Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Translation: Max Lesnik dialogue with Cuban youth

Max Lesnik was born in Cuba in 1930 and participated in the overthrow of the Batista dictatorship, serving as a head of clandestine operations in Havana. In 1961, disenchanted with Cuba's growing ties with the Soviet Union, he left Cuba for Miami in a small boat with other former guerrillas. Yet rather than join the Miami-based counterrevolution, Lesnik established an independent magazine that published the views of the Revolution's supporters as well as those of its critics, and has been director of the progressive Radio Miami for the past three decades. He has repeatedly called for an end to the US economic blockade of the island and opposes terrorists acts against Cuba.

In 2007, Cuba's state council awarded Lesnik with the Felix Elmuza journalism award on the recommendation of the Cuban Journalists Union. At the award ceremony Cuban National Assembly president Ricardo Alarcon said: "Max’s life has been not only one of dignity against money, as Eduardo Chibas always proclaimed, but also that of dignity in the face of terror, lies and C-4 explosives on the streets of Miami". 


This year Lesnik held a dialogue with pro-Revolution Cuban youth from the website La Joven Cuba (The Cuban Youth) run by students from the University of Matanzas in central Cuba. Below is a slightly abridged version of the first part of the transcript. 
 
Max Lesnik: dialogue with Cuban youth 

La Joven Cuba (The Cuban Youth) website, May 11, 2011

Translation: Marce Cameron 

Some months ago the members of La Joven Cuba took advantage of the opportunity to talk with Max Lesnik, a Cuban journalist based in the US. During the meeting our guest kindly responded to our questions. This is not an attempt at an interview, it's just a transcript of a meeting between Cubans of different generations.

Joven Cuba: You suffered the intolerance of the political right in Miami when you founded the magazine Replica in the 1970s. Some say that this is all in the past and that these times are different, citing as examples Radio Miami and the program of Edmundo Garcia and Francisco Aruca La tarde se mueve. Do you think that times have changed now and that there can be such a thing as free journalism regarding Cuba in Miami?

Max: All times are different and it depends on the circumstances. Replica came to the fore as a magazine in the style of [the Cuban current affairs magazine] Bohemia as it was in the early days of the struggle against the corrupt Authentic Party and Batista governments. It was a magazine that offered all sectors of the Cuban population of Miami such things as entertainment, crosswords, astrology and all those things that you have in a general magazine, and in terms of politics we gave space to all the sectors, right, left, centre. There was nothing stopping people saying what they thought.

But it wasn't enough for the right that we gave them a space in which to express their opinions. The right wanted the magazine to reflect their own views, and as the magazine was prepared to give space to those who didn't think like us but was not prepared to renounce the independence that we had established as a goal and an objective, the right began its harassment, bombs, assassination attempts, all this, to be clear, with the protection of the US authorities at the level of the Miami police force, at the level of the county police and the federal apparatus. They looked the other way and allowed them to place 11 bombs in the offices of Replica, and by intimidating the advertisers and the distribution points (there were more than 800 shops that sold the magazine), through terrorism they managed to strangle the magazine.

Well now, the question is, has this changed?

The thinking of that extreme right hasn't changed, it hasn't changed. What's happening is that right now and for some years they haven't had the support for these terrorist activities, neither from the police nor the FBI, quite simply terrorism became a bad word because of the US campaign [i.e. the "war on terror"] internationally, so bombs in Miami cannot go off with impunity. Why? Because this is a contradiction, you can't combat supposed terrorists in the US itself while at the same time protecting active terrorists. Nevertheless the non-active terrorists Orlando Bosch and Posada Carriles enjoy full freedom and are the heroes of the right, tolerated by this US government, the previous one and the next one because they are its terrorists.

Now, to start bombing things again now is another question. If they wanted to kill Max Lesnik, in those days they tried to do it, today they don't because they can't, in other words: the circumstances with regard to the mentality of the extreme right are the same, they can't do it because they don't have allies to do it, also because of the incursions [into Cuba] to carry out terrorist activities, which they did with the awareness and support of the US authorities. They cannot do this today, that is to say the terrorists cannot come [to Cuba] now, what remains is the possibility of Posada Carriles doing it from Central America. 

To summarise, the mentality of the extreme right hasn't changed, [but] they cannot carry out terrorist acts because their great ally and protector is the US government and they don't allow it.

JC: In an interview with [Havana-based Cuban journalist] Luis Baez you said: "The socialist revolution that I wanted wasn't that of a single party but pluralist, not so radical. But looking back, I'd say now in retrospect that that revolution to which I aspired, were I leading it, the US would have defeated it." Would you say then that the Cuban Revolution wouldn't have survived if it hadn't opted for the single party? Don't you think that the process of consultations with the population that Raul [Castro] has initiated can be considered pluralism, about the economic model to be implemented, and that this has been the historic practice of the Revolution?

Max: I've answered the first question. In circumstances of harassment by the US, the most powerful nation in the world, and I didn't see it like this but Fidel did, the single party, which is nothing more than taking the model of Jose Marti and the Cuban Revolutionary Party that was the sole party, in which there were all the currents from Don Tomas Estrada Palma, the president [from 1902] who was a puppet of the Americans through to Balino who was a Marxist. It was a party of national unity, this was the task, to liberate Cuba from the Spanish colony without falling [into disunity], as Marti wrote to Mercado in his letter: "It has had to be kept quiet, because there are things that in order to achieve them one has to keep them hidden, to proclaim them would be to cause difficulties that are too considerable."

When I say that at that time I didn't support the single party, the party existed, it was open to all [revolutionary] sectors, this is true.

There was that prejudice that held us back in the democratic era, and we didn't see real danger in the intentions of the US which were to prevent the revolution consolidating. This is what I told Luis Baez. Why would the US have defeated me and not Fidel?

Because Fidel had the vision to realise that no cracks can be left for the enemy, the US, which was the true enemy, not the Cuban puppets, to organise counterrevolutionary groups as they began to do, which endangered the revolution. The single party of Marti and that of the 1960s, which is when [the counterrevolutionary subversion] began, was an indispensable necessity, and if I had been the leader of the process and not Fidel, guided by this democratic instinct I would have given an opportunity to the enemy, which wasn't national [but foreign-inspired] despite how I viewed it with this [abstract democratic] mentality.

When the revolution established itself the enemy wasn't the Liberal party, nor the Authentic party, it was and is the US will all its power and force, concentrated on bringing down the revolution. At the time I was wrong, and I'm not going to pretend otherwise, they would have overthrown me like they overthrew [Salvador] Allende [in Chile], they killed him, because Allende also believed that it was possible to coexist with the traditional parties in his country and this was his ruin.

I say honestly, consider me to be a Cuban representative of Allende's thinking that didn't want to crush his enemies, Fidel just understood the game and he crushed them. Fidel won.

JC: Why do you think that despite the millions of dollars coming from the US, they haven't been able to achieve the creation of an effective and credible opposition inside Cuba?

Max: The are two explanations. 

First, because the revolution permeated very deeply and despite the fact that there are many discontented Cubans, to go from this to the counterrevolution because you have to queue for bread, because the butter doesn't arrive, means to no longer believe in the principles they taught you that the revolution is that, the essence of [Jose] Marti in our own times. This is one of the reasons, the solidity of the revolution and its depth. 

Second, the Amercians are used to paying for their armies, don't forget that [George] Washington's army received its salaries every month and when they lacked funds, here in Havana, the rich senoras made a collection and paid Washington's army, that is to say the American patriots, and it pains me to call them that because their mentality was that if I'm a soldier then to liberate my country I need a salary. This is not the Cuban tradition, Cespedes didn't pay his soldiers, nor did Maximo Gomez or Maceo pay theirs, nor did those that struggled against [the] Machado [dictatorship in the 1930s] received money to carry out the revolution against him, nor did the supporters of Guiteras receive money from Cuban Youth for the struggle, nor did any of the groups involved in the revolution against Batista, the July 26 Movement or this or that party, receive a single centavo. 

What happened with the counterrevolution is that from 1959, when the Americans organised the first groups, they paid them via the CIA, this continued, the dissidents continue to receive money from the CIA. [...]

In other words, the dissidents are mercenaries and not everyone is willing to stop being a critic of aspects of the revolution to become a counterrevolutionary, which involves payment of money. The answer to your question is Cuban patriotism and the stupidity of the US policy based on the principle that if you pay someone they carry out your orders. They don't want an indigenous, independent opposition, critical of the [Cuban] government for logical reasons that have to do with differences in thinking. They want paid lackeys so that they obey, so a real dissidence is impossible, to cross the line from a critical position to the dissidence implies a betrayal of principles.

JC: In your opinion, what are the principle challenges facing Cuban youth?

Max: The challenge is very great because it involves inheriting not only the principles but the conduct and the spirit of sacrifice of the Centenary Generation [i.e. Fidel's generation of Cuban revolutionaries] to which I am honoured to belong. I think there are people that possess these qualities, and there are also opportunists. The difference between my generation [of Cuban youth] and that of the present is that the stature of the leaders of the revolution has been so very great that sometimes it's hard to find this in the new generation, don't forget that we still hold to the principle that those who lead us are our guide. That, I repeat, is a great challenge, the vocation of sacrifice. Above all the willingness to give an opinion on the basis that if an opinion is honest it must be respected. I believe that your generation, that to a certain degree has the prejudice that speaking aloud may play into the hands of the enemy, silences criticisms that should be expressed, and I'm sure that in the high leadership of the country they aren't going to feel offended because they have sufficient intelligence to realise when a position that may not be the official line is put forward with the aim of improving the revolution.

The great challenge is taking the decision to go forward under your own steam, without being afraid of what people may say.

[Translation to be continued]

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