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Christmas reading: Notes on a not-so-plebian articulation

Cristman readingThere are no witch hunts in Cuba, but neither is there impunity, since our decades of confrontation with imperialism have taught us to recognize double standards and wolves in sheepskin. During the recent holidays I commented to good friend that I was reading and rereading some texts outlining the sentiments and ideas of a small group of intellectuals who claim to represent the majority, in a manifesto they called “Plebian Articulation,” preparing to write about the issues they addressed. My friend suggested a title: “Christmas reading.” I did not take the idea seriously when she said it, but later I remembered that there had been a bloody Easter in the now distant 1956, when the state violence exercised by the Batista dictatorship took the lives of 23 young Cubans in just three days. Since one of the topics discussed in the manifesto is precisely state violence, the title seemed pertinent to me. Every murder, every person detained and tortured by the dictatorship, further enraged the people, because if there is one thing Cubans do not tolerate, it is abuse, the abusive use of force.

The Revolution was the response to the violence inherent in Cuba’s neo-colonial capitalism, in the interference of the U.S. proconsul – No imperial President ever took the trouble to visit this ‘little’ country; in the U.S. Marines desecration of Martí’s statue in Central Park and their boorish behavior in the bars and clubs of Havana; that of the coup that placed the man closest to Washington’s interests in the Presidency; that of the enormous differences between rich and poor; and that exercised, physically and morally, against women, blacks and campesinos.

The beautiful television series produced by Netflix in Brazil, “Coisa mais linda,” recently broadcast in Cuba, set during the years of 1959 and 1960, featuring a straight-forward presentation, I would not say frontal, but sufficiently visible, of the role assigned to women and blacks by society at the time, impacted Cuban viewers. It is not just that our viewpoint has evolved. Precisely in those years, the Revolution was dismantling the old mental and institutional foundations of racism and machismo in Cuba. A Revolution within a Revolution, Fidel called it. More than a few films produced by the newly created Icaic reflected this revolutionary action, necessarily violent (confronting historical, institutionalized violence) asserting the liberation of Cuban women, and of all the oppressed.

The changes were not produced by decree: they were imposed by the action of the masses composed of conscious individuals. And dialogue. The first premise of the dialogue was literacy, universal and free education. “I do not ask you to believe, I ask you to read,” Fidel stated. The dialogue expanded in plazas, in workplaces, in classrooms. Dialogue was held to approve declarations, congresses, constitutions, guidelines, internationalist aid.

When one reviews the struggles for racial and gender equality in the United States and in Brazil in the 1960s, one understands how far this small archipelago had come. Barack Obama boasted in Havana of the significance of his election as President, ignoring, of course, the most profound lessons of the 1960s and 1970s. Malcolm X’s admiration for the Cuban Revolution and the rapid radicalization of his thinking had as its background an international context of popular struggle. Starting as a leader of blacks, he become a leader of the oppressed, waging an anti-capitalist struggle. This radical change would cost him his life.

Over the years, the Revolution has been able to uncover more injustice lurking in our society, and expand its rectifying efforts against it: the road to total justice never ends. The change the world needs is not cosmetic. To put an end to the depredation of the environment – which brings us these “new” viruses; to eliminate class, gender, racial and cultural violence – autonomous forms of violence, but interdependent; to re-found democracy on a different foundation, far removed from the inoperative ones of the bourgeoisie; and ensure access to social justice, the premise of true individual freedom, so that the vessel we call the Earth does not shipwreck, with its rich, poor and destitute, all passengers on the same boat, needed is a change of paradigm, of lifestyles, of conceptions about success and happiness.

On the basis of ending reactionary violence the Revolution was erected, establishing an ethical, political, human reference for social justice, inclusion, and democracy. This is why it is so strange that this group of intellectuals is calling for the establishment of a “new” referent that smells like the old one. The context cannot be ignored: imperialism is more aggressive, it resorts to methods that openly violate international legality, while the immense majority of Cubans approve a Constitution that proclaims ours as a socialist state of law. Imperialism is abandoning the legal and ethical framework of the bourgeois system, which is no longer able to sustain and reproduce its power, and is promoting coups, electoral fraud, selective assassinations, surgical coups, invasions, economic and military blockades; but there is a systemic “left” to capitalism that persists in upholding that inoperative framework, and adds its voice and signature to that of representatives of the right, and to that of well-known, crude mercenaries.

Capitalism can appropriate concepts that are proclaimed abstractly. Its advocates in Cuba view themselves in the broken mirror of the Constitution of the 1940s, of the neocolonial Republic. Political pluralism (and the multiparty system, which some subtly defend, others openly) is the foundation upon which capitalist violence is built. Within the system, everything, because money builds hegemony, and the shell game continues. As the Spanish philosopher Carlos Fernández Liria rightly says, “It is absurd to boast of the division of powers as a political discovery, where power is not political, but economic.”

It is hard to imagine that the signatories of the manifesto actually believe that the suppression of “polarizing political language (is) the necessary condition for overcoming all forms of violence and inequality. Do they really believe that these evils have their origin in polarizing language? Is the “reconciliation” they speak of to take place between the exploited and the exploiters, between servants of imperialism and defenders of independence and social justice?

“Martí’s everyone, therefore, is not merely quantitative,” Cintio Vitier insisted in May 1995, during a panel discussion in which I had the honor of participating, “part of a loving embrace, but also part of a critical rejection, a rejection that is appealable but can only become an embrace if those who deceive, err or ‘lie’ accept the central thesis of the discourse, which is the historical viability of an independent and just Cuba.”

Although from the semantic point of view Homeland and Socialism are not the same, they are from a historical point of view: Without socialism, the only option that remains is the return to neo-colonial capitalism.

Cuban revolutionaries see how some individuals are attempting to methodically apply in Cuba the example of the so-called Color (counter) Revolutions, not at all peaceful. Should we sit back and watch, let them do it? The supposed plebeians reveal their cynicism when they say they reject all violent state action.

Néstor Kohan, an Argentine Marxist with a solid, critical formation, a friend of some of the authors – the fact is not superfluous, because his discontent reflects his principles – recalled several previous encounters with them:

“In one of these discussions, I heard them say: Here, Néstor, (in Cuba) there is a dictatorship! (sic) After curbing my temptation to laugh, I asked: Have you ever been imprisoned? I have. Have you ever faced the police infantry with their nightsticks, their rifles and pistols? Obviously the answer was no. And I continued: Have you participated in demonstrations where the forces of repression and their assault vehicles launch tear gas directly into the faces of the people who are demonstrating?

“In another conversation, some years later, I took the liberty of giving some advice, as if I were a wise old man and not a nobody, a simple grassroots activist: Don’t accept money from people who offer you an internet blog to write whatever you want. In fact, the exact phrase I pronounced was in a good Argentinean Porteño tone, using formal terms. Nothing is free, brother! If they offer you that, there is always a toll to pay. And never confuse the Vatican with Camilo Torres… because they are not and never were the same. Obviously I am not a good advisor. They have paid me no mind.”

In Cuba there are, and will be no witch hunts. Neither is there impunity. Cubans respect those who defend dissenting opinions in an honest way. They are not enemies. We dialogue, we debate, we confront. But decades of confrontation with imperialism have taught us to recognize the enemy’s double standards, the wolf wearing a sheepskin. In the end, the wolf always bears his teeth.

(Taken from Granma)

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