How to keep on being an activist in Cuba when old paradigms are ending?

Alexander Hall in front of the Alma Mater of the Universidad de La Habana.
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Este artículo en Español

This essay authored by Alexander Hall, a student at the Universidad de la Habana, was first published in Spanish on Tremenda Nota, an LGBTIQ+ and feminist news site in Cuba.

2022 begins in the wake of a whole series of circumstances: wide-spread discontent, breakdowns, and afflictions. None of these, it appears, will be solved for Cuban families in the immediate future.

The social explosion that occurred in 2021 left behind wounds that are still open. These unprecedented protests added yet another level of complexity to the already difficult current situation.

Large numbers of young people remain in prison and face inflated charges. Those affected are, in the majority, poor, Black and mestizo families. This illustrates the structural crisis in Cuba that cuts across multiple barriers of oppression.

The July 11th protests resulted in a series of events that upset Cuba’s reality. We are all obligated to side with those who suffer the consequences of domination.

At this point, it is impossible to uncritically accept the designs of an excessively bureaucratic power that is moving at an accelerated pace towards the deepening of capitalist production relations, which bring worsening racism, increased poverty, and inequality—in addition to greater levels of consumerism for some classes to the detriment of others.

Moreover, this bureaucracy normalizes authoritarian practices that confer few guarantees of social, civil, and political rights to those who oppose its domination, are militants in civil society, or who advocate emancipatory alternatives within a Marxist context that is different from the current institutional framework.

Those who remain anchored to the neo-Stalinist foundations will continue to enjoy the privileges guaranteed by the support they give to the current establishment. With this advantage, they enjoy absolute immunity in the exercise of their right to publicly protest and propagate a dogmatic narrative that contributes to the maintenance of an obviously unfair system. Their message is limited to justifying the erosion of the political Cuban model, and they consider themselves to be “on the left” as a gesture of convenient indulgence.

Although such an approach seems to present a vindicating sense of justice in a theoretical framework, history shows that social achievements are not gifts from the empowered sectors, but the result of struggles by civil movements against the socioeconomic structures that seek to perpetuate conditions of privilege.

Popular mobilization, accompanied by a consistent intellectual production, is the only path to a liberating praxis.

In this sense, I prefer to continue in the company of those who have chosen suffering as their destiny, alongside those who try to maintain coherence in scenarios where the hostility of polarized environments ends in violence.

I do not want to go down the same path as groups that seek to establish neoliberal models, Eurocentric paradigms or religiously-ordained alternatives that are based on the fetishization of class exploitation and the oppression of groups considered inferior by Western theorizing. The invisibility of people of African descent and the whitening of Cuba’s image have their roots in this route.

On the neoliberal island of Cuba that some envision, the Black population would be relegated to the margins of society. Racist, elitist, proto-fascist and LGBTIQ+-phobic ideas would be celebrated as a triumph over the historic gains of the Cuban Revolution.

Being a militant in this context is very complex. The blinders of the egomaniacs, the retreat from struggle by the shameless, and the consolidation of friendship at the most challenging moments are all part of the present reality.

Those causes that attempt to restore a national project away from the mechanical importation of foreign referents will have me as their ally, as long as they keep their distance from the state-centric, single-party system that bureaucratizes public policy and militarizes strategic sectors in order to protect their interests.

My desires remain lodged in radical paradigms rooted in anti-capitalist emancipatory sacrifices. My dream symbols are Malcolm X, Frantz Fanon, Angela Davis, Ochy Curiel, Aimé Césaire. The list is inexhaustible.

The legacy of these figures refuses to die and is reborn with every new generation of activists. The danger of neutrality or complacency forces us to be very conscientious and vigilant.

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