14ymedio, Ariel Hidalgo, Miami, January 28, 2019 — Photographs of José Martí were never missing from the offices of any of the Cuban presidents. It didn’t matter if their actions contradicted the ideas of that great master who would have pronounced these words from the prophet Isaiah with respect to the Castro regime’s leaders: “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”
They considered Martí “the intellectual author of the attack on the Moncada Barracks,” and although many of those who fought and died in that action felt truly committed to those ideals — The Centennial Generation, they called themselves — they were all betrayed when that leadership not only prolonged the wrongs against which they had fought by not restoring the Constitution or holding free elections.
It deepened with the installment of a military dictatorship with absolute powers and institutionalized the violations of fundamental rights and freedoms, something that they want to reaffirm now with the approval of a spurious Constitution.
Much repeated is this phrase: “Martí promised it to you and Fidel fulfilled it for you.” In my opinion this is the worst mockery and the worst calumny that can be thrown against any honorable man. Now, to top it off, this thing that they call “Revolution” is described as “Marxist, Leninist, and Martí-ist.”
Under this regime the Seminars for Martí Studies are held each year, and a center for the study of his thoughts was created. Although more than a few intellectuals hide behind Martí to make a covert complaint against Castroism, his appropriation by the oppressors was carried out with the pretext of his Latin American and anti-imperialist ideas.
It is true that Martí advocated the unity of the peoples of Our America, for what he conceived as a great homeland (“From the Rio Grande to Patagonia there is no more than one people”), and that he opposed the expansionism of the United States (the “seven-league giants”). But he himself had expressed that he loved “the land of Lincoln” just as he feared “the homeland of [Augustus K.] Cutting,” two interests at odds still today.
These aspects of Martí thought were taken advantage of by the group installed in power with the intention of gathering the support of the Latin American peoples and of maintaining, in the international arena, the idea that the Cuban problem was summed up in the contradiction between a small country that was supposedly fighting for its sovereignty and the aims of a large empire that was trying to subjugate it, to conceal the real contradiction: a group that has turned an entire country into a large fiefdom and a people subjected to the most humiliating conditions.
Many thousands of Cubans have passed through prisons without having attacked or insulted anybody, without destroying even a lightbulb, only for having expressed ideas different from the policy dictated by the ideological secretariat of the governing party, be it under the cause of “enemy propaganda” or that of “contempt,” something diametrically opposed to the ideology of Martí.
In Martí’s conception of democratic revolution, the right to free expression is sacred. This key principle in his thought, which is an insurmountable wall between him and that leadership, can be read repeatedly in his Complete Works. “Respect for liberty and different thought, even of the most unhappy entity, is my fanaticism: if I die, or they kill me, it will be for that,” he wrote. Or: “I feel as if they kill a child of mine every time that they deprive a man of his right to think.”
Another type of Martí’s thoughts that the authorities try to sidestep are those that refer critically to ideological aspects that touch them closely. Of those, the one that they have most dared to cite is that of Martí’s reservations about Marx, because along with the criticism there is some praise, like this: “Profound observer of the reason for human miseries and the destinies of men and man eaten by the yearning to do well.”
But he also declares: “He went in a hurry and a little in the shadows, without seeing that children who have not had a natural and laborious gestation are not born viable, neither from the womb of the people in history, nor from the womb of the woman in the home,” which seems to indicate that Martí reflected upon the importance of a development process of civic consciousness in order to achieve, peacefully, a just social order, which he reiterates when he says: “Shameful the forced turning of some men into beasts for the benefit of others, but a way out of indignation has to be sought, so that the beast ceases without getting out of control and frightening.”
Martí, it is necessary to clarify, was not only an apostle for independence but also of social justice, but he didn’t stop harshly criticizing those who, in the name of that justice, intended to raise themselves up and lord over humble people.
In the article Future Slavery, about an essay by the English philosopher Herbert Spencer, Martí refers very clearly to the model known as state socialism, later incubated in the gloomy Russia of Stalin and which Cubans have been suffering for 60 years.
In these societies where all riches would be under the control of the state, he warns, “the number of public employees [would increase] in a terrible manner. With every new function, a new stock of officials would come.” He adds: “From being his own servant, man would pass to become the servant of the state. From being the slave of capitalists, as they call him now, he would go to being the slave of officials.” And he concludes: “The servitude will be lamentable, and general.”
Another text is the letter to his friend Fermín Valdés Domínguez in 1894. The latter had communicated his participation in activity for May 1 along with socialists and anarchists, and Martí warned him about “the dangers of the socialist idea.” Among them “the arrogance and furtive rage of the ambitious, who to raise themselves in the world begin by pretending to be, to have shoulders on which to rise, fierce defenders of the helpless.” But at the same time he warns him that such objections do not mean the abandonment of the ideal of social justice, because “of how nobly must be judged an aspiration: and not for this or that wart that human passion puts on it.”
Today, when the citizenry is expected to approve by referendum the constitutional institutionalization of the violations of their fundamental rights and liberties, it’s necessary to rescue Martí from those kidnappers with the same bravery with which Agramonte rescued Sanguily in the middle of the scrubland. To make very clear that the emblematic image of those rights and liberties is that of Martí, and that, as a consequence, we, defenders of those guarantees, have more right than they to claim it.
If all those groups opposed to that sacrilege meet in a place of cyberspace in a campaign to vote No on the Constitutional referendum on 24 February, and declare themselves in permanent convention, even to face the tasks that duty will set for us after the referendum, that cause itself must carry the name of José Martí.
No image brings together more Cubans than his does. Martí unites. Martí includes. As far as I’m concerned, that convention in honor of Martí not only must be created, but must not be dissolved until those rights and liberties have achieved a definitive victory.
If its members claim that name before global public opinion and do not respond with insults to their offenders, nor resist arrest before their oppressors, it would be a great victory if the international media reports that the followers of Martí, only because of their being that, are being persecuted and harrassed in the homeland of Martí.
Translated by: Sheilagh Carey
The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.