Fidel Castro and Che Guevara during the early days of the Cuban Revolution. The role of the intellectuals in Cuba was a major point of discussion during the early 1960s.
Originally uploaded by Pan-African News Wire File Photos.
the debates recently taking place on these themes in Cuba, where
Fidel Castro's famous discussion, WORDS TO THE INTELLECTUAL has been regularly referred to as a policy reference point, readers here may wish to review those notable remarks. I must say in reading them, they are reminiscent of themes Fidel has also been speaking about in the past two years on a number of occasions.
This intro has not been made available online to my knowledge and
the Guillen speech was particularly interesting as it takes up some
of Cuba's complex racial issues along with the independence struggle, which was at the core of all of the talks in the pamphlet.
The Revolution and Cultural Problems in Cuba
Republic of Cuba
Ministry of Foreign Relations
1962: Year of Planning
Forward scanned by Walter Lippmann, January 2007
This unsigned forward comes from the 1962 Cuban pamphlet published by the Ministry of Foreign Relations. The pamphlet also contained speeches to same conference by the poet Nicolas Guillen, who was also president of the Cuban Union of Artists and Writers (UNEAC) and President Oswaldo Dorticos Torrado. I hope to get them scanned and posted soon.
The general adherence of all classes in our country to the
revolutionary movement which triumphed on the first of January, 1959. was followed, along with its radicalization and its measures on
behalf of the common people, by first vacillation, then retreat, and
lastly frank repudiation of the Revolution by those who up to then
had enjoyed special privileges. The attitude of the intellectuals who
represented the official culture of previous periods, the culture of
the classes affected by the Revolution, was in keeping with the
attitude of their patrons. These pseudo-intellectuals had a defined
position: they were against the Revolution.
On another side, regarding the Revolution from another point of view,
were the intellectuals who were loyal to it. However, even many of
these honest revolutionaries, enthusiastic workers, men of working
and middle class backgrounds, found that the march of the Revolution, that unfamiliar and rapid march animated by an unsurpassed, constructive rhythm, that tide that swiftly wrote in or erased names, institutions, events, moved only by social justice, that growing wave amazed them, and, in a certain sense, awoke certain fears in them.
When Dr. Fidel Castro, meeting with the writers and artists on the
eve of their First Congress, referred to the Yenan Forum, he revealed
the nature of the cultural problems, in our country.
In the famous Yenan Forum in 1942, Mao Tse-tung could, in the midst of a bloody war of yet unforeseeable results, orient the honest
intellectuals to participate along with men of other classes, the
workers and peasants, in the construction of a new society in China.
In Cuba, when the Revolution began its work, that clear, firm
orientation was lacking, But the Revolution itself proved to be an
exceptional school. Therefore, conscious of the need for all
sympathizers with the Revolution to participate in its work, on
November 19, 1960, the most advanced of the Cuban artists and writers issued a manifesto -- "Towards A National Culture Serving the Revolution". that only a few months later would be regarded as
historic. Its publication marked the beginning of the enthusiastic
work of artists and writers to unite, to take a position, to play a
specific role in the revolutionary process.
The publication of the manifesto was very timely. Events that filled
us with great hopes but that marked directions fraught with
difficulties and obstacles for our Revolution, obliged us all to
formulate clear, unmistakable definitions. The promulgation of the
First Declaration of Havana shortly before by the people of Cuba,
gathered in a National General Assembly, and the adoption of measures such as the nationalization of large foreign and domestically owned companies in Cuba, marked steps of unprecedented importance for the Revolution. It was the exact moment to either state adherence to the cause of the workers and farmers or to rise against them. The Cuban writers and artists formulated an unmistakable declaration. In the November document they proclaimed their irrevocable commitment to the Revolution and to the people.
In the introduction to the statement of their points of view and the
formulation of their immediate program, the writers and artists
considered it their first duty to state their public creative
responsibility to the Revolution and the Cuban people, "in a period,"
they proclaimed, "of united struggle to achieve the complete
independence of our country as a nation." They declared that "the
victory of the Revolution has created among us the essential
conditions for the development of national culture, a liberating
culture, capable of encouraging revolutionary progress."
In accordance with the above premises and the fact that "the unity of
purpose of contemporary Cuban intellectuals is obvious in their works as well as in their of efforts to spread culture among the people throughout the revolutionary period and during the years of struggle that preceded it," the intellectual clearly defined their
The immediate program set forth by the writers and artists was in
keeping with these declarations. They stated, as the first point,
that they aspired to the "recovery and development of our cultural
tradition, which is rich in human content and was wrested away from
our people by the colonialists and the imperialists." The second
point of the program was to "preserve, encourage, purify and utilize
our folklore, spiritual wealth of the Cuban people, which the
Revolution is liberating and reevaluating." They added that they
"consider sincere and honest criticism indispensable to the work of
artists and intellectuals," and that they "should try to achieve full
identification between the character of our works and the needs of
our advancing revolution.
The purpose is to bring the people close to the intellectual and the intellectual close to the people, which does not necessarily imply that the artistic quality of our work must thereby suffer." The declaration pointed out, concerning Latin America, that "exchange, contact, and cooperation among Latin American writers. intellectuals and artists are vital for the destiny of our America." And from a still more far-reaching point of view, "Mankind is one. national heritage is part of world culture, and world culture contributes to our national aspirations."
On the basis of these ideas, the preparatory work of he First
National Congress of Writers and Artists began. But the mobilization
in January, 1961, when aggression by imperialism seemed imminent, took many intellectuals to the trenches; the mobilization, and later the aggression itself, with its historic defeat at Playa Giron,
forced the postponement of this great assembly. But the Revolution
advanced constantly. On April 16, the Prime Minister, Dr. Fidel
Castro, proclaimed the socialist character of our Revolution.
The new orientations called for new meetings to be held previous to
the Congress. Dr. Fidel Castro, accompanied by high figures of the
Revolutionary Government, met with. the intellectuals and dealt with
their problems. Many questions dealing with cultural activity were
discussed on June 16, 23, and 30, in the auditorium of the National
Library; there the Prime Minister dispelled fears and clarified the
Revolution's policy in regard to culture and intellectuals.
Thus, with the assurance that artistic freedom was guaranteed
absolutely and totally, the Congress opened on August 18, anniversary of the death of Federico Garcia Lorca. The motto adopted for the Congress proclaimed: "To Defend the Revolution is to Defend Culture." The agenda was based on the program set forth in the November Declaration.
On the opening night, the President of the Republic, Dr. Osvaldo
Dorticos Torrado, spoke about the road that the delegates to the
Congress must take. "Artists and writers must go to the people .—,not descending, but ascending to them. . . in the people is to be found the source of future works, the daily inspiration and the supreme inspiration.. And to the people the literary or artistic products must finally return: a return of the treasures which the people give in the artists every day."
On the morning of August 19th, poet Nicolas Guillén took a journey
through Cuban history, from which he returned asking the artists and
writers to create a "socialist, humanist culture that will give the
ordinary man in the street everything that was denied him by the
Colony in the 19th century and monopolized by an exclusive sector of
the ruling class of that society... a culture that will liberate and
exalt us and distribute both bread and roses without shame or fear".
The publication in this book of Fidel's words to the intellectuals
and the speeches by Dorticós and Guillen will enable English-speaking friends of Cuba throughout the world to form a clear idea of the spirit with which the Revolution is tackling the problem off culture.
Without exception, the only condition that of being unequivocally on
the side of the people, the Cuban Revolution protects the rights of
creators, of scientists, of intellectuals. Even more, it stimulates
their work and opens new horizons to them. With a better world in
view, writers and artists, side by side with the people of whom they
are a part, are helping to build the society of the future
FULL RE-FORMATTED VERSION OF FIDEL'S SPEECH: