy and legitimate energy. Let’s hope I have the discernment to manage it.

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