Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Notes for the Transition

Notes for the Transition / Antonio Rodiles, Alexis Jardines
Posted on July 29, 2013

HAVANA, Cuba, July 29, 2013: The political landscape of the island has
been energized recently. In the international arena the event with the
greatest impact is undoubtedly the death of Hugo Chavez and his
succession embodied in Nicolas Maduro, a man with few political tools
who, despite many odds, has managed, for now, to maintain a certain
equilibrium. However, given the difficult economic situation being
experienced by Cuba and the uncertain scenario facing the Chavistas in
Venezuela, Cuban totalitarianism is forced to avoid placing all its bets
on Venezuela.

For the elite in power, time, as a part of the political equation,
becomes the most important variable. The relaunch of their position in
the international arena has become one part of their priorities, and it
shows that a new moment in relations with Europe and the United States
is vital in the search for new economic and political partners who will
provide them stability and legitimacy.

In the interior of the island, the transformations in the economic
sector are not generating a new impression given the years of
accumulated statism, decapitalization and the precarious situation in
multiple sectors. A genuine process of reforms would involve much deeper
actions that would stir up a reality already admitted to be a social
disaster, as acknowledged even by Raul Castro in his latest speech. But
the fear of losing control has become an obsession and the principal

The ability of some regime opponents to travel represents, in this
sense, the boldest step taken by the elite in power, a clear commitment
to improve its image abroad and to rid itself of the stigma of lack of
freedom of movement. It is highly likely that this move was taken under
the assumption that some bitter pills would be no more than that, that
reality would remain stuck in its usual straitjacket, because we
opponents would not penetrate the media and, on our return to Cuba,
State Security's absolute control and lack of social expression would
keep everything in its place.

Given this scenario, we have to ask ourselves certain questions: Is
Cuban society in a position to push for greater freedom and
independence? Can the opposition capitalize politically on these trips?
And by capitalize we mean our capacity to articulate and project
ourselves inside and outside the island as pro-democratic forces with
civic or political weight in both venues; a projection that also allows
us to end the nefarious cat and mouse game with which State Security, as
the arm of the system, has kept us inefficiently occupied. It then
becomes imperative to mature as an opposition and as civil society, to
be able to widen the cracks in an exhausted system that holds onto
control and exercises State violence as elements of social containment.

The experience of multiple transitions shows the importance of
understanding the moment of change as a step in the process of national
reconstruction and to see it not as a discontinuous turning point. In an
extreme scenario like the one facing us, a successful transition will
necessarily involve the active participation of skilled human capital
with a strong social commitment and a clear vision of the nation that it
wants to build.

Without a social fabric that represents least a micro-cosmos, of the
mid- and macro-cosmos we visualize, it will be very difficult to build a
functioning democracy. Unsuccessful examples are plentiful and it is
irresponsible to omit them. The famous Arab Spring-become-Winter is the
most recent case, and shows that the establishment of a political system
requires a process of maturation and articulation of civil society. To
imagine the change and reconstruction of a broken, fragmented country,
not only in the physical sense but also in its social and individual
dynamics, is an essential exercise if we aspire to construct a democracy
that contains the ingredients of every modern nation

As the opposition we must break with paradigms that imply regression and
a copying of what has been experienced, in which glorious symbols, epics
and personalities play a significant role. An imagined future that
places too many hopes on an expansive "spark," and that often postpones
effective work with visions of the medium and long term.

It would also be healthy to readjust the idea that has dominated our
minds for more than half of a post-republican century: the desired unity
of the opposition as the only path to effective pressure to promote
change. We believe that the main role of the transition should fall on
civil society, while the opposition, as a political actor, must push
with discourse and coherent action so that civil society has the
necessary reach and penetration.

Hegel was right in saying that "everything that was once revolutionary
becomes conservative." The words lose their original sense and are
redefined to change the context that nurtured and sustained them, so
much so that the logic itself of revolutions backfires.

The truly revolutionary act is an abrupt gesture, a moment of rupture
that disrupts the established order. All revolutions, including
scientific, are designed to transform, to subvert, the bases of the
model or previous paradigm and, in this way, to bring it down.

Thus, what is new in our time is to understand the possible abruptness
as a moment in a process, which must be permeated with the ingredients
that shape modern societies: knowledge, information, thought, art,
technology. The revolution is a time of evolution, but not the inverse.

In the second decade of the present century we can not think of any
social processes without taking into account the transnational nature of
them. In our case it would be impossible to analyze a transition to
democracy and a process of reconstruction without involving the diaspora
and exile with its political actors. While they are not anchored in the
everyday life of the island they are living elements of the nation and
as such gravitate to her. About this, the ordinary Cuban is not wrong.
In the Cuban imagination part of the solution to our problems is in
Miami (as the diaspora is generically defined). The modern vision of
contemporary societies must come from and consist largely through
constant reinforcement between the island and its diaspora. The
opposition and exile should be precisely the hinge that makes such
articulation possible.

And this, in our view, is the other element that would end up framing
the Cuban scenario: how, looking forward, the opposition overlaps with a
transnational civil society so that the binary logic of the internal and
external, of the figures of the "Cuban insider" and "Cuban outsider,"
come to an end. For this to happen it is not enough to recognize, on the
level of discourse (as the regime does as well), that there are no
differences between us, that we are equal, etc. It is something more: we
are one and indivisible and this single Cuban has to have the right to
exercise the vote and to influence the political present and future of
his country, regardless of where on the planet he finds himself or
lives; this is, for the opposition and the exile itself, not only a
political problem, but a conceptual one.

As political actors we must show that we are an option for governance,
presenting the human capital at our disposal, the capacity we possess to
generate a political and legal framework capable of filling the possible
void that would be left by the one-party nomenklatura. To prove that we
could ensure security not only for the country but for the whole region,
and last, but no less important, the ability to overtake at the polls
the campaigns of the Castro supporters in any eventual free elections.

This would be, perhaps, the most desirable scenario in terms of
expansion of the transnational civil society and the corresponding
constraint of the totalitarian State. Let us, then, be careful not to
confuse succession with transition; let us learn to see ourselves as
ordinary Cubans and to demand our full civil, political, economic,
social and cultural rights as reflected in the two United Nations
Covenants. Let us admit that for the transition the human capital
dispersed through the State institutions is needed as badly as the
skills, knowledge and financial capital of those who have had to grow up
far from — but not out of — their country.

The problem of the Cuban nation today is the problem of the democratic
transition and reconstruction, a process that will be possible only if
it involves the largest number of Cubans, wherever they may live. We do
not say that the country belongs to everyone, which is a de jure
declaration; we say that all of us, together, make up the Cuban nation,
which is already a de facto declaration.

Antonio G. Rodiles and Alexis Jardines
Monday, 29 July 2013

Published in Cubanet and in Diario de Cuba

29 July 2013

Source: "Notes for the Transition / Antonio Rodiles, Alexis Jardines |
Translating Cuba" -

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