The Expendable Revolution / Néstor Díaz de Villegas

Inside Havana's newly restores Capitol building
Inside Havana’s newly restores Capitol building

Néstor Díaz de Villegas, 17 April 2016 – Once upon a time I made the mistake of thinking that the Revolution – I’m speaking about the Cuban Revolution – was indispensable, that its advent had forever altered the course of History. Today I am reflecting on what would be its fundamental contributions, the (let’s say) Grundlagen of the Cuban Revolution, and I find I can only think of three, precisely those that are rarely taken into account by historians.

The current state of affairs – with regards to what concerns the end of the Revolution – has provoked the most diverse opinions, but I think that the greatest lesson, the scandalous lesson of the terminal stage of the Castro regime, is not necessarily its mortality, but its dispensability.

Behold, Castro’s Revolution turned out to be expendable. Looking at the American Revolution, the French Revolution, or even the Fascist one, we see that the Cuban one is not an event in the same category. It is impossible to conceive of the world without the American Revolution, but the Cuban Revolution disappears from the map and nobody cries. It leaves behind nothing essential, nothing permanent. It falls, in its Reaganesque way, into the Dustbin of History, and into the storeroom of ideological curiosities and nobody cares – or perhaps it will be dealt with as a Caribbean thing, or as an item in a catalog of personal adventures.

It has been tremendously easy to get rid of it. The CIA was right: it required the death of Fidel Castro, his physical elimination through a bullet or an exploding cigar, because the Revolution was nothing more than his whim, a Spanish capriccio, the fantasy of the mind of an cunning Spanish hidalgo (cunning in the sense of perfidious), or the nightmare of a Galician bumpkin suffering from Indies fevers.

So the CIA’s plans were fully justified, and now all the remains is to recognize the heroes and heroines who gave their lives in support of this ad hominem argument. Because the elimination of Castro would have brought on the advent of a substitute, a Sancho Panza, several decades earlier and with it what is today known as “Raulism,” which is to say, the transformation of Cuba into Cervantes’ Barataria.

The inconsequential end of the Castro regime brings no fallen walls nor decapitated statues – which would be so 20th Century! – on the contrary, it brings a private funeral to which only the family is invited: the Castros, the Espíns, the López-Callejas, the Soto del Valles, the Diaz Balarts, and the still warm dead.

An Argentine pope with connections to a dictatorship and a president with ancestors in Kenya, decided to put an end to Castroism during a secret meeting in the backroom of postmodernism. Raul Castro didn’t resist, he nodded and gave his consent. After all, he’s just an old Galician who thinks like an old gringo. He knows Castroism died in the geriatric ward without leaving reliable successors. Again it fell to Raúl, the prodigal brother, to find a practical solution to the problem. The laurels of History had wilted and now all that was left was to dust the ferns in the rehab center.

The visible effects of the Vatican conclave are, in order of importance: the “triumph” of Venezuelan opposition in the last parliamentary elections; the delayed but imminent departure of Nicolas Maduro; the Alberto Nisman affair in Argentina and the ouster of Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and the rise of Mauricio Macri in that same country: events unthinkable without the consent of Havana.

What remains is pure theater: the imperial rhetoric of the Golden Age – which was, after all, our last century – repression as puppet theater, insolence as a tic, and the bands of unemployed leftists to whom the new democratic governments must offer free macramé lessons.

As for the three permanent creations of Castroism, I will try to explain them in as many quick paragraphs:

  1. If Latin America sought a magnetic center where it might implement its literary fantasies, it found it in Castro’s Cuba. Castroism was The Aleph, so its end is the equivalent of the demolition of the house of Carlos Argentino Daneri (in the story by Jorge Luis Borges). One had to go to Havana on a pilgrimage to see the world in a nutshell: Ernesto Guevara (Carlos Argentino) was the first to discover this trajectory, this magnetism. Because Castroism was, during the briefest of times, poetry with a Heideggerian ability to destine.
  2. Castroism is, in addition, the universal development of dictatorship. It fell to Fidel Castro to reinterpret the contents of the Batista regime (education, healthcare, repression, socialism, tourism and spectacle). The Castro ontogeny is just a myth: Castroism sprang complete out of the Republic’s head. The bifurcation of 1959 led to overdevelopment – or inflated development – of what would have happened anyway, although in a different form, under Batista. Instead of classical economic development, Castroism was an archaic antithetical development. The expanding Batista regime migrates to literature, and is resolved there, finding in literature its deferred culmination: in Cabrera Infante’s Three Trapped Tigers, in Lezama’s Paradise, and in Sarduy’s Metamorphosis.
  3. Exile is a Castro construction, a prison enclave where the class production system was maintained with the intention of resupply. The Exile is nothing more than another element of the Revolutionary economic diversification: a “New Economic Policyin partibus. There is no difference between exporting a revolution and exporting an exile. In fact, emigration has been Castroism’s secret weapon. The Castro migrations continued the Latinization of the Empire, a crowning achievement of Cuba’s foreign policy, much like what the vandalizing of national unity was to national policy.

Finally, and as an add-on, I must repeat that Reinaldo Arenas, the greatest Cuban thinker of the last half century, projected into Castroism the symptomatic aspects of his own disease. For Reinaldo, Castroism itself was a plague, the mal du siècle. That is, an intracellular, microscopic and underworldly affair and, at the same time, a cyberimmunological creation: the Fidel Castro virus. Because Castro is every medium, Castro is also the message (in the encrypted, encapsulated language of the retroviral code).

We all carry Castro within.