The speech by Army General Raúl Castro on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Triumph of the Revolution, was another bucket of cold water thrown on those who still attributed to him sense of pragmatism and a desire to make changes in the country.
In barely thirty minutes, he made a dozen references to his brother Fidel, some of which quoted others to praise him; on eleven occasions he mentioned U.S. imperialism and a score of time he referred to historical facts. Of the future, he said that the next fifty years will also be a permanent fight and that we shouldn’t think they will be easier.
Most notable, in my opinion, was the lack of programmatic suggestions. For example, he didn’t mention that this year the much postponed sixth Congress of the Cuban Communist Party will meet; he said nothing of the announced structural changes nor of any kind of plan to increase food production nor of improving the disastrous housing situation; nor did he refer to eliminating the absurd prohibitions that remain in place nor the forthcoming ratification of the Declaration of Human Rights signed last year, but above all, the greatest absence in the speech was socialism.
As I listened to him say that the leaders of tomorrow should never forget, “that this Revolution is of the humble, for the humble and by the humble,” I thought I had heard wrong, but the daily paper Granma confirmed that I’m not going deaf, as this phrase was chosen for headline on the front page. For those who have forgotten, this historic phrase was pronounced by Fidel Castro on April 16, 1961, and marks the moment of the declaration of the socialist character of the Revolution. What happened was that Raúl left out the adjective “socialist” in front of the noun, and so left out of the expression the precise word that made it historic: Socialist.
After having made that small discovery, I went back to reading his speech in Santiago de Cuba and, completely perplexed, found that in his entire discourse there was no mention of the ideological elements of the system. For example, when he mentioned Julio Antonio Mello, founder of the first communist party, he said Mello was “the bridge between the Martí-inspired thinking and the more advanced ideas.” Why didn’t he clearly say between the Martí-inspired thinking and Marxist-Leninism? A little later he defined the revolution as “a righteous social cataclysm.” What happened in the early years, after fully overcoming the Moncada program, was called here, “the logical evolution of the process.” He said, almost immediately, that in Cuba American history “took different directions.”
The rest is metaphor. When he had to explain that the class struggle started to eliminate the exploitation of man by man, he said it began “to sweep away dishonor and inequalities”; that as Cubans, “we adhere to the highest ideals of Martí: the cost of freedom is very high, and one must resign oneself to living without it, or decide to pay its price,” which “has been a firm resistance, far from fanaticism, based on solid convictions,” and that the Revolution “never has ceded one millimeter on its principles.”
Where does this sleight-of-hand language come from? Why does Raúl Castro ask for the militancy “that prevents the destruction of the Party,” and doesn’t even call it by its full name: Communist Party of Cuba [PCC].
I wonder if the Marxist-Leninist ideas, which according to the statutes of the PCC govern the policies of the country, will have happily gone into hiding; I wonder if the construction of the socialist system has finally stopped being the most important purpose of the Revolution that just turned fifty. I would like to know if these failures are the result of unjustifiable neglect, or of the deliberate intention to go on recycling other more acceptable positions.
I don’t ask these things because the abandonment of an already out-of-date ideology saddens me, but because I believe that after half a century, we are again facing the uncertainty of 1959, when the people didn’t know to what destiny the leaders of the process were taking them.