Yasser Farres Delgado
HAVANA TIMES — A little over six years ago – six months after I left Cuba and had unlimited access to the Internet, incidentally – I read an article by Portuguese sociologist Boaventura de Sousa Santos that I would never have come across in an official Cuban publication. Titled Why Has Cuba Become a Difficult Problem for the Left, the text was published in both Spanish and English-language journals. To develop his thesis, Sousa Santos first defined what he understood by “the left” and by “difficult problem”:
“By “the left” I mean a set of transformative theories and practices that, in the course of the past 150 years, has resisted the expansion of capitalism and the economic, social, political, and cultural relations it has generated. The basis for this resistance has been a belief in the possibility of a postcapitalist future and an alternative society, generally called “socialism”: a fairer society, intent on satisfying people’s real needs, and a freer society, focused on creating the conditions for the effective exercise of freedom. I submit that, for the left just described, whose theory and practice has evolved immensely in the past 50 years, Cuba has become a difficult problem. (From the point of view of the left that has eliminated socialism or postcapitalism from its framework, of course, Cuba is not a problem but a hopeless case. I am not concerned here with this version of the left.)
“By “difficult problem” I mean the problem that poses itself as an alternative to two polar positions: that Cuba is a solution without problems and that Cuba is a problem without solutions. To declare Cuba a difficult problem for the left involves accepting three ideas: (1) under the current internal conditions, Cuba is no longer a viable solution for the left; (2) the problems Cuba faces, while not insurmountable, are very difficult to solve; and (3) if these problems are solved within a socialist framework, Cuba may once again become an agent for the renovation of the left. In this case, Cuba will be a different Cuba, bringing about a different kind of socialism from the one that failed in the twentieth century and thereby contributing to the urgent renovation of the left. Without such renovation, the left will never make it through the twenty-first century.” (Latin American Perspectives, May 2009, vol. 36 no. 3 43-53)
What we have witnessed fifty-six years after the revolution is that, in effect, Cuba has definitively ceased to be a viable solution for the left (so much so, in fact, that all measures aimed to “update” Cuba’s economic model have a markedly neoliberal slant and continue to support State monopoly). Far from overcoming problems, Cuba faces increasingly complicated ones, and the country seems to steer further and further away from any renewal in terms of social policy: the environment is being damaged with greater and greater haste, any talk of existing racism is met with government censorship (recall the case of Roberto Zurbano) and pretty much the same holds for any demands for greater gender and sexual diversity and egalitarian marriage laws.
What we’ve seen is that “the left” continues to stand at the threshold of the 21st century, supporting governments mired in the kind of favoritist and authoritarian “socialism” that characterized the 20th century, in the style of the Cuban regime. Venezuela’s increasingly illegitimate and corrupt government is a case in point.
In view of this state of affairs, I ask myself: why has the left become a difficult problem for Cuba? When I say “left,” I am of course referring to the same “left” Boaventura speaks of, that collective that continues to support the “slow but sure” reform process impelled by Cuba’s current president (there are some exceptional individuals within this collective, but they constitute a small minority).
This left makes no respectable declarations about Cuba’s political prisoners. On the contrary, it reproduces the discourse of the dictatorship, which criminalizes these individuals, calling them “common criminals,” “mercenaries” and the like. Political prisoners are invisible for this left.
This left makes no respectable pronouncements about Cuba’s growing corruption. For instance, a few weeks ago, I posted news about Antonio Castro’s luxury yacht vacation in Turkey on a Facebook group page, and several people questioned my source (I had posted a news article published by the Miami Herald). Someone even suggested it wasn’t Fidel’s son but Tony Castro, a renowned yacht designer.
Neither should we expect to hear any respectable pronouncements about Cuba’s migratory crisis, not from this left. The broadcaster TeleSur, for instance, offered a brief coverage about the more than 1,500 Cubans trapped between Costa Rica and Nicaragua, but it makes no mention of the Cuban government’s responsibility. Of course, the channel defends Nicaragua’s posture.
What more does this left need to acknowledge the gravity of Cuba’s situation? Do more people need to die in prison? Do they need for someone to set themselves on fire at Revolution Square? (An action which, in my opinion, would likely not unleash a “Cuban Spring,” given the dictatorship’s total control over the media).
This left needs to set aside the hypocrisy of speaking about “international solidarity” when Cuba isn’t involved and “non-intervention” when it is involved! This left has to stop being a difficult problem for Cuba, in its efforts to change into a truly just society!