Defending the “R” Word

Dmitri Prieto

Havana's Galeano St. - photo: HT

A certain fashion is emerging around the letter “R” of the word “Revolution.”

It seems that in a recent song, singer-songwriter Silvio Rodriguez advocates that the “R” be removed from the word Revolution opening the door to evolution.

“To disenchantment, oppose desire.  Surpass the ‘r’ in “revolution,” he sings on his most recent album.

His words were echoed by Carlos Alberto Montaner (the famous opponent of the Cuban political system, and who is accused here of being a counter-revolutionary and a terrorist), precisely within the context of a strange dialogue he had with Silvio.

Unrelated to those previous facts, when a group of comrades signed an open letter defending several alternative cultural initiatives at the end of last year, we clearly defined ourselves as revolutionaries. Yet immediately heard were critical voices that, while seemingly embracing the inclusive “spirit” of the letter, opposed the word “revolution,” considering it a concession to the permanency of the rigid system that has been established.

Paradoxically, revolution means exactly the opposite.

It’s clear that those voices for change repeated the very same arguments of many of the same defenders of that static sclerosis-afflicted system, who opportunistically shield themselves behind the label “revolutionary” to mask their conformism and their hopes that things will remain the same.

However, I think it’s unfair to let the conformists monopolize this word.

Neither are “change” or “radicalism,” “sincerity” or “transparency” the exclusive heritage of those who today feel uncomfortable with the “R” word.

I don’t agree with Silvio, nor with those who exercised their rights to accuse us of being revolutionaries(!) and therefore —according to them— insufficiently radical(!).

Perhaps Silvio, with his “disenchantment” with certain practical and disastrous experiences, sincerely wants to suspend the very idea of deep change for a while and allow things to simply happen, to happen naturally, to evolve.

But this supposedly “natural” evolution can also be dangerous. We need only recall the USSR in its perestroika days, which began with initial “dialogue” and “naturally” evolved toward inter-ethnic wars and Mafioso capitalism.

Perhaps one may feel uncomfortable with the very idea of revolution, and they imagine that abandoning it is a gesture of disapproval of the system or a wise concession to realism.

But there are many ways of making revolution, and no one will prevent me from conceiving of it, wanting it, and much less putting it into practice.

Because a revolution is necessary — with our situation here in Cuba as the starting point— to achieve respect for nature and diversity, the dignity of work and consumption, the suppression of social relations of violence and exploitation, freedom of speech and action, self-management throughout all society and the self-leadership role of each one of society’s members in solidarity with others.

If they want to call it dialogue, human rights, democracy, respect – that’s not bad.

If they want to call it participative or libertarian socialism, or even communism, that’s not bad either.

It’s only that I speak of practice, not of ideology.  And to get to there from where we are, it’s necessary to move beyond debating circles.  We must make a revolution that at the same time frees people’s consciousnesses and socializes power, beginning here at home.

As for those who don’t understand this, it’s because they don’t value the depth of the abyss, or they lack vision to conceive of any escape.

That’s why I’m revolutionary.

One thought on “Defending the “R” Word

  • In Cuba (as here in North America), the next step you speak of involves activity which essentially means going against the declared demands of the State that you bow to their will — and thus means, in effect, ‘breaking the law'[sic] (however defined by them). There’s frankly no way around this that I know of, if you really want to break this log-jam. And since these people are not clearly reasonable and are indeed apparently highly self-serving, even criminal, some of them, you must run the risk of being lumped in with all the other “dissidents” — and treated as such by their system.

    And so, if you are *really* for socialism and the real Revolution, you must make it clear that in no way do you support imperialism or seek or wish its support. That you reject imperialism and its agents. However, you also have to make it abundantly clear to everyone that attempts by the State to label you imperialist agents are in fact self-serving and criminally hypocritical in the extreme — and that it is THEY in fact who are the problem. Not you.

    So the question then is: what is the best way forward to this inevitable confrontation with stalinism…? Best of luck in any case. (But IMO: leave religion totally out of it, OK? Religion is NOT revolutionary, in this modern, scientific age, whatever some people believe.)

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