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Vol. 77/No. 13      April 8, 2013

(feature article)
‘Fight for their freedom is inextricable part
of sharpening class struggle in United States’

Top: Militant/Lea Sherman. Bottom: Bruce Dixon
Working people in U.S. can identify “justice” meted out to Cuban Five with their own life experiences at hands of cops, courts and prisons, said Waters. “It is the Five’s unbroken dignity, integrity and steadfastness in face of this system of capitalist ‘justice’ that win the respect of working people across the U.S., including fellow inmates.” Top, rally outside California Department of Corrections against solitary confinement and other inhumane prison conditions, July 2011. Bottom, similar action outside Georgia Department of Corrections in Forsyth, July 2012.

Bill Hackwell
“Why do we fight for the Five?” asked Puerto Rican revolutionary Rafael Cancel Miranda, above, at September 2012 meeting in Washington, D.C., marking the beginning of their 15th year in prison. “Because we are fighting for ourselves, for our own freedom.”
Pathfinder had two objectives above all in producing this book, which is as much a work in progress as our struggle itself.

The first aim is to explain what many who first learn of the Cuban Five find inexplicable. Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, why were our five comrades convicted by U.S. federal courts on all charges, including conspiracy to commit espionage and, in the case of Gerardo, conspiracy to commit murder?

Why do the U.S. rulers so fear the example of the Cuban Revolution that they have locked away these exemplary human beings for a total of 83 years plus two lifetimes for Gerardo?

The answer starts with the Cuban Revolution itself and the example you have given the world of the capacity of the toilers—when they have a leadership forged in struggle, a leadership they deserve—to change the course of history. …

The second aim is to help working people and youth in the U.S. connect the “justice” meted out to each of the five by the U.S. cops, courts and prisons to their own life experiences at the hands of that same class system. To recognize the common web of “justice” dispensed above all to those who resist, who refuse to break, who refuse “to own their crime,” who refuse to deny their own humanity and worth. …

It is the unbroken dignity, integrity and steadfastness in face of this system of capitalist “justice” that win the respect of working people across the U.S.—including their fellow inmates—as they learn the truth about our five comrades.

The fight to free the Five is inextricably part of what can only be a sharpening class struggle in the U.S. in the years to come. And we say to workers attracted to their example: what we need here in the U.S. and elsewhere is a party made up of men and women like the Cuban Five. Join with us and let’s work together to build that kind of party. …

I want to end by telling you about two things that will be added to the next edition of The Cuban Five. They reveal a great deal about the qualities of Gerardo, Ramón, Antonio, Fernando, and René—the kind of human beings, the kind of revolutionaries, they are.

One is an interview with Rodolfo Rodríguez, “Rody,” as he is known to others, a Cuban of the Mariel generation who was one of René’s fellow inmates for seven years at the Federal Correctional Institution in Marianna, Fla. Like René, Rody is currently on parole. His tribute to René is one of the most powerful testimonies to the character of the five heroes I have ever read. I’ll give you just a taste.

In a radio interview with journalist Edmundo García on Radio Progreso in Miami last year, Rody described how he first became friends with René in 2004.

I was introduced to René by a fellow prisoner in the following way: “Hey, man. Let me introduce you to the spy.” Everyone called them spies, even though they weren’t. That’s what they were charged with.

And that’s how one of the friendships that has most changed my life began.

In Cuba, I was raised in a home with a lot of hostility toward the government of our country. Obviously, before I met René González I didn’t think what I do now.

Right off the bat, I told him that I believe in God. I expected him to take me on, to start arguing with me.

What was his response? He said, “That’s great! I don’t. But I believe that a true Christian will want the best for humanity, and if my friendship with you helps you be a better Christian, I’ll feel satisfied.”

That’s how an hour-long conversation with Rody begins, full of stories that show us how our comrades have conducted themselves in prison. How they have won the respect and admiration of fellow inmates as they carry out their revolutionary work on the front lines of the class struggle where they are, as part of some 2.3 million other workers behind bars in the United States.

‘A favor not for them but ourselves’

The second piece I want to share with you is an exchange between Gerardo and the great Puerto Rican revolutionary Rafael Cancel Miranda. As many of you here today know, he and four other Puerto Rican patriots spent some 25 years in U.S. prisons for actions in defense of their country’s independence.

Cancel Miranda was the principal speaker last Sept. 14 at a meeting in Washington, D.C., that marked the beginning of the 15th year of imprisonment of the Five. He gave a magnificent speech, beginning to end, that will be included in the next edition. Cancel Miranda began with the declaration:

Why do we fight for the Five? Because we are fighting for ourselves. We’re not doing them a favor. We’re doing ourselves a favor, because we’re fighting for our own freedom.

And he ended with the words:

I was 23 years old when I climbed the stairs of the Capitol building in Washington. Today I’m 82, and I haven’t changed the way I think about anything. Except today I am perhaps a little more revolutionary—because I know the enemy better.

Today it’s we who must thank the Five. We thank them for the example they give us.

The Militant transcribed and printed Cancel Miranda’s speech, and Gerardo read it when he received that issue. A few weeks later we got a letter from Gerardo, commenting:

At the time of the September solidarity event in Washington, I had the opportunity to say hello to Rafael Cancel Miranda over the phone and reiterate the admiration of the Five for him; he has always been an example for us. We are grateful for the Militant’s valuable transcript of his remarks, remarks that should go down in history.

Gerardo went on to tell the story of the Puerto Rican patriots’ first visit to Cuba after their release in 1979, where they were welcomed, among others, by a group of Pioneers who presented them each with a scarf. “The young Pioneer who was asked to present the scarf to Rafael,” wrote Gerardo, “is my wife Adriana! As we Cubans say, ‘I get goose bumps’ just telling the story!”

Knowing that Gerardo’s words would mean a great deal to Cancel Miranda, we took the liberty of forwarding him Gerardo’s letter. The very next day came his reply:

Many, many thanks for sending me a copy of the heartfelt letter from compañero Gerardo. I draw energy from the Five as well. No power exists that can defeat the spirit of Gerardo and his four compañeros, since they represent the power of the heroic Cuban people. Even in prison they are contributing to the liberation of our peoples.

The empire crashes against the determination of the Five. I send them the warmest greetings of thankfulness and brotherhood.

I can only add, Cancel Miranda’s heartfelt words speak for us all.

Copyright © 2013 by Pathfinder Press. Reprinted by permission.
Related articles:
‘It is only through international solidarity and action that we will bring our compañeros home’
Among the participants
‘I’m proud of what our lieutenant did and of what he continues to do today’
‘Letting the people of the US know the truth about the Five’
‘Thank you, Angola, for allowing us to know our comrades better’
‘Diverse religious institutions are united behind Cuban Five’
Who are the Cuban Five?
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