Contributions to the Battle of Ideas

Photo: Katerina Bampaletaki

In recent months, when the economic crisis and the crisis in values dramatically coincide in their most profound moment, people — coalescing around an idea that is not a political movement, nor one of parties or opposition political organizations — are preparing documents with alternative or complementary options to ease the crisis, without discarding the economic guidelines developed by the Party, clearly insufficient to solve our serious problems.

Thus, we have the Heredia Project, coming from the same platform as the Varela Project, with the Civic Manifesto to Cuban Communists, and with A Future for Cuba, to cite only two that I have read. Cubans knew of the Varela Project from James Carter’s backing it in the University of Havana auditorium, and we also recall the shoddy way they squashed that initiative. The signers of “The Country Belongs to Everyone” paid for their boldness with years in prison.

These new documents contain valuable insights. But they do not have official blessing, and therefore are already demonized with the apocryphal charge that their paternity is the CIA  and Imperialism. There is no internal possibility of amplifying any independent initiative.

Unthinkable a few years ago, the virtual space has become the platform for freedom of expression in Cuba. The government reluctantly tolerated this space that has given the world a national vision far removed from the pages of Granma, because the internal impact is minimal; it rests on our family and friends overseas to be the correspondents who share all these ideas with their relatives and friends in Cuba who don’t have Internet; often they have only seen a computer from a distance.

The proposals are in our hands (the people, who are sovereign! which they must be to any government that wants to be considered democratic). I ponder whether or not to speak at community meetings like the neighborhood assemblies and the People’s Power.

Almost everyone who has lost the fear of expressing their dissent has, paradoxically, distanced themselves from these gatherings, marked by the lack of spontaneity and the timidity with which a few people dare to mention a complaint. Those who participate and leave with a booklet already have their own ready-made answers at the neighborhood level full of phrases and slogans.

It would be worthwhile to stop using the bus or waiting in line as a chance for anonymous catharsis, and to reformulate “the street belongs to Fidel” to “the street belongs to the people.” Surely we could approach a true Battle of Ideas, always preferable to a real — and fratricidal — battle.

I would love to hear many opinions.

January 20 2011

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