Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Challenges Facing Cuba’s New Left

Challenges Facing Cuba's New Left
January 11, 2012
Erasmo Calzadilla

HAVANA TIMES, 11 ene — Cuban political scientist and columnist Haroldo
Dilla recently published an essay on the need for a new left to be born
in our country.

Nevertheless for me, as someone who considers themself a member of that
political wing, those words (at least most of them) didn't resonate. Nor
did they resonate with most of the "new leftists" I know.

Haroldo's commentary invites us try to specify what is (and what is not)
the "new left," who belongs to it and who doesn't – a task that I leave
for the wisest among us.

Instead, I'm going to discuss the "new leftist spirit" that has been
astir here in Cuba.

In recent decades there has been born not one or two isolated groups,
but an entire spirit, a new (or deeper) consciousness among earthlings,
and also among Cubans.

This new awareness includes a lot of environmentalism, queerness, cool
solidarity (also with other species), pantheistic religion that
ubiquitously assumes a divinity threatened by the consumerist and
alienating praxis of the current regimes, and of politics in the sense
of activism from below against the established powers.

I would suggest, though not everyone will agree, that this is a left motion.

Like with the "indignados" at Puerta del Sol (Madrid) and elsewhere,
this new left is far removed from centralism, authoritarianism,
chauvinism, the traditional symbols of the left as well as
representative democracy. It distances itself from the spectacle of the
struggle between parties, elections, private ownership and other aspects
in common with the "Western" paradigm.
I don't deny that some people in this new wave (I'd say that only a
minority feel fairly strongly about this) still believe that this regime
is not beyond hope and that the "historic leaders" can lead the change.

Another minority (one that is given much attention and fanfare) consists
of those who only focus on the issues of civil and human rights, and who
believe that social democracy is a way out. (This is a minority within
this "new leftist spirit" to which I'm referring, though perhaps not
among the general population).

But back to Dilla. Later in his commentary he states: "But at the same
time, I think that this emerging left is facing several critical issues
that it must resolve if it wants to actually be a political alternative
in Cuban society."

A "political alternative in Cuban society"? What a joke! For the time
being, I don't think such a thing can be hoped for, and for several reasons.

Building from the ashes

In the first place this is because the movement is still very immature
and (in my opinion) too few in number. Castro Stalinism fell like an
atomic bomb on the left tradition, hurling people — by their natural
rejection — into the arms of capitalism and liberalism.

The left now has to reconstitute itself from the ashes and it must do it
at the rhythm of those who are little by little building a new paradigm.

Secondly this is because participating in the political struggle in the
traditional style would mean renouncing the essence of the movement. It
would involve, for example, the role of an "enlightened vanguard" and
everything derived from that: top-down "verticalism," internal police
organization, the frequent purging of heretics, demagoguery,
representativeness as a mode of relations between professionals and the
rest of the movement, and so on.

However, what's clear is that the new left should propose (explicitly or
by example) the alternative of "achievable good living" (i.e. not
committing the idealist's sin).

There is much talk of cooperatives but — be careful! — when some new
leftists suggest this as a way of organizing work (versus private
enterprise and wage labor), aren't they invoking another form of
totalitarianism where everything would have to be turned into
cooperatives, and where everyone would have to be connected to work in
that manner?

In any case, I'm not denying that this movement has before it plenty of
dilemmas constituting veritable mountains in its path. It wouldn't be
bad to hear "And you, on your tiptoes!"(*), but maturity can't be rushed.

As for the question of time running out, I think the left can take it
easy regarding this point: there will always be plenty of work for it.
* In Mambi mythology, when one of the Maceos died in combat with the
Spanish, the mother, Mariana Grajales, said to another of her sons who
was still a minor "And you, stand on your tiptoes so that you can head
for the jungle to fight." Maybe that wasn't the exact expression – but
who really knows?

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