Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Translation: Our kind of dissent

Imperialism's propaganda war against Cuba shapes our perceptions in subtle ways.

Tiny grouplets of Cuban citizens who receive funding from US subversion programmes aimed at regime change are labelled "dissidents" by the corporate media. They're paid to saturate the blogosphere with diatribes against Cuba's social order, which happens to be different from the one that dominates the planet.   

What does Yoani Sanchez, the narcissistic child of US neocolonial aspirations, dissent from? The decaying global capitalism that has given rise to the Arab Spring, the indignados and the Occupy movement? The US military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba?   

Could it be that the millions of Cubans who sustain an epic resistance on their besieged archipelago are the real dissidents?

Here, Juventud Rebelde deputy editor Ricardo Ronquillo Bello touches on several important themes. The internet poses an additional challenge to Cuba's revolutionary media alongside those arising from efforts to overhaul Cuba's socialist-oriented development model.

Our kind of dissent 

By Ricardo Ronquillo Bello, Juventud Rebelde, March 3, 2012

Translation: Marce Cameron

There’s an alluring connection between an editorial in our daily – published on March 13, 1999 – and the 120 year anniversary of the Newspaper of the Homeland that we’ll celebrate on March 14 and the Cuban Revolutionary Party[1] that gave rise to it.

“This paper was and will be a dissident one”, was the heading under which Juventud Rebelde announced its resumption as a daily paper. “We have a moral and patriotic obligation to dissent from those who are ashamed of their past[2], from those who sell themselves for 30 greenbacks, from those who adopt the uncomfortable position of kneeling so they can be blessed by the wind from the north[3]; we dissent from those who don’t believe in dreams, from the docile and the corrupt”, we said back then. “We return in rebellion against the physical and mental idlers, the sloths and the inept, the pessimists and the defeated.”

In that editorial it was also stated that we return to a daily schedule not as an independent newspaper, but one with a great dependence on our history, on our people, on our most genuine and valid traditions, on our Revolution.

The editorial did no more than reaffirm for the readers, during the times in which we overcame the greatest moral blow dealt to socialism, what had been the dilemma of the Cuban press journalists.

We came from a journalistic and revolutionary tradition nurtured by the deepest vocation to serve, passed on from the founders of the nation, among others Father Felix Varella who, when addressing the purpose of and progress towards independence, pointed out that he renounced the pleasure of being applauded for the satisfaction of being useful to the homeland. For Jose Marti, the press should be the guard-dog of the house of the homeland: “It must disobey the appetites of personal welfare and attend impartially to the public good.”

This legacy should also serve those accustomed to the apologetic justifications, the silences and the distortions that were never lacking along the complex path of socialist construction, and as a pillar for the kind of press demanded by almost all the social, political and economic actors in the country, including generations of journalists.

It's not viable to continue encouraging forms of journalism based on reaffirmation that were entrenched in no few of our journalistic spaces, while turning to others to defend the best revolutionary ideas. We need to pass from forms of institutional dependence to independence, or self-regulation, as advocated by those who teach journalism.

Journalistic practices based on reaffirmation and marked institutional dependence often ignore the descent into errors, making the reversal of their consequences more complex and costly.

No few evils that hold back our society persist due to the distortion of the checks and balances functions of the media, together with those of other structures of democratic debate. Voluntarism, combined with apologetics and the absence of institutional self-regulation, ended up being a deplorable trinity.

It’s not coincidental that the press, which had arrived at the most recent congress of the Cuban Journalists Union with updated orientations for its work from the Political Bureau of the Communist Party, is faced with a necessary transformation, as stressed in the debates at the National Conference of the Party and in those we’ve been having in the journalists union branches.

The establishment of clear institutional spaces for the press is unavoidable to block the path of interference and interventions that alter its content and functions, above all in the Cuba that reassesses its structures and in which the Party and the institutions adjust their links and connections with society.

This is happening as the Revolution updates it economic model as the first step towards gradual modifications. Here, the responsibility falls on us to contribute to the necessary political consensus and awaken the professional vigilance needed to avoid distortions of their scope and motivations – as we’re already doing, not without difficulties and misunderstandings.

We cannot ignore the fact that the Revolution is about to enter its most difficult trial by fire: the disappearance of its generation of historical leaders. Meanwhile we are gradually, though inexorably, losing the Cuban media’s monopoly of influence as a result of the rise of the internet.

In this readjustment the Cuban press must clear the way for the promotion of civic debate and revolutionary counterattack. It doesn’t matter who barks, Sancho[4]: conviction in the face of distortion should be our watchword.

Translator's footnotes:

[1] The pro-independence and social justice party founded by, among others, independence leader Jose Marti. 

[2] Presumably a reference to revolutionaries who lost heart when the Soviet Union disintegrated and the Cuban Revolution entered its post-Soviet “Special Period” crisis. 

[3] The US coastline lies 150km north of Cuba. 

[4] From a well-known passage in Miguel Cervantes’ novel Don Quixote: “The dogs are barking, Sancho, it’s a sign that we’re moving”.

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