The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 72/No. 11      March 17, 2008

Havana events launch book
on Cuba, U.S. class struggle
(front page)
HAVANA—Four presentations of Pathfinder’s Cuba and the Coming American Revolution took place here in February. One was held as part of the Havana International Book Fair, and the others were sponsored by the Federation of University Students (FEU) at the University of Havana and by the Association of Combatants of the Cuban Revolution.

Among those participating in these events were Cuban vice president José Ramón Fernández, Gen. Moisés Sío Wong, FEU national president Adalberto Hernández, and University of Havana rector Rubén Zardoya. Over the course of the February 14-24 book fair and subsequent events, more than 250 copies of Cuba and the Coming American Revolution were sold.

A February 21 meeting took place at San Carlos de la Cabaña, the historic fortress at the mouth of Havana Bay where the book fair was held. Attended by 50 people, it was addressed by Fernández, Sío Wong, and Mary-Alice Waters, editor and author of the preface to Cuba and the Coming American Revolution and president of Pathfinder. The event was chaired by Jonathan Silberman of Pathfinder Books in London.

Sío Wong is president of Cuba’s National Institute of State Reserves. He is one of the generals in Cuba’s Revolutionary Armed Forces interviewed in Pathfinder’s Our History Is Still Being Written: The Story of Three Chinese-Cuban Generals in the Cuban Revolution, which was presented at the Havana book fair in 2006. Together with Fidel Castro, Fernández is co-author of Pathfinder’s Playa Girón/Bay of Pigs: Washington’s First Military Defeat in the Americas. He commanded the main column of Cuban forces in the historic April 1961 battle in which a U.S.-organized invasion force was crushed in 72 hours.

Waters noted that Cuba and the Coming American Revolution by Jack Barnes, national secretary of the Socialist Workers Party in the United States, takes as its starting point the impact of the Cuban Revolution on a generation of U.S. youth who were won to the communist movement in the early 1960s. It is not primarily a book about Cuba, she pointed out, but rather, as the back cover explains, about “the struggles of working people in the imperialist heartland, the youth who are attracted to them, and the example set by the people of Cuba that revolution is not only necessary—it can be made.” (See text of Waters’s remarks on page 8-9.)

The book was originally published in 2001, marking the 40th anniversary of the victory at the Bay of Pigs. A new edition was presented last November in Caracas at the Venezuela International Book Fair, whose theme was “The United States: A possible revolution.” The new edition came out of the initiative of the Venezuelan publisher Monte Avila to print the book there in response to growing interest in this subject among working people and youth in that country.  
Imperialists ‘don’t understand us’
With this book “Pathfinder once again offers us another weapon in what Fidel calls the battle of ideas,” Sío Wong told the audience. “We must recognize the work Pathfinder has done to make known the Cuban Revolution and what the Cuban people have achieved.”

To much laughter, he read from news dispatches by foreign journalists in Havana reporting with surprise that “everything remains normal” in Cuba two days after Fidel Castro’s announcement that he would not stand for reelection as president. “What reaction do they expect?” he asked. “They don’t understand the Cuban people.”

The U.S. government cannot explain the fact that “91 percent of Cubans voted in favor of the revolution,” Sío Wong said, referring to those who voted for the full slate of deputies nominated for the National Assembly in the January elections. “That’s despite all the difficulties we face—you go to the bus stop and there is no bus; there are potholes in the road; there isn’t enough food.” About 9 percent of valid ballots were cast for less than a full slate; of those who went to the polls, nearly 5 percent cast spoiled or blank ballots.

While U.S. officials today call for change in Cuba, “the changes began in 1959 with our revolution,” he said.

Fernández told the audience he was “an admirer and friend of Pathfinder” because of its record in telling the truth about the Cuban Revolution.

“We are very encouraged to know that within the United States, not only now but as early as 1961, there were university students as well as leaders of a political organization who had confidence in the Cuban people and the Cuban Revolution,” he said. Fernández was referring to the account in Cuba and the Coming American Revolution of how socialist workers and youth in the United States acted in defense of revolutionary Cuba in response to the U.S.-organized invasion at the Bay of Pigs.

Fernández noted that the book is dedicated to the Cuban revolutionaries known as the Cuban Five who are today incarcerated in U.S. prisons because of their actions in defense of their revolution: Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González, and René González.

The Cuban leader read a message from René González to Fidel Castro, published in the press that day, responding to Fidel’s decision not to continue as president and commander in chief. “An imperial, morally decrepit society cannot understand a decision by a lifelong revolutionary that is dictated by his sense of duty,” González wrote. “It would be expecting too much for them to understand how deeply your example has taken root among Cubans, and how it will inspire countless generations of combatants around the world.”

Magaly Llort, the mother of Fernando González, was among those who came to the book presentation. Family members of the Cuban Five took part in several events at the book fair, and the Havana-based International Committee to Free the Cuban Five had a booth there.  
University of Havana meeting
A presentation of Cuba and the Coming American Revolution was also held February 27 at the University of Havana, sponsored by the Federation of University Students. More than 50 students and faculty members attended the event, which was addressed by University of Havana rector Rubén Zardoya, FEU vice president Fernando Luis Rojas, and Waters. Rubiel García, FEU’s secretary of cultural affairs, chaired the meeting, and FEU president Adalberto Hernández joined them on the platform.

Noting that the young people attending the meeting did not live through the 1961 events described in Cuba and the Coming American Revolution, Rojas said the book would help youth on the island understand the central place of Cuba for revolutionaries in the world today, “especially in the United States.”

The “defense of socialism must be at the center” of the political work of young Cuban revolutionaries today, Rojas said. At a time when there is a tendency among radical political activists internationally to criticize the consequences of capitalism but not the system itself, “We must increase the educational component of our work in schools and communities to counteract the distorted views that many youth have about politics,” he said.  
Imperialism in crisis, not socialism
Zardoya recounted how he had first met members of the Socialist Workers Party almost 15 years ago, at a 1994 international solidarity conference during the worst years of what is known here as the Special Period—the deep economic crisis resulting from the abrupt loss of aid and favorable trade relations with the Soviet Union. In those years, he noted, there was barely anything to eat, bicycles replaced cars on the streets because there was no fuel, and university classes had to be cut back for lack of resources.

At a time when the Soviet Union had collapsed and “imperialism appeared to have emerged victorious,” Zardoya said, he met these communists from the United States “who were telling us that it was imperialism that was in crisis and that there could be a world revolution, including in the United States.”

The rector said he had read many books published by Pathfinder, including Leon Trotsky’s The History of the Russian Revolution, which he said “contains some of the most brilliant pages written, not only about the Russian Revolution but about how people’s mentality changes during a period of revolution.”

Pathfinder’s books, he said, show “the seriousness with which they take revolutionary theory.” Moreover, the books are carefully prepared, with accurate translations, and are well illustrated—“attractive books, as opposed to the ugly books we used to get from parties that wanted to make ugly revolutions.”

“I urge you to study carefully what this book says,” Zardoya concluded, “not to believe, but in order to think.”

After the presentations, students crowded around the literature table to purchase a variety of Pathfinder books and pamphlets on sale in Cuban pesos and continue the discussion for another half hour. Some took copies of the Militant and read the platform of the Socialist Workers Party 2008 presidential campaign, asking questions about U.S. politics—from the race for president to how communists carry out political work in the imperialist heartland. Several youth had come to the meeting after hearing about it at the book fair.  
Combatants of the Cuban Revolution
A third book meeting was hosted by the Association of Combatants of the Cuban Revolution to present both Cuba and the Coming American Revolution and From the Escambray to the Congo: In the Whirlwind of the Cuban Revolution by Víctor Dreke. In attendance were some 50 members of the Combatants Association, which is made up of multiple generations of participants in Cuba’s revolutionary struggles, from the movement against the Batista dictatorship in the 1950s to internationalist combat missions in Algeria, Angola, and other countries.

Iraida Aguirrechu, a senior editor at Editora Política, the publishing house of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba, chaired the event. She introduced the speakers, who included Waters as well as César Alba and Mario Rodríguez Martínez, leaders of the Association of Combatants of the Cuban Revolution. Alba and Rodríguez are both longtime combatants, having fought in the revolutionary struggle in the late 1950s.

Aguirrechu noted that Editora Política had this year published a Cuban edition of From the Escambray to the Congo with a run of 15,000 copies—making it available for the first time across the island. Waters had presented the title at the book fair earlier in the month. (For coverage of that meeting and the text of Waters’ remarks there, see the March 3 issue of the Militant.)

Alba explained that Dreke gives a vivid account in the book of his participation in Cuba’s liberation war in the 1950s, as well as the campaign in the early 1960s after the victory of the revolution that defeated U.S.-backed counterrevolutionary groups in the Escambray mountains of central Cuba. Dreke also describes his experiences as second in command, under Ernesto Che Guevara, of a column of Cuban combatants that fought in 1965 in the anti-imperialist struggle in the Congo. Dreke is today Cuba’s ambassador to Equatorial Guinea.

Rodríguez spoke about Cuba and the Coming American Revolution. “It is very useful to think about the ideas that comrade Jack Barnes explains in the pages of this book,” which, Rodríguez told the audience, explain “the efforts of U.S. working people, their struggles in the very heart of the imperialist monster.”

He said he agreed with Barnes “that there will be a revolution in the United States.” The many years of struggles by working people in the United States and Cuba have “common roots, planted and developed by generations of vanguard fighters and thinkers in both countries.”

Rodríguez pointed to “the increasingly sharp crisis in the U.S. economy, which is creating intolerable living standards for families in the United States.” At the same time, immigrants arriving from other countries “are broadening the horizons and radicalizing the struggles of American workers.”

Books like Cuba and the Coming American Revolution, he said, are important because “they reach new generations that are hungry for the truth.”

Another book presentation took place at a March 2 meeting of the Association of Combatants of the Cuban Revolution in the Playa district of Havana. Hermes Caballero, a veteran of the revolutionary struggle in the city of Santiago and in the Sierra Maestra mountains of eastern Cuba, presented both Cuba and the Coming American Revolution and From the Escambray to the Congo.

In addition to the books sold at various meetings, donations of Cuba and the Coming American Revolution and other recently published Pathfinder titles were made to the University of Havana library—and, through it, to university libraries across the island—as well as to Cuba’s National Library system, the FEU, the Combatants Association, and other institutions.
Related articles:
‘We shared determination to emulate the example of Cuba’
Havana presentation of ‘Cuba and the Coming American Revolution’ by editor Mary-Alice Waters  
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