What Worries a Government Columnist about the Center?

By Haroldo Dilla Alfonso

Enrique Ubieta.

HAVANA TIMES — Granma, Cuba’s official Communist Party newspaper, has just reproduced an interview with Enrique Ubieta under the heading “Is it possible to meld the best Can of capitalism and socialism?” For those of you who don’t know him, Ubieta is the director of the Cuba Socialista Magazine and a regular columnist in official Cuban media.

In his favor, he has a great dedication to his work, but that has never managed to compensate for his chronic lack of talent.  And this is why he can appear as a prominent intellectual of the Cuban government, as well as for his impudence.

No real intellectual could be this, as the system imposes unacceptable dependency for a practice which relates to critical thinking, questioning the status quo and free consciousness. You can even splash about on the sidelines with disastrous intimate incursions (for example, when singer/songwriter Silvio Rodriguez supported the criminal repression of Cuba’s Black Spring in 2003, young people shot included) but the only way to be on the inside and get published in Granma is to renounce the basic rules of intellectual honesty.

Ubieta is sincere in the latter. Now, he is taking on capitalism, with all of the passion of the Crusade, which he paints as being black and white: “the best thing about capitalism doesn’t exist,” he says, “Capitalism is always savage.” I’m sure that if Ubieta had ever read Marx and had understood something from the Communist Manifesto, he would have come across some surprising opinions from the person who was an unwavering opponent to Capitalism.

If he wanted to understand the complexity of the world, he should have asked himself why it was that many advances in contemporary human values – individual rights, tolerance, multiculturalism, environmental sustainability – have been produced in liberal societies, all of which are capitalist. Or, to put it in more crude terms, why doesn’t Mariela Castro organize her anti-homophobic tours in China or in North Korea instead of in the United States, Mexico and Western Europe.

An honest pro-capitalist like Joseph Schumpeter used to say that capitalism is based on “creative destruction” and that being sustainable in the long-run effectively means wiping out humankind. I sincerely believe that this needs to be overcome, but I’m sure that this doesn’t figure in the few and close-minded ideas that Ubieta has in his head.

Poor Ubieta deals with capitalism in the same way he would deal with the giant of Latin American thought that was Jorge Manach, who he simply refers to as the founder of a little fascist party. Let there be no doubt: the historic overcoming of capitalism will also need to be put into effect against people like Ubieta.

But, in reality the article in Granma doesn’t deal with what the heading says. Ubieta’s employers aren’t interested much in talking about capitalism and socialism, especially when they are paving the way to restore capitalism in the country and to become the bourgeoisie themselves. The socialist model has lost value. Ubieta talks about something else: about what he calls “a political center”, a term which it seems his comrade-in-arms Iroel Sanchez coined in his attacks against the reformists who have joined together in the group that goes by the name of Cuba Posible, and pop up from time to time on Ultimos Jueves, a discussion forum held in Havana by the magazine Temas.

Only, he disguises this alleged “political center” with a social democrat ideological standing. In good old rhetoric, this is called a figure of speech, when everything is interchanged in discourse. However, as I’m certain that Ubieta doesn’t have the faintest idea about the rules of rhetoric, it’s best to refer to it with an old Central American saying: when you can’t win, mess things up.

Cuba Posible isn’t a space for Democratic Socialists, not does it have any other ideological definition. It’s merit lies in what it is: a meeting ground of a broad ideological platform where communitarian anarchists, democratic socialists, rennovated communists, nostalgic stalinists, feminists, conservative Catholics, neo and old Keynesians, enraged patriots/Marti followers who ironically live in the “belly of the beast” and don’t try to repatriate, and finally nonsensical beings who don’t say anything. Cuba Posible gives a voice to the ideological movements that exist today in Cuban society. Which also exist within the government’s own political spectrum strangely enough, especially in the economic field where neoliberalism’s hairy ear is always trying to listen in.

However, this doesn’t concern Ubieta’s employers. Ideological beliefs have never really worried them much. That’s why, for example, Fidel Castro reached an agreement with the Argentinian dictatorship (1976-1981), one of the most barbaric and tyrannical right-wing regimes in the history of the continent. He also heaped medals on a murderer like Alberto Fujimori in the 1990s.

In the ‘90s Fidel also had good relations with the Hanns Seidel Foundation, linked to the right-wing Bavarian Social Christians (who had supported Pinochet in the 1988 Chilean plebiscite). At the same time he forbid making contact with left-wing foundations and organizations. What Ubieta’s employers are really worried about – and obviously Ubieta – is the people’s loyalty to the regime.

In this respect, Cuba Posible and debaters on Temas are a cause for concern, as ultimately they lie in the border zone between loyalty and rupture. If we are to be fair, we have to recognize the fact that Cuba Posible does everything it can to establish its differences with the opposition – even with opposing bands who they share a program with, like for example, with the Democratic Unity Roundtable or with the Centro Convivencia – sometimes in extremely rude ways and other times in blatant public displays like what happened when they joined the repudiation rallies during the Panama Summit.

Going the other way, they do everything they can to establish their similarities with the Cuban government, proclaiming old-fashioned nationalism, for example. But, when the jug goes to the fountain so many times, it can break. That’s what Ubieta’s employers are betting on: they are warning Cuba Posible, the debaters on Temas, Periodismo de Barrio, La Joven Cuba and even the mutant Fernando Ravsberg about the dangers of a critical landslide, it doesn’t matter which direction this landslide takes place.

In any other system, a government would be happy with reformists of the Cuba Posible and Revista Temas kind. There are important intellectuals among them who are worth listening to and who want to be heard. They aren’t longing for extreme political change, just an aggiornamento (adaptation). And they do everything they can, even the impossible, to differentiate themselves from the opposition.

They aren’t shouting, just murmuring. Taking them in and opening up a space for them to express their ideas would be an advantage from many points of view, including the fact that it would give the system a political aesthetic that it needs.  However, the system doesn’t tolerate intellectuals.

That’s why they have employed Enrique Ubieta.


17 thoughts on “What Worries a Government Columnist about the Center?

  • Also remember Jon, that criticism of the Castro regime by Cubans within Cuba is a criminal offence. It is termed “disrespect”.

  • Well John, refer to the history of the Havana Times and why it had to become established outside Cuba. I obviously mistakenly, thought youb would have read ‘About Us’ …….. see above!

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