The Third Republic

By Egor Hockyms

The third republic of Cuba has already begun. And if this seems too categorical, let’s put it like this: it is quite likely that the vibrant and thoughtful intelligentsia our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren are on their way to become, when setting out to systematize Cuban history, will close the period of the Revolution at a point we may have just crossed.

The exact moment could be the last 10th of April, the date when Cuba declared itself a state under the rule of socialist law, only one year after the substitution of the last commander of the Revolution in the highest leadership of the State. Some other date might be picked, eventually one which is yet to pass, but April 10th seems adequate because, casting aside the possibility of violent interference which would plunge Cuba into a war of unforeseeable consequences, the essential characteristic of this new stage should precisely be the strengthening of the rule of law. This strengthening is inevitable; for it doesn’t seem anymore that in the future the legitimacy of the national State and Government might reside elsewhere. Not in the Party or in the figure of the leaders.

Having such a prospect is useful for two reasons. First, because thinking about Cuba starting from the future of our children transcends ideological dogma and forces us to consider a real country, which does not appear in handbooks. Second, because it helps us to understand the framework in which all our efforts are taking place, and therefore to turn them into effective action in the construction of the homeland we want. This new framework we are living in we shall call here the Third Republic, and conceiving it all together is perhaps one of our most urgent duties.

Unlike the previous ones, in 1902 and 1959, in which a radical change of national institutions forced a complete reconstruction of the power structures, the Third Republic is now emerging from the Revolution disguised as total continuity. And the disguise is not too shabby, quite the opposite, the new Republic takes root in deep codes of sovereignty and social justice which only the Revolution epically managed to pick up from the most progressive aspirations of the people and bring them to the fore in the institutional praxis of the State. Continuity is therefore essential, not superficial or even purely structural; but absolutizing it is a disguise, it means denying an important part of what the new Cuba is coming to be.

The Third Republic is, very much, a break.

In the very establishment of the rule of law lies the original break. Attaining it implies a gradual process entailing the development of a legal culture forgotten by the citizens and by most institutions. This, which should decrease in great measure the degree of arbitrariness we live with on every level, if done right, will also change the type of single-person and vertical government of the Revolution to give way to another, with richer and more horizontal deliberations, propelling economic and social development in which true power is exercised from the bottom up by means of popular participation structures.

However, in order to do it right there must be an early understanding that such a path fundamentally depends on a constant confrontation between people and government. This confrontation is reminiscent in some aspects of the struggles typical of capitalism in representative republics, and it additionally has a very particular nature in our geopolitical context. History harshly warns us against governments not confronted by the popular classes, which, even under the rule of law, may very easily generate a horrifyingly unequal system.

Setting aside small and medium-sized private enterprise, which has earned the right to exist and has amply proven its social usefulness, the first thing will be to internalize something essential under the rule of law: government offices administer the national capital gain, but they do not own it. To put it more clearly, the wealth generated by the principal means of production in Cuba belongs to all the people and it is thus stated in the law. And it is fair, because that wealth is generated day after day by you and I, possibly with as much or even more sacrifice that the President, the ministers or the company managers.

The second thing is that, in order to manage that wealth, we use a participatory democracy we must acknowledge as highly experimental. It responds to our most progressive ideas of popular empowerment, but it lacks a successful model to imitate and it is therefore absolutely fundamental to keep it in continuous development. With it we choose from ourselves, without the need for pre-established platforms or affiliations, the citizens who are willing to serve us. That and nothing else is popular power, and that and nothing else is government: simple citizens chosen by ourselves, directly or indirectly, who are obliged to serve us on our terms, from the President to the last subordinate.

Where do the motives for confrontation come from then? They come from many places. They come, for example, from the very imperfection of the electoral system, from inflexible bureaucratic structures, and from the fact that representatives do not receive a salary that’s sufficient to make a decent living by doing only their jobs. All this causes that, in practice, the behavior of our representatives and leaders, even when they may have genuinely progressive ideas, does not easily adapt to the interests of the citizens they serve.

But more than anything, confrontation comes from something socialist practice taught us: even when doing nothing else than administering capital gain, leaders integrate a class with its own interests. It is a natural phenomenon, which can be studied and compensated, but it will always exist and it happens on all leadership and bureaucratic levels; with the additional support, in our case, of many structures and procedures inherited from the Revolution which, like the aberration of the candidacy committees, may go as far as contradicting the very essence of our participatory democracy.

In the face of this reality, the main resource for balance in the Third Republic must be active, organic and systematic confrontation between the people and the government. There must be no fear of confrontation; whether the term or the concept. On the contrary, it is only through the consolidation of a heterogeneous variety of channels for civic pressure that a true socialist balance may be achieved, where the inevitable divergence of opinions, visions and solutions among citizens and those who administer their wealth may find a productive and healthy course. The authoritarian norms of the revolutionary stage which are being broken in the Cuba of today tear with them the old, tacit social pact which rested on excessive trust in the leader and in the leadership of the State.

In the new circumstances, socialist confrontation between the people and the government is bound to make up the essential mechanism for mutual control. The new social pact will also have to be strong against an imperialist aggressiveness which marks the geopolitics of our context, and it will have the bigger challenge of not only not criminalizing social dissent, but to promote it and assimilate it. Mercenary attitudes shall be strictly understood on the basis of wages and material retribution described in the law, and the label shall not be used lightly and with impunity by the government. Dissent and confrontation turned into a weapon for popular organization and identification will generate transparency and legitimacy, promoting national economic development and facing with absolute uprightness the empire which threatens our sovereignty.

Assimilating confrontation will be our new strength, one which is more human, effective and revolutionary than uncritical unanimity.

It is time to understand that in our collective consciousness lies the individual responsibility for thought and action that we need in order to build a country where our children may grow old with dignity, in a sense wider than just sovereignty, health and education. The proliferation of formal and informal channels for participation, activism and accountability must be a pillar of the new republic, and it must so shield the spirit of the new social pact. It must be a social pact where the pursuit of old, unfulfilled aspirations and the recovery of conquests lacerated by the crisis of the last few years connects harmoniously with the social causes of modernity. It must be a pact wherein respect for and the guarantee of individual freedoms –many of them denied, rationed or unknown in the previous republics– may steer just and sustainable progress.

We must ask ourselves how to influence, how to exert pressure, how to participate with our individual insights in this transformation which is already underway; because the alternative is a top-down transformation, beyond the reach of a demobilized citizen, who is made obedient by an excess of unity and disinterested by a lack of empowerment. We must understand that, in this moment, the danger of apathy, intolerance and fanatical obedience is not only that they may delay economic development or the consecution of individual freedoms, but possibly that they may also bring about a costly regression in social justice, whose recovery may take generations.

Of that first time when the republic did not come to be, Martí tells us that Céspedes –perhaps our most self-sacrificing observer of the framework of constitutional law–, when often accused of doing all he could to oppose many of the Chamber’s laws, would answer thus: I am not facing the Chamber; I am facing history, I am facing my country and I am facing myself. It wasn’t only Céspedes, we all are.

(Translated from the original)

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