Friday, December 31, 2010

Translation: The geometry of democracy

Luis Sexto is one of Cuba's finest and most respected journalists. The 2009 recipient of the prestigious Jose Martí National Journalism Award, he is a professor of journalism at Havana University and has a regular Friday column in the Communist Youth daily Juventud RebeldeSexto exemplifies what could be called the critical renovationist current within the Cuban Revolution. Asked by Orestes Martí and Manual Alberto Rami in 2009 about his expectations for the Revolution in the next few years, he replied: 
The worst misfortune that could occur to Cubans as a people would be the collapse of the Revolution ... We know from our own experience and from the prophetic vision of some of our most illustrious leaders that the Revolution can perish, poisoned from within ... I see Cuba in revolution, but renovated, without the chains of dogma, trusting in the loyalty of its people and granting the people the means to defend and define their future. The future begins tomorrow. Time is short.
The geometry of democracy

By Luis Sexto, Juventud Rebelde, August 19, 2010

Translation: Marce Cameron

Returning from a break, I find a letter that obliges me to return to the topic of this judgment, or rather the lure of a delicate provocation: "Socialism cannot be built without popular control". I agree. And perhaps, as the reader who sent me the letter acknowledges, I could explain in greater depth what is meant by "the horizontality of socialist democracy", a phrase with which I concluded, promising to elaborate, in my July 15 commentary titled "Quicksand".

And moveable is, by chance, the theme of democracy, whose Greek roots speak of the people and their participation in the government and public life. In other countries — as we know — the people are only a factor in elections, which have become the strict synonym for democracy. Let's refer, therefore, to our democracy, of socialist intentions. And this goes beyond the classic definition of "government of the people, for the people and by the people". Because in socialism, as well as being the recipient of complaints and suggestions and the executor of decisions —subject and object — democracy implies that the people control and supervise governance. It is this role to which I refer when, in geometric terms, I allude to democratic horizontality as opposed to verticality.

According to a certain practice, verticalist methods reduce the effectiveness of socialist democracy. We could cite the [People's Power municipal government] accountability assemblies. Not a few have drifted into hurried exchanges of complaints and responses, which sometimes aren't really responses. And here and there the delegate, who submits to the judgement of the electors, considers, however, that he has to demand explanations from those who express needs that cannot be resolved for the time being. One may, of course, avoid sweeping judgements, absolute, but we can't ignore the loss of effectiveness of some of these assemblies — which are very characteristic of our Cuban political system — whose protagonist role has to engage the electors, not as a kind of wailing wall, but as the public square where imperfections in the community are addressed and explained.

Extending the analysis, we could ask if in the Municipal Assemblies of People's Power the delegates are aware of their mandate and power. Do they perhaps notice that this collective and democratic form of government arose as a guarantee that they cannot squander, distort, violate measures and laws without the electors pointing out, warning, criticising, in time, and condemning errors and deviations?

Faced with these deficiencies and inconsistencies, the correct approach would be, in my view, to recover the fullness  of these democratic spaces. In the present circumstances, in which the search for formulas that impel Cuban society towards the values of efficiency and effectiveness has been officially declared, it does not seem opportune to look for other options when, in reality, those that have been put in place are not being fully utilised.

And because I don't consider inevitable a fight between horizontality and verticality, I am for the welding together in solidarity of these planes. Both need to be sustained. A vertical line that is not cut horizontally in the middle implies the loss of equilibrium, like a knife blade that falls for lack of support. And the inverse, horizontality without verticality, floats in the air as if cut adrift.

This is, in geometric metaphors, the dilemma, which not only demands a response from the institutions of administration and government, but also in productive and labour relations. What did the assemblies of production and services really achieve? My experience suggests that not all of them functioned as a means of popular control, nor of trade union control, which is a variant of this; they remained, in general, half measures.

As usual, one voice above all others dictated what could be said and what should be silenced, in an administrative conception that exalted verticality and bureaucratic distance. Meanwhile, paradoxically, our mediocre mentality, conditioned by the rigidity of certain structures and concepts, showed itself to be not well suited to combining the different but complementary geometric lines and forms of popular control. It will have to be given, then, special consideration.

No comments:

Post a Comment

If you're not signed in with one of the accounts listed in the drop-down menu select "Anonymous" and include your name, or a pseudonym, in the comment. If you have suggestions for improving the blog or its content please email Marce Cameron. All the usual norms of posting etiquette apply. Comments must be respectful in tone, consistent with the blog's aims and relevant. Comments will be moderated accordingly.