By Osmel Ramirez Alvarez
HAVANA TIMES – A few days ago, the nightly Mesa Redonda show on Cuban TV (which follows the strict party-line like they all do) discussed the subject of “continuity” as president Miguel M. Diaz Canel’s political slogan.
It might seem like a run-of-the-mill word, one of the many that have become trendy amidst the political hand-over of power to a new generation of cadres. However, it became clear after reflections from the guests on the show, that it has become an entirely abstract concept.
“Continuity” is no longer an axiom that carries a palpable meaning, it is instead an ideological emblem, symbolic and mysterious parable, even though it’s just a simple and straightforward word. Yet, it just so happens that Diaz-Canel’s message doesn’t mean conservation and future projection, but the opposite: a break and tensions.
The word is more synonymous with keeping things as they are than change, although if we’re being honest, it doesn’t deny this either. According to the Royal Spanish Academy, continuity is:
“Continuing something that has already started or already existed or remaining in a state or situation. It is something happening or doing something without interruption or the union between all of the parts that form a whole, over time.”
From a Fidelista standpoint, the Revolution he led was and continues to be the continuity of that original struggle that Cespedes began in La Demajagua (in the mid-19th Century). A single revolution.
It’s one of the concepts that is skilfully raised to legitimize his political process, along with the absurd notion that the Cuban Communist Party is the continuity of the Cuban Revolutionary Party which Marti founded, or the idea that only one political party is allowed in Cuba because Marti only founded one party.
However, the struggle against Batista’s dictatorship can be better understood if we look through the heroic prism of sugar-coated nationalism, as the continuity of a similar revolutionary feat which seeks independence, popular sovereignty and the Republic “with every Cuba and for every Cuban’s wellbeing.” Thus, it is still an incomplete revolution in this sense, and needed now more than ever.
What happened after Fidel’s revolution triumphed in 1959 has very little do with Marti and his ideas. Ninety % of what was done or ideologically taken on is the absolute antithesis of Marti’s ideals. It has even less to do with the ‘1868 heroes’ of Cuba pursued. Saying it does is just demagoguery or a lack of knowledge about our history.
Diaz-Canel’s government is clearly the “continuity” (or it tries to be at least), not of these incomplete revolutions in the past, but of the radical socialist model that the true Cuban Revolution became.
It is continuity of the authoritarian political system that brought him into power, without being directly elected in general elections, without appearing as a candidate among different political options, without free nominations. He was the only candidate allowed to run by the only political party that is allowed in the country, which is the same as saying Raul and Fidel Castro. This is what his continuity is.
During his brief time in office, it’s been made perfectly clear to us that this is also the continuity of repressive means to keep our people’s inevitable desire for freedom and democracy in check, which some brave individuals express with their courage and decency, carrying the decency of millions on their shoulders.
It is the continuity of the same false excuses, always blaming US Imperialism for our legitimate desire to build a prosperous and democratic Cuba, which is pluralistic, just as is in nature.
It is also the continuity of the same package of hyper-planned, state centered economic measures, which limit private business. This became crystal clear when the State opened a business in foreign currency to crush private business owners, instead of just regulating their businesses fairly. Likewise the endless putting off the passing of a long-awaited bill that would allow cooperatives and SMEs to function freely.
This small step towards economic freedom, this hope for efficiency, is being put off, trampling mercilessly all over our people’s right to better their lives, live a dignified life, leave poverty behind. All because they are afraid that we Cubans will become empowered and no longer need to rely on the State, losing our collective fear of being a sovereign people, the masters of our own fate.
This is what continuity means in reality. Even if they wanted to be the continuity of the socialism they say they uphold, which could be interpreted as a legitimate ideal to push for a better, fairer and more equal Cuba, it wouldn’t be a contradiction, but they would need more than continuity, they also need to make substantial changes.
Firstly, they’d have to leave the authoritarian model behind and move towards democratic socialism, because there is no social justice without democracy. Also working towards social inclusion by eliminating discrimination because of a person’s ideology or place of residence, because we are all Cubans, no matter where we are and no matter what we believe. Respect for human rights is another change among the many more we need.
However, this doesn’t seem to be our new president’s intention. His continuity is conservative until he shows us the opposite. There was a lot of bla bla bla on Mesa Redonda and not a lot of substance. With regard to the positive changes they promised, we’ll believe them when we see them with our own two eyes. Up until now, all we’ve seen is a spike in repression, greater economic shortages and a higher cost of living, more immigration and less hope. If only things were different.