Praise for the Cowardly / Wendy Iriepa and Ignacio Estrada

Havana has carried out a process of appropriation of post-Marxist nationalism, through a nearly mystic cult of the figure Jose Marti, at the same time attempting the depoliticization of writers and artists.

The mechanism of terror employed by a dictatorship fails only with one social group: the intellectuals.

It’s not necessarily that the intellectuals are the most valuable citizens. It could be that among them are the most cowardly, but they demonstrate a larger capacity for assimilation and resistance. They are also the ones that transcend.

Jorge Edwards, in his biography of Pablo Neruda, “Goodbye, Poet,” says: “I always found Fidel irritated in the presence of writers, suspicious, as if that precarious power that they maintain, that which allows them the use and the art of words, embitters in some way, in his most vital and sensitive nucleus, his own power.”

The biography on Stalin by Edward Radzinsky narrates the preparation of judgment at Babel y Meyerhold, that would involve figures like Einstein, Katoyev and Ehrenburg. But in the course of the interrogations, Stalin lost faith that the intellectuals would play their part just as it was planned. He stopped confiding int he process, as, for example, Babel admitted everything and later retracted it. Stalin decided that artists are “unpredictable types,” to a dangerous level: that they too easily admit invented faults, but with that same ease negated what was said a minute ago. So he opted to kill them quietly.

In Cuba, Ernesto Che Guevara raised more starkly the conflict between intellectuals and the government, stating: “The original sin of the Cuban intellectuals is that they are not true Revolutionaries.” The phrase could have been reversed: the first sin of the Cuban Revolutionaries has always been that they are not intellectuals (begging pardon from Jose Marti), or worse still, that they are false intellectuals, but Che was a proud man.

With The triumph of the Revolution, a guilt complex was imposed on the intellectuals. Roberto Fernández Retamar (did he go on to be Catholic?) expressed it in an unhappy verse: “Who died for me in the slaves’ prison? We the survivors, to whom do we owe our survival?”

The complex of guilt for not have been a terrorist or executioner extends over the first stage of Cuban literature before the first of January 1959 — dominated by Sartre’s existentialism — and is transformed into a complex of the proletariat class, for not being a manual laborer, in the later literary generations.

More than half a century after the Revolutionary triumph, years also marked by the failure — of the diaspora, the United States and a good part of the international community — when it comes to offering a “democratic enlightenment” based in liberty, and the possibility of the existence of a representative government as a counterpart to the “socialist enlightenment,” built on a frustrated project of social justice, the regime continues to be one-party and persists in calling itself “Marxist-Leninist,” despite the signs of exhaustion of the model.

However, the ideological exhaustion of Marxist-Leninist model has not led to a collapse of the system, much less has it led to greater external influence. If those living under Cuban socialism are subjects molded into believing that the State must carry out a wide distribution of rights and social benefits — something never accomplished, always justified with the pretext at hand: underdevelopment, blockade, the end of the socialist camp, the international economic crisis — they have also been socially conditioned in the constant postponement of the moment at which they will be able to exercise their civil and political rights in freedom.

The government in Havana has done everything possible to maintain this condition, steering according to the time without letting go of control of the course. To perform this maneuver, the regime in Havana has not only headed up a process of redefinition and appropriation nationalism leaning toward Marxism — supported by an almost mystical cult around the figure of Jose Marti — but has also developed a tactic based on the depoliticization of writers and artists — marked by the passage of the “organic intellectual” to the neutral creator — exemplified the forgotten quasi official Communist poet Nicolas Guillen and the canonization of the Catholic Jose Lezama Lima Catholic and Origenes (Origens) magazine.

To sustain these ideological treats, the regime in Havana has needed to control both reading and writing. Although in both cases progress has been made in Cuba, beyond specific cases  genres and historical moments mentioned, even the Cuban government and the intellectuals who defend its cultural policy based on an administration territorial in the creation and practice of an ideological filter, which allows some to pass and others not. Although not published in Cuba it can not be considered synonymous with the unread on the island, the presence of marginalized books, topics and authors is not strong enough to break the logic of exclusion.

In this sense, Cuba becomes part of another world, largely alien to the West: A species of Africa, where the conditions for the preservation of the species are created by a band of outlaws disguised as guardians of the park, who obey the orders of the great hunter. Here the attempts to devalue the role of intellectuals are more serious for several reasons.

While on the one hand, the complex relationships between writers and the revolutionary process are still under dispute on the island and in exile, there is a labor of a erasing and re-telling by the regime in Havana, which aims to dilute the need for a moral and civic orientation in the country. it is an attempt at the trivialization of censorship: a minister of culture who displays a mane of ancient curls, rock and rap concerts, a statue of John Lennon opened to great fanfare, the appearance of banned works by exiled writers already dead.

Late acts and gestures. A policy of cages with the doors open but watchers at all four corners. Outdoor zoos for tourists. In return, a systematic effort to tame the group. A tactic of not using the stick but the carrot.

For unlike Europe, where the intellectual class’s ability to influence was diminished as a result of political and social change — which has benefited leaders and businesspeople —  in Cuba there is a government campaign to replace the repression against writers and artists, wherever possible, by a controlled permissiveness. Circumstances differ, but the goal is the same: to limit the power of a social group.

To control the intellectuals continues to be an interest of the Cuban regime, and efforts in this regard are not underestimated. The government in Havana does not feel safe. Among its fears is that any moment the intellectual says: “On one side Comrade Mauser” and takes the floor.

From: Alejandro Armengol, Miami, 06/09/2011

Translated by: Boston College Casa

February 27 2012