Ladies in White

The Last Days of That Amorphous Thing Called “The Masses” / Cubanet,
Rafael Alcides
Posted on February 1, 2015

Whatever the Cuban government does, that amorphous thing with no head or
eyes, that they call “the masses,” is in its final days. And with it are
also ending the repudiation rallies, detentions, physical attacks on the
Ladies in White, and other forms of repression.
Cubanet, Rafael Alcides, Havana, 29 January 2015 — In the first
elections of Cuban socialism, an old Communist leader would call the
voters from his neighborhood and would instruct them which candidate
they should vote for. I, being a provocateur and also a friend of his,
told him, “Didn’t we agree to let the masses decide?” He replied to me,
with a complicit irony while stopping the next voter in order to
instruct him, “Yes, but we need to orient them.”

I say complicit irony, because that leader understood that I, by that
time, should have known all too well that the trappings of democracy are
a farce in socialism, mere props. Being, after all, totalitarian, one
thing the Socialist State fears is that the citizenry – “the masses” as
those who “orient” them call it – could think for itself.

From there proceeds the State’s lifelong fear of the artist, the
intellectual – even of those whom it pretends to honor with its paper
roses – and its fear of the individual, of the loner. In Cuba, the State
– the better to keep an eye on him, and beyond that to convert him into
one of “the masses” – made the peasant a member of a cooperative, he who
had been granted two plots of land, and whenever possible made him live
in housing developments where the units were joined window to window,
allowing the residents to watch and overhear each other at good advantage.

Clearly, this fear had to be hidden. Taking advantage of the political
circumstances of the moment (we’re talking of the months following the
Bay of Pigs), the “Within the revolution, everything; outside the
revolution, nothing”* pills were quickly manufactured, which had a
certain flavor of patriotism on the outside, and much Soviet medicine on
the inside.

Even though they appear to have been produced for use by the
intellectuals, these pills have been a daily dose administered to the
masses. We observe them when, arguing that “the enemy** is listening,”
Cubans are prohibited to speak unless it is to praise the Revolution. Or
when, without consulting the people, the government declares wars in
which the country will participate with tens of thousands of men. Or
when, as right now, the government makes peace with the “enemy” of just
a minute ago, according to the surprising announcement by Raúl this past
December 17.

All right, now. Following this announcement, which the people have
greeted with emotion, these pills have lost their potency. Or, we must
re-think this. Besides, logic and the reasoning of the Socialist State
tend to not coincide. The foreign press continues mentioning (while the
national press doesn’t discuss it) new detentions, operatives stationed
outside residences, all with the object of preventing the opposition
from attending anti-establishment events, and reporting names of
dissidents whose passports have been confiscated or not renewed – who
rightfully fear being returned to their former condition of “prisoners
at large.”

But, why? When, after all, ‘round about two years ago, they were allowed
to travel outside the country, and the government did not collapse. So,
then, why this regression? And besides, why now, at this moment, when
the hackneyed and same old song about the “plaza besieged” can no longer
be invoked?

We are not so Hellenic, although anything can happen in a government
full of secrets.

In any case, let the government do what it will now, that amorphous
thing with no head or eyes, which the government leaders privately call
“the masses,” is in its final days. And with it are also ending the
repudiation rallies, detentions, physical attacks on the Ladies in
White, and all manner of repression that has up to today been the
government’s common practice.

Because, with the ratification of the United Nations Covenants on Civil
and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights –
without which as a precondition for the agreements announced on December
17, 2014, Obama would have become a super-generous Santa Claus to Raúl
Castro – the dissidents will, finally, enter into possession of the
rights that will allow them to dedicate themselves, without government
interference, to the formation of political parties, societies,
professional schools and institutions, all essential to a democratic
civil society. Why? Because in those little pills that are the Covenants
— and the reason the government has not wanted to ratify them — is
contained all that is necessary to articulate a democracy wherein the
citizen can enter an electoral college and vote with decency, without
anybody “orienting” him.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

* Translator’s note: A line from Fidel Castro’s so-called “Speech to the
Intellectuals,” delivered in June 1961.

** Translator’s note: The “enemy” is a common epithet used by the Castro
government and its supporters to refer to the United States.

Source: The Last Days of That Amorphous Thing Called “The Masses” /
Cubanet, Rafael Alcides | Translating Cuba –

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