By Agustín Lage Dávila
Our country is in the hands of its youth. It always has been: Martí was 16 years old when he wrote El Presidido Político en Cuba, Mella was 22 when he founded the Communist Party, Guiteras was 27 when he ordered the nationalization of the Electricity Company, Fidel was also 27 when he attacked the Moncada Barracks, and Che was 30 years old when he took Santa Clara.
The young vanguard has always had very clear concepts about what needs to be done. This is why it is so important that we discuss the essential concepts we need to guide today’s tasks and move forward. One of those essential concepts, perhaps the most important, is that defending Cuba and defending Socialism are not two different battles, but one and the same struggle.
Human societies are historical entities, and this historicity means that what we are today is the consequence of a long and complex trajectory, which is different for each human community. Ours is a trajectory that from its very origins links the aspiration of national sovereignty with that of equality and social justice.
For Cuba in the 21st century, sovereignty and socialism are two interdependent concepts: we will not have national sovereignty without socialism, nor can we build socialism without national sovereignty.
National sovereignty has always been (and continues to be) a sacred goal for which many Cubans have given their lives. But it was always a goal that does not exhaust itself. Sovereignty is not a station of arrival: it is a point of departure. We defend it because it is what allows us to continue the path towards higher goals, related to social justice, human dignity and culture.
The defence of national sovereignty today includes the defence of socialism.
Sovereignty is not an abstract concept: it is the right to be different. And among those differences, we have become the longest historical experiment in the construction of socialism, currently under development (with the exception of China and all its particularities).
Being “different” today means having the effective freedom to overcome the logic of commercial relations that construct inequalities and exclusion, and to guide strategies towards an economic rationality that creates culture, justice and long-term sustainability in ways which are different to the rationale for maximizing immediate profits.
It means that if we retreated in our national sovereignty, the construction of our institutions, which are always in need of renewed perfectibility but also always inclusive and participatory, would freeze, innovation and development would freeze, and then the centres of world power would resume the acquisition of assets as have done since the 19th century, and they would manufacture “their” subordinate national elite in Cuba. It has already happened once in 1902. We Cubans of today and those of tomorrow cannot allow that to happen again.
In today’s world, in order to achieve the interdependent objectives of national sovereignty and social justice, the social ownership of the fundamental means of production and the leading role of state enterprise in the economy are needed.
Social justice is education, health, access to culture, the protection of work and social security, objectives that are specified in a system of carefully budgeted institutions that are financed with the income of the state economy. We would not have been able to build it with the tax revenues of an underdeveloped, privatized and dependent economy.
Social equality is not a consequence of economic development: it is a prerequisite for economic development.
The Cuban revolutionary trajectory has built a broad consensus in our society on the objectives that we must achieve. That consensus is an undeniable advantage gained by us.
The basic belief of capitalism (including those still who honestly believe in capitalism) is the construction of material prosperity based on private property and competition. Ours is based on creativity driven by the ideals of equity and solidarity amongst people, including future generations.
We have many options before us, and there is much to discuss in our society, but we could not do anything if we did not have national sovereignty to defend an independence which, particularly in this 21st century, demands greatly upon education, science and culture.
On the sovereignty of Cuba and on the goals of socialism, we must build a strong consensus that is as rock solid as granite. Only then can we debate all we want about the specific ways through which we will achieve our sovereign goals.
Our task is to strengthen that consensus. The plan of our historical adversaries is to erode it. “Plan against Plan”, as José Martí once put it.
In the 1980s, when signs of disintegration were already being seen in the European socialist camp, Fidel Castro developed the doctrine of “The All People’s War” that put the brakes on any military option intended to destroy the Revolution. Then in the 90s he promoted what at that time we began to call “The Battle of Ideas”.
Those of us who lived both stages today see very clearly that the Battle of Ideas is the continuity of The All People’s War under new circumstances.
In the first case, we won: the history of military invasions in Granada, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Panama and others, could not be repeated in Cuba. In the second case today, providing a leading role in shaping ideas and replenishing the paths of our cultural hegemony, we have to win as well.
It is essential to understand that, for Cuba, Sovereignty and Socialism are one and the same thing.
Agustín Lage Dávila is Director of Cuba’s Molecular Immunology Centre. He is a Doctor of Medicine, Doctor of Medical Sciences, Associate Professor, Senior Researcher; Coordinator of the Technical Council of Projects of the Biotechnology Centres of the State Council. He was a member of the Advisory Committee on Health Research of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and Coordinator of the National Program for the Reduction of Mortality from Cancer.
With thanks to Brenda Murillo, cubanoypunto.wordpress.com
Translation: Aaron Kelly