Bombard the Headquarters!

By Dimitri Prieto

This is a 1967 poster celebrating a short essay Mao Zedong circulated within a major Party Conference in August 1966, entitled, "Bombard the Headquarters: My Big Character Poster." In the essay, he directed scathing criticism towards "certain party leaders" for suppressing the masses and obstructing the Cultural Revolution.
This is a 1967 poster celebrating a short essay Mao Zedong circulated within a major Party Conference in August 1966, entitled, "Bombard the Headquarters: My Big Character Poster." In the essay, he directed scathing criticism towards "certain party leaders" for suppressing the masses and obstructing the Cultural Revolution.

“Bombard the Headquarters!” wrote Mao Zedong on August 5, 1966 in a dazibao (a big-character poster, in Chinese), giving his blessing to the “Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China.”

I was reminded of Chairman Mao and my friend Erasmo Calzadilla* a few days ago when I presented a work on the teaching of the history of philosophy before a commission of the Forum of Science and Technology in my municipality of Santa Cruz.

The Forum is a setting for technological innovation that was born among Cuban industries at the beginning of the 1990s, and later gradually extended to other institutions and fields.

Initially it was called the “Spare Parts Forum,” and was devoted to discussing suggestions for technological improvement and the re-conditioning of parts of various industrial machines.  Many of these had become scarce following the structural crisis caused by the collapse of Euro-Soviet socialism.

The leadership of the Cuban Communist Party decided to gradually enlarge the base of the Forum, whose meetings now begin in workplaces and progressively feed into assemblies at the municipal and provincial levels, until culminating at the national level.

The Forum of Science and Technology today is certainly a structure that is very inclusive, where suggestions emerge about technological improvements, energy conservation, and in our case even on how to manufacture percussion musical instruments for traditional fiestas in Santa Cruz by using scrap industrial materials.

Therefore, I decided to present a critical work to the Forum – which also included some proposals – about the need to review the way philosophy is being taught in the Municipal Universities (Community Colleges) of Cuba.

Wishing to be respectful of the designers of the program, I limited myself to analyzing the textbook’s shortcomings, as well as the special characteristics of our students.  From this I reached the conclusion that important changes should be implemented.

I decided not to get involved with the program itself, because I knew that the same one is rigorously applied at the University of Havana, although I did intend to make forceful mention of the fact that there are several ways of appreciating philosophy in Cuba.

These include the recognition of developments in critical Marxism by professors such as Jorge Luis Acanda and Fernando Martínez Heredia (of the Gramsci Team, affiliated to the state-owned Cuban Institute for Cultural research School), as well as an original philosophical system expressed in two books by professor Alexis Jardines, published recently by the Cuban publishing house Ciencias Sociales.

These developments are completely opposed to the “Soviet” variant of studying philosophy, euphemistically called “Marxism-Leninism.”  I knew that other colleagues such as Erasmo Calzadilla had defended similar ideas; Erasmo even presented a work that was similar or even more radical than mine to the Forum at his university.

Therefore, I was pleasantly surprised – and I thank God for the experience! – for the critical and supportive positions of the teachers who made up the scientific commission of the Forum.  They analyzed my proposal and emphasized that what I was doing was only the beginning of a greater work, and that I should be neither reserved nor reticent in my conclusions.

The work was selected to be reviewed at the provincial level, and it was strongly suggested that I include a critical analysis of the program in it – come what be – because as teachers we are responding to the future of our students, and we should commit ourselves to the destruction of erroneous visions that can impede the learning of youth, as well as the future of all of Cuban society.

“But I didn’t design the program; they designed it at the University of Havana!” I said. “So what?” the jury responded.  “You’ve already demonstrated that you can criticize it. Can’t teachers at the University of Havana make mistakes?  So, what’s the problem? We need more works like yours. Don’t be afraid, go ahead!”

Through my mind passed the images of Chairman Mao in Beijing in the 1960s with his “Red Guards,” and my colleague Erasmo Calzadilla.  Now I’ll have less free time during my vacation because the provincial session of the Forum of Science and Technology has been announced for September. This is even better, since it’s very hot out on the streets of Havana.

Dimitri Prieto-Samsonov

Dmitri Prieto-Samsonov: I define myself as being either Cuban-Russian or Russian-Cuban, indiscriminately. I was born in Moscow in 1972 of a Russian mother and a Cuban father. I lived in the USSR until I was 13, although I was already familiar with Cuba-- where we would take our vacation almost every year. I currently live on the fifth floor of an apartment building in Santa Cruz del Norte, near the sea. I’ve studied biochemistry and law in Havana and anthropology in London. I’ve written about molecular biology, philosophy and anarchism, although I enjoy reading more than writing. I am currently teaching in the Agrarian University of Havana. I believe in God and in the possibility of a free society. Together with other people, that’s what we’re into: breaking down walls and routines.

2 thoughts on “Bombard the Headquarters!

  • January 11, 2010 at 12:05 am

    Dear Havana Times. I respect this will be an unusual comment. My wife and I have travelled to Cuba
    20 times. Each time, we have bought items for Cuban people, eg. clothing, medicines, etc.
    At Breezes resort, Jibacoa, we befriended a woman who is studying psychology in Cuba. At one time she told us that she, her father and brothers were unemployed. We wanted her to finish her studies fast.
    We sent her 1,000 ccp to help. later, we found that her relatives were not unemployed for long, she
    soon found another job, and she had more money than she told us.. In view of this, and since she needs
    to relate much better to people than she now does, we have asked her to tour St.cruz del Norte, and give
    to each person she talks to 20 ccp as a gift from HER..not us. This will be remarkable help to get her to
    become a good psychologist.. We want this for her, and Cuba. Can you help us to get her to do this.

    Please respond to this email. It is important. thankyou.

  • August 12, 2009 at 8:39 pm

    Sounds like a proper democratic, socialist dialog to me — not sure what it’s really about, however — as long as it is allowed to carry thru to whatever level it finally gets ‘stopped’ at. And _that_ would be the level which requires the most democratic fixing at the moment, wouldn’t it..?

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