By Giordan Rodríguez Milanés
Ovations. Multiple ovations. So many that, in front of the plasma TV –no longer the Krim set from the Soviet era– one might get confused and go back to the time when Fidel spoke on the only two national channels. The President combines the historicist approach with the method of conceptualizing what’s general and defining what’s specific. He tells us writers, artists and intellectuals what we have long wanted to hear from a representative of the power structures.
There’s nothing more exciting and encouraging for an artist than seeing a higher entity –in this case, the country’s Government– acknowledge that the artist has been right all along. Even though Abel Prieto, during his first stint as minister, insisted that institutions are only as valuable as the creators they bring together, never before had a President of the Council of State said as much, categorically, neatly spelled out. Nor had they amplified the open secret that such bureaucratic institutional dysfunctionality brings about ultraconservatism, abandonment and corruption.
No representative of the government or Party hierarchy had ever acknowledged either, publically and in the media, the political-ideological slant applied to Fidel Castro’s “Words to the Intellectuals”. Much less had they made reference to what we know, and many have written about or said: the alarming amount of officials and administrators who do not know “Words…” or have reduced its discourse to a slogan which, a priori, may be interpreted as exclusive; quite the opposite from its unity-seeking inclusive essence.
Delivered by the higher administrative leader, the closing speech of the 9th Congress of UNEAC has been, without a doubt, a political statement.
Firstly, because it affects the motivational side of the members of an organization in need of faith; faith in the system which should infuse it with life, and faith in itself; faith in its ability to make itself heard by its bodies of liaison: the Ministry of Culture, the ICRT (Cuban Institute of Radio and Television) and ICAIC (Cuban Institute of Film Arts and Industry). And I say faith because the outcome of Díaz-Canel’s words is yet to be seen. If those congress delegates never go beyond the ovation and the personal satisfaction derived from knowing you haven’t been wrong, and they never go back to their territories tilting their lances at the windmills of single-mindedness and meandering, they run the risk of turning today’s fuel for hope into demagogy.
Secondly, because, at first glance, that definition of general and comprehensive culture by Fidel Castro does not seem to be the current guideline for discourse. I infer –I could be (and I wish I am) mistaken– that Díaz-Canel is trying to confine the social role of artists and writers to what he calls “culture”, and that it was worthwhile checking what his references are for “artistic culture”. Likewise, one cannot avoid suspecting that, for him, this congress of UNEAC (Cuban Union of Writers and Artists) is only about matters of artistic and literary creation, and their relation with the system of institutions which should support and make viable the promotion of aesthetic works.
This is not an incorrect view from an organizational point of view, if we remember that it is not possible to separate the artistic side from the other components of culture as material and spiritual imprint of the work, that is, the legal, the technological, the religious, the political and the ideological. And we must also remember that artists and writers –and their promoters– cannot and should not ever overlook those other components, even though they might not be essential for the creation of the work itself. A creator is, above all, a social subject, a citizen in legal terms, and an ideological and political being with transforming potential and leadership. Not seeing it this way would lead to the antagonistic contradiction between the libertarian spirit of the artist and the alienating nature of the ideological apparatus of the Althusserian State.
Work has to be done. Not just in the sense of aesthetic creation, but also in the production of axiological contents which uphold those values of socialist humanism the President mentioned. After a speech like the one which closed the 9th Congress of UNEAC, it wouldn’t be serious or admissible that in five more years we should hold another meeting to repeat the same problems and regressions. I hope that the newly elected president of UNEAC and the Minister of Culture be aware of that as much as, at least, each and every member of their administrative teams. One source of trouble which would be more complex and difficult to diagnose would be whether cultural administrators on the provincial level, and their mentors from the ideological departments of the provincial Party committees, will then be able to avoid the enormous risk of turning this discourse into a farce of stolen aspirations.
It’s not about changing the style, but the essence.
It’s about changing the heuristic, provincial perception that artistic culture is a mere ideological and political instrument –fodder for rallies, propaganda coups de theatre and chanted slogans– for a concept and its implementation which may bring art to the fore to emancipate, to question our reality, civically and socially committed, and revolutionary in the more holistic sense of the word. Only this way will hope become certainty and will the ovation become the sublime music of the Homeland’s humble masses.
(Translated from the original)