Received from Cuba
Published in Italian journal Gramsci Oggi: Contro il travisamento imperialista del ruolo di Fidel Castro nella Rivoluzione Cubana (Combating the misrepresentation of Fidel Castro in imperialist narratives of the Cuban Revolution)
BOOK REVIEW (FIRST PUBLISHED IN CUBARTE)
Jose Marti: Mentor of the Cuban Revolution (Fernwood Publishing, 2012)
John M Kirk’s profound discussion of José Martí’s life and revolutionary philosophy is ingrained within the collective Cuban revolutionary consciousness. Dispelling the alleged equal affinity to Martí expressed by Cuban revolutionaries and dissidents who have sought to foment turbulence in Cuba, Kirk’s treatise ‘José Martí: Mentor of the Cuban Revolution’ (Fernwood Publishing, 2012) eloquently portrays the intricate ties between Martí and the Cuban Revolution, which is the fulfilment of the continuous, anti-imperialist struggle embodied by Fidel Castro.
While the US and the community of Cuban dissidents exploited Martí, in Cuba there has been an amalgamation and implementation of his revolutionary thought which led to a dissemination of his ideas, as opposed to the philosophy being restricted solely within academic circles. The essence of Martí’s writings can be discussed within the dynamics of ‘a social imperative in the struggle for national liberation’. Through an analysis of his writing, it is possible to discern the transcendence from rebellion to revolution embracing the anti-colonial and anti-imperial struggle as imperative to the process of Cuban liberation.
Rather than a traditional biography, Kirk seeks to portray an understanding of Martí through an analysis of his thought and writings, allowing perspectives regarding the evolution of political thought as well as Martí’s direct participation in the struggles to liberate Cuba from Spanish colonial rule. Early experiences provided insights into the ramifications of colonialism, notably rampant racism and his experience of torture in prison, which he described as ‘an institution of the government’. Always conscious of the magnitude associated with the struggle against colonialism and imperialism, Martí associated himself with the liberation of Cuba and Latin America, breaking away from the colonial identity imposed upon the nation. According to Martí, liberation of the people through social processes would educate Cubans and transform the colonised perception of identity. Kirk states “ … a new humanitarian consciousness was absolutely essential in order to complement and ultimately to guarantee the application of his revolutionary socio-political program”.
The consistent anti-colonial and anti-imperial sentiment has been personified by Fidel, who declared Martí the ‘intellectual author’ of the Cuban Revolution. Moving from reflection and interpretation to actual implementation, Fidel’s liberation of Cuba incorporated the dissemination of perspectives which had been articulated in Martí’s writings, thus allowing Cuban’s to participate in the revolutionary struggle. The acclaimed defence speech ‘History Will Absolve Me’ was replete with references to Martí, with Fidel validating the revolutionary goals through a historical process which still necessitated implementation. It is the adherence to consistency, and Fidel’s loyalty to Martí’s political thought, which allowed a revolutionary ideology to flourish and subsequently render Cuba independent. While the Moncada Barracks attack was a prelude during which adherence to Martí was articulated, Batista’s defeat was the commencement of dedication to a revolutionary struggle against anti-imperialism from an internationalist perspective.
Kirk also expounds upon Martí’s view regarding the encompassing nature of revolution – the importance of taking into account Cuba’s particular history in a manner which allows all Cubans to benefit. Imparting the revolution through education in order to create the complementary dynamics of freedom and responsibility would transform the role of the masses from passive spectators to participants within the revolution. Martí’s awareness regarding the magnitude of such a struggle was reflected in his writings regarding Cuba and internationalism. The independence of Cuba from colonial rule would lay the foundations for a wider scale of resistance against US imperial interests in Latin America and the world.
The anti-imperialist and internationalist approach avowed by Fidel Castro is evidence of Martí’s relevance within the continuity of the Cuban Revolution. Beyond inspiration and symbolism, Martí’s insistence about the restructuring of social life in order to challenge the colonial framework was incorporated by Fidel. As Kirk states, “For Fidel Castro the image of Martí was not as a mystic or an apostle, but instead as a radical revolutionary, a man who was an avowed anti-imperialist and who was extremely critical of the U.S. role in Cuba”. An appreciation of Martí and his work is a process of fulfilment, ingrained within the relevance of his ideals today – an extension of the early philosophy of internationalism embraced and promulgated by Cuba.