The Golden Mean

Polito Greene

Transparencies.  Photo: Caridad
Transparencies. Photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES, Dec. 21 – Silver-grey? Pearl-grey? Gunmetal grey? What’s the precise color of the line delimiting free speech?

While the difficulty of defining the exact shade of grey exists in all countries, of course, it is especially problematic within context of the US-Cuban conflict.

Here it is directly related to the island’s national security, sovereignty and subversion by proxy. The actions of a “pro-democracy” operative smuggling and distributing communications equipment on the island is the most recent reminder of this all-too-real threat.

In the face of the extreme opposition posed against Cuba by the US, the position of the island’s State has been equally extreme.  Its reaction has been to simplify its palette, eliminating all shades of gray. Speech exists only in black and white terms, as one can only be “within” the revolution or “outside” of it.

In the belief that criticism offers “comfort to the enemy,” any critical voice (even a constructive one) is painted as “counter-revolutionary” and treated accordingly.

It’s that simple, and -if your aim is to effectively stem opposition- it works…for a generation or two.

Of course there are the obvious and painful tradeoffs.  Devoid of transparency and accountability, the State hardens, it ossifies, it institutionalizes into a narrow top-down system of winners and losers – with the winners firmly holding incontestable power.

Ironically, the State becomes the mirror image of the elitist enemy it seeks to resist, gradually becoming more distinct from the original aim of the red “workers state.”

With no means of signaling threat, the country can careen off its path and experience the reversal of socialism due to its own mistakes. This has happened before with the Soviet experience.

Indeed “All great events reappear in one fashion or another,” Marx reminded us; however, “the first time as tragedy, the second as farce,” he concluded.

A journalistic movement is underway within Cuba that views the criticism of socialism as constructive and necessary for the advance of that system, especially since people can no longer ignore the blue elephants in the room (over-centralization, economic breakdown, the bureaucracy, machismo, racism, homophobia or the need for socialist democracy). These have been ignored for too many decades.

Notwithstanding all of this, I was surprised and disheartened by Erasmo Calzadilla’s recent article (“Better Arguments Against Yoani”) in Havana Times. In it he criticizes the Cuban press for opposing a self-proclaimed advocate of the development in Cuba of a kinder, gentler, “unique form of capitalism”: blogger Yoani Sanchez.

My uncertainty is whether Erasmo’s article plays more into the hands of the “dissident” movement (whose palette is exclusively of green hues), or whether his “critical” defense of pro-capitalist elements will only vindicate the need for the State’s old guard to clamp further down on emerging voices of positive change.

There are too many issues in Cuba than deserve intensive, probing, critical assessment and debate to move the country forward toward socialism; Yoani Sanchez Inc.’s explicit championing of a push to move Cuba back to capitalism is not one of these.

Erasmo’s liberal almost “anything goes” position defends that which extends well beyond criticism that is constructive for the development of socialism (just as the State’s “nothing goes” posture is equally damaging). Neither arrives at Aristotle’s golden mean, which is the art of politics.

One thought on “The Golden Mean

  • Agreed, that the state’s approach to dealing with “Yoani Inc.” has been, like trying to destroy a flea with a sledge-hammer, counterproductive. Of course giving Yoani and her friends free reign could lead to uncontrolled consequence; if there is really a danger of this, and the only way of preventing the (malevolent) opposition from unleashing chaos is through physical repression, then does’nt this say something about the failures of the Revolution, too? Here in the U.S. the state has become far more sophisticated in repressing and marginalizing meaningful opposition through the control of the mass media by giant corporations. Of course, if this doesn’t do the trick, the state has no qualms about physical repression here, too. As you implied, by taking the oversimplified, “black and white,” approach to opposition, the Revolutionary Goverment runs the danger of destroying beneficial and symbiotic opposition, as well as the opposition which seeks to destroy the…

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