[Marxism] Abel Prieto: "European intelligencia do not understand Latin America"

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Mon Feb 12 23:39:02 MST 2007

A note to everyone and anyone else who's fixated on models: 

Cuba's leadership rejects the whole notion of models, as we're 
able to see here in Abel Prieto's interview, published in the
Spanish Rebelion website earlier today. Shake your heads free 
of those accursed models! Be an independent thinker! Prieto's 
one of the bright young spirits of the Cuban revolution today.

Walter Lippmann
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
February 12, 2007

An interview with Abel Prieto, Cuban Minister of Culture 
"European intelligencia do not understand Latin America"

Mertxe Aizpuría

A CubaNews translation. Edited by Walter Lippmann

Abel Prieto, at 56, has been Cuban Minister of Culture since 1997.
Having graduated with a degree in Hispanic Language and Literature,
he has headed the Letras Cubanas publishers and been president of the
Writers’and Artists’ Union.  Already a recognized author, he still
makes time to work on a new novel in which the main character is a
Cuban satirist who goes to the Soviet Union.

More than an expression of sorrow, it is a clear statement. Cuba’s
Minister of Culture, Abel Prieto feels that a critical change is
taking place in Latin America and that Europe’s intellectuals don’t
‘get it’, don’t understand the extent of this phenomenon.

Question: What’s happening in Latin America?

Abel Prieto: Something very important for the world, and for Europe. 
The strongest, most consistent anti-imperialist most coherent
anti-colonial culture is developing in Latin America, and I believe
that in general European intellectuals do not understand this.
Moreover, I am of the opinion that inevitably they are going to have
to change their approach. What’s happening there (in Latin America)
is too important to be ignored.

Question: How does Cuba view the ground that socialism is winning in
so many countries? 

AP: In his victory address following his (most recent) re-election,
Chavez noted that the people didn’t vote for an individual, but for
socialism. The word socialism is no longer a dirty word.  It is being
revitalized, and Cuba, the work of the Revolution, is a reference
point in this rebirth, in the socialism of the XXI Century. Moreover,
the United States can no longer trust its manipulated electoral
processes. They are already talking about training more Latin
American soldiers
their electoral system is all worn out.

Question: How does it view the criticism made by the European Left
toward Cuba?

AP: Many begin from a basic error. They feel that what is being built
is part of that old family (the USSR) which collapsed.  They see us
as an expression of that old socialism which collapsed and that we
represent something outdated, an historic hand-me-down, outdated like
the dinosaur or a shipwreck like the Titanic. We can say that the
European left sees a phenomenon that they want to distance themselves
from, from that old socialism, from that bureaucratic left which
collapsed, thinking that Cuba represents the past. 

Question: Do they see a stereotypical image?

AP: Yes, there is a stereotype in those caricatures of real
socialism, in the idea that the only party is a copy of the Soviet
party and that Granma is a copy of Pravda. I think there is a lack of
understanding about how the system and its characteristics were
developed in this country.  There are forms of democracy here which
appear nothing like those in the (former) socialist bloc.

Question: For example.

AP: For example, as a Minister, my work is analyzed by the National
Assembly’s Commission on Culture. I have to submit reports to the
Assembly and, as a deputy, I also have to give account to the voters
who elected me in Consolacíon del Sur.  Whenever there is a plenary
meeting at UNEAC (Artists and Writers Union), I have to give an
accounting of what I have accomplished. I attend the Pioneer's
Congress to explain to the children and youngsters what we are doing
in terms of recreation for them, why we don’t have cartoons on
Nothing like this ever happened in the former Soviet Union, or in
Bulgaria or any of those countries. Discussion, debate and the
exchange of ideas is embedded in our society. 

Question: How do these discussions help the Ministry of Culture?

AP: I have met with young people from the Federation of High School
Students, with the preparatory group for the FEU (University Students
Federation) Congress, and attended the Pioneers’ Congress, and what I
observed was really interesting. These young people don’t shout and
act up; they analyze, evaluate problems at their school, and even
evaluate the negative impact that designer products like Nike and
Adidas have on society. As Naomi Klein says, they are not selling
products, but life styles.  I heard this same analysis, in other
words of course, from some Pioneers

Question: One of the recurring accusations is that the Cuban media
doesn’t report what’s really going on.

AP: Cuban writer Cinto Vitier says something that I really like. “Our
challenge is to establish a parliament in a trench”. We are faced
with an enormous enemy, and doing away with us is among its plans. 
It says that it intends to create a so-called civil society in Cuba. 
Of course it totally ignores the fact that we have a revolutionary
civil society. All the mass organizations are organized forms of a
civil society. UNEAC is one organized form of a civil society as are
the Pioneers
But of course, for them (the US government), we all are
Castroite tools and what should be done is create a civil society
that makes money for them

Here we talk about what is happening in Cuba.  Detailed accounts
appear in Granma and Juventud Rebelde concerning economic theft that
has been uncovered. And each time Granma publishes one of these
articles, the El Nuevo Herald uses it to plant the idea that the
Cuban Revolution is on the verge of collapse and such corruption
proves it.

Question:  Is there a risk that this might happen?

AP: Yes, I think we have to face such risks and moreover there is a
consensus that we must assume such risks.  But we must not forget
that we have an enemy with a plan and a program already prepared and
attempting to divide us so as to damage our image any way they can.

John Lennon, the statue as a symbol.  [It appears that the rest of
the interview is ruminations by the interviewer with quotes from Abel

 “The strongest, most consistent anti-imperialist, most coherent
anti-colonial culture of resistance is developing in Latin America” 

If one of his passions is literature there is no doubt that the
admiration of John Lennon is another of the characteristic risks of
the Minister of Culture.  The idea to dedicate a statue to the
emblematic Beatles singer in the center of Havana did not come from
him.  However, he accepted the challenge of the Young Writers and
Artists Association during a Congress. A competition (for the
design)  was won by José Villa, “an extraordinary sculptor of my
generation”, recalls Abel Prieto.  And on December 8, 2000,
Comandante Fidel Castro dedicated the statue of John Lennon at the
site known ever since as Lennon Park at 17th Street between 6th and
7th Avenues (Vedado). In some way, this homage to the most popular
Beatle broke the (old) perception, opening the doors to the new
cultural currents appearing on the Island. “Yes”, points out the
Minister of Culture, “since then you heard the Beatles’ songs.  
However, there was a time, between the end of the 60’s and the early
70’s when English-language rock was seldom heard.  It was a serious
error because what people ended up listening to was commercial rock
from Spain. It was thought that as English was the language of the
enemy Spanish lyrics were more acceptable in our context.  What
nonsense.”  Abel Prieto recalls that a period of discussion was begun
and the "insanity" was quickly replaced.  “It was officially decided,
and music by the Beatles, Bob Dylan or the Rolling Stones hit the
airwaves. The idea of dedicating a statue to Lennon came later. The
fact that Fidel Castro removed the cover over the statue and Lennon
appeared had great symbolic value. It proved a definitive solution to
those little absurdities.

In Abel Prieto’s opinion, Lennon was an authentic revolutionary, “a
revolutionary man”. “Some months ago a series of interviews with
Lennon appeared in Rolling Stone and from those interviews it is
evident that he was an artist in the vanguard, that he was constantly
torn by the demands of the market. Lennon was a man before his time.
On leaving the Beatles and with the companionship and support of Yoko
Ono, he broke with the struggle of making concessions which he had
been previously forced to make.”  Since 2000, a bronze statue of John
Lennon has remained seated in Havana. There is a plaque next to him
that says: “They say that I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.”

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