Marti’s Other Fears

By Erasmo Calzadilla

 “Respect for freedom and the thinking of others, even of the most wretched of being, this is my radicalism: if I die or they kill me, it will be for that,” said Jose Marti.
“Respect for freedom and the thinking of others, even of the most wretched of being, this is my radicalism: if I die or they kill me, it will be for that,” said Jose Marti.

All Cubans must be keenly aware of the concern that the “Apostle” (José Martí) had about the empire of the North in its expansionist drive to consume Cuba and other peoples of the Americas.  Many have repeated this to us, and it seems that Marti was justified in his fear.

But very seldom, or rather never, had I ever heard spoken (in official dribble) of the “Teacher’s” horror that his war efforts – while leading to the fall of Spanish tyranny – might do so in exchange for the enthronement of a tyrant who possessing certain virtues and elevated by glory attained in war, could become the new master of Cuba.

Given that the danger and threat posed by the US was no less back then than it is today, Marti intensely called for unity.  However, by no means did he assume the need for a unity that implied homogeneity of thought or the strict observance of the will of a single leader. But let’s hear from him:

(The following passages are extracts from a book by Cuban writer Eliseo Alberto Diego, and they give one more reason to appreciate “Don Pepe.”  If somebody knows what specific work in which these can be found, please let me know.)

“It is my determination to not contribute in the slightest, out of blind love for an idea to which I am giving my life, to bring a personal despotic regime to my land.  That would be more shameful than the political despotism that it now endures, and more serious and more difficult to eradicate, because it would come to power absolved by some virtues, established by an idea embodied in itself, and legitimated by victory.  The prolonged possession of power wipes away all reason.

“Respect for freedom and the thinking of others, even of the most wretched of being, this is my radicalism: if I die or they kill me, it will be for that.”

Is it by chance that today’s Cubans, the immense majority of us, are unfamiliar with this facet of the Teacher?

5 thoughts on “Marti’s Other Fears

  • Erasmo, the first quote comes from Jose Marti’s letter to General Maximo Gomez on October 1884 in which Marti resigns from the revolutionary movement due to despotic tendencies in the leadership. Here is a link to the entire letter which is most interesting. Hope you can read it:

    Finding the source of the second quote is proving more elusive. But I did find the following Marti quote in a book called “Jose Marti Thoughts” by Carlos Ripoll: “Socialist ideology, like so many others, has two main dangers. One stems from confused and incomplete readings of foreign texts, and the other from the arrogance and hidden rage of those who, in order to climb up in the world, pretend to be frantic defenders of the helpless so as to have shoulders on which to stand.”

    A rather apt description of Fidel Castro, don’t you think?

  • Erasmo, another very courageous post. Grady, I think Erasmo is clearly drawing a link between the Castro regime’s 50 year dictatorship and Marti’s warning against a “personal despotic regime” replacing colonialism. In so doing, Erasmo’s spot on.

    Why am I not surprised that the complete writings of Jose Marti are not available in Cuba? I will endeavor to find the source of the Marti quote above and answer Erasmo’s question in a subsequent post.

  • I think this applies perfectly to Fidel and Raul leadership catastrophic issues.Let’s not be afraid to talk about it.Let’s be honest and talk the truth.
    Marti is very clear about what his vision is on freedom and despotism.
    And please don’t advise the author to redirect the focus of his article on Marx.Let Marx alone.We are not talking Marx,but Marti authentic thinking applied to the current reality in Cuba.
    Let’s respect more Erasmo,Marti and the cuban nation and stop defending (sickening) despotism and “leftist” fascism.

  • Addendum:
    Erasmo, focus especially on the several bizarre programmatic points set forth in the last pages of the chapter entitled “Proletarians and Communists.” These crazy programmatic points–points that socialists naively have taken as holy scripture and used to define “real” socialism–would be a correct target for analysis. Good luck.

  • Erasmo, it’s not clear what you’re implying. I may be wrong, but you may be drawing a parallel between Fidel’s leadership and “a personal despotic regime” referred to by Marti. If this should be the case, it would be a bit sickening. Also, such a parallel would be amazingly erroneous. You are misdirecting your wrath. If you wish to rail against cults of personality that subvert Cuba, may I direct your attention to the historic conversion of Karl Marx into a god. He was a thirty-year-old bourgeois intellectual who had never held a job when he and his industrial capitalist co-author and friend Engels foisted the Communist Manifesto on the socialism movement in 1848. Marx, the new god, redefined socialism as ownership of everything in sight by the socialist state. Up to that time socialism had been defined as cooperative, with direct ownership by workers. Marx’s cult of personality and god-like status however made him immune to criticism. Focus on Marx and the Manifesto.

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