Friday, October 19, 2007

Ramy: Risks and Hopes

This was probably the first article written by Ramy in his series on the internal debate now underway in Cuba.

Cuba: Risks and hopes
From Havana

On the occasion of this new July 26
By Manuel Alberto Ramy

Progresso Weekly

To the press, as well as to many analysts, foreign theoreticians and Cubanologists (a profitable profession to some), practically nothing is happening now in Cuba. At most, there is a simple substitution process that, whether transitory or not, lacks any significance.

Many journalists who think that way write their articles mischievously, needling the Cuban authorities to elicit a response. But they run headlong into people who have spent half a century dealing with rogues twice their size.

What's happening on the island is something more than a transitory or permanent transfer of power, something more than a simple relay of the executive post, or a transition within the high circles of government. Of course, everything begins within those circles. Fidel Castro, the historic leader of the Cuban process, knows that perfectly well and therefore is beyond what's merely circumstantial and inevitable.

Both Fidel and Raúl know that this is an operation more delicate and transcendental than the raid on the Moncada barracks in 1953. They are preparing the transition of power to a new generation and, logically, they want to leave the house as orderly as possible to satisfy the traditional views of their own generation. But they also want to leave the windows open to the fresh breezes brought by the young people who were formed by the very process Fidel and Raúl led. And this unavoidable requirement constitutes both the first risk and the new hope.

Fidel Castro is not just taking pills and writing reflections. No one should be so naive as to think that. "I am now doing what I must do," he said (more or less) in one of his reflections. He has a strategic global vision that frames the necessary changes and their boundaries, some of which he outlined in a recent article on youth-related topics. Fidel also represents the balance and equilibrium of the different forces that move inside the system.

Raúl Castro is not a mere executor. Unquestionably, he participates in the strategic design and also works as an engineer at the construction site. The latter task is daunting, because he must launch and guide the new style of work, inasmuch as Fidel's heir is (as Fidel clearly defined it) the Party, and the Party has grown as new generations have been born.

There will be no "Fidel-style" leadership; there will be a team leadership. And that's already happening, as a lucid and intellectual Cuban priest, Msgr. Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, told our fine friend and journalist Lucía López Coll in a work published by IPS: a change in style already implies a change. To Marxists, the translation is easy: form and content constitute a dialectical unit.

If the reader is a good observer, he must have observed that every time that Raúl Castro (as interim president) met with foreign visitors last year, he did so in the company of all the government and party officials who were connected with the topic at hand. There were even meetings where a department chief was invited to participate.

The government functions as a team; the tasks are distributed; responsibilities are demanded; ministers are asked to manage and account for greater rationality in plans and goals. I ask the reader to note that the housing construction projections, which originally called for 100,000 new houses every year, are down to 70,000 this year -- and even that figure will be hard to achieve.

The hope

More than 70 percent of all Cuban people were born after the triumph of the Revolution in 1959 and a great many of them never lived through the best stage of the process, in the mid-1980s. They have only lived through the Special Period, with its penuries, difficulties and loss of values.

But this, and no other, is the human geography of Cuba, the majority and determining population, either as producers of goods and services or political leaders and state officials.

This is a generation of Cubans who have received an education with First World resources and characteristics. They handle sciences and state-of-the-art technologies; they are people with minds prepared for the complexity of today's realities, both domestic and international. They are open to dialogue and, most particularly, they are very rational.

The generation that will assume power in the foreseeable future is the generation that has developed -- despite enormous difficulties -- the leading sciences of the 21st Century: biotechnology and cybernetics. When dealing with people thus prepared, you can't give them simple answers to complex problems, challenge their rationality with dogmas or substitute apology for information and deep analysis.

I sense that the new house under construction, or the bridge being built for the generational transition by the founders of the Cuban process takes into account the factor of youth -- and that factor is key. Why do I say this? I read into the details.

The first element is the repeated call to young people -- made by both Raúl and Fidel -- to debate ideas and devote more time to the study of the international and national reality than to production work. That call is not just rhetorical; I invite you to re-read my article "Signs and signals" (From Havana; PW, June 21, 2007).

This insistence on youth comes because this new, emerging generation must not be directed with top-heavy commands -- not that it could be. Instead, we need to start with dialogue, reasoning and real participation. Any ukases would be as harmful to the transition as corruption is. Even more so, because it would annihilate the protagonists of the continuity in the process, which is not a carbon copy of the past but a novel re-creation where the new people are obliged to make their mark.

In the past two sessions of the National Assembly, the critical participation of the delegates and the search for answers to pressing problems and explanations for pending problems were constant, much more so than reported. That's another element that will be enriched as never before when the accounts are settled in the next elections.

To me, it is evident -- and this is another element -- that the Party and the government differ in their approaches to anything that has to do with young people and the Young Communists' Union (UJC).

I repeat my usual example: every day, the difference between Granma, the official newspaper of the Communist Party of Cuba, and Juventud Rebelde [Rebel Youth], the UJC daily, is greater. The information, the topics and the research are different in each paper: as they dig into the problems, they reflect the problems of each sector.

The new style is being forged with prudence, some might say, maintaining Marxism as an instrument critical of the capitalist society, which has been its traditional task, and critical of our daily life, because it is also valuable in that regard.

There will surely be readers (especially in my back yard) who will say that there have been contradictory statements and attitudes, calls to advance and to halt. Of course. But has anyone seen a process as complex as Cuba's -- a process of transition, relay, and launching of calculated innovations -- that has developed in linear fashion from its inception? Search the history books.

The risk

We are not living in the 1960s, when the camps were well defined and the radicalizations generated by confrontation erased the shadings. Perhaps at that time there was no room for shadings.

Today, the enemy is the same, but the national and international realities are more complex; they need clarity and firmness of principle. They need delicacy in some approaches and the skill to discern those shadings that can help us along the long strategic road. And that road leads not only to our consolidation but also to the international reality around us and in close geographical proximity: Latin America.

While our Motherland has been freer since the Cuban Revolution, she has committed herself to be part of the continental process. The necessary domestic innovations, which will open greater vistas to the individual, the person, the citizen, carry with them some risks; the principal risk is naiveté, a mortal sin to revolutionaries. The only antidote is training, team work, responsible and effective participation, and discrepancy within the options, without paying a price for such discrepancy.

For those who will not see, let me quote my grandmother, an exceptional and wise woman. She used to say that life was like the flamboyán tree: first the flowers, then the leaf sheaths. But those people who focus on those two details miss the bigger picture: the tree. And that's what many people do; they're so fascinated by the leaf sheaths and flowers that they miss the tree.

Manuel Alberto Ramy is Havana bureau chief for Radio Progreso Alternativa and editor of Progreso Semanal, the Spanish-language version of Progreso Weekly.

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