The Left will become More Pluralistic in Cuba
“The Left will become More Pluralistic in Cuba” / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya
Posted on August 6, 2015
14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Miami, 3 August 2015 — Historian and activist
Armando Chaguaceda defines himself as a defender of “democratic
socialism that does not sacrifice freedoms for goods or services.” In
Cuba, he associates with the independent left and currently resides in
Mexico. Last week, he traveled to Miami for a meeting of the Association
for the Study of the Cuban Economy (ASCE, its acronym in English).
“Chagua” as his friends call him, spoke to 14ymedio about reforms in
Cuba, the process of the negotiations with the US and the future of the
ideology he has defended throughout his life.
Miriam Celaya (MC). Where is the left headed in Cuba?
Armando Chaguaceda. The left is often defined by privileging equality
over freedom. However, this is a very schematic definition. For me, it
is necessary to hold political equality and rights against all powers,
including the market.
In Cuba, the left will become more pluralistic. There are several lefts
currently on the Island: one that is more communist and totalitarian;
another one is anarchist and does not recognize the State, which is good
in a sense because it demystifies and questions it. Mine is the social
democracy or democratic socialism, which does not sacrifice freedoms for
goods or services. It is a more humane and inclusive socialism.
In Cuba the Revolution’s social pact broke down; social spending
diminished in important areas — like health or education — which
ultimately were never rights, since they were not recoverable.
The Cuban opposition has focused heavily on the issue of human rights,
which are deficient, but unimportant to the people. The left’s agenda,
however, defends social rights. At least one sector of the left is
headed down that path, as is the case, for instance, of the Observatorio
Crítico which defends the social conquests and rights of workers; or
Pedro Campos, who proposes participatory and democratic socialism.
Personally, I was helped a great deal by anarchism in criticizing the
State and in understanding another kind of militancy, because I come
from communism. During my anarchism years I lived and felt the rescue of
solidarity and affection “from the bottom up.” My fondest memories are
from those years I spent as a Professor at the University of Havana.
MC. Do you consider the changes Raul Castro has made in Cuba more a
“betrayal” rather than an improvement of the “socialist model”?
Chaguaceda. It is not a betrayal. It is an update, a reform. A new model
is being built which has continuities and changes in respect to the
previous one. Political control over society and the lack of social
pluralism continue. At the same time, society is being changed to be
less dependent on the State and more diverse, but also poorer and more
unequal. Meanwhile, the market allocates goods and services in the
economy to those who can pay.
MC. Can someone be liberal, right-wing, bourgeois or annexationist and
still have good relations with Chaguaceda?
Chaguaceda. Yes. I have relatives and friends across the political
spectrum, but we share values and feelings as human beings. It is
important to understand and to defend that concept in a country that has
been polarized and politicized for decades.
MC. To reform or to overthrow?
Chaguaceda. Do I advocate violence? In principle, I don’t. Violence is
always imposed from the authorities when people are denied other avenues
and freedoms, and that violence often claims the lives of the poorest
and most powerless. Other times, when violence prevails as a
revolutionary movement, it ends up exalting the previously subversive
and establishing new dominance.
But, additionally, for ethical reasons, I cannot ask of others to do
something I never did. In my years of political life in Cuba, in the
official organizations, in the emerging activism and in my writings as a
public intellectual, always I ventured to use “the correct place, time
and means*” [chuckles], peacefully and appealing to the laws and the
rights to promote the causes I believed in.
MC. How do you evaluate the process of negotiations between Cuba and the
Chaguaceda. As something inevitable and understandable, given the
failure of the isolationist agenda and from the legitimate interests of
the US government towards its entrepreneurs and citizens. That does not
mean that international support for democratization and respect for
human rights in Cuba must be subordinated to geopolitical interests. I
think it must be, above all, a citizen cause of activists,
organizations, movements and, in the case of Cuba, it should have the
participation of Latin American governments.
MC. How much has the Mexican experience enriched and changed you?
Chaguaceda.The Mexican experience has impacted me in various ways.
First, I met a country, a culture and a people of immeasurable wealth,
where I was able to develop an eight year career and academic training.
But it has also helped me to understand rampant inequality and everyday
violence. All legal structure and constitutional democracy is empty of
meaning for the common people at the bottom.
In Mexico I have also gotten to know theoretical and practical movements
in the fight for human rights which I did not catch in their proper
level in my years in Cuba. And when I see cases of gross violations of
human rights from the testimony of the victims, I realize that no
violation is preferable to another, but – in the extreme — different
conditions and guarantees to exercise your rights
Physical murder may exist in some places, and, in others, civic murders.
But from the experience of the repressed, any violation of rights,
whatever the legitimating principle invoked to carry it out (the fight
against terrorism or against “the mercenaries of the Empire**,” for
example), is to be condemned.
MC. In your speech you did a report on the state of political science in
Cuba. Could you summarize what you pose in it?
Chaguaceda. First, compared with other social sciences, development of
political science lags significantly, both organizationally and in the
theoretical-methodological, as well as in the dissemination in the
results of research. Stalinist dogmas and abuses of guidelines persist,
lacking empirical support. As a result, it becomes more like political
philosophy than political sociology, and that brands the styles of all
of us whose formative years were spent in Cuba.
However, previously excluded topics are surfacing in academic places and
in alternative forums, the use of investigative techniques and the
gathering and processing of data is becoming more rigorous, and legible
work, without cryptic codes is being acknowledged by Latin America
academia. We have challenges, such as reading and quoting “those inside”
and “those outside”; overcoming the self-centered suspicion that lives
in some of the former and the pedantic realism of those who, from
abroad, believe there is no worthy work to be recognized and valued in
those internal conditions.
*A phrase used by the regime with regards to where when and how the
Communist Party and the regime may be criticized.
**Also a phrase of the regime claiming that internal opposition members
are being paid by the United States — “the empire” — to overthrow the
Translated by Norma Whiting
Source: “The Left will become More Pluralistic in Cuba” / 14ymedio,
Miriam Celaya | Translating Cuba –