On Closing / Francis Sánchez

I had promised to publish two other parts of my last post, “Closed for Demolition”. Many days have gone by without my being able to do so. I will no longer do it, because definitely what I had in mind would only add essay-type content. The fundamental thing, the denunciation, is already done, and what remains is the testimony. I will save those texts in order to add other pages to new projects.

I am very grateful to all those who have written comments and who have offered me solidarity because, although it may seem minimal, it is an indispensable nourishment for moving ahead with life. In some way, although at times there is a delay in my being able to know it, I have always ended up becoming aware of what they comment and write to me. But it is true that I could not publish with the necessary frequency, or safety, without harming other people who were helping me. Thank you.

The blog “Man in the Clouds” is a marvelous chapter of my life that I do not regret. Of course, neither am I the one who is closing it–”for now”, I hear the little voice of temptation tell me–I specifically denounce my fear–not so much for me, but for my family–and the things that cause it, because no one is to blame for feeling fear. “No one. Absolutely no one,” says the magnificent writer Eliseo Alberto in the memoir “Report Against Myself.”

What will be most difficult in closing or cutting off is the need for complete freedom of expression, an inalienable right that connects hears and does not depend on any cable. So we will keep on seeing each other in this beautiful site.

The television series “The Reasons of Cuba”, which launched a new catalogue of agents infiltrated into Cuban society, with the direction the revelations took, places in evidence a new period of control or official pressure on national culture and intellectuality, as if the margin of natural life we had left for our development were not already very miserable. The supposed master act of these “agents” did not happen before or after it came out on television, but only now that they have come to achieve something with true impact, and it is this: the mixture of anger, disappointment, nausea, fear, shame, pity, remorse, etc. that can be found by following the tracks that they left among all the manipulated people–colleagues, friends, neighbors, work mates, etc.–whom they tried to provoke and attract with false projects that they made up themselves. Revulsion is said to be a paralyzing feeling. Now, when the coaxial cable that has arrived at the Cuban coast is about to begin to function, and at all levels they are trying to limit access to the new technologies, flagrantly violating the privacy of the mail, which is a violation of the Cuban Constitution, perhaps the punishing blow is taking shape, the censorship that we intellectuals have been waiting for since the “email crisis” of 2007. To criminalize intellectuality and that natural attachment to freedom of expression.

Translated by S.Solá

April 18 2011

Closed for Demolition / Francis Sánchez

Photo: Francis Sánchez

[I have decided to publish, before this blog is closed down, some texts that I didn't publish at the time because it was practically impossible to do it because of obvious difficulties or because as time passed I doubted that it would be the best idea. Due to recent events, I think it is best not to leave them unpublished. They are the following texts: the article "Guatacas" (Hoes), the poem "La palabra Abedul" (The Word Abedul) and the documents "Carta abierta a un amigo" (Open Letter to a Friend) and "Aclaración al lector" (Clarification to the Reader). The last work that must be published on this blog is "Cerrado por demolición" (Closed for Demolition), which will appear in three parts or submissions: "La cosa en la red" (The Thing in the Net), "Puntos negros" (Black Points) and "Nosotros y las nubes" (We and the Clouds).]

I. The “Thing” in the Net

When I opened this blog, only some five months ago, I told the story of a night full of nightmares, the time that my wife almost collapsed and I was at her side for us to survive impotence and frustration together for reasons that are explained in the post “Mass Layoffs. Dissolve the public?” Now this blog called “Man in the Clouds” is closed down or nailed to the air with this article which, under the title “Closed for Demolition” I plan to publish in three parts or submissions, after I have once again lived through a night of horror. Cuban television has just shown, at the top hour of eight-thirty at night, a new chapter of the series “The Reasons of Cuba”, with the title “Cyberwarfare”.

I had promised myself to try to never hurt, much less attack, other people in my writing, as well as to not defend myself from that type of low blows when I became a target because of my points of view–to encourage personal disagreements or mudslinging, supposedly among intellectuals, is an undertaking of destruction and ethical poverty in which the principal investors in immobility and censorship are accustomed to place their ample resources, betting on empty, on despair and generalized revulsion–but it seems I have no alternative but to break the second of my resolutions and defend myself. I will do this because essentially it won’t even be self-defense, which is a luxury impossible for me to properly undertake given the very excessive and even abstract disproportion between my attacker and myself. It seems the critical hour has come and I want, while I still can, to denounce injustice and put my ideas and my position down in writing.

The faceless apparatus of the political police accuses me, among the few “independent bloggers” that exist in Cuba, to be in the pay of the United States government. “Cybermercenaries in Cuba” wrote an invisible hand on the Google search engine and, to the horror of my family, I do not know which shady search engine could have produced as a result of this television program showing a page of my blog on the small screen. Enrique Ubieta, who often shows up to defend the powerful “Raison d’Etat”, author of some book he was asked to produce and director of the newspaper “La calle del medio”, at one point says to the camera that this is obviously some ambitious guy who, like somebody who sets up a fried food stand, is trying to get through the economic crisis very easily by getting on the Internet for money paid by Washington. It is unbearably false that my blog be shown here, even a single page for a fraction of a second, but it happened and I saw it, and the most horrible part is that it is linked to my profound impotence. I don’t have to say that I have never set foot inside the USA Interest Section in Havana, nor have I earned or aspired to earn a cent for writing or recording my ideas on a personal blog. A blog that began one day in search of my own breathing room as a marginalized intellectual. A marginalization whose degree has increased a lot since, in early 2007, I published my text “La crisis de la baja cultura” (The Crisis of Low Culture), loaded with a strong dose of social criticism, at the same time as those events that some have called “the email crisis”.

To write, create and reflect, defending the hypothesis of full internal freedom, is something that I have had since I was a child, like breathing. But it makes no sense for me to try to run faster than the lies, since a larger truth is common knowledge, atrocious and popularly incorporated into people’s daily survival mechanism in the face of despotism and the Mystery Syndrome in Cuba: the key is not to predict the problem you might get into, but the one the want to create for you. I, like any individual, lack legal mobility inside a monotonous system, and the most I can hope for is that they pardon my life in order not to air dirty laundry in front of third parties. The structure, the true apparatus of power, works in the shadows. The convictions and activities that any individual may be involved in that show any degree of rejection of the system will be just one set of little crystals under a magnifying glass, a microscope or a telescopic viewer, according to each clinical evolution.

Some months before, a video had leaked through–circulated on a flash drive to another–that was of a conference given to some colleagues by a specialist from the Ministry of the Interior, entitled “Enemy Campaigns and Policies for Confronting Counterrevolutionary Groups”, in which the theme of the new technologies was addressed. On the topic of the blogosphere, he made the following comment:

“They want to create in our minds the concept that the blogger is a kind of enemy of the Revolution. If we take on the bloggers now, we will really make an enemy for ourselves.”

The presenter doubtless was alluding to the process of criminalization that, before the Internet and blogs, over time had made against other technologies that had empowered people: video cameras, video cassettes, computers, printers, mobile phones, to give just a few examples, as well as concepts such as civil society and branches of science like sociology. Which reminds me that, in 1998 when I got my first computer with a printer connected, a cultural assembly registered a complaint against the “danger” that was in my house, which was made by the director of the provincial library. The operating strategy, nevertheless, apparently was going to suffer a radical shift, going from the supposed precaution of a private meeting to the public offensive tactic of the establishment of a new prohibitive code that, following the war manual, reduces a problematic social reality to an epithet, a discrediting term for a person who asks for rationality, but gets echo, euphoria, unconditional repudiation: “cybermercenary” is the new word that overwrites so many other terms that have historically been put in the mouths of the masses.

The day after the previously mentioned television program showed, the newspaper “Granma”, official organ of the PCC (Cuban Communist Party), would publish an even more inclusive and horrific accusation, which apparently left me before the masses labeled just as one more venal soldier, but with all the colors of the typical beast for whom the hunting season never expires in public spaces: pro-Yankee, traitor, terrorist, in other words a monster ready for lynching, packing and sending to hell. In a provincial town like Ciego de Ávila, where I live, going to hell is not a very long trip. These processes of demonization had already begun long before, with a harassment that became progressively less veiled. Now it is the spying, vigilance and persecution I suffer all the time. A meeting was even called by the First Secretary of the Provincial Party at which intellectuals and journalists were exhorted to avoid me. One fine day somebody robs me, takes my cell phone out of my wallet. Another day someone comes to let me know they have been recording and filming me. From one day to the next a literary activity that some careless promoter was kind enough to organize for me and my family is cancelled. Suddenly the television, on the program of March 21 previously mentioned, puts a moral price on my photo. And finally, as a climax, “Granma” publishes multiple accusations, which are also so exaggerated that I am able to refute them all at the same time. Luckily, the activity of a writer and the social reflections made on a blog have the objective of staying afloat, of opening oneself to scrutiny, letting the light in that so bothers those who live in shadows and speculation. So instead of saying “lie” a thousand times, I can limit myself to asking in what part of my texts I have advocated any of that which is imputed to me here:

“These bloggers [...] have exhorted people to rise up in Cuba, have promoted violence, support the Cuban Settlement Law, justified the blockade, deny that the most reactionary sector of Miami is the enemy of the Cuban people, say that the case of the terrorist Luis Posada Carriles is a smoke screen and even go so far as to openly express [sic] the change of the political system [...].”*3

The latter reproach is very confusing since the editing evidently failed, but it is worth doubting if, in order to straighten out the text, the “official organ of the party” would be willing to do without the Marxist dialectic that has theoretically justified the Cuban political system and which recognizes in social relations a non-linear process, an object of permanent transformation. Would it be inhuman to live according to the universal maxim, so romantic and absolute, of “change everything [everything!] that must be changed.” Or rather is it not monstrous that someone can decide what everything is for everyone? An identical paradox was presented to intellectuals in June of 1961, in a meeting at the National Library, under the banner of “Inside the Revolution, everything. Against the Revolution, nothing” (this year is the fiftieth anniversary of this event), so that these [intellectuals] could entertain themselves for a long while “sucking on this stone”. Life would show that no one was going to find an escape from the rhetoric of power, no one except the subject master himself, much less intellectuals with the “original sin” of not being of the proletariat or revolutionaries and, meanwhile, they could give each other as many exclusions as there were stars in the sky and political power could be concentrated. Well, for good reason the “words of the intellectuals” are not known, although the ‘I’m afraid” said that day by Virgilio Piñera is still quite explicit.

I responsibly proclaim what I believe comes out naturally in my work: I would never associate myself with hatred or the shedding of a drop of blood; I do not approve of the blockade against Cuba; I reject any type of terrorism, fundamentally state terrorism. To express myself against all terrorism would lead me to be, for example, against the type that promotes revolutions by blowing up bombs in movie houses and parks, against the type that tries to destabilize governments by putting bombs in hotels, against the type that organizes paramilitary squadrons and causes people to disappear, against the type that converts society into an artificial political web capable of functioning millimetrically to produce the expatriation or social death of anyone whom it doesn’t like, against the type that sends out crowds to surround a man in his house with his family only because he thinks differently… By the way, regarding my rejection of violence, in a section of my poem collection “Epitafios de nadie” (Nobody’s Epitaphs) (Ed. Oriente, 2009), the poem “Medallista de plata” (Silver Medalist) about the sabotage of that Cuban plane in Barbados says: “[...] On what island, of what random face / did the assassin ask quickly quickly for a ticket? / It was forgotten here in his luggage. / Never open it again. The gold is for the sea.” In the same book, as a matter of fact, two other poems about such tragedies in contemporary Cuban history do not appear, since they were censored: the sinking of the tugboat Trece de Marzo and the events of August 1994 which some call the Malecón Uprising.

Many sectors or social groups have been categorized as traitors or fifth columnists, also lumped in a group, according to some strategy of doctrinal hardening, sometimes within something as simple as to say, “Whoever doesn’t jump is a Yankee.” These have included those young men who had to hide away to listen to the Beatles, Catholics, Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals, poets of family life, ecologists, street artists of the eighties, hip hop singers, and a long list of others, each one in its own time. Over and over, we members of the Cuban family have been variously called “scum”, “country-sellers”, “worms”, and have apparently been worthy of repudiation, stonings and kicks, receiving and passing on the baton, the black speck. At the same time, in order to restrain that plurality embodying ideological differences and social criticism, frequently the traitorous pretext has been used by people who adopt a field of intellectual action that is internally mined because they were supposedly making up a scenario for a foreign invasion. A very notable Inquisition-like scene was set up against the authors of the books “Fuera de juego” (Out of the Game) and “Los siete contra Tebas” (Seven Against Thebes), prize winners from the UNEAC 1968, in poetry and theater, respectively. The “Declaration of the UNEAC”, signed November 15, 1968, and given out as a prologue to the poem collection of Heberto Padilla, demonstrated a mechanism that would remain essentially active, an overgrown apparatus that marks people and works for their circulation with an untimely meaning.

“Now then: whom do these books serve? Do they serve our revolution, slandered this way, hurt by such means? Obviously not. Our revolutionary conviction allows us to point out that poetry and that theater are our enemies, and their authors are the artists they need to feed their Trojan horse at the hour when imperialism decides to put into practice its policy of warlike frontal aggression against Cuba.”

Manuel Díaz Martínez, a member of the Poetry Judging Panel, tells us that, after a lot of maneuvering to avoid giving the prize based strictly on literary quality, the executive leaders of the UNEAC met with the different members of the panel to explain to them the problems that had come up with the books in question and there, at that time, Félix Pita Rodríguez in his role as attorney general, played the last card, the lethal disintegrating ray one, saying: “The problem, comrades, is that there is a conspiracy by the intellectuals against the revolution.” Díaz Martínez reveals: “Before such an accusation, I asked to speak and I requested him to give out the names of those “conspirators”. He didn’t give them. What existed was a government conspiracy against freedom of opinion.”3 Although Félix Pita didn’t say them, the names of those intellectuals would become well known in the following years, due to the weight of the suffering and ostracism that some of them, “counterrevolutionaries” like José Lezama Lima and Virgilio Piñera, would endure to the end of their lives.

I reject and denounce the epithet “counterrevolutionary”–the term mercenary is included a priori; it is always around the house–that they want to apply to me as a pretext for repression, for eliminating the right to live in a nation and a culture that are alive and open, because I practice an intellectual policy of resistance that is not that of collaboration, or of silence, or of exile; it is perhaps best described as existentialist. If it offends me, it is because it is untrue, the same reason for which I believe the term “revolutionary” intellectual is invalid since it, with a functionalism and a reductionist and exclusionary axiological economy, has been used to deny the natural rights of the artist or the intellectual–uncomplicate him, dehumanize him, emptying his thought and work–in the period following the triumph of the Revolution, inside Cuba. Both reductions are resonating figures that follow the same selective pattern, since they inform, more than on the particular qualities, on the will for power that dominates a social field reduced to its minimum expression.

The game of taking turns in power allowed inside such limits carries with it too much feigning, pretense, hypertrophy, traditional debate of the appropriateness of social criticism, a problem that soon became written in the annals of academia as exclusively applying to the topic of the function or the “role of the revolutionary intellectual” in society. The art of simulation, needed to survive, would lead many to cross the waters of that obligatory ideological baptism while barely touching them, adopting an essentialist vision of accepting the stereotype of such a mark in a decontextualized form. Manuel Díaz Martínez himself tells that, in the meeting of the Judging Panel at which a final decision would be made, he defended his proposal, declaring that “Fuera del juego” (Out of the Game) was critical but not counterrevolutionary–actually revolutionary in its criticism”.

This synecdoche could be justified for the hypo-statization of the figure of the “revolutionary intellectual” for the plain and simple flesh-and-blood intellectual, as has frequently happened, trusting that the rights earned for one, for the only existing or really accepted one, are going to be extended as if by contagion to the rest. This modest aspiration, nevertheless, perhaps hides in the end a conflict with the humanist tradition, when one tries to make obsolete an ideal model, on which have depended a good part of the achievements of Western civilization–to which the process of Cuban nationality belongs, however much this might be sometimes denied–in which intellectuals not only represented themselves to themselves and to others, like mirrors facing mirrors, but who aspired to express, catalyze, assign prerogatives, rights and rich possibilities of all of society as a whole. In this sense, the social and critical relevance of the intellectual is going to be subject to the universal norm of the average common man, because he thinks or exists, nothing else.

But the degree of ideal communicability and criticism that the advocates of a Manichean, convenient, simplifying power structure in Cuba unfortunately seems to be being reduced, more and more, to zero. Desiderio Navarro, in his presentation “In medias res publicas” (In the middle of the public thing) presented at the International Conference “The Role of the Intellectual in the Public Arena” (organized by the Prince Claus of Holland Fund held in Beirut in February 2000), stated regarding the Cuban situation:

“[...]the criteria for correct social criticism would not be [whether it is] the truth, but rather the degree to which its attention to detail, scrupulousness and rigor correspond to a certain measure of what is necessary or advisable. [...] To not criticize the whole or to criticize less than is necessary or advisable is not a reason for condemnation and exclusion. This shows that “zero”, total absence, is in reality the ideal degree of social criticism.”4

So neither does the favorite strategy of official refutation accept within the public domain that any ideo-esthetic platform be established for debate unless it is not vertically controlled. In practice, this reaction has been made into law: close the social contract to the human being, discrediting his will as if he were a micro-organnism that obeys an infinitely superior infection process.

“The most frequent manner of attacking critical interventions by the intellectuals in the public sphere is not, as one might expect, pointing out the negative consequences that their critical statements could supposedly have or, even less, the demonstration of the supposedly erroneous nature of these statements, but rather the attribution of reprehensible hidden intentions to their authors [...].”5

I am not falling off this cloud now. I knew the risk of being, of “inhabiting the language”, even those limits broken and contaminated by an alien reality. Limits where there is always a lack of oxygen for the creatures that struggle to keep the heat and tremor of their dreams. One day a beloved successful writer taught me: “I only start wars I know I am going to win.” This author, of course, had arranged to get in and out of scandalous activities without being unworthy of a certificate of confidence that is only issued from the vision of the winners. But true success is never the presence of anything, or proof of life, at least never in that despicable sense, not visionary. On the contrary, I think that if the plan for my freedom is condemned to failure in the small and circumstantial sense, it must move forward toward it in the larger sense: “I can no longer be free/I will enlarge my prisons.”6 If indeed our common home–although not the largest of those we live in–is history, country, a language of our present and shared being, it seems inhabitable for the people who are completely defeated and must leave outside their excess suffering, even having fallen; the imponderable of being can make us endure before the door.

Notes:

1 The program was transmitted o the Cubavisión channel on March 21, 2011, and retransmitted on other channels the following day.
2 “The Reasons of Cuba”. Cyber warfare: mercenaries on the net”, Deisy Francis Mexidor, in Granma, March 22, 2011, p. 5.
3 Manuel Díaz Martínez: “Brief Inside Story of the Padilla Case”.
4 Desiderio Navarro: “In medias res publicas”, in magazine “La Gaceta de Cuba”, no. 3, May-June, 2001, p.43.
5 Idem.
6 Verse by Manuel Altolaguirre.

Translated by S. Solá

March 31 2011

Dissident Sonia Garro Detained in Havana / Iván García

According to Mercedes Fresneda Castillo, fighter for Afrocuban rights and member of the Ladies in White support group, the community activist and dissident Sonia Garro Alfonso, 35, was detained by the police on Thursday, July 14 at 7 PM.

“I was with her until 6 PM. Hours later, a neighbor telephoned me and told me the police had taken Garro away to an unknown location, along with her husband, Ramón Alejandro Muñoz, also a dissident. Then I asked around and found out that Sonia is under arrest in the 7th police station in the Havana neighborhood of La Lisa,” said Fresneda.

Previously, Garro had been advised by the intelligence services that they were not going to allow her to carry out the public protests that, along with six other women, she frequently carries out in various Havana locations and plazas.

This past May her husband, Ramón Alejandro Muñoz, played a leading part in a famous incident when he chained himself, machete in hand, on the roof of his house while demanding freedom for Sonia, who was under arrest at the time. This indignant Cuban still keeps up his rebellious attitude: he goes out in public with one arm in chains.

Garro has been particularly active in the past few months, but without neglecting her community project to help the poor children of her neighborhood, no matter what the political beliefs of their parents may be.

These women’s street protests are considered a serious threat by the State Security forces. They have been threatened with arrest and trial, particularly Sonia. In the month of June she complained that the number of the case they have opened against her is 2801/2011.

Sonia Garro as well as Mercedes Fresneda and other women have been reminded by the authorities of what Fidel Castro said in his day, and which has been firmly reiterated by his brother: that in Cuba the street belongs to the revolutionaries.

Photo: Laritza Diversent. Sona Garro with some of the children from the independent cultural center that operates in her home, on Avenida 47 No. 11638, between 116 and 118, Los Quemados, Marianao.

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Translated by S. Solá

July 17 2011

Noble as a Farmer, Wise as a Priest / Juan Juan Almeida

JJ.- Hector, whether some like it or not, your name is relevant when we speak of the internal opposition in Cuba. How do you see Hector Palacios?

HP.- Well, first I want to introduce myself because you already know me, but many readers do not. I am a farmer who was born in the Escambray. I am also one of the revolutionaries who since 1980, exactly during the Mariel crisis, stopped being on the side of this thing they call Revolution. Because of that I spent time in prison; I have been a prisoner of conscience three times. And between short and long detentions, I have been detained dozens and dozens of times that add up total many years. Solely and exclusively for the crime of thinking or suggesting, many times, that things have to be different.

In 1989, I was the founder of the first liberal movement of this last period in Cuba.

JJ. What kind of “Liberal”?

The type of liberal that the leaders of this country’s independence were.

I currently lead “The Liberal Unity” of the Republic of Cuba and…

JJ.-Yes, but I prefer not to get into party politics yet. Héctor, as you said a moment ago, your life began in the countryside. There is even, at least in my view, a strong rural influence in your way of speaking, of looking at things, of saying and expressing your ideas. Tell me about these beginnings, your childhood, family environment, friends.

HP.- Look, I was born in a pretty inhospitable area in the middle of the Escambray…

JJ.-What is its name?

H.-Pico Blanco. That is where my family settled, and then people came who rose up against the dictator Fulgencio Batista, the people of the Revolutionary Directorate, the Second Front of the Escambray, Che when he came from Oriente… That is, I lived in the middle of that place. But we lived peacefully, in bateyes (outbuildings), each family with a group of houses built around the head patriarch’s house.

JJ.- And what was life like in that environment?

HP.- There were teachers and priests who baptized you. I was baptized. At that time there were not the number of schools that were built later. At that time, I mean in nineteen fifty-something, where I was born there were only three schools. And it is true that in those schools all the grades were taught together, but when you finished a grade, you really finished it.

There was a lot more discipline. And, besides, you had to work in addition to going to school. That was the farming custom and that is why, among other reasons, that there was food in Cuba. Because people worked.

If you go there today, you will see that where we produced hundreds of hundred-pound sacks of coffee, thousands of tons of sugar, I don’t know how much cheese, milk, etc., today they don’t produce anything. The Escambray is without its people.

I grew up like that. The farming environment is supportive, solid, religious, and has very sincere principles. At home you couldn’t tell a lie, you ate on time.

My family wasn’t rich. My father was a mule driver and he worked from sun to sun with his team of mules.

JJ.- Was your family strict?

HP.-Some were stricter than others. I think that is a problem with farming customs. But in general they were all strict. In my home there was a lot of discipline at meal time, with personal hygiene, study time… I remember that I learned the multiplication tables at my grandmother’s house. I had to do it in a few weeks because on my left was the book but on my right was the ruler. Yes, there was strictness, there certainly was, but we lived with a lot of affection and love. It was something else.

Then it all fell apart and, just as my family was destroyed–and it was a big family–all the rest of the families of Cuba were destroyed, and those of the countryside and the nation.

And I want to confess something to you that I have never told anybody but I have thought a lot about this campaign of Raúl Castro’s that–according to him–proposes to give land to farmers for their use as if land could be given for its use. Look, you have to give land or not give it. He knows very well that it is harder to create a farmer than a doctor. At 24 years of age, a doctor is a doctor, but a 50-year-old farmer is still not a farmer.

I don’t know how Raúl Castro is going to solve the problem of a countryside without farmers. In Cuba, 80% of the people used to live in the countryside; and it was the countryside, it had a tradition of over two hundred years. So I don’t see how it is possible to solve the problem of the countryside as it is being done now.

It might be possible to solve the administrative/bureaucratic obstacles, but you need generations for the farmer to learn again how to look at the sky, because that true man, who smells it when it is going to rain, who doesn’t go to the hospital because he has a sick ox, a hurt animal or because his cow is going to give birth; that man is very difficult to make in days like these when farmers only get sunburns, lots of insecurity and pretty bad pay for their work.

JJ.- By the way, Héctor, there is a myth or a reality, I don’t know, that says that country boys have their first sexual experiences with animals. Did you have that experience along with others?

HP.- I’ll tell you. In the country there was not the “sexual spirit” that there is today. That is, you did each thing in its time. The farmer, generally, got married very young when he was just carrying his first or second girlfriend on the back of his horse. That was the custom. Not like now, when there is a very strong sexual appetite because there is nothing like what there used to be.

I really don’t remember that that was my life or that of other farmers. I don’t mean it wasn’t done, or that it isn’t still done; but you really started your family very young.

JJ.- Let’s talk about your youth. There is no doubt that the Revolution, more than a dream, was a radical process that many fell in love with. How did you see that process? Why and to what degree did you get involved?

HP.- Look, son, I didn’t go out to look for revolution; the Revolution came looking for me. I lived in the Escambray and nothing there interested me. The first town I visited was in the area of Güinía de Miranda, just at the time El Che took Güinía, about twenty kilometers from Manicaragua. That’s why I tell you that the Revolution came looking for us. And it came with an important program that they read to us, “History Will Absolve Me”, that spoke of reestablishing the constitutional order lost in 1952 after the coup; of giving land to the farmers; of paying fair salaries; of having several political parties; of not having leaders who would deceive the people; and of the need to construct roads, highways, etc…

JJ.-You fell in love, like others, with the “Moncada Program.”

HP.-Yes, I fell in love with the Moncada Program.

We really were not needy; we had our own revolution, our own land, we ate well… And not only our family, but dozens of families that lived together there and didn’t have many problems. But the best thing we had then was, in that area, no darned politicians or communists.

Later yes, later it filled up with that.

I joined the Revolution, rose up very young, only thirteen years old. I fought passionately for that Revolution until the 1980′s. Yes, I fought passionately for the Revolution until the ’80′s and I was deceived by it. Not now; now I fight for myself, for that Revolution I founded in my head.

JJ.-But today the story is different. I understand that “The Revolution” didn’t change; its leaders changed.

HP.-The Revolution changed, it is still to be made. Incredibly, now we are much worse off than under Batista. Now the land doesn’t belong to the farmers, as it did before; the store doesn’t belong to the storekeeper, as it used to, etc., etc.

Batista was a tyrant who did not monopolize property. I think that the most difficult period, as far as citizens’ problems go, began in the ’80′s.

JJ.- And what was your metamorphosis like? How did you become part of the opposition after having believed so passionately in the Revolution?

HP.- I have been surprised to hear many people say, “Suddenly, I changed.”

That’s a lie, nobody changes that quickly; it’s a process.

JJ.- Well sure, that’s why I said “metamorphosis”.

HP.- In the sugarcane harvest of ’70 I felt deceived, one could smell the lies. And with “The ten million are going” campaign the country was ruined. No factory worked or anything.

JJ.- Yes, many Cubans felt deceived; but not all of them became dissidents.

HP.- Because that isn’t easy, son. When a political process hooks you, it isn’t easy to unhook yourself. You have to have experience. I had the luck of having experience because in the middle of all this I made myself into a psychologist, a sociologist, learned to read and write… And it isn’t that I didn’t know how to read and write; I know how. But I learned well, as I learned how to relate to people. I left the Escambray and learned about the other world.

For me the final blow began in ’79 when they let the famous “counterrevolutionaries” who lived in Miami enter Cuba. It was a campaign of Fidel’s, “The Country Has Grown”, in which it was understood that the problems between Miami and Havana had been resolved. Then I, who had family outside with whom I couldn’t correspond, had to deal with those families who put their JEANS in front of me. I asked myself a thousand times, why?

It was like the one who had been showered with rotten eggs when he left had come back to give you a box of eggs. Something like that.

That was my first shock, and I didn’t pay attention to them and so got warnings.

The following year came “El Mariel” and how was I to imagine that this country was prepared to even kill or run over and beat people… “El Mariel” was the decisive point for many people. But don’t forget that the people of this country were terrified. Because this Revolution sowed terror. People were indiscriminately executed by firing squad, etc.

JJ.- With no trial?

HP.- Well, there were summary trials with no serious appeals allowed. Then terror began to be sowed. And the worst thing is, the worst thing that can happen to a human being is to be terrified because no one can think or reason if he is terrified.

It happened to me; I also lived terrified. The first time the State Security came to visit me, I almost died. Because I thought that was how…well, how it is: true power. But it is a malevolent power that I didn’t know existed. The top leaders knew this, the ones who had created the problem. We intermediate-level soldiers did not know about this.

When I saw that in the street was when I definitely broke with this totalitarian, unscrupulous dictatorship.

JJ.- And doesn’t it seem to you that, speaking of that very fear, is what is happening now?

HP.- No, I am talking about terror, and what there is now is fear. People think with fear. There is an enormous difference between fear and terror. As I said, people cannot think when they are terrorized; with fear, they can. That is why what they call Revolution has reached a critical stage, because the terror is passing.

JJ.- Now then, you are a definite member of the opposition.

HP.- Yes, sure.

JJ… and there is a theory that the members of the opposition are people who marginalize themselves, who isolate themselves from society… How much truth is there is this? Where does this theory come from? Do you hide, stay away from movie theaters, or…?

HP.- Those are theories invented by totalitarian parties and governments. Don’t forget that the easiest thing for a totalitarian party or government (with all the power in the world) to do is to denigrate others.

And one way to denigrate a human being is to marginalize him or accuse him of not having contact with reality, or with the people, or with his family, etc.

There is no more balanced person than a dissident. Because he thinks about tomorrow, about his family, he thinks about remaking what has been taken from us, thinks about not having again the bad things we had or that we have today. And, even more, we think about not killing, about love and, of course, about others’ rights.

JJ.- Do you have friends who are active in the Communist Party?

Of course; some are good people. It is just that they are terrorized like the senior government appointees are terrified because they know they are being watched. I told you a while ago, in a private conversation, that I have a brother who is a high official in the army, whom I haven’t seen for 20 years. He lives there at Matanza, has two or three cars; for him it is easy to come but he is still living in a state of terror. The poor guy doesn’t visit our mother either. They could take away his stripes and even certain benefits.

Look, right now, after the transfer of power–because here there have been no elections and Raúl has not been elected President but rather there has been a transfer within the monarchy (because here there is a type of monarchy), 25 senior leaders have been replaced. Who would have thought that Carlos Lage could have been replaced, or Felipe Pérez Roque?

Translated by S.Solá

2 June 2011

Cuban State Responsible for Scarcity of Agricultural, Meat Products / Iván García

Serafín, 69, never had toys. For his 8th birthday the gifts from his father were a pick and hoe. He woke him at 5 AM and they went to work in a row of onions. He told him, “If you want your children and grandchildren to have toys, you will have to get it out of the earth. Mother earth will give you your present and your future. There is no other option.” And that is how it has been for over five decades.

A descendant of immigrants from the Canary Islands, strong as a ceiba tree and with the blood pressure of a young man of 20, Serafïn is the owner of a small farm in the province of Sancti Spiritus, 300 kilometers east of Havana.

To get to his farm one must walk a long way and then cross the Zaza community dam, which looks like an inland sea, go along a dusty road where the invasive marabou weed and greenery stretch as far as the horizon and, after crossing a puddle somewhat dried up by the drought, reach a small village of poor people who eat little and poorly but who drink a lot of rum. Just behind the little village is Serafïn’s farm.

In its good days it had dozens of fruit trees and 120 cows. Fertile land that produced hundreds of hundred-pound sacks of onions, rice, greens and vegetables.

Old Serafïn and his children and grandchildren still live on the land. But the agricultural policies of the government do not inspire them to work. “Look, Acopio (a state-owned company) pays only two pesos and 80 centavos for a kilo of onions. And the people at the market buy them at 10 pesos a pound. In 2008, after President Raúl Castro began to pay three pesos a liter in order to stimulate milk production, I delivered almost a thousand liters a day. Things were not going bad for me. But in November of last year they raised the cost of a kilowatt from 0.75 to 1.30 an hour. And from the 2,500 pesos (100 dollars) I used to pay a month for electricity I now pay almost 10,000 pesos (400 dollars), which raises my cost of milk and agricultural production,” the farmer says while smoking a hand-rolled cigar.

According to Serafín, the government gives them supplies at non-subsidized prices. “They sell us a gallon of gas for 6 dollars. And the seeds and work tools are very expensive. Due to the drought, my family has had to make investments and buy pumps to extract water from wells and reservoirs, which makes our use of electricity skyrocket. If you add to this the fact that 80% of our production is sold to the government at laughable prices, you can understand why there is so much empty land full of blight and marabou weed.”

Serafín says that for a while he preferred to sell the cows to the government instead of using them for milk production. “The last straw,” says Augusto, Serafín’s youngest son, “is that at times we have to steal our own crops”. And when the inspector comes they claim that the crops were stolen (robbery has become a daily occurrence in the Cuban countryside), in order to have a little extra food for selling in the farmers markets where the law of supply and demand is in effect.

“The government forces you to lie and fix the figures. I think that not even the old feudal owners demanded they be given such a high percentage of products. In countries that are agricultural powerhouses like the United States, the government subsidizes the farmers. This is logical, since you don’t fool around with agriculture when you have to feed 300 million people, in addition to exporting food for 2 billion more all over the planet,” comments Serafín, a guajiro who likes to read and keep himself informed.

For him, if the regime really wants to fill family tables with vegetables, fruit and pork and for people to have coffee with milk for breakfast, it should create a law under which the State is not sold more than 15 or 20% of production.

“Laws that give you a guarantee. No regulations or orientations, that are exchanged for others according to its convenience. I do not know any small landholder that is not upset with the government. That is why when people travel around the island they see kilometers and kilometers of land that is not being cultivated. Nobody wants to work the land. There is very little stimulus,” says Serafín.

Before 1959, he remembers, Cuba had more than enough fruits and vegetables and even exported them. “But for that to happen, the government must change its abusive methods. The main responsibility for the scarcity of agricultural and cattle products is the Cuban government,” he states. That simple.

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Translated by S. Solá

June 25 2011

Family and Migration / Dimas Castellanos

(Published in Laborem, voice of the Movement of Christian Workers/Cuba. Year 9, No. 36, October-December 2010)

There is a close relationship between the family and migration. The family is a group constituted by blood ties or marriage that, besides preceding other forms of social relationships, due to its functions constitutes the very marrow of society.  It is the school of love, of education and participation in people’s lives, while it gives its members company and security.  Migration, which is as ancient as the family, is a form of reaccommodation in order to survive when material and/or social conditions in the place of residence become insufficient to guarantee the conservation and development of life.

With the exception of the nomadic tribes that moved around with all their members, contemporary migration separates one part of its members, often a married couple.  It is a phenomenon that, becoming universal as globalization develops, affects the traditional functions of the family.  In the particular case of Cuba, the economic crisis, the lack of proportion between income and the cost of living and the prohibition on leaving and returning to the country, among other factors, generate individual as well as mass migration, as the Cuban family immersed in the struggle to satisfy its most elemental needs, when separated, loses a good part of the reasons that held it together.  This has occurred both before and after the embargo, before and after the Adjustment Law and before and after the “Battle of Ideas” and so it will continue.

Migration, with no possibility of returning, besides affecting the family–especially the youngest, who are the principal beneficiaries of its instruction, education and love–also affects the nation, since the flight of professionals is decapitalizing and aging our society.  Perhaps that is why John Paul II, in his homily to the family, told us, “Cuba, take care of your families so that you keep your heart healthy.”

Translated by S. Solá

January 17 2011

Social Criticism Widespread in Cuban Films / Dimas Castellanos

The 32nd Festival of New Latin American Cinema, which ended in Havana last December 2, showed that the seventh art is on the upswing in Latin America and that Cuba is no exception.

Among the over 500 participants, the Cuban films–independently of their themes, of their directors’ degree of success, and of the quality of the actors and scripts–for the first time all critically reflected the social reality of the country. This is proof that culture, even if it is subjected to being a prisoner of ideology, as is our case, by its nature and functions transcends even such a negative imposition. A short review, limited to the four fiction-category feature films that participated in the competition, is evidence of this.

Casa Vieja (Old House), by Lester Hamlet, based on the theatrical work of the same name by Abelardo Estorino, uses the narrative of an individual case, the return to the heart of the family of a Cuban after 14 years of living abroad, to reveal the negative effect the Cuban political system has had on the economic and moral penury in which society finds itself trapped.

According to its director, “it is a film that speaks about who we are and how I see Cubans’ life from the point of view of the affective compact”. With that vision, with heavy emotional weight, he delves into one of Cuba’s many current problems. The film, which had received the Grand Prize for the Best Feature Film Fiction Book at the VIII Pobre Humberto Solás International Film Festival, this time won the popularity prize, the Cybervote Prize of the Latin American and Caribbean Film and Audiovisual Portal of the New Latin American Film Foundation and the Jury Mention for Fiction.

Larga Distance (Long Distance), by Esteban Insausti, gives us the story of four friends who, because of the deep crisis produced by the disappearance of real socialism in Eastern Europe, could not keep their oath to never leave each other. Ana, one of the four, on reaching the age of 35 and no longer having friends to celebrate her birthday with, throws an imaginary party, evoking memories of old friends.

From a sociological point of view, it is a critique of the impact of emigration on Cubans’ lives, due to the inability of the Cuban system to provide opportunities inside the country. The life of her parents shows the persistence of problems through generations and the complete failure of the project to create a New Man in Cuba. In the end, social malfunctions resulting from the system have triumphed over resistance in return for the impoverishment and moral ruin of a considerable number of the sectors of society.

Boleto al paraíso (Ticket to Paradise), by Eduardo Chijona, was inspired by accounts of real events that happened in 1993, collected in the book Confesiones a un médico (Confessions to a Doctor) by Jorge Pérez Avila. The film tells the story of several adolescents who, as a result of their families’ material and spiritual poverty, link their destinies to run away from home in search of a non-existent paradise and end up getting infected with the AIDS virus and “enjoying” life in a sanatorium–a simultaneous pact of love and death.

Afinidades (Affinities) by Jorge Perugorría and Vladimir Cruz, with script by Cruz, goes into a facet of the administrative corruption of civil servants relating to the management of mixed (public/private) businesses, which is nothing less than the expression of the general decline of Cuban society since a salary stopped being the principal source of income; in it this sector is bureaucratic and invested with powers that allow it to enjoy privileges denied to the average Cuban, thanks to the almost absolute government institution of “property of all the people” under the control of a few. A benefit that leads to sentimental transgression and aggression against dignity, the deliberate manipulation of one’s fellow man. Although the film deals with a problem of contemporary life, in Cuba it is inseparable from the Cuban structural problem, caused primarily by contradictions inside the country.

Martí, el Ojo del canario (Martí, Eye of the Canary) from prize-winning director and scriptwriter Fernando Pérez, is a film inspired by the infancy and adolescence of the Apostle, the result of the search to answer the question, “How, in full Colonial times, was it possible for such a brilliant and high-minded figure as José Martí to have been created?” In my opinion, it is the best film of the festival, a combination of the sensibility, ethics, love and quest that define its director.

It is precisely Fernando Pérez who, with his concept of cinema as a way of seeing, interpreting and forming reality, has shown the potential for critical cinematography to promote critical thought among Cubans; a practical demonstration of intellectuals’ responsibility as aesthetes of change, critics of our deficiencies and sources of connection between our traditions and universal knowledge. The principal message, among the many this film offers, is an appeal to rescue our dignity.

The film has already won the Colón de Plata Prize for Best Director and Best Photography at the Huelva Film Festival. It just won the Coral Prize for Direction and the Artistic Direction Prise for Erick Grass and the Best Poster to Giselle Monzón. In addition the Alba Cultural Latin America First Copy Grand Prize (Ex Aequo); the Film, Radio and Television Prize of the Association of Cuban Artists and Writers; Prize of the Cuban Association of Cinematographic Press; El Megano Prize of the National Federation of Film Clubs; 2009 Caminos Prize of the Martin Luther King Memorial Center; Roque Dalton Radio Prize from Radio Habana Cuba; Cined Prize from Educational Cinematography; Vigía Prize from the Matanzas branch site; and UNICEF Prize.

Social criticism, which has been present in the history of Cuban fimmaking for several decades, has evolved from isolated appearances to becoming a general critical current, which doubtless has much to do with the critical conscience that is steadily gaining strength in our society and which is even beginning to be reflected in the most recent, but still weak, signs of changes in the circles of power.

Translated by S. Solá

(Published in www.diariodecuba.com on December 27, 2010)

January 3 2011

Reform without Freedom / Dimas Castellanos

The difficulty in understating what is happening in Cuba in the area of social change relates to the peculiarities of the current economic reforms. While the Guidelines approved by the VI Communist Party Congress have begun to be implemented, the government remains stuck in other areas, without which it is impossible to get results. This contradiction, which applies to the whole group of Guidelines, shows up particularly in the area of international relations.

Due to the systemic nature of social phenomena, any manifestation of the multiple contradictions contained in the approved Guidelines will be sufficient to lead to failure unless the rules of the game are first changed. I will refer to only two of them: 1- the need for financing and 2- the interest of the workers.

The first, because of the level of deterioration, obsolescence and destruction of the means of production in productive sectors, from agriculture and fishing to industry, requires an amount of investment that the Cuban state by itself cannot manage.

Without discounting the ideological solidarity of the Venezuelan government with Cuba, the great world-level financial centers demand democratic changes in Cuba as a prerequisite for the needed financial support. Among these are the European Union and the United States.

This shows the need for relaunching an internal human rights and civil liberties policy aimed at improving conditions for Cubans and, at the same time, changing Cuba’s image in this respect. This is what was achieved, partially, by the freeing of the political prisoners and the approval of the Guidelines. In addition to the insufficiency of these two measures, the decision to keep strict control over all dissident activities inside the country has led to a spiral of repression whose result conflicts with the need for external financing.

In the end, just before the suspension of the European Union’s Commom Position and the Carter visit to Havana as an indication of the beginning of a conversation with the neighbor to the North, the repressive internal policies have once again removed the possibility of external financing. As a result, Europe maintains its common position and the United States applauds the changes but considers them insufficient.

The other means of financing, insufficient due to the greatness of the needs but still considerable, is the possibility of allowing Cubans to participate as business owners in the changes that are taking place, so that part of the remittances from abroad are converted into capital. But this requires a substantial change in the totalitarian mentality of Father State, who insists that Cubans, inside or outside the country, only participate in what he decides and in the way he deems best.

The government wants domestic calm for the changes, but the decision to implement changes having been made at such a late date makes this impossible. So the alternatives are to permit a certain freedom of opinion, which the country needs for these very changes to occur, or to continue repression of everyone who thinks differently.

What is going to happen? I don’t think anyone can predict this without a high margin of error, but reflecting on some issues might help. In the first place, the inertia has been broken and the government cannot or has few possibilities of going back due to the level of social disagreement and the changes that are taking place outside the control of the state in international relations as well as internally.

All roads lead through the gradual implementation of human rights but, for this, interest in retaining the model that brought about the current state must be put in the background, to be judged by history, which will either praise it or denounce it depending on the option taken.

Translated by S.Solá

June 17 2011

Cuba: the Illogic of the Single Party / Dimas Castellanos

monumento-en-el-parque-central

(Published Friday May 27, 2011 on the site: http:www.vocescubanas.com)

The common characteristics that identify the human race also have important differences that cannot be ignored. The social character–the most defining and essential peculiarity of man–manifests itself in the diversity of associations that he creates for collaboration, promotion and the defense of his interests; reality that has its reflection in the philosophical concept of unity in difference.

As the etymology of the word indicates, political parties are associations not of all of society but of a part of it; as a consequence, any intent to convert a part into a Representative of the whole, with the diversity of interests and concepts that characterize it, constitutes a violation of the right to equality before the law and political freedom. For this reason every political party self-declared to be a sole force or superior force of society, in order to impose its will has had to violate the most elemental civil and political rights of the citizens: an act against the social nature of the human race, against dignity and consequently against social progress, which has let to the global failure of single parties throughout history.

In 1878, in Cuba there were created the Partido Union Constitucional/Constitutional Union Party and the Partido Liberal/Liberal Party, one of which represented the feelings of the Spanish and the other that of the Cubans. At the end of the XIX century, the Partido Autonomista/Autonomous Party was founded; it had a reform tendency and coexisted with the Partido Revolucionario Cubano (PRC)/Cuban Revolutionary Party (PRC), which supported independence. In 1899, Diego Vicente Tejera created the Partido Socialista Cubano/Cuban Socialist Party because the interests of the workers were not represented in the liberal and conservative parties at that time. In 1925, the Partido Comunista/Communist Party was founded by a group of Cubans who believed in that ideology. In 1947, Eduardo Chibas Founded the Partido Ortodoxo/Orthodox Party because the Partido Autentico/Authentic Party he belonged to did not satisfy part of its members. Fidel Castro, who came out of the Partido Ortodoxo, after the assault on the Moncada Barracks founded the Movimiento 26 de Julio/26th of July Movement, since his insurrectionist ideas did not fit the existing associations. Each leader or social group, depending on its interests, founded one single party; none proposed the absurd idea of founding several at the same time, which makes it ridiculous to justify the current single party state under the pretext that Marti organized a single party.

The Partido Comunista de Cuba/Communist Party of Cuba, self-proclaimed “superior guiding force of society and of the state”, after offering undeniable proof of its inability, such as the violation of the time limits in its own statutes for holding congresses every five years; of not respecting agreements made in previous congresses; of lacking personnel to rotate leadership roles; when it has been obliged to initiate reforms that violate declared principles, proposes to maintain the single party rule that is one of the causes of the failure seen.

Three recent facts demonstrate that the declared intention to change everything that must be changed does not include the single party system. In the Address to the VI Congress of the Communist Party on April 16, it was proposed that the National Conference to be held in January of 2012 have among its objectives to accomplish “for today and always” the content of Article 5 of the Constitution of the Republic, which sets out the single party system. The following day the President of the National Assembly of Popular Power said “it must be taken into account that this Party is really the political organization of the Cuban nation, the legitimate heir of the Party of Marti.” But even more eloquent was the article entitled “The Idea of a Single Party is the Legacy of Jose Marti”, published on April 8 in the newspaper Granma. Since this article proposes to attribute the authorship of the single party system to the most brilliant Cuban politician of all time, I will consider the direct quotations from Marti to demonstrate the absurdity of the arguments put forward in the article.

The first quote is taken from a letter written by Marti to General Maximo Gomez in July of 1882: To whom does Cuba turn at the defining moment, now near, in which it loses all its new hope at the end of the war, the promises of Spain, and the Liberals’ policy have made it hold? It turns to all those who have found a solution outside Spain. But if this does not work, eloquent, proud, moderate, profound, a revolutionary party that inspires, by the cohesion and modesty of its men, and the sense of its projects, enough confidence to quiet the longings of the country–to whom should it turn but to the men of the annexationist party that rose up at that time? How to keep all the fans of a comfortable freedom from following them, since they think that with that solution they at the same time save their fortune and their conscience? That is the serious risk. That is why it is time for us to stand up.1

Here, as we can see, Marti proposes the need for not the party but for a party, to attract those who would follow another party, which implies the existence of others. He does not propose to substitute or eliminate but to compete. Contrary to the article in Granma, he recognizes that “at a time when political struggle is expressed increasingly between political parties that are perfectly structured and organized a party is needed that would inspire confidence due to its qualities: cohesion in its ranks, the modesty of its members, the sense of its proposals.”

The second quotation was taken from the letter to Jose Dolores Poyo of November 1887: “At some other time our war could have been a heroic outburst or an explosion of sentiment; but having learned from twenty years of fatigue (…) the Cuban war is no longer a simple military campaign in which blind bravery followed a famous leader, but rather a very complicated political problem, easy to solve if we take into account its various parts and adjust our revolutionary conduct to it, but formidable if we pretend to create a solution without paying attention to its realities, or challenging them. (…) And what is most fearful about the revolution for the very ones who want it is the confusing and personal character with which it has been presented up to now; it is the lack of a revolutionary system, with clearly objective ends, that removes from the country the fears that the revolution inspires today and replaces them with a deserved confidence in the greatness and vision that the ideals of the war will carry with it in the cordiality of those that promote it, in the stated purpose of making war for a free and dignified peace, and not for the benefit of those who only see war as a way of achieving their own power or fortune.”2

Here no commentaries are necessary. Marti clearly refers to the need for an organization, in this case a party, in order not to repeat the errors of the past. But at no time does he speak of a sole party.

The third, dated April 30, 1892, says: “Unity of thought, which in no way means servitude of opinion, is without doubt indispensable to the success of every political program, (…) To open the thinking of the Cuban Revolutionary Party to disorderly thought would be as terrible as reducing the thought of a people composed of different factions, just as is humanity, to an impossible unanimity. If by its thoughts, and by its actions based on them, the campaign of the Cuban Revolutionary Party is to be efficient and most glorious, it is most necessary that, whatever the differences of fervor or social aspiration may be, there not be seen any contradiction or inflammatory reserve or vile partialities or regretted generosity in the thinking of the Revolutionary Party. Its thought must be seen in its deeds. Man writes himself with works. Man only believes in works. If we inspire faith today, it is because we do all that we say. If our new, strong power is in our unexpected union, we would voluntarily relinquish our power if we removed its unity from our thought.”3

In this quotation Marti emphasizes the need for unity of thought within the PRC as a condition for success, but he clarifies that this would be as dangerous as reducing its thought to an impossible unanimity. And he adds something that would be good to remember: Thoughts must be seen in deeds. many must write with his works. Many only believes in deeds. The idea of the unitary party seems to have only been in the mind of the author or authors of the article, since in the quotations used that idea is obviously lacking.

According to the article, once the Spanish power was eliminated and the American military occupation imposed, Estrada Palma considered the mission of the PRC to be finished and proceeded to dissolve the party, with which he mutilated an important part of the ideas of Marti, which foresaw using the Party not only in the war against Spain but also in the founding of a republic “with all and for the good of all”. In this conclusion the article confuses the ends with the means, since Marti’s proposal was to generate the Republic out of the war.

In the resolutions of the PRC nothing appears relating to its work after the victory, while its bases clearly define that the PRC is formed “to achieve with the common efforts of all men of good will the absolute independence of the Island of Cuba and to promote and help that of Puerto Rico”; and it is not proposed to perpetuate in the Cuban Republic “the authoritarian spirit and the bureaucratic makeup of the colony but rather to found in the frank and cordial exercise of man’s legitimate capabilities a new nation and sincere democracy capable of overcoming, through the order of real work and the equilibrium of social forces, the dangers of a sudden freedom in a society composed for slavery”; and that “it is not the objective to take to Cuba a victorious group that considers the Island as its prey and dominion but rather to prepare, with as many efficient means as freedom from the foreigner permits, war that must be made for the decorum and well-being of all Cubans, and to deliver a free country to the entire country.”4

Marti established a genetic relationship between War and Republic, in which the latter had to incubate from within the former. He project the founding of the Republic, which in his ideas was form and final destination, as opposed to the war and the party, conceived as intermediate links to arrive at it [the Republic]. For this reason, in the speech “With all and for the good of all” he said: “…let us close the path to the republic that is not prepared by worthy means of man’s decorum, for the good and the prosperity of all Cubans”5; and on December 5, 1891 he wrote to Jose Dolores Poyo: “It is my dream that every Cuban be an entirely free political man…”6

Let us examine other essential Marti ideas about the PRC.

1-While in New York in January of 1880, Marti presented a critical study of the errors of the Ten Years’ War in which he included the various factors that explained the failure and consequently pointed out its causes, among them the lack of unity among the revolutionaries, in which he deduces the need for an organization to forge it.

2- In June of 1882, in a letter to Maximo Gomez, he outlined the objectives of the PRC as follows: “…I only aspire that, forming a visible cohesive body all those selfless strong men appear united by the same serious and judicious desire to give Cuba true and lasting freedom, capable of repressing their impatience as long as there is no way to remedy the evils in Cuba with a probable victory in a rapid, unanimous and grand war…”7. Faithful to those principles, Marti separated from the Gomez-Maceo Plan in 1884 and wrote to the Generalissimo: “…But there is something that is above all the personal regard which you inspire in me, and even beyond all apparent reason: and it is my determination to not give an inch, through blind love for an idea for which my life is dedicated, to bringing to my country a regime of personal despotism that would be more shameful and terrible than the political despotism it suffers from now…”8.

3-In December, 1887 he notified Maximo Gomez that the country was stumbling toward war and that it lacked “a plan that unites it and a political program that calms it.”9. Precisely for this reason he founds the PRC, as an organizing, creating and controlling institution with a conscience focused on taking the place of spontaneity and immediate action.

4-In the Resolutions of November 1891, he stated that: “The revolutionary organization must not forget the practical needs derived from the constitution and history of the country, or work directly for the current or future predominance of any class, but by its grouping, according to democratic methods, of all the living forces of the country, for the brotherhood and common action of the Cubans living abroad, for the respect and assistance of the republics of the world, and for the creation of a just and open republic…raised with all and for the good of all”10.

5-On February 17, 1892, in Our Ideas, he said: “And it is not appropriate to ask if the war is attractive or not, since no faithful soul can be attracted to it, but to organize the war so that with it comes republican peace, and after it the upheavals that have had to be suffered will not again be justifiable or necessary…”11.

6-On April 10 of the same year, in the founding act of the PRC, he reiterated that the party be created: “so that in the achievement of the independence of today go the germs of the definitive independence of tomorrow” April 12, 1893 he said: “Greatness is that of the Revolutionary Party: that to found a republic, it has begun with the republic. its strength is that: that in the work of all, the right of all. It is an idea that must be brought to Cuba: not a person”13. It appears that the content of these two quotations led the author of the article published in Granma to think they referred to a supposed task of the PRC after the victory.

7-In the Manifesto of Montecristi signed jointly with Maximo Gomez on March 25, 1895, he stated that war is not “the unhealthy triumph of one Cuban party over another, or even the humiliation of one mistaken group of Cubans but the solemn demonstration of the will of a country that is fed up as proven in the previous war to launch itself lightly into a conflict that must end only with a victory or in the tomb”14.

The common point in the quotations taken from the Granma article, and in those I add, is that the founding of the PRC was conceived as an organizing, controlling and consciousness-raising institution in order to take the place of spontaneity and immediate action, encourage unity among the combatants, replace caudillism, personalism, and direct the war as a tactical necessity part of a larger strategy, as an intermediate link in order to give birth to the Nation and construct the Republic with all and for the good of all. Its functions were laid out so that from its center would arise the seeds of a definitive independence, not to represent a social class or the revolutionaries but all Cubans, not for elective gain, not to dominate and prohibit the existence of different parties after the victory, not to cancel out popular participation, not to declare that the street and the university belong to the revolutionaries, not the jail those who think differently. Realities that demonstrate Marti’s democratic and humanistic ideas are not only far from but contradictory to the practice of a single party system.

The unnatural character of the makeup of Cuba’s single party system is such that for its establishment they had to eliminate all the other political parties and the variety of existing associations, from which process emerged a “perfect” model of a totalitarian regime and, with it, stagnation and failure.

Even accepting the absurd thesis that Marti foresaw after the victory using the Party in the founding of the Republic, one would have to also accept the contrary thesis that, due to his deeply democratic philosophy, he would do it in competition with the existing parties, not by declaring on his own that his would be the only party. Neither did any of the delegates to the constitutional assemblies of Jimaguayú (1895) and de la Yaya (1897)–among which there were followers of Marti’s ideas such as Fermín Valdés Domínguez and Enrique Loynaz del Castillo–propose to include any article of that type, which demonstrates the absence of such an intent. Another resounding proof is the difference of interests and of social composition of the revolutionary groups in Florida, New York and inside Cuba, a diversity that Marti called on for the war but which after the victory manifested itself naturally in the variety of classifications and purposes.

For all of these reasons, the purpose of defining the role of the Communist Party as the organized vanguard of the nation in the coming National Conference should be corrected, for the good of all Cubans and in respect for Jose Marti. And in its place political differences should be legalized and the right to free association instituted, so that in the presence of other parties, the Communist Party might demonstrate or not its capacity to call itself vanguard, but above all, so that Cubans become citizens and play the active role that belongs to them in the destiny of the nation.

1 MARTI, JOSE. Selected Works in three volumes. Havana, Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, 2000. Volume I, p. 326.

2 Marti, Jose. Complete Works. Havana, Editoria de Ciencias Sociales, 1991. Volume I, pp 211-212

3 Marti, Jose. Complete Works. Havana, Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, 1991. Volume I, p. 424

4 MARTI, JOSE, Selected Works in three volumes. Volume III, pp.26-27

5 MARTI, JOSE. Selected Works in three volumes. Volume III, pp.9-10

6 MARTI, JOSE. Selected Works in three volumes. Volume III, pp 24-25

7MARTI, JOSE. Selected Works in three volumes. V I, P.325

8 MARTi, JOSE. Selected Works in three volumes. V I, p.459

9 MARTI, JOSE. Selected Works in three volumes. V II, p.211

10 MARTI, JOSE. Resolutions taken by Cuban emigrants in Tampa and Key West in November 1891. Selected Works in three volumes. V III, p.23

11 MARTI, JOSE. Selected Works in three volumes. V III, p.65

12 MARTI, JOSE. Selected Works in three volumes. V III, p.99

13MARTI, JOSE. Selected Works in three volumes. V III, p.192

14MARTI JOSE. Selected Works in three volumes. V III, p.511

Translated by S. Solá

June 3 2011