By Jesus Arencibia (El Toque)
The chatterbox overwhelms with quotes and slogans, with far-fetched and
coined phrases, with theoretical rhetoric. It’s like chloral hydrate
or phenobarbital or chlorpromazine. It leaves you stunned, makes you yawn, makes you sleepy.
-“The Chatterbox,” by H. Zumbado in Limonada (1978)
HAVANA TIMES – You end up forming some kind of allergy, rash and swelling included, when you’re bombarded with the same pests, day after day. What’s the trending phrase at the moment in Cuban political discourse? The national economy’s “Productive chains”. The president says it, and then so does Tom, Dick and Harry, every booster and amplifier in turn.
Few people who have signed up to this trending slogan actually stop to think about the complexity of this term. They don’t realize, like academic Pedro Monreal has, for example, that before articulating chains, certain links need to first be detached, including “the Gordian knot” of Cuba’s dual currency and exchange system, and the conditions in areas such as agriculture and food service, operate in.
“Can an agricultural sector where [the state body] ‘Acopio’ plays a crucial role, have the kind of institutionalism […] needed to generate chains…?” economist Monreal asks. There have been decades of arguments to answer this question he poses.
Talking about responses and “chains”, when will we find out what the solution to the “Port-Transport-Domestic Economy chain” problem is? Used by the government and its media since the 1980s, the term continues to appear in articles which are critical, giving viewpoints and recommendations. The national economy knows full well how it (doesn’t) work: at the Port, products are stranded and delayed; and transport, well, transport is sublime in all its forms.
Back in 2017, Juan Carlos Rodriguez Portuondo, director of Frutas Selectas, talked to Bohemia magazine about cargo transportation: “…it’s bad; the Trucking company (UDECAM), for example, is unable to transport fertilizers from the port. Not even Almacenes Universales can meet the demand of national transfers.” Talking about the trucks in his own company, he lamented: “70% of them have been working for over three decades.”
However, the discourse doesn’t seem to warn others about their own ineffectiveness and it is recycled, dressed and imposed, so it can appear on placards again, be heard in chants, meetings, words of caution, campaigns, action plans, daily agendas, divine marketing. Maybe so “productive chains” do become a reality with their incantations, I think.
The more experienced will suppose now isn’t the time. If you take a look at the journalistic transcripts of past editorials, you will be (unfortunately) shocked to see the same old, from the header to the footer. Traveling in a flashback, some gems prove exactly this:
Headline: “Food demands can be met with current resources.” First paragraph: “Increase production and economic infrastructure to the max with less resources is a policy we follow in Agriculture, although we are tackling the tendency to ask for more instead of making better use of what we already have, the minister […] said.” [Trabajadores, June 23, 1989]
Headline: “COMMANDER IN CHIEF: Young Cubans face problems with vigor, bravery and optimism.” Third paragraph: “Every young Cuban will take on the responsibilities right now, accordingly, when everyone’s efforts are needed to face the effects of the current global economic crisis we find ourselves in, with greater arduousness and efficiency,” [Juventud Rebelde, October 1, 1976]
Headline: “Why does electricity consumption in peak hours need to be reduced?”. Second paragraph: “With the enthusiasm and resolution which are characteristic of our people, a campaign to reduce electricity consumption in ‘PEAK’ hours has been developed under the Party’s guidance and the close collaboration with mass organizations (CDR, FMC, CTC-R, etc.).” [El Socialista, Pinar del Rio, February 19th 1966].
Do more with less, give our best, reject individualism, tackle shock assignments, participate with optimism, bravery and faith in victory, show revolutionary commitment at all times, talk about problems at the right time and in the right place, don’t give the enemy the weapons it needs, build, save and overcome, IS EVERYBODY’S DUTY.
And so many times, everybody’s duty has ended up being nobody’s responsibility unfortunately, and gaps in the lives of many.
As if they weren’t concrete events, practices and actions (such as the daring and plausible pay-hike that was recently decided), that mark a movement in a significant way, creating optimism and commitment. As if they weren’t changes to policies and laws, and understanding the laws that govern our economy, the ones that are the catalyst for the abovementioned “chains”, beyond just campaigns and voluntarism.
In short, maybe we should get used to everyday bombasts of propaganda, and not be shocked by CDR (Committees for the Defense of the Revolution) slogans that are hanging on the corner of Cerro and Boyeros, in the capital of 500 potholes: “The CDR, an organization that was born to be never-ending.”
The headline of a page/poster that Hoy newspaper published on May 16, 1963, also refers to the everlasting and immortal:
And, we all know how long eternity lasts.