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Vol. 81/No. 13      April 3, 2017

(feature article)

‘Revolutionaries need history that helps find the
road forward’

Below are the remarks by Mary-Alice Waters at a Feb. 18 presentation of two books: Armando Hart: Una vida, un sueño and Aldabanazo: Inside the Cuban Revolutionary Underground, 1952-58 (see accompanying article). Waters is a member of the National Committee of the Socialist Workers Party and president of Pathfinder Press. Copyright © 2017 by Pathfinder Press. Reprinted by permission.


Thank you for the introductions, Javier. And on behalf of Pathfinder Press, thank you for the opportunity to join forces with Casa Editora Abril, the publishing house of the Union of Young Communists, to present here today both Armando Hart: Una vida, un sueño (Armando Hart: a life, a dream) by Enrique Lacoste, and Aldabonazo by Armando Hart.

The two titles, very different in format, have one thing in common. They bring to life the political course pursued by the young revolutionary Armando Hart and make his example accessible for new generations today and tomorrow.

Above all, of course, a very warm greeting to compañero Armando and compañera Eloisa [Carreras]. It’s an honor once again to be working with you.

It was out of these same links that the Pathfinder Press edition of Aldabonazo was born.

In the year 2000, working together with Abril, and in collaboration with Aleida March, Pathfinder produced a wonderful little book, Che Guevara Talks to Young People. Pathfinder published it simultaneously in Spanish and English for distribution in the US and internationally, while Abril brought out the same book for distribution here in Cuba.

And Armando Hart wrote the preface.

Comrades from the Socialist Workers Party had the pleasure of meeting Armando and Eloisa for the first time when the book was presented here at the Havana book fair seventeen years ago. I still have a vivid memory of that day in La Cabaña. It was freezing!

That’s when Armando asked Pathfinder if we’d consider publishing a US edition of Aldabonazo, an unparalleled account of the revolutionary struggle that brought down the Batista dictatorship and opened the socialist revolution in our hemisphere. The first Cuban edition had been published three years earlier, in 1997.

After reading it, we told Armando that as much as we would like to, we couldn’t possibly undertake to translate and publish a book with so many never-before-translated articles, leaflets, letters, and other documents of the revolutionary clandestine struggle to overthrow the Batista dictatorship. We simply didn’t have the human resources to do it.

That’s when we experienced firsthand Armando’s qualities as a revolutionary leader. He was not going to take “No” for an answer. We had several conversations here in Havana, and even one in New York when Armando was at the United Nations for some occasion. The truth is, we didn’t want to say no either.

In the end, we came to agreement that Pathfinder would publish an abbreviated version, with fewer documents perhaps, drawn from the invaluable archive that Armando and Eloisa modestly call Armando’s “papers.” We proposed a book of no more than 150 pages and asked him to suggest a way to cut the manuscript to come within that limit.

Being the experienced political tactician he is, Armando demurred, saying, “You’ll be better judges than I am of what is useful in the book. You should make the selection.” He offered to entertain any suggestions we made.

The outcome is the book we have here today — a little over 400 pages! And different from any edition that came before or after it. This one has all the historic documents of the struggle initially selected by Armando incorporated into the chronological flow of his account, chapter by chapter, printed in readable size type. Earlier editions simply photographed the documents and placed them all together at the end, as a tantalizing graphic appendix. They were largely unreadable.

In addition to these four hundred pages, the Pathfinder edition includes another twenty eight of magnificent photos that bring to life the events recounted — even for young workers and students in North America who have never visited Cuba and know little of its history.

I’ve taken the time to tell you this story because it is the best way I can think of to emphasize the importance of what you will find in Aldabonazo. The more we absorbed the value of Armando’s account of the clandestine revolutionary struggle, and how it was enriched by the leaflets, press accounts, and other documents produced in the heat of life-and-death battles, the more we knew that he — and Eloisa — were correct. We had to find a way to publish Aldabonazo in full, with all its richness, to make it available, in both English and Spanish, for new generations of revolutionary fighters in the US and around the world.

In referring to the value of the account you will find in Aldabonazo, I mean one thing above all. And I’ll borrow Armando’s words to express it.

Meaningful history for revolutionists, Hart wrote in his preface to Luis Buch’s The Cuban Revolutionary Government: Origins and First Steps,1 is history “that will be most useful in finding the road forward.”

That is precisely what Aldabonazo gives us.

The weapons needed by working people in the United States, as well as elsewhere around the world, are those that will politically arm a mass vanguard for the class battles ahead of us in the twenty-first century — battles that must be led and will determine the future, even the survival, of humanity. Like yourselves, we know we do not fight alone. But we also know that the hardest and most decisive battles are those that must be fought, and will be fought, within the belly of the beast.

That’s why we need to understand the Cuban Revolution, with all its contradictions and complexities. We need truthful history as told by those who led. History as told by those who know from the inside how each action was weighed, how each decision — sometimes difficult — was made, how each painful failure was learned from. And that’s what we find in this book.

To cite just one example. Even those of us acquainted with Fidel’s repudiation of the so-called Miami Pact in 1957, including from Che’s account in Episodes of the Cuban Revolutionary War, we understood it better after reading Armando’s account in Aldabonazo.2 You feel a burst of revolutionary energy just reading the opening sentence of Armando’s December 1957 cover letter to a leader of the urban underground — the llano — accompanying Fidel’s declaration.

Here goes the depth charge,” Armando wrote!

A little more than a year later, as he says at the end of that chapter, the revolution had triumphed.

The Cuban Revolution will never be copied. But it must be understood by those who seek to emulate its course.

That is why Aldabonazo strives to convey the “fabric” of history, as Hart writes. That’s why we published it. And it explains who we published it for.

I want to end by tying this to the political battles before us in the United States today.

The presidential election that took place a few months ago in the US registered the blows that have been dealt since the 2008 world financial crisis to the stability of the two-party system through which the US capitalist class has governed for almost a century. Neither party will emerge intact.

The outcome of the 2016 presidential election was settled by the protest votes of significant layers of the working class who face the devastation, the carnage, that Jack Barnes, the National Secretary of the Socialist Workers Party, documents in one of the other books we presented here at the Havana book fair, The Clintons’ Anti-Working-Class Record: Why Washington Fears Working People. That devastation has taken an increasing toll on the lives of workers and working farmers in the US over the last twenty-five years.

In his inaugural address four weeks ago, Trump boasted that “this American carnage stops now.” But that’s false. It won’t stop. There are no capitalist policies that can achieve that, and there is no imperialist politician who can change what’s going to happen. The capitalist mode of production, with its own laws of motion, is stronger than any of them or all of them together. And until we — working people — are conscious enough and strong enough to put an end to the oppressors’ and exploiters’ system, the humble the world over will continue to pay for their crisis with our misery and blood.

As a result of these conditions, there is today greater openness in the US working class than at any moment in our lifetimes to discuss the broadest social questions and political issues. For communists that means growing opportunities along with enormous responsibilities.

The truth is that contrary to the picture painted by the liberal hysteria of the mass media, there is less racism and anti-immigrant chauvinism among working people than ever in US history. Contrary to the notion that Trump represents some kind of incipient fascism, there is more space, not less, to fight for organizing the unorganized, to demand amnesty for foreign-born workers, to mobilize against police brutality, to advance the struggle for women’s rights, and to oppose Washington’s endless wars.

And most important, there is more space to win young workers and other youth to this perspective. To build a party, a communist party, within the vanguard of the working class.

It is along that road that the men and women capable of making a socialist revolution in the US will be forged, as they were here in Cuba — as we see unfold across the pages of Aldabonazo.

In the final chapter of the book, compañero Hart tells a story about Col. Ramón Barquín, one of the officers of Batista’s army imprisoned on the Isle of Pines for leading a military conspiracy against the dictatorship.

When those incarcerated there learned of the successful invasion of Las Villas province in central Cuba by two columns under the command of Camilo [Cienfuegos] and Che [Guevara], Barquín insisted: “That’s not possible. It’s not militarily feasible.”

To which a compañero replied, “Colonel, they did it because they didn’t know it was not possible.”

That is the example for which Washington has never forgiven the people of Cuba. And why it will never do so.

Because those words convey the political confidence and courage the Cuban Revolution continues to give those on the front lines of revolutionary struggles everywhere.

And this explains how proud we are to have had a small but meaningful part in publishing and using Aldabonazo.

We want to say thank you to all the compañeros at this year’s book fair who’ve helped put a spotlight on Armando’s leadership in the revolutionary struggle since he was a youth.

And thanks to you, Armando, for your enduring and ongoing example.

Gobierno revolucionario cubano: génesis y primeros pasos by Luis Buch Rodríguez, Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, Havana 1999 (Spanish only).

2 The Miami Pact was signed November 1, 1957, by major bourgeois parties opposed to Batista as well as exiles in Miami representing the July 26 Movement and Revolutionary Directorate. One claimed to be speaking on behalf of Fidel Castro and the Rebel Army leadership in the Sierras. The pact didn’t oppose U.S. intervention; it encouraged a military coup to oust Batista and proposed a bourgeois-dominated provisional government to replace him. July 26 Movement leaders learned of the pact when it was published in the U.S. press. Fidel Castro publicly repudiated it on December 14.
Related articles:
Canada: Join Che Guevara Brigade to see Cuba
‘Revolution made the impossible a reality’
Cuban revolutionary leader Armando Hart honored at Havana book fair
‘Hart broke down barriers, gave hope for the future’
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