(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 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