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This Wednesday we will once again see the traditional May Day parade. In a difference from other countries, where the working class takes advantage of these events to make its demands, our workers will march with photos of Hugo Chavez (to whom, at the last moment, this day is dedicated) and will carry a variety of previously approved slogans. The major placards of the day will hold the slogan: “For a prosperous and sustainable Socialism.”
Although it seems incredible, not a single person will carry a sign asking for higher wages (even though the whole world knows and proclaims it that no one has enough to live on), no one will demand the liquidation of the system of dual currency, or a reduction in prices, or the building of affordable housing, or improvements in transportation. Much less will we be able to read something relative to the freedom to unionize or any protest over the elimination of jobs.
The official response to the absence of these demands is that this is a government of the workers and peasants and there is no reason for them to march in protest against themselves. They know that they will have to wait until there are the objective conditions to improve the situation. They have been persuaded that if progress is not faster it is because the country can’t manage to produce more and better and this, it’s obvious, is their own responsibility, so how can they come out in protest?
Those watching the parade from the grandstand have been very busy lately satisfying the conquests of the middle class. The purchase of cars and houses, expanding the cellphone network, freedom to travel the world, marketing of modern home appliances, permission to open a little business and to hire workers, acceptance of the law of supply and demand in the marketplace. Someone from that other sector of the self-employed will happily wave their prosperous flags and, at best, they might even be allowed, in the midst of the parade, to sell something to the workers who are those who ensure their sustainability.
I think it was Lenin who said once that reality is stubborn and obstinate.
29 April 2013
Two new words have been incorporated into the Newspeak of Cuban political officials and leaders: prosperous and sustainable. These “recent” adjectives are greatly used to describe the society they are trying to achieve or the socialism that is supposedly under construction.
Both terms were rolled out in General President Raul Castro’s inauguration speech for his second term, and soon were already appearing on the banners hung behind the presidential table at official events, on TV ads, and very quickly on billboards. In fact part they make up a part of the key slogan of the coming May Day.
In recent decades prosperity has always been seen as a petty bourgeois aspiration, and sustainability as a concept rejected for being opposed to the voluntarism* prevailing in the long years of the mandate of the comandante en jefe, years when the Maximum Leader tried to implement his crazy ideas “at any price.”
It is difficult not to associate prosperity with visible (if not obvious) improvements in the material life of individuals: A comfortable home, appliances, a private vehicle, a balanced diet, clothing that satisfies individual taste, resort vacations and other details that healthy human ambition can add to an endless list.
The best way to understand what the new bosses interpreted as sustainable is to list what has been dismantled as unsustainable: the schools in the countryside, unearned handouts, free workplace cafeterias, inflated payrolls to mask unemployment, decentralization of university education, “social workers”**, the Battle of Ideas as an omnipresent super-ministry investment, and other more abstract things such as the waste of resources and galloping corruption.
As I enjoy playing with words I think that, as a comprehensible goal, a “sustainable prosperity” — the Chinese say “a moderate prosperity” — is better than “prosperous sustainability.” The first step would be to decriminalize prosperity, eliminate forever the persecution against anyone who manages to legitimately improve their life, and for this it would be worth the redundancy to legalize many things, among them the ownership of the means of production and the exploitation of the labor of others, understanding “exploitation” as an economic term, not as cruelty. Where does all this lead. . .?
There are none so blind as those who will not see.
*”Voluntarism” in this context relates to the concept as it was defined by Mao:any social or economic barrier can be overcome by sheer willpower and “voluntary” action.
** “Social work” in this context means an army of young people put to work on government projects.
22 April 2013
After a long time without entering my blog (particularly because of technical difficulties with the DesdeCuba portal) I am here only to tell you that I am alive.
My absence has awakened suspicions that it was Yoani who was writing my texts and not the reverse, as was believed on the birth of Generation Y. Others have said that I’m so busy with domestic matters that I don’t have time for anything. Sneering and more sneering. Don’t worry, I can take it
In these days of technological silence, many things are happening, perhaps the most important being the elections in Venezuela. I would have loved to have had my say here, especially to be mistaken in my hopes, but I say it now: I wish Capriles had won.
April 13th also passed by, a date for which there was a kind of prophecy. As is obvious, nothing happened.
My friend the Cuban photographer Ivan Cañas Boix turned 67, and I couldn’t properly congratulate him, with more hope than nostalgia.
And Yoani’s journey is underway, a topic I resist talking about, out of basic modesty.
Well, friends, the thing is, I’m back. I’ll return on Monday.
19 April 2013