Lula (Part 1)

He spontaneously decided to visit Cuba for the second time since he became president of Brazil, even though the state of my health did not guarantee that he would be able to meet with me.

In the past, as he himself said, he visited the Island almost every year. I met him on the occasion of the first anniversary of the Sandinista Revolution at the home of Sergio Ramírez who at that time was the vice president of that country. By the way, I would say that Ramírez fooled me, in some way. When I read his book, Divine Punishment –an excellent narrative– I came to believe that it was a real case that had happened in Nicaragua, with that legal nuisance so common in the former Spanish colonies; he himself told me one day that it was pure fiction.

There I also met with Frei Betto who today is a critic, but not an enemy, of Lula, as well as with Father Ernesto Cardenal, a militant leftist Sandinista and, today, an adversary of Daniel. The two writers were part of the liberation theology movement, a progressive trend which we always saw as a great step towards unity between revolutionaries and the poor, beyond their philosophy and their beliefs, in accordance with the specific conditions of struggle in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Nonetheless, I must confess that I perceived in Father Ernesto Cardenal, unlike others in the Nicaraguan leadership, an image of sacrifice and privations resembling that of a medieval monk. He was a true prototype of purity. I leave aside others less consistent, who were at one time revolutionaries, including militants of the far left in Central America and other areas, who later, out of a concern for their well-being and money, crossed over, part and parcel, to the ranks of the empire.

What does all this have to do with Lula? A lot. He was never a left-wing extremist, nor did he become a revolutionary through philosophical positions, but of those of a worker of very humble origins and of Christian beliefs, and he worked hard creating surplus value for others. Karl Marx saw the workers as the ones who would bury the capitalist system: “Workers of the world unite,” he proclaimed. He presents us with reasons and demonstrates this with irrefutable logic; he takes pleasure and makes fun of the cynical lies used to accuse Communists. If the ideas of Marx were just at that time, when everything seemed to depend on the class struggle and the growth of the productive forces, science and technology, which sustained the creation of essential goods to satisfy human necessities, there are absolutely new factors which say that he was right and which at the same time clash with his noble aims.

New necessities have arisen which could destroy the aims of a society with neither exploiters nor exploited. These new necessities include the emergence of human survival. No one had even heard about climate change in Marx’s day and age. He and Engels surely knew that one day the sun would be extinguished from with the consumption of all its energy. A few years after the Manifesto was written, other people were born who made inroads into science and knowledge about the laws of chemistry, physics and biology ruling the Universe, to then unknown. Into whose hands would this knowledge fall? Although it continues in its development and even improves, and again partially denies and contradicts its own theories, new knowledge is not in the hands of the poor nations who today make up three-quarters of the world’s population. It is in the hands of a privileged group of wealthy and developed capitalist powers, associated with the most powerful empire ever to exist, built on the bases of a globalized economy, governed by the very laws of capitalism described by Marx and thoroughly studied by him.

Nowadays, as humankind is still suffering from these realities due to the very dialectics of events, we must confront these dangers.

How did the revolutionary process in Cuba develop? Quite a bit has been written in our press in recent weeks about different episodes of that period. Great respect has been shown for various historical dates on the days corresponding to anniversaries that commemorate years ending in a five or a zero. That is fair, but we must be careful, in the sum-total of so many occurrences described in each newspaper or article, according to their criteria, lest we lose sight of them in the context of the historical development of our Revolution, despite the efforts of all those excellent analysts that we have.

For me, unity means sharing in the struggle, the risks, the sacrifices, the aims, ideas, concepts and strategies assumed after discussion and analysis. Unity means a common struggle against annexationists, quislings and corrupt individuals who have nothing in common with a militant revolutionary. It is to this unity revolving around the idea of independence and against the empire as it advances over the peoples of the Americas that I have always referred to. A few days ago, I once again read it when Granma published it on the eve of our election day, and Juventud Rebelde reproduced a facsimile of my thoughts on the idea, in my own handwriting.

The old pre-revolutionary slogan of unity has nothing to do with the concept, because in our country today we do not have political organizations seeking power. We have to avoid that, in the enormous sea of tactical criteria, strategic lines become diluted and we imagine nonexistent situations.

In a country invaded by the United States while involved in a solitary struggle for independence as the last Spanish colony, together with our sister Puerto Rico, — “birds of a feather” — nationalist feelings ran very deep.

The real producers of sugar, who were the recently freed slaves and the campesinos, many of whom fought in the Liberation Army, transformed into squatters or completely lacking any land of their own, who were pitched into the sugarcane harvests in the great estates created by United States companies or Cuban landowners who inherited, bought or stole land, were adequate material for revolutionary ideas.

Julio Antonio Mella, founder of the Communist Party together with Baliño –who knew Martí and who, with him, created the party that would lead Cuba to independence– took up the banner, brought to it all the enthusiasm derived from the October Revolution, and gave this cause his own blood, that of a young intellectual conquered by revolutionary ideas. The Communist blood of Jesús Menéndez would be added to that of Mella 18 years later.

We, teenagers and youths studying in private schools had not even heard of Mella. Our class or social group, having incomes greater that those of the rest of the population, condemned us as human beings to become the self-seeking and exploitative part of society.

I had the privilege of coming to the revolution through ideas, escaping the boring fate that life was leading me to. I explained why at another moment; now, I remember this only in the context of what I am writing.

Hatred of Batista’s repression and his crimes was so great that nobody paid heed to the ideas I expressed in my defense at the Court in Santiago de Cuba, where there was even a book by Lenin printed in the USSR — coming from the credit I had at the People’s Socialist Party bookstore at Carlos III in Havana — found among the combatants’ belongings. “Whoever hasn’t read Lenin, is an ignorant,” I blurted out during the interrogation at the first sessions of the hearing when they brought it up as a damning bit of evidence. They were still trying me together with all of the surviving prisoners.

It would be hard to understand what I am saying if one doesn’t keep in mind that at the time we attacked the Moncada, on July 26, 1953 — an action made possible by the organizational efforts of more than one year, with nobody on our side other than ourselves — the policies of Stalin, who had died suddenly a few months earlier, prevailed in the USSR. He was an honest and devoted Communist, who would later make serious errors leading him to extremely conservative and cautious positions. If a Revolution like ours had succeeded at that time, the USSR would not have done for Cuba what the Soviet leadership did years later — by then liberated from those murky and tortuous methods, and enthused by the Socialist Revolution that burst on the scene in our country. I understood that very well in spite of the fair criticisms I made of Khrushchev as a result of events that were well known at the time.

The USSR had the most powerful army among all those contending in World War II, but unfortunately it was purged and demobilized. Its leader underestimated Hitler’s threats and bellicose theories. From the very capital of Japan, an important and prestigious Soviet intelligence agent had communicated the imminence of the attack on June 22, 1941. This surprised the country, which was not in combat readiness. Many officers were on leave. Even without their most experienced unit leaders — who were replaced — if they had been alerted and deployed, the Nazis would have clashed with powerful forces from the very first second and they would not have destroyed most of the fighter planes on the ground. Even worse than the purge, was the surprise. The Soviet soldiers did not surrender when they were told about enemy tanks in the rearguard, the way the other armies from capitalist Europe did. In the most critical moments, with sub-zero temperatures, the Siberian patriots started the lathes in the weapons factories that Stalin had far-sightedly moved to the inner reaches of Soviet territory.

As the leaders of the USSR themselves told me when I visited that great country in April 1963, the revolutionary Russian combatants — well seasoned against foreign interventions aimed at destroying the Bolshevik Revolution, which was left blockaded and isolated — had established relations and exchanged experiences with German officers, those with a Prussian militarist tradition, humiliated by the Treaty of Versailles which put an end to World War I.

The SS intelligence services devised schemes against many who were, in their vast majority, loyal to the Revolution. Motivated by suspicions that turned pathological, Stalin purged 3 of his 5 Marshals, 13 of the 15 Army Commanders, 8 of the 9 Admirals, 50 of the 57 Army Corps Commanders, 154 of 186 Division Commanders, one hundred percent of Army Commissars, and 25 of 28 Army Corps Commissars of the Soviet Red Army in the years preceding the Great Patriotic War.

The USSR paid for those serious errors with enormous destruction and more than 20 million lives lost; some affirm 27 million.

In 1943, with some delay, the last Nazi spring offensive was launched at the famous and tempting Kursk Bulge, with 900 thousand soldiers, 2,700 tanks and 2,000 aircraft. The Soviets, experts in enemy psychology, laid in wait in that trap for the sure attack, with 1,200,000 men, 3,300 tanks, 2,400 planes and 20,000 artillery pieces. Led by Zhukov and Stalin himself, they destroyed Hitler’s last offensive.

In 1945, Soviet soldiers advanced unstoppably to capture the German Reich Chancellery in Berlin, where they hoisted the red flag stained with the blood of the many fallen.

I observe Lula’s red tie for a minute and I ask him, “Did Chávez give you that?” He smiles and answers: “Now I am going to send him some shirts because he’s complaining that the collars on his shirts are too hard, and I am going to look for them in Bahía so that I can make him a present of them.”

He asked me if I would give him some of the photos that I took.

When he said that he was very impressed with my health, I told him that I spent my time thinking and writing. Never in my life had I thought so much. I told him that, at the end of my visit to Córdoba, Argentina, where I had attended a meeting with many leaders, and he had been there as well, I came back, and then I took part in two ceremonies for the 26th of July Anniversary. I was revising Ramonet’s book. I had answered all his questions. I had not taken the thing too seriously. I had thought that it would be a quick thing, like the interviews with Frei Betto and Tomás Borge. And then I became a slave to the French writer’ book, when it was at the point of being published without my going over it, with some of the answers being a bit off the cuff. I barely slept during those days.

When I fell gravely ill on the night of the 26th and in the early morning of the 27th of July, I thought that would be the end, and while the doctors were fighting for my life, the head of the Council of State Office was reading me the text, at my insistence, and I was dictating the pertinent changes.

Fidel Castro Ruz
January 22, 2008