Cuba’s Communists of Yesteryear

Yusimi Rodríguez

Jorge Risquet speaking at the 90th anniversary of the Cuban Communist Party.  Photo: Oriol de la Cruz Atencio/AIN
Jorge Risquet speaking at the 90th anniversary of the Cuban Communist Party. Photo: Oriol de la Cruz Atencio/AIN

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.

14 thoughts on “Cuba’s Communists of Yesteryear

  • 45 years of involvement in movements of the left is enough to make anyone addle headed!

  • If Cuba is a miracle, then let us all pray that there are no more such miracles! If God was responsible for the miracle, she should be ashamed.

  • God is real , The Cuban system is a miracle and is real because of God.When you label things misunderstandings can occur so that slippery slope should be handled by committee to avoid misunderstandings. The end result is to save humanity
    and provide freedom from . It is good to have patience and wisdom to stay the course and live your life well for that purpose as God decides, be real.
    Thank you

  • John, I’ve said the same thing more than once to Griffin and I hope you both take that into account.

  • John,

    The first time your presented your argument was interesting enough. The second time was repetitious. But now, at what must be over 100 similar posts, it is more than just boring: it reveals some kind of deep seated pathology you suffer from.

    Words can have multiple meanings. You do not get to dictate the sole meaning of a given word.

    For example, the verb “to bore” which can mean to be dull to the point of annoyance. It can also mean “to drill a hole”, as in “I want to bore a hole in your head to let some sunshine in.”

    Have you grasped the idea yet?

  • Moses ? St. John ?
    You people spend too much time wrapped up in your indefensible fictions and fantasies and, evidently that includes the Bible.

  • If socialism is the top-down Stalinist/Leninist form YOU say it is, then what would YOU call democratic socialism where things are run democratically from the bottom by majority vote on all major issues ?.
    I understand that you MUST try to make this other than a serious discussion because you have a problem both defining things like democracy and totalitarianism and understanding that your belief set is entirely totalitarian while you spout nonsense about the need for democracy in Cuba.
    And FYI , if you were brave enough or intellectually curious enough to read ZNet , you’d see that we on the left ( socialists , communists and anarchists ) are in agreement as to what these systems are and are not.
    I did not make up my position on this stuff out of thin air or based on info from the corporate media .
    I have some 45 years of involvement in left movements so I do know what I’m talking about.
    Unlike you. .

  • It’s true.
    I have found that presenting thoughts deeper than the intended audience can comprehend, does inevitably “bore” them .
    You know, like explaining democracy to people who think that free-enterprise capitalism is somehow a necessary part of a democratic society.
    You’re getting S-L-E-E-P-Y, very S-L-E-E-P-Y.

  • It’s alright, John.
    We understand you can’t help it.

  • How dare you Moses question his opinion. It’s the gospel according to St. John!

  • So in other words, like the proverbial ‘no true Scotsman’ , no one who has or is proclaiming to be a socialist is really a socialist. …..according to you? Do they know that you don’t approve?

  • The German Communist Party is likely Leninist/Stalinist like all other Communist Parties .
    The PCC is Fidelista.
    Internationalism is one aspect in which the Fidel-led PCC differs from the universal Stalinist “socialism-in-one-nation” Communist Party
    Sorry to be boring.

  • Cuba is on a new course that is distinctly different than state communism. Social justice is still the aim, but with a mix of state companies and private market small business. It is a much more sophisticated model as it joins financial and trade markets newly opened to it.

  • Yusimi,

    I hope you did not believe the comments by those two young German ideologues “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”.

    That is simply untrue. The German Communist Party (DKP) is a legal political party operating in Germany today.

    They field candidates in elections and distribute campaign literature without harassment. In 2009, the DKP received 1894 votes, less than 0.1% of the cast ballots and a measure of the relevance of the Communist ideology in modern Germany. The DKP received 25,204 votes for the European parliament.

    Their weekly newpaper Unsere Zeit is distributed in print and online editions.

    To equate the status of the DKP in Germany to that of dissidents in Cuba, or to that of the Cuban Communist Party in the early part of the 20th century is simply nonsense. The early CCP was violently repressed because the ruling regime then viewed the Communists as a serious threat. Likewise today, the Castro regime considers dissident organizations as a serious threat, which is why the state security agencies devote significant resources to repressing them.

    The German KDP faces no repression from the German State. Instead, they are ignored by 99.9% of the population because their ideas are irrelevant and repugnant.

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