Granma | January 03, 2018
My generation was born in the first years following the triumph of the Revolution of 1959, and some of us in the months beforehand. When the bearded ones took Santiago, and later reached Havana in the caravan, the People’s Republic of China had existed only a decade and the socialist states in Europe had barely reached their 15th anniversaries. The Soviet Revolution and its multi-national state, where many of us studied, had the longest history: 40 years of resistance to international capitalism and fascism. But, adolescents after all, in the 70s, we thought our parents and their revolutions were old – and some revolutionaries were, in fact, but not for reasons of age.
I recently revisited my photos from the 80s, when just graduated from the university, we brandished our youthful swords with enthusiasm, convinced that we were destined to establish, once and for all, revolutionary truth, reason, and justice, and I have drawn conclusions; our parents, back then, were younger than we are today. There were some who were never young, who did not attempt to change the world in their first years of life, even considering themselves self-sufficient. On the other hand, those who, as years and decades pass, never cease their efforts to change things, can never be considered old.
Little by little we discovered that the revolutionary vanguard is timeless, although it is very much a product of its time, connecting under the ground – where its roots grow – with previous vanguards, and is composed of men and women of all ages. If any doubts remain, Gómez and Martí, Baliño and Mella, can dispel them, but also the historic bridge that unites Martí and Fidel. If this were not the case, how can we explain the need revolutionary Latin Americans feel to call themselves Martianos, Sandinistas, Zapatistas, Bolivarianos, Fidelistas? The heroes of the past encourage those of the present, arguing with them like the passionate youth they are. They cannot be buried, they are comrades in the struggle. I am still moved remembering the magical instant when a million youth of all ages honored the Comandante en Jefe of the second half of the 20th century with the most stunning farewell a hero could receive: “I am Fidel,” shouted the people with fists raised, which simply meant, “We will not let you die.” Fidel had said the same of Martí, in the year of his centenary, but the times are different: Marti was abandoned, and Fidel is not.
We must learn how to identify a youth. Obviously, it’s not about how smooth your skin is or how black your hair, nor is it of any use to ask someone their age. These are confusing facts. Those who assaulted the Moncada were apparently just like their peers, but while they attacked the garrison, many others danced in the Carnival. We must not trust those who insist on going along with the majority view established by fashion and the corporate media, or the fatigue they have caused. On the other hand, the phrase, “what young people think” lends itself to manipulation, an over-used trick employed by older people to justify their desertion. Consensus is constructed – this is the job of revolutionaries – and to the degree that it responds to the needs of the majority, of the humble, it approaches the truth or not. The vanguard of young revolutionaries is intergenerational. There is no Party of the under-aged – they have dissimilar interests like the rest of society. There is rather a Party of youth of any age, that upholds the Communist ideal.
It is true that every generation contributes a different point of view, and that this perspective reveals aspects overlooked and sensibilities not previously perceived. However, the moral axis of revolutionaries is justice, regardless of the century in which they live – the justice that is possible and that which appears not to be. Thus, the inequalities of the day – the inevitable ones, those that are or appear to be “fair” – must be temporary. The revolutionary does not accept them. This is the horizon, the hazy image in the fog, toward which we are rowing: all the justice. No one who has disappeared rows, if he or she is not called upon. And the relief rowers are indispensable; it is imperative that we all play a role in this colossal effort.
The event that motivates this reflection is clear: the 60th year of the Revolution just begun. And we, its first children, are coming of age. The Cuban Revolution has now existed longer than the European socialist states. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is no longer. We have been the reference for other, more recent Latin American revolutions, without any one attempting to copy our methods.
Very close to our coasts, lying in wait, with claws at the ready, are the predators of big capital. Some friends argue for surrender. They say, empathically: We cannot ask the Cuban people to make more sacrifices. I ask myself if the surrender of our conquests is a minor sacrifice; if the dependent capitalism that awaits us in the stagnant water at the bottom of the cliff, toward which they push us, would not increase the people’s suffering and rob us of the possibility of fighting for a better future. All the shortcomings that revolutionaries know well, the dissatisfaction, can be resolved if, and only if, we are capable of preserving the Revolution.
As the 60th year progresses, the adolescents of today will imagine us to be very old; it is only natural. We will commemorate other important dates: the 150th anniversary, for example, of the beginning of the War of Independence. Once, Fidel said that in Cuba there had been but one Revolution, that begun by Céspedes at La Demajagua. He made this statement half a century ago, when we were very young and did not know that our parents were, too. On that occasion, Fidel said, “We, as revolutionaries, must find a way – when we say our duty is to defend this land, defend this homeland, defend this Revolution – to remember that we are not defending the work of ten years, we must remember we are not defending the revolution of one generation: We must remember that we are defending the work of a hundred years!”
This also explains why the Cuban Revolution of 1959 did not go down the drain when the others collapsed. It explains the link between generations in a war that in order to be anti-colonial in the 19th century, and anti-imperialist in the 20th, needed to be anti-capitalist.
I am four months older than the Revolution that educated me, and as young as it is. A Revolution that renews itself, and to repeat, that re-founds itself. With the new year come an end and a beginning, that grant us the opportunity for mediation. I could find no better rallying cry than that of the young José Martí: “The legend has not died. Indomitable and strong, our sons prepare themselves, without fear, to repeat, and finish this time, once and for all, the feats of those brave, magnificent men who were nurtured by their roots. Those men who snatched their enemies’ weapons from their belts, who with sticks from trees began a campaign that lasted ten years, who broke the horses in the morning to ride into battle that afternoon.”