Past present (II) | OnCubaNews English
When I reminded the debates of the 1960s around the teaching of Marxism, I do not know if I made it clear that its central and almost unique object, which was at the bottom and on the surface of these dissertations on the how and on what was taught, it was about a theory of socialism. The orthodox thought that this theory was already a constituted science, according to the experience of the Russian revolution, its predecessors and its strategists. The heterodox defended that this European science should be grafted here, according to the course of the Cuban revolutionary experience, and of its loyal knowledge and understanding, which as such did not harm, neither practically nor ideologically, the one over there.
For the latter, it was a question of thinking about our revolution in their own terms and starting from their path of breaking dogmas on how, when and where to do it according to “objective and subjective conditions”, as we said then. The question of what and to what extent this revolutionary science has been applied to our political experience involved studying and mastering its theoretical and practical sources, not only declaring that, since we were different and different from Russians, we do not We had only to listen well, read and apply Fidel Castro, Che Guevara and the other leaders, which would be enough to unravel the dilemmas of destroying, and above all, of building a social order from top to bottom.
In this context, these Marxist intellectuals were there to contribute through their studies to enriching the theory of socialism, so that it would serve other countries like Cuba, and to systematize the thought and experience of the struggle and the construction of a new society, to guide ours. Almost nothing.
Of course, the extent to which they were able to do this was not what gave them their status as leftist intellectuals, neither for them nor for the Orthodox, but the fact that they were working in a real political process, with which they articulated through what one of them was called “the exercise of thought”. It was a political action that made sense in the context of the problems and challenges facing the country, both internally and externally. Their intellectual characteristics, their sources, their currents, their authors, were not limited to university programs of philosophy, but included the interpreters, thinkers and leaders of the revolution as a phenomenon of the contemporary world. As one of the leading intellectuals of the time said, the Cuban Revolution was linked to Marx where he moved from science to political action, since “Marxism is present in the events of the Cuban Revolution, that its leaders profess it or fully profess it”. knowledge, from a theoretical point of view.1
To return to the questions I proposed at the end of the previous article, I would say that certain differences separate the intellectual left of the 1960s and that of today.
Past present (I)
As I pointed out, this was a politically involved left. In many cases they had been members of precursor revolutionary organizations, or were Party members or aspired to be. But the militant condition went well beyond this membership. To understand this implication, one must understand the complexity of the political process called the Revolution.
A few days ago, a friend noted that Lezama and Mañach made their spontaneous empathy with the July 26 Movement part of their attitude as public intellectuals. It probably wouldn’t have occurred to them to do it for another political party, no matter how patriotic or righteous. And it is that the meaning of this gesture cannot be read independently of the civic and moral cause that inspired it. Identifying with emancipation and justice was not the same as joining an organization, but rather assuming a different attitude to a different political action because of its meaning.
So much so that writers, artists, teachers and journalists, whether or not they were on the left (neither Lezama nor Mañach were), made their position in the face of the revolution an attitude characteristic of their condition as public intellectuals. . In a context where, in addition, millions of Cubans did it in their own way, claiming a civic condition that was not valid so much for its simple legal connotation, as for representing an experience of political participation unknown to the majority.
In the midst of this Cuba in revolution, the intellectual left was not only composed of intellectuals like those we have just mentioned. So were the doctors who went to the rural service, the students who marched to teach people to read and write, the playwrights who climbed the hills in search of other spectators, and even the university students who interrupted their career to join the rocket launcher troops. . Although the vast majority did not belong to any organization, their attitude was a necessary and sufficient condition for a militant left.
Of course, the avant-garde condition in the field of culture and thought did not derive, neither then nor now, from belonging to the Communist Party of Cuba (CCP) or from the exercise of a function, but of the recognition of his merits and his authority in this field. . Previously, I explained that, more than a record of alignment or an awarded title, membership in the Party then meant a recognition that people deserved, or that they struggled to deserve. But in any case, this left went beyond this organic belonging, and identified itself with an alignment with the Revolution, which, as its maximum leader once recognized, was much “bigger” than the leadership or the group of revolutionaries themselves.
To understand the political dynamics of this intellectual left, it should also be noted that intellectuals were everywhere, also in power. The political reflexes of those inside and those outside did not differ much. Thus the formerly alternative alignments, such as those which then provoked polemics in the field of culture or the economy, involved both.
What particularities distinguish this Cuban left and its intellectuals today?
If Fidel Castro’s leadership aligned orthodox and heterodox behind a common, unitary line, linked to “the defense of the Revolution”, with what concrete action or political project does the range of the current Cuban left identify?
In other words, if, as Bourdieu says, a political left is defined as being oriented towards “an effectively instituted critical attitude”, how is the current Cuban left established? What manifestations and actions define him as such, in addition to his self-identification? What marks his left-wing condition politically, beyond his ideological discourse? Is there an identity mark in a certain shared doctrine? Is its object to contribute to renewing a theory of socialism such as it was for the present past?
Even when reduced to the fringe of heterodoxy, the differences between the left of the 1960s and the left of today are still noticeable. Let’s say that what was then considered a political identification with the Revolution would today be perceived as an obedience? Where the heterodox of the 1960s were “organic and disciplined”, those of today are “independent and libertarian”? Where are these “submissives”, these “dissidents”? What beliefs and convictions bind them, if any?
Indeed, if, as we have seen, the left and the CCP have not been identical point by point in the past, what are the currents in which the Cuban left is subdivided aligned today? Is the attitude towards leadership a mark of identity or of differentiation? Even if it were admitted that a left which criticizes the government and its policies is part of Fidel Castro’s legacy, could the same be said of a part of this left which, with the exception of its rejection of American politics, does not recognize itself in the mirror CCP?
If we note that within the new landscape created by the transition there appears both opposition to the CCP from the right (“the counter-revolution”) and from part of the left, is there points of tangency between the two? What are their differences in the concrete political field of the forces in conflict?
In the past, fundamental coincidence with the leadership and its policies was a premise of leftist activism, even outside of CCP membership. Today, its left attitude, its independence and its ideological identity, are they defined more by the criticism of the anti-socialist opposition or by the questioning of official policies? Why both, in equal measure; or rather one of the two?
Finally, we should take a step back to ask ourselves if everything that manifests itself in the public sphere, in terms of ideology or critical thought, is left-wing. To what extent can what the snipers, who swarm in the networks on both sides, be considered a political action? The underlying question would be to know if, beyond what they reject or abhor, are they associated with a particular political project?
As I re-read this string of questions, it occurs to me that those referred to might be willing to answer them. If you dare to collaborate with my next text, I am waiting for you here. I’m all ears.
1 Che Guevara, “Notes for the study of the ideology of the Cuban Revolución», October 8, 1960.