Friday, October 24, 2014

Cuba Between Post-Totalitarianism and the Dictatorship of the Right

Cuba Between Post-Totalitarianism and the Dictatorship of the Right
October 23, 2014
Erasmo Calzadilla

HAVANA TIMES — I often say that the Cuban regime is a totalitarian
dictatorship and, in saying this, I vent the frustration it produces me
in one fell swoop. It's a shame Spanish does not have as expressive and
accurate a term as Totalherrschaft.

To be entirely honest, however, I am not too sure that shoe fits this
particular system. Allow me to explain myself.

Totalitarianism is defined by a series of characteristics: some we find
in Cuba, others not. Those that are related to the Party-State seem to
have a higher "survival rate."

These characteristics are:

- Hierarchical authority.
- Complete control over the press and media and their use for
propagandistic purposes.
- Overlapping of the State and the single Party.
- The existence of a secret police whose activities do not appear to be
restrained by law.
- Intense and explicit indoctrination of children and young people.
- Ideological control over key aspects of society, such as culture and
the economy.
- Persecution and demonization of the "Other" (dissidents, in our case).
- Liquidation of representative democracy: the leader communicates with
the people directly.
Now, totalitarianism is not authoritarianism. To secure total control,
it requires the complicity and enthusiasm of the masses. We could say
that a country is going through a totalitarian phase if:

The fear towards those who would threaten the nation state (aristocrats,
the bourgeoisie, capitalists, communists, anarchists, foreign powers)
has been transformed into mass hysteria.
Faith in political institutions has been lost and a form of unity loaded
with transcendent and mystical references is appealed to.
People long for the arrival of a charismatic, iron-handed leader that
embodies the spirit of the community and takes on the battle against the
demons that besiege it.
People are driven by a blind and irrational faith in the project's
ultimate triumph.
Do we qualify?

During the first years of the revolution, we did, but not so much now.
Some old-school Stalinists with high-ranking positions seek to restore
the country's lost ideological purity and popular euphoria, but the
spirit of the times is headed in a different direction. Even the
president seems to be blowing in a different direction.

People are fed up with grandiloquent strongmen and military parades.
Neighboring sister nations have easy access to the Internet, an active
political life, modern cities, middle classes, high levels of
consumption, so people invariably ask themselves: "why not us?" The
feeling of belonging, of a national, cultural, ideological or spiritual
identity, is a light tendency – the times of fundamentalism are behind us.

I also perceive a considerable consensus in favor of a free-market
economy. If we add the informal and indomitable spirit that
characterizes "us" to the above, it becomes extremely difficult to fit
Cuba into the mold of a totalitarian state. Where shall we place it, then?

Post-totalitarianism could be described as the remnants of a
totalitarian system (one that isn't sufficiently large to implode, as
did the Soviet Union) that has exhausted the social "energies" that once
sustained it. The government, now devoid of massive popular support,
becomes increasingly authoritarian. But it is a weary form of
authoritarianism, sustained more by inertia than by weapons and
violence. The people, however, remain mired in a king of "light
totalitarianism." I say this thinking about Cuba in particular.

The liquidation of institutions, of civil and community structures and
the affront on labor organizations, among other disasters brought about
by the revolution, have engendered what we could call the empowerment of
the rabble, a phenomenon that is not lacking in totalitarian features.
Tongue-in-cheek, I would say it is an emergent, community-based,
horizontal, self-managed and profound form of totalitarianism.

No Country for Dupes

This totalitarianism is not political, fanatical, obstinate or cruel,
like its predecessor. On the basis of local forms of aggression,
however, it wears down those who do not share its principles and values.
It is suffered by those who insist on considering themselves persons,
the bearers of an inalienable individuality that is irreducible to the
masses, most of all.

The enterprising, the creative, the intelligent, the talented, the
early-risers, the self-sacrificing, the studious, the hard-working,
those who patiently cultivate something that takes its time to yield
fruits, the non-violent, those who loathe seedy places, shady dealings
and illegalities invariably grow frustrated in such an environment. Some
lock themselves up in their homes and others leave the country,
complicating the situation even more.


If the social brew described above is placed in the context of the
approaching global crisis, the mix becomes explosive. I foresee three
possible scenarios: two probable and one miraculous.

- The country becomes ungovernable, torn by chaos, insecurity and
growing poverty. It ends up being run by mafias and patriarchal
- In reaction to the above, the State gets down to business and tries to
restore order by force, without discarding the possibility of alliances
with some criminal organizations. I would call this a "Mexicanization"
of society.
- Caught between a rock and a hard place, attacked by both, people grow
up, mature, organize and arm themselves and decides to fight for their
interests. This is something that's also happening in Mexico.
I would like to end this post with a question: if the above happened and
you had a choice, what group would you join?

Source: Cuba Between Post-Totalitarianism and the Dictatorship of the
Right - Havana -

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