[Marxism] Celia Hart questions talk in Cuba about "change"

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Sat Jul 19 15:58:56 MDT 2008

Hart: " And now in Cuba I wonder: why don’t the daring articles about the
need for
change quote Che Guevara? And I mean Che the thinker, the Minister of
Industries, the quintessential internationalist who was quite adamant about
making the smallest concession to capitalism and its jagged knives, the
critic of the New Economic Policy."


Signs of change in Cuba
The word "change" in the context of the Cuban Revolution is becoming an
obsession. Reading some of Hegel’s works would be well worth the effort if
we expect to understand its meaning. 

Celia Hart Santamaria (for Kaos en la Red) [07.07.2008 - 20:51] 

A CubaNews translation. Edited by Walter Lippmann.

I have every intention of avoiding any explicit reference to “changes” in
Cuba, a word we started to hear –what a coincidence!– as soon as my
commander Fidel fell ill and is now permanently threatening to overload my

The word, in the context of the Cuban Revolution, is becoming an obsession.
Therefore, reading some of good ol’ Hegel’s works would be well worth the
effort if we expect to understand its meaning.

For starters, I don’t intend to theorize here about a term the philosophical
meaning of which is beyond my comprehension, but I would gladly give up my
next two springs to understand. I’ll do what everybody else does: use the
word and appeal to the reader’s common sense
 although I know only too well
how dangerous that could be.

Still, I do know a thing or two about Newtonian dynamics. Here’s an example:

A car can change its speed of translation with respect to the road on which
it’s moving: it can speed up, slow down, stop, turn, or go into reverse
could even overturn. All in all, that’s a change.

What is changed? With respect to what? To what extent? And, more
importantly, in what direction?

And it goes without saying that I love change as much as the next person! I
like to change something every day insofar as I am able to

Unfortunately, fairy godmothers don’t exist –except in the souls of little
children– because I’d like to be a beautiful, smart, younger and much more
revolutionary and consistent woman. But that I CAN’T change. First sign: we
can’t change everything we want, because the sun will still rise in the east
even if we wish to wake up every morning together with the Asians. 

Of course, there are many things we can change, but first we must understand
what we must NOT change
 with or without a fairy godmother.

Despite all their faults, I would never replace my two children with other
more intelligent and responsible, as mine seem to me like God’s best
finished work. Oh yes! I’d like them to be better, happier and more
 But I don’t want to change them anymore than I do my dog
–which I wouldn’t trade for a highborn pedigree– or my old books. Nor do I
want to change a single letter written by José Martí, or my emotions when I
read Che’s work. And if you ask for more
 I don’t want to change my
Commander in Chief, or have anyone else at the head of my Communist Party.

We’re in Cuba, home to the only socialist project left in this dying planet,
barring a few well-intentioned attempts here and there. The world should
certainly hire all magicians, fairies and witches to see if it can change a

Yet, Cuba is the only place where the people own the means of production.
I’m not going to get mixed up in an argument about who really owns those
means, the workers or a bureaucratized state; nor favor self-management or
wage-earning vs. self-managed labor, or talk about work of angels or work of
demons. You see, before we talk about Cuba and its salaries we must keep in
mind the fact that we’re an island in every sense of the word.

Those who won’t admit that a state is by definition a repressive institution
are not communist, anymore than those who fail to understand the transience
of a proletarian state. Maybe the Cuban state is paternalistic
 most other
states in the world are proving to be at the local oligarchy’s beck and

Talking about Cuba without taking into account the IV Fleet near our coasts,
the danger that awaits Latin America with this epidemics of fascist
separatism, the regional elections several of our countries will hold in
November or the referendum in Bolivia in August
 would amount to being in
the village state of mind José Martí warned us off in no uncertain terms
from the very start of his essay Our America: “The conceited villager
believes the entire world to be his village (
) unaware of those giants with
seven-league boots who can crush him underfoot, or of the strife in the
heavens between comets that go through the air asleep, gulping down worlds”.

And since many quote Martí to mention Spencer and the “new slavery”, I won’t
do it myself
 for now! –like Hugo Chávez liked to say– because first we
would have to reread Martí’s letter to Fermín Valdés Domínguez , his tribute
to Karl Marx or his Chicago chronicles, among many other writings where he
lashes out against the socialist ideas of that time
 but committing himself
to them, and saying that elucidating those ideas would be OUR job!

I’m a Trotskyist (although there’s a lot of confusion about the term these
days). I’ve read about and felt something of bureaucracy’s power. I believe
in Leon Trotsky, even if many who call themselves communist never mention
him. That’s why I’m convinced it’s scientifically IMPOSSIBLE to have
socialism in just one country, a thesis coined by you know who. 

Two men brought me around to that impossibility: first Che Guevara and then
Leon Trotsky. The former gave his life for that truth, aware –as he wrote to
Fidel– that the time had come “to say good-bye to you, the comrades, your
people, who are already mine”, and that he would best defend the Cuban
Revolution by leaving, since “other nations of the world call for my modest
efforts”. Eventually, the latter also sacrificed his life for the same

So I want to be sure of what I WON’T change, in addition to my children and
my dog. What won’t I change about Cuba? A lot of things:

I won’t change the fact that no Cuban child goes barefoot. 

Alfonso Sastre said once that Haydée Santamaría, bombarded with questions
regarding the lack of shoes in Cuban shops (much before the dual currency),
retorted with her usual natural manner: “There are no shoes in our shops
because our children are wearing them”. Every deficiency notwithstanding,
that’s what I pray to God (if he exists) never to change. 

I won’t change that my child can go to school without my having to pay for
his notebooks. 

I won’t change the fact that, insufficient though the amount may be, all
Cubans get rice and a little sugar every month, and some chicken now and

I won’t change the milk our children get, whether or not they like it, until
they’re seven, at a time when half of the world is starving to death.

I won’t change this remarkable access to culture and the wonderful
realization that day by day people learn more about anything
 Only in Cuba
can a black girl become a ballerina and do the most refined steps in her
ballet shoes to be Odette in Swan Lake or the Sleeping Beauty, or play
Schubert’s music. Only in Cuba can a child from the countryside, a forgotten
region in the past, go to international competitions in physics or
pathematics to represent our country.

I won’t change one of our Olympic medals in the name of any gracious

I won’t change our international commitments as if it were the most natural
thing in the world.

I won’t change, then, the soul of this people, one of whose serious
aspirations is to reach 120 years of life
 almost more than the Earth has
left to live as a result of capitalism’s heartlessness.

Many things, if not most, are going badly. But I invite you to cling to what
we want to keep unchanged and look neither ahead nor backwards nor sideways.

Much like in a hurricane emergency, we leave what we don’t need and hold
fast to what we really want. So we put our arms around the ballet shoes for
black dancers, the books flooding the country these days, the old lady who
knows where to have her blood pressure measured
 and the fact that all of
the above is a right, not written on the codes but carved on our souls. 

The rest we can change
 what’s more, only in a project like this can things
be changed. I care less for hotels, cell phones and traveling.

I don’t want to change the possibility our system gives us to change.

When I came back from East Germany I was terrified, because they told me
that what they were doing there was to be Cuba’s future. I cheered up,
though, as Gorbachev & Co. had plans that lifted my spirits. “Ah, that’s
good,” I said to myself, “winds of change at last so we can be socialist
again!”. Disappointment came faster than Cinderella’s coach right before it
turned into a pumpkin again at twelve midnight. 

They took things in the opposite direction there.

Two years before, thanks to my father, I had been able to read Leon Trotsky,
who lit up my life to the max. Realization was hot on wonderment’s heels: I
took a dislike to that society, and kept wondering why this “renovated USSR
in the process of change” was not rescuing Leon Trotsky
 he even gave a
revolutionary explanation of what was going on!

They would NOT rescue Trotsky, the worst ally of those longing for

And now in Cuba I wonder: why don’t the daring articles about the need for
change quote Che Guevara? And I mean Che the thinker, the Minister of
Industries, the quintessential internationalist who was quite adamant about
making the smallest concession to capitalism and its jagged knives, the
critic of the New Economic Policy. That one! Not the statue in Rosario or
the monument in Santa Clara. 

Like Trotsky, Che gave plenty of clues (the best ones) about what’s
happening to us. Yet, sometimes I’m afraid those feature writers who speak
about Cuba will also find it inconvenient to quote Che Guevara’s economic
thoughts, never mind that he’s held to be Cuba’s most creative economist
least according to our economists. 

Why don’t we discuss the speech Fidel gave in 1987 where he called us one
way or another –the best way, I think– to change things? And he only quoted
Che Guevara. He did the same on November [17] 2005, but that’s a speech I
believe many people use in a different way. 

So, it seems the signs of proposed changes arriving in my computer are not
precisely my changes.

If you want to improve the Cuban Revolution without counting on Che
count me out. And I’m starting to doubt their change will work for the
benefit of socialism, as they’re shouting from the rooftops.

I already went through that when "real socialism" collapsed. They vindicated
the czars, democracy, the hideous three-colored banner, little mother
 To cap it all off, Yeltsin, who wanted to change socialism’s botched
performance, was buried in the Orthodox Church amid frankincense and
liturgical lilts.

We don’t have real socialism in Cuba, but a Socialist Revolution triggered
by Martí, picked up by Julio Antonio Mella and continued by Antonio
Guiteras, Fidel and Che, to mention just a few names, because no matter how
glorious the actors may be, they’re only the tip of the iceberg, kept afloat
by the working class.

And we should ALL talk, and much more, in order to change, to paraphrase
that beautiful and healthy conspirator who now writes about “everything that
must be changed”. Before we do that, however, we must know what must NOT be

The Battle of Ideas was a change in our approach to the power structure. Our
thousands of social workers, refurbished schools, energy revolution, medical
brigades, and so on
 they all bear witness to the change in our bureaucratic
structures, which somehow restrained the speed of our hypothetical car.

We’ll talk about what can and must be changed in due course
 but we have to
make sure we don’t get the change going in the wrong direction because the
car might overturn
 as it happened in Eastern Europe in the worst possible

So just in case the proposed changes go the other way
 may the Sierra
Maestra Mountains stay where they are and our militia uniforms on our backs!

Revolution or Death!

(And you know that if it’s not a Socialist one it will be nothing but a
vulgar caricature)

More information about the Marxism mailing list