Visiting Revolutionaries

Erasmo Calzadilla
Erasmo Calzadilla

From a very young age my father made the effort to educate me in the revolutionary doctrine. I was clearly on the side of the good guys, those who followed good ideals, and against the bad guys, those who murdered children with bombs, blew up airplanes and did anything for money.

I still remember asking my father during every movie that was shown on TV who the good guys were and who were the baddies. My father, who even today still believes that the world is divided like this, did his best to show me on which side of the divide stood each of the characters.

Things didn’t start to get ugly until I started school. It turned out that my classmates didn’t share my ideas and instead tried to be as mean as they could possibly be, especially when it came to picking on another kid.

Under the stress of this enormous peer pressure, little by little I gave up on my father’s ideals: being a communist at school was the same as being a snitch, almost as bad as being called a faggot, or a brownnoser; like being on the side of the bad guys. And this didn’t change during my time as a student; in fact it got worst when the Socialist Bloc collapsed.

To make matters worse, as I grew older I became more attracted to the world of the rockeros and even surprised myself with the rebelliousness that flowed from my pores. Being a rockero in Cuba is on the opposite end of the spectrum from the values of the “New Man” that we youngsters born into the revolution were supposed to be.

As such, the beautiful humanitarian ideals coexisted inside me along with my anti-establishment rebelliousness. Two irreconcilable worlds, each pulling to the point of breaking me or making me give up for good the weaker of the two extremes.

One fine day, when I was around 25-years-old, two guys I had met from Catalonia, Spain dazzled me with an attitude I had never been exposed to before. In them, an irreverence which was much more mature and intense than my own lived peacefully with beautiful ideals. In short, they were progressive, anarchistic and libertarian revolutionaries: a human specimen I had never encountered before. I ended up falling in love with that novel notion.

From that moment on, I searched out people and books that would bring me closer to and explain the origins of that fresh air; but little by little, disappointment once again began to gnaw away at me.

The problem was that each person I encountered who I suspected might share this philosophy, turned out to be a puppet dressed up to fit in with the fashion of the times, or a pro-totalitarian in disguise.

I’ll jump to the pro-totalitarians. It turned out that the majority of these libertarian and anarchistic progressives felt that Cuba was pretty close to their dreams. As I looked at them with their air of freedom, I thought about how quickly their spirit would be smothered here. It would only a take a short while of them living like a Cuban and sharing our reality here. But I have never had the pleasure of meeting one of these foreign enthusiasts who had actually submitted themselves to this acid test.

At this stage in my life, I have no doubts of the many good qualities of my county. Things are so bad around the world, there is so much violence and poverty that I guess in comparison, Cuba is something like a paradise. But happiness here depends a lot on the degree that you allow yourself to be governed without having a say.

One thought on “Visiting Revolutionaries

  • “But happiness here depends a lot on the degree that you allow yourself to be governed without having a say.”

    I live in Australia, a privileged corner of the world (privileged, that is, unless your’e an Aborigine, in which case your life expectancy is about 20 years less than that of a Cuban living in Cuba). Comrade Erasmo’s sentiment, quoted above, expresses very well how anyone with progressive ideals and a rebellious temperament feels in this country, with far more justification, since rebellion is the very essence of the Cuban Revolution and dialectics teaches us that everything contains its opposite (rigidity, conformity).

    I have visited Cuba three times, most recently in December and January. I first visited Cuba when I was 21, in 1996. I wrote at the time: “You know when you greet a horse on a cold winter morning. You put your hand to its nose and you feel the warmth of its breath – powerful, reassuring and full of goodness. This is what it’s like for a revolutionary to visit Cuba in these difficult times for our movement.” With more maturity, I feel essentially the same way today.

    I don’t believe that I am overcome with starry-eyed romanticism. I have wandered the streets of Havana for hours on end, alone. I have talked at length with dissident youth on the streets and, on one occasion, in their home. I have been accosted by prostitutes and noted the vulgar fascination with gold teeth, gold neck chains and pretentious brand-name clothing sported by some young Cubans as if they were badges of honour.

    I have never submitted to Erasmo’s acid test of living in Cuba like Cubans without access to CUCs, yet the more I have been exposed to the harsh and unpleasant side of life in Cuba’s special period, with its external and internal blockades, the more admiration I feel for the Cuban comrades who have not succumbed to bitterness and resignation.

    As for libertarian anarchist revolutionaries from imperialist countries like Spain or Australia, they may be nice people but they have never made a socialist revolution and they never will. They “live peacefully with beautiful ideals” .

    Erasmo, I appreciate your candid and thoughtful posts.

    Marce Cameron,
    Revolutionary Socialist Party,
    Sydney, Australia.

Comments are closed.