Being a Communist…

By Yasvily Méndez Paz

When I was a child, I was surprised to see how upset a man would get if they shouted ‘Communist!’ at him. Why would he be offended —I thought— if being a communist is something good? Time went by and I became a 16-year-old teenager to whom one day they proposed the idea of joining the Young Communist League (UJC). Back then I felt very proud; the ideological and political education my family had given me, along with the mimicry they used to instill sympathy towards the ideology of communism into us in school —‘pioneers for communism, we will be like Che!’— influenced my judgments. I got to university being a member of the UJC and, already in my working life, I joined the ranks of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC). Until that moment, I was convinced that being a communist and a revolutionary meant you belonged in the PCC, but my opinion would gradually gain some nuances.

Workmates —some young, others not so much— had voiced their decision not to join the ranks of the PCC, in spite of being the best professors, committed to the profession they had chosen. Personal histories, past disagreements of family members, among other reasons which marked their lives forever, had an influence on their decisions. Many argued that they didn’t need to be members of the PCC in order to be revolutionaries and defend the conquests of their homeland; others mentioned dogmatisms of the above-mentioned political organization. Indeed, intrigues, sick slanders and sterile shady dealings by dogmatic and extremist communists made me ponder the matter for hours.

Liberty is the right that people have to freely act, think and speak without hypocrisy’, our National Hero said. Fernando Martínez Heredia encourages us by saying that it’s the right to act in accordance with our ideas, thoughts and decisions, and not to be cheered by siren calls or fainthearted pigeonholing, ill-adjusted to our Cuban and Latin-American reality. That has happened with the lack of political vision of the PCC in a number of historical moments. I refer to the dogmatic line, riddled with bureaucracy and narrow views, not to organic communists who, inside or outside the Party, have strived to oppose outrages or mistakes.

Martínez Heredia reminds us that Mariátegui was demonized by the Communist Party and considered a deviation from Marxism, and the Peruvian Communist Party was even congratulated for making the opposition to what they termed ‘the Mariátegui deviation’ the center of their ideological struggle. Something similar happened with Julio Antonio Mella, who was expelled from the PCC —which he had co-founded— for that hunger strike he went on during Machado’s government because they considered it an act of indiscipline. Antonio Guiteras, whose Marxist and anti-imperialist views indicated a deep knowledge of the Cuban reality, was a convinced communist without a Party card. I agree with Martínez Heredia’s assertion that the Program of the Joven Cuba is one of the ‘vital political documents of the 20th century in the country. It is said in it that Cuba will have to accept socialism in order to achieve completion as a nation. Guiteras behaves as a communist, even though he doesn’t identify himself as one.

As the excelling Cuban intellectual well says, at the time, that moniker was only given in Cuba to the members of the PCC, ‘the socialist revolution of national liberation (…) made it natural to understand what a communist is and how this comes from communist ideas and struggle, and not from belonging to a given organization, but the matter was again obscured by structured ideology during a prolonged stage, and its effects are still being felt.’ From the socio-economic and ideological crisis of the 1990s, the revolutionary project stopped reinventing itself. Stuck at a blind, static and immovable point for several decades, it is subject today to a group of economic, political and legal changes which may bear proper fruit. Recognizing strategic sectors of the Cuban society, such as teachers, is an intelligent and just decision. Cuba has to strengthen itself culturally to fight the ideological battle between capitalism and socialism, which even extends to social representations and the issue of symbology.

Martínez Heredia incites us not to be politically naïve; there’s no middle ground, it’s either capitalism or socialism. And we know by historical experience that capitalism is not a viable solution for Cuba. Understanding the meaning of being a communist is a necessary task in order to enhance our country’s political culture. Being a communist means a lot more than just being a member of the PCC, it means being consistent with Marxism adjusted to the Cuban an Latin-American reality, in total symbiosis with our history of national liberation, it means advocating for the construction of a superior society within the framework of socialism, and it means using the proper weapons from our field of action to perfect the ‘Socialist Revolution of national liberation’. It doesn’t matter where you write from, but the position and the goals you defend. Being consistent, organic and transparent with the commitment to the homeland is the motto.

(Translated from the original)

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