Haroldo Dilla Alfonso
HAVANA TIMES, Nov. 22 — Like any other political system, Cuba’s always had a band of ideological sycophants at its disposition. Unlike others, however, the Cuban system has always demanded absolute alignment from its brownnosers, even up to the most formal details, which has made them particularly boring.
Accordingly, we have seen a parade of teachers packaged in the Soviet style in the 70s, enthusiastic supporters of national socialism in the 80s, and more recently they have been the partisans of the Bolivarian union. Brezhnev, Che Guevara and Chavez have been indistinctly part of the iconography of the ideological activists of a political regime that many decades ago ceased being revolutionary and was never socialist.
Now the task is more complex because it involves ideologically legitimizing the abrupt disassembly of a paternalistic/client system at a very high social cost. But even in these conditions they do not lack ideological sycophants willing to digress with the line of the party and joyfully applaud this new march of the “Revolution.”
They do not have the smallest scruple to prevent them from proclaiming that the social slaughterhouse constituted by the firing of a more than a million workers and the elimination of basic subsidies is a forward step in the “perfection of socialism.” They say the people will accept this because they understand the need for change and they believe that no one will be abandoned, although to date no one knows how this is to be achieved.
In summary, they sing of impossible love and sentimental nostalgia. They are, in short, the boleristas [Spanish bolero singers] of restructuring.
Just a few days ago I found an article with a different tone —optimistic and cheerful— that invites us to enjoy the restructuring. It’s another focus. It’s a guaracha [a home-grown Cuban torchlight song] of restructuring.
Its author is a cinema critic whose qualities I can’t discuss (because truly I’m unaware of them). He has given us an anthological piece titled “The Tragedy of Lay Offs and the Tenderness of Underemployment.” According to the writer, Rufo Caballero, what he wrote has been a dart against the pessimism of those who are dissatisfied; those who in some place express their “tragic focus,” and in others“tear-jerki ng anecdotes.” He finally describes this as a sickly habit of “experiencing tragedy as a historical need.”
Consequently, he broaches the subject like the steed of happiness as he speaks of reconciling “instrumentality and emancipation,” of recognizing the great contribution of small-scale ownership in “energizing social life” and from there building a “sovereignty” that would do without verticality. Everything is, says this guarachero of restructuring, about knowing how to “improvise over a few months” while the cloudburst passes, and finally to “invent the possibility of inventing.”
At this point, the issue deserves some personal positioning. I believe that reducing the government payroll, ending the myth of full (unproductive) employment and freeing up the productive forces are all indispensable and beneficial actions for the nation’s future.
However, I also believe that to achieve it in the manner the Cuban government is proposing is social cruelty:
1-They are doing it at the worst possible time, in a severely restrained economy, when previously they had other opportunities;
2- They are undertaking this massively, throwing hundreds of thousands of people into the street over a very short timeframe;
3. There are no adequate policies for compensation when people have been working in government jobs for many years;
4-It is being done without creating systems of credits and protection (incubators) for our de-pauperized “entrepreneurs”;
5-It will take place under a political system that doesn’t allow its citizens to be organized or to represent their interests autonomously;
6- Because all this “updating the model” is nothing other than laying the groundwork for an appropriate setting for the accumulation of the emerging technocratic-managerial elite led by the military.
When Rufo Caballero and other sycophants of a similar tone belt out their guarachas of restructuring, they do so while omitting the immense human suffering this will give rise to in economic and psychological terms among a very significant portion of Cuban families who will not be able to start any businesses.
Particularly, such families will have difficulties if they don’t have a car to serve as a taxi, or a good house in a good location to start a restaurant or rent out rooms, or a supportive and well-established relative in Miami who can send them the money to be able to “invent their invention” without dying from hunger in the attempt; or, what’s almost the same thing, a relative working for some good government agency who can reintegrate them.
But Caballero and others omit something else. To reconcile everything that they say they want to reconcile and free from the “Oedipal dependence on the government,” it is not enough to throw a million and a half people into a social slaughterhouse. It is necessary to establish a system of public freedoms. It is necessary to democratize and decentralize the state and government. It is necessary to establish an appropriate legal system so that the private ownership functions, as well as other conditions that must be established.
I’m sure that a presumably intelligent person like Rufo Caballero knows this. But he cannot say it, because he would be left without a job and he himself would have to “invent the invention” to survive. In the end, people like these sycophants are part of the re-composition of the elite who require their “domesticated intellectuals,” as Che Guevara called them in those first days when it was still possible to speak of a revolution.