Under the title, “The place of citizenship, political participation and the Republic in Cuba,” the Padre Felix Varela Cultural Center was the scene, Saturday, July 2, of a lecture by a lawyer and university professor, Julio César Guanche. The institution, belonging to the Archdiocese of Havana, occupies the building which, until last January, was the site of the San Carlos and St. Ambrose Seminary, where Father Felix Varela y Morales, in the early nineteenth century, held the chairs of Philosophy and Constitution, from which he developed a cultural, educational and civic work, leading to the formation of thinking about Cuban nationality.
In his opening remarks, the president of the Yosvany Carvajal Cultural Center explained that this new area of thought, studies and discussions, will begin its academic functions this coming September and later other educational and cultural functions will be added. The Julio César Guanche conference was a final rehearsal prior to opening.
There is nothing more opportune for the Cuban sociopolitical reality than the issue of citizenship and political participation. In this sense, the young Cuban intellectual’s dissertation began with the words of Felix Varela at the inauguration of the Chair of Constitution in 1821: I would like to call this Chair, the chair of freedom, human rights, and national guarantees, of the regeneration of the illustrious Spain, the source of civic virtue, the basis of the vast edifice of our happiness, for the first time among us has reconciled with the philosophy of law … which contains the fanatic and despotic ….”
Among other approaches, Guanche addressed issues concerning the legality of contemporary Cuban society and the need to create and use spaces, actual or potential, to exercise citizenship through keys defined by Felix Varela. He noted that despite the statistics displayed by the Cuban authorities regarding the high popular participation in elections, the electoral system leaves in place conflicts between institutional and citizen participation and he added that government programs at the local, provincial and national levels are not defined through the electoral process. Thus, the role of citizens and their political participation in Cuban politics became an axis of intense and respectful debate among intellectuals, academics, scholars and journalists present, of all shades, on how to build power, to confirm power, expand power and to use politics to broaden the ways of living together: a practical testimony to the necessity of discussing vital public issues of our society.
Interventions such as those of professors from the University of Havana, Berta Alvarez and Maria del Carmen Barcia, regarding the Cuban constitution and the concept of citizenship, respectively, and the writer Victor Fowler, who explained the difference between the formation of citizens and revolutionaries, proved the appropriateness of the invitations from the editor of the magazine Espacio Laical.
Father Varela, whose name heads the Cultural Center ,was the first to speak in Cuba about the concept of homeland encompassing the entire national territory, of belonging, rootedness and interests, he evolved from autonomy to become a promoter of independence; he moved from the good treatment of slaves to the elimination of the horrific slave trade and the abolition of slavery; he chose education as a path to liberation; he plotted his own course to Cuban thought and insisted on teaching us to think; and in addition, he introduced ethics in scientific, social and political studies. For all that this great teacher, who also held the José de la Luz y Caballero Chair of Philosophy, defined as our real civilization.
The conference and the current debate also revealed that the work begun by Varela 190 years ago is not only unfinished, but pending. Indeed, just two weeks ago the President of the State Council of Cuba, Raul Castro, said in an enlarged Council of the Council of Ministers: We need to discuss and disagree over all levels of management, because in a diversity of views are the best solutions to our current problems. A limited truth, as the diversity of opinion must be extended to public debate.
In a society like Cuba’s, lacking an independent civil society, it is about promoting dialogue as a mechanism for participation and exchange of ideas, without which any project of social transformation cannot succeed, although headed by the Communist Party. In Cuba, for known reasons, people are tired of being objects of slogans and speeches. It is necessary that individuals involved in the survival become public, until the deliberations are transformed into a source of perfecting governance. It is therefore essential to open the doors of politics, whose starting point begins with the exchange of ideas between all parties to identify common interests, to propose measures before they are implemented or are in the process of being implemented.
The policy, whose definition is derived from polis, as the ancient Greeks called the city, from its beginning was related to public activities to ensure the common good. That is, politics like human invention began from the time when communities realized that their fate was subject to decisions to survive. Politics is just that, a relationship between people with common interests to solve problems and, therefore, it predates and transcends the class division of society, and is a natural human activity that requires participation, learning by doing, making mistakes, to become true citizens.
The challenge lies in transforming individuals into citizens, into political actors. A transformation that has its starting point in universally recognized human rights, particularly in the first generation of civil and political rights. This process of civic education and the formation of currently non-existent public opinion, requires acting from ethical and moral principles that place the human being as an end and not as means.
Published in Diario de Cuba, Tuesday, July 13, 2011 (www.dddcuba.com)
July 15 2011
In Cuba, with its pregnant history of violent acts, we pay exaggerated attention to episodes of war in detriment to other ways of making history, such as science–forger of knowledge and of culture–that contributes so much to the formation of nationality the nation and the country over centuries. On May 19 of this year we will arrive at the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Royal Academy of medical, physical, and natural sciences of Havana, whose birth was conditioned by the development reached by the productive forces and by the sustained and joint effort of Cubans, who from different political and ideological positions, united their forces for the development of Cuba. In recognition of these heroes, almost anonymous, I am going to mention nine of them.
Tomás Romay Chacón (1764-1849). Physician, cofounder of Newsprint of Havana and of the Economic Society of Friends of the Country, made innumerable contributions to science and culture, but it was in medicine where he made his greatest contributions; in 1794 he presented to the Ordinary Meeting of the Patriotic Society of the Friends of the Country–the first scientific meeting of Cuban doctors–-his dissertation on the malignant fever commonly called black ball met, and discovered it introduced vaccination against smallpox, introduced the studies of anatomy on the cadaver, those of the clinic in the rooms of the hospital and took students to the sources of the sick and to the morgue to practice autopsies. He was one of those who petitioned King Fernando VII about the necessity of creating a science academy on the island. for his activities in preventing disease and promoting the advancement of medicine he is considered “the first great Cuban hygienist” and the initiator of the scientific movement in Cuba. Romay was a man of his time in class, of the established political system, defender of the established political system, admirer of the Spanish monarchy, and intransigent enemy of revolutionary liberalism; irrefutable proof that one can be a force in science, culture and nationality independent of political or ideological affiliation.
José Estévez Cantal (1771-1841). Chemist and botanist. Student of Tomás Romay was probably the first Cuban who received a scientific education in Europe and the first botanist of some importance. Between them they worked on a catalog of plants, begun by Baltasar Boldo, considered as the first floor of Cuba. He was the first Cuban chemist who distinguished himself in the search for varieties of sugarcane and who applied this science to a new branch of therapy: medical hydrology. Thanks to his analysis of the waters of San Diego–the most famous of our mineral medicinal springs–he was able to take advantage of their healing properties. Through Estévez botany, chemistry, and mineralogy were introduced on the island reinvigorating the already advanced movement of cultural and scientific reform.
Esteban Pichardo Tapia (1799-1879). Lawyer and geographer, born in Santo Domingo. Considered “the most prominent geographer of Cuba.” His geographic and cartographic work was the basis for the contour map drawn to scale, made in 1908 by the American Army of Occupation. His main geographical work was the Route Map of the Roads of Cuba. In 1829 he presented the Compendium of Geography of the Island of Cuba for use in colleges and high schools. He also dabbled in literature with a volume of poems and the Dictionary of Cuban Voices, published in 1836.
Felipe Poey Aloy (1799-1891). Researcher and Professor in Natural Sciences. In France, where he met Jorge Cuvier, he published his first entomological studies. In 1838, he presented a project to establish in Havana a cabinet of natural history, which later became part of the University of Havana. He studied The sugarcane borer and avocado pests, bringing wide knowledge of the basics of biology. He is considered “the initiator of the scientific era in the natural history of Cuba” and was one of the 30 founding members of the Royal Academy of Medical Sciences, Physical and Natural Sciences.
Nicolás Gutiérrez José Hernández (1800-1890). Surgeon, founder of the Havana Medical Journal, Cuba’s first magazine devoted exclusively to medicine. He introduced in Cuba chloroform is a surgical anesthetic. On the death of Tomás Romay, Nicolás became the principal figure in the Havana medical community. He was one of the leading personalities in the struggle to found the Royal Academy of Medical, Physical and Natural Sciences in Havana, where he held the presidency to which he was reelected until his death.
Francisco Frias Jacott, Count of Pozos Dulces (1809-1877). Agronomist, science writer and agrarian reformer. Author of the Agricultural Development Program, aimed at laying the foundations for a national identity agro-technology and agro-science to achieve social and economic equilibrium. An ardent supporter of small farms, small industry and the work of the peasant family. He was the first speaker at the Royal Academy of Medical Sciences, Physical and Natural Sciences of Havana, on the theory of Darwin, and was a defender of the Institute for Chemical Research, founded in 1848, and in 1861 he was a promoter of the Cuban Agricultural Institute. In 1868 he was honored for his work: “Report on the livestock industry on the island of Cuba” and “The scientific basis on which rests the view that the destruction of the animal kingdom, involves that of the plant and vice versa.”
Francisco Fernández de Lara Albee (1816-1887). Engineer. Between the repair of the Convent of San Agustín in Havana, his first work, through the construction of the Isabel II aqueduct, he is found prominently in all the material construction of that era. His great work with the use of the waters of the Vento Springs, for which he investigated the entire relationship between the quality and the transfer of the liquid to the Palatino reservoirs. Through this he demonstrated the negative influence of sunlight on the deposited waters; modify the geology of the terrain to adapt it to protect the canal; and ran it under the Almendares River. A project that was not repeated until the middle of the 20th century, when the tunnel under Havana Bay was constructed. For this work he was awarded, first in Philadelphia and later in Paris, with the gold medal, while the Royal development board called him “the most famous of Cuban engineers.”
Aguirre Andrés Poey (1825-1919). Meteorologist. Precursor in Cuba of research in this field, considered the “true creator of scientific meteorology in Cuba.” In 1848 he prepared an atlas with 28 lithographed maps for primary schools, the first of its kind printed in Cuba. In 1850 he established an observatory at his home where he undertook atmospheric research. In 1855 he produced a catalog of hurricanes entitled “Chronological Table comprising 400 hurricanes and cyclones that have occurred in the West Indies and the North Atlantic from 1493 to 1855;” a work considered essential in this matter.
Alvaro Reinoso y Valdés (1829-1888). Chemist, physiologist, agronomist and industrial technologist. He replaced José Luis Casaseca at the head of the Chemical Research Institute of Havana, which became the Agricultural Station. In 1862, when Cuba ranked first in the world in sugar production, it stood last in agricultural productivity. To the solution of this contradiction Reynoso devoted all his efforts. In his masterpiece, “An Essay on the cultivation of sugar cane,” published in 1862, he developed a comprehensive system of agro-technical measures to ensure the intensive cultivation of sugar cane, for which he fully analyzed all operations related to the cultivation and harvesting of the grass. Reinoso is considered “Father of the Cuban Scientific Agriculture.” Despite all the time that has passed, Cuba today has not exceeded the sugar crops of a century ago.
Along with these nine heroes of Cuban science it is necessary to recognize the contributions of foreign scientists, including Alejandro Humboldt de Hollwede (1769-1859), José Luís Casaseca Silván (1800-1869) y Ramón de la Sagra Periz (1798-1871). The first, in many respects, knew Cuba better than Cuban themselves, the latter is considered the “father of Cuban chemistry” and the third, the leading Professor of Natural History, who created and directed the Botanical Garden and the Havana Institute of Agriculture.
The review of these famous scientists makes a mockery of the absurd attempt to link homeland and nation with socialism and revolution.
Published in Diario de Cuba (www.ddcuba.com) Friday, May 27, 2011
(Published in Laborem, voice of the Movement of Christian Workers/Cuba. Year 9, No. 36, October-December 2010)
There is a close relationship between the family and migration. The family is a group constituted by blood ties or marriage that, besides preceding other forms of social relationships, due to its functions constitutes the very marrow of society. It is the school of love, of education and participation in people’s lives, while it gives its members company and security. Migration, which is as ancient as the family, is a form of reaccommodation in order to survive when material and/or social conditions in the place of residence become insufficient to guarantee the conservation and development of life.
With the exception of the nomadic tribes that moved around with all their members, contemporary migration separates one part of its members, often a married couple. It is a phenomenon that, becoming universal as globalization develops, affects the traditional functions of the family. In the particular case of Cuba, the economic crisis, the lack of proportion between income and the cost of living and the prohibition on leaving and returning to the country, among other factors, generate individual as well as mass migration, as the Cuban family immersed in the struggle to satisfy its most elemental needs, when separated, loses a good part of the reasons that held it together. This has occurred both before and after the embargo, before and after the Adjustment Law and before and after the “Battle of Ideas” and so it will continue.
Migration, with no possibility of returning, besides affecting the family–especially the youngest, who are the principal beneficiaries of its instruction, education and love–also affects the nation, since the flight of professionals is decapitalizing and aging our society. Perhaps that is why John Paul II, in his homily to the family, told us, “Cuba, take care of your families so that you keep your heart healthy.”
Translated by S. Solá
January 17 2011
(Published in www.diariodecuba.com on December 27, 2010)
The 32nd Festival of New Latin American Cinema, which ended in Havana last December 2, showed that the seventh art is on the upswing in Latin America and that Cuba is no exception.
Among the over 500 participants, the Cuban films–independently of their themes, of their directors’ degree of success, and of the quality of the actors and scripts–for the first time all critically reflected the social reality of the country. This is proof that culture, even if it is subjected to being a prisoner of ideology, as is our case, by its nature and functions transcends even such a negative imposition. A short review, limited to the four fiction-category feature films that participated in the competition, is evidence of this.
Casa Vieja (Old House), by Lester Hamlet, based on the theatrical work of the same name by Abelardo Estorino, uses the narrative of an individual case, the return to the heart of the family of a Cuban after 14 years of living abroad, to reveal the negative effect the Cuban political system has had on the economic and moral penury in which society finds itself trapped.
According to its director, “it is a film that speaks about who we are and how I see Cubans’ life from the point of view of the affective compact”. With that vision, with heavy emotional weight, he delves into one of Cuba’s many current problems. The film, which had received the Grand Prize for the Best Feature Film Fiction Book at the VIII Pobre Humberto Solás International Film Festival, this time won the popularity prize, the Cybervote Prize of the Latin American and Caribbean Film and Audiovisual Portal of the New Latin American Film Foundation and the Jury Mention for Fiction.
Larga Distance (Long Distance), by Esteban Insausti, gives us the story of four friends who, because of the deep crisis produced by the disappearance of real socialism in Eastern Europe, could not keep their oath to never leave each other. Ana, one of the four, on reaching the age of 35 and no longer having friends to celebrate her birthday with, throws an imaginary party, evoking memories of old friends.
From a sociological point of view, it is a critique of the impact of emigration on Cubans’ lives, due to the inability of the Cuban system to provide opportunities inside the country. The life of her parents shows the persistence of problems through generations and the complete failure of the project to create a New Man in Cuba. In the end, social malfunctions resulting from the system have triumphed over resistance in return for the impoverishment and moral ruin of a considerable number of the sectors of society.
Boleto al paraíso (Ticket to Paradise), by Eduardo Chijona, was inspired by accounts of real events that happened in 1993, collected in the book Confesiones a un médico (Confessions to a Doctor) by Jorge Pérez Avila. The film tells the story of several adolescents who, as a result of their families’ material and spiritual poverty, link their destinies to run away from home in search of a non-existent paradise and end up getting infected with the AIDS virus and “enjoying” life in a sanatorium–a simultaneous pact of love and death.
Afinidades (Affinities) by Jorge Perugorría and Vladimir Cruz, with script by Cruz, goes into a facet of the administrative corruption of civil servants relating to the management of mixed (public/private) businesses, which is nothing less than the expression of the general decline of Cuban society since a salary stopped being the principal source of income; in it this sector is bureaucratic and invested with powers that allow it to enjoy privileges denied to the average Cuban, thanks to the almost absolute government institution of “property of all the people” under the control of a few. A benefit that leads to sentimental transgression and aggression against dignity, the deliberate manipulation of one’s fellow man. Although the film deals with a problem of contemporary life, in Cuba it is inseparable from the Cuban structural problem, caused primarily by contradictions inside the country.
Martí, el Ojo del canario (Martí, Eye of the Canary) from prize-winning director and scriptwriter Fernando Pérez, is a film inspired by the infancy and adolescence of the Apostle, the result of the search to answer the question, “How, in full Colonial times, was it possible for such a brilliant and high-minded figure as José Martí to have been created?” In my opinion, it is the best film of the festival, a combination of the sensibility, ethics, love and quest that define its director.
It is precisely Fernando Pérez who, with his concept of cinema as a way of seeing, interpreting and forming reality, has shown the potential for critical cinematography to promote critical thought among Cubans; a practical demonstration of intellectuals’ responsibility as aesthetes of change, critics of our deficiencies and sources of connection between our traditions and universal knowledge. The principal message, among the many this film offers, is an appeal to rescue our dignity.
The film has already won the Colón de Plata Prize for Best Director and Best Photography at the Huelva Film Festival. It just won the Coral Prize for Direction and the Artistic Direction Prise for Erick Grass and the Best Poster to Giselle Monzón. In addition the Alba Cultural Latin America First Copy Grand Prize (Ex Aequo); the Film, Radio and Television Prize of the Association of Cuban Artists and Writers; Prize of the Cuban Association of Cinematographic Press; El Megano Prize of the National Federation of Film Clubs; 2009 Caminos Prize of the Martin Luther King Memorial Center; Roque Dalton Radio Prize from Radio Habana Cuba; Cined Prize from Educational Cinematography; Vigía Prize from the Matanzas branch site; and UNICEF Prize.
Social criticism, which has been present in the history of Cuban fimmaking for several decades, has evolved from isolated appearances to becoming a general critical current, which doubtless has much to do with the critical conscience that is steadily gaining strength in our society and which is even beginning to be reflected in the most recent, but still weak, signs of changes in the circles of power.
Translated by S. Solá
January 3 2011
(Published in Laborem. The Voice of the Christian Workers’ Movement / Cuba. Vol. 9, No. 36, July-September, 2010)
Work and migration are closely linked. If the former radiates the riches that sustain the material and spiritual life of man, the second serves to rearrange things when work is incapable of guaranteeing the preservation and development of life. With respect to the church, there are a number of documents that are required reading, among which the following encyclicals stand out.
The Rerum Novarum (1891) of Pope Leon XIII contains valuable reflections on the redistribution of the product of social work by means of a salary. The Pacem en Terris (1963) of Pope John XXIII proposes that the church must share man’s historical adventure. The Populorum Progressio (1967) of Paul VI approaches poverty from the point of view of justice and recognizes that the church must help overcome these problems. The Laborem Exercens (1981) of John Paul II says that the justice of a socio-economic system and its just functioning deserve to be valued according to the way in which human work is remunerated, that fair remuneration is the key problem of social ethics and that a fair salary is that which permits one to start and honorably support a family and ensure its future. From these proposals one can deduce that a salary is an important indicator of social justice, and that it shows if the economy is or is not in the service of man. The four encyclicals mentioned demonstrate the preferred option in favor of the poor as a basic element.
In Cuba, the lack of connection between income and the cost of living made a salary no longer the principal source of income, with terrible consequences for the economy, for spiritual life and for social relations in general. Contrary to this, official statistics gave out one of the lowest unemployment rates in the universe, while thousands of Cubans of employment age escaped from the country in search of better living conditions. This happened even when it had not been recognized that there were over a million excess workers.
Without human migration our makeup as a people cannot be explained. From the first inhabitants who arrive from the arc of the Antilles to the first half of the XX century, our country has been characterized by immigration. That trend took a 180 degree turn in the second half of the century. Our emigration, in contrast to the massive exoduses in other parts of the world, is a sustained and growing process that began in 1959, continued with Operation Peter Pan, with the departures through the ports of Camarioca, Mariel and the Guantanamo Naval Base and has continued in different forms that go from navigating an inner tube to abandoning a foreign mission, a phenomenon sharpened by the lack of any right to freely enter and leave the country.
The duration of this phenomenon, the sociological diversity of the emigrants and the damage to the nation are sufficient reasons to understand that the fundamental cause of this situation lies in the inability of the current model to satisfy the needs of the population. For this reason, the individual must be made the end and not the means, implying that salaries and property must be restructured, and civil rights implemented as well.
Repeating the words of Jose Marti: May all who want the nation to prosper help to establish things in the country so that every man may work in an active job that contributes to his personal independence.
January 20 2011
The difficulty in understating what is happening in Cuba in the area of social change relates to the peculiarities of the current economic reforms. While the Guidelines approved by the VI Communist Party Congress have begun to be implemented, the government remains stuck in other areas, without which it is impossible to get results. This contradiction, which applies to the whole group of Guidelines, shows up particularly in the area of international relations.
Due to the systemic nature of social phenomena, any manifestation of the multiple contradictions contained in the approved Guidelines will be sufficient to lead to failure unless the rules of the game are first changed. I will refer to only two of them: 1- the need for financing and 2- the interest of the workers.
The first, because of the level of deterioration, obsolescence and destruction of the means of production in productive sectors, from agriculture and fishing to industry, requires an amount of investment that the Cuban state by itself cannot manage.
Without discounting the ideological solidarity of the Venezuelan government with Cuba, the great world-level financial centers demand democratic changes in Cuba as a prerequisite for the needed financial support. Among these are the European Union and the United States.
This shows the need for relaunching an internal human rights and civil liberties policy aimed at improving conditions for Cubans and, at the same time, changing Cuba’s image in this respect. This is what was achieved, partially, by the freeing of the political prisoners and the approval of the Guidelines. In addition to the insufficiency of these two measures, the decision to keep strict control over all dissident activities inside the country has led to a spiral of repression whose result conflicts with the need for external financing.
In the end, just before the suspension of the European Union’s Commom Position and the Carter visit to Havana as an indication of the beginning of a conversation with the neighbor to the North, the repressive internal policies have once again removed the possibility of external financing. As a result, Europe maintains its common position and the United States applauds the changes but considers them insufficient.
The other means of financing, insufficient due to the greatness of the needs but still considerable, is the possibility of allowing Cubans to participate as business owners in the changes that are taking place, so that part of the remittances from abroad are converted into capital. But this requires a substantial change in the totalitarian mentality of Father State, who insists that Cubans, inside or outside the country, only participate in what he decides and in the way he deems best.
The government wants domestic calm for the changes, but the decision to implement changes having been made at such a late date makes this impossible. So the alternatives are to permit a certain freedom of opinion, which the country needs for these very changes to occur, or to continue repression of everyone who thinks differently.
What is going to happen? I don’t think anyone can predict this without a high margin of error, but reflecting on some issues might help. In the first place, the inertia has been broken and the government cannot or has few possibilities of going back due to the level of social disagreement and the changes that are taking place outside the control of the state in international relations as well as internally.
All roads lead through the gradual implementation of human rights but, for this, interest in retaining the model that brought about the current state must be put in the background, to be judged by history, which will either praise it or denounce it depending on the option taken.
Translated by S. Solá
June 17 2011
(Published Friday May 27, 2011 on the site: http:www.vocescubanas.com)
The common characteristics that identify the human race also have important differences that cannot be ignored. The social character–the most defining and essential peculiarity of man–manifests itself in the diversity of associations that he creates for collaboration, promotion and the defense of his interests; reality that has its reflection in the philosophical concept of unity in difference.
As the etymology of the word indicates, political parties are associations not of all of society but of a part of it; as a consequence, any intent to convert a part into a Representative of the whole, with the diversity of interests and concepts that characterize it, constitutes a violation of the right to equality before the law and political freedom. For this reason every political party self-declared to be a sole force or superior force of society, in order to impose its will has had to violate the most elemental civil and political rights of the citizens: an act against the social nature of the human race, against dignity and consequently against social progress, which has let to the global failure of single parties throughout history.
In 1878, in Cuba there were created the Partido Union Constitucional/Constitutional Union Party and the Partido Liberal/Liberal Party, one of which represented the feelings of the Spanish and the other that of the Cubans. At the end of the XIX century, the Partido Autonomista/Autonomous Party was founded; it had a reform tendency and coexisted with the Partido Revolucionario Cubano (PRC)/Cuban Revolutionary Party (PRC), which supported independence. In 1899, Diego Vicente Tejera created the Partido Socialista Cubano/Cuban Socialist Party because the interests of the workers were not represented in the liberal and conservative parties at that time. In 1925, the Partido Comunista/Communist Party was founded by a group of Cubans who believed in that ideology. In 1947, Eduardo Chibas Founded the Partido Ortodoxo/Orthodox Party because the Partido Autentico/Authentic Party he belonged to did not satisfy part of its members. Fidel Castro, who came out of the Partido Ortodoxo, after the assault on the Moncada Barracks founded the Movimiento 26 de Julio/26th of July Movement, since his insurrectionist ideas did not fit the existing associations. Each leader or social group, depending on its interests, founded one single party; none proposed the absurd idea of founding several at the same time, which makes it ridiculous to justify the current single party state under the pretext that Marti organized a single party.
The Partido Comunista de Cuba/Communist Party of Cuba, self-proclaimed “superior guiding force of society and of the state”, after offering undeniable proof of its inability, such as the violation of the time limits in its own statutes for holding congresses every five years; of not respecting agreements made in previous congresses; of lacking personnel to rotate leadership roles; when it has been obliged to initiate reforms that violate declared principles, proposes to maintain the single party rule that is one of the causes of the failure seen.
Three recent facts demonstrate that the declared intention to change everything that must be changed does not include the single party system. In the Address to the VI Congress of the Communist Party on April 16, it was proposed that the National Conference to be held in January of 2012 have among its objectives to accomplish “for today and always” the content of Article 5 of the Constitution of the Republic, which sets out the single party system. The following day the President of the National Assembly of Popular Power said “it must be taken into account that this Party is really the political organization of the Cuban nation, the legitimate heir of the Party of Marti.” But even more eloquent was the article entitled “The Idea of a Single Party is the Legacy of Jose Marti”, published on April 8 in the newspaper Granma. Since this article proposes to attribute the authorship of the single party system to the most brilliant Cuban politician of all time, I will consider the direct quotations from Marti to demonstrate the absurdity of the arguments put forward in the article.
The first quote is taken from a letter written by Marti to General Maximo Gomez in July of 1882: To whom does Cuba turn at the defining moment, now near, in which it loses all its new hope at the end of the war, the promises of Spain, and the Liberals’ policy have made it hold? It turns to all those who have found a solution outside Spain. But if this does not work, eloquent, proud, moderate, profound, a revolutionary party that inspires, by the cohesion and modesty of its men, and the sense of its projects, enough confidence to quiet the longings of the country–to whom should it turn but to the men of the annexationist party that rose up at that time? How to keep all the fans of a comfortable freedom from following them, since they think that with that solution they at the same time save their fortune and their conscience? That is the serious risk. That is why it is time for us to stand up.1
Here, as we can see, Marti proposes the need for not the party but for a party, to attract those who would follow another party, which implies the existence of others. He does not propose to substitute or eliminate but to compete. Contrary to the article in Granma, he recognizes that “at a time when political struggle is expressed increasingly between political parties that are perfectly structured and organized a party is needed that would inspire confidence due to its qualities: cohesion in its ranks, the modesty of its members, the sense of its proposals.”
The second quotation was taken from the letter to Jose Dolores Poyo of November 1887: “At some other time our war could have been a heroic outburst or an explosion of sentiment; but having learned from twenty years of fatigue (…) the Cuban war is no longer a simple military campaign in which blind bravery followed a famous leader, but rather a very complicated political problem, easy to solve if we take into account its various parts and adjust our revolutionary conduct to it, but formidable if we pretend to create a solution without paying attention to its realities, or challenging them. (…) And what is most fearful about the revolution for the very ones who want it is the confusing and personal character with which it has been presented up to now; it is the lack of a revolutionary system, with clearly objective ends, that removes from the country the fears that the revolution inspires today and replaces them with a deserved confidence in the greatness and vision that the ideals of the war will carry with it in the cordiality of those that promote it, in the stated purpose of making war for a free and dignified peace, and not for the benefit of those who only see war as a way of achieving their own power or fortune.”2
Here no commentaries are necessary. Marti clearly refers to the need for an organization, in this case a party, in order not to repeat the errors of the past. But at no time does he speak of a sole party.
The third, dated April 30, 1892, says: “Unity of thought, which in no way means servitude of opinion, is without doubt indispensable to the success of every political program, (…) To open the thinking of the Cuban Revolutionary Party to disorderly thought would be as terrible as reducing the thought of a people composed of different factions, just as is humanity, to an impossible unanimity. If by its thoughts, and by its actions based on them, the campaign of the Cuban Revolutionary Party is to be efficient and most glorious, it is most necessary that, whatever the differences of fervor or social aspiration may be, there not be seen any contradiction or inflammatory reserve or vile partialities or regretted generosity in the thinking of the Revolutionary Party. Its thought must be seen in its deeds. Man writes himself with works. Man only believes in works. If we inspire faith today, it is because we do all that we say. If our new, strong power is in our unexpected union, we would voluntarily relinquish our power if we removed its unity from our thought.”3
In this quotation Marti emphasizes the need for unity of thought within the PRC as a condition for success, but he clarifies that this would be as dangerous as reducing its thought to an impossible unanimity. And he adds something that would be good to remember: Thoughts must be seen in deeds. many must write with his works. Many only believes in deeds. The idea of the unitary party seems to have only been in the mind of the author or authors of the article, since in the quotations used that idea is obviously lacking.
According to the article, once the Spanish power was eliminated and the American military occupation imposed, Estrada Palma considered the mission of the PRC to be finished and proceeded to dissolve the party, with which he mutilated an important part of the ideas of Marti, which foresaw using the Party not only in the war against Spain but also in the founding of a republic “with all and for the good of all”. In this conclusion the article confuses the ends with the means, since Marti’s proposal was to generate the Republic out of the war.
In the resolutions of the PRC nothing appears relating to its work after the victory, while its bases clearly define that the PRC is formed “to achieve with the common efforts of all men of good will the absolute independence of the Island of Cuba and to promote and help that of Puerto Rico”; and it is not proposed to perpetuate in the Cuban Republic “the authoritarian spirit and the bureaucratic makeup of the colony but rather to found in the frank and cordial exercise of man’s legitimate capabilities a new nation and sincere democracy capable of overcoming, through the order of real work and the equilibrium of social forces, the dangers of a sudden freedom in a society composed for slavery”; and that “it is not the objective to take to Cuba a victorious group that considers the Island as its prey and dominion but rather to prepare, with as many efficient means as freedom from the foreigner permits, war that must be made for the decorum and well-being of all Cubans, and to deliver a free country to the entire country.”4
Marti established a genetic relationship between War and Republic, in which the latter had to incubate from within the former. He project the founding of the Republic, which in his ideas was form and final destination, as opposed to the war and the party, conceived as intermediate links to arrive at it [the Republic]. For this reason, in the speech “With all and for the good of all” he said: “…let us close the path to the republic that is not prepared by worthy means of man’s decorum, for the good and the prosperity of all Cubans”5; and on December 5, 1891 he wrote to Jose Dolores Poyo: “It is my dream that every Cuban be an entirely free political man…”6
Let us examine other essential Marti ideas about the PRC.
1-While in New York in January of 1880, Marti presented a critical study of the errors of the Ten Years’ War in which he included the various factors that explained the failure and consequently pointed out its causes, among them the lack of unity among the revolutionaries, in which he deduces the need for an organization to forge it.
2- In June of 1882, in a letter to Maximo Gomez, he outlined the objectives of the PRC as follows: “…I only aspire that, forming a visible cohesive body all those selfless strong men appear united by the same serious and judicious desire to give Cuba true and lasting freedom, capable of repressing their impatience as long as there is no way to remedy the evils in Cuba with a probable victory in a rapid, unanimous and grand war…”7. Faithful to those principles, Marti separated from the Gomez-Maceo Plan in 1884 and wrote to the Generalissimo: “…But there is something that is above all the personal regard which you inspire in me, and even beyond all apparent reason: and it is my determination to not give an inch, through blind love for an idea for which my life is dedicated, to bringing to my country a regime of personal despotism that would be more shameful and terrible than the political despotism it suffers from now…”8.
3-In December, 1887 he notified Maximo Gomez that the country was stumbling toward war and that it lacked “a plan that unites it and a political program that calms it.”9. Precisely for this reason he founds the PRC, as an organizing, creating and controlling institution with a conscience focused on taking the place of spontaneity and immediate action.
4-In the Resolutions of November 1891, he stated that: “The revolutionary organization must not forget the practical needs derived from the constitution and history of the country, or work directly for the current or future predominance of any class, but by its grouping, according to democratic methods, of all the living forces of the country, for the brotherhood and common action of the Cubans living abroad, for the respect and assistance of the republics of the world, and for the creation of a just and open republic…raised with all and for the good of all”10.
5-On February 17, 1892, in Our Ideas, he said: “And it is not appropriate to ask if the war is attractive or not, since no faithful soul can be attracted to it, but to organize the war so that with it comes republican peace, and after it the upheavals that have had to be suffered will not again be justifiable or necessary…”11.
6-On April 10 of the same year, in the founding act of the PRC, he reiterated that the party be created: “so that in the achievement of the independence of today go the germs of the definitive independence of tomorrow” April 12, 1893 he said: “Greatness is that of the Revolutionary Party: that to found a republic, it has begun with the republic. its strength is that: that in the work of all, the right of all. It is an idea that must be brought to Cuba: not a person”13. It appears that the content of these two quotations led the author of the article published in Granma to think they referred to a supposed task of the PRC after the victory.
7-In the Manifesto of Montecristi signed jointly with Maximo Gomez on March 25, 1895, he stated that war is not “the unhealthy triumph of one Cuban party over another, or even the humiliation of one mistaken group of Cubans but the solemn demonstration of the will of a country that is fed up as proven in the previous war to launch itself lightly into a conflict that must end only with a victory or in the tomb”14.
The common point in the quotations taken from the Granma article, and in those I add, is that the founding of the PRC was conceived as an organizing, controlling and consciousness-raising institution in order to take the place of spontaneity and immediate action, encourage unity among the combatants, replace caudillism, personalism, and direct the war as a tactical necessity part of a larger strategy, as an intermediate link in order to give birth to the Nation and construct the Republic with all and for the good of all. Its functions were laid out so that from its center would arise the seeds of a definitive independence, not to represent a social class or the revolutionaries but all Cubans, not for elective gain, not to dominate and prohibit the existence of different parties after the victory, not to cancel out popular participation, not to declare that the street and the university belong to the revolutionaries, not the jail those who think differently. Realities that demonstrate Marti’s democratic and humanistic ideas are not only far from but contradictory to the practice of a single party system.
The unnatural character of the makeup of Cuba’s single party system is such that for its establishment they had to eliminate all the other political parties and the variety of existing associations, from which process emerged a “perfect” model of a totalitarian regime and, with it, stagnation and failure.
Even accepting the absurd thesis that Marti foresaw after the victory using the Party in the founding of the Republic, one would have to also accept the contrary thesis that, due to his deeply democratic philosophy, he would do it in competition with the existing parties, not by declaring on his own that his would be the only party. Neither did any of the delegates to the constitutional assemblies of Jimaguayú (1895) and de la Yaya (1897)–among which there were followers of Marti’s ideas such as Fermín Valdés Domínguez and Enrique Loynaz del Castillo–propose to include any article of that type, which demonstrates the absence of such an intent. Another resounding proof is the difference of interests and of social composition of the revolutionary groups in Florida, New York and inside Cuba, a diversity that Marti called on for the war but which after the victory manifested itself naturally in the variety of classifications and purposes.
For all of these reasons, the purpose of defining the role of the Communist Party as the organized vanguard of the nation in the coming National Conference should be corrected, for the good of all Cubans and in respect for Jose Marti. And in its place political differences should be legalized and the right to free association instituted, so that in the presence of other parties, the Communist Party might demonstrate or not its capacity to call itself vanguard, but above all, so that Cubans become citizens and play the active role that belongs to them in the destiny of the nation.
1 MARTI, JOSE. Selected Works in three volumes. Havana, Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, 2000. Volume I, p. 326.
2 Marti, Jose. Complete Works. Havana, Editoria de Ciencias Sociales, 1991. Volume I, pp 211-212
3 Marti, Jose. Complete Works. Havana, Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, 1991. Volume I, p. 424
4 MARTI, JOSE, Selected Works in three volumes. Volume III, pp.26-27
5 MARTI, JOSE. Selected Works in three volumes. Volume III, pp.9-10
6 MARTI, JOSE. Selected Works in three volumes. Volume III, pp 24-25
7MARTI, JOSE. Selected Works in three volumes. V I, P.325
8 MARTi, JOSE. Selected Works in three volumes. V I, p.459
9 MARTI, JOSE. Selected Works in three volumes. V II, p.211
10 MARTI, JOSE. Resolutions taken by Cuban emigrants in Tampa and Key West in November 1891. Selected Works in three volumes. V III, p.23
11 MARTI, JOSE. Selected Works in three volumes. V III, p.65
12 MARTI, JOSE. Selected Works in three volumes. V III, p.99
13MARTI, JOSE. Selected Works in three volumes. V III, p.192
14MARTI JOSE. Selected Works in three volumes. V III, p.511
Translated by S. Solá
June 3 2011