Non-violence isn’t a struggle of hate, but love.
HAVANA TIMES – Studying history is essential for learning experiences from the past and taking more effective action in the present. Every action and movement that has turned to violence against the totalitarian dictatorship (that forcefully imposed itself here in Cuba in 1959), has been crushed; every attempt, many of which were crushed before they saw the light of day, as well as all of their leaders, who were either imprisoned or shot. It would be a very long list.
What was the only movement that could never be defeated? Breakaway groups. Why? Because non-violence is what defines them. The establishment prepared itself to fight every violent kind of struggle, but not against non-violent ones. When the first breakaway group appeared in 1983, its leaders (who were only half a dozen men) couldn’t be arrested… because they were already in prison. But prison couldn’t stop their struggle.
Political prisoners would normally continue their activities in their respective organizations, but they were almost always sent to a political prison, and whenever they sent a written message to the outside world, they would sign with a pseudonym. That’s why I thought it was a suicide act when Ricardo Bofill aked me to sign a report with our own names so it would be believable.
However, as it was a matter of exposing the subhuman conditions of prisoner Jacinto Fernandez on death row, where I had shared a cell with him for some time, I accepted and we wrote that document in the name of an alleged human rights commission that hadn’t existed up until then.
When this document (which was the dissident movement’s first report) became public abroad with the news that the first human rights group had emerged in Cuba, our repressors’ reaction wasn’t as brutal as we were expecting it to be, because international public opinion was already protecting us. This is another feature of breakaway groups, the head-on struggle, showing your face, even when the battle is seemingly unequal.
While this movement has never been crushed, we can also say that it hasn’t been victorious. Even if it is successful in the future, it has been a struggle that we can call by the name of that Beatle’s song: “the long and winding road”. There are two reasons for this:
First of all, because the establishment has managed to set up a very effective repressive apparatus, with all of the media under their control so they can manipulate citizens’ mindsets. Likewise, by suppressing the middle class, they make the population wholly dependent upon the State to get by, so we can add economic coercion to their political coercion.
As a result, Time is needed to develop an awareness of basic human rights violations at every level of society. It’s a matter of the “natural and laborious gestation” that Jose Marti spoke about in his famous critique of Karl Marx, who, according to Marti: “being in a hurry and with his understanding somewhat clouded, he did not see that children who do not have a natural, slow and painful gestation are not born viable, from a nation in history or from a woman in the home.”
It didn’t matter how many weapons you had, but “the number of stars in your head.” If you wanted “ever-lasting” freedom. It wasn’t just a matter of replacing people in public positions with other people, but instead of cultivating a new spirituality in civic awareness.
The other reason why this process took so long was a strategic mistake: some groups urged the Cuban people to join them, but they didn’t join the Cuban people. Marx had once said that human beings need a roof over their heads, food to eat and clothes to wear before they can take part in politics, create art and practice religion.
Under the influence mostly of exile political groups, these groups fell into the same mistake that government leaders made, who ignored the general population’s most basic needs, in spite of calling themselves “Marxist”.
These groups supported a stricter US embargo and the suspension of remittances and travel to Cuba in their discourse. While the Cuban people saw remittances and tourist expenditures as a breath of relief for their hardship, and so they distanced themselves and breakaway groups were reduced to a marginal group in society.
Those in exile who not only deny their relatives in Cuba financial aid, but also encourage others to do the same under the pretext that the oppressor benefits from this, have a very strange way of liberating them by cooperating with this oppressor that is starving them to death. They contribute to their relatives becoming even more dependent upon the Sate, because nobody will break away from the State that feeds them, no matter how measly this subsistence is, if those who want to free them are denying them even a few crumbs. On the contrary, weakening the oppressor isn’t what will bring about this liberation, giving strength to the oppressed will.
This attitude contrasts to that of San Isidro Movement leader Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara, who when State Security destroyed and/or stole his paintings, demanded there return or compensation (by holding a hunger and thirst strike). He asked for half a million pesos in payment so that houses in the San Isidro neighborhood can be fixed up.
Even when the oppressors are refusing to pay out such an amount, Otero’s attitude of supporting the suffering and helpless people that the regime has abandoned to their own fate, is a very generous attitude that shows the people who their real allies are.
Non-violence isn’t a struggle of hate, but love. This doesn’t mean that we aren’t being unwavering when we denounce injustice and expose lies, but our struggle should not be guided by hate against those who repress and slander, but by love for justice and the truth.
When one of the most merciless repressors of the Christians, Paul the Apostle, was sent to Damascus to persecute the Christians in that city, Jesus intervened in his path and asked him: “Paul, why are you persecuting me?” Paul the Apostle became one of Jesus’ most devote followers. There have been many Paul the Apostles throughout the history of breakaway groups.
The power of non-violence is the real power of the powerless.