And Fidel Left…

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By Gustavo Rodríguez

Translator’s Note: This essay was penned by Cuban comrade Gustavo Rodriguez in the early morning hours after the announcement of Fidel Castro’s death. Posted on social media on the following day in Mexico, Latin America, and Spain, his essay was immediately met with virulent criticism from various quarters of the Left and ultimately removed from various sites[1]. We offer this English translation of Rodriguez’s essay as a direct counter to the fawning over an authoritarian leader who ultimately co-opted an historic, potent mass movement in Cuba; who silenced generations of activists and artists; who used murder and deceit to wield and maintain power; and who ultimately betrayed the hopes and dreams of a people with deep libertarian socialist traditions.

(In memory of Marcelo Salinas, Santiago Cobo, Claudio Martínez, Canek Sánchez Guevara and the many no longer with us[2].)

“To call the State a “Revolution” was undoubtedly a great political success for the Castro dictatorship, and to accept it at its best, the most serious dialectical error (and not the only one) of the international communist left.”                                                                                                                                                                – Canek Sánchez Guevara.

“It is true that the Cuban revolutionary process is no longer – and hasn’t been for quite some time- the revolutionary model par excellence in this region of the world, nor any other; but to continue keeping silent about it is significantly suspicious in that the lessons have not been sufficiently learnt and that there will come again before us those using the same or similar words, and that will ask us to be indulgent with respect to Jacobin and vanguardist ideas, which are ultimately veiled or clearly authoritarian. ”
– Daniel Barret (Rafael Spósito)

My first reaction to the news of his death was silence. Immediately afterward I decided that I wouldn’t write a single word about it. An event so trivial doesn’t deserve even a single letter. In addition, a whole legion of “cubanólogists” (themselves somewhere between detractors and idolaters) surely were ready at this moment to take charge of the task. I preferred to leave the dirty work to them and to continue with the course of my daily life. No death is a reason to interrupt life, and Fidel’s was no exception. But my companion convinced me to write up a small note that, with the coming of the new day, has become these untimely lines that I link together and articulate with no other pretension than to leave a record and  express a point of view that does not align with the collective hysteria of the ruling party on the island nor with that in Miami.

After the public declaration by the Cuban President-General announcing his death, the conflicting messages began to flow across the so-called “social networks”. The worshippers and enemies of the deceased ex-ruler break into their passionate emotions. Jubilation and sadness are the feelings that are assigned to the most effusive protagonists surrounding this event; sorrow or celebration become the dilemma. One might remark wisely, “so it seems that two men have died with the same name, on the same day and at the exact time.”

The hyper reaction was also predictable. On the island today an endless parade of mourners is stirring, a long farewell line starting, eternal speeches of praise, opportunistic realignments, with jokes and criticisms in whispers. Nor could it be otherwise. On the island that has been the reality for more than half a century: endless parades, long lines, praise-filled speeches, opportunistic maneuvering, and cowardly critical whispers. In Miami, a multitudinous conga took Calle Ocho [3] by storm, celebrating the death of the tyrant. No other answer was expected there, either. Miami is a great conga, a perpetual comparsa[4], a fatality of a consummate and consumerist exile.

They all proceed as if the inanimate body of the mythical commander was still warm. But Fidel did not die last night. He’s been a corpse for a decade. It was fitting that regular Cubans on the street baptized him with the name “the unburied”[5]. His death occurred at the moment when he was already demoted to being an insular Caesar and had passed the scepter and absolute power to his younger brother, but not without first “wrapping everything up and double-wrapping it” according to the rules and customs of this infamous caste. From then on he was bent behind the scenes, limiting his performances to sporadic public appearances where his fulminating decrepitude became more and more evident as did his senile incontinence. Nevertheless, under his name continued to be issued “reflections” – as if it were Corin Tellado[6] – in the face of the almost unanimous indifference of the majority of Cubans and the incredulity of those who simply felt that “the number didn’t match the ticket.”[7]

That infallible, omnipresent and omnipotent Colossus, the Lord of the Island, the boss of the cemetery, the owner of small horses, the great circus master, the audacious and effective wizard who once ordered a pigeon enthusiast to secretly train three white doves so that they posed on his shoulder during his very first speech before the astonished gaze of thousands of Cubans who spoke of blessings and good omens, who spoke of nothing more and nothing less than the “Holy Spirit.” The arrogant olive drab[8] giant able to turn the country into a monumental trench, to inseminate cows, change the course to the hurricanes, and decree the planting of coffee in personal gardens. That impenitent orator who could utter endless speeches where he could afford to talk and talk and talk for hours – thanks to a catheter that made the natural release of his bladder invisible to the crowds – and to invent numbers and statistics that would oblige the censuses and official records to be changed the following day. That hardened expert on every topic who did not hesitate to offer opinions on art, biotechnology, baseball, contemporary architecture, ice cream, botany, boxing, hermeneutics and nuclear engineering. The insomniac Father who never hesitated to lecture about the best way to prepare warm bath water, in the thousand and one ways of brewing coffee, in the art of tying our shoe laces and the four infallible strategies of putting down a double nine[9]… He left!

It still seems unthinkable to be able to express myself in the past tense. But yes, at last, the great gravedigger of the Cuban Revolution has left. The sad undertaker of all the dreams of freedom and autonomy long cherished by generations of tireless revolutionaries. The great traitor of the World Revolution. The disciple of Sorel, the admirer of Primo de Rivera, the devout reader of Mussolini, the tireless conspirator of the Caribbean Legion.  The megalomaniac and self-centered Caribbean Duce has departed.[10].

He has died of natural death at age 90, surrounded by his relatives and stalwarts, after resisting countless assassination attempts. He ended his days undefeated, just as Josef Stalin, Francisco Franco, and Augusto Pinochet. There is no doubt that dictators always know how to erect a wall of acolytes and faithful guard dogs to prevent at all costs that libertarian bullets fulfill their mission.

But finally, the dictator is dead. Now we have to kill the Fidel that we all have inside us. Sadly, thousands of puppets still swarm along the two shores ready to embody that spirit. The snake is dead but the egg survives. Fidel has disappeared from the face of the earth, however, fidelismo still persists. That sad joke, that putrid jumble of rapacious opportunism, of galloping nationalism, paralyzing populism, and backwoods fascism, still lingers, obscuring the present and threatening the future.

Today, a “corte de caja[11]” is imperative to allow us to take stock of more than a century of history, from the establishment of the republic with its immoral procession of generals and doctors, to this irony of history that brings us back to the starting point in a sinister circular journey: with the inheritance of a new President-General, a grossly enriched military caste, and the most shameless impoverishment of regular people, particularly Afro-Cubans. Now is the moment for self-criticism – no matter how annoying the prospect. We have to evaluate our own performance in this story, the role that each one of us has played in the staging of this pitiful farce. This task is still pending. Dictators do not fall from the sky, voluntary servitude creates them and leads them by the hand to the throne.

That is why – among other reasons – last night I could not raise a joyous cup for the death of the tyrant as many of my dear friends did. I can never toast death, but I can never do so to the memory of the Coma-andante[12]. Last night I drank to the last drop a majestic mezcal[13], toasting to the health of Memory. Yes, I toasted so that we never lose our memory. Let us never forget this half-century of abuses and fear! That never again there reappear on the island any Fidels, Machados or Batistas! That we never have to suffer in the world any Castros or Francos or Videlas or Pinochets![14] That we Cubans finally learn the lesson and start thinking for ourselves and stop mouthing the slogans and being the useful servants of Havana mandarins, of Washington hierarchs, or the crows of the Vatican!

Believe me, last night I drank a toast with all my passion for being alive, for that possibility that a new life opens with the late arrival of this announced death. A new life that we will be tasked with building collectively as Cubans, as regular Cubans, without having to ask permission, without messianic architects or pre-fabricated designs; Without “strong men” that force us on the path; Without insomniac “parents” (lovers or castrators) who watch over our dreams and treat us like children; Without patriarchs who demand from us eternal sacrifices to sustain their thrones of shame and death; Without leaders or shepherds to guide us over the precipice.

I also toasted last night with all my absent companions – with that bunch of beloved ghosts! – and we clinked our glasses so that sort of banana republic national-socialism that still oppresses us disappears forever with a simple stroke and soon becomes just the vague memory of a long and distressing nightmare. I wish my grandchildren – that beautiful Asian and that big-eyed Arab – and my dear Dario and all of us who have missed the attainment happiness in our existence, that someday they not only see with their own eyes all these dreams come true but that they contribute to forging with their own tender hands that new world that we carry in our hearts.

Cheers!

November 26, 2016.

                                        Translation and notes by David Fernández-Barrial

[1] The original essay “Y se fue Fidel” in Spanish is currently  available online at: http://periodicoellibertario.blogspot.fr/2016/12/y-se-fue-fidel-vision-de-un-exiliado.html

[2] Marcelo Salinas (1889-1976) was a noted Cuban Libertarian author, playwright and activist. Santiago Cobo Cesar (1919-1989) was anarcho-syndicalist militant and member of the Cuban Transportation Workers union from the 1940s until 1959. Claudio Martinez was a militant in the Cuban Gastronomic Union during the same era. All three were members of  the Movimiento Libertario Cubano. Canek Sánchez Guevara (1975-2015) was a musician, anarchist activist, author, and grandson of Che Guevara.

[3]Calle Ocho” (“Eighth Street”) is the main thoroughfare that cuts through the heart of Miami’s “Little Havana” – home to tens of thousands of Cubans in exile.

[4] A comparsa is a folk song and dance, often performed at carnivals and street festivals.

[5] Unburied.

[6]  “Reflexiones de compañero Fidel” was the title of Fidel’s ongoing column that appeared in the official State newspaper, Granma after he retreated from public view. Corin Tellado (1927-2009) was the prolific writer of Spanish-language romance novels.

[7] A reference to matching tickets to drawn numbers in a lottery; i.e. something didn’t add up.

[8] Verdeolivo is the olive drab color of  Fidel’s omnipresent uniform from the 1960’s to the late 1990’s, when he switched to tailored suits for the visit of Pope John Paul II, and later, to Adidas track suits.

[9] A reference to a strategy of getting rid of tiles in the popular Cuban game of dominoes.

[10] George Sorel (1847-1922) was a revisionist Marxist and syndicalist whose orientation eventually became nationalistic and proto-fascist. Primo de Rivera  (1903-1936) was the founder of the Spanish Falange. Benito Mussolini (1883-1945), known as “Il Duce” (The Leader ) was the Italian dictator and founder of modern fascism. The “Legión del Caribe” was a group of Latin American activists and revolutionaries who sought to overthrow dictatorships in the late 1940s and early 1950s – most notably that of Rafael Trujillo (1891-1961) in the Dominican Republic.

[11] A “corte de caja” is a monthly cash closing, an audit of accounts.

[12] A pun on Castro’s  title “Commandante”, emphasizing the “coma”-inducing aspects of his rule.

[13] A distilled Mexican drink made from the agave plant.

[14] Various and sundry Latin American and Spanish dictators: Cuba’s Gerardo Machado (1871-1939) and Fulgencio Batista (1901-1973); Spain’s Francisco Franco (1892-1975); Argentina’s Jorge Rafael Videla (1925-2013); and Chile’s Augusto Pinochet (1915-2006).

 

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