Breaking Inertia

Picture: Estudios Revolución

By Yassel A. Padrón Kunakbaeva

In the last few weeks, the President of the Council of State and the Council of Ministers Miguel Díaz-Canel has been very active. His speech at the closing session of the Congress of UNEAC (Cuban Union of Writers and Artists) was quite hostile to the dynamics of stagnation, colonized thought and corruption. Among the measures he has announced there’s a transformation in the way of formulating the plan for the economy; it is now said that it must be built from the bottom up, though for the time being this is only materializing in a greater participation of companies in the drawing up of initial proposals. He also brought forward the announcement of Decree 373 on audiovisual media, a set of new measures aimed at conceding greater financial autonomy to government-run companies, and the well-received rise in wages for the state-budgeted sector.

With these actions, the President shows his willingness to listen to the people, and to take the necessary measures to bring the country out of the current situation, in spite of less than favorable external circumstances. The manner in which he’s decided to break the vicious circle of low productivity and low wages is interesting: since we cannot wait for a rise in productivity which seem impossible to magically conjure up, we then raise wages, and we do it first for those who have been more disadvantaged in recent years.

Of course, the President hasn’t pulled any of these decisions out of his hat; they are the result of his meetings with the population, of listening to the concerns being voiced in different spaces –including the social networks–, of taking into account the opinions of specialists in each subject. There we can see another good move in the style of collective government he has promoted:

His ability to join the efforts and capabilities of many in search of a solution.

Nonetheless, it’s true that all this makes us feel optimistic about the work of the man in the highest office of State leadership, but it would be a grave mistake to put all our hopes in him. Presidential rule, to make one person bear the entire load, is a form of alienation. By definition –and all the more so in the midst of socialist transition–, no individual can transform a society by himself. The participation of everyone is needed to make development effective.

That’s why I liked so much a funny hashtag that’s doing the rounds these days in the social networks:

#ElSóloNoPuede (He can’t do it alone)

Indeed, he can’t. He can still do a lot more, no question about that. But in the end, the participation of civil society is what will be able to guarantee a true regeneration of Cuban socialism. To understand that, it’s necessary to stop having a fetishistic conception of the State.

In any society –and more so in one which claims to be one in socialist transition– the State is a social construct, an institution in which power correlations within civil society are expressed. There are always forces which push in a progressive direction and conservative forces. The forces which turn out predominant on the social level will have their expression in the State.

Should we adapt this way of thinking to Cuba, it will help us understand that, if Díaz-Canel is taking these measures today, it’s because there’s been an aggregate of demands, of struggles in the population, of complaints throughout the years which have conditioned this turn.

The definitive struggle always happens within civil society.

Therefore, this is not a moment to become demobilized or to allow ourselves the soft respite of trust in the leader. That’s a comfortable thing to do. What we must do is to intensify the fight against all that’s done wrong, against bureaucratic stagnation wherever it may rear its head. This is a fight that begins for each one of us in our closest quarters, which may be our workplace, the neighborhood or the school. We must be aware that the battle for Cuba is everyone’s fight; that the President can’t do it alone; that the drive of the people, instead, is the only one that’s truly transforming.

At the end of the day, popular will is supreme, and the President is nothing but a representative of that popular will.

Also, we must gain the awareness that, if we do not respond and move forward together, it will all be in vain. We cannot underestimate the power of inertia, of bureaucracy and opportunism to resist any positive effort. The great legion of the well-established may turn the efforts of any individual, no matter the office he holds, into a simple exercise of plowing the sea.

This is everyone’s battle, and we must be happy we have a President who correctly interprets the popular will, but the battle must go on fuelled by its own momentum.

 

Contact the author at: yasselpadron1@riseup.net

(Translated from the original)