Thursday, December 27, 2007

Cuban Party Official on the Need for Criticism

Excerpts from an interview with Elíades Acosta, head of the Department of Culture of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba as published in Progresso Weekly

By Isachi Fernández

From the section ‘Cuba from the Inside,’ published in the portal Cubarte on Nov. 28, 2007.

Every once in a while, it is healthy to rethink what one has done, to calibrate how society has evolved. When you introduce changes in a sector, repercussions surge through the entire system. It's a question of the healthy exercise of good government.

Q.: To what do you attribute the so-called "critical indigence" that bogs down the media in Cuba?

A.: To several factors. There's the abuse of institutional practices to limit criticism. We cannot ignore that -- for many reasons and for a long time -- questions became a nuisance. True, the enemy uses our errors and our criticism.

Q.: Also our silence.

A.: Also. It uses all the empty spaces we leave. Criticism can help solve our problems; silences never solve anything. Asked to choose, we opt for criticism. We must abandon the practice of shushing down the problems, which does not help the Revolution but instead protects posts or positions or postures that are harmful to the ethical climate of society.

Institutionally, criticism was not always permitted, understood or encouraged. This creates a reflex attitude on those who are obliged to engage in [criticism] because of their work. Of course, this is not the task of a profession; criticism is a condition that is part of being a human being.

A kind of self-censorship syndrome is created: "I'm looking for trouble if I tackle a scabrous topic." "I'm going to stay in the center, so as not to invite trouble." A very dangerous vacuum is formed and, even though society may grow economically, it will decline in that climate.

Silences are fatal in a society; so are forgetfulness, self-censorship or unbridled censorship -- because censorship exists in all societies that are divided into classes. Wherever there is a State, there is censorship.

Q.: Sometimes, it is well concealed.

A.: It conceals itself well, when it comes to the market. But, going back to Cuba, the call to debate issued by Raúl on July 26 in Camagüey was beneficial in terms of avoiding that trap. Raúl himself, who heads the Party and the State, with all the moral authority he enjoys, told the people that this is the time to "remove our shirts" and discuss our problems.

The Political Bureau issued a document that supports criticism in the media. But what did we find? There is reluctance, inertia, there are people who are not prepared because they find it difficult to break the psychological barrier. But when we read the press, and we read the non-institutional press, and the e-mails (which are here to stay), we see that the people are participating.

We see a very healthy activation of the civic spirit of Cubans. In the wake of Raúl's speech, more than 5 million people have participated in the debates and 1.2 million opinions have been expressed.

Q.: When talking about a rearrangement in the country, what do you consider possible and convenient?

A.: Both are intimately linked. I recall a statement by Marx that was picked up by Lenin, a profoundly revolutionary and dialectic statement that goes: "Every contradiction carries within itself its own solution." Jules Verne said it differently: "What one man can dream, another man can bring to reality."

The aspirations of Cuban society, as expressed in the discussions that resulted from Raúl's speech, on the street, in homes and in Party nuclei, are possible and necessary. They are aspirations to material well-being, to the hope that you can take care of yourself and your family with the fruit of your honest labor. They are aspirations to personal and social development, to a greater access to knowledge, to a fuller life that is based on revolutionary principles.

Everything is done for a more efficient, more participatory society that recognizes and respect differences, that doesn't fall apart and does not place itself at the service of a foreign power.

What needs to be done in this country is a matter of efficiency, of participation, a matter of guaranteeing people a larger quota of responsibility because they feel co-responsible for the decisions.

We aspire to a society that talks out loud about its problems, without fear, where the media reflect life without triumphalism, where the errors are aired publicly in a search for solutions, where people can express themselves honestly, where the economy works, where the services work, where Cubans do not feel they are second-class citizens in their own country due to some measures that were indispensable in the past but that are obsolete and unsustainable today. We want a society with plenty of information, varied information, with high-level cultural products, where we can communicate with the world in a natural manner and can defend the essence of our identity and the accomplishments of the Revolution.

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