About Revolutions and an Unburied Corpse

The peaceful demonstrations of July 11, 2021 were crushed by brutal repression. (Image Captura)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ariel Hidalgo, Miami, 18 September 2022 — That Unburied Corpse that they call “Revolution”* is the title of a small book by the author of this article, ready to be published, about Cuba and its destiny at a transcendental moment of its becoming, that of the turbulent transition to a new Cuba that begins on July 11, 2021, when peaceful demonstrations in cities in all the provinces were crushed by brutal repression. And their motivations have been embodied in an appendix to that book: the Manifesto of Cuban Civil Society, a text that is being signed by hundreds of Cubans.

The demonstrations represented what is generally known as the beginning of a “revolutionary process,” such as those that begin under a regime in terminal crisis, and conclude long after the triumph of the opposition, when radical transformations are made in the structures of society. This stage of transformation is what is generally known as revolution, defined by the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language as “a deep, generally violent, change in the political and socioeconomic structures of a national community.”

A revolution can be a positive transformation for the progress and improvement of a country, but it can also bring greater misfortunes than those that led to the beginning of the revolutionary process. So it can be said that not all revolutions are bad and not all are good, according to everyone’s perspective.

The revolutionary process begins before the collapse of the old regime and also covers the revolution itself, which begins with the triumph of the opposition and ends when the new economic model has finally been established with all the institutions of that new social system. In Cuba, that process ended more than half a century ago, in the 1960s, so it makes no sense to continue talking about that “revolution” in the present time.

But a new revolutionary process is what has begun in Cuba at the dawn of the ’20s of the 21st century. A process always begins when all the conditions are in place for change, not only the objective ones; that is, a deep crisis in every way, but also the subjective ones, when the population has become fully aware of the vital need for change, and that’s what happened on July 11, 2021.

Generally, the process begins with a shocking event like the one that occurred on that date, which was not only the result of the beginning of that awakening, something that could already be noticed months earlier with the events of San Isidro and the sitting in front of the Ministry of Culture, but is, at the same time, the cause of a large part of the population also awakening, so, although almost always at first glance those initial facts of the revolutionary processes are seen as a failure, deep down they have important consequences for the final victory.

If we analyze the revolutionary process of the fifties, for example, we see that something similar happened with the assault on the Moncada barracks that was a disastrous defeat from the military point of view, but that gave popularity to its leader and inspired many others who created similar movements, such as that of Frank País in the eastern zone, the Student Revolutionary Directory of Havana and others. Also in Venezuela, chavismo began with a failed coup attempt. In all the aforementioned cases, that first attempt sent many of the participants to prison, but then they emerged as key figures in the transformations that were carried out in the country.

We could even mention the rise of Nazism in Germany, since at the beginning of the 1920s there was great unrest among the population, both because of the economic situation and because of the humiliation imposed by the Treaty of Versailles after World War I. Hitler tried to carry out in 1923, in the name of a supposed “national revolution,” what became known as the Munich putsch, which failed and sent him to prison. What happened next is well known.

It will not go unnoticed that all these examples mentioned from the past culminated tragically for their respective populations. If we analyze all these cases, we will realize that they all had one thing in common: they came to power through violence, something that contrasts with other cases. In the definition cited by the Royal Spanish Academy, revolution is “generally violent,” which means that it doesn’t always have to be so. Neither the struggle of the Solidarity Movement in Poland, nor the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia made use of violence, and we see that they didn’t lead to dictatorships.

Why? A prominent human rights defender in Cuba who was a prominent leader of the Student Revolutionary Directory and who later spent more than twenty years in Castro prisons, Jorge Vals, drew this conclusion in his memoirs: “I came to convince myself that violence necessarily involves tyranny; through armed struggle, the revolutionary becomes a puppet of a series of interests that may have nothing to do with the revolution or can even conspire against it.”

In 17th century England there were two revolutions, one violent (1642-1648) that led to a long period of instability, dictatorships and wars; and another peaceful one, the so-called Glorious Revolution, begun in 1688, which gave rise to the Declaration of Rights, the antecedent of other historical declarations such as that of the U.S., that of France and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the UN, and the constitutional monarchy, a model so stable that it has lasted to this day.

The Cuban dissident movement never made use of violence. The demonstrations on July 11 were peaceful, and they have continued to be peaceful. Violence, in today’s Cuba, has always been started by the repressive forces, not the opposition. And that’s one more reason for hope.

*Translator’s note: The published title of the book appears to be “El Libro Prohibido: La realidad oculta tras eso que llaman ‘Revolución Cubana'” (The Forbidden Book: The hidden reality behind what they call the ‘Cuban Revolution’). A laudatory review of the book (in Spanish) can be found here. A click of your browser should suffice to translate the review to English.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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