Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Translation: Alfredo Guevara & students 3

Debate Forum dialogue with Alfredo Guevara in the Faculty of Chemistry, Havana University

Part 3 (Part 2 is here

Cubadebate website, June 22, 2011

Translation: Marce Cameron

Alfredo Guevara: Look, I’m someone who’s said more than once that I’ll never advise you to keep quiet, but OK, I get very comfortable speaking my mind because I’ve spent my life confronting everything human and divine, I’ve never shut up, but I’m in a privileged position because from the first day of the struggle I’ve never weakened so it’s very hard to beat me down. I’ll also say with complete frankness that I believe Fidel took it upon himself to look after me, because I’ve had to cope with the ideological directives of the Party and only once, during the Congress discussions, did I really challenge the party line, because I’ve always been very disciplined. I’ve been disciplined as I’ve had to be, internally. Only now that time has passed have I published, in my books, the political ideas that I’ve had and that I defend, and don’t imagine that I haven’t had to cop it, I’ve been hit, but not a knock-out. So I’ll say to you what I want to say: you have to stand up for what you believe in.

Now, if you’re a student and you’re thinking of becoming an intellectual, if you’re thinking about criticism and commitment, you have to play with intelligence rather than clumsiness. You don’t have to play to be defeated. This is like chess, you have to know when and how to play the move.

You began by recalling my inaugural lecture in the forum on Sartre in the Great Hall [of Havana University], I don’t know how many years ago. But do you know what? There’s someone who interests me even more, [Italian Marxist Antonio] Gramsci, study Gramsci and study him in depth, and you’ll find – remember, too, that many of his reflections were written from prison – you’ll come across his writings on the organic intellectual. One has to be so immersed, so intricately involved in society in the course of history, in the political struggle of the day, so as to wage the battle for the right to criticism – which is a right – criticism that improves things. If your criticism – and this applies to everyone – if your criticism comes from the heart of society in order to improve it, then I don’t think anyone will be able to beat you down, it will be harder for them each time.

When I talk about the progressive disappearance it’s not going to happen overnight, but the more we struggle the quicker the bureaucratic state apparatus will disappear. The state is all-pervasive, especially the bureaucratic state apparatus, and the time for dismantling it is approaching. Now, I’m going to tell you something someone may not like one bit: the bureaucratic Party apparatus must also disappear. I’m not going to talk about the Party because it’s better to wait for the Congress and the Conference, etc, events which will take place in the coming months. It must be completely de-bureaucratised.

But I’m going to relate an experience I had with the Union of Young Communists [UJC]. I’m not going to name names, but how is it possible that every time I phone certain cadres they’re always in a meeting? A meeting at eight o’clock in the morning, one at ten, another at five and I don’t know how many, it’s like this all day. So when do they get time to think, at what time do they study, when do they have contact with the other youth? It’s impossible. But it’s like this in every apparatus, it’s not as if we have to wage a struggle against meetings, it’s that we must wage a struggle for interaction with real life. I know of a respectable person, a top leader of the UJC at Villa Marista. If I go to Villa Marista I’m not going to give the name of this person, but a leader of the UJC didn’t know about the things that were happening in the street among the youth, he found out in a meeting. Look, what’s going on here? I think the first thing we need to ask ourselves is what is the UJC, what is the Party, what should the social organisations be, including the leadership of the Confederation of Trade Unions? This is the vanguard, and those who are part of it must be the best.

: Good afternoon, my name is Omar Gonzalez, I study French at the Faculty of Foreign Languages. Just now, when you were talking about ethics and morality, you said that you thought that today in Cuba there are, finally, citizens, people with the consciousness to make People’s Power the power of the people. I found it surprising that you said this, because my own experience in the society in which I live is that there are many economic problems. There are many political problems, there are the country’s enemies, all these things, but there’s a big internal problem which is precisely the consciousness of the people. I see that the people have grown up in an education system that almost promotes deceit, that when these people graduate and begin to work they steal from their workplace. The majority do it, unfortunately, for personal economic reasons and because of the education they’ve had. I see a lot of hypocrisy in the wider society and a lot of apathy, of which you also spoke. So I’m shocked to hear you say that finally we have citizens. Can you really tell me that you believe this?

Alfredo Guevara: No, I agree with you. I think we’ve been creating conditions that help, but only as a potentiality that could allow the unchaining of citizenship. For this to happen we must resolve a whole host of problems that we’re proposing solutions for, the project led by Raul [Castro] must really succeed. Nobody can raise their hand and declare themselves free of sins, that they haven’t participated in some kind of illegal activity. To steal is something else, outright theft is different, isn’t it? But since everything’s illegal, how can anyone survive? We can call it this or that, but let me say this: I’ve been able to avoid certain things, today, not always, but when I was younger, now I’m old, but when I was ten years younger, my grandchildren’s school was just around the corner from my house. You’re still a long way off this, but grandparents are always fussier than parents, so when the grandkids went off to school, which was just around the corner, I got up at 7am and waited in the doorway until they went into the school.

Well then, at 7am men and women began to come past my door with big bags selling frozen chicken wrapped in cling wrap, just like the stuff they sell in the convertible peso stores, and boxes of strawberries that I hadn’t seen for donkey’s years, in other words the most unusual things, all kinds of products. Well, I didn’t need to buy these things at the time, but there were moments in which one’s hand is forced, because if you have two grandchildren ... the chicken I didn’t have to buy, but a box of strawberries, it was extraordinary to see a box of strawberries. OK, who has clean hands in this, who didn’t take advantage of the black market, who didn’t participate in it? This is impossible, because if we’re talking about a good salary lasting less than a week, the first thing we have to do is recognise reality.

[Translation to be continued]

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