Rules to Prevent Debate / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya
14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 18 May 2016 — A small protest convoy
and a demand by a group of bicycle taxi (pedicab) operators at the Plaza
of the Revolution; indignation and astonishment among producers and
traders about the arbitrary and unannounced closing of the wholesale
market for agricultural products in the capital; irritation of several
citizens who verbally attacked the policemen who were trying to maltreat
a blind and helpless beggar, who was at the Carlos III marketplace; a
sit down strike led by workers at a cigar factory in the city of Holguín
over wages… These are some of the events that demonstrate both the state
of dissatisfaction and frustration that are taking shape in Cuba’s
population, the emergence of a sense of questioning the system and the
incipient rebellion against the power and the authorities that represent it.
It is without a doubt, good news. The bad news is that social balance
becomes dangerously fragile in a society where rights and prosperity
have been banned, where institutions respond fully to the interests of
the parasite power, where any opposition to the government is illegal
and where public debate and dialogue between the power and “governed”
As the social tension grows and the government increases the obstacles,
uncertainty becomes greater as to ways a conflict could be unleash that
would elude institutional control.
It seems that the above facts are insignificant and isolated amid the
general acquiescence of Cubans with respect to their government.
However, such events were unthinkable just five years ago, and even less
so during the period prior to July 30, 2006, when the “Proclamation” was
made public, which declared Fidel Castro’s supposed temporary withdrawal
from the presidential chaise lounge, which he had intended to be his for
life. The proclamation gave some hope to the people about improvements
in their living conditions.
If the power caste did not suffer from the colossal blindness of its
proverbial arrogance, it would have enough lucidity to interpret the
current signs, especially when the still timely efforts of the people’s
protests are taking place just weeks after the conclusion of the last
Congress of the Cuban Communist Party, where presumably national
economic and socio-political strategies were drawn for at least until
2030. A moderately insightful Government would at least have the
perception that the social acceptance of its eternal monologue had ended
and that the urgencies of the national reality far outweigh the
temporary and strategic limits set by the Party Guidelines.
Like it or not, the lords of power must understand that the Cuban crisis
demands changes dictated from social slogans, not from the Palace of the
Revolution, and that such changes must occur willingly–that is, starting
from a real national debate from which a transitional covenant might
emerge–or by force, when an undesirable social explosion could take
place due to the unstoppable deterioration of the population’s living
conditions, with unpredictable consequences.
It turns out that autocracies are not designed for public scrutiny. Far
from establishing a national dialogue which would, in principle, act as
an escape valve for frustrations, the last page of the Party newspaper
Granma on Tuesday May 17th, 2016 contained an article which is the
absolute denial of this possibility. The article is titled Rules for
Debate or Matter of Principles, signed by a (let’s use the term they
prefer) “revolutionary intellectual” by the name of Rafael Cruz Ramos,
which establishes two simple “rules” for an imaginary debate which, by
the way, the reader never catches a glimpse of.
Summarizing a substantial verbal extraction that fills an entire page
with what might have been said in a few paragraphs, Mr. Cruz tries
unsuccessfully to enunciate a first rule, designed not to establish the
basis or topics for that nonexistent debate-monologue of his, but what
will not be included in it, under any circumstances.
We should not ever debate with “those who come to us carrying a
political fragmentation grenade ready to have it explode in the heart of
the country, of the Republic, of the motherland, in order to destroy the
socialist system under construction and restore the archaic and worn-out
capitalist system” Cruz Ramos assures us, though no one knows what
authority or supranational power this unknown subject has that he can
issue such categorical guidelines.
The second rule is also set from denial, and validating the same old
Castro-style singsongs: “We will not deal with anyone who is funded,
backed, or supported by the terrorist anti-Cuban money from Miami or any
other nation, including those of old Europe”. Because in Cuba we already
know that all money is cursed unless it is blessed and managed by the
leaders of the Castro-cracy, who will later distribute some loose change
or other prizes among its most faithful servants. This may well be Mr.
Cruz Ramos’s case.
The article is extremely emotional and perhaps because of that it is
extremely vague. It is hard to figure out what he means by “we,” what
topics would be subject to debate, who would participate, who would
carry the dangerous “political fragmentation grenade” or what it
consists of. Instead, it can be assumed that there will be no debate
with anyone who is not on the side of the political power. Therefore,
from this point any possibility for debate is null.
Cruz Ramos could have saved his efforts. Because if we are talking about
a debate, it would be a discussion between two or more individuals,
groups, etc., on topics or issues of public interest, in which a
moderator and audience would also participate. It may be oral, written,
or take place in an internet forum, but in all cases certain rules and
recommendations must be observed that will allow for the development of
the discussions, and, in the best of cases, making agreements.
The standards and recommendations are universal and unavoidable for the
development of any discussion, and consist of observing principles as
basic as not imposing one’s personal views, making a point through
argument and counter-argument, listening carefully to others, without
interrupting or underestimating their criteria, being brief and concise,
respecting differences, speaking freely, expressing ourselves clearly,
using appropriate vocabulary, avoiding verbal or physical attacks as
well as mocking and other behaviors that might disqualify the
antagonist, among others.
But Cruz Ramos violates every one of these rules, ending exactly in the
opposite corner: he disqualifies a priori the potential antagonist, he
refuses to listen to arguments other than his own, he has no argument
but argues, criticizes in the abstract without offering concrete
proposals, he extends unnecessarily without managing to explain or make
himself clearly understood. Cruz Ramos does not propose a debate, but
total commitment of Cubans to the Government
On the other hand, his convoluted discourse mixes dissimilar topics and
out of context references, distorting facts, history, characters and his
and others’ realities. An apparent inconsistency which is, nevertheless,
perfectly consistent with the system he defends. So, to refute each and
every one of the passionate lines of Rules for Debate… would be as
extensive as it would be unproductive, especially when it becomes
obvious that this is his intention: to distract from the essence, which
is the failure of the Cuban sociopolitical system imposed on Cubans more
than half a century ago.
But, at least it is useful to note what is unable to be concealed of the
conjunction of two great fears of the Government cupula: the real
possibility that popular protests might become more generalized–which is
not or does not have the same political costs to strike dissident
demonstrations or repress poor people for whom, de jure, the Revolution
was created more than half a century ago–and the impossibility of
further delaying, without consequences, a broad and inclusive debate
over Cuba’s destinies.
It becomes clear that if the Castro regime does not feel capable of
withstanding the test of a national debate, then its weakness is as
great as its arrogance. But if, in addition, the best of its
think-tanks, in order to deal with that eventuality carry the same
argumentative-theoretical baggage as Rafael Cruz Ramos, the debate can
already be considered lost.
Translated by Norma Whiting
Source: Rules to Prevent Debate / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya – Translating
Cuba – translatingcuba.com/47708-2/