Enrique Ubieta Gómez on Prague, revisionist history, and the Cuban Five

Czech resistance hero Julius Fučík

In Prague: first impressionsespañol

Enrique Ubieta Gómez

Translation: Machetera

I’ve been invited to participate in the Fifth Regional Meeting of Cubans Residing in Europe, to be held this weekend in Prague.  Without a doubt it will be quite a rich experience, because with the advent of transnational corporate “freedom,” this capital, one of Europe’s most beautiful, has transformed itself  into a city that is deaf, mute and blind.   The Czechs no longer believe, hope, or care.  Its politicians are the most corrupt in Europe.  With the exception of the fiercely stigmatized communist paper, the ordinary press in the new country belongs to foreign consortia.  But the “free” citizens don’t want to think.  An editor here was sued for re-issuing Julius Fučík’s “Notes from the Gallows.”  History has been re-written, to the extreme of changing the date of the victory over Nazi fascism in order to attribute the honor to U.S. troops.  The current Chancellor, son of someone whose property was nationalized by socialism, had to learn his “native” tongue in order to re-insert himself and re-appropriate half of the country.  First, he made an investment: he was one of Havel’s principal financial backers.  I promise to write more, later.

Heroes and complete history.  Reflection on the Cuban Five, from Prague español

Just a few hours ago an act of solidarity with the five anti-terrorist Cubans being held as political prisoners in the United States took place, attended by Rosa Aurora, the wife of Fernando, one of those heroes.

I’m familiar with the discussions that sometimes arise between historians and academics on the greater or lesser social visibility of certain heroes (sometimes even on the qualification itself) and of people and events in history.  The counter-revolution doesn’t care for the revolutionary pantheon.  I suppose that this includes Mella, Villena, Jesús Menéndez and José Antonio Echevarría, among others diminished or made invisible in the pseudo-republic.  In the frankly rightwing newspapers such as Spain’s El País or Miami’s El Nuevo Herald, they’ve tried to present Che Guevara as a murderer and Fulgencio Batista as a democrat who made mistakes.  Miami’s circumspect historians (no matter where they live, whether in México or Barcelona, there’s a Miami mentality that marks and defines a person) sometimes call for “a complete history” in which Julio Lobo and Orestes Ferrara – two millionaires with dubious ethics – return as heroes in the social pages of a press made for the purpose of reproducing their values precisely.

I emphasize this because there are no academics more honorable and obsessed with the truth than revolutionaries.  And what happens is that we are contaminated with a guilt complex, and so eventually we say, okay, let’s do a complete history, let’s look with a magnifying glass at the works of these good men who built a theatre once in awhile in order to evade taxes on earnings wrested from the blood and sweat of others.  And maybe that’s okay, because if it means someone is responsible for building a just history (not an ecumenical one) then we are revolutionaries.

But then I come to Prague, and find to my stupefaction that the entire counter-revolution is a lie, and not only that, it’s absolutely cynical and fraudulent.  All the socialist Czech heroes have disappeared, just like Pinochet’s prisoners (torn from the pages of books, along with the audacious teachers who dare to mention them; expelled from the schools), and that the communist anti-fascists – not even the Soviets, I’m talking about the Czechs who were the first to enter the territory occupied by the Germans – “never existed.”  That the courts are condemning the editor who dared to publish the anti-fascist journalist Julius Fučík, because he was openly communist, although in his famous reports he didn’t mention his political beliefs.

I see that in this city the rightwing have not only blown up and buried the remains of the socialist pantheon (they never existed, they never had any merit whatsoever), but have hurriedly built another, with fake heroes, with people who are media creations, mercenaries and hustlers serving spurious interests.  And while Fernando’s wife was speaking of her husband incarcerated in the United States –  in a blatant violation of all the rules of judicial decency – and of his other comrades, heroes all, how any other nation would want to have them, and calling for justice, others were granting the Sakharov Prize to Fariñas, even though they knew full well what kind of affair it was, because certain prizes do not exist for justice’s sake, but for the sake of fabricating prestige.

I thought, finally, of what the “new” history of Cuba would be if the counter-revolution were ever to regain power on the island: a history of Yoanis, of Fariñas, of mercenaries, cynics and rogues.  There’s no such thing as a “complete” history, because each tradition – and in a country there are different traditions – leads to a different future.  The tradition of the annexationists and autonomists leads to a Free Associated State.  A tradition of independence activists and revolutionaries leads to socialism.  The Czech experience is instructive: the counter-revolution is uneasy with the pantheon of revolutionary heroes, not from an academic purist’s standpoint or because it cares about “the truth,” but because it wants to substitute a different one, real or fictitious, bought or invented, that allows it to count on a tradition for its societal project.

Today I have sensed how much we owe these five Cuban political prisoners in U.S. prisons, and how much our children and grandchildren owe them: the future of our homeland, their defense of it, as the indisputable heroes they are.

Enrique Ubieta Gómez is a Cuban journalist and essayist. Currently the director of La Calle del Medio, a publication of opinion and debate. Recipient in 2002 of the Distinction in National Culture award. Machetera is a member of Tlaxcala, the network of translators for linguistic diversity. This translation may be reprinted as long as the content remains unaltered, and the source, author, and translator are cited.

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