Cuba: the failure of the elites

One cannot serve today those who make history,
one must serve those who are subject to it.

Albert Camus

What happened this week in Cuba, in the saga of siege and repression against the San Isidro Movement, is not “everyone’s” fault. The Stalinist tradition has taught us, discursively, to privatize achievements and socialize failures. But one cannot dilute asymmetrical responsibilities and powers. This is a failure of legitimacy and governance by the national elites. Elites whose power rests on the rents of an extractive model of domination, exploitation and accumulation halfway between bureaucratic socialism and state capitalism.

Failure of the political elite, clinging to an autocratic governability alien to the urgencies and cleavages of today’s Cuban society. Failure of the ecclesiastical elite, which did not know how to play the mediating role that the situation handed to them on a platter and that its own rank and file demanded. Failure of the academic elite, busy with their attempts to obsequiously disguise despotism behind discourses that appeal to “ideologies”, “reasons of State” and even “rejection of marginality”. Discourses that are out of touch with the real country, with the plain and diverse people.

Failure of the NGO elites –coddle by their peers in international cooperation– who ignored the most basic civic solidarity to maintain their officially granted privileges. Failure of the media elites, state-owned or tolerated, who made the crisis invisible. From the entrepreneurial elites –and their external allies– who bet on a capitalist modernization without a Republic for everyone. All of them, bound by a metropolitan class pact with contents of race, gender and profession, support the conservative –in no way “revolutionary”– regime of today’s Cuba.

Underneath them, there is a society still fragmented and impoverished, in which during these days, in spite of everything, valuable groups and voices have risen. Artists, journalists, nuns, intellectuals, laymen, peasants, common and diverse people. They held vigils in parks and churches, signed letters, protested in the streets and turned their privileges into a tribune for denunciation. Therein lies the hope, uncertain and battered, of the island nation.

The Cuban intellectual Alina López Hernández recently explained, with a systematic and rigorous approach that is alien to demagogic determinism, that a new historical moment is brewing in Cuba. The rulers show themselves to be incapable of channeling a successful path to reforms. A certain -emergent, novel, limited but real- citizen capacity to question this incompetence in the court of public opinion is emerging. As the historian pointed out, today’s leaders are not able to move the nation forward with the old methods, but they are not capable of accepting more participatory forms, with a greater weight of the citizenry in the decision-making process.

A few days ago I wrote -after reading a wise reflection by the writer Carlos Aguilera- that peoples are abstract entelechies. Their substances and demands are condensed into great events, massive and punctual, in exceptional circumstances. Only people and communities exist, permanently. In their diversity. To those and from those we will have to give the fight. So that hatred and oblivion do not triumph. For all of us who are (or seem to be) alive and for those who are giving their lives for us. For our fears, doubts, mistakes and silences.

Armando Chaguaceda. Cuban political scientist and historian graduated from the University of Havana (Cuba) and the University of Veracruz (Mexico). Researcher specialized in government and political analysis, and country-expert of the V-Dem project. He studies the processes of democratization and self-cratization in Latin America and Russia.


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