Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Two Outdated Terms

Two Outdated Terms / Fernando Damaso #Cuba
Fernando Damaso, Translator: Unstated

While I was having a conversation with the poet Rafael Alcides on "the
human and the divine," something we do regularly, he reminded me that
the terms right and left, as applied to different political positions,
appeared in Cuba at the beginning of the 1920s as a reaction to the
Russian revolution of 1917. Never before in our history had they been
used, having been preceded by annexationism, reformism, autonomism,
independentism and, after the establishment of the Republic in 1902, by
liberalism and conservatism. At the end of that period, the 1920s, they
carried a certain weight, and their use reached a climax with the fall
of the regime of Gerardo Machado in 1933 and in subsequent years with
the legalization of the Communist Party, rechristened the Socialist
People's Party to make it more palatable to the masses.

These terms were only used, however, by communists in their propaganda,
referring to themselves as being of "the left" and generalizing all
their opponents as being of "the right." In reality it was a minority
party, one whose orthodox true believers led the way in the national
political arena. The change came about in 1959, "the year of the
accident," when the state was proclaimed to be "leftist" and imposed its
political, ideological and economic concepts on all of society.
Subsequently, it tried to portray the left as the sum of all that was
progressive, new, humane and good, and the right as the sum of all that
was archaic, obsolete, brutal and bad. But life, that supreme judge,
showed that neither left nor right were what they proclaimed themselves
to be. The former showed itself to be a fraud, becoming fossilized, and
the latter, reinventing itself over time, consolidated.

To speak of left and right in today's globalized world is very
anachronistic, a topic suitable for dilettantes, now that both have been
bypassed by history. The terms have become so intermingled that any
differences are discernible only in their extreme forms. Those who
support democracy, development, and solutions to political, economic,
social and environmental problems are "progressive," while those who
cling to totalitarianism, lack of freedom, backwardness and stagnation
are "retrograde." Trying to maintain this dichotomy of left and right at
all costs, taking advantage of their historic meanings and even trying
to inject new life into them, is a task doomed to failure.

December 16 2012

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