HAVANA TIMES — On Friday, August 21, Granma, Cuba’s major official newspaper, published the full text of the speech delivered by Jorque Risquet Valdes a few days earlier, for the 90th anniversary of the founding of Cuba’s first Communist Party.
The speech commemorated the first party founded by Carlos Baliño (who co-founded the Cuban Revolutionary Party with Jose Marti in 1892) and revolutionary Julio Antonio Mella. The text of the speech led me to the conclusion that the original party had a lot more in common with today’s dissidents and government opponents than with the current Communist Party on the island.
“The first Party spent most of its time in the strictest secrecy. It was viciously persecuted for more than 20 years and enjoyed a brief period of relative recognition, though it never ceased to be maligned by the bourgeois press, which divulges the most recalcitrant form of anti-communism, the ideas of geographical fatalism and a defense of the island’s neocolonial status,” Risquet said during his speech. The only difference, perhaps, is that Cuba’s current opposition parties and civil society organizations that do not support the government or the system, have enjoyed absolutely no legal recognition at any point in time.
Some months ago, I interviewed two members of Germany’s Communist Youth. They told me that declaring oneself a communist in Germany can cost someone their job and that the Party has no access to the media in order to address the German people and divulge its ideas. The German Communist Party does not have the financial resources needed to do this, nor would it be allowed to appear on television, if it did.
While listening to them, I could only think that I’d seen that scenario somewhere else. Those in Cuba who disagree with the powers that be, even if they do so from left-wing positions, are discredited and dismissed as mercenaries of the enemy (an enemy we’re establishing diplomatic relations with, to be sure), or they’re quite simply made invisible.
Jorque Risquet quoted Jose Marti’s remarks about Carlos Baliño – “(…) he is overcome by anguish over all of humanity’s grievances.” – as an unequivocal allusion to Baliño’s Marxist ideology, even though Marti never uses the word “Marxism.” It seems that, for Cuba’s leaders, only a Marxist can have any concern about others and social justice in general.
For nearly six years, my work has allowed me to interview or quite simply converse with individuals who do not sympathize with the government, who are convinced the system doesn’t work and who feel committed to social justice, not only the struggle for freedom of the press, expression and association. Juan Antonio Madrazo, Miriam Celaya, Julio Antonio Aleaga, Pedro Campos and Dimas Castellanos (son of one of the founding members of the original Communist Party) are some of these people.
In his address, Risquet affirms that “for all of the members of that first Communist Party (…) it was more or less clear that a new leader, Fidel Castro, a man of exceptional qualities, had risen to lead Cuba’s socialist revolution and lead our people to victory.”
It seems almost unbelievable that none of those communists back then questioned the fact that the man who had previously claimed not to be a communist later declared himself a die-hard Marxist-Leninist, fused all revolutionary organizations into one (by abolishing them) and became the undisputed leader.