Revolutions and Democracy
Revolutions and Democracy / 14ymedio, Regina Coyula
We observe a man who always speaks of patriotism and he is never
patriotic, or only with regards to those of a certain class or certain
party. We should fear him, because no one shows more faithfulness nor
speaks more strongly against robbery than the thieves themselves.
Felix Varela (in El Habanero, 1824)
14ymedio, Regina Coyula, Havana, 19 May 2016 – Observing the tranquil
surface of Cuban society offers a misleading impression. The stagnation
is localized only in the government and in the party; and even there it
is not very reliable. There is no doubt that many party members
participated in and observed the 7th Congress of Cuban Communist Party
(PCC) hoping for changes and, watching the direction of the presidential
table, dutifully (and resignedly, why not) voted one more time unanimously.
Outside this context, where one thing is said but what is thought may be
something else, there is right now a very interesting debate in which
all parties believe themselves to be right. The most commonly used
concepts to defend opposing theses can be covered in the perceptions of
revolution and democracy, which each person conceptualizes according to
his or her own line of thinking.
There are generalities that are inherent in the concept itself. In the
case of the concept of revolution, it involves a drastic change within a
historic concept to break with a state of things that is generally
unjust. Although it is a collective project, revolutions don’t always
enjoy massive support; it is not until it is resolved that the great
majority of citizens are included.
That said, from the official positions of the Cuban government they are
still talking about the Revolution that overthrew the Batista tyranny
and initiated profound changes in Cuba as a continuing event. This group
believes itself still within the revolutionary morass, but can a country
live permanently in a revolution?
One immediate consequence of a social revolution is chaos; everything is
changing, and after a nation experiences a revolutionary process it
needs stability to return to the path of progress, a natural aspiration
of society and of the individual.
The 1959 Revolution became a government many years ago and its young
leaders are, today, old men who in their long time in power ensured
mechanisms for the control of the country. It could be nostalgia for not
having been there or it could be comfort with the idea of having made
mistakes and implemented bad policies, all justified as an appropriate
effect of the revolutionary moment.
It is here that democracy intervenes. Whatever kind it is, it must
characterize itself because popular decisions are effective; directly or
through the leaders elected through voting. And also through debate. One
can’t insist on continuing to wear children’s clothes when one is an
adult. Norberto Bobbio’s concept is always widely accepted: without
recognized and protected human rights there cannot be a real democracy,
and when we are citizens of the world, and not of one state, we are
closer to peace.
We do not live in a democratic country, however much they want to
minimize the lack of freedoms and blame it on the “blockade,” the
“imperialist threat” and novelties such as “opinion surveys” or “media
wars.” Because democracy is an umbrella that should also protect
minorities of every kind.
We can see vestiges of Marxism-Leninism in this stumbling march toward
capitalism without democracy, we see in the free state version of the
idea enclosed in this disturbing paragraph of a letter from Engels to
August Bebel, regarding power and those who oppose it: “So long as the
proletariat still makes use of the state, it makes use of it, not for
the purpose of freedom, but of keeping down its enemies and, as soon as
there can be any question of freedom, the state as such ceases to exist.”
Where are the rights of minorities? How do we know if they are real
minorities? So far, certainly, the public support for the government has
been a matter of trust, but the suspicion showed by the government when
asked for transparency is striking.
From the polemics that are shared among websites and from closed-door
meetings to emails and the chorus of the interested, and from there to
the classic rumor on the street, it is clear that there is an imperative
to widen the debate. Patriotism is not a state monopoly nor is it
reflected only in talking about history and honoring symbols, much less
in the cult of personality, which by the way, this year promises North
One of the ideas that is addressed in this debate is the danger posed by
“non-revolutionary transitions in the name of democracy,” but we know
that this is a concern of the hardline defenders of that model that they
stubbornly insist on calling socialist; ‘they’ being those who consider
themselves anti-imperialists, those who “won’t budge an inch,” and who
sleep peacefully without looking for other culprits for the collapse
that surrounds them on all sides.
My concern as a citizen is not having democracy in the name of the
Source: Revolutions and Democracy / 14ymedio, Regina Coyula –
Translating Cuba –