HAVANA TIMES, July 1 – “I will never ever recommend prudence to anyone; I recommend that they fight – that they express themselves, that they struggle, that they accept to run the risks. Because this time the risks will be of a different nature, and they will be a revolutionary contribution within the Revolution.”
This was what was said to Cuban youth by Alfredo Guevara, a very high-level Cuban intellectual who is a founder of the Cuban Film Institute, and a holder of the Order of the Legion of Honor of France and of UNESCO’s Federico Fellini Gold Medal.
During his university years he fought against the Batista dictatorship, having experienced the Colombian “Bogotazo” in 1948 along with Fidel Castro, it was he who gave the first books on Marxism to the future Cuban leader. Since 1959 he has promoted some of the important ethical and aesthetic debates in Cuba.
A month ago he spoke with journalism students at a conference that was transcribed on the Internet. This was an extremely interesting discussion that I am pointing out now after having confirmed that these were his actual words.
Guevara recognized that Cuba is experiencing “a crisis that is of a political and moral character (…) with the most terrible thing being its vacuity. The most terrible thing is to go walking down the street and not know if the people you pass by are the living dead or real people.”
He added, “The things we experience in daily life are too hard, too bitter; they sometimes hurt us so much in our lives and in the lives of our families that it’s logical that certain features of insensitivity are developed, aspects of desperation and ones of rejection.”
He did not bite his tongue when affirming: “For many years the State has been the refuge of all the —I don’t mean to describe it so harshly; I’ll say it, but note that I’m saying it with love— it has been the refuge of all the vagrants and of all the people who aren’t good for much of anything.”
He also questioned the current activity of the committees of the Communist Party. “We get together to sit around and look at each other, telling ourselves whatever, such and such was oriented from above and that didn’t make it up, and later we leave to go home acting like we’ve solved everything.”
The aging Guevara accepts the fact that his contemporaries don’t understand the digital age, however he denies the existence of generational conflict. As he noted, “It’s a terrible conflict that the youth face, including youths such as me. It is the conflict that exists between resistance to change, routine, restlessness and the time that’s passing by.”
He proposed that the students change the direction of the country without abandoning socialism. “As the State and as the revolutionary vanguard —if that’s what we continue to be— we have to choose another path, one road or another, but it will take some time, ”
He affirmed that, “Those whose turn it is are ready to take the step,” but he held that the solutions should be found among everyone. He proposed “the creation of think tanks; that’s to say, groups for reflection and analysis, and for the design of potentials. In this way taking advantage of the talent that we’ve created and that wander around here, sometimes serving meals in the cafeterias.”
However, Guevara seems to discard the thought of any dialogue with dissidents and émigrés: “What I cannot accept is the counterrevolution, because to allow an active counterrevolutionary force is to accept suicide,” he told the students.
He accepts the application of a Chinese economic model but qualified this by saying as long as it does not sacrifice generations of Cubans: “We have already sacrificed ourselves enough, and I’m not referring to us who are older, but of all those who are coming behind us – you.”
Guevarra told the journalism students that the Cuban press “is very poor, it’s not convincing” and he asked “where are the new examples in our journalism; I don’t know how much work it will take the professors here to quote a contemporary paradigm in our journalism.”
He recognized that not everything is the journalists’ fault, because for a new form of journalism to emerge “all the idiots have to disappear, all the imbeciles and all the ignoramuses that hold positions today. It’s necessary to struggle for that.”
Nonetheless, his vision of this profession also seems highly politicized when he asserts that “only from activism —which is what I call passion and passionate partiality— can one, in my opinion, do true journalism.”
The statements of Alfredo Guevara, Silvio Rodriguez, Esteban Morales, Pedro Campos and many other intellectuals exhibit a fundamental political and psychological shift: for the first time in a half century, revolutionary Cubans are openly expressing their criticism without feeling that by doing so they are “collaborating with the enemy.”
The debate is coming out of the Revolution’s “own channels” and the disappearance of the sacrosanct unanimity has not caused chaos nor broken the country’s unity. To the contrary, if it continues to widen, it could mark the first steps toward a true “battles of ideas” over the future of the nation.
An authorized translation by Havana Times (from the Spanish original) published by BBC Mundo.