Celia Hart’s Interview in London, June 2006

“We of the Organized Left Must Grasp the Rich Opportunity Before Us: Revolution in Latin America and the World—The Only Worthy ‘Heir’ of Fidel”


[Celia Hart gave this interview on June 26, 2006, during her visit to Britain. It was conducted in Spanish by Andrew Kennedy for the newspaper Morning Star, which is published by the British Communist Party. We reprint the Spanish text of the interview, paragraph by paragraph, with the English translation following each Spanish paragraph. The CubaNews translation of the Spanish text was edited for Labor Standard in early October 2006. Wording in bracketed inserts is by Labor Standard, not by the author, and is intended to clarify meaning or add background information. Near the end, one extended note, by George Saunders, has also been added.]

[Celia Hart’s interview is followed by an article by Ron Ridenour that appeared in Morning Star in September, describing and discussing the new openness in Cuba to Trotskyism and other non-Stalinist currents in Marxism.]

Q: Celia, ¿por qué viniste a Londres?

Q: Celia, why did you come to London?

Buenas tardes. Muchas gracias para ofrecerme la oportunidad de hablar

con Morning Star diario que sé leen muchos revolucionarios.

Celia Hart: Good afternoon, and thank you very much for the chance to meet with the

Morning Star—a daily that I know many revolutionaries read.

Aprovecho para agradecerle a Socialist Resistance por invitarme participar en esta conferencia y conocer de cerca las reflexiones y proyectos que tiene en relación a América Latina como es el caso de la Campana de Solidaridad con Bolivia y Manos Fuera de Venezuela, donde participan juntas varias organizaciones sociales y políticas.

I’d like to take the opportunity to express my appreciation to Socialist Resistance for inviting me to take part in this Latin American Day School, and to get to know, from up close, the reflections on and projects for Latin America, such as the Campaign of Solidarity with Bolivia and Hands Off Venezuela (HOV), campaigns in which various social and political organizations are participating.

Por lo poco que he podido ver, HOV puede llegar representar un punto de integración entre las acciones de los trabajadores británicos, en general europeos, y los procesos revolucionarios que vienen desarrollándose en América Latina..

[It seems to me that,] from the little I’ve seen, HOV could become a point of integration between workers’ action in Britain—and, generally speaking, in Europe—and the revolutionary processes now under way in Latin America.

Q: Como ves la Revolución Cubana hoy en el contexto de América Latina, del ALBA, y los procesos en Venezuela y Bolivia?

Q: What’s your view of the Cuban Revolution today within the context of Latin America, the ALBA [Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, an economic solidarity agreement between Venezuela, Cuba, and Bolivia], and the Venezuelan and Bolivian processes?

Este nuevo renacer revolucionario es un acontecimiento esperanzador después del acenso de neoliberalismo y la saturación a donde han llegado los magníficos procesos de resistencia durante más de una década..

C. H.: This revolutionary rebirth is an encouraging development, following after [many years of] the ascendancy of neo-liberalism; and [in Latin America now,] for more than a decade, remarkable resistance movements have reached a point of saturation [i.e., have permeated most of the continent].

Los procesos revolucionarios radicales como de Venezuela y Bolivia surgen como respuestas concretas y claras a cuál es el único mundo mejor posible que merece la humanidad. Estos dos procesos, con todas sus contradicciones, develan la necesidad de un proyecto concreto de cambio, mucho más allá de las resistencias al neoliberalismo.

Radical revolutionary processes such as those in Venezuela and Bolivia have sprung up as a clear-cut response to the question: What is the only possible better world that mankind deserves? For all their contradictions, both processes disclose the need for a specific project of social change that goes way beyond the struggle against neo-liberalism.

En este marco es donde se debe e contextualizar a la Revolución Cubana actualmente, la cual estuvo aislada después de la caída del muro de Berlín; y tuvo que tomar medidas de supervivencia que en alguna medida representaban su propia negación. Como es el caso de la inclusión en la economía de mercado.

It’s within this framework that we now must place the Cuban revolution, which was isolated following the fall of the Berlin Wall and had to take measures to survive that to some extent represented its own negation. For example, the adoption of market mechanisms in the Cuban economy.

Todos los comunistas, sea cual sea nuestra tendencia o nuestras procedencia política (trotskistas, libertarios o marxista-leninista, etc), debemos considerar que el caso de Cuba en el contexto latinoamericano actual, equivale, después de zanjadas las inmensas diferencias de tiempo y espacio, a que en Europa hubiesen triunfado procesos revolucionarios en cadena mientras aun vivía la revolución bolchevique. Yo me pregunto:¿Si en Alemania, Francia. o Inglaterra hubiese pasado lo que pasa ahora en América Latina...no hubiese sido eso un elemento trascendente para la URSS, incluso mucho después de Lenin? ¿Hubiesen tenido espacio las tendencias reformistas de Gorbachov? Con todas las limitaciones que quieran ponerle, en Cuba existe una revolución socialista y estos procesos oxigenaran y acondicionaran esta revolución. Es inevitable.

All communists, whatever our trends or political backgrounds (Trotskyists, Libertarians, Marxist-Leninist, etc.) must keep in mind that the case of Cuba, within the current Latin American context, could be likened to what would have happened in Europe—with allowances made, of course, for all the big differences in time and space—if the revolutionary processes over there had triumphed, one after another, at a time when the Bolshevik revolution was still vital and alive. I wonder: if the kind of thing going on in Latin America today had happened in Germany, France, and England, wouldn’t that have had a transcendent impact on the USSR, even long after Lenin? Would Gorbachev’s reformist tendencies have had any elbowroom? Despite all the restrictions imposed on Cuba, a socialist revolution has survived there, and it will get a breath of fresh air from these processes. It can’t be otherwise.

En el diagrama de fuerzas entre Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia y el despertar pujante de una izquierda en América Latina que retoma como bandera la palabra “socialismo,” se le entrega vigor a mi revolución con armas ideológicas, económicas y éticas para su profundización. No es lo mismo que socialismo, antiimperialismo, etc., estén escritos en los clásicos, a que esas palabras las pronuncien los presidentes de dos países. Esos procesos se benefician con el ejemplo cubano y viceversa. Y ambos elementos pueden producir cambios en todo el Continente.

My revolution is invigorated by the ideological, economic, and ethical weapons, which serve to deepen the revolution and which are derived from the unity between Cuba, Venezuela, and Bolivia, a diagram of forces that includes the powerful reawakening of the Latin American left, which is reclaiming the word “socialism” as its banner. Reading terms such as socialism, anti-imperialism, etc., in the classics is not the same as hearing them from the mouths of the presidents of two countries. Those processes benefit from the Cuban example and vice versa, and both elements can make the whole continent change.

Como te decía a los comunistas “Dios” nos ha querido dar la oportunidad que Lenin nunca tuvo. A esto le podemos sumar que en Cuba Lenin no ha muerto , aunque cumple ya 80 años. Es esta una realidad que nos probará a los verdaderos revolucionarios cubanos en primer lugar y a los del mundo. Súmale además INTERNET , las comunicaciones etc, que se convierten en nuestra mejor aliada.

As I have said before, “God” has given bright prospects to the communists of today, the kind of opportunity Lenin never had. To that we can add: in the case of Cuba, Lenin did not die [seven years after the revolution]. Instead, he’s about to celebrate his 80th birthday. This is a reality that will put us all to the test [to see if we can take advantage of our great opportunities to extend the revolution]—the first [to be tested] are all of us true Cuban revolutionaries, and then those from around the world. Further, there’s the Internet and communications technology, etc., which have become our best allies.

La Alternativa Bolivariana para las Américas significa un espacio de cooperación económica donde se tienen en cuenta las diferencias económicas entre pueblos. Es un intercambio basado en el hombre y donde las relaciones mercantiles se ponen en función de los intereses sociales. Con los Programas de las Misiones en Venezuela, como Robinson I y II, Sucre, etc se sientan precedentes socialistas en la región. La alfabetización no es tan sólo un derecho conquistado, sino que esos millones de seres humanos que se “rescatan” de la oscuridad se convierten en actuadotes sociales. Leen, piensan, y aprenden cuáles son sus intereses, que son por supuesto los intereses del socialismo.

The Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas represents a space for economic cooperation in which the economic differences between the peoples [of the participating countries] are taken into account. It’s an exchange based on human beings, in which commercial relations are designed with society’s interests in mind. The Mission programs in Venezuela, like Robinson I and II, Sucre, and so on, are setting a socialist precedent in the region. Literacy is more than just a conquered right, because those millions of human beings “rescued from the dark” become social actors. They read, think, and learn about their own interests, which are of course those of socialism.

Recientemente en La Habana se hizo un recuento sobre los resultados palpables del ALBA entre Cuba y Venezuela. Venezuela libre de analfabetismo, más de 20 000 trabajadores de la salud en ese país y muchísimos logros sociales mutuos más, que encuentras en cualquier publicación. De todo, yo particularmente le doy mucha importancia a que Venezuela pase a ser el primer socio comercial de Cuba. Por suerte antes que cualquier otro...como China. Estas relaciones económicas se establecen entre dos procesos revolucionarios a través de los respectivos estados, pero son relaciones revolucionarias. Esto nos empata, nos asocia al movimiento de cambio y es muy beneficioso para Cuba que no sean frías relaciones económica, sino políticas.

ALBA’s noticeable accomplishments were recently reviewed in Havana by Cuba and Venezuela. We now have a Venezuela free from illiteracy, and we have over 20,000 Cuban health workers there, and many more mutual achievements that you can read about in any publication. For Venezuela to become Cuba’s top trading partner is the most important to me, hopefully having priority over any other country—such as China. These economic links between two revolutionary processes are established on the state level [by the governments of the two countries], but we’re talking about revolutionary relations that bring our populations closer together and connect us all with the movement for social change, so it’s a good thing for Cuba that these are political relations and not just cold economic ties.

Esto hace que el camino de la Revolución Cubana que tuvo máxima expresión en los años sesenta con el Che Guevara, pueda continuar en los caminos de la revolución ininterrumpida.

This makes it possible for the Cuban revolution, which was at its peak in the 1960s with Che Guevara, to keep traveling the road of uninterrupted revolution.

El caso de Bolivia es sumamente importante y le agrega nuevo color a este espectro. Bolivia es pobre a diferencia de Venezuela, está obligada a nacionalizar sus recursos naturales y tiene una izquierda muy demandante (por fortuna) que “marca” al MAS

Bolivia is an extremely important case that adds new colors to this spectrum. Unlike Venezuela, it’s a poor country forced to nationalize its national resources. Fortunately, it also has a very demanding left, which is “keeping a sharp eye” on the MAS.

Es simbólico que el primero de Mayo de este año cuando Evo Morales nacionalizo a los hidrocarburos y nacionalizo PETROBRAS, simultáneamente inauguro un centro medico con colaboración cubana, yo creo que todas estas cosas o sea de un asunto de carácter económico fundamental como es la nacionalización de los recursos naturales con un aspecto de servicio social en colaboración con Cuba. Si logramos capitalizar los revolucionarios todo esto proceso a nuestro favor, comenzará una nueva era de la revolución socialista en el mundo. Eso sí la Historia no nos dará tiempo y las fuerzas organizadas de la izquierda debemos entender el jugoso y espléndido proceso que se nos ha abierto.

May Day turned into a symbol this year when Evo Morales nationalized Bolivia’s hydrocarbons and [some facilities of] Petrobras [the partly privatized Brazilian state oil company, ] and at the same time opened a medical center provided by Cuba. I believe that these events have great significance—that is, a measure of such fundamental economic importance as nationalizing the country’s natural resources combined with a social service measure, carried out in cooperation with Cuba. If we revolutionaries manage to capitalize on this kind of process to our advantage, a new era of socialist revolutions will begin worldwide. This will happen if History grants us enough time and if we in the ranks of the organized left grasp the rich and splendid process that has now opened up before us, and grasp it we must.

Q: Como ves el futuro de la revolución cubana sin Fidel?

Q: How do you see the future of the Cuban Revolution without Fidel?

A Bueno, todo es una gran discusión, el asunto de concebir una Revolución Cubana sin Fidel. Para todos nosotros que nacimos y crecimos junto a él...es un reto.

C. H.: Well, that’s a big topic for discussion—how to conceive of the Cuban revolution without Fidel? To all of us who were born and raised by his side…that’s a big challenge.

Yo sé que por ahí nos acusan de culto a la personalidad etc. A eso respondo lo siguiente.

I know that because we say such things, they accuse us of practicing a personality cult, etc. And this is my reply:

Vamos a imaginarnos por un segundo que la revolución bolchevique contara con Lenin o Trosky en el poder durante 40 años. Por alguna razón Fidel es una de las poquísimas excepciones, la única tal vez de que un revolucionario fundador permanezca en el poder. Un periodista cubano hizo un libro con un título sugerente “el mérito de estar vivo” Aspirar que los verdaderos revolucionarios de Cuba y el mundo, con todo y los errores de Fidel, no se sientan reverenciados hacia su figura no solamente es infantil y banal, sino que perderán los verdaderos conexos para la consecución de la revolución cubana después que muera.

Let’s imagine for a moment that the Bolshevik revolution [could have] counted on Lenin’s leadership, or Trotsky’s, for 40 years. For some reason, Fidel is one of the very few exceptions, perhaps the only case of a founding revolutionary who has remained in power. A Cuban journalist wrote a book with a suggestive title: The Merit of Being Alive. Despite any mistakes Fidel has made, he is nevertheless revered by every true revolutionary in Cuba and elsewhere. To think otherwise would be not only foolish and banal [dull-witted]; it would also be a sure sign that revolutionaries who thought that way had lost their perspective and would be unable to help the Cuban revolution carry on after Fidel dies.

Las revoluciones no tienen herederos. Los heredad es un término aristocrático que detesto usar cuando se trata de Fidel. Fidel no tienen herederos, a no ser sus hijos que puedan heredar alguna gorra verde usada o un par de calcetines.

A revolution has no heirs. Inheritance is an aristocratic term I hate to use when it comes to Fidel, for he has no heirs other than his children, who may inherit some worn green cap or a pair of socks.

Nuestra consecución revolucionaria deberá buscar sus propios caminos. Ningún hombre en Cuba , ninguna institución por buena que parezca puede sustituir a Fidel, no por más bueno o por más malo, sino por diferente. Tendremos que encontrar los caminos y resortes que no se desplegarán hasta que él no esté .

Our revolutionary continuity must find its own way. No one in Cuba, no institution, no matter how good it seems to be, can replace Fidel, and not because one is better or worse than the other, but for being different. We’ll have to find ways and means that will remain unfolded for as long as he lives.

Esto se analiza a la luz del materialismo histórico: Hago la siguiente reflexión: Lo que somos, las instituciones y organizaciones que se han creado tienen su dinámica con Fidel Castro vivo y operante dialécticamente sobre ellas. Muy bien, una vez quitado el elemento Fidel Castro de esta correlación, para poder conservar lo que teníamos, todo es debe cambiar. Esas instituciones serán otras, no hay forma de evitarlo porque uno de sus elementos claves ya no está. Por lo que es teóricamente imposible buscar cual será la solución de esa ecuación. Lo que sí te digo que no serán las mismas y en ese contexto se buscarán sin dudas soluciones que hoy no podemos ni imaginar.

Here’s a reflection in the light of historical materialism: what we are, our institutions and organizations, owe their dynamics to a Fidel Castro who lives and operates on them dialectically. So once the element of Fidel Castro is out of this equation, everything must change if we want to preserve what we have had. These institutions will become different [from what they were], and this can’t be helped, because one of their key elements will no longer be there. Thus, it’s theoretically impossible to find the solution to that equation. I insist that things won’t be the same, and no doubt solutions will be found that we can’t even imagine right now.

Principios quedan claros. Revolución socialista, internacionalismo y lucha revolucionaria sin cuartel. Esos, esos son los herederos de Fidel Castro.Esos son los únicos que merecerán “heredar” a Fidel ¿Cómo instrumentarlo? Sólo la práctica concreta lo dirá. Por eso no acepto herederos en vida de Fidel. Quienes asuman ese legado cuando él no esté, prácticamente serán sus continuadores. .

Still, the principles remain clear: socialist revolution, internationalism, and revolutionary struggle to the finish. Now those are Fidel Castro’s legacies, the only things worthy of being “inherited” from him. How to set this in motion? Only through practice will we know. That’s why I don’t like to think of any heirs while Fidel is alive. Those who carry on his legacy when he’s gone will be his continuators.

Tal cual la muerte de una madre es imprevisible para un hijo amoroso, y ningún hijo se pregunta que pasará cuando se muera, porque nunca cree que va a morir. Una vez muerta se entierra y con dolor comienza un Nuevo camino.

A loving child really can’t picture beforehand the death of his or her mother; and no child can imagine what it will be like after she is gone, because the child never really believes the mother will die. But when she dies, you bury her, and in the midst of grief a new road begins.

Después de Fidel vendrán nuevas situaciones. Los que llevamos sus enseñanzas en la sangre y las ideas no permitiremos que nada ni nadie “usurpe” su poder moral y quiera coronarse como “Fidel”.

New situations will arise following Fidel’s death. Those of us who have his teachings in our blood and our minds will never let anything or anybody “usurp” his moral power and be crowned “Fidel.”

La revolución en América Latina y el mundo pueden ser tal vez la ‘única que merezca ser coronada de heredera de uno de los comunistas más grandes del Siglo XX.

The revolution in Latin America and the world is perhaps the only entity worthy of being crowned heir to one of the 20th century’s greatest communists.

Pero yo prefiero no hablar de eso ahora. Porque como te decía prefiero (con sus pros y sus contras) disfrutar de su presencia y ser cada día más consecuente con su legado. Ojo! Que su legado no es seguir todas sus orientaciones en temas concretos, sino serle fiel a esto que nos impuso como sello la revolución cubana que ha tenido la suerte de contar con Fidel y el Che.

Yet I’d prefer not to talk any more about this, since as I have said, for all the pros and cons about Fidel, I’d rather enjoy his presence and try every day to be more and more consistent with and true to his legacy. But watch out! Being true to his legacy does not mean following his every guideline on any given subject. It means being loyal to the overall standards set by the Cuban revolution, which has been lucky enough to have Fidel and Che to rely on

...Me gusta decir en bromas que Lenin y Trotsky se juntaron en una pequeñita y desolada isla del Caribe.

I like to say as a joke that Lenin and Trotsky [in the form of Fidel and Che] came together [reincarnated] on a very small and fairly miserable Caribbean island.

Q: You have written a great deal about Che Guevara, not only for his importance in the 1960s but also these days. How important is Che Guevara to Latin America today?

Bueno, yo pienso que la imagen de Che Guevara está actualmente más presente que nunca. También los procesos, digamos, no se como llamarlos, de censura o de la no publicación de parte de su obra significa que el Che Guevara está de vuelta porque como no conocíamos la gran mayoría, esos apuntes del Che, sobre todo el libro que acababa de salir publicado en la Feria de la Habana en el febrero de este ano que se llama ‘Apuntes Críticos al Manual de la Economía Política de la URSS.’

C. H.: You know, I think Che Guevara’s image is more present today than ever before. At the same time, the attempts, let’s say—I don’t know what to call them—to censor part of his work or leave it unpublished, indicate that Che Guevara has not fully returned. Because the great majority of us still don’t know [about his previously unpublished writings], his notes, and mainly the book Apuntes Críticos al Manual de la Economía Política de la URSS (“Critical Notes on the USSR Manual of Political Economy”), which was launched [i.e., first introduced to the public] at the Havana Book Fair in February this year.

[En este libro] donde el Che Guevara hace una critica demoledora a los instrumentos que esta usando la Unión Soviética pos Stalin para desarrollar el socialismo, una neo-NEP. La diferencia de la NEP de Lenin que consideraba como un paso atrás, pues ellos consideraban que esa NEP, ese nuevo proyecto económico, era un paso delante, y yo pienso que es la continuación o el segundo capitulo de la lucha contra las fuerzas en contra del socialismo y incluso yo lo he llamado, quizás exageradamente, el segundo tomo de ‘La Revolución Traicionada’ donde Che afirma de forma total y evidente de que las sociedades socialistas en ese momento de los años sesenta estaban regresando inevitablemente al capitalismo.

[In this book,] Che leveled fierce, devastating criticism at the instruments the post-Stalin Soviet Union was using to develop socialism, calling them a neo-NEP. This was a reference to Lenin’s NEP, which he deemed a step backwards, while they [the bureaucrats who became Stalinists] thought it was the exact opposite. I think this book serves as a sequel or second chapter in the fight against anti-socialist forces, and I have even called it, perhaps exaggeratedly, the second volume of The Revolution Betrayed. In this book Che presents complete evidence, showing that the [so-called] socialist societies of the 1960s were unavoidably returning to capitalism.

Un brillante economista cubano Osvaldo Martínez realizó una exposición medular al ser presentado por segunda vez este libro en La Habana. Él lo llamó “Un Grito desde el Subdesarrollo.” Ese grito era porque en esta región del mundo estaban los resortes para entender la situación revolucionaria. El Socialismo se había mudado de sitio.

Osvaldo Martínez is a brilliant Cuban economist who made a pivotal presentation of this book, its second presentation in Havana [the first having been at the book fair]. Martinez called Che’s book “A Cry from Underdevelopment” (“Un Grito desde el Subdesarrollo”), and he used the word “Grito” [meaning a call for revolution, or proclamation of revolution, a term often used in that sense in Latin American history] because it is in this region of the world where the means to understand revolution [is to be found nowadays]. Socialism has changed locations.

[Editor’s Note: The idea Celia Hart is presenting here is that today the socialist revolution has  moved its center” from the developed countries to the underdeveloped ones. Similarly, Lenin inidcated that the center of the world socialist movement had shifted from Western Europe, especially Germany, before World War I to Russia in the first decades of the twentieth century. See, for example, Lenin’s discussion of this at the beginning of Left-Wing Communism: An Infantile Disorder (quoting Karl Kautsky from 1902, before Kautsky turned into a renegade from Marxism). For a complex analysis in the 1960s of the interaction and reciprocal effects of “three sectors of the world revolution” (the advanced capitalist countries, or “First World”; the bureaucratically degenerated workers’states, or “Second World”; and the colonial, ex-colonial, and semicolonial superexploited countries, or “Third World”), see the book Dynamics of World Revolution (New York: Pathfinder, 1974—G. S.]

El “desarrollo” en esos momentos poco tendría que decir a no ser que comprendiera que la Europa de principios del siglo XX estaba en el tercer mundo. Ernest Mandel sí lo entendió. Por eso sus mejores esfuerzos estuvieron dirigidos a comprender esta realidad y se convirtió en compañero de ideas del Che. No muchos revolucionarios entendieron que la periferia pasaba a ser protagonista de las luchas revolucionarias. Los sesenta fue una época de ebullición, lástima que casi todos los partidos comunistas se afiliaron a la URSS que paradójicamente constituía un elemento reaccionario.

The “developed world” nowadays would have little of use to say if it did not understand that the [role of the socialist movement in the] Europe of the early twentieth century had shifted to the Third World. Ernest Mandel certainly understood this; he focused his best efforts on grasping [and grappling with] this fact, and thus he and Che shared the same ideas. Few revolutionaries understood that the periphery had become the chief protagonist of the revolutionary struggle. The 1960s were a time of great turbulence, and it’s a pity that, back then, almost every Communist Party sided with the USSR, which was, paradoxically, a reactionary element.

Este libro preñado de angustias, dudas, razonamientos es una verdadera Biblia, en el sentido de la revolución. El Che se dice, se contradice, busca referencias (las que encuentra) y las trata de poner al servicio de las causas del socialismo. Él lo llamó “mi intentona”...su “granito de arena.” Pero ese granito de arena era en realidad un iceberg destrozando el Titanic del Imperialismo, al estalinismo, y al reformismo.

A real Bible from a revolutionary standpoint, Che’s book is filled with expressions of anguish, doubts, and attempts to reason things out. He states things, then contradicts himself; he looks for references (and finds them), trying to put them at the beck and call [place them at the service] of the socialist cause. Che called it his “rash attempt,” his “grain of sand.” But that small grain was in reality a huge iceberg, capable of destroying the Titanic of imperialism, Stalinism, and reformism.

No conocíamos esas ideas hasta ahora. Por eso es como si volviera el Che a estar vivo, porque eso no nos lo dejaron escuchar. Entonces Bienvenido el Che al siglo XXI .

We hadn’t known about those ideas before, so now it’s as if Che were alive again. [We wonder] why we were prevented from hearing them. At any rate, may Che be welcome in the 21st century.

Eso que vimos después o la época de las noventa… Che apeló con su pericia revolucionaria a entender lo imposible que resulta usar el capitalismo para construir la sociedad socialista ...Como dice un buen amigo mío: “La tesis no puede ser resuelta con la antítesis.” Debemos publicar deprisa esos apuntes y tomarlos como manual de análisis. Es muy importante, porque el Che no solamente fue un guerrillero heroico y un revolucionario excepcional, sino fue un teórico marxista imprescindible porque fue un constructor de la revolución socialista en Cuba, fue Ministro de Industria, fue presidente del Banco Nacional, y todo lo que Che nos tiene que decir es algo de lo que dice un revolucionario que no viese fuera del proceso, sino que esta escribiendo desde él .

[What he predicted is] what we saw later, in the 1990s. Che drew on his revolutionary expertise to comprehend [even then, in the 1960s] that it was impossible to use capitalism [or capitalist methods] to build a socialist society. As a good friend of mine says, “The thesis can’t be solved with the antithesis.” We must hurry to publicize this book widely and take up Che’s Critical Notes for use as an analytical manual. It’s very important, for Che was not only a heroic guerrilla and an exceptional revolutionary but also an indispensable Marxist theoretician who was a builder of the socialist revolution in Cuba. He was our Minister of Industry and President of the National Bank, and everything he has to say comes from a revolutionary who writes from within this process instead of looking at it from outside.

Por favor invito a todo el mundo, compre este libro. Yo escribí un articulo que se llama “La intentona” del Che’ que esta en Rebelion [website] que habla de esta tema. Creo que este nuevo Che Guevara se libera de la camisa de fuerzas reformista, estalinista y hasta mercantile que le han puesto y corre a nuestro auxilio.

Please, I urge everyone to buy this book. I wrote an article about it, entitled “La ‘intentona’ del Che” (“Che’s ‘Rash Attempt’”), which is available [in Spanish] on the web site www.rebelion.org. I think this new Che Guevara rids himself of the reformist, Stalinist, and even mercantile straitjacket he was forced into, and thus he is rushing to our rescue.

Lo que te decía...tal cual cuando desaparezca físicamente mi Comandante en Jefe será de esta manera, audaz, polémica que pueda acompañarnos en los difíciles momentos de su ausencia.

[To go back to what] I was saying…when my Commander-in-Chief passes away the situation will be similar. With his daring and controversial ways he will continute to keep us company through the difficult times of his absence.

Con dos revolucionarios como esos Fidel y el Che embutidos en la revolución mundial casi, casi el futuro del mundo tiene “ganada la pelea.”

With two revolutionaries like Fidel and Che busily engaged in the world revolution, it’s as if the battle for the future of the world has very nearly been won.

Este ejemplo de la presencia del Che nos hace ver que son esas ideas, esos impulses, esa passion, los únicos que no tengan que heredar a Fidel...porque como el Che estará vivo en el alma de la revolución.

This example, about Che’s presence [continuing 40 years after his death] shows that those ideas, driving forces, and passions are the only things we will not have to inherit from Fidel—because just like Che he will still be living [with us] in the very soul of the revolution.


Picking up from where Che left off

by Ron Ridenour

[The following article reports on the increasing openness in Cuba to Trotskyist and other non-Stalinist ideas and currents in Marxist thought. In other words, Celia Hart’s openness to Trotskyism is not an isolated exception in Cuba today. This article appeared in the Sept. 6, 2006, issue of Morning Star, published by the British Communist Party. Ron Ridenour has written frequently about Cuba. He is the author of Cuba at the Crossroads and Backfire: The CIA’s Biggest Burn (Havana: Editorial Jose Marti, 1991) as well as two other books and many articles about Cuba. According to an autobiographical sketch on Ridenour’s personal web site, he lived in Cuba for a time, and in Nicaragua, and now lives in Denmark. He also wrote for the former semi-Maoist Guardian newspaper in New York, before it expired in 1992, after the worldwide decline of Maoism. This background perhaps helps explain Ridenour’s peculiar questions about the new openness in Cuba toward Trotskyism. These questions, asked in his third paragraph, were probably meant humorously, but they contain an unpleasant echo of the frame-up charges of the 1930s Moscow Trials, where Trotsky and other defendants were absurdly and falsely accused of “alliance with Hitler” and seeking to “restore capitalism in the USSR.” Ridenour asks: “…is it possible that Cuba is going mad? Was the editor a treacherous Trot?”]

The stout, broadly smiling chief editor ushered me into his small office. From the wall, the face of forbidden fruit—stern theoretician, military leader, and organizer of the Red Army, “sorcerer” Leon Trotsky—stared defiantly down at me.

Editorial de Ciencias Sociales is one of Cuba’s main book publishers. It has recently published a volume on the 1905 Russian revolution in which Trotsky’s role is objectively portrayed.

As book publishing and all media and cultural production, is overseen by the Communist Party, is it possible that Cuba is going mad? Was the editor a treacherous Trot?

No, he asserted, neither he nor the party are going Trotskyist or mad.

This book presents real debate which the provocative intellectual wanted to highlight.

Intellectuals now have more leeway than ever before in terms of research. Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, for instance, publishes several books each year discussing controversial ideas and analysis within leftist thought and practice.

Cuba sin Dogma ni Abandonos (Cuba without dogma or abandonment [of principles]), for example, which was published last year, is a collection of 10 essays by Cuban professors on the transition to socialism. They reject specific models for constructing socialism-communism and tackle controversial Marxist themes—theory of the dictatorship of the proletariat, rethinking the transition to a socialist economy, participatory democracy—and they objectively describe Stalin, Trotsky, and various left tendencies.

Another book from last year, Rusia del Socialismo Real al Capitalismo Real (Russia from ‘real socialism’ to real capitalism) provides a thoughtful academic analysis of Russian development. The authors view the Soviet process primarily as chronic “political suicide,” which negatively influenced Cuba’s own development but did not smother it.

Stalin and Stalinism are attacked for their brutality and for stifling critical thought, while Trotsky, Rosa Luxemburg, Gramsci, and other Western Marxists are no longer dismissed as heretics.

In many respects, the current rethinking of Marxism and “real socialism” picks up from where Che Guevera left off in his early critique of Soviet economy and politics.

In fact, this same publisher made the first publication of Che’s critical notes of the Soviet economic model, in which he predicted its demise if the government did not change its bureaucratic, undemocratic, and ineffective production and political methods.

Celia Hart, the physicist daughter of two of Cuba’s top leaders—Haydee Santamaria, one of the first two women guerillas in the July 26 movement, and Armando Hart, former minister of education and culture—is a prolific writer, who views Trotsky as having played a positive role in the revolutionary process.

Hart sees threads from Trotsky through much of the thinking of Che and Fidel. She believes that Cuba is living up to Trotsky’s concept of permanent revolution.

Fidel and other party leaders and intellectuals speak of the need to discard the stifling models for socialism that the Soviet Union imposed upon its allies. A breath of fresh air is blowing throughout society since the first years of rugged adjustment to the fall of European state socialism.

Casa de las Americas, the cultural institution which Santamaria founded, sponsors seminars on Latin American culture and philosophical matters. Last January saw one on scientific socialism and utopia. Authors from several South American countries and Cuba discussed the need for Marxists and revolutionary socialists to dream and to place the subjective—the utopian—into the process of scientific socialism.

An Ecuadorian intellectual maintained that utopian ideas can be based upon reality, that multidimensional approaches are necessary to building socialism materially, and that there are no “laws of history”—only processes.

And in February, dreamers and realists converged at the gigantic annual book fair in Havana, with scores of seminars being held throughout the week. Dreamers were well received by large audiences for their visions of a future in which sensitive caring for one another would be the modus operandi.

Twenty-seven Cuban publishers presented 520 new titles—all sold cheaply in the national peso currency. Cuba has 188 book publishers in all, which printed 5.7 million copies of 520 new books and re-editions last year. Some 700,000 books were sold at the fair. This is a leap forward from the early to mid-1990s, when book publishing was cut back to 10 percent of its previous production.

Venezuela was the fair’s “guest of honor.” Publishers brought five million copies of 1,200 titles. Half-a-million visitors had a chance to browse through Venezuela’s and other foreign publishers’ stalls, in addition to national publishing compartments.

Celia Hart’s book Apuntes Revolucionarios: Cuba, Venezuela y el Socialismo Internacional (Revolutionary notes: Cuba, Venezuela, and international socialism) was to be found at the Spanish Fundacion Federico Engels location. This collection of essays and articles, many of which were first published at www.rebelion.org, concentrates on the need for an ever-changing revolution in order to succeed in shaping socialism and improving the lives of all citizens. She sees hope in Cuba’s future not only because of its internal growth but also because of the radical changes currently occurring regionally, especially in Venezuela and Bolivia.

While there were positive educational and entertaining books for all ages, cultural imperialism was allowed to creep in through some foreign publishers. A Mexican one, for instance, sold plastic Barbie dolls. I asked a family why they had bought one—and in precious convertible currency.

“She is elegant, a good doll. Our children watch her on television and they wanted one,” the mother replied.

As the book fair traveled to 35 cities across the entire nation, many Cuban films were screened—a contrast to U.S. glorifications of violence and consumerism, which are shown on Cuban television and cinemas. Cannes winner Viva Cuba vividly presents daily problems and conflicts between parents who support the revolution and those who wish to migrate to Miami. Those who express dissatisfaction, who contend that “everything is illegal,” are not condemned as evil. Even critiques of some rituals performed by the Young Pioneers, an objection to indoctrination, are shown.

The internationally renowned director-writer Humberto Salas’s latest film Barrio Cubano also portrays these themes, as well as theft and corruption. I was not the only one in the cinema shedding tears at the conclusion.

Cuba and the world have listened to the joyous music of Buena Vista Social Club, and tens of millions have seen the film of these now famous musicians, such as Compay Segundo, Ibrahim Ferrer, Ruben Gonzalez, and Eliades Ochoa, whom Ry Cooder brought to us.

I dare say that this warm film has done more to promote Cuba—and, subtly, its fair social system as a good place in this brutal world—than any other single product or event. Yet, when I asked Cuban musicians and others what they thought of it, they showed blank faces. No one had seen it!

“We don’t know why it wasn’t shown here, but the media did write that the film existed and was well-received worldwide,” was the reply I received from all but one person, a sociologist. He told me that a group of 20 sociologists had “found” a video copy and viewed it as part of a sociological study. Asked if they would recommend that the state show it, he declared: “It is racist.”

He recalled the scene where two black [Cuban] musicians are walking the streets of New York, admiring the city. His interpretation of this was that the film maker wished to show “two monkeys coming out of the jungle and admiring ‘civilization.’” I could only hope that this warped thinking was not behind the decision to not show the film.

Another example of unmentioned censorship is Oliver Stone’s documentary on Fidel Castro—Comandante. No one I spoke with had even heard of the film. Its existence had not been made public. My speculation as to why is that Castro does not wish to reveal his private life, a bit of which comes forth in the film, and that he might think that showing the film would be seen as presenting himself as a cult figure—something he and the state are careful to avoid.

Only dead heroes’ images are widely portrayed before the population—an admirable aspect in promoting a popular, permanent revolution.