The Long and Winding Road Ahead for Cuban Dissidence

Non-violence isn’t a struggle of hate, but love.

Ariel Hidalgo

By Ariel Hidalgo (Cubaencuentro)

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.

Read more from Cuba here on Havana Times.


7 thoughts on “The Long and Winding Road Ahead for Cuban Dissidence

  • May 14, 2021 at 3:41 pm
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    Dan, ¿who told you I want to become Cuba in the systems like that kind of capitalism? I want to empower the workers, and a real democracy, not a plutocracy where the truly law is the money.
    Saludos
    Ariel

  • May 13, 2021 at 1:41 pm
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    Dan, unlike the Cuban state media, I don’t tell writers what to think or what to write. If you know any pro-government writers willing to publish on an “enemy publication”, send me the contact. And yes, as the editor I am 100% against state repression and injustice against the non-government press, artists, and people with dissenting opinions on the leaders or government policies and dictates. But also those who buy the party line, although they tend to get applause instead of repression.

    As to Colombia we will publish authorized materiales from other publications but we don’t have reporters there.

  • May 13, 2021 at 12:40 pm
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    Circles, the dissidents don’t see the embargo/blockade as the principal problem, but my experience is that the general populace does. Your comments as the editor also make it increasingly clear that far from being neutral or objective, HT is strongly anti-government. HT is peppered with the occasional token article from Democracy Now or Elio to give it a gloss of being “open to all” but 90% is a steady drumbeat as to how rotten Cuba is, and this in a vacuum: the embargo, the pandemic, natural disasters, never have anything to do with it and are just an excuse by the Communists. I am waiting for an article about the 46+ peaceful protestors shot within the last two weeks in Colombia by that “Democratic” government, but I guess it will have to take a back seat to articles about Cuba banning rock and roll 50 years ago.

  • May 13, 2021 at 12:23 pm
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    Dan and you honestly think Cubans soldiers going to give flowers to protester in Havana if the set the buses on fire the subway station and break properties? Come on you are a political blind man but not stupid. Just look how the political police treat them now when they only tried to ríase their voice and opposite peaceful to a horrible and bloody dictatorship , image what the Cubans minions would do. The Cuban dissidence is peaceful and the dictatorship makes their lives impossible everyday. And capitalism Dan is better than what Cubans have now where they work, get pay in a currency that the food is sold in Dollars. No freedom, of speech or assembly pure hell.

  • May 13, 2021 at 11:53 am
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    John, many Cuban dissidents in Cuba and some abroad would like to see less restrictions from the US government and oppose the embargo for multiple reasons. However, they don’t see it as the chief problem of their country. Many have expressed their opposition to the embargo although they are more concerned with internal Cuban policies than trying to change US policy, which by the way is not in their power at all. It’s barely in yours, and you are a US citizen seeking greater exchange and respect between the two countries governments. Unfortunately the stalemate has been very useful for politicians in both the US and Cuba, and the citizenry in both countries pay the price, although much harsher for Cubans.

  • May 13, 2021 at 11:20 am
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    The sorting out of Cuban politics is for Cubans, but Arial Hidalgo raises good questions.

    In principle I think all societies benefit from the most open discussion and democratic participation. It is the essential corrective for human weakness and error.

    Dissidents in Cuba ought to be at the forefront of demanding that Biden-Harris fulfill campaign promises of prompt restoration of Obama’s policies. For almost four months the dead hand of Trump/Rubio/Claver-Carone has controlled US policy, denying Cuban Americans the ability to help their suffering families, the US travel industry the opportunity to create jobs, and American citizens their purported role as best ambassadors (not to mention their contribution to the Cuban economy).

    Even if they despise the current system, they should have the courage to ally with the call for the end of the unilateral US embargo and restoration of the Guantanamo base to national control. This would not only benefit immensely the daily economic life of the population but open Cuban society to natural influences toward greater openness and diversity.

    To do otherwise is to be correctly described as instruments if not agents of a hostile foreign power and vindictive exile politicians.

    Virtually any country in the world will strike at opponents who are carrying water for foreign enemies. Look at the destruction of the US Communist Party and the professional lives of its adherents during the McCarthy era in the United States when our people felt threatened by the Soviet Union.

    Many of the victims were admirable and idealistic people committed to progressive change. That did not protect them from the power of the State and of popular opinion.

  • May 13, 2021 at 9:22 am
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    Hey Ariel ! Why don’t you make your way over to Capitalist, “Free” Colombia, to see how political non-violence is responded to in the systems that you want Cuba to become like ? There, spoiled darlings like those of San Isidro are put in their place not with a short two hour trip to the police station for a lecture. They get a bullet in their face y basta.

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