One of the warnings that party ideologues resort to over and over again, is that the most desired goal, both for internal opponents as well as those in exile, is a return to the past and, they emphasize, to a shameful past.
Clearly the license provided political discourse allows the use of certain metaphors, for example the use of the adjective ‘eternal’ (which had no beginning and will have no end) to specific historical situations, such as the Communist party, the Committees for the Defense of the Revolutions, or to describe the legacy that somebody imposes on us. But the metaphor has its limits within the language. For that reason it is not acceptable to put a warrior in a cage with raw meat and metaphorically tell us that he is a lion, just as it is inadmissible to jail, suppress or defame a political opponent because he is accused of plotting to return to the past.
There are things from the past that return, such as songs, haircuts, the length and width of clothes, but an entire nation, an island inhabited by 11 million human beings, cannot go back in time. We can’t say let’s go back fifty or a hundred years, not even a fraction of a second.
In Cuba, when one speaks of “the past” one is referring in particular to the few years of Fulgencio Batista’s dictatorship. If the tyrant hadn’t died long ago, if in reality he had stayed hidden somewhere, if he had the resources to return and reassume his dictatorship, it would be very difficult to overthrow him again. For starters, because no one would be able to rent the Siboney farm as a gathering place for the assailants of the Moncada barracks, nor could they buy rifles from the gunsmiths of Havana, nor would it be possible to stay in hotels in Santiago, or to book passage for so many men on the same date. And even if all that could be accomplished, I very much doubt that the participants in the attack would be sentenced to 15, 13 and 10 years, reduced to the 22 months that those young men actually served in prison. Not to mention organizing an uprising in those mountains, today crossed with roads and with the accumulated experience in fighting counterinsurgencies. It’s absurd to think about it.
What is behind the metaphor of “return to the past” is simply to introduce in Cuba the system that functions on the rest of the planet, even in nations such as China or Vietnam that have reformed their modes of production, or in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador where they wave the banners of socialism. (Will it not be those who want to return to the past?)
In the 1980s, a slogan filled the streets of the cities: “The future belongs entirely to socialism.” Today we know that the future belongs to no one, other than our children and grandchildren. Between fear of the future and panic about the past, the Cuban leadership class clings to a present that it tries to prolong, but the sun, indifferent to the political will of men, rises every day from the horizontal to dry, on our balconies, the diapers worn by those who will be the men and women of modern times. They will live in a completely different country. Nobody has the power to prevent it.