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What’s happening in Cuba? [Part 2]

Interview with comrade Gustavo Rodriguez (Second part of three parts). Read part 1 here.

Originally published by Anarquia Info. Translated by Dark Nights.

Anarquia Info (AI): Do you think a U.S. military intervention instigated by the annexationist yearnings of the Cuban exile is possible?

To speak in the singular of “Cuban exile” is to refuse to see the whole picture. We must refer to “the exiles” and, not only for chronological but even “ideological” reasons. One should mention, for example, a first exile, which originated in December 1958 and the first half of 1959, with the flight of high-ranking army and police officers of the Batista dictatorship (most of whom -including Batista- did not obtain visas to enter the U.S.). Another one immediately after, between December 1959 and January 1961, where the aristocracy and the upper classes of the society (sectors that, curiously, had financed the struggle of the Catholic nationalists to overthrow “the black man” who governed the Island in an apocryphal way 1 ). A third wave would follow, which originated between 1962 and 1965, with the departure of the middle class. During those years, Cuban anarchists and anarcho-syndicalists also went into exile; some of them after having served “political imprisonment”. The story would be similar for a large group of rebels who had fought against Batista -including Castro’s former comrades of the 26th of July Movement- who opposed the Stalinist turn of “their” Revolution. From 1966 to 1979, the first leftist dissidents fled in dribs and drabs. 1980 would be a turning point for Cuban migration with the mass departure of the “scum” (an epithet used to designate thousands of artists and intellectuals, considered until then “sons and daughters of the Revolution”). In 1994, a new chapter was opened with the flight of thousands of ” rafters” who risked their lives in order to escape from the “socialist paradise”. These last two migrations stand out for the high incidence of Afro-Cubans from the poorest strata. And, of course, with the different waves of exiles, there is also evidence of diverse political-ideological positions, from the conservative right to the ultra-left (including libertarian socialists, Trotskyists, Maoists, Stalinists, Luxemburgists and “pure” Marxists), without forgetting the more hackneyed expressions of that same National Socialism which, from the extremes of the pendulum, aspire to a Castroism without Castro. A reliable example of that political-ideological diversity was the customary edition of the anarchist magazines Guángara Libertaria and A Mayor, in the heart of Miami.

Once these nuances have been highlighted, it only remains for me to underline that the only thing that gives a certain “unity” to the different exiles is the unison rejection of the dictatorship. This common denominator, in fact, has never exceeded the limits of a local industry (very lucrative) that is far from being a binding force capable of capitalizing some political leadership and, much less, consolidating a uniform and monolithic ideological vision (Fortunately!). And this is where the theoretical-practical heterogeneity comes in, which influences behaviors as disparate as the choice of the method of struggle or the geographical site we choose as residence. Of course, in this extensive political-ideological plot, there is also the annexationist position. However, it is necessary to point out that this political figure had a certain prominence in the 19th century and, at present, it is reduced to an entelechy fabricated by the dictatorship. “Annexationism” is significantly small and caricatured. It is so buffoonish that it leaves no doubt that those who express it -on this side of the Florida Straits- are probably on the payroll of the Cuban State.

As for a “possible U.S. military intervention”; we must also insist on who is promoting this grammar. We cannot forget that this discourse has always been inscribed in the grandiloquence of the dictatorship and, logically, it continues to be part of the rhetoric of that gloomy puppet that has been ordered to pass itself off as president. It is the old movie of the marines disembarking on the island -so often used and reiterated since the early days of Castroism- which established, with the cry of “Fatherland or Death”, the macabre patriotism that has characterized the regime. However, it is no less true that there are sectors, inside and outside the Cuban archipelago, that welcome the “hope” of interventionism. From this shore, the narrative of the military invasion is restricted to the domestic electoral circus that, every four years, exploits those “hopes” of liberation of all those who yearn to be reunited with their families and return to their “homeland”, ensuring the vote of the sequestered. The Cuban-American politicians of the Republican Party have known how to benefit from the ingenuity of the Cheos and the Cachitas in these latitudes; the detail is that Marco Rubio does not pretend to be president of Cuba but of the U.S. On the other side, the people admit that the mere idea of a military intervention causes them terror. Many fear that an action of this magnitude would unleash an unstoppable spiral of violence (with lynchings, assaults, robberies and revenge) which could target the first circle of relatives, friends and lackeys of the royal family; the privileged sectors (generals, colonels, managers, businessmen and high-level professionals); and a considerable percentage of mid-level army commanders, police, State Security agents and snitches, who make up the intricate repressive machinery of the regime. Those who do harbor “hopes” in the US intervention are the excluded sectors -the poorest of the poor-, that mostly Afro-Cuban population which, as the racist joke goes, “have no FA (Family Abroad)” and every night they pray to their Orishas that the traditional nine o’clock cannon shot be replaced by the first Yankee missile to put an end to their agony. But in the face of the impotence and dismay of the excluded, the double standards of the left wing of Capital arises once again, pointing them out as “lumpenproletariat” and accusing them of being “fifth columnists” at the service of the Empire.

I am categorically opposed to any military intervention. Not because I assume myself to be a pacifist – a conduct complicit in domination which I reject in all its manifestations – but because I am an anarchist, consequently anti-war. However, this has not always been the position of all anarchists. Without much effort, we can list an infinite number of interventionist demands throughout our history. Suffice it to recall the position of Kropotkin and the other signers of the Manifesto of the Sixteen, in favor of Allied military intervention in World War I. This was the action that motivated Lenin to call on the Allies to intervene in the First World War; This action motivated Lenin to accuse him of being a “petty bourgeois” and “jingoist”, but did not prevent the Bolshevik hierarch, years later, not only from taking advantage of the context of the imperialist war but also from asking Kaiser Wilhelm II for support to reach Petrograd and overthrow the Czar, which earned him multiple accusations of “treason” from different revolutionary fronts. Of course, history repeated itself during World War II, with the anarchist (and communist) partisans who fought against fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, in the service of the Allies. Even recently, under the maxim of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”, we experienced the tactical alliance of the Maoist guerrillas of Kurdistan with the American invaders, in order to overthrow their archenemy Saddam Hussein during the so-called Gulf War, and even allowed themselves to be armed by the “Yankees” to continue fighting the dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad and the Islamic State. In fact, there are many anarcho-communists who support this struggle (some have given their lives for that cause) and, to this day, I have not read any mea culpa about it. Much less have I read in our tendencies, statements against the Kurdish independence fighters, accusing them of being “fifth columnists”, “petty bourgeois”, “jingoists” and “traitors” in the service of the Empire.

AI: Do you think these revolts will bring about the fall of the regime?

No doubt they provoked an earthquake that shook the foundations of the dictatorship, but from there to bringing down the repressive edifice and the system of privileges imposed by the oligarchy, there is a long way to go. And the majority of ordinary Cubans know this, which explains why they did not come out en masse to protest without this necessarily implying their adherence to the regime. The rebellion of misery, in any corner of the planet, ends as soon as the crumbs arrive. That is why in Cuba, “emergency measures” have already been put into practice to appease the miserable. Three days after the riots, “exceptionally and temporarily, the importation of food, toiletries and medicines was authorized without limit of import value and free of customs duties”. In popular neighborhoods bordering on extreme poverty, they have begun to distribute cans of Russian meat, as well as rice, beans, sugar, pasta soups and edible oil, coming from Mexico, Nicaragua and Venezuela, as donations which the pro-government press qualifies as “solidarity gifts” from the government. They have also authorized (exceptionally and only until December 31) that almost half a million internal migrants who live outside their native provinces and who, according to the laws and regulations for the control of social mobility, are considered “undocumented “2 , may buy the shitty subsidized food offered by the ration book. They also announced the commercialization of solar cells and photovoltaic systems (until now prohibited) in retail stores selling in dollars and the reduction in the rates of cellular telephone and Internet services3 ; likewise, they notified the elimination of the miserable prices that the state monopoly (Acopio) had imposed on the peasant producers for the purchase of agricultural products. All these measures are evidence of that “internal blockade” -which I mentioned before- which enriches the oligarchy and suffocates the people on their feet, and which is completely alien to the everlasting “Yankee blockade”.

Of course, the dictatorship is aware that these “band-aids” are temporary and that is why, in one hand it has a carrot and in the other a big stick. Beyond the shortages, the voices that prevailed during the revolts were clamoring for “freedom” and the end of the dictatorship, and such unrest cannot be quietened with crumbs. This rebellious youth, who have shed their fear, intuitively perceives that insurrection is the way forward. It is no coincidence that last year (2020), in the middle of the pandemic, the dictatorship bought from the Spanish State more than 1 million Euros in military equipment (revolvers, automatic pistols and anti-riot equipment)4 and imported from China close to 3 million dollars in surveillance equipment (those drones with facial recognition cameras that two weeks after the riots continue to identify demonstrators) and anti-riot devices (the armored shields and Robocop suits, which surprised both demonstrators and those who support the system).

AI: What participation have anarchist groups had in these revolts?

To speak in the plural of “anarchist groups” in Cuba is a fallacy. Let us not forget that with the rise of Castroism they were suppressed. On the other hand, we can recognize, in the midst of the incipient countercultural movement that has been developing in the last two decades, an increasingly anti-authoritarian and markedly contestatory sphere, where the “libertarian” grammar has managed to become axiomatically entrenched. So in quotation marks. And it is not by chance that I use a term that I have always refused to use as a synonym for anarchism. In this context, we can find an infinity of very focused examples -particularly associated with different artistic expressions but also, sectors concretely involved in social issues (homophobia, lesbophobia, transphobia, gender discrimination, racism, environmental destruction, anti-statism, etc.) – that began to radiate in specific spaces at the end of the nineties, giving way to an embryonic “libertarianism”.

During this long process of “aging”, we will notice a manifest terror to the use of words; that is to say, to mention “anarchism”. So much so, that one of the main referents in the region, when it began to take shape (even within a certain academic dissidence with strong Trotskyist roots and a very light criticism of the dictatorship) used the word in a surprisingly ephemeral manner; immediately changing its original acronym from TAAL (Taller Anarquista Alfredo López) to TLAL (Taller Libertario Alfredo López). That is why, every time I have addressed the possibilities of revolt and the opportunity to extend the insurrection, I have always referred to the excluded youth who, without ever having read Bakunin, push subversive indiscipline and propagate illegalism, confronting every authority 24 hours a day.

And yes, we cannot speak of “anarchist groups” in the revolt but, of course, there was the presence of anarchist individualities -of those who assume themselves without any concealment- and confronted the repression with the same determination that they confront informers and police in the daily life of their neighborhoods. However, I consider that these protests, loaded with patriotic pacifism, are not the appropriate means of participation, although they can be the space to give life to anarchic action with that passion that characterizes us, as we do in Chile, the United States, Greece, Indonesia, Mexico, Russia or in any other corner where we have a presence. In that sense, there was a lack of gasoline. And yes, there is also a lack of vision to glimpse the insurrectional present that we are already experiencing.

AI: There is evidence of the intervention of anarchists in the armed struggle that in 1959 culminated in the so-called Cuban revolution. In spite of being a movement much more attached to anarcho-syndicalist practices, as the book Anarchism in Cuba shows us, its members assumed the insurrectional proposal as a method of struggle. With this background in mind, do you think there are generational links that contribute to the resurgence of the insurrectional practice from an anarchic perspective?

It is urgent that the anarchic germs that are beginning to incubate assume these insurrectional practices. Of course, taking care of the risks of repetition. That is to say, that they incorporate these practices but conscious of their historicity; coupling with the anarchist tension ascribed to contemporary insurrectional informalism, in tune with international impulses. Believe me, there is nothing to emulate from those attitudes. It would be appropriate to point out that such practices were not registered then as a “movementist” impulse but responded to individual positions that were not inscribed in the anarchic praxis either, affected by the populist tendencies and the nationalist airs that were rarifying the atmosphere. It is worth remembering that at that time, there was no “movement” as such -neither anarchist nor anarcho-syndicalist-, but rather an anti-authoritarian tension that was reduced in practice to a minority sector that, against all odds, was making its way in those difficult years, as was the case of the Libertarian Association of Cuba.

It should also be noted that the book by comrade Frank Fernandez (Anarchism in Cuba), is a tight summary of the long itinerary of insular anarchism. In its pages he concatenated -in search of a linear development- different moments of Cuban libertarian syndicalism. In such a way, he managed to link the different stages of that current, connecting its mutualist beginnings with the participation and/or influence in the so-called mass unions at the beginning and middle of the 20th century. At the time, comrade Fernandez’s systematizing effort fulfilled the objective of denouncing the atrocities of Castroism and recovering the silenced history of anarchism in exile, but it definitely does not cover the explicit actions of the different currents that simultaneously embodied the anarchist ideal to its ultimate consequences throughout our history. It is enough to mention the innumerable actions of “propaganda by the deed” -carried out in the period comprising the last decade of the 19th century and the first years of the 1930s- to obtain a fairly clear picture of the leading role played by the various affinity groups and anarchist individualities that stood out in that context, with strong internationalist links. If we delve into the anarchist actions of the time, we will find multiple dynamite attacks, constant reprisals against authorities (political-military and police) and representatives of the “bosses”; as well as punctual expropriations that nourished the anarchist publications of those years.

After the defeat of the Spanish Revolution, anarcho-syndicalism in Cuba suffered a disaster of apocalyptic proportions, as in the rest of the world. The rise of proto-fascist nationalism (with acceptance in broad sectors of the population) and the Bolshevik assault on the trade unions through their participation in the different spheres of government – within the framework of the so-called Popular Fronts promoted by the Comintern5 – were responsible for inexorably burying this current. Except for honorable and rare exceptions who held firm to their convictions and confronted Machadists and Fascists (first) and (later), Batista and Bolsheviks -which in those years were synonymous-; most of the “anarcho-syndicalist militants” ended their days swelling the ranks of the most pedestrian reformist syndicalism or; widening the gangsterism that characterized the years following the 1933 Fascist revolution.

As for the possible generational bridges between the current protagonists of the revolts and the struggle against the Batista dictatorship promoted by the Marti anarcho-populists of the self-styled “centenary generation”, I consider it necessary to insist once again that the anarchist remnants were practically eliminated since the first months of 1959 and their ideology methodically extirpated from the collective imaginary; therefore, it is impossible to dream of any generational continuity. After a prolonged eclipse, Anarchy has made itself manifest and today its subversive disposition is once again clearly appearing, beyond the sacred ideological bibles and the heavy scams.

AI: Recently, in a text we published on our website, you pointed out the distortions of the Libertarian Workshop Alfredo Lopez (TLAL), which condemned in a communiqué the provocations aimed at social explosion, openly opposing any attempt of generalized insurrection in Cuba. What has been the position of this group in the face of the outbreak of the revolts?

In spite of the lack of self-criticism and the fact that they have not retracted such foolishness, I must admit that in their most recent text they turned up the volume a notch. However, they continue to be trapped in an ambiguous language (to say the least) that constantly appeals to the exaltation of the promoted “conquests of the Revolution”, within the framework of the pestilent discourse of “yes, but…” so recurrent in the international left when it comes to dealing with the “Cuba case”. Of course, they may argue that they do it with subtle sarcasm, but it is still a mistake that they fall into the trap of commonplaces and use phrases from the dictatorship’s own rhetoric. When they prescribe us “That same Cuban State that has turned solidarity into a mark of international identity” or, “The same Cuban State that has produced the only vaccines in Latin America against Covid-19”, they only exacerbate my skepticism and, unfortunately, make me doubt to what extent, “as anarchists in Cuba”, they are willing to be part of “that new reality”. As the saying goes: “text out of context is pretext”.

Undoubtedly, it is about the distinction between real consciousness and possible consciousness. As Lucien Goldmann rightly warned, there will always be obstinacy in people who have been attached to a thesis that they have defended tooth and nail, denying everything that calls into question their previous commitments and takes them away from the security of what is known.

For communication to take place, it is indispensable to speak the same language. In this context, I have to accept that for some years, I only maintained communication with a member of TLAL, who signed his contributions under the pseudonym of Marcelo Liberato Salinas and that I even called him “compañero”; in the understanding that we spoke the same dialect, and that is why “compañero” sometimes meant the word kinsman, which, as Ekué recalls, also means brother beyond blood kinship. That is why I find it hard to accept that today he cowardly assumes these positions. I do not know the rest of the members of that collective but I live convinced that we do not speak the same language and, I reaffirm it, when my affinities inform me that a certain Ahmed – in the same language of the enemy – calls me “infiltrator”, demonstrating the absolute and definitive absence of all those ingredients that, with premeditation and malice aforethought, constitute us as anarchists.

AI: As a result of the revolts, a communiqué from the Anarchist Intervention Group appeared on the networks expressing a position more akin to informal and insurrectional praxis: how many informal and insurrectionalist groups are operating in Cuba and what do their actions consist of?

I fully agree with the assessment you point out. Indeed, this position is much “more in line with the informal and insurrectional praxis” than what we have previously read or heard from the island. However, I must confess that this communiqué caused me serious doubts. I found it strange that it was published in Indymedia. I also doubted its authenticity, because of the use of the “x”. For us, the use of inclusive language is very common, but it does not correspond to the way of writing in Cuba. Besides, I found its aggressiveness unusual. Undoubtedly, it is written in the same tone in which we usually write our communiqués but, just for that reason, I considered it apocryphal. I asked several comrades and they informed me that they shared my astonishment. However, the younger comrades who maintain international contacts told me that the use of the “x” was nothing to be alarmed about, particularly if it was prepared for “foreign consumption”. They also explained to me that among young people the aggressive message is recurrent and referred me to several lyrics of songs of anarcho-punk bands openly against the State, called to emulate Vaillant’s actions. They even commented that they found it sincere. We will have to keep an eye out for the next release of the bottle -if they ever release it- and, above all, for their actions in situ. And well, I believe that with this confession, their concern about the number of informal groups and the consistency of their actions on the Island is also answered. Definitely, the insurrectional proposal in those latitudes is a blue unicorn that continues to be absent in time and space, which will have to materialize sooner rather than later, carrying the fire on its horn.

Notes

1. It is worth mentioning that even when Fulgencio Batista was president, this divine caste (deeply racist) did not allow him to be a member of the “select” Miramar Yacht Club because he was a “mulatto”. However, they did not hesitate to support the insurrection of the “pichón de gallego” who had sworn to dethrone him.
2. With the imposition of this sort of apartheid, people from the eastern provinces (predominantly Afro-descendants) are prevented from moving to Havana and the western provinces, where they have greater opportunities for survival. These “illegals” in their own country are called “palestras” or “Palestinians”; a derogatory, deeply racist, classist and regionalist noun, which is used in a comparative way in clear allusion to the discrimination suffered by the native Palestinians in the State of Israel. This pejorative has been widely accepted and has become dangerously incorporated into the Cuban daily lexicon. Constantly harassed and persecuted by the police – who demand official documentation, using discriminatory criteria to identify them (the regional accent when speaking and the color of their skin) – these people are not only denied to buy the products of the ration book for not residing in their native provinces, but they are constantly detained and deported to their places of residence.
3. ETECSA (Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba S.A.), is the tropical telecommunications monopoly that controls all mobile and Wi-Fi data connections, calls, text and voice messages, Transfermóvil services, fiber optics and everything related to Information and Communication Technologies, until its concession “for the commercialization of public telecommunications services” expires, without a definite date.
4. According to data published by the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Tourism of the Spanish State.
5. Let us not forget that the then telegraph sergeant, Fulgencio Batista, was supported and was even a candidate for the Popular Socialist Party (nickname used by the current Cuban Communist Party to obtain registration in those years).


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