A cool socialism (III)
Author: Félix López
A CubaNews translation.
Edited by Walter Lippmann.
We come today to young Alejandro’s third and most complicated paradox: “If not socialism, what do we have left?” It would seem our young man was looking for an exit on the expressway, but I don’t think so since he already made it clear he goes for a cool socialism. Well? Nothing, I can see he wants and needs to know what the non-socialist option has in store for us. And I will answer him without using the worn-out tale of the Big Bad Capitalistic Wolf devouring the Proletarian Little Red Riding Hood.
What’s at stake is a lot more than a remake of a children’s story: history, maybe life itself; our ecology and future; our happiness and existence. Socialism is all that and even more: the sworn enemy of selfishness and inequality, boundless consumption and violence, warmongering and expansionism, drugs and pornography, a lifestyle based on foolishness and glamour… all synonymous with capitalism, designer of a society where –contrary to Martí’s precepts– the more you have to show off, the more valuable you are; where it’s not how you think but how well you’re dressed and what brand your cell phone is what matters; where people’s worth is measured by their fortune –ergo, the have-nots are not people– and the ID cards have been replaced with credit cards; where a mall is more worshipped than a university; where, according to Eduardo Galeano, to praise a flower you say, “it’s so beautiful you’d think it’s plastic!”
If not socialism, Alejandro, barbarism would be the only option left to us. I’m sure that capitalism would waste no time in presenting us with an oasis of spotless showcases and the mythical junk food franchises would compete for the best spots downtown where they could create a mirage of lights and affluence, as they did in the former USSR… and all the while that artificial bubble would be surrounded in a flash by a poor area with no schools but teeming with gangs; with no jobs but many prostitutes; with nothing to dream about but lots of drugs to forget that fact; with no quality lifestyle but the required TV set to sell you all kinds of comforts… and you bet I’m not even mentioning the terrible dangers fueled by deep-seated hatred.
There’s another, simpler and more realistic answer to Alejandro’s question: you either make sure you become an enterprising optimist and strive to build a cooler socialism –so you can keep your freedom and at the same time have a better and happier life– or risk your neck at the Russian roulette in a casino and end up finding out that in the realm of “every man for himself” even your smile can be mortgaged. It’s no coincidence that Silvio Rodríguez, who has traveled around the world and gives us through his music a kaleidoscope of life, voiced his support of a perfectible socialism in his capacity of Deputy to our National Assembly of the People’s Power, making it clear that we can improve ours and we must do it by ourselves.
President Raúl Castro warned in a recent speech that he had not been elected to restore capitalism in Cuba and invited all Cubans to discuss what kind of socialism we want. If we ever lose the gift of participation the Revolution will have lost its sense of direction. Hence the importance that we, our parents and our children, that is, three or more generations of Cubans –in one of which Alejandro belongs– take part in this get-together and engage in a collective reflection free of slogans and mechanistic attitudes.
I feel certain that our socialist values will come out stronger as a result. Not long ago, on the occasion of the Cuban Revolution’s 50th birthday, a number of young intellectuals were invited to talk about it and the realization of the socialist project. What follows is just a thumbnail sample of their comments sufficient to understand how necessary and comprehensive is the debate awaiting us:
Julio César Guanche: “In 1959, the Cuban Revolution gave birth to a beautiful specimen of utopian socialism and implemented on Cuban soil a significant part of Rousseau’s great ideal: universal citizenship, a sovereign society, and social justice. Fifty years later, Cuba realized that a revolution is not the ultimate goal, as every thing conquered must be re-conquered and changing with the times is the only way to move on”.
Ariel Dacal: “We must publicly discuss how we understand socialism and what to do to make it more effective in its quest for an anti-capitalist alternative, which entails as much social justice as possible. People’s education, culture, technical ability, feelings and political knowledge are underrated and in some cases wasted. In order to reverse that situation we must make qualitative changes in the way people get involved in the management and control of their daily individual and public life, both as workers and community members”.
José A. Fernández: “Our Socialism has fought against poverty, capitalism, imperialism and its worst manners –war and terrorism– as well as against the immobility of state bureaucracy, political ignorance, the opportunism of the alleged extremists, the tiny internal opposition and the strong external opposition, the ghost of the ‘siege’ that prevents us from trusting our own potential to be freer… We have contributed the beauty of a whole people of women and men forged with blood and fire, blockade and militia, lack of resources and a wealth of wisdom and faith in the justice we have earned”.
I hope that both young Alejandro and those who read these comments found in them food for thought, issues to debate, new questions and some answers. Many people deem a discussion about socialism in present and future tense a thorny subject. Rest assured that if we do it in public, using a pro-positive key instead of drawing up an inventory of problems, we will no longer be treading on waste land. The forest is crawling with snipers.
We have to keep creating and learning if we want to make progress and be better. With the energy of our people and Fidel’s endless supply of creative thoughts we have done what once seemed impossible: we saved socialism.