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The intellectuals, culture and Cuban society

By: Graziella Pogolotti | Source: CUBARTE | 30 de June 2008

(Cubarte).- The definition of the Cuban cultural field and its link with the political authorities have been manipulated by putting into circulation vulgarized stereotypes through media campaigns and accepted as truthful in many academic circles.  The implicit reference to the soviet model dodges the specific features of the Cuban process in this as in other grounds.
The recent congress of the Cuban National Writers and Artists Union (UNEAC) points out a milestone in the public projection of the Cuban intellectual community. It has been a complex process that went trough stages of backward movements and misunderstandings. In 1959, the writers were aiming to break off the isolation wherein they had stayed until then. Virgilio Piñera, among others, was insisting on the monopoly of the dialogue with the society practiced by the journalists. A good part of debate in the following years focused on the aspects of the artistic and literary creation and on the ideological reach of that production. In spite of the spreading of Antonio Gramsci´s thought, few understood at that time the cultural dimension of the problem, inscribed in the system of moral values that the social project of the Revolution encouraged. In the nineteen nineties, a new perspective was flourishing, stimulated paradoxically by the hard years of economic crisis and by the collapse the socialist camp.
Under those circumstances, the development of the educational programs and the expansion of the cultural institutions modified in an imperceptible and yet substantial manner, the terms of the dialogue with the political direction of the nation. From the traditional dichotomy between artistic vanguard and political vanguard, it was moving to the concept of intellectual community, organically articulated to the Island’s living body.
The most visible turning point took place in 1998, when the sixth congress of the UNEAC, without neglecting the specific themes, centered the debates on a paper entitled Culture and society. The analysis started with an acknowledgement of the effects of the globalization in the contemporary world and its repercussions in the identifying conscience that with its capability to cross frontiers was having repercussions inside the country. It was indicating, likewise, the upheavals of the social fabric derived from the appearance of “strips of capitalism” and the resulting increase of inequalities.
Ten years later, at the seventh Congress, Culture and society constituted itself again in the debate´s spinal column. Without ignoring its explicit antecedent, the assumed perspective, more than sociological, was strictly cultural. Starting from the dissatisfactions related to the recreation, subverts the fragmentation of life between available hours used mere distraction and those dominated by the boring labour commitment. The corporate image, concrete expression of globalization, spreads out a concept of entertainment that establishes the paradigms of happiness and with them the life models. Centered apparently in the exacerbation of individualism, they are homogenous formulas articulated to a system of values. They promote not thinking, they annul critical spirit, they generate conditioned reflexes and mask, behind the enjoyment of momentary evasion, the consolidation of a hegemonic dominion.
For those motives, the link among culture and society is placed in the scope of values, shaped in the family, at school, in the religious thought of diverse roots, in the praxis of the political organizations, in ideological structures, in the mechanisms of reward and punishment assumed by the social body and the powerful audiovisual media prevailing in the contemporary world. In the planting of values that intertwine sensibility and reason. They always refer themselves to duty to be explicit or implicit, to an explicit or hidden ideology.
By placing itself in that ground, the seventh congress of the UNEAC, from the perspective of the Revolution and taking into account the conflicts of contemporaneity, opens the space for a deep reflection about the concrete reality of the country, inscribed in the context of the globalize world. A criticism based in analytical foundations encouraged debates that tackle urgent educational problems, the media, the preservation of the cities, the survival of excluded stereotypes in relation to race and sexual orientation. It was about establishing the indispensable premises to configure, in an effective manner, the future work schedule of the UNEAC.
The most significant, however, has becoming perceptible after the closing of the congress. In the practice of the dialogue among the writers and artists, as well as the one that has been integrated among them and the high political direction of the country, is redesigning the function of the intellectuals in the whole of society. The Congress has had, in fact, a great popular resonance. For the Cubans who lack the sense of labels in use in the great international press that brand the intellectuals that adhered to the revolutionary project as official, at the same time as attempting to promote a civil society characterized by systematic opposition. From the diversity of our voices and occupations, we hope to continue making a fruitful fatherland constructed by all for the good of all.
The writers and artists keep on conquering, step by step, the public space that Virgilio Piñera and Alejo Carpentier claimed, each one on his own way, almost fifty years ago. The process has been long, not without trials and tribulations. It was necessary to overcome obstacles and zones of distrust, some of them accumulated by the left-wing thought through a history marked by rapprochements and ruptures. Between ourselves, those always silenced, we had to start making the artistic creation visible through the foundation of publishing houses, museums galleries, groups of dance and theatre, the multiplication of musical groups and the reaffirmation of the national cinema. Afterwards, the institution that was grouping them began to define its profile. More than a union or a promotional centre of the arts, the UNEAC constituted itself in a channel for the dialogue with the society. With the economic crisis and the collapse of the socialist culture and nation intertwined in the reappraisal of the identity. The fight for survival was demanding, at the same time as the preservation of values for the purpose of maintaining alive the seed of the future. In view of that defiance, attending to the demands of the 21st century, the UNEAC redefines and reconstitutes itself, always bearer of the restlessness of its members, the Cuban writers and artists.
Translation: Mercedes Carballo



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