Right and Left, from a Cuban Perspective
JUAN ANTONIO BLANCO | Miami | 2 Mar 2016 – 9:43 am.
From Havana I get an email seeking to address the challenges facing the
country applying the binary axis of “Left” and “Right.” I imagine that
two factors lead to this interest. One is an incipient ebb in regional
populism. Another is the congress in April of the island’s only legal
party – the same one that imposes on Cuba these dubious semantics and
focus, exercising a monopoly over all State institutions.
But the language of the Jacobins and Girondins from the 18th century
does not allow us to understand what is happening in the 21st century,
in any geographical region.
The dilemmas facing humanity today cannot be solved applying the
outmoded concepts of Left and Right. Neither do the labels of socialism
or capitalism apply. As I stated in Tercer Milenio (Havana, 1993) what
we are experiencing today is a change of eras, not an era of changes.
This period is characterized by the rapid obsolescence of all that we
knew. As Moisés Naim recently reminded us, everything is now
extraordinary. From the fall of the USSR and the Eastern bloc, to Kodak
being sunk by Instagram, and taxis by Uber.
Discussing the future of Cuba – or of any country – based on the
conceptual coordinates of the last century is a futile and even
dangerous exercise. It is not possible to address and resolve these
current challenges if they are not designated lucidly.
Cuba today is simply a poor country, disconnected from global processes;
with a dreadful physical, communications and financial infrastructure;
two decades behind in the acquisition of reliable and fast internet
connections; public services (health, education, transport, water,
electricity, sewage), whose quality is plummeting; degraded land, and
the lowest wages in the hemisphere. It is also a closed society, where
there is no basic freedom to exercise the right to free expression,
association, movement, the forming of unions, or political choice, such
that citizens have no way to peacefully alter this sorry state of
affairs and achieve prosperity.
The policies that could resolve this mess are not socialist or
capitalist, but rather good or bad, efficient or inefficient. Those in
force today are terrible and counterproductive.
Revolution? The “Cuban Revolution” was already being quashed even as
forces were fighting Batista, when a group of totalitarians yearning for
a caudillo began to plot how to liquidate their comrades after their
victory. Talking about this in 2016 is a big scam. What exists in Cuba
is a totalitarian regime in the hands of a family, a clan.
Sovereignty? How can one uphold it in the 21st century to oppose
citizens’ civil rights when Cuban society as a whole is deprived of the
right to self-determination?
Nationalism? It is difficult to defend the government’s administration
based on this outdated concept, nurtured in the late 18th century, when
Havana prefers to negotiate with foreign powers and refuses to even
dialogue with its own citizens.
I do not share the idea that the “bureaucracy” is the Big Culprit. Power
in Cuba is held by two families with the same surname: Castro. Around
them is a select military cadre. Together they constitute a permanent
elite wielding power. Below them is a bureaucracy that serves only to
“manage” their interests, not to make key decisions that benefit the
Lage, Robaina —and Díaz Canel today— were never members of the governing
elite. They are simply CEOs, always expendable. Cuba’s real owners
exercise their privileges as if the island were a private company
registered under the trade name “Cuban Revolution.” They attach to this
corporate appellation a series of qualifiers —”progressive,” “leftist,”
“anti-capitalist” and others— which only serve to distract from reality.
I laugh when I think about Bernie Sanders and Podemos speaking,
terrified, of a casta that represents 0.1% of the population but owns
more than half of the economy. In this regard, as in others related to
human rights, they suffer from a severe moral hemiplegia by selecting
the victims they prefer to “defend.” When the offender is in their
political camp, they choose to look the other way. In Cuba some 100
people rule the roost, lording it over the rest of the island. What
percentage do they represent in relation to the 11.5 million citizens on
the island, and the other two million off it?
Invoking the abstraction “state ownership of the means of production,”
the “shareholders” of this dubious corporation, and the family presiding
over it, claim permanent and unlimited exploitation rights over Cuba,
not even needing to be the formal owners of work or recreational
facilities, or real estate. They also have unlimited powers to do
whatever they please vis-a-vis all other Cubans. The demand for freedom
and human rights is the only solution that goes to the heart of the problem.
Modernity died in the ovens of Auschwitz. Absolute respect for the
sovereignty of Germany allowed Hitler’s government, first, to deprive
citizens of their freedoms and rights, and, then, under the shadow of a
closed society, to undertake a forbidden process of rearmament. The
Soviets and the Cuban government were able to secretly install nuclear
missiles on the island because there existed no basic freedoms to
denounce that operation in time. The Khmer Rouge initiated a national
genocide —which rendered any dissent impossible, even within the party—
and then turned on its former ally and neighbor: Vietnam. Hanoi,
incidentally, did not hesitate to adopt a policy of “regime change” to
install, at gun-point, a government that would be friendly to it in
The human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of 1948 take as
their reference point those adopted by the French Revolution, but with a
substantial difference: thereafter it was established that such rights
were not just a national affair, but a good that was to be protected by
the international community. It is not a question of moralizing. Respect
for these rights is vital for international stability and security. The
signers of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the various
international agreements for the protection of citizens’ rights have
recognized that their sovereignty in this regard has limits.
Without freedoms and rights Cuban society will be neither socialist or
capitalist, left-wing nor right-wing, but rather remain a sort of
disastrously managed private Estate, employing slave labor. And a
country whose owners can again pose a serious danger to their neighbors.
This, I think, is what we need to talk about.
Source: Right and Left, from a Cuban Perspective | Diario de Cuba –