On Concepts and Revolution

Yusimi Rodríguez

Havana photo by Caridad

HAVANA TIMES, July 11 — In April 2008, I found myself in the La Coubre Train Terminal trying to travel to Holguin province on the standby list.  I had gotten my name placed on that waiting list the previous day, Tuesday, and I arrived at the terminal before 7:00 a.m. on Wednesday with my luggage.  I was excited about going on the trip and hoped to get on board one of the six buses that would head out during the day.

The announcement you hear when a bus is boarding is an employee’s voice speaking through a microphone.  They say: “Your attention, please. It is the pleasure of the travel service to inform you at this time of the departure of bus number (…) going to (…) and with a capacity of (….).”

The travelers on the waiting list are then organized into a line with their reservation number and ID card in hand.  They wait to hear their named called from the list, praying to get a seat.  I went through that routine three times during the day after the departure of the first bus.

In several cases, the bus didn’t have enough room for everyone (at least not for those of us who would be only paying the eleven pesos that the train fare officially costs). Therefore, there was nothing to announce.

Thus the hours went by and there never appeared the dreamt of extra seats.  By 5:00 p.m., my excitement and hopes for my trip had dwindled to a sigh.  It seemed I wouldn’t be getting on any bus and that I’d have to return to the terminal the next day with my baggage and the faith that I would finally catch a ride.

Your Attention Please

It was at that moment, in the midst of my desperation, after so many hours of waiting without the waiting list line moving an inch, and tremendously hungry, that we again heard the employee’s voice on the microphone:  “Your attention, please. It is the pleasure of the travel service to inform you at this time that we will be reading you the Concept of Revolution.”

Yes, that was what I heard standing in the waiting list line at the train terminal two years ago. On May 1 of that year, a commemoration was being held for the tenth anniversary that the leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro, had announced the “Concept of Revolution,” a concept that is constantly repeated to us in our media.

Every moment appears to be appropriate for recalling the Concept of Revolution.  The concept of “revolution” is no longer how it is defined in the dictionary of our language, but what was announced a decade ago by our leader.  I would not be surprised in the future to find that this concept was incorporated into the Spanish dictionary, nor would it be unexpected if it ended up becoming a high school exam question.

I say this because during the 2001-2002 school year, when I worked as teacher in a vocational school, a group of students had to take a quiz on the “Battle of Ideas” program.  The questions came from the Municipal Office of Education.  That same week, the teachers at the school underwent a similar test.  Incredibly, some were able to make mistakes in answering it. Me, as is customary, as I’ve done throughout my whole life, I gave the answers that were expected of me.

I’m sure that if an exam was given on the Concept of Revolution in our country, all of us would pass.  In fact, people drill themselves in the use of the concept and use it to demonstrate the validity of their arguments, in the same way in that a theorem is used in solving a physical or mathematical problem.

It even gets to the point that to make some criticism of the system, people feel they need to refer to this concept.  I wonder: Is that an astute form of questioning the power by using its own speech, or is it an expression of the fear of using one’s own words?

What happens in the end is that we wind up reinforcing the concept, subordinating ourselves to it, trying to adapt reality to it.  Truth is found in the concept and the reason the concept must be proclaimed.

At least that was the sensation I had when seeing in the documentary “Revolution” one of the members of the music duo Los Aldeanos using the part of the concept that goes “Revolution is to change everything that must be changed” to ask the following: And what have we changed?   I wonder if people ever thought of the need for change, or whether they didn’t feel that had the right to express that, even before the concept was stated.

What’s certain is that ten years have lapsed and the concept forms part of our lives like the air, like the waiting lines, like all the inconveniences and problems.  We celebrate its anniversary as we do that of the Victory of the Cuban Revolution. To us, January 1 is more than humanity’s New Year, it’s another anniversary of the Victory.  Likewise with May 1, in addition to being International Workers Day, we will now celebrate as a new anniversary of the Concept of Revolution.

I talked about this with my colleague and friend Erasmo on Saturday in the bus.  As he put the cap back on the water bottle he asked if it might be necessary to elaborate the concept of the word “concept” in the dictionary.

3 thoughts on “On Concepts and Revolution

  • I don’t know what Grady Ross Daugherty believes about “socialism”, but I get the definite impression that he is as clueless as anyone about what to do about “A half-century of Marxian state monopoly socialism”(sic).

    Obviously, fine slogans and uplifting testimonials about the Revolution do not make trains run on time — and certainly do not build trains and railways. Clearly, Cuba requires hi-speed passenger train service from one end of the island to the other — and the people are not getting it. Even after 50 years. No wonder the widespread cynicism about ‘socialism’ (which is assiduously cultivated by the imperialists to no end).

    The cuban government had better get its priorities straight ASAP. Clearly, the “heroic” phase of the Revolution is long over.

  • A half-century of Marxian state monopoly socialism. It does not work; and if it is not reformed fundamentally, it will go into the historical graveyard–just like monopoly capitalism.

  • Yusimi

    this is a great post!
    So on the first of January you guys celebrate
    The “concept” of revolution!!!!!
    So there is no real revolution to celebrate! Because there is no CHANGE!!!

    Well done!

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