Monday, January 10, 2011

Translation: On our feet

My translations of Luis Sexto's commentaries are not always appreciated by readers. Some find them too poetic, intangible, even "vacuous", according to one reader. So here is my appeal to those who are inclined to skip over these columns and wait for something more familiar to Western leftist audiences: grappling with Sexto's weekly pearls of wisdom is advisable if you want to grasp the human dimension of the Revolution's strivings for self-renewal. 

We may not agree with what he says, and sometimes we may not understand exactly what he's getting at, but what is conveyed in these reflections is no less important than the speeches of political leaders and the data on agricultural production, productivity and wages. One of the Cuban Revolution's contributions to the treasury of communist thinking and practice is its sensitivity towards the subjective, the human being as the subject and not merely the object of social transformation. 

If the Revolution has indulged in errors of idealism that have weakened its economic and ethical substrate, and that must be corrected if the Revolution is to endure, it is only fair to acknowledge that the profound humanism of the Cuban revolutionary tradition has always been its pillar of strength. Sexto exemplifies this tradition, so it's worth making an effort to understand him. Cuba's socialist renewal must put bread on the table but, as the old saying goes, man does not live by bread alone. 

On our feet

By Luis Sexto

Juventud Rebelde, January 6, 2011

Translation: Marce Cameron

We have repeated it: few can doubt that man cannot live without illusions. Or without hopes. Every individual is the subject of hope. And society as a whole too, must offer hope, illusion which is not fantasy, as sustenance. And the most certain hope rests on what we have, and need, to reach the visible or foreseeable horizon.

But to convert illusion, or hope, into a force or a generator of force, what is needed is the conviction that each one of us is an indispensable reason for any desire for renewal. When we know where we're going, the will prepares itself to take a risk, to become part of the "long march" of the founding or refounding of dreams, or better, the satisfaction of needs.

Last Friday we spoke about committed participation as the watchword for this new year that has begun. One reader, very respectfully, has reminded me that the Cuban people have always participated in every campaign that the Revolution has needed. And this is true. But I refer here not only to attending a mass rally in the Plaza de la Revolucion, nor joining a battalion of the militia, nor to going to cut sugar cane or do volunteer work in agriculture. We must understand, as "disciples of history", that today is it not about committing ourselves to accommodating life to theory, known and secure; rather, it is about adjusting theory to the urgent necessities of life and, consequently, facing up to experiences for which the average mentality is not prepared.

So, participation begins today by understanding, from an ethical-political standpoint, that everything that is applied in Cuba to perfect socialism has a rough side, and requires a quota of confidence, since no matter how drastic are the consequences of certain measures to update the economy and society, no citizen need feel like a ruffled feather floating in an inscrutable and uncontrollable wind. Our dreams of improvement do not imply accommodating to everyone asking everyone to make the least effort, but adopting a strategy, within the commitment to socialism, that offers each one of us a space in which individual effort is truly valued in and of itself, and is integrated, reciprocally, in the collective.

It is difficult to admit this? The equality ideal that cannot be renounced must be generalised in an appointment with the non-egalitarian opportunities for wellbeing, in such a way that everyone can possess depending on the degree of effort and conscientious participation in work, beyond basic rights such as education and health care. And above all, on top of this redistribution of social roles, we'll keep watch over the certainty that the Revolution is, more than anything, a perennial work of renewal at the service of the workers, and whose acts correspond, above all, to its commitment to the people. A commitment that should not include the voluntaristic gift, the requirement to turn a blind eye, the centralisation of that which is most personal, nor the bureaucratic distortion that usually looks in only one direction — towards itself — and that prioritises the allegedly institutional over the popular.                   

Any doubts are understandable. But if reality is viewed as it is, and we accept that no aspiration to social justice and national independence is conquered and sustained without an economy that generates riches instead of squandering and that spends less than it earns, hope will have a valid niche within us. At the risk of being normative or didactic I recommend, then, that we take care of our mirages, and of our apprehensions. Efficiency, efficacy, and effectiveness must now move on pontoons of austerity and greater demands for participation, but with the evidence that today, the rational seems to be the method that leads to rectification.

Because if we recognise that no hopeful theory of "Earthly paradises" that has not passed the judgement of practice will offer a way forward for our country in the present circumstances, we'll travel on foot to wherever we must go. And this is the logic behind which others, the enemies of the nation and of socialism, would have us arrive where they would wish: at the disappearance of our vocation for a prosperous and equitable homeland, loyal to its history of independence and social justice. Everything that [Jose] Marti did was also for this.          

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