By Heriberto Machado (El Toque)
HAVANA TIMES – A new draft Constitution is being put forward in Cuba today; and right now, the ordinary Cuban continues to be immersed in their uproar and din on the street corner where they play dominoes, in Brazilian telenovelas and in the same old same old.
Many are letting the chance to fully take part in the “constitutional debate” slip through their fingers; a debate which we are able to participate in at the lowest level, which will give rise to statistics that we will never learn about; which should be created using the means we have available to us (even if they are only a few).
When walking down the street I see how Cubans’ everyday life fritters away in bodega store lines, or in trying to stretch a monthly wage out to make it go further (which isn’t even enough to buy food for a week). While all of this is happening, our worst and saddest problems continue to go unsolved, few even really mentioning them.
The Cuban population’s civic awareness is practically non-existent, and our legal culture isn’t worth much. If the Cuban Revolution destroyed anything, beyond good manners and personal privacy, that was our people’s civic spirt and civil rights.
Institutionalizing the Revolution razed public freedoms that existed in our country before 1959 to the ground; I’m talking about laws and civic institutions. A besieged and blockaded country’s politics amputated freedom of speech and the press, and it suppressed political parties in order to establish a one-way order, which has reigned up until the present day.
That was how the Cuban ideal, based (hypothetically) on Jose Marti’s thoughts, ended up becoming a totalitarian state. Having a whole school of thought of our own, embodied by Luz y Caballero, Varela or Marti himself, we preferred to import doctrines, tropicalize Marx and Engels, Lenin too.
Universal education eclipsed the cost this had on the quality of education, and now that decades have passed us by, and political intolerance hasn’t given up any ground, we are seeing the causes, what we have become. Education in Cuba doesn’t exist to form honest and upright citizens, who are self-aware and aware of the environment they live in, but rather just to add one more to the flock. The headless piece of dough.
That’s why this draft Constitution falls apart in its very preamble (just like our current Constitution in force falls apart), because Marti’s ideas didn’t marry into those of Communism’s pseudo-Gods, they clashed with them instead (read Marti’s work: When Karl Marx died and Herbert Spencer).
If this draft Constitution were really Marti-esque, we should abide by what the Apostle wrote in one of his Letters from New York, that “a Constitution is a living and practical law that can’t be built using ideological bricks.” If there’s too much of anything in this draft Constitution, it’s ideological bricks, as they define a political and social order, when a document of this kind is the least appropriate space to do this. I imagine that our experts in Constitutional Law must be on the brink of having a heart attack. Well…, I imagine!
I am only going to talk about Article 3, as I understand that this is the article that limits our people’s freedom the most. It starts off by stating: “Defense of the socialist homeland is the greatest honor and the supreme duty of every Cuban citizen.” It is a huge slap in the face to see the word “socialist” being used as an adjective to describe our “homeland”, as any second name just debases or taints it. Homeland is Homeland and that’s it! It carries its own weight and we have to experience it or suffer it for what it is. It might just be that we have to defend the Homeland against Socialism or the government we currently have, today or tomorrow.
“Homeland doesn’t belong to anyone”, Jose Marti said it himself in a letter to Maximo Gomez, and it would be worth reading again to understand what millions of Cubans are suffering today.
Article 3 in the draft Constitution then goes on to say that: “Treason against one’s country is the most serious of crimes; those who commit it are subject to the most severe penalties.” Now, Homeland appears on its own, as it should be, but the seed of ambiguity has already been planted.
Let’s talk about “severe penalties” which I have no doubt could mean the death penalty (there have been quite a few of these) and it doesn’t outline what is classified as treason against the Homeland. It would be a good idea to define this here, as there are many episodes in our History that remind us that those accused of treason against the Homeland were in fact the real patriots.
Then, this next phrase appears: “Socialism and the social revolutionary political system instituted in this Constitution are irrevocable.” Wow! I can’t stop thinking about how I was born just eleven years after the 1976 Constitution was passed.
My parents approved it and now I have to suffer it; that’s why I think about my son and about all the children who have yet to be born and about how they will find themselves handcuffed by the ironclad lock they want to put on the only kind of document that doesn’t allow for assumptions. It says it and people don’t believe it. They say it and it seems like a joke. But, it isn’t a joke and it’s about to become reality, and here we are to back it or at least make a tiny effort to stop it from being passed.
What happens if tomorrow our children understand that Socialism isn’t the most fitting system for our country? They won’t be able to change the direction of government because the word “irrevocable” in the Constitution stands in their way, why? Because two or three demagogues could use and abuse this word, which only has one meaning?
Just like I believe that Socialism (in theory) is a superior system to Capitalism, I also believe that our country is suffering from dominating State capitalism and that we are miles away from having a government where social order and equality reign.
I also understand that along the path of social ideas, humanism and our fight against injustice, people can still come up with ideas and models of government better than those that have been established up until today. That’s why if there is a chance tomorrow to follow a fairer and more equal path, it would be good, wise, for Cubans to be able to steer towards it without the obstacle of a Constitution that thwarts any chance to do this. Let’s think about that. Oh, Thomas Moore!
It ends by saying: “All citizens have the right to fight, using all means, including armed struggle, when no other recourse is possible, against anyone attempting to overthrow the political, social, and economic order established by this Constitution.” It’s ironic that it mentions armed struggle when the population was disarmed in order to uphold this system of government we have today.
There was another disarmament in our History: when the US did everything they could to demobilize the Liberation Army, and those who handed in their arms only received a pittance of 75 pesos, which was a degrading experience for many. And, I repeat, this part of the article is also ambiguous, because now it is talking about the people’s “right” to defend, when it started off by saying it was people’s “duty”. What is it exactly?
I demand my “right” to defend the Homeland, but not the socialist Homeland. And as a Cuban, I want to be heard and respected, even when my ideas don’t agree with the alleged majority. Because the Republic that Marti attempted to found “for everyone’s wellbeing and for the wellbeing of all,” should have never become a Republic of “With me and whoever is with me.”
This is what I had on my mind and now I’ve said it, because I do dream of a better and more just Cuba.