By Osmel Ramirez Alvarez
HAVANA TIMES — Our Apostle’s birthday recently passed us once again and remembering his ideas forces us to reflect upon their validity and usefulness in the country’s current landscape. I’ve already said it before that it was reading Marti that I became a real patriot: I polished my ethics, I cleaned up my values and I gained vision. There’s no greater school than his prolific work; there is allusion in all his writings about every subject and nothing is superfluous.
Ever since its beginning the Cuban Revolution has claimed to be inspired by the teachings of the most internationally renowned Cuban. Fidel affirmed that Marti was the intellectual author of the events at the Moncada Barracks (1952) and was the inspiration behind it or at least a slogan used, the fact that those young people from the generation 100 years after our Apostle, with their moral duty to do something for Cuba, for the Cuba he dreamed for us and died for.
Fidel’s Revolution might have well been a Marti-esque Revolution, because that’s how it was conceived; but it was impossible for this Revolution to be both Marxist and Marti-esque at the same time. We already know about the dichotomy between both intellectuals as after the German wise man’s death, our National Hero wrote an extremely eloquent article, where he made his position on this subject very clear; and he hit the nail on the head. Furthermore, the Revolution itself and its Marxist-Leninist ideology ended up pigeonholing intellectuals like him in the derogatory classification of the best and most revolutionary of liberal bourgeois thought.
Looking at these phrases, both valid and eye-opening, from a famous letter he wrote to General Maximo Gomez when he left the Gomez-Maceo Plan for Independence because of ethical and political differences, we can each analyze whether each of these prove the Cuban Revolution to support Marti’s ideas or not:
- “… public freedoms, (are the) only dignified reason to take a country to war.” (1)
- “A nation isn’t run like a military camp.” (1)
- “…just as everyone who gives his life in the service of a great idea is admirable, he who makes use of a great idea to serve his personal hopes of glory or power is abominable, even though he may risk his life for those hopes.” (1)
- “To respect a people that loves and depends on us is the highest form of greatness. To make use of its grief and enthusiasm for our own gain would be the worst ignominy.” (1)
In his critical essay about Spencer’s own critique of socialism in “The Coming Slavery”, he gave his opinion about the socialism that was being encouraged at his time (Communism, Anarchism, Unionism):
- “… the State’s actions having become so varied, active and dominant, the State would have to impose considerable responsibility on a part of the working population taking advantage of the poor (…) individual actions will lose their power (…) the number of public officials will increase terribly and be excessive (…) A bureaucratic people are on the wrong path (…) All the power which would be gradually acquired by the caste of public officials, bound by their need to remain in a priviledged and lucrative position, would be gradually lost by the people, (…) From being its own servant , man would then become a slave of the State. From being a slave of capitalists, (…) he would become a slave of public officials. A slave is a man who works for another who holds control of him, and in that socialist system the community would dominate man, who would then render all his work to the community…”. (2)
Our Apostle was a true visionary? Does the Cuban Revolution support the ideas of Marti or not? You don’t need to be very smart to see the incongruencies. But does this clear disparity beween his thought and that of Fidel’s Revolution invalidate the idea of social justice? Should we believe that everything is OK in the world and that socialism came about because of some crazy intellectuals’ fancies and not because of the need for real democratic and just change? Of course not! I will argue this other poistion with another of his great thoughts, speaking about these same errors which he explained in a letter to his friend Fermin Valdez:
- “We should judge an aspiration for its nobility, and not for this, that, or the other defect that human passion attaches to it. 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… the heart of the matter is not to compromise sublime Justice by mistaken or excessive means of asking for it. And always with justice…, because mistakes in their being don’t authorize good souls to desert their defense.” (3)
Obviously, Marti is suggesting that we don’t give up in our search for solutions to social problems; nor judge the Socialist ideal by its errors in form, nor by those who trample on the people in its name, but by the nobility of its ambitions. In the face of stagnation, conformity and the Cuban people’s political apathy when it comes to finding a solution for national problems, he said:
- “Those who do not have faith in their country are seven-month men.” (4)
- “A man that hides what he thinks or dares not to say what he thinks, is not an honorable man. A man who obeys a bad government, without working for the government to be good, is not an honorable man.” (5)
- “… politics: err but console. May he who consoles us, never err.” (2)
This is why, far from hating the Revolution or the system that has been forced upon us, I only disapprove of it and try to bring about a change in Cuba which it so desperately needs. I don’t deny merits or fail to pick up on mistakes, whatever the side. It’s true what he said about the sun: “The ungrateful only talk about the spots (stains). The grateful talk about the light.” (5); but in order to be considered the “sun”, the light has to outweigh the spots; even when there are so many spots that it isn’t easy to please the light.
Just like Marti, I too believe that the only dignified reason for struggling among us Cubans is to return public liberties to Cuba. This is an objective which is worth whatever the sacrifice. Let’s honor our Great Teacher and come together more and more everyday to achieve this. Our Homeland demands it.
1- Letter to Maximo Gomez on 20th October 1884. Selected Works: pg. 459
2- The Coming Slavery. Herbert Spencer. OC. T-15. Europe II. Critique and Art. pg. 387-392
3- Letter to Fermin Valdez, May 1894. OC T-3. Cuba. Politics and Revolution III, 1894. pg. 168.
4- Our America. The Liberal Party, Mexico, 30-1-1891. La revista ilustrada 10-1-1891.O.C T-6:16.
5- The golden age. Selected Works: pg 281