The main lesson History has taught us from the struggles that have managed to put an end to Communist regimes, is that dissident movements become stronger the more moderate they are.
By Ariel Hidalgo (Cubaencuentro)
HAVANA TIMES – Public disputes between some Cuban opposition members in early June, because of strategic differences or disagreements about rhetoric, have contributed to the projection of their immaturity in the general population’s eyes and in international public opinion. This cripples them as leaders in the defense of democracy and basic human rights, even more so when these disputes have become personal attacks.
In adopting such an attitude, the only thing they have done is mimic the behavior of the oppressors they are fighting. Dissidents or opposition members need to keep a clear head more than anyone else, and they can’t believe they are infallible or that they hold the absolute truth, if they are true to the cause they are fighting for, especially for the right of freedom of speech.
The first peaceful fighters to mobilize in Cuba to bring about a change and move towards a society where basic human rights are respected, left a legacy behind for those who followed them: the rule of “non-violence”. This not only consists of not responding to physical attacks, but also verbal attacks, so they didn’t normally refer to the oppressors with insulting labels.
They just had to denounce the atrocities that their oppressors committed, and anyone reading this would draw their own conclusions. Name-calling wasn’t needed. So, one thing you really didn’t do was insult another dissident who you disagree with.
The main lesson History has taught us from the struggles that have managed to put an end to Communist regimes, is that dissident movements become stronger the more moderate they are. This is because it is no longer as issue of occupying barracks and government agencies by force, but rather a matter of winning over the minds of those who are entrenched in these barracks and agencies.
Disagreements between the opposition is inevitable and even necessary in order to rectify potential mistakes or just to make something better, such as a document that is being drafted with the steps needed to achieve a certain objective.
However, not even discrepancies should translate into personal insults or come out in the light of day. Instead, there should be a dialogue and disagreements should be talked out respectfully beforehand, and sometimes, we can learn positive lessons from this controversy about how to move forward a lot more effectively. Fruitful cooperation efforts can even arise from dialogue.
Contrary to the attitudes that we mentioned at the beginning of this article, the recent reconciliation of different prominent organizations (including two exile groups have that supported the dissident movement from the very beginning almost) is very promising, and they have created what is now known as the Committee for Democratic Change in Cuba. This is a good start.
It implies the presumption that every dissident group against the status quo, should at least coordinate with a communications network, even if they don’t join. Everything else is just an extra: from intercommunication comes mutual understanding, from understanding comes coordination, from coordination comes unity, and from unity comes the chance to become victorious.
This process is possible thanks to the population’s access to the latest telecommunications technology, and it has been responsible for mobilizing large crowds in many countries, which end up overthrowing autocratic regimes, the first of which was Mubarak in Egypt, or radical institutional reform in Chile. They made a governor resign in Puerto Rico, as well as president Evo Morales in Bolivia, and at the time of writing this article, they are making Colombia’s leaders tremble. None of this would have been possible without cellphones or the Internet.
Although it has to be said that these explosions of outrage have also had a parallel effect in some countries, with vandalism and violent out-of-control mobs. If this happens in Bolivia, it’s “Imperialism’s undercover hand” doing it, and when it happens in Chile or Colombia, then it’s “Havana’s undercover hand.” However, indifference or apathy of those in power (Left or Right) is the real reason.
Just like this wouldn’t be the “Imperialist blockade’s” fault if this were to happen in Cuba, violently or not, with vandalism or not, or the CIA’s fault, or the dissidents’ fault, it is instead the Cuban government’s own fault because they aren’t interested, they are being lazy and incompetent in their response to key issues that affect the population. They repeatedly refuse to implement needed reforms and concessions.
What are they going to do after a popular uprising kicks off? Will they deploy their tanks onto the street to turn it into a bloodbath? There was an example of this threat, to some small degree, with the Maleconazo in 1994, when shop windows were destroyed and rocks were hurled at the police, and then the brutal repression came, which dissidents played no part in.
Regardless of whether this violence is the government’s fault, these dangers are reason enough for dissident organizations to get ready and begin a dialogue between them so that in the future they have not only the ability to derail these events with moderation, with non-violence, but also to channel widespread outrage towards peaceful change.
On the other hand, if breakaway groups were to call for a march on the streets in the future, which some untimely figures have already suggested, they should not only be peaceful, but they should also be paying very close attention to what this might provoke from the oppressors, who can even go so far as staging acts of vandalism in order to justify brutal repression. No opposition group has the ability or power to call upon the population to take to the streets, which they can only do after they come together and coordinate. They should do this soon too.
If every group were to coordinate with others, they won’t be surprised tomorrow by a widespread and uncontrollable explosion of a desperate and angry people, which nothing or nobody could stop, with its dire consequences.