Sunday, May 8, 2011

Translation: Alfredo Guevara with students 2

I don't know about you, but I find Guevara's comments to be quite moving. He speaks to the irreverent, rebellious spirit of the Cuban Revolution, a spirit that pulses through Fidel's wake-up call delivered at the same university on November 17, 2005 and through Raul's speeches to the Sixth Party Congress. That sense of tempered outrage that burns white-hot in the soul of every true revolutionary. It's a truism that yesterday's revolutionaries are today's conservatives, yet among Fidel's generation there are some who have been able to preserve their youthful spirit into ripe old age. It would seem, then, that the elixir of youth is none other than dedication to the struggle.  

Alfredo Guevara: dialogue with Cuban journalism students (Part 2) 

Havana University School of Journalism, May 5, 2010

Translation: Marce Cameron

Questions from the students (abridged)

Daylé, 5th Year Social Communication: How do you view the recent substitutions [of high government officials], are we talking about a militarisation of the government?

Alfredo Guevara: I don't know if I'm naive, perhaps I am, but I don't believe so at this point. I still believe that our armed forces is the armed people. I don't see any difference between a citizen of the armed forces and a citizen that walks by on 23rd Avenue on their way to work at the Cuban Film Institute (ICAIC). There was a time when I was the president of ICAIC and I walked around in a uniform carrying a weapon. 

There has been a lot of disorder in the state. The state has for many years been a refuge for all those ... I don't want to be too harsh, I'm going to say it but note that I say it with love ... the state has been a refuge for all those loafers and all those people who aren't good for much. Let's forget about the bureaucrats, which are a plague. But has this happened in the armed forces? No, as it turns out.

There came a time when the so-called socialist camp collapsed, which was a boulder in the path of imperialism, especially the Soviet Union, which was originally a hollow and rotten cheese, it wasn't socialism. What did the armed forces have to do? They had to develop the armaments industry, had to grow their own food and therefore develop farms, etc. It was like a pilot programme for what this country would have to do in the Special Period.

Raul has respected what he had to, but he has been verifying things ... what Raul can do after decades leading the army and resolving these problems we've been talking about and which are going to be his incubator of new leadership. There are two incubators in the country: the armed forces and youth such as yourselves in other sectors. But we're not going to resolve the economic problems with journalists, it would be foolish to think so, with all due respect to you. 

This is my response to your question: it doesn't worry me. I think we have to choose another path, but it will take some time as a state and a revolutionary vanguard, which is what we continue be. This path draws on whatever can be contributed by think tanks, that is, groups for reflection and analysis, coming up with plans to harness the talent we've created and which we have around here, sometimes serving in cafeterias.

Lidia, 2nd Year Journalism: (1.) "Within the Revolution everything, against the Revolution nothing", how does this maxim affect the creative, ideological and intellectual development of revolutionary artists? (2.) What opportunities and options are there in Cuba for those who are not revolutionaries?

Alfredo Guevara: I'm going to begin with the second question. To be able to assess their difficulties we'd first of all have to ask these people. I have the conviction that those who are not revolutionaries, above all those who are no longer revolutionaries are so numerous now that we don't realise who they are. This is unfortunate, a reality, and if I were a journalist and they gave me the chance to publish it as a headline in Granma I wouldn't do it. As the revolutionary militant that I am, I'd struggle to change this situation we have, of masochism, especially among ourselves, of emptiness and banality. I said in the Higher Institute of Art, and it seemed to bother some people, that if I were a young person — I am, but if I were truly young and didn't need a walking stick — on Fridays and Saturdays I'd go down to Calle G to hang out with the youths who are there. 

Let's suppose that I were what people seem to think I am, a youth leader, because I've always been a revolutionary militant. I'd be there with the youths, struggling to help them understand things. Not as a preacher nor as a Jehovah's Witness, but struggling, struggling. I believe the only thing that's inadmissible is navel-gazing on the part of the political organisations. I don't how it is in your organisation, the Union of Young Communists (UJC), I'm not going to judge it. But I know how things are in my [Cuban Communist] Party cell. We meet to look at each other's faces and tell ourselves I don't know what, and to vote against this and for that, and afterwards we leave for home thinking we've solved everything, but this is false.

The revolutionaries are either the vanguard or they want to be or they're nothing, they're not revolutionaries. And what is the task of the vanguard? To win people over. The vanguard is the strategic nucleus. It's like the Crusades which set forth to convert, to convince and to win people over to the ideas of the congregation. I think this is also the role of the Party. The Party is a church, that is, a congregation of minds that renounces a part of its freedom in order to achieve more freedom and to dedicate itself to a task. This is what the UJC and the Party must do, they must explain even that which has no explanation, seek explanations and if they cannot be found, admit: "I have no explanation for this". There's no other way to lead a country and to accelerate the development process to the point where we achieve wellbeing for all. To defend the defensible, acknowledge the indefensible and thus earn love and respect.

The right to be a non-revolutionary should be upheld. What cannot be accepted is the counterrevolution, because to accept the active counterrevolution is to commit suicide. And the Revolution is a vanguard seeks to develop a project.

Jesús Arencibia, Journalism graduate and faculty professor: In many intellectual spaces, such as the Congress of the Cuban Union of Writers and Artists (UNEAC), the press and the education system have been criticised, but sometimes I feel that the factors that regulate the press and education are not criticised. What is your opinion of these regulatory factors?        

Alfredo Guevara: I'll begin by telling you that I believe in intellectual work, in rigorous intellectual preparation and I don't believe in a monolithic intellectuality, at least I'm not part of any such monolith. I think there are revolutionary intellectuals, militants, combatants; that there are some very respectable non-revolutionaries, with every right to not be revolutionary, and I also think there are pre-post-Castro intellectuals that are preparing, subtly, perhaps almost unconsciously, for what will come after. They have the right to think this or that about what will happen, but I think the experience of recent years suggests that change is going to be slower than I had hoped.                       

It gives me great confidence to see a Juventud Rebelde that is ten times better. Never again will I recommend prudence to anyone, I urge you to fight. To you express yourselves, to struggle, to take risks. Because this time the risks will be of a different kind and will be a revolutionary contribution within the Revolution.

Ivet González, Journalism graduate and faculty professor: 1. Is there a generational conflict in Cuba? 2. If so, is this having a negative impact on this evolution with a socialist vocation?   

Alfredo Guevara: Yes, the youth have a terrible conflict, as do youth such as me. It's the conflict between immobility, routine, anxiety and the time that passes. I don't think it's a generational conflict, it's an ageless conflict. We are a part of Western civilisation, and time has become a problem, because Christianity began to divide history into little bits. The Marxists studied the Asiatic mode of production, but we must also study the Asiatic way of life. I, for example, have had the temptation, though I haven't done so, to write to [Cuban Foreign Minister] Bruno Rodriguez with the recommendation that before they study Marx in the Higher Institute of International Relations, they should study Confucius.

Because to the Chinese way of thinking I am not just a person, I am my grandfather, my father, me, my son, my nephew ... their sense of time is not the same as ours. They can even sacrifice generations so that China becomes China. But would we be capable of this? This is where the problem lies, how to apply the Chinese solution, which works. I think there must be a happy medium and that this is what we're putting into practice, but without sacrificing generations. We've already sacrificed ourselves enough, I'm not talking about people of my age but all those who come after us, I'm talking about you.               
Jaime, 2nd Year Journalism: 1. What do you suggest we do to face up to these fights which are brewing? 2. Does Cuban society listen to the youth?

Alfredo Guevara: My professors taught me a lot, but the most important thing they taught me was to study, because study is part of the struggle. Because the struggle is internal as well, and one must permanently enrich oneself on the inside. I'll be cultivating myself until the last day and this is what allows me to be with you.    

I believe we don't listen to you as much as we should and that we have to learn to do this, my generation and the next one, I don't speak in the name of anyone or about anything in particular. I believe that the older generations must learn to communicate with you, learn from you, discover new languages, new ways of speaking. There's no way to communicate with communists-Stalinists. We have to learn to have a dialogue with the youth. I come to this meeting to learn, to know what your concerns are, to gather them for my soul.    

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