Thursday, February 17, 2011

Translation: The fragmentation of anxiety

Regular readers of my blog may have been wondering why I had not posted any translations since February 8. Don't worry, I wasn't taking a break from Cuba solidarity work, I was working on the Sydney University Cuba-Venezuela Solidarity Club broadsheet for the start of the new university year in Australia. Four thousand copies have now been printed for distribution at Sydney University, the Australian National University in Canberra and the University of Western Australia in Perth. If you're interested you can view or download a PDF version of this broadsheet from the homepage of the Cuba-Venezuela Solidarity Clubs website.

I should also take this opportunity to thank Norman Girvan from the University of the West Indies in St Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago, for compiling a nice PDF version of my complete translation of Carlos Alzugaray's essay "Cuba: Continuity and political change", with permission from the author and the magazine TemasHere is the link to the compilation.

Below is Luis Sexto's latest commentary in Juventud Rebelde. Notable is the following: "I've spent the past 40 years of my journalistic career expressing opinions; I have never been told what to think, nor what to say." He alludes to the fact that self-censorship, as much if not more so than official censorship, has contributed to the stifling of critical reflection and debate in Cuba's revolutionary mass media. This is changing: Raul Castro has repeatedly urged Cubans to speak their minds and abandon displays of false unanimity.     

The fragmentation of anxiety

By Luis Sexto

Juventud Rebelde, February 10, 2011

Translation: Marce Cameron

Cuban Communist Party offices, Old Havana
Those who have suffered it may relate how anxiety fragments one from within; it perplexes. And without this commentator pretending to know anything about medicine, I could elaborate on this example and admit that a collective anxiety could undermine the general unity [around Cuba's socialist project].         

I've begun my commentary with such scientific "rigour" because some of the messages [from readers] that arrive in my mailbox pulse with anxiety. I don't doubt the sincerity with which they've been written; and I realise that rather than doubt, people feel somewhat desperately anxious that the problems be resolved or dissolved. And there's a danger in that, because anxiety, I've heard it said, is like the waiting room for depression and pessimism.

The anxiety seems to play with some of us. Before knowing about the socio-economic strategy [proposed in the Draft Economic and Social Policy Guidelinesto confront the weaknesses and deficiencies of our society, many revolutionary Cubans were alarmed because time passed and "nothing was done". We were anxious, and time snipped away at our hope... OK, Raul [Castro] had warned that everything had to be thought through very gradually, intelligently and maturely, so that the country would not make mistakes. We must not forget, and this is the opinion of this commentator, that sometimes in Cuba errors are rectified with other errors.    

Well then, now anxiety arises in some because they believe that what is decided is a brainchild of the bureaucracy aimed at dismantling the country. Yes, this has been said in the messages of some people who are very honourably worried. One can understand, then, that anxiety hopes that the solutions materialise in hours and that nothing changes so that nobody suffers. As if Cinderella's fairy godmother could change pumpkins into luxury coaches... when we can't even cultivate pumpkins.           

Excuse my frankness. I've learned to trust in a republic that has not only confronted its errors and its negative historical heritage, but which also has to deal with an external enemy which is not a child's bedtime story. Outside the country there are those who do their utmost to leave revolutionary Cuba defenceless.

On the other hand, if the Revolution and the socialist state cease being paternalistic institutions, pampering, unable to utilise everything and everyone efficiently, the cure for these ills will not be painless. Nobody doubts that [state-sector] payrolls were inflated, unbearable; nobody doubts that efficiency and everything else flows from restoring the value of work [i.e. reasserting the role of wages], and so long as five people do the work of one, work will never be valued. Nobody doubts, either, that there have been excessively generous pensions that need to be revised — albeit with caution and justice.            

I'd like to say, in summary, that when one pokes at a wound in order to heal it, it hurts. And because of this I believe that what has been projected and discussed so far, and what may be projected and discussed in the future is more than a mere bureaucratic formula; it's a decentralising strategy aimed at the bureaucratic mentality, which will surely be defended. Perhaps the principles [of the "updating" of Cuba's socialist economic model] published in well-known documents do not cede space [to workers, cooperatives and small-scale private enterprises]? Perhaps they do not aim to convert self-employment into a creative sector that contributes to resolving necessities? And if someone complains today about taxes, I'm of the opinion that at some point they'll have to serve as a stimulus [to production and services] while rationally controlling excessive enrichment.

There will be compatriots who don't share my opinions. I've spent the past 40 years of my journalistic career expressing opinions; I have never been told what to think, nor what to say. So I'll finish by saying, as I said a week ago: if those that committed errors are the same as those who will have to rectify them, I interpret this phrase as saying that they are the same because we are the same nation, the same people. And that therefore we must renew ourselves inside and out, ethically and patriotically, and accept that politics, from the municipality upwards, has to create confidence, to explain, to convince, and to make us — as Che  would say — the first to act and the last to receive. And also the first to trust. All this touches on everything we've done to justify our existence in the Revolution that arose to liberate us from external and internal leashes, despite errors and frustrated dreams that await our collective and solidaristic kiss to awaken, renewed.   

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