An important article on current events in Cuba: "We will have to go back to the future"

Merri Ansara

I link also to the original version in Spanish. 
We will have to go back to the future

Abelardo Mena

La Tizza, July 15, 2021 

Translated by Merriam Ansara.

The bells are ringing again for the "end" of socialism in Cuba. Some mouths shouting from the balconies of the empire -- here and there across the sea that separates this island from the rest of the world -- and shouting also from the sewers are salivating for sure. Those who continue to read Cuba as if the Caribbean were the Baltic Sea jubilantly share with their networks images of Berlin or Prague, in those days of collapse. They do not know that the Cuban Revolution cannot be "unmeringued", because it has never been made of meringue. Not because it has not been sweet, but because it has also had its bitter pills, which so far we have been able to turn into strengths.

Those who came out to protest against the State and socialism in Cuba were the People. We can even state that many belong to that portion of the people who have suffered the most from the effects of the crisis that the pandemic, the blockade, the new U.S. sanctions and the desperate and insufficient management of what we can get, in the midst of so many shortages and accumulated problems, have provoked. They are also that part of the people who have been most disadvantaged by the inevitable increase in social inequality with which the advance of market reforms has lacerated and segmented our society. We dare to assure, even, that these multiple inequalities, sometimes invisible, but always felt and so detrimental to social justice, have produced a disconnect. A disconnect  between those who shouted "Homeland and Life" in the streets and the revolutionary project. And that disconnect, which always leaves as a result a certain feeling of abandonment, of political and economic orphanhood, sooner or later has turned into rancor and even hatred.

If we ignore this complexity, if we simply think of them as "delinquents" or "marginalized", if we resist understanding the processes of marginalization and if we do not recognize the debts owed to the most humble within our society, we will never understand what happened that Sunday.

This most marginalized sector of the people -- at least in Havana -- was activated by the political agenda of the counterrevolution. The counterrevolution knew how to catalyze their discomfort and project their desire as capitalist desire. It is not surprising that those protesting "hunger" looted from the stores not only food but sumptuous household appliances, to satisfy long-deferred anxieties over consumption, to build the life they have learned to imagine and desire without any effective counterweight of a distinct emancipated culture.

There was spontaneity and there was a cascade and contagion effect in the events of July 11 but to think that this appeared "pure" is something that only those for whom truth does not matter will see.

There was spontaneity, but there was also a political and intelligence operation, executed by actors who perfectly understand the agenda at stake.

Does the sudden concern of several influencers regarding Cuba seem casual to anyone? And the request of the mayor of Miami? The articulate campaign in the networks? The simultaneity of the actions? However, to speak of a "soft" coup and unconventional warfare as the only causes of this reactionary revolt is a mistake. A perspective limited to this would place the Revolution bloc in an (in)comfortable fatalism: it turns these tragedies into inevitable destinies. Moreover, it may lead one to believe that we are only in the presence of a State security problem.

If what has happened were only a problem of the State -- with capital letters -- those who believe -- or want others to believe -- that on July 11 there was a confrontation between the people and the State would be right.

Nothing could be more false.

On Sunday there was no confrontation between the people and the State as entelechies -- although more than a few theorists spend ink trying to prove it. On Sunday there was a confrontation between two parts of the people, between two projects: one part that has succumbed, that has surrendered, to the agenda of those who have always intended precisely a surrender out of hunger and need, those who are willing to give up sovereignty and socialism because they understand, or perceive, not only that they no longer have anything to lose but that they have nothing left to gain; and on the other hand, the part of the people who are not willing to renounce neither the revolutionary project they have built for generations nor the legality of the socialist Constitution for which they voted democratically, nor the emancipated society they imagine in their future beyond the current State, heir of the revolution, and its shortcomings. Those who believe that only the military, the leaders and the holders of MLC have reasons to defend socialism are very mistaken. Millions of people in Cuba today are not willing to lose a society of peace, a project of social justice, and a national dignity that has only given to this people, to all, a Revolution that does not exhaust itself in what has been conquered, but must open new paths.

Some ideologues of the liberal restoration propose the urgent formation of platforms for dialogue between the forces of the counterrevolution and the revolutionary bloc -- which they only understand as the State.

Perhaps they think of this as an opportunity to get a slice of the cake in the context of an open dispute in the public arena. How obvious  it is that their balconies are far away from the streets! In the real streets, the protesters showed their total unwillingness to dialogue. There it became evident that their program, which is exclusively the destruction of socialism, is irreconcilable with the deepening of all social justice and that intoxicated by the euphoria of dissolution and destruction, they were incapable of seeing the shadows of a looming intervention or their probable misery in a Cuba totally devastated by capitalism. Those protesters, in the end, were agents of a program that was not theirs.

In the 2000s, in the face of the disconnect and marginalization produced by the hardest years of the crisis of the 1990s, Fidel launched the Battle of Ideas. In this process, later disdained by some who speak only of its failures and completely lose its meaning, thousands of young people who lived in marginalized environments, like those whose faces populate the photos of this day 11, managed to study or be reintegrated into the labor force.

It was then that the university truly reached everywhere and was not reserved for the select group of those who pass exams and receive a "permit to study." Art instructors, social workers and teachers set out to recover and rebuild a different, general culture for all:  tasks with which Fidel raised the self-esteem of young people, especially the most disadvantaged and managed to reconnect them with the revolutionary project.

Fidel then regenerated part of the social fabric of this Revolution that has sought to be of the humble, by the humble and for the humble. Without the Battle of Ideas, perhaps what we experienced on Sunday would have happened a decade earlier. In hours like these, many revolutionaries have thought of Fidel, and not only because of that already anthological episode of August 1994, although also because of that one. We have thought of Fidel because no one like him knew how to turn setbacks, multiple defeats, into new paths, into victories. If we Cuban revolutionaries, if we Cuban communists want to win, we cannot leave our gaze fixed on what has been, or travel the old paths.

If we want to win, we will have to return to Fidel; that is to say, to return to the future.


Abelardo Mena