The Spell

With 11J the first step of the spell was taken: the awareness that what is believed to be impossible can become possible. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ariel Hidalgo, Miami, 28 January 2023 — Václav Havel, the leader of the Velvet Revolution that liberated Czechoslovakia from communism, said that dissidents do not reject armed struggle because it is very radical, but quite the contrary, they reject it because it is not very radical.

The victory of an armed group can change the man who sits in the presidential chair and some ministers for others, it can dictate new laws, even promote a new Constitution (all this has already been done in Cuba), but not the national soul. The strength of a society is not in the mentality of those who govern, nor in the papers where the laws are signed, but in a much deeper sphere, in the degree of consciousness of the governed.

It is said that Cuba’s Constitution of 1940 was not only the most advanced in the history of the country, but also in the entire continent. But even if it had been, what good was it? It was enough that a group of soldiers treacherously seized the main stronghold of the country to throw it down the sewer and govern dictatorially. What good is the most perfect Constitution in the world if it does not take root in the civic conscience of citizens? Its validity was only twelve years, which, for the time of a nation, is equivalent to the duration of a breath. And, of course, that dictatorship lasted much less: barely seven years.

But without this awakening of the collective conscience, the spirit of tyranny reincarnated as a new leader. And since the will of an entire people has great force, and that people erected him, first on a throne, and then on an altar, he not only ruled fiercely as an absolute and perpetual monarch, but, even more, as a god who ruled forever our destiny.  And that people that, years ago, did not have the courage, or even the interest, to take to the streets and massively support the students who on the hill of the university demonstrated all the decorum that that people lacked to protest against that group of military coup plotters, now filled the squares to ask for the firing squad for the opponents of the supposed redeemer. continue reading

It was like a people hypnotized, prey to a spell before the one who, in a messianic pose, insisted that we had been married to the lie, when it was precisely at that moment that they were forcing us to live with it forever. And when they, taking refuge in an ideology in which they did not believe, put all the wealth of the country in a booty bag, many were disenchanted, but it was too late. That enchantment had already taken over most of the people.

To disenchant means to break the spell, which, in this case, is, more precisely, enchantment. And a collective spell was needed to put an end to it. That spell is a dawn in the conscience of each citizen. Only then will the sun of freedom illuminate all the fields and streets of the homeland. And the first rays of that dawn began to manifest that glorious July 11, 2021. Despite its apparent failure – not as resounding as the assault on the Moncada Barracks was – power came to shake, for which the first step of the spell was taken: the awareness that what is believed to be impossible can become possible.

The second step is to divorce that people from lies and marry them to the truth. Waking up those who are still asleep, giving light to those who are still blind, without hurting anyone, without responding to insults with insults, without threats of revenge, adding, never subtracting. When Jesus asked Ananias not to be afraid to go to Saul of Tarsus, the most brutal persecutor of Christians, and to cure his blindness, Ananias healed Saul, who became Saint Paul, the most fruitful preacher of the divine word.

And in this time of chrysalis — the time that the worm lasts inert in the cocoon — in which nothing transcendental in sight happens, all Cubans of good will, both inside and outside, must join forces to, all together, end what began on that date, flooding the national home with a deluge of light.

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Pablito, and Selective Historical Memory

Pablo Milanés performed for the last time in Cuba, in June, in a concert not without tension and polemic. (Pablo Milanés Archive)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ariel Hidalgo, Miami, 3 December 2022 – Those who today, even after his death, reproach Pablo Milanés for what he said or stopped doing in previous times, have a very selective memory. The majority of people who lived during the first two decades of the Revolution belonged to the Committees for the Defence of the Revolution and were present at the mass rallies in Revolution Square. So did those, who, not as long ago, supported in one way or another the condemnation of asylum seekers in the Peruvian Embassy or those who emigrated from the port of Mariel. These days many of them condemn Pablito for his past, but not for anything in the world do they acknowledge criticism of their own past.

You could understand criticism of anyone who left Cuba before 1968, a period when, through the so called “Revolutionary Offensive“, everything remained controlled by the Party-State elite, when it wasn’t yet possible to work independently of the state, and it was imperative, if you wanted to get a job, to be part of the so-called “organisations of the masses”. These people didn’t really live in a totalitarian dictatorship. But to those who lived through it you have to say: “don’t ask others to do what you weren’t able to do, and don’t criticise others for doing what you too, in one way or another, also did yourself”.

If you say that Pablito was very late in correcting things in order to be on the right side of history, then what exactly is the right moment for separating the “early” from the “late”? Perhaps the day they “changed their opinion”? And if our melodic poet changed his opinion very late then what can we say about those who haven’t yet done so themselves, but could still one day do so? continue reading

And this is the message that he is sending to them: “Dear repressors, keep repressing the people. Dear police and soldiers, keep supporting the tyranny. Dear intellectual apologists, keep on defending the disgrace. All of you, carry on supporting those responsible for the misery and oppression of all the  people, because, at the end of the day, the eternal condemnation of History will inevitably fall upon you”.

I don’t know about History, but with this message the ignominy will be maintained far beyond these guys’ lives, and the guiltiest people will be quite happy with this tremendous service that they are giving them.

If you announce to the defenders of a besieged garrison that they’ll all be executed when the stronghold is overrun, then nobody will surrender and the battle will be prolonged, because everyone will fight to the death at the cost of more lives on both sides, that is if there’s anyone left surviving at all.

On the other hand, it has to be said that if we are fighting for a Cuba in which all the rights and liberties of its citizens are to be respected, then you have to respect the rights of those who still believe in, and defend, the badly named Revolution, without violating the rights of those who think differently. But one needs to send a different message to those from the other side who violate those rights — a message like the one that the glorious Oswaldo Payá launched at his persecutors: “I don’t hate you Brother, but I’m not afraid of you either”.

I pity those who still call for “those guilty of the Cuban tragedy to be hung from guasima trees with barbed wire”, a view generally held more commonly among those who have suffered the least, those who ignore the lessons of history and wish for the repetition of the same mistakes that brought us to this calamitous situation; those who packed the squares and yelled for the death of those supposed guilty of other mistakes of the past and later were forced to go into exile or wound up in prison. Or, worse, like that commander of the Revolution, doctor Sorí Marín, who signed the decree of executions and was later executed himself for the law which he himself redacted. So many innocent people lost their lives in front of firing squads having been sentenced without due process.

History’s reach goes further than this; when they said that there could not have been anything worse than the machadato [1920’s tyrannical government of president Machado], and, after that was over, the mobs took to the streets to lynch anyone who was marked out as a porrista [government cheerleader], though it was never proven, and they were dragged through the streets in a general chaos which Machado himself prophesied whilst boarding the plane that took him to exile — a chaos that has continued to this day — well later came even worse: el batistato [the Batista regime]. And many said: “there can’t be a regime worse than this”. And the blood flowed, and it carried on flowing, after the arrival of a newer, and worse regime still. And today they’re still saying the same thing.

Enough. We have to put an end to this prolific chain of tyrannies — an end to hatred and reprisal, each time more shameful than the last — before we all drown in a sea of blood.

We cannot build a republic of peace on the foundations of the gallows. Or as a visionary named José Martí once said about the Russian revolutionaries of his time: “The steel of incentive is no use for the founding hammer”.

Translated by Ricardo Recluso

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

The First Decrees of the New Cuba

The people cannot wait for the institutional formation of a legislative congress composed of democratically elected deputies or a constituent assembly. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ariel Hidalgo, Miami, 9 November 2022 — With the increasingly profound crisis of popular representation in the Cuban dictatorship and a government about to collapse, there will come a time when a power vacuum requires the constitution of a Civic Board composed of people who have earned the respect of the population in their struggle for freedom and democracy. For example, among others, there are Guillermo Coco Fariñas, Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara and José Daniel Ferrer, the latter two currently imprisoned.

In such a situation, the humanitarian tragedy that the people are going through cannot wait for the institutional formation of a legislative congress composed of democratically elected deputies or a constituent assembly. From the first day, urgent measures must be taken to alleviate the situation, waiting to be subsequently ratified or, if necessary, repealed, by the corresponding institutions that are later constituted.

In the era of the Internet and social networks, the participation of the largest number of citizens contributing their opinions in a national dialogue is not only possible, but indispensable. And to begin to stimulate it, I validate the right we all have to propose what I consider the first most vital and important measures of immediate fullfilment in what would not be one more reform, but a radical democratic revolution, for the achievement of two fundamental objectives in the economic field: to stimulate the productive forces and to improve the standard of living of the most disadvantaged social sectors; also, one that is more political: ensuring the enjoyment of all fundamental rights and freedoms. continue reading

This is an appeal to the entire population to begin an era of peace and reconciliation. No one should be repressed for the sole reason of having been a member of pro-government organizations during the dictatorship.

Dissolution of the current Council of State and the National Assembly.

Release of all those imprisoned for political reasons, estimated at 1,753 people.

Putting an end to the powers of the Communist Party of Cuba in everything related to state affairs, including economic structures.

Dissolution of the political police, in particular the Department of State Security and the DGI (General Intelligence Directorate), and creation of an anti-corruption and anti-crime investigation department.

Repeal the laws of the Criminal Code that violate the rights and freedoms of citizens, such as enemy propaganda, illicit association, contempt, and decree 370, better known as the “Gag Law,” which restricts freedom of expression, and abolish the death penalty.

Abolition of mandatory military service. All recruits will be able to immediately leave their military units.

Creation of a Truth Committee that has access to the State Security archives and thoroughly investigates serious cases of human rights violations, such as the crimes of the Canímar River, the sinking of the March 13 tugboat and the Bahía Honda case.

People guilty of other less serious violations must be pardoned in exchange for confessing their faults and asking the victims for forgiveness.

Seek the financing of carbon credits to end the energy crisis.

Creation of workers’ councils in the productive centers and companies of the State with the power to supervise and even replace the administrations they consider corrupt or inept, as well as ensuring that each worker periodically receives a percentage of the profits obtained.

Reduce taxes on agricultural producers and allow farmers to sell their products at market price.

Transfer as many as possible cargo vehicles controlled by the Ministry of the Interior and the Armed Forces to agricultural transport, and prioritize the supply of fuel in this branch.

Turn the Armed Forces into a peace corps in support of citizenship in cases of emergency.

Reduce the costs of self-employed licenses and taxes, and extend as much as possible the expenditures and services to which they can be dedicated, including to private teachers and private medical services.

Divert resources from the budgets of the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of the Armed Forces and propaganda purposes to create wholesale trades of labor instruments, raw materials and other means of production for agricultural and self-employed workers.

Offer land controlled by the State to all citizens who want to make it productive, with the subsequent option of becoming owners.

Encourage as much as possible investments from abroad; in particular, of Cubans living abroad, especially investments destined for the branches of transport and housing construction.

Start a process of replacing fossil energies with renewables, such as solar panels and the use of bioethanol for automotive transport.

Convene elections to select the representatives of the people in charge of drafting and approving a new Constitution.

All these measures would be feasible to implement in a short time, not only to end shortages and increase the value of the Cuban peso, but also to raise enough resources for others that would lead the country to prosperity and social stability. For example, raising the salaries of teachers, teachers, doctors and other professionals; increasing the pensions of retirees; putting the services of hospitals for the people at the level of those that have been employed in health tourism; establishing ministries of social assistance and environmental protection, and banks in all provinces for the granting of microcredits to new microenterprises; and stimulating the training and development of new technologies in the fields of cybernetics and robotics.

To all those who doubt that measures like these would lead Cuba to become the most prosperous country on the continent, I say: let’s see what can happen in ten years.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Cuban Dissidents Should Enter the Electoral Arena

“Vote for our ideas and our values.” On November 27th elections for Cuba’s municipal assemblies will be held, the first step in designating provincial governors and vice-governors. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ariel Hidalgo, Miami, 30 October 2022–The proposals by the internal opposition in Cuba, announced by the Council for a Democratic Transition as well as the newly created D Frente, to promote candidates to the municipal elections are not naïve as some critics have said. Rather, it could be said that those who believe so are more naïve. The proponents know perfectly well the barriers and risks they will face. Even if they were convinced of the impossibility that any of the candidates could reach any of the levels of that official institution, it is worth fighting for other reasons.

To understand this, it’s sufficient to review the experiences offered by the history of the dissident movement itself, such as that of the first Cuban who accepted this electoral challenge.

The first time an opposing candidate ran in an election in Cuba was 1989. Roberto Bahamonde Massot, an engineer and doctor of pedagogy, member of the Party for Human Rights in Cuba, which was one of the first dissident organizations, nominated himself as a candidate. However, his own group refused to support him, as they believed that it legitimized fraudulent elections.

Bahamonde was undaunted and decided to run in his personal capacity; he made several copies of his candidate program and distributed them in the neighborhood. On March 9th of that year, he arrived at the meeting for the candidates for delegate of District 2 in the area of La Fernanda, in San Miguel del Padrón. When it came time for nominations, he nominated himself, which caused a great stir in the asembly because he was someone who had been arrested four times by State Security and they refused his candidacy. But he did not give up and challenged the legality of the procedures. The commission agreed to repeat the meeting. He competed against the Minister of the Interior and lost with 31 votes in favor, 60 against and 59 abstentions, which was a great victory in the country of unanimity.

The fact that back then Bahamonde “lost” while obtaining over half as many votes as the officialist candidate, and that 59 people abstained despite the closed campaigning orchestrated by State Security against him, is very significant. It was clear that those who abstained did not want to vote for the officialist candidate, but did not have the courage to vote for the dissident. Were it not for that fear, Bahamonde would have flat out won with no fewer than 80 votes.

The question to ask now is: If that occurred in 1989, what would occur nowadays when almost no one is hopeful that this leadership and this model will improve the desperate conditions for the population that has launched into protests in the streets in almost every city in the country?

It does not mean they will win some seats now, because, for the same reasons, repression and fraud will be on levels greater than before. What matters is the political costs they will have to pay when they realize this, not only when facing the people, but also in international public opinion.

For those who think that these costs don’t matter to them, I want to remind you that faced with an economic situation so severe, they are in no condition to continue losing foreign aid, or deserters from among the skeletal base of popular support. Success depends, of course, on the one hand, on the opponents succeeding at reaching the population with their candidacy programs and those of the opposition in general. On the other hand, foreign lobbying is important so that any benefits the government negotiates with powerful institutions are conditioned upon allowing the presence of international impartial election observers.

The greatest support that exiles who fight for their country’s freedom can provide is not so much to exhort their compatriots on the archipelago to abstain from arguing that the elections would be fraudulent, nor to pressure governments to strictly deny any concessions to the Cuban government, but rather to exhort them to vote for opposition candidates and, better yet, aim for foreign governments to condition foreign aid on the acceptance of those observers. If the oppressors refuse, they not only lose that aid, but also what little credibility they still have.

The true battles will not really be at the polls, but rather, in the streets, in the population’s peaceful protests in defense of the rights of the people’s true candidates, all of which would further nourish the ranks of unsatisfied citizens. On the other hand, in the international arena, we’d gain allies while the oppressors get cornered further.

For my part, I’d view such a victory not only as a precursor to the final triumph of the libertarian ideals of so many Cuban fighters, but also the best way to honor the memory of that forerunner who, I know, died after being forgotten in exile.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

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. continue reading

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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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Cuba: Protests and the Declaration of the Civil Society

Last Thursday night, the population of Nuevitas took to the streets in protest against the blackouts lasting more than 10 hours. (Screen capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ariel Hidalgo, Miami, August 24, 2022 — To those who asked when the Cuban population would return to take to the streets, when another July 11 would be repeated, it must be said: the people have already taken to the streets in many cities every day. Every day is July 11. And this is just the beginning, because, curiously, it’s the authorities themselves who give the signal for the protests to begin.

That “signal” is called a blackout. And apparently they are going to happen more and more frequently. They thought they had found the formula to prevent any mass protest in a city from spreading throughout the country: cutting off the internet, but they themselves are inadvertently putting into practice another formula to summon them: cutting off the electricity.

The difference with July 11, 2021  is that it was then face-to-face and held at the same time in many places at once, like a disadvantageous frontal war against a powerful enemy. Now, it is more like a guerrilla war, where even darkness is the best ally.

However, last week, the people of Nuevitas not only protested in the streets, but also faced the dictatorship’s attack, and there were injuries on both sides. All the demonstrations have been peaceful, but the population cannot be asked to turn the other cheek in the face of a brutal repression that makes no distinction for age or gender.

So where is all this going to go? Because cutting off the Internet no longer works for the regime, when today no city or town waits for a San Antonio de los Baños to initiate a protest. There will come a time when every town and city is protesting in the streets, and the whole country will shudder with another social explosion, this time more forceful, and then no one will be able to stop it.

The only thing that would be missing today is the common position of that civil society in rebellion, something to which Manuel Cuesta Morúa, vice president of the Committee for the Democratic Transition, was referring when he made a proposal a month after those glorious protests last year: “I think that what should happen now is to translate the social explosion into a political proposal.” And he added: “This has to be led, coordinated and activated by civil society.” continue reading

Prominent philosophers such as Spinoza and Kant agreed to define civil society as “a collective body constituted by the individuals of a society, which is positioned outside the limits of the State.” Civil society, being composed of all those who participate in that community, has a moral force superior to the State, so the State must submit to it, and not civil society to the State, especially when the party leadership that controls it was not elected by the citizens. Jean Jacques Rousseau went much further when he said: “The voice of the people is the voice of God.”

When it comes to civil society, a declaration that reflects its common position cannot be ideologized, because it would contain all the diversity of a political tuning fork, but it must address the concrete problems that are affecting us all. And this is precisely what was reflected, in just two pages, by a group of Cubans in their Manifesto of Cuban Civil Society. In a few days they collected more than 80 signatures from inside and also outside Cuba, “since the Cuban nation extends beyond the Cuban archipelago to any part of the world where there is a Cuban identified with the collective aspirations of his compatriots.”

The manifesto, which aims to collect thousands of signatures, doesn’t ask anyone for anything, but demands respect for all our legitimate rights and the release of all those imprisoned for practicing or defending them. Each signatory must give the details of his name, profession or activity he carries out, the organization to which he belongs if any, city and country where he resides, and send them to concordiaencuba@outlook.com, to proclaim to the world and to the oppressors, that the Cuban people are already on the move and that nothing and no one will be able to stop them from reaching their destination: a homeland of freedom and life.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Cuba’s Transition and Plans of the Castro Regime’s Business Mafia

With the death of López-Callejas (center), the potential of a Cuban Putin was aborted before birth, and the consolidation of that mafia business is on hold for the moment.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ariel Hidalgo, Miami, August 8, 2022–Following a trip to Russia in 1992 to attend a seminar on the transition in Cuba, I published La transición que los cubanos no debemos hacer [The Transition We Cubans Should Not Make] in the Miami Herald. The Soviet Union had just crumbled and Yeltsin was in power. I posed the following question to the vice-director of Izvestia, a newspaper that was part of the old USSR, “To whom does Izvestia belong?” For me, this was a key question to which the response was, it “theoretically” belongs to the Russian Federation.

In a way it made sense, because at that time the newspaper was already in the process of being handed over to a great businessman, Vladimir Potanin who, at the same time, was the country’s Vice President. Marxism was no longer discussed and neither was socialism. Russia was taking its first steps, still wobbly, toward a business mafia camouflaged by a discourse that was beginning to be tinged with nationalism. The man charged with directing the transition to the end, Vladimir Putin, had resigned from the KGB a year earlier, and four years later would become part of the Yeltsin administration.

A similar process had begun in Cuba, except that the person supposedly destined to lead it died suddenly. General Luis Alberto Rodríguez López-Calleja, who is the father of one of Raúl Castro’s grandchildren, was referred to as the “tsar of the Cuban economy” for his role as the head of Gaesa, the most economically powerful conglomerate which controls the most important companies in the country. Last year he became a delegate of the National Assembly and a member of the Politburo, the senior leadership of the totalitarian party which governs the country.

The only thing missing was to replace President Díaz-Canel, who was provisionally placed in that position by Raúl Castro to take the fall for the disastrous results of the policies implemented by the leadership. His resulting unpopularity would justify this substitution. However, this last step for López-Calleja did not come to pass. Thus, the potential Cuban Putin was aborted before birth, and the consolidation of the system of a business mafia under the “godfathership” of the Castro family is on hold for the moment.

This occurred amid the deepest crisis it Cuba’s history and of uncontrollable popular protests across the country.

At this crossroad, what can the Castroist elite do? And when I say “Castroist elite,” I refer to what remains of the octogenarian — and now nonagenarian — “historic leadership.”

A. It could do nothing, just allow all the businesses to disintegrate under their own weight and let civil and military bureaucrats appropriate those means of production as new capitalists, on condition of being accountable to that leadership and in particular, to the “family.” This is one form of abandoning that antiquated model which has been proven unsustainable, and spawning another model more similar to the Russian than the Chinese. However, because the public is already aware and desperate, this would require violently repressing popular protests and demonstrations in a new kind of Tiananmen — a very dangerous thing as it could face sedition by young generals whose loyalties are not beyond doubt.

B. Secure asylum for themselves in an allied country without extradition continue reading

laws, while abandoning their minions and underlings to face the chaos and grave dangers of an overwhelming popular tsunami, while they peacefully live out their few remaining years or months with their families and their ill-gotten funds, but clear of danger.

C. Replace Díaz-Canel and his team with reformist officials whose image is more acceptable to the people and international public opinion, to spur hopes for short- and medium-term solutions, and allow them to implement changes toward a partial economic and social opening, at least until the so-called historic leaders disappear naturally. In that case, it would be a revolution in reverse, to release from the state the assets that had been under state control, still under the supervision of this elite who would retain some power, at least until their physical disappearance.

Any one of these three options is possible, but regrettably the most likely, in my opinion, is option A, due to the obstinacy they’ve always demonstrated to remain in power at all costs; and the least likely, for the same reason, is option B.

Option C would be the most intelligent, and there are several possible candidates, all unthinkable under normal circumstances. For example, one recently mentioned by several media sources would be Armando Franco Senén, the former director of Alma Mater, who was fired in April for tackling controversial topics which apparently caused discomfort among authorities. The expulsion, which spurred the resignation of the entire editorial team, occurred at the urging of the National Committee of the UJC and, in particular, Nislay Molina (at the time in charge of the ideological arm of the organization of young communists) who said, “We should have fired you a long time ago.”

I mention Senén due to the unexpected fact that, shortly after, Molina was relieved of her duties. In contrast, he was promoted to an important position at Palco, a state group less powerful than Gaesa, but with several companies under his control. This promotion was celebrated with much fanfare by Palco exactly one month after López-Calleja’s death. For a bureaucrat “to fall up” is a common event among the acolytes of the regime who make mistakes, put never among critics of the regime, no matter how moderate.

We must remain vigilant to facts such as these because López-Calleja’s death and the growing protests may have resulted in the elite discarding option A to lean toward C.

But all this is hypothetical. The only thing we can say with clarity is that in the near future, Cuba cannot continue being what it has been until now. Continuity of the current model will not be possible. History itself has shown this.

The model of a state-run centralist monopoly, misnamed “real socialism” is not viable and that is why it did not require military interventions, coup d’etats nor armed insurrections for all of socialist Europe to implode. Even China, to avoid collapse, had to make capitalist reforms. This is why Cuba, to sustain itself, always needed subsidies from a foreign ally, something which it no longer has and is not on the horizon. Nonetheless, its leaders are dead set on keeping it.

In Russia, the formerly communist oligarchs were able to impose a business mafia system because a strong opposition did not exist, but rather a few groups with notable personalities such as the Committee on Human Rights in the Soviet Union, the Helsinki Group and Memorial, all of whose members together do not exceed the double digits.

In contrast, in Cuba there is a dissidence, which totals about a hundred organizations with thousands of members with a history of almost 40 years of struggle, and a movement which has resulted in a popular trend of civic activists in the arts, known as “artivism,” which along with access to new telecommunications technologies has gained a meteoric strength impossible for the powers that be to stop, let alone extinguish, it.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez

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The Counterrevolutionaries Are on the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba

Third Plenum of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC), on December 16, 2021. (Revolution Studies)

14ymedio bigger 14ymedio, Ariel Hidalgo, Miami, 3 June 2022 — In a previous article, I stated that a revolution is a radical transformation of the structures of a society and that, therefore, there has been no revolution in Cuba for more than 50 years. Revolution was what was carried out during the first nine years by the leadership that took power in Cuba in 1959. So, why do those who govern continue to speak in the name of something that ceased to exist so long ago?

The question only has one answer and a very simple one: to hide, behind that word, what really began to exist in Cuba: a tyranny. As the economic model that emerged is dysfunctional – the older Castro himself confessed it shortly before he died: “it doesn’t even work for Cubans” – that leader did the only thing he did for the next fifty-odd years, every time the rope tightened around the neck, there were nothing more than reforms, a word that means “to change the form,” just to achieve a respite, but leaving the essence intact. Tyranny is still tyranny, and nothing has rescued the population from all its calamities.

But now very few believe in his reforms. It is about changing “everything” so as not to have to change anything, or at most, make fearful and insufficient concessions, as if trying to save the life of someone who is dying of dehydration with doses from a dropper and not with a bottle. Also, when they see that the dying person has any signs of recovery, they remove the drip as they have done many times. In other words, the reforms generally have a short term of life, because they have already fulfilled the objective they sought (to give some hope to calm people down, accompanying that, of course, with the usual mass exodus). continue reading

What, then, are those who are called “counterrevolutionaries”? If there is no revolution, there can be no counterrevolutionaries. If opponents are called that because they want to radically change the structures of that system that has become a tyranny, then, by definition, the true revolutionaries are those opponents, whether those who govern like it or not and those who oppose it like it or not. Do those opponents want to radically change that system or not? Well, that’s called a revolution.

Enough of deception and let’s speak the Spanish language correctly. Let’s not follow the game of those who disrupt the terms as a propaganda strategy. There are no counterrevolutionaries in Cuba, and if there are, they are on the Central Committee of the Communist Party and not behind prison bars, if we bear in mind that those who seized power in Cuba betrayed the ideals of that Revolution for which so many Cubans gave their blood. Not only for refusing to reinstate the 1940 Constitution and to hold free elections, but also for not satisfying the social demands of that Constitution, such as putting an end to the large estates and distributing the land among the peasants, since they neither eliminated the large estates nor distributed the land, but they converted the latifundios into state estates by having the State absorb 70% of the arable land.

Don’t let the opponents call you “counterrevolutionaries,” a term that was accompanied by another, “worms [gusanos],” an epithet that the Nazis foisted on the Jews. That’s where they took it from. It was the brainchild of Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s shadowy propaganda chief.

On second thought, what’s wrong with a worm? Isn’t it a laborious little animal the creator of fine silk? The great Chinese sage of 2,400 years ago, Lao Tzu, said that when the worm believed that everything was already lost, trapped inert in the cocoon, it was when it was closest to reaching everything, because “what he called death, the world called butterfly.” The butterfly is the symbol of transfiguration, the symbol of freedom that we Cubans should put everywhere, because it represents the destiny of the new Cuba.

So while we might just as well reject that “worm” moniker, we might as well take them at their word, but instead of seeing it for what it is today, see it for what it will become and do what worms know how to do: break out of the cocoon and take flight in a wonderful winged world of many colors.

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Cuba: We Need Another Revolution

It would be logical to question the representational legitimacy of Cuba’s ruling elite after the widespread demonstrations that took place in almost every part of the country on July 11, and the brutal repression that followed.  (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ariel Hidalgo, Miami, May 17, 2022 — When the so-called Ten Million Ton Sugar Harvest of 1970 failed and a young teacher from a trade school called for “a revolution within the revolution” at a mass rally, he was on the verge of being arrested. The Cuban revolution had been completed just two years earlier and no one dared speak of another revolution. What we did not realize at the time, however, was that a radical policy — the expropriation of all private enterprise — was about to alter the very structures of society. That was the operative phrase: radically change the structures of society.

By that point, the revolution had already been hijacked. The two main objectives of the revolution — the overthrow of the dictatorship which had come to power in 1952 after a military coup, and the restitution of the 1940 constitution to be followed by free elections  — had not been met. Those who had taken up arms styled themselves “the Centennial Generation” but, with their final “revolutionary offensive” of 1968, the leaders who emerged from that generation abandoned Jose Martí’s principle of “with all and for the good of all.”

At the end of that nine-year period of dramatic transformation — also marked by the execution and imprisonment of many comrades-in-arms who had fallen victim to that betrayal — what actually emerged was a totalitarian dictatorship and a dysfunctional economic model.

Nevertheless, we kept talking about “revolution.” This included the former dictator, who used the term till the final days of his rule in reference to the revolution of September 4th, twenty-four years earlier, which he himself had betrayed. History was repeating itself, but more dramatically, in a spiral of betrayals.

Given the widespread demonstrations that took place in almost every part of the country on July 11 and the brutal repression that followed, not to mention the deep economic crisis and widespread discontent over the lack of basic rights, it would be logical to question the representational legitimacy of an elite which has, since 1959, been proclaiming itself the vanguard of the Cuban people.

In its past sixty-two years, and despite more than half a century of periodic reforms, this ruling elite — now institutionalized as the Cuban Communist Party — has not been able to extricate the country from this structural crisis. The situation only improves when a generous donor appears on the horizon with a life raft in the form of subsidies. continue reading

No one seriously believes the U.S. embargo is the problem, especially these days. The term “brutal Yankee blockade” has lost all meaning now that Cuba freely trades with American farmers.

What has become clear is that the main cause of the disaster is the economic model itself, which has proved to be unsustainable. Reforms have come and gone but the system remains. The true etymological meaning of the word reform implies a change of shape, not a change of substance. The structure has always been left intact when what it needed was a radical overhaul. But this was never acceptable because that is what revolutions do, and it had already been done in the 1960s.

One month after the July 11 demonstrations, Manuel Cuesta Morua, coordinator of Progressive Arch and vice-president of the Council for Democratic Transition, clearly stated that what the demonstrations were calling for was radical structural change. “I believe what should be done now is to translate the social uprising into a political proposition. This must be led, coordinated and implemented by civil society,” he wrote. On August 21, a letter signed by 284 Cuban intellectuals and artists, living both on the island and overseas, was sent to President Diaz-Canel. It stated, “The time has come for Cuba to move forward on paths different from those you and your government have drawn up for Cubans [to follow].”

No matter how traumatic this word might be for many Cubans, in both cases it refers to the same thing: a new revolution. We are no longer talking about “reforms” but rather radical changes to the structure of Cuban society. This is no longer about the simplistic dilemma — socialism or capitalism — framed by those who currently hold power. We are talking about something very different from what existed before 1959 and what came after: a revolution of those from below, for the good of all Cubans.

Given the urgency, the changes that must be made without delay require transparency. Not catchphrases to disguise hidden motives such as “a revolution as green as palm trees” but rather specific statements about what is going to be done. I think there is a consensus that the state should stop exercising direct control over business activity. In other words, stop micromanaging the managers. The state, which has a history of expropriating corporate monopolies, has itself become one giant monopoly.

But that is easier said than done. In whose hands would these companies end up? Would they be sold or auctioned off to foreign investors? (Would these investors even be interested in sinking money into obsolete or badly deteriorated means of production?) Would these companies be returned to their original owners? This would likely involve lengthy lawsuits by numerous plaintiffs. Would this begin a long process that would just end up replacing one bureaucracy with another?

The members of this bureaucracy — generally chosen for their political reliability than for their competency — are still smart enough to realize that, if the system that appointed them were to fall, their days at the heads of these companies would be numbered. In such a scenario, they wouldn’t think twice about grabbing whatever they could. In that case, who or what would be there to stop them?

So here is my proposal: On day one, immediately send out a memo to all rank-and-file workers at state-owned businesses and factories that, henceforth, they will be allowed to earn bonuses from the fruit of their own labor. They must be exhorted to take over their workplaces, expel their respective directors and replace them, on a provisional basis, with workers’ councils elected by workers themselves.

Could Cuban workers be responsible enough to form management boards with competent people? Let’s remember that Havana’s Hilton Hotel (now the Habana Libre) was not owned by the Hiltons but rather by members of the restaurant workers union, who contracted with the Hiltons to run the operation because they thought the famous hoteliers were better equipped to manage it.

There are many examples from different eras in various countries of companies on the verge of being shut down, either because they were unprofitable or because of labor disputes, which were successfully revived by workers themselves. One such example from the Clinton era is United Airlines. During a strike for better wages, employees were given shares in the company. Later, they decided not just to forego a salary increase but actually decided to lower their salaries. Another example is  the British mining company Tower Colliery, which was losing money and facing closure due to the free-market policies of Margaret Thatcher. It was able to survive thanks to the efforts of the workers themselves, who managed to acquire it and turn it into a successful company.

The Anson Construction Company in Illinois is owned by its workers, who are even willing to work on holidays in order to make more money. No one who is not an employee is allowed to own shares in company. Many other examples could be cited.

The leaders that came to power in 1959 underestimated and wasted the nation’s enormous human capital and clipped the wings of its enterprising people, who have the capacity to turn Cuba into one of the most prosperous countries in the world. What we are talking about now is giving them the freedom they need to spread their wings and take flight.

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Letter from a Cuban Addressed to the Left Around the World

“Tyrannies do not stop being what they are because they define themselves as left or right,” says Hidalgo. (Archive)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ariel Hidalgo, Miami, 6 March 2022  —  The person who’s writing to you, a former professor of Marxist Philosophy in the high schools in Havana, and author of a book that was chosen as a supplementary bibliography for all writing careers on the history of the labor movement in Cuba and the first Cuban socialists, wishes to alert you of the mistake which, due to ignorance or fanaticism, could tarnish your names before the possible damning judgment of future generations, for placing yourselves on the wrong side of history.

I do not question your good intentions, your loyalty to the cause of social justice and your commitments to all those human beings in this world who suffer from misery, exploitation and oppression, but the Cuban regime is not what you have believed it to be, and it is necessary that I warn you, with words pronounced by José Martí, who was the numen of Cuban independence, about “the violence and hidden rage of the ambitious who, in order to rise up in the world, begin by pretending so they’ll have shoulders on which to rise up, frantic defenders of the homeless,” which did not mean the renunciation of that ideal, since he himself declared that such attitudes “do not authorize souls of good birth to desert their defense.”

I do not question your good intentions, your loyalty to the cause of social justice and your commitments to all those human beings in this world who suffer from misery, exploitation and oppression

On September 23rd, 2019, the New Politics Journal, considered an “independent socialist forum,” published one of my articles addressed to the Democratic Socialists of America, who at the Atlanta Convention had expressed their support for the Cuban Government. In it, I told them that “the social economic system established in Cuba without a plebiscitary consultation was copied from the Russian Stalinist model, an arbitrary and opportunist interpretation of the Marxist theory of socialist revolution, which returned to the most reactionary aspects of Hegelian thought embodied in The Philosophy of Law about a State that should absorb all civil society and all individual wills.”

Teaching classes to workers in the so-called workers’ faculties in the 1970s, I received numerous testimonies from my students of repeated conflicts of interest between the administrations designated by the State and the rank-and-file workers, which made me question the repeated assertion that these were the owners of the means of production, and motivated me to carry out the investigation of the Cuban economic-social system that concluded, as a professor in a pre-university institute, with a manuscript where I expressed my disagreement with the politics and the economic model established in Cuba, which years later would be published abroad under the title of Cuba, the Marxist State and the New Class.

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I was just proposing a different model of socialism. However, the consequences were my expulsion from the country’s educational system in 1981 and, later, under the accusation of “left-wing revisionist,” I was sentenced to eight years in prison in a sentence that added: “and as for his works, destroy them by fire.” As if this were not enough, I was held incommunicado in a narrow walled cell in the death rows of the Combinado del Este prison for more than a year. Such was the fear of the words of a man almost naked but not willing to keep the truth silent.

I was just proposing a different model of socialism.  However, the consequences were my expulsion from the country’s educational system in 1981

The prison brutalities that I would witness, as well as my subsequent encounter with many other innocent convicts imprisoned solely for expressing their ideas, led me, along with five other prominent political prisoners, to join what would become the first group to defend human rights, which can be considered as the main nucleus of the current dissident movement spread throughout the country today.

I have not yet thanked in the way they deserve many left-wing intellectuals, such as Noam Chomsky and many others, both in the United States and Latin America, for having signed letters requesting my freedom, as well as the campaigns of international institutions, such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, thanks to whom I was released in 1988 after seven years in prison.

But the left must reevaluate its vision and its position with the Cuban regime, and its peers in Venezuela and Nicaragua, just as they previously condemned Pinochetism in Chile and Francoism in Spain. Tyrannies do not stop being what they are because they define themselves as left or right. On the contrary, they contribute, as Stalin did in the Soviet Union, to spread a denigrating image of just causes, so they must free themselves of that defamatory ballast.

I have condemned in many articles the embargo imposed by the United States on Cuba, above all because it has served as an alibi for the Cuban historical leadership to present itself as a victim, obtain international support, and justify all the economic nonsense of its misrule, because in reality, Cuba It is one of the main trading partners of the United States, and another type of blockade has been more damaging: the one that this leadership has imposed on its own people for more than sixty years. 

But the left must reevaluate its vision and its position with the Cuban regime, and its peers in Venezuela and Nicaragua

It is time to tear down the lies raised for many years about what is still called the “Cuban Revolution,” because that revolution ended in 1968 to give rise to what I have described as “reverse socialism,” because in that year, with the so-called “Revolutionary Offensive,” not only were the workers not empowered but, on the contrary, what little they had was taken from them: grocery stores, cafeterias, barbershops, laundries, grocery and food stalls, and even street vendors, such as ice cream carts and shoeshine boys, among others.

It is said that there are no longer monopolies in Cuba. In reality, a monstrous absolute monopoly has arisen, the State itself, which has devoured everything, from which we can affirm what Martí himself said about monopolies: “an implacable giant sitting at the door of all the poor.” The lands were not distributed among dispossessed peasants, nor were the large estates eliminated, but rather they were nationalized, so that the State became the “supreme landowner” — which Marx spoke of in Volume III of Das Kapital — which continued to exploit the farm laborers.

A similar fate also befell the workers of the cities in the different confiscated companies: businesses, industries, banks and the media, among others, at the head of which officials were appointed, not because of their ability, but because of political loyalty, bureaucrats who because of their inability, and above all their proclivity to corruption, have dragged the country into misery and plagued the population with endless calamities.

Many of the struggle comrades of that leadership opposed to this model were imprisoned or put to death. Tens of thousands of people went to jail and around two million preferred to face the rigors of exile.

The thousands of Cubans who took to the streets in dozens of Cuban cities on July 11 were not protesting the problems of the coronavirus, as some media said, but the most repeated word at that event was “freedom.”

The comparison is eloquent. If we call the Batista regime a dictatorship, what should we call this one?

The architects of the assault on the Moncada Barracks during the Batista dictatorship that caused the death of numerous people only received sentences of up to 13 and 15 years and were granted amnesty two years later. In contrast, the protesters of July 11 did not kill anyone or use any violence, but the regime began with a brutal repression, resulting in at least one death, many injuries and more than 1,300 detainees, of which more than 700 still remain in prison, including 32 minors, with prosecutor requests of up to 20 and 30 years in prison.

The comparison is eloquent. If we call the Batista regime a dictatorship, what should we call this one?

I will not tire you with more details that could fill many pages. I only ask you to reason what I have exposed to you without passion and draw your own conclusions, and above all, to take into account from which side of history do you want to be remembered.

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Jose Marti: Excerpt from ‘The Forbidden Book’

José Martí did not stop lashing out at those who, in the name of the workers, tried to put themselves on a pedestal and lord it over them. (University of Miami)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ariel Hidalgo, Miami, 30 January 2022 — 19th-century English philosopher Herbert Spencer warned what the consequences of this kind of supposedly socialist project might be. In his book The Future Slavery, he described this conceivable future society as “despotism of an organized and centralized bureaucracy.” And indeed, a notable Cuban analyzed this book in an article of the same name. This Cuban’s name was José Martí.

To understand it properly, it is necessary to read – or reread – the critical analysis of his article. This way we realize that both Spencer and Martí are referring to a specific type of “socialism,” if it can be called that, later known as “real socialism,” based on the State as owner and administrator of the majority of production assets.

In his 1884 article, written several decades before these regimes began to be established, Martí warns about an economic-social system where officials would acquire disproportionate power over workers: “All the power that the caste of civil servants, bound by the need to maintain themselves in a privileged and lucrative occupation, would be gradually lost to the people.” In that system, he says, the worker “would then have to work to the extent, for the duration, and performing tasks that the State wishes to assign to him.”

This path led to a new form of social injustice, a new mode of exploitation of human beings by other humans. “From being a servant to himself, man would become a servant of the State. From being a slave to the capitalists, as it is now called, he would become a slave to bureaucrats.”  And he concluded: “Autocratic functionaries will abuse the tired and hard-working masses. Serfdom will be unfortunate and generalized.” continue reading

Martí did not stop lashing out at those who, in the name of workers, tried to exalt themselves and lord it over them. Ten years later, in 1894, in a letter to his friend Fermín Valdés Domínguez, he spoke to him about “the dangers of the socialist idea.” What were these dangers? He warned him, above all, about “the arrogance and hidden rage of the ambitious, who in order to rise up in the world, start out pretending, feigning to have shoulders to stand on, as frantic defenders of the helpless.”

The other criticism is based on interpretations that could arise from “foreign and confused” theories. He was probably referring to the later misrepresentations given to the role of the Revolutionary State in the process of socialization of wealth: Should that State limit itself to fulfilling its role as an instrument of empowerment of the workers?

As we already know, the imposed interpretation, both in Russia and in the other countries that followed the same path, was different: to maintain control over that wealth indefinitely as the supposed representative of those workers, and consequently it led to that model that Martí feared and that he called “autocratic functionalism.”

Martí clarified to Valdés Domínguez that his criticism did not mean abandoning the ideal of social justice, because “an aspiration must be judged by what is noble: and not by this or that wart that human passion puts on it.” And then he concluded with his desire to carry out a future struggle of ideas in the Republic to avoid these dangers and finally be able to achieve what he called sublime justice: “explaining will be our job, and smooth and deep, as you will know how to do it… And always with justice, you and me, because the errors of its form do not authorize souls of respectable birth to desert its defense.”

The Active Calm

Martí rejected the path of violence and, in particular, the Marxist theory of class struggle, which is why, although he justified Marx’s indignation at “the bestializing of some men for the benefit of others,” he preached a “soft remedy to the damage.” For him, a process of development of civic consciousness was essential to achieve a just social order, convinced that social justice can be achieved through non-violent means: “Just rights, intelligently requested, will have to overcome without the need for violence.”

In another text he speaks of the “final triumph of active calm.” For this reason, he adds a criticism to his praises of Marx. According to him, Marx “was in a hurry and somewhat in the shadows, not seeing that children who have not had a natural and difficult gestation are not born viable, neither of a country in history nor of a woman at home.

Martí, heavily influenced by American transcendentalists, in particular Emerson and Thoreau, was convinced of the need to develop civic consciousness, and reiterated it in various ways, such as when he stated that what was important was not “the sum of weapons in hand but the sum of stars on the forehead.”

He spoke of an awareness that is not a “class consciousness,” as Marx preached in order to dissent and seize the means of production, but a much deeper radical transformation in human consciousness.

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Let’s Lay the Foundations of the New Cuba

Hundreds of Cubans were arrested during the July 11th demonstrations. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ariel Hidalgo, Miami, 2 October 2021 — Since the Cuban people have finally conquered freedom, since true liberation begins in the human spirit, it is time to start laying the foundations of the New Cuba.

Those who still believe that they govern the country, ignorant that no one governs without the consent of the governed, will believe that they have finally managed to put the noose on the people, and that they can deceive them once again as if by magic, making changes here and there so as not to have to change anything.

They do not understand at all what has really happened. Just as they did not believe that July 11th could happen, they now think that everything will return to its place, that everything will continue as before that date. They don’t see reality or they don’t want to see it, and that can be dangerous. Nobody will deceive the people again, because they have become aware of their rights and, sooner or later, they will come out to demand them. And it will not be like that day, but multiplied by ten. Now it could be the State that is expropriated, as in the 1960’s the leadership did with the population, including independent workers.

The State seized all the wealth of the country by force in the name of all the people.  It seized the lands, the factories, the shops, the banks, the hotels and even the most modest means of subsistence of humble workers who made a living through their own efforts, without exploiting anyone. Who got liberated? From that collective looting began the subjugation of all the people, who have lost all their freedoms since then. They were no longer able to express their opinions, associate freely, make their own way in independent economic activities, so they stopped being an entity in order to become a mere screw in the State machinery.

That leadership only succeeded in creating an immense monopoly, though it claimed to have put an end to large Estates and all monopolies

That leadership, though it claimed to have put an end to large Estates and all monopolies, only succeeded in creating an immense monopoly, the largest concentration of wealth that could have been conceived, which later engendered a corrupt bureaucracy, administrations designated by that State which has squandered all the goods that did not belong to it, and has dragged the population to a life of needs and calamities.

Now, only one owner has to be expropriated, the supreme landowner, the only monopoly that has been left standing. Now it is up to the State to be expropriated by those people whom the current constitution itself recognizes as the legitimate owner.

Now that people have the right to expropriate the expropriators and get rid of all those corrupt administrations that control those companies, not one by one, but all at once, urging all the grassroots groups in the centers and companies under the guardianship of that State, and, on their own account, create democratically elected workers’ councils to direct all those means of production instead of that bureaucracy.

Each work nucleus is more productive if it feels that the center belongs to it and that it is going to obtain part of the profits from what it produces, and those councils, should they deem it necessary, will hire the ones who will direct them most efficiently.

The people must declare the State as incompetent, for having entrusted and appointed all those corrupt bureaucrats. They must replace it, due to its lack of ethics and for having systematically violated their rights. Not only rights of free expression and association, but even of life, having ordered the sinking of two ships on two different occasions, the Río Canímar and the 13 de Marzo. Both events led to the deaths of numerous citizens, as well as thousands of executions in summary trials lacking any procedural guarantee.

That Government was never elected, but rather it was handpicked by others who were not chosen by the people either. The Constitution was drawn up by constituents who were also handpicked by the sovereign will of a so-called historical leadership with all-encompassing powers based on the supposed glories of a distant past. Therefore, this Government lacks any legitimacy and must be temporarily supplanted by a civic council of men and women who have earned the admiration and respect of all the people. Not to govern, but to restore the rights and freedoms of the citizenry, to convene a new constituent, and to organize free elections.

There will be those who say that I am delirious, that I am building castles in the air, but a rebellious philosopher of the great American nation, Henry David Thoreau, who influenced great men like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and José Martí, said: “If you build a castle in the air, you haven’t wasted your time. The castle is there. You just need to lay its foundations.”

Translated by Norma Whiting

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The Cuban People Have Already Conquered Their Freedom

Young man with a placard during the July 11 protests in Cuba. (Capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ariel Hidalgo, Miami, 20 September 2021 — When José Martí was preparing Cuba’s war of national liberation from exile, he wrote in the newspaper Patria that the objective was not a change of clothes, but “a change of soul.” It could be understood that the root of the problem did not consist of transforming institutions, not excluding economic relations here, but a change of consciousness and, in this case, a much deeper and more generalized consciousness than would have been a class consciousness like the one that Marx advocated.

This was probably related to what Martí expressed in his article about the act carried out in New York in honor of Marx posthumously, where, after praising him, he added this criticism: “But he walked quickly and somewhat in the shadows, without seeing that children who have not had a natural and laborious gestation are not born viable, neither from the bosom of the people in history, nor from the bosom of a woman in the home.”

Martí, more influenced by Emerson and the American transcendentalists, did not see the class struggle, and violence in general, as the appropriate way for the triumph of social justice. For him the important thing was not the number of weapons in hands, but “the number of stars on the forehead,” from which it is understood that a patient struggle was required to generate that consciousness that was not class, but transcended the social classes towards a civic conscience of the entire population. “Trenches of ideas are worth more than trenches of stone,” he said.

Thus, the only revolution that could bring about the rights and freedoms of a people was the one carried out in the human spirit.

Political prisoners who individually had become aware continue reading

of rights that are inherent to human nature were not afraid to speak out their thoughts. They were even freer behind the bars than the jailers who guarded them. When a State Security captain threatened me with a new charge for a “subversive” manuscript that they had found in my cell during a search, I replied: “Well, when you understand its pertinence, send for me to sign the papers.” And when he warned me that if they found an anti-government leaflet out there they would come looking for me, I told him: “If it isn’t signed by me, don’t bother, because I sign everything I write.”

To use violence to overthrow communist regimes is to confront it in a field that those regimes know all too well. All the violent attempts against the totalitarian regime imposed in Cuba were defeated. But when half a dozen political prisoners created a group that instead of violence denounced human rights violations along with other peaceful actions, that was the starting point of a non-violent movement that grew and spread throughout the country and that could never be defeated, because the regime had prepared to counter any violent opposition, but not a peaceful struggle.

Curiously, of the six of us, two had been professors of Marxism, and another two came from the ranks of the old communist party, the Popular Socialist Party (PSP). Little by little we came to understand that more than denouncing international public opinion, our most important mission was to create an awareness in the population of their rights. It was a patient process that in reality turned out to be a long and tortuous path of almost forty years from which only the two professors of that small founding nucleus survived. But it was very necessary because it required, as in Martí’s criticism of Marx, “a natural and laborious gestation.”

In the first days of 2021, we both wrote an open letter to the Government alerting it of what was coming so that it could make the radical changes that could prevent that imminent social explosion, but they did not want to listen. And when the people finally took to the streets on July 11, the behavior of those massive demonstrations that took place in dozens of cities in the country was peaceful, unlike the social explosions in other Latin American countries.

The violence was later initiated by the regime with ruthless repression. But Cuba could no longer be the same, because finally the people had awakened and had become aware of their destiny. And this is a more important conquest, even, than the possible collapse of the dictatorship, because it is a conquest for all time. That people did not take to the streets because a caudillo ordered it to. No leader led it.

Remember how this dictatorship was imposed. The leader was applauded, they compared him to Christ, and in fact many took down the images of Galileo from the walls to place their own. Many people offered him their homes: “Fidel, this is your house.” When someone expressed their mistrust, they said to themselves: “If Fidel is a communist, put me on the list.”

And in the tumultuous mobs they called out for “to the wall” [execution] for their adversaries. If it is idolized, if an idol is raised to an altar, from there our destiny will rule with an iron fist. The Cuban people, with their cries for freedom and “Patria y Vida” [Homeland and Life], have just brought down from that altar all those who today have tried to establish themselves as supreme sovereign.

None of the Eastern European countries that escaped this totalitarian dictatorship had a history of civic struggle as long as Cuba’s, and consequently as fruitful for the collective consciousness of its people. Even from the brutal response of the repressive forces we have accumulated valuable experiences.

Threats, gags, and jailings don’t matter. A people who are not afraid to say what they think and who act not as unjust laws dictate but as their own conscience dictates, is already, in fact, free.

Because freedom is not granted by governments, nor by laws, not even, in the end, by bars and chains, but by the will to be free in thought, in words and in actions. The rest will follow.

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

And After July 11th, What Comes Next?

The Velvet Revolution kicked off the arrival of democracy in the former Czechoslovakia. (DC)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ariel Hidalgo, Miami, 25 August 2021 — In the worst days of the Special Period crisis, when I was asked during a Miami radio program if I thought that people in Cuba were going to take to the streets, I replied: “The only street where people could launch themselves would be the Malecón, trying to leave the country,” because he knew that the population had not yet developed the necessary conscience to take to the streets.

A few days later the so-called Maleconazo took place, in which many Cubans, desperate and frustrated because they had come to the seawall there uselessly, with the expectation of getting on a boat to cross the Straits of Florida, began a massive anti-government protest that was brutally repressed. Days later, the regime lifted the surveillance of the coasts, and that action began the exodus of the rafters. And everything was there.

But today things are very different. Regardless of the fact that now the escape valve from mass exoduses has been permanently closed with the end of the United States policy of wet foot/dry foot, there is already a civic awareness in the population that was evident in the massive demonstrations of July 11, with thousands of people in each of the more than twenty towns — some have calculated forty — in all the country’s provinces, which surprised many of the regime’s leaders.

In reality, what is surprising is that they were surprised, given that they have such effective State Security that they always anticipated potential conspiracies, even before the conspirators themselves became aware that they were conspiring, as happened in the Ochoa case. continue reading

It also happened in the late 1970s, with the arrests of dissidents who were trying to form the first human rights group, which was not created then because several of the members went to prisons where, ultimately, the Cuban Pro Human Rights Committee was founded in 1983.

Of course this time, with the 11th July protests, they couldn’t detect any conspiracy because there simply wasn’t. Everything was spontaneous. Nobody planned it. However, it was something that could be seen coming. What was coming was an open secret and some of us warned about it. Writers published several articles talking about its imminence. The latest of them, Cuban Dissidence Should Get Ready for a Social Explosion, was published in CubaEncuentro and later reproduced in Havana Times on June 24, less than a month after the outbreak.

Probably for now there are no more demonstrations with the magnitude of those that occurred, due to the fierce repression and all the surveillance measures taken, as well as a new regulation to penalize opinions on the Internet that damages “the prestige of the country.” But the effect of the events of those days is enough so that Cuba does not remain the same as before.

First, with the demonstrations it has become clear to everyone what a large part of the population already knew: the myth that the Cuban people supported that Party-State leadership has collapsed; and second, with the brutal repression, many of those who still doubted the ruthless nature of that regime have now awakened to reality, and this became evident with the attitude adopted publicly by many sectors of civil society, mainly students, which leaves no doubt that fear has already has been lost.

Knowledge of History provides a vision of the future based on present events. Let’s go to Czechoslovakia in 1967, where something very similar happened, perhaps to a lesser extent. The antecedents of what became known as the Prague Spring began with peaceful student demonstrations due to the economic crisis in the country.

The violent crackdown on students ordered by the country’s President and Party Secretary General Antonin Novotny resulted in his loss of popularity, even within the Party itself. In a meeting of the political organization, on 5 January 1968, he was openly criticized by other senior leaders who replaced him in the leadership of the Party with another who aroused more sympathy among the population, Alexander Dubcek. Two months later, Novotny also had to resign as president.

The Cuban leadership is currently suffering a deep popularity crisis, especially in the case of Díaz-Canel and his prime minister, Manuel Marrero, who have lost the power to call others to action, something that became evident in the call for an ’act of revolutionary reaffirmation’ when many, especially students, not only refused to participate but publicly criticized the event.

The latest has been the harsh response of numerous doctors through audiovisuals and letters against Marrero, who has blamed healthcare workers for the country’s health problems. It is to be hoped, then, that it is already “cooking” among the historical leadership to wash their hands and sacrifice, as scapegoats, these two leaders, and replace them with alternatives more palatable tor the population.

But if the situation in the country does not improve, and it cannot improve as long as there is an unsustainable model such as the one that caused the social explosion, sooner or later the outbreak will occur again and no longer will it be thousands who take to the streets but hundreds of thousands. In that case the Party-State will have to surrender to the real changes or get out their tanks and carry out a massacre such as has never occurred in any country on the continent, and in that case the repressors will have nowhere in the world to hide to respond to international tribunals at the level of the Nazi genocide.

There are very well founded hopes that very possibly the examples of the students and the doctors will be followed by other sectors of the Civil Society and, all, united, will raise their voices loud and firm, and this tragedy can be avoided. In Cuba, the artists took the first steps in their demands before the Ministry of Culture on November 27.

In Czechoslovakia the decisive step was taken by the literati. A small group of members of the Writers’ Union — some were even members of the Party, including Milan Kundera — published their discontent in the Union Gazette, and suggested that Literature should be independent of the Party’s doctrine. It was not an inflammatory and damning allegation, of course, but quite the opposite, moderate and very cautious, as it had to be. As expected, they were rejected by the Union leadership, and the Party decided to transfer the Gazette and some editorials to the Ministry of Culture. But that was the spark of a discussion among the writers, many of whom began to defend the authors of the declaration, and the debate even extended within the Party itself.

But there was already a civic awareness of rights and freedoms that allowed, by declaring non-interventionism during the Russian perestroika, the so-called Velvet Revolution to take place immediately, led by a playwright named Václav Havel.

That civic conscience already exists in our people to carry out something similar that I would dare to describe, in tune with our country, our “Silk Revolution.”

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Five Cuban Generals Die After July 11: Strange Coincidence or Purge?

Agustín Peña, Marcelo Verdecia Perdomo, Rubén Martínez Puente, Manuel Eduardo Lastres Pacheco and Armando Choy Rodríguez, the five high-ranking Cuban military personnel who died this July. (Collage)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ariel Hidalgo, Miami, 29 July 2021 — Although I am not a fan of conspiracy theories, I think it would be very necessary, to heal open wounds and put the accounts clear for history, to have a commission without political and ideological prejudices to investigate, seriously and professionally, many mysterious deaths reported in Cuba from 1959 to the present.

I am not referring to opponents such as the case of Oswaldo Payá, who although there is no conclusive evidence, it is generally presumed that he was murdered. Rather, above all, I’m talking about people from the regime itself. The list of “injured” or “suicidal” people would be very long, longer than a moderately informed reader would believe, and I will not be the one to list them. The task will be left to that future commission.

But what cannot wait, due to the relevance of the circumstances, are the successive deaths of five generals of the Armed Forces, one at the time, in just a space of nine days. I say five generals and I do not know if the number will increase by the date this article comes out. [As of 29 July the number is now six.]

The deaths began six days after the massive popular demonstrations took place on July 11 in nearly forty towns in continue reading

the 14 provinces of the country, beginning on the 17th with Agustín Peña Pórrez, head of the Eastern Army, followed on the 20th; Marcelo Verdecia Perdomo, Brigadier General of the Reserve, then on the 24th; Rubén Martínez Puente, director of the Military Agricultural Union of the Ministry of the Revolutionary Armed Forces, on the 26th: Manuel Eduardo Lastres Pacheco, brigadier general of the Reserve, and on the same day, Armando Choy Rodríguez, brigadier general and general coordinator of the Group of History of the Las Villas Combatants.

All these deaths have in common that the causes of their deaths were not revealed and that their bodies were cremated immediately without receiving the honors normally given to high officials. The hypothesis that they were all of advanced age and that they probably died from the Covid, as some people disaffected to the regime have suggested, face some questions: Did they all agree to die in the days after the protests and the subsequent brutal governmental repression? How many generals died in the two weeks before the protests? Does anyone remember them? Were these five successive deaths a few days after the protests just by chance? Something that I have learned in these 62 years is that in the political world of Cuba there are no coincidences.

I do not affirm anything, but these deaths are very similar to the purges that were carried out in Stalin’s Russia. He executed so many Red Army generals that he later found himself in a tight spot when Nazi troops invaded the Soviet Union. If this is the case in Cuba, obviously it would have to do with those events that occurred in the previous days.

In the first place, we must take into account what it must have been like for many of those who dedicated their lives to defending that regime, to realize that the vast majority of the people, for whom that “revolution” was supposedly carried out, repudiated that regime.

It was not a demonstration in a neighborhood or in a town, but in all of Cuba, and they were not demonstrations of 20 or 30 people, but of hundreds and thousands in each of those populations.

And second, it must have been shocking for many of those high officials to see the repression so brutally carried out against the people, first in the streets and then in the homes, house by house, to violently remove people who were presumed to have participated in the protests.

The soldiers of the Revolutionary Armed Forces have not had a history of repression against the people as has the Ministry of the Interior and, in particular, State Security. It has been said that one of those generals was the one who gave the order to shoot down the Brothers to the Rescue planes in 1996. In reality, the one who gave that order was Raúl Castro according to the wish of his brother-in-chief, and the pilots were very well chosen: the stepchildren of Wilfredo ’Felo’ Pérez, the one who piloted the plane that fell in Barbados by a bomb allegedly planted by the enemy.

That in the present circumstances a soldier or a sergeant expresses concern about the demonstrations and repression and thinks that changes should be made could get him fired, but that a general does so, with the influence he can exert on his troops, can be considered as treason.

Commander Húber Matos, when he was still at the head of the rebel troops in Camagüey, served 25 years in prison for asking for the leader’s resignation. They simply, could have replaced him, since he had the support of the people at that time, and yet they did not take that risk. Now, with the regime’s weakness, do they have the luxury of letting it go.

So it will not be at all strange that high officials continue to die for unknown reasons.

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.