Round table Cuban Intelelctuals and artists against fascism held in Cuban television studios on April 14, 2003, "The year of the glorious anniversaries of Martí and Moncada".
(Official Council of state transcsripts)
Randy Alonso. - A very good evening to you dear viewers and listeners.
In these dramatic times which place the human race in great danger, when fascism is making a comeback and trying to impose its brutal dominion on the world, Cuban artists and intellectuals have called for the creation of an international anti-fascist front.
This evening’s round table is called Cuban artists and intellectuals against fascism and I am joined by some of the most important figures from Cuban cultural life.
On this afternoon’s panel are comrade Carlos Martí, poet and president of the Cuban National Union of Writers and Artists (UNEAC); Roberto Fernández Retamar, poet, essayist, winner of the National Literature Prize and president of the Casa de las Américas.
We are also honoured to have with us Pablo Armando Fernández, Cuban poet, novelist, writer and intellectual and winner of the National Literature Prize, Julio García Espinosa, one of our best film makers, director of the San Antonio de los Baños international Film School; Elíades Acosta, Cuba historian and intellectual and director of the José Martí national library and Fernando Martínez Heredia, one of our best essayists and president of the Gramsci chair at the Ministry of Culture’s Juan Marinello Centre.
As our studio guests we have here with us several well known people from the Cuban art and intellectual world; comrades from the field of science, from the ministry of tourism, children from the La Colmenita theatre group and as a very special guest we have with us this afternoon Abel Prieto, our country’s minister of culture.
(Pertinent images are shown)
Randy Alonso. - UNEAC’s National Council which met in Havana on Saturday and Sunday released a statement calling for the creation of an anti-fascist front.
Carlos Martí, what is the reason for this call by Cuban intellectuals, such as the one made, what are the arguments supporting this call by Cuban artists and intellectuals.
Carlos Martí. - In fact, given the times we are living in, this call is essential. This is an extremely serious moment for our country, and, naturally, for humanity, since a neo-fascist machine has been set in motion, and humanity is already paying the price for war of pillage and destruction against the people of Iraq. In other words, it was essential that we meet, that we thought about what is happening today, and that we finally managed to produce a declaration like the one that was approved there in that National Council and which we are going to publish all over the world.
I want to mention some of the most important aspects of this declaration and of the reflections made by us writers and artists.
First, we should point out — as the declaration suggests—that this neo-fascism has global aspirations and what is dangerous is that now it has neither armed opposition nor any containment wall, nor is there any kind of force capable of stopping it. Moreover, it has devastating power, capable of wiping out the country in question in mere minutes. This is the first point the declaration makes.
The second point that I want to highlight is how the interventionist mindset which is being pushed on us by the United States violates all agreements on international law and seeks to do away with the sacred principles of national sovereignty and the right to self-determination.
Our people has been able to see clearly how the war was imposed on us all spite of the fact that it was not approved in the United Nations.
The declaration also says that what exists today is a situation where, ominously, the rule of law is being replaced by the law of those who rule. I think this is a very important statement that is in the declaration we are talking about.
There is a third aspect is the propaganda apparatus that has gone into motion; in other words the power of the media, all the modern means of communication working to present the invaders as "forces of liberation" or as a "coalition" — a word that has a certain nobility— and of trying to impose or proclaim so-called democratic criteria, when, in reality, we see that what took place here is the most brutal kind of genocide. This is no coalition. Quite simply they are imperial forces that have unilaterally unleashed this aggression on the Iraqi people.
This machinery, as we know, floods the planet every day with repetitions of the message of the United States’ superiority and the messianic role it has cast itself in. This is complemented, naturally, with a view that converts the Third World, anything that is not the United States, the other, into a caricature. In fact, it is part of this neo-fascist machinery which has been fired up and which has been put into practice with the war against Iraq.
Nevertheless, in spite of the enormous influence of the media, an anti-war consciousness has been developing. We have seen every day on these round tables and in the news that has been broadcast how this anti-war, anti-imperialist consciousness has managed to get the people to rise up, we see huge demonstrations all over the world and the intelligentsia, too, has risen up all over the world.
The manifesto "No in our Name" which was signed by the best -known U.S. intellectuals is proof of that.
It is fair to remember, as well, that in all the time we have been working against the war, and trying to reflect on this neo-fascist phenomenon, we have been able to see clearly that the U.S. government that is acting in this way is one thing and the best of U.S. culture and the U.S. people is quite another thing. And we remember that UNEAC celebrated U.S. independence on July 4 last year trying to make a distinction between the imperialist government, the neo-fascist machinery and the wonderful U.S. culture, which is represented by those who signed the manifesto "No in our name". Therefore we have done various things.
I can also mention that when the war broke out we held a "No to War" workshop in UNEAC’s headquarters and in the provinces. Artists and writers dropped by condemning the war and also worked with members of the public who came to the workshop.
This workshop led the way to the National Council and to waging war against and reflecting on this neo-fascist programme.
Another thing the declaration deals with is that after what happened on September 11, which was despicable, those events have been turned into a pretext for imposing a preconceived policy of universal domination and pillage. I personally think it was auto-provocation, a gigantic Maine in order to be able to subject the world to this kind of aggression.
In other words, that the so-called battle against terrorism has made it easier for them to deploy an unprecedented amount of weapons and resources, a fantastic business opportunity which has always been the dream of the industrial military complex.
We are seeing the world’s resources, the wealth of nations being plundered. And it is even worse than in the colonial era because weapons are more sophisticated and are in the hands of the biggest imperial power the world has ever known; the situation therefore, is really critical.
These points are made in our declaration and what we are denouncing, essentially, is a sinister attempt to set up or impose a world neo-fascist tyranny. This is something that became very clear.
Cuban writers and artists are declaring ourselves to be in favour of sowing the seeds of ideas, of sowing the seeds of consciousness as was announced on José Martí’s 150th anniversary.
I think that our National Council’s sessions were truly memorable and things won’t rest there. A little later on, perhaps, I shall speak about a work programme, we must put the National Council’s agreements into practice.
I remember an excellent speech that Dr. Graciella Pogolotti made there. In it she said that a lot of progress has been made in criticising the programme of neo-liberal globalization on economic grounds but that we must also move forward in our attempt to deconstruct the ultra right’s thinking, its neo-fascist doctrine. I also remembered an incident when, in 1936, a well-known Nazi made a crass remark: "When I hear the word culture, I draw my revolver".
We have with us today Roberto Fernández Retamar who in the Havana Cultural Congress in 1968 responded to this all-time fascist remark with an all-time humanist remark: "When I hear the word fascism, I draw my culture". In other words, we must now mobilize talent, ideas, thought. Reflection must take control and clear the path so that we can indeed create an antifascist front on a world scale.
Randy Alonso.- A front, Carlos which —as the declaration itself says— has to confront the expansionist programme which justifies this aggression and which was drawn up by the U.S. ultra right, the heirs to the way of thinking of those whom José Martí criticised in his time with amazing historical foresight. The seeds, the foundation of this position of the Cuban intelligentsia are to be found in our national hero’s body of thought.
Giving our round table his opinion on U.S. imperial politics, an epithet José Martí used more than a century ago, is that renowned expert on José Martí’s work and great Cuban intellectual, Cintio Vitier.
Cintio Vitier. - Let me express some thoughts on the way José Martí saw U.S. politics.
We all know what the United States Martí admired and loved was like. It was the United States of Lincoln, whom he called the woodsman with devout eyes; of the great U.S. poets and great thinkers; of those who fought social battles, the abolitionists, naturally, the philanthropist, the first nations peoples, the black Americans.
As an example of what I was talking about, of how he saw politics in his time and how he foresaw the future, we have a truly amazing article from 1885 called: The Politics of Assault, where he says things such as: "... these new tartars, who roam and destroy in a modern fashion, mounted on trains. These colossal ruffians, a dreadful and numerous component of this bloody land, practice their pugilistic style politics and, newly arrived from the jungle, since in the jungle they live by politics and when they see anything weak they eat it, they worship might for itself, it is the only law they obey and they see themselves as its priests and as having a certain superior entitlement and innate right to take possession of whatever their might lays hands on"
This is, in fact, the root of this type of politics which have, of course, grown more intense nowadays. However, a few years later in reference to the plans that he foresaw were being made for U.S. intervention in the war in Cuba, in the war that he was organising, Martí says:
"There is nothing more cowardly nor evil more cold in the annals of free peoples". He already seen another element which would come to dominate U.S. politics to a greater and greater degree and that is the coldness, the shrewdness; that reminds us and makes us shudder to think of José de la Luz y Caballero’s aphorism, of his judgement: "Coldness, the raw material of evil".
It is obvious that Martí’s foresight about so-called manifest destiny is being given catastrophic confirmation today, but apart from that, we really believe there is an encouraging possibility of a counterweight in the sanest of the U.S. people: in the consciousness of its intelligentsia, of its artists who, moreover, are for the first time joining in, it cannot be denied, the universal outcry against the war.
The magnetisation of some events by others is more and more evident.
The brilliant speech that our foreign minister made to UNEAC’s National Council showed and demonstrated the astute, cold but no less instinctive planning of the superpower which has set itself the goal of taking over the planet as an undifferentiated whole.
Now the politics of assault is turning into a politics of destruction and, faced with these events and this terrifying world-wide situation, it is not an exaggeration to denounce its fascist or neo-fascist heart, as Fidel said yesterday, which is exacerbated by an hypocrisy, child of coldness, the like of which neither Hitler nor Mussolini was guilty.
The flag which is now brandished as the banner of universal mourning is none other than democracy. Our heroes, our martyrs, our thinkers our artists, our founding poets, as the spokespersons and essential part of our people oblige us to close ranks in an international antifascist front, like the one proposed in this declaration, in UNEAC’s declaration. They are already, in fact, from Varela, down through Martí and on down to today to this front, among us, within us. They are also the ones impelling us to join with Martí in believing in human improvement, making sure — and to me this seems crucial— that none of our acts bears the blight of hatred and placing us ever more at the service of the wretched of the earth.
Randy Alonso. - Retamar, there is no doubt that Cintio Vitier revived the memory of the root of the Cuban intelligentsia’s position which comes to us from Martí. But as well as Martí there are other import forerunners who inspire the Cuban intelligentsia’s call to an international antifascist front and I would like you, using this historical perspective, to help us understand not only the forerunners but also the bases of our writers’ and artists’ call.
Roberto Fernández Retamar. - Cintio has given us a wonderful explanation of the fundamental role played by Martí’s analyses of the United States, an analysis in which he knew how to make a clear distinction between what he called Lincoln’s homeland, which we love, and Cutting’s homeland, which is what we have, and this is a line from which he never strayed.
Even before Martí there were extraordinary predictions about the evils that could come from the then youthful but already rapacious United States. One of those predictions comes from Bolívar himself and is quoted in UNEAC’s document. Six years after the Monroe Doctrine was proclaimed, which as we know was in 1823, Bolívar writes in a letter: "The United States seems destined by providence to plague the Americas with misery in the name of liberty". And this is connected with what Cintio was talking about, with the hypocrisy, in other words, with using terms such as democracy and liberty to cover up their real aims.
Some time later the doctrine of Manifest Destiny would be proclaimed and we could say that the Monroe doctrine and the doctrine of Manifest Destiny, with some variations, are still crucial components of U.S. foreign policy. Our America had the sorry privilege of being the first guinea pig for such policies. Nowadays, they encompass the whole world and that is why we have called for the creation of a world front against neo-fascism.
And talking about Martí, before moving on to other examples, I should also like to remind you of the important analyses he made of the first Pan American Conferences, the one that took place between 1889 and 1890 and the one in 1891, both in Washington. I shall just quote a few lines about the last of these. Martí said then: "They believe in need, in barbarous right as the only right: ‘This will be ours because we need it’" Well, the guiding principle that is still in force more than a century later cannot be summed up more clearly or in fewer words.
Imperialism continued to expand — Martí saw it arise, it is possible that his analysis was the first concrete analysis made of this imperialism— throughout the world and naturally was met with a growing anti imperialist attitude
A memorable anti imperialist congress was held in Brussels in 1927. Julio Antonio Mella was there, we are celebrating the hundredth anniversary of his birth this year. Mella read papers there that had been written by his brother in arms Rubén Martínez Villena. This was a really important congress to which famous people like Einstein, for example, sent greetings, and in attendance were a number of fighters later called on to play a very important role in history.
Nevertheless, if we want to go into even more specific forerunners of our position, of our declarations we would have to think of the time when open fascism became an force invading the world. We know that fascism became established for the first time in Italy under Mussolini in 1922 and in an even more aggressive, more barbarous form in 1933 in Hitler’s Germany, in Nazi Germany. It was the existence of this fascism which was casting its shadow over the planet that led a group of intellectuals to hold the First Congress of Antifascist Intellectuals, the First Congress in Defence of Culture in Paris in 1935. This congress held in Paris in 1935 will certainly be spoken of again in this round table. Some very important speeches were made there, like the ones given by Bertholdt Brecht.
Two years later, fascism had grown even stronger, had sunk its claws into Republican Spain and had started the war between 1936 and 1936 (THIS MUST BE A MISTAKE IN THE TRANSCRIPT) the fateful Spanish Civil War; then a Second Congress of Antifascist Intellectuals was held in 1937, a Second Congress in Defence of Culture which took place mostly in Valencia, and even had a follow up in Paris. This congress was of extreme importance. García Márquez has called it "one of the few truly important congresses of this nature in history. Cuba had the privilege of being represented at this congress by such eminent people as Alejo Carpentier, Nicolás Guillén, Juan Marinello, Félix Pita Rodríguez, and Leonardo Fernández Sánchez. It was a congress that brought together a large number of first rate intellectuals from all over the world. What is more, this congress was held as the bombs fell; this congress was held in the midst of the fight for freedom that the magnificent Spanish people was waging, unfortunately unsuccessfully. If we are going to cite the forerunners of our position, we will have to talk a lot about this congress and we have not been the only ones to draw attention to such an important forerunner.
Unfortunately the world has seen the fascism, which was defeated militarily in 1945 rise again: we are seeing an expansion of neo-fascism and it is beautiful —Carlos has already mentioned this and it will certainly be mentioned again— that a very noble and very numerous group of important U.S. intellectuals has once again taken up the banner of rejecting these outrages. I am making a concrete reference to the manifesto called "No in Our Name", a manifesto signed by many of the most brilliant U.S. intellectuals.
I am thinking of men like Edward Said, to whom homage will be paid 48 hours from now because it will be the 25th anniversary of the publication of his great book Orientalism; I am thinking of Noam Chomsky, I thinking of many film artists, who will certainly be mentioned again at this round table.
This manifesto is almost without equal in the history of the United States. It reminds me of the "Manifesto of the 121", of the French at the beginning of the 60s when they supported the war of liberation in Algeria. But there are very many people signing this manifesto. The figures that I have say that more than 20,000 people have already signed the manifesto, a manifesto which at first had no way of being published because the press in that country didn’t want to deal with it. In the end they had to pay for a full page ad in a newspaper in order for the declaration to get into the press; it has later reappeared on many other occasions and has had a lot of repercussions.
For example, some time later in Europe a manifesto called "Against Barbarism" was published and that manifesto says explicitly: "We take as our own the call ‘No in our Name’ by U.S. artists and intellectuals who refuse to allow their government to carry out its plans of plundering and extermination it their name", etcetera. That is to say there has been a European echo.
And even more recently — it has not yet been published in our publications, in our magazines as it should be— we have learned, at the beginning of this month, about a manifesto in the same spirit from something called the International Committee of Intellectuals against the War which is in solidarity with the U.S. intellectuals and this new manifesto is mostly signed by Latin American intellectuals.
I mention these precedents because we are not witnessing an isolated attitude on our part, on the contrary, we are quite aware that we are part of a chorus, of a front that is mounting a lively opposition to neo-fascism and which is being given a warm welcome by nations all over the world.
Everywhere, millions of men and women have been marching against the war and in favour of peace, thousands of intellectuals are signing manifestos, are making works of art, are taking in part in all sorts of activities to that end.
Our gesture is a gesture — I repeat— which is joining forces with many others and we are sure that in spite of the fact that there is no military barrier against neo-fascism, the peoples’ barrier, the public opinion barrier, the intelligentsia’s barrier will be enough to prevent neo-fascism from triumphing over the planet and thus turning the human race into an endangered species.
Randy Alonso. - Thank you Retamar for your thoughts
Relevant images are shown
If the philosophy of Hegel, Nietzsche, and Schopenhauer gave life and passion to those who created the holocaust in the 20th century, less educated but more pragmatic specimens from an inferior intellectual lineage breath life into the fascist bands if the 21st century.
Authors whose books are bedtime reading for the current U.S. administration are Bostonian Henry Cabot Lodge who said that "In the 19th century no other nation equalled our conquests, our colonization, and our expansion and now nobody will stop us"; another one is Marse Henry Watterson who said that the United States "is a great imperial republic destined to exercise a determining influence on humanity and to mould the world’s future as no other nation has ever done before, not even the Roman empire. Then there is Charles Krauthemmer, who a short while ago wrote in the Washington Post: "The United States bestrides the world like a colossus. Since Rome destroyed Carthage no other great power has climbed the heights that we have climbed. The United States has won the cold war, has put Poland and the Czech Republic in its pocket and then pulverised Serbia and Afghanistan. And in passing has shown that Europe doesn’t exist.
Then there is Zbigniew Brzezinski, who has said that "the aim of the United States must be to keep our vassals in a state of dependence, to guarantee the docility and protection of our subjects and to stop the barbarians from uniting".
This is the doctrine that props up today’s U.S. administration and the one which proclaims a new "manifest destiny", as Retamar was saying: to establish a world fascist dictatorship; a neo-fascism and a dictatorship which is encouraged by enormous media power which is directed at the population. They have used this power all through this administration and there is no doubt that it has played a fundamental role in this war unleashed against Iraq in which the means of communication have been another new sophisticated technological battle weapon in the U.S. arsenal.
I ask Eliades Acosta to give us his thoughts on the role played by this media power in establishing U.S. neo-fascism.
Eliades Acosta. - Well, Randy, it is very interesting, for example, to hear the name of Henry Cabot Lodge, to whom you referred.
He was a great friend of Theodore Roosevelt and one of the backers of the U.S. invasion and expansion in 1898, thus beginning what they’ve taken it upon themselves to call "The American Century" which these days is entering into a qualitatively different phase with the Iraq war.
UNEAC’s declaration suggested, and quite rightly, that the United States has added a powerful propaganda and disinformation system to [its concept of] preventative and lightening war.
I have here a book which it is worth reconsidering and this face (Holds up the book with Hitler’s image on it) because I suppose this could also be bedtime reading for those gentlemen, it is Mein Kampf by Adolph Hitler’s. I think it is also worth the trouble to go back over all this ideology because that is what we are experiencing in the world today.
Fascism was extremely clever when it came using all the propaganda tools available to achieve its ends but they were primitive compared with those that exist today to disinform people.
I am going to cite three examples from that time, from Hitler’s fascism: for example, the use of concepts like national socialism to define his party, whereas, being a bourgeois party what it wanted to do was stop the advance of socialism and communism in Europe and the world; the use of black and red on its emblems which were colours usually used as symbols of the workers’ struggle and the use of the word comrade by fascists when addressing each other.
This shows, in fact, these ideologues’ shrewdness, coldness, to which Cintio referred. Goebbels’ work is well known as are his recommendations about using lies to gain control over the masses.
Anyway, the propaganda apparatus that we are seeing at work today retakes those experiences and raises them to unheard of heights. We are not only seeing truth disappear as if by magic but it’s also all about the person in the street , the one who receives these messages staying passive and therefore becoming an accomplice of barbarism and crime.
Just now Retamar mentioned the 1935 Paris Congress, the First Congress in Defence of Culture and I would like to quote some of the great German playwright, Bertholdt Brecht’s words which were said there at that time when fascism was advancing through Europe. He issued a warning about a mechanism for dominating the masses, a psychological mechanism which was used then and is being used today.
I quote Bertholdt Brecht: "A man is beaten and the person watching the scene faints. Of course, that it normal. When crime arrives on the scene like rain falling, nobody now shouts: "Halt!" Is there no way to stop the person who looks the other way when faced with an abomination? Why does he look the other way? He looks the other way because he does see any way to intervene. People do not dwell on the pain of others if they cannot help them":
This is exactly the mechanism, or one of the mechanisms of domination and of disinformation that we were talking about.
In any case, the anti-war demonstrations that Retamar mentioned show that this domination mechanism is not infallible and that many people feel they can influence the way world politics unfolds.
Anyway, something very interesting about to the methods of control and lies so loved by fascism has happened in the Venezuela case, which the Cuban people know a lot about, and now in the Iraqi case. This is that the control mechanisms have become obvious. This means that people have been able to see and experience for themselves how this gigantic fraud is worked and that it’s all about twisting the truth to create passivity and complicity.
It already becoming difficult to deceive people in the same way, and I think that this is one of the possible good collateral things that have resulted from a conflict as awful as the one in Iraq.
I would also like to refer briefly, and Dr. Graciela Pogolotti was right on target when she spoke about it in that extraordinary plenary session of UNEAC’s National Council, to something that underlies the war and this outbreak of fascism, and I have here a document from June 3 1997 which is called "Program for a New American Century. It is a programme, drawn up, I repeat, in 1997 by a group of hawks, a group of those who were to become "the war party", who led their country into war with Iraq and which is behind the next attacks that are going to occur. They include Elliott Abrams, William Bennett, Jeb Bush, Dick Cheney , Francis Fukujama, he wrote The End of History, Dan Quayle, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz.
This document is the ideological platform behind all that is going on, this war is its armed branch. But the way of thinking, the reasoning that backs up what happened starts off by saying that the doctrine of U.S. national security is in a period of decline — it is from the time of the Clinton administration — and that it is necessary to take vigorous steps to ensure that there is a next American century, that is, the one we are living in now. It is very interesting because the document talks of preventative war over and over again.
We all remember Western films and that in the West the only ones who survived were those who drew their guns first and shot; only the swiftest and the strongest. We are, therefore, once again in the era of the law of the gun, except on a world scale and with Tomahawk missiles.
I have here too. Well, it is connected to this subject, a statement by an FBI officer, from September 2002, trying to explain to a group of U.S. librarians why the FBI had the right to have access to the requests for books that users made. It was a fruitless attempt, he couldn’t get anywhere, the librarians were not to be convinced, nor could he finish his speech. But what is interesting are the arguments this officer puts forward illustrating the law of the gun.
He says and I quote: "In the past, when we put someone in jail it was after they had committed a crime. Now we put someone in jail to prevent him from carrying out a terrorist attack". That means that anybody (or any country) even if they have not committed any crime whatsoever, can be punished.
In this programme "For a New American Century" they are some ideas that illustrate what we have been saying really well.
For example, concepts that send chills down your spine are repeated over and over again: preventative defence, global leadership, take advantage of challenges and opportunities, we are defenceless in the face of global threats, we must promote American principles, we must be prudent about how we exercise power but we must not stop exercising it out of fear of what it may cost us: it is vital for the United States to keep up an active role in the defence of peace in the world". As far as they are concerned the world is confined to Asia, Europe and the Middle East, neither Africa nor Latin America are expressly mentioned in the document.
"We must strike before the crisis arises, we have to strengthen ties to our democratic allies" — we already know who the U.S. ‘s traditional democratic allies have been — "we have to challenge any regime hostile to the interests and values of the United States." —this means that what they did with the Iraqi government fits right into this strategy — "we must promote the cause of economic and political freedom" — neo-liberalism and globalization— "we must spread an order which is favourable to the US’s security, prosperity and principles", etcetera, and they end with a quote which is so eloquent that I simply have to read it, it says: This kind of Reaganite policy" —many of them served under Reagan and Bush senior— "of military build up and moral clarity" —which means saying brazenly what you want and what your going after— might not be fashionable today, but it is necessary if the United States is to repeat the successes of the last century and extend our national security and greatness in the next".
A democratic country never speaks of greatness; empires speak of greatness.
What has happened in Baghdad, as a result of the war, is worrying, the destruction, the looting ... We have seen dantesque scenes which have filled any sensitive person with pain and especially intellectuals and artists from all over the world : 174,000 national heritage objects have been looted, more than 7000 years of Iraqi history: the National Museum, the Archaeological Museum, the Baghdad Theatre ... There is talk today —some very sad news is coming in — of looting and probable fire at the Iraqi National Library, and all of this is accompanied by a strange complicity from the military occupiers, by a strange passivity.
The United States are experts in crowd control, they are experts in curfew, they are experts in martial law. Nevertheless, they have not been able to use any of that in Baghdad and what we are seeing there — in my personal opinion— is an attempt to vilify a people that opposed them, a people that gave them unexpected resistance. They are trying, in fact, with those methods of discrediting (people) in the press, which are fascist methods, to show that this is a people prone to robbery, to looting, to destroying things, an uncouth people.
There are precedents to this, many precedents. For example, during the first U.S. military occupation of Santiago de Cuba, in 1898, the looted, destroyed, robbed, they brought specialists from the library of Congress to load the books they looted, they carried off religious relics, they carried off works of art, soldiers exchanged food for family heirlooms with the starving population, and they carried off souvenirs. For example, there in Santiago de Cuba they did to the Tree of Peace what they did now with Saddam’s statue, some sentry should have been posted to stop them from going on with their destruction.
Therefore we are witnessing a deep-rooted philosophy of pillaging and of lying, and I think that this, really is a demonstration that we are entering into terrible times and that any sensitive man or woman on this planet must be on the watch for barbarism, as the peoples were after the Paris Congress in 1935 or the Valencia Congress in 1937, which is what this new philosophy of imperialism of the United States and its allies is all about.
Randy Alonso. - A philosophy, Eliades, which I was reading today in an opinion piece in the New York Times by William Saffire, on of the New York Times’ most important columnists and a representative of that U.S. ultra right. The article is called: "The Best Defence" and it is that man’s out and out defence of what he calls preventative politics.
It talks about the famous American heavyweight, Jack Dempsey who said that the best defence is a good offence and William Saffire says: "This is the crux of our policy of prevention, the United States does not expect to win the sympathy of the world as the victim but it will defend itself by attacking first" and it is really an article in defence of the thinking that supports this neo-fascist administration: converting the preventative attack into its foreign policy towards the world and that is — according to them— the U.S. people’s best defence. It is the same policy Hitler talked about at the time when he governed Germany and in which he also proclaimed the need for a preventative attack to defend the German people and establish their superiority.
There is no doubt that this is what links this U.S. administration not only to this ultra right way of thinking that comes down to them from earlier but also with the thinking put forward by Hitlerian fascism...
Thank you for your comments, Elíades
This attempted U.S. hegemony, pushed by the neo-fascist leadership that today rules the United States has a concrete expression in the attempt at cultural hegemony which the United States wants to impose on the rest of the world. A hegemony, which as Eliades said, has support from the media power that the U.S. has today, which goes along with its technological and military power. However, it also has, of course, a much wider component in the whole cultural sphere which this administration is trying to impose on the world and which, there is n doubt, is part of the objective of this U.S. neo-fascism.
I would like Julio García Espinosa who for many years has closely followed all these facets of cultural globalization, of S cultural hegemony and especially in film, to give us his ideas. In the light of what is happening today how you see this U.S. attempt at cultural hegemony and the actors who from within the intelligentsia itself have come out in defence of this people’s and all the peoples’ in the worlds genuine culture.
Julio García Espinosa. - Before anything else, I want to say that for a Latin American film maker it is obvious, only too obvious that a country without an image is a country that does not exist just as it is obvious that no to the war has meant or does mean no to fascism, just as it is obvious that those who have launched an illegal unnecessary unjust war on the Iraqi people are the same people who have prevented and still prevent us from being the protagonists of our own image.
I think that even more obvious than that is the fact not only that they prevent us from being the protagonists of our own image but that the arrogate to themselves the right to make our image, and of course, we are the favourite target, at least that’s what they have demonstrated during these more than 40 years since they have chosen us so they can give their version of the state of affairs in Cuba.
Of course, to a large extent they are right, since we are the real dissidents of the policy that they have followed and still follow in our continent. Moreover, it is very obvious that the film makers of Latin America have tried to fight back against this policy, but in conditions of complete inequality. Just as there is unequal trade in the economic order, so there is in the media order.
There is a very concrete example, which is how they have manipulated what has been happening in our country recently. it is enough to mention the meeting that took place between the so-called dissidents, dissidents who are themselves the product of a marketing campaign; dissidents who have met with the diplomatic representative of our neighbour to the north and, this have been revealed that the meeting of some of those dissidents with that gentleman was to have a cup of tea.
It seems to me that it is obvious that the relation that has existed with this country for so many years, in which there have been all kinds of aggression, all kinds of State terrorism ranging from blowing up airplanes in mid air, from attempts to assassinate Fidel, publicly and officially stated, to funding an invasion of our country, all of which has been very obvious, so it’s not possible that from one moment to the next we who have been the victims have turned into the victim makers.
It is indisputable that "you can’t fool all of the people all of the time" —it was something Lincoln said. They, however have this colossal media power, they have this power to distort our image, to take away our right to be the ones who we make the image. And so, in the midst of a situation in which all this aggressiveness is getting worse, we Latin American film makers understand the no to fascism not as an adjective but as the situation created by this new government, as fascism is defined on the basis of concrete events.
It seems to us that film makers in Latin America have had a lot of experience in the fight against fascism.
It cannot be denied that those who have installed dictatorships in Latin America have been those same governments, this same kind of policy towards Latin America. They have started dictatorships; they have installed all the dictatorships in Latin America. Latin American film makers have fought against those dictatorships; they have fought them to see if Latin America could have true democracy, not the caricature of democracy that has normally ruled in those countries. Latin American film makers have given their lives, Latin American film makers have been victims of torture, have been murdered, have been disappeared, not one of them has gone into exile in Miami. In other words, Latin American film makers have a long history of fighting against fascism.
I could say something similar, although I don’t want to go on too long, about U.S. film makers themselves. U.S. film makers also have a long history of fighting against fascism. It is worthwhile mentioning just the McCarthy era.
This was, as you will remember, a truly sinister era, in which not a few film makers were sacrificed and this a memory that remains alive and which has come back now, recently with the reaction of many artist, including some from Hollywood, who have shown a firmness in line with their history of standing up to the new position that are gaining ground even within the United States concerning a fascist policy. We have the examples, of Susan Sarandon and Danny Glover, etcetera who have had the certainty and it has been made obvious to them with demonstration to prevent people from going to see films by those people.
In other words, film makers in general and Latin American film makers in particular, know that the enemy is powerful. We also know, however, that our dignity is powerful, as we know that the bigger the enemy, the greater our dignity.
Randy Alonso.- An enemy as well that, more than anything else, in its zeal to dominate, which includes hegemonizing its culture, well it does this in way that the uncultured outlook of this government can understand, that barbarous outlook of this government which champions a world fascist tyranny can understand which simply means installing a cultural hegemony which is the hegemony of lack of culture. That is what the U.S. government really wants. So, in the midst of the pain they cause and the anger one may feel watching these images, one can understand how things such as Eliades told us about could happen: the fire in the Baghdad National Library, of the loss of valuable documents from the Centre for Islamic Studies, the atrocious looting of the Baghdad National Museum, before the complacent eyes of the army of occupation. That’s the way it has been since the time of those who were with Roosevelt in the entry into Santiago de Cuba or those who in Operation Panama, as the UNEAC National Council, remembered, also looted Panama national treasures and today not a single object has been returned to its original owner.
They are the same people who today allow this kind of looting and those who have destroyed the heritage of a nation that is one of the cradles of Western civilization, in spite of the fact that, before the war, many intellectuals, many thinking people all over the world have called for these historic sites to be respected.
I would like to remind people of some work that journalist Esther Barroso did about these sites sacred to universal culture before the war broke out.
Esther Barroso .- The ninety something year old Argentinean writer Ernesto Sabato, winner of the Cervantes prize for Literature, wept in front of thousands of children pleading that a country, a history not be destroyed.
He knows, as do many others in the world, that this would be a crime of lèse humanité. He also knows that Iraq is not, as Bush and his allies think, an obscure corner of the earth, but the greater part of what once was ancient Mesopotamia, the cradle of human civilization.
In addition to the innocent victims what else could die in Iraq because of this war? Well, only one of the most ancient artistic and architectural relics humanity has, dated 9000 years before Christ.
The traces of Sumerian civilization would die in Iraq, for example. It invented the first signs used in cuneiform writing, considered to be one of Mesopotamia’s great contributions to humanity. They also developed the first irrigation system in history; they also invented the method of sowing in furrows, a sewage system and the idea of architecture as art.
The Sumerian city of Ur must have been like this 4000 years before Christ. There are vestiges of this splendour left, but they are now in danger of being destroyed.
Bush could also destroy the remains of the Assyrian empire located about 500 kilometres from Baghdad, which among the other marvellous things it did, established a great library whose tablets written in cuneiform writing have allowed us to understand a lot about the origins of civilization.
Would Bush know that on this site, only 90 kilometres from Baghdad, the city of Babylon flourished? It is possible that this 21st century mass murderer has never heard of the hanging gardens that Nebuchadnezzar ordered to be built around 600 BC and that were later considered to be one of the seven wonders of the world, or of the mythical Tower of Babel which is supposed to have been built on the banks of the Euphrates.
Is this perhaps a war against the stories in The Thousand and One Nights, which might have been born in Baghdad, a city that was built in 762 AD? Many of the treasures created by the successive civilizations in Mesopotamia such as the Ishtar Gate are today outside of Iraq, spread around the museums of the world. Many others, however, are kept in the Iraqi Museum in Baghdad. Will they be destroyed by the missiles of this heartless war?
According to Bush, the use of force is only to disarm the Iraqi regime. But who will make the writer Ernesto Sábato, who is 92 and who weeps for Iraq understand that? Who will make him understand that the waters of the Tigris and Euphrates which saw civilization be born and grow will now be witness to the barbarism that comes with the modern world?
In the tomb of the Assyrian princess Java, discovered in 1989, near Baghdad an inscription proclaims, Cursed forever be those who force open the tomb and steal the treasure! Today the princess seems to be saying to us in her thousands of years old voice: "Cursed forever be those who destroy life and the treasure that is humankind!
Randy Alonso. - One of humanity’s treasure consumed by flames, looted under the gaze of imperial troops, of the invading troops.
A wire from the EFE news agency, datelined Baghdad today says that Iraqis are gathering, in ever greater numbers, to protests outside the Palestine Hotel, Baghdad, where the United States has set up the embryo of a civil administration for Iraq a day after looters set fire to the National Library and the Centre for Islamic Studies.
"This morning more that 300 people with placards protested demanding security in a lawless city of around 6 million people in front of U.S. soldiers who protected the hotel with wire, weapons and tanks.
The mood is more and more angry, and what started with lukewarm requests has turned into heated conversations with the occupying troops, often accompanied by anti-American slogans.
"The latest looting episode took place in the Centre for Islamic Studies which has 15,000 volumes and is located in the back of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs. It was attacked and set on fire this morning.
"The National Library of Iraq was also the target last night of barbarism and most of the million documents, books, maps, microfilms and archives were stolen and destroyed.
The director of the library said that "we have lost ancients editions of the Koran and the first newspaper published in Iraq in the Persian language in 1869. We have seen nothing like it since the Mongol invasion, we have lost 7000 years of history.
Something similar happened in the Baghdad National Museum. Last Saturday news agencies reported that "the Iraq National Museum, which has priceless collections from the Sumerian, Acadian, Babylonian and Assyrian culture as well as unique Islamic texts, was completely emptied on Saturday by a horde of looters who took advantage of the chaos which has reigned in the Iraqi capital since the Anglo American troops marched in on Thursday.
The vandals carried off irreplaceable treasures from the earliest civilizations, gold vessels, ritual masks, royal headdresses, lyres encrusted with jewels, and artefacts from ancient Mesopotamia. ‘70000 years of history were looted’, a museum employee lamented.
A famous Cuban artist, the painter Lesbia Van Dumois, deputy president of the Casa de las Americas, is one of the Cubans who has had the privilege of visiting the Baghdad National Museum, of seeing the treasure harboured by this World Heritage Site that has been looted before the eyes of the forces invading Iraq and she too wanted to give her testimony for today’s round table.
Lesbia Van Dumois.- I think that it really was a privilege, thinking about what has recently happened to this museum, to have had the opportunity , at the end of the 80s, at a meeting of the International Association of Visual Arts which UNESCO sponsors, to have been to that city, a really very beautiful city and to have visited, among the many other things to do there, to have visited the museum where they kept not only all the most important things from the ancient city, which is the origin of our western culture, but also to have seen the museum pieces there, to have had the opportunity to have seen the terra cotta tablets with the cuneiform alphabet, to have seen the heads, all the gold collections that there were in that museum, where they were really very well displayed.
I don’t know if that museum had... It was a very old building. However, I understood that it had been fixed up one or two years before we visited it.
I think that apart from these treasures, thinking about Baghdad is like coming up against another world. It is a city that has very beautiful architecture. The museum was not a gigantic museum, it didn’t impress you so much with its architecture as wiht the treasures it had inside, and it had a level of museology that let you understand the history you were being told and there were those marvellous heads, a really impressive number of gold pieces.
Well, although it was not specifically about this museum which we have now learned has been badly looted, but I would not like to end without also saying that I also had the opportunity to see Babylon, and you would get depressed seeing that city because Babylon is no longer the Babylon that we wanted to see. But I had the opportunity to see that wonderful frieze full of taps and to see at least one of those figures, one of those lions,one of the carvings that existed there in that land which was really the highpoint of a culture and of an enviable artistic expression and we hope that today some of these pieces can be salvaged, so they can be the heritage of this humanity that we are destroying.
Journalist.- Lesbia, throughout history Baghdad and Iraq have been looted of their treasures which are now in other museums in the world, but, nevertheless if you could compare the value of this museum, of the treasures it holds with others, such as the British Museum and others in the world.
Lesbia Van Dumois. - Well, I think that the majority of the museums in western countries have been fed by looting the treasures which don’t belong to them, isn’t that so? If we think of Mexico, many of their pre-Hispanic artefacts are in Europe, in Pergamon, almost all their treasures are in other cities. But, in fact, today, talking to the director of our National Museum, which has a long history in dealing with heritage, you don’t see everything displayed at any one time in the rooms. I didn’t have the chance to see in their stocks, but I can imagine from what was on display what they might have had in their stocks, which is their heritage. I have to say that I wasn’t able to assess it. It is priceless both in monetary terms and in purely cultural terms, the possibility that you could enjoy it, see it, that it belonged to a country and that there are works of art in that country, that is something that you cannot place a value on.
Randy Alonso.- Robert Fisk, one of the journalists who knows the Middle East well, who has also used his pen to defend the cultural heritage of the Arab countries wondered in an article a few days ago: Why? How could they do that? Why, when the city was already in flames and anarchy had already become entrenched and less than three months after U.S. archaeologists and Pentagon officials had met to talk about the country’s treasures and the Archaeological Museum of Baghdad was put into a military data base, did the Americans allow the horde to destroy the priceless heritage of ancient Mesopotamia? And all this happened while the U.S. Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld made fun of the press by saying that ‘anarchy has taken over Baghdad’".
Robert Fisk who today also wondered how was it possible that 2000 soldiers are guarding the oil wells in Kirkuk and there were not even 200 soldiers who could guard the great heritage wealth of Mosul.
Robert Fisk also wondered today why U.S. troops are surrounding the Iraqi ministry of the interior of the ministry of energy whereas in the rest of the city the cultural heritage of that country is being looted indiscriminately.
It is also a concrete expression of the invader’s barbarism, of the uncouthness of this U.S. administration which seeks to set up this world fascist dictatorship. It is an administration that came to power by fraud and which has tried to legitimize itself through force; an administration which is pretty far from the authentic ideals of the U.S. people, an idealist people with noble sentiments and which Pablo Armando Fernández has known intimately and he has also been able to share in the cultural wealth of the authentic U.S. people.
Given this neo-fascist clique, today how does Pablo Armando Fernandez see the culture, the ideas and the role of the U.S. people?
Pablo Armando Fernández. - Well, in fact, I arrived in the United States in 1945; there was a war against fascism. How many years have gone by? Half a century... Five years later it was no longer the same country, McCarthy was already trying to change it, dirty it, make it uglier, he did a lot of damage.
Nevertheless, this people that we were talking about just now, which we talk about all the time, those who say No in our name are still a great people.
But what worries me is the American nation. When we think that the United States of America made the first revolution on this continent against colonialism, when we think about those slaves who after a civil war between Messieurs the capitalists, of both sides, but out of other interests they waged a civil war and liberated those slaves, the gave them a voice and part of the face of the United States. When we think of the Jews, the Moslems and the Christians who arrived from their countries persecuted, desperate, hungry, disillusioned and like all those people, the descendents of all those peoples, wanted to give a spirit to this nation. And they gave it this spirit through poetry, fiction, essays, theatre, music, cinema as they were giving us a really deep serious idea of the spirit, of the soul that the American soul might become. Those beings were there and those beings are so powerful that their voices are continually shouting ‘no’ in their name to this war that terrorizes the whole world; because we already see how they are looting cultural heritages and I am very afraid that they will plunder the spiritual heart of that nation.
But we are sure that all those men and women, all those who signed those documents are defending that spirit and that gives hope: but one cannot let one’s guard down, and neither can they. We cannot let our guard down because we said no, but those sinister forces, who have no soul, can damage the depth of this soul, which is also ours, because this spirit has become universalised in such a way that it has had a powerful influence on the rest of humanity’s literature, cinema, theatre, all the arts you can think of and suddenly you find Simone de Beauvoir saying praising Faulkner to the skies and that’s the way it has happen among the rest of the people; in England, in France, in Italy there is profound admiration for those beings who give this demonstration of what sensitivity is, of what talent is, of what the imagination is of a people that wishes to define itself as such.
We all hope that they keep their voices raised high, so that this country keeps its voice and its face; but it is also our responsibility to take care of them, to worry about them, to feed those spirits by saying to them: You are there, fight there, we over here are going to fight with you, we are going to be together everywhere and they are not going to win".
They are not going to win because their associations are very dark and that darkness produces no light; therefore we are going to help those voices so necessary for our being which are the voices of our American brothers and sisters who make from art and culture the universal spirit which helps us all.
Randy Alonso. - And doubtlessly, from this voice of the U.S. people its culture is born; this spirit which Cuban artists have found every time they go to that country and where they receive a welcome from the people like the one Americans get in Cuba when they visit us and that is part of the cultural tradition and the noble tradition of the U.S. people. The Lizt Alfonso Ballet was given such a welcome recently when it was in a number of U.S. cities, including New York. It went to Cleveland, Seattle, Austin, Texas, New Haven, Connecticut and in other cities too and was given very positive reviews in the New York Times which spoke of the triumph the ensemble had on Saturday night when the Lizt Alfonso performed in the Brooklyn Centre in New York. The Chicago Sun Times said that "The Lizt Alfonso Ballet is a sensual mixture of fire and spice" and another of the United States’ major newspapers said "a Cuban style showy flamenco".
What did Lizt Alfonso find on her visit to the United States? Lizt is with here in the audience and I would like to ask her to speak about the spirit she found in the United States. Also about how she experience the contradictions of a country at war and the demonstrations in the streets. What can Lizt tell us about this U.S. people which she faced from the stage and with which she fraternized on her tour all across the United States.
Lizt Alfonso.- Well, I found that the human spirit, the spirit of solidarity, of love, of trust and of safety that Pablo Armando was talking about just now — I really liked everything he said— I found that this could rise above everything.
Really, art — we all know this— breaks barriers, for artists nothing is impossible and that was what happened to us in our tour in the United States.
I remember that I wrote emails to my mother from there and I said to her: "So far there hasn’t been an audience that can resist us. When we dance the Malagueña (it is the first number of our performance) and when it ends they raise the roof of the theatre. That is the temperature for the whole performance. Can you imagine what happens at the end? Anyway, at the end we get a standing ovation.
Often the performances were interrupted because if they liked something they simply shouted out their approval and applauded like very expressive people and that was what we got.
Fortunately when we were there the war had not yet broken out, it began when the tour ended. But before the ware began we saw that in many cities people were against the war, people didn’t want war and they demonstrated this in every possible way. In other words, you could tell because there were demonstrations in the street and you could also tell when we arrived at certain universities, I am remembering that time in La Jolla when all the students were on the street corners with placards which read: "Please, if you are against the war, honk two or three times.
I also remember in Seattle and this made a big impression on us, that almost all the houses — not to be unanimous— had placards that said "no to war" and that really impressed us because it was obvious they were not in favour of the war.
I don’t think that human beings want their own destruction nor want their children to be destroyed not want human history to be destroyed. And so I can tell you, it was a tour where love and understanding ruled.
They are very interested in Cuba, in learning about Cuba; fortunately we were there to tell them: "We are Cuba, and you can ask us anything you want." We had 23 shows, special shows too, for children. We gave lectures, we gave master classes, and they we really keen on what we did everywhere we went.
Randy Alonso. - Lizt, here Lincoln’s thoughts about not being able to fool all of the people all of the time were spoken of, and I think that what you told us about street demonstrations, which we have seen is also an expression of these feelings of the U.S. people themselves, who, in spite of the power of the media and in spite of all the ideological tricks that were used to advance the idea that this was a "just" war as they tried to present it, they took to the streets to protest against it anyway.
And we can also apply this same way of thinking to Cuba. How much did those students you had contact with, that people you saw know about the state of things in Cuba and what feeling did they have towards you and towards Cuba?
Lizt Alfonso. - Really there is a lot of ignorance about Cuba. Many people there don’t even know where Cuba is and very, very often what they say to you is: "Cuba, Castro’s Cuba, Fidel Castro is Cuba." And I told them that we are all Cuba.
They always tried to have an exchange of opinions, to get really really close so we could explain all the details to them. In fact, on one opportunity we had to talk with secondary school students and students from what here is called "pre-university" their high school, the teachers said: We have been preparing them beforehand so they knew something and could ask you all they want about what Cuba is like, about what you do in Cuba" and they asked us all kinds of questions, some really interesting questions, and some less interesting ones. But we were there to respond to anything because we are Cubans and I will keep on repeating that.
You were talking about Lincoln. We had the opportunity to be at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, on a previous tour, and it was really moving, because I realise that Lincoln is to the United States what Martí is to Cuba. So it was really moving and very poignant to be able to study a little more closely his words about what the road people must travel for humanity to develop. It was, I have already said this, very moving, a very good tour during which the ties between our nations, between individuals were strengthened once again, through art.
Randy Alonso:- An expression as well, of how culture can take on barbarism, of how, when faced with a proliferation of fascist ideas, the ideas of brother and sisterhood, of humanism, of the best of human kind also spread in the U.S. people and make possible this exchange between Cuba and the United States. An exchange, Lizt, which at the same time you were there, the little Cubans from La Colmenita (Little Beehive) children’s theatre group also had. Cremata, their director, and he is also here with us in the studio with some of the members of the little beehive who went to the United States.
I am going to ask you, Cremata for your view of this contact with the U.S. public, how did this public receive you in the experience you had which wasn’t like that of a professional company like Lizt’s but of a group of children who went to take the art of Cuban children to the United States and how you also met with, —because I was reading some reports that you sent from the United States — a cartoon like expression of this fascism over there in the United States itself.
Carlos A. Cremata. - Let me tell you a little story, and this, like all children’s stories has its "once upon a time ", doesn’t it?
Once upon a time... In 1998 here in Cuba in the National Theatre we put on a performance of "LA Cucararchita Martina" the play we were doing at that time with children from the Solidaridad con Panama school. A very big U.S. delegation attended this performance, famous people from science and culture, Mohammed Ali, Edward Asner and many important scientists...
That is where this whole idea began, or rather, suddenly Mohammed Ali, very moved, said after having seen that show, that "perhaps if this show was put on in the United States it would say more about culture, education and health in Cuba than a thousand speeches". That is what he said. The ball began to roll and Patch Adams, Dr Laugh" joined in, Harry Belafonte joined in, the mythical group, Bread and Puppet Theatre... many people and many organisations, an finally a very lovely foundation called Global Exchange, which has brought more than 15,000 well known people to Cuba, managed to do what seemed impossible after so many years: take to the United States, and this is how they put it, the first Cuban youth artistic delegation in more than 45 years. That is what the slogan said.
We asked ourselves: Well, and more than 45 years ago? I don’t know, it seems to me it seems a bit more difficult more than 45 years ago, but, anyway, that was the delegation’s slogan.
We get there and the first thing that happened to us, after so many tough hurdles, such as the famous problem with the visas, which we have all gone through. This problem was so big that we were given our visas on the very same day that we were leaving. All of a sudden they said all the visas had been issued but when we got there they had forgotten four visas, one of which was for the specially trained person who travels with Mabelita, a little girl whom the whole population of Cuba, knows loves and is amazed by. We call her the queen bee, she a little girl from the Solidaridad con Panama school, who has this amazing talent and she is now studying in the School for Art Teachers but Mabelita couldn’t go. That caused, well, all that expected sadness of having trained intensively for a tour and then not being able to go because the specially trained person who looks after you can’t go. Besides, they were not four people who were absolutely essential to the tour.
Then in the first show at the San Diego Catholic University, a very beautiful university, something unheard of for us happened. It was announced in the press, on the radio, on the television that Alpha 66 was preparing a demonstration against something really strange, little children —you can see it there— inside, singing.
Randy Alonso. - Fascism doesn’t understand that.
Carlos A. Cremata. - Obviously it doesn’t understand.
The police was called out, patrol cars, riot police, the ones we see in the films, and at last, which we have been told so often, there were only six people, six old people with somewhat ridiculous signs that said two or three really crazy things. Then Latin American Solidarity also came out, we have been told this too, there is a group of Latin American comrades who support Cuba.
They explained to us that if this happened in San Diego which had a more peaceful population than Los Angeles it would be terrible when we got to that city. But in fact absolutely nothing else happened. I thought to myself of how ridiculous it was really to do that kind of thing when they were such little children singing inside to love, to peace. Then nothing else happened; what happened, throughout the whole tour is the same kind of things as happened to Lizt: extraordinary displays of affection from a wonderful people. Al, all the people who approached us who had anything to do with us... the human contact was incredibly beautiful.
We performed in big theatres, in the Conga Room, Andy García and Jennifer Lopez’ famous night club; in the Brava Theatre in San Francisco, in big theatre, in very famous theatres over there.
But we also had the chance to go to schools, as did Lizt. We were in a public school where poor children went, a school with no resources, Hoover High School, where we saw how the children are frisked when the y come into the school, in other words, so they don’t bring knives, etcetera we saw the school was closed, full of padlocks, something that our children had never imagined.
Then the next day we were in a school in los Angeles, which is called the Cross Rouge School which is a school for rich kids, whose fees are $15,000 a year and goes up by $2000 every year, There we could see and we could talk about the contrast we had seen in Venezuela, which we had seen in Panama, but it is in the United States where you see really extreme contrasts.
We were in a very lovely school which is called Semillas del Pueblo when they have a lot of Asian, Afro-American and Latin children and where they have principles similar to those of LA Colmenita and they asked us, after they had seen the performance, to organise a Colmenita in Los Angeles... Wonderful!
We took three shows, in English and in Spanish, shows only in English and bilingual shows, and one of the ones we took was "A Midsummer Night’s Dream" a paradigm of Anglo Saxon culture seen through Cuban eyes and this created something extraordinary, absolute silence from that audience which knows so many versions of Shakespeare’s play.
Because of all of those things they gave us the keys to the city of San Francisco. They gave us some very pretty merit diplomas in the city and county of Los Angeles. They invited us to a session of the Senate televised live. Suddenly the Senate stopped and the children began to sing "Chivirico" and everyone began to dance, all the senators. I should imagine that this "getting down" that we took to the Senate is not very common.
Something very important, some time ago the state of California passed Resolution No.39 against the blockade, which brings a great deal of dignity to the state of California. Then they passed a second resolution to create twin cities and they have passed a third, Resolution No.521 which is in the works, and that is the resolution to honour La Colmenita among many other things, for being the first Cuban children’s company to visit in more than 45 years, and as well and most importantly fighting for the arts, and against violence against children. That is something that was really extraordinary.
I was telling you that the last show was difficult because we were caught by the war. Or rather, the last show but one, 30 minutes before it began they told us the war ahs just begun. That show was pretty tough.
And the next day, as you know the population of California and of San Francisco in particular is so left wing and so progressive, all those people rushed out into the streets made the street impassable, threw themselves to the ground in chains, chained themselves to lamp posts etc. And they explained to us that the last show, which is always the best, couldn’t go on because we would not be able to get to the theatre and so we cancelled the show straightaway. The show was at 7:00 at night and since they told us that at 4:00 the theatre was full to the brim and that people were going there straight from the demonstration and that there was no way we couldn’t do it that we had to find a way to get there. Imagine what all that was like!
Of course, we didn’t refuse, we turned up there and it was a performance that we are never going to forget, that is, there was special electricity. That audience that told us they had been demonstrating in the streets since early morning and had come from demonstrating against the war to sing to peace and moreover, with Cuban children. The theatre was jam packed, there wasn’t room for a speck of dust and people, as Lizt said began to make noises, as if they were at a football game, it was really strange.
Randy Alonso. - An impact, Cremata, that I imagine also has something to do with the same thoughts of a journalist in San Francisco of how, when this fascist administration announced its right to attack any obscure corner of the world and began a war against Iraq, where many children died, well Cuban children were there in San Francisco and gave them an incredible lesson in humanism and solidarity. And I read in one of the San Francisco press about the gesture the Cuban children made.
I would like you to tell us about that too.
Carlos A. Cremata. - Yes, I had left that till last, because it happened to us suddenly. We had to take a decision and I think the one we took was really beautiful. it was that all that we earned on the tour, from a commercial point of view, before going we has made a commitment and of course so did Global Exchange, our American friends, to donate the money to Cuban paediatric health; all the money from the sold-out theatres, the box-office receipts, etc. to donate it to Cuban paediatric health. However, when we got there, we learned that because of the war they had cut the funds to social assistance drastically, medical care for Californian children. So we decided between all or fifty fifty. In other words, between bringing half for Cuban paediatric medicine and to leave the other half for poor Californian children who we had seen there, and who are in a really critical situation. We said that too to our American friends and it caused a really beautiful reaction indicating what the future might be, the idea of sharing cultures, of sharing the people. And I am sure that the children will be the ones to do it. It’s due to us, we deserve that, the two cultures, and the two peoples and it will happen, the children were kind of ambassadors for all that and it will certainly happen.
Randy Alonso. - It is, there is no doubt, the victory of the best of human kind, of humanism versus barbarism, and versus fascist lack of culture.
Thank you Cremata for your testimony.
Relevant images are shown.
This call of Cuban writers and artists — as Carlos Martí said at the beginning of this round table and Roberto Fernandez Retamar was inspired by the movement of the US intellectuals who said NO in our name was inspired by intellectuals in Europe and Latin America too who have added their cry against this unjustifiable war It is in favour this great movement and the call that the Cuban intelligentsia made for anti-fascist front from within the social movement itself that new voices new voices of left intellectuals on our continent and in Europe must play and in fact are playing an important role. Fernando Martinez Heredia, an active participant in the Porto Alegre for a, has seen this start and move forward and he is familiar with these new voices from the European and Latin American left.
Fernando, I would like you to share your views on how this new leftist intellectual movement has used its voices, its writings, to confront the resurgence of fascism that the White House is seeking to impose on the world.
Fernando M. Heredia.- It would be very good, Randy, to speak after Cremata and this very moving story from California. One can see how it is possible, right there, inside the monster – as Martí once wrote – to confront the forces that really are the forces of evil.
I will just talk a little bit about the intellectuals who are expressing their opposition to imperialism and about those who are going further than expressing this opposition, analyzing the main problems of the world today, searching for new paths, raising the people’s consciousness, trying to contribute to creating another, more just world, through the struggle against imperialism.
It is clear that what is most significant today is the level of resistance. In the 1990s, at the beginning of the decade, there were those who claimed that there would never again be any resistance; some even said that history was coming to an end.
Today, although the level of imperialist aggression is greater than ever, no one would dare to say such a thing. I think this is already a first lesson.
In Seattle, in November of 1999, awareness emerged of something that had been developing over recent years, which was the growing protest in the First World, on the part of those who did not want to be complicit; of those who, for example, in Birmingham, England, in May of 1998, had demonstrated in huge numbers to demand the cancellation of the debt of the peoples of the Third World; or those who had done the same before in Cologne, Germany; and those who continued to do it in Genoa. There is also this campaign of intellectuals like Ramonet against a single line of thinking. All of these forces converged and we saw the emergence, once again, and more visible than before, of this sector of First World intellectuals who have never surrendered to capitalism.
At the same time, in Latin America, despite the genocidal dictatorships of the last decades and the "conservatization" of universities and other cultural institutions, and of politics in general, there is an immense political culture today. This immense political culture is a major gain that the peoples of Latin America have paid for dearly; but they are beginning to profit from it now. The production of thought and social sciences in Latin America, critical of or opposed to domination, is extremely important and ever more pronounced.
There is another phenomenon that I consider to be very important: the expansion in the number of those involved in intellectual activity.
Today, everywhere, one encounters social and political leaders and activists who have a great deal more capacity than those we knew when we were young, who are trying to revive, as well, the historical memory of struggles and ideas, a memory that capitalism is trying to erase, inducing the majority of the peoples to forget it.
Today there are also a large number of events that reflect rebellion – I am thinking of Chiapas, or of Argentina in December of 2001 – that constantly remind us that rebellion today is the adulthood of culture.
I am going to talk a bit about the World Social Forums. Three of them have been held in Porto Alegre, Brazil, in January of 2001, 2002 and 2003. At these forums we have seen a convergence of currents, of different forms of thinking and protest, from different regions of the world. They have continued to grow, and at the last forum there were over 100,000 participants. This is a new force of opposition to the imperialist system, it is like an immense beehive.
This year, things got a bit carried away, there were 1700 workshops, for example, and dozens and dozens of lectures in theaters that are actually gymnasiums or stadiums, where there might be 10,000, 12,000, up to 15,000 Brazilians, and people from all parts of the world who tried to get there. It is a new social force, bridging diversities, giving a space and a sense of worth to those who protest or reject the system, with a greater or lesser degree of consciousness, without the obstacles that currently face the leftist political sectors, in terms of practical politics, because the latter are in a highly disadvantageous situation.
The movement is very attractive, very acceptable for many people. Without a doubt, it serves to channel the different organizations, some of which are older, while others have emerged in recent years. It also has the drawback, if you will, of being highly heterogeneous, of not being a vehicle for a degree of organization much greater than that of these forums themselves, or for putting forward more organized proposals than these. In my opinion, however, these forums can be and are a school of anti-capitalism, as well as a nursery for political organizations that are certain to come.
At these forums, and I want to draw attention to this, with greater emphasis, we see not only the presence and activities of a great many personalities and organizations that are firmly anti-imperialist, that weigh the scales towards this particular stance, as opposed to more moderate sectors, but also a multitude of young people anxious to learn and to join in the opposition to the system.
At the second forum, where the Cuban delegation was still a small one – there were trade union leaders like Pedro Ross and other comrades – it was moving to see the huge number of young people from Latin America who would show up anywhere there was going to be or they thought there was going to be something about Cuba. There was even a case where they went to a popular education workshop by mistake, thinking that there would be something about Cuba, and when they were corrected, they said, "Fine, but talk about Cuba anyway, talk, say something, because you must know something about Cuba."
So this gives us an idea of the role played by mobilization, and we have seen this in response to the threat of war and the actual war against Iraq, on February 15, March 15, and now April 12, the massive mobilizations taking place simultaneously in a multitude of countries.
I would like to at least mention a few individuals, highly noteworthy social scientists from Latin America and elsewhere: Emín Sader, Michael Lowy, Atilio Borón, people like Eduardo Galeano who deeply moved 5000 Brazilians on the night of the launching of the first left-wing newspaper to emerge from a peasant movement, the Movement of Landless Rural Workers. And 5000 people were deeply stirred by the words of Eduardo Galeano, and by the marvelous Sebastián Salgado, one of the world’s greatest photographers, who spoke about photography and also about peasant resistance.
Joao Pedro Stedile, a leader of this movement, gave a genuine master’s class, as we say in Cuba, on the history of capitalism – in a massive stadium – of colonialism, of the struggle for agrarian reform and what it means today.
Fernando Solanas, Pino, gave a marvelous lecture. Julio García Espinosa was talking about this a while ago. Pino said, "There are dozens of nations and peoples who still do not produce their own images, and instead they see images, memories, esthetics, languages and gestures that are alien to them."
Frederick Jameson, the renowned American thinker, talked about cultural identity and symbolic representations, Lowy talked about the cultural war, memory of resistance, et cetera.
I do not want to go on at too much length, because there is not enough time, but some of the subjects addressed at the forum were the launching of an alternative world trade scheme to counter the World Trade Organization, a project for the democratization of the mass media, proposals for the peaceful and just resolution of ongoing armed conflicts, and the democratization of international organizations, beginning with the UN. So this gives you an idea of the political depth represented by these kinds of activities.
Latin American social thought committed to liberation is already strong and still growing. For its part, imperialism has lost its banners of progress and abandoned its promises, and the resulting discredit is ever greater, because it is not simply a matter of criminality and arrogance; is the very nature of today’s imperialism that leads it to attack the sovereignty of the peoples and its own democratic forms of domination. Imperialism no longer has a place for a large part of its workers, whom it has exploited, nor for a large part of the population of the planet, nor for the preservation of the environment.
Cuba is a palpable example of the fact that a society can live in another way, one that is humane and based on solidarity, and so Cuba represents hope for those intellectuals who are committed to their peoples. We need to strengthen the ties of exchange and knowledge, and discussion of our ideas and solidarity in the face of a common enemy.
I think that we Cuban intellectuals are in a privileged position to carry out the task requested of us yesterday by Dr. Pogolotti at the Expanded National Council of UNEAC, that of developing the social thinking and ideas that are so greatly and urgently needed today, to deepen resistance and take the offensive in the cultural war against fascism, against imperialism and against capitalism.
Randy Alonso.- It is the expression of the best of the intellectual spheres of Latin America and the world, which are seeking alternatives to the savage capitalism imposed on the world, while confronting the ideological imperatives of the universal fascism they are now attempting to impose.
Culture and art are the best weapons to fight barbarism.
Today, when the artists and writers of Cuba are lifting their voices against dictatorial neofascism, our round table is appealing to the most noble sentiments of human beings, through the voice of Silvio Rodríguez, who has granted us the honor of premiering the video for a song more urgently needed than ever, "Cita con angeles" (Date with Angels).
Since the beginning of time
The guardian angels have flown
Deeply devoted to their vows
Fending off mishaps and misfortunes
Over the cradles of the newly born
Over the deathbeds of the soon to die
These gentle winged beings
From another world
When one of these angels plies the air
There is nothing quite like it
The aim of his hurried flight
Is the sentence awaiting a heretic
Nothing distracts him or slows him down
Nothing else matters right now
He is headed for the field of flowers
Where Bruno will be burned at the stake
An angel dives from on high
In a breathtaking free fall
The order has come from the top
To fly down to Dos Ríos
It is the 19th of May
Mountain of foam and mother sierra
When another angel on horseback
Falls "with the poor of the earth"
They say that a merciful angel
Flew past the moon
And over the olive trees
And his wings were riddled with bullets
At the very moment when Federico
Was murdered in Spain
A beautiful archangel flutters
Alongside a giant metal bird
Trying to catch the eye of a man
To prevent a hundred thousand exiles
But the archangel is choking
And one of his wings is torn
And the black bird opens its mouth
As they pass over Hiroshima
Over Memphis, Tennessee
A winged being flew down
Dressed in mourning
Counting the minutes left
For God and Martin Luther King
An angel soars over a bridge
Then circles a skyscraper
Central Park is full of people
But none of them see him
What dreams will be shattered
What will be left to imagine
When the bullets strike John down
In the doorway of the Dakota
September still howls
Over its double toll of horror
Everything happens on the same day
Thanks to the same hatred
The angel who watched the bombing
Of the president in Chile
Now watches the unforgettable fall
Of the two towers and their thousands
Dispairing, the angels take to the skies
And with brushes of cloud
Paint their farewells to war
The world rushes to see
And joins in their struggle
But the man with all the guns
Does not look up or hear their cries
The poor, urgent angels
Who never manage to save us
Are they incompetent?
Or is there just no way to help us?
To spare them more suffering
And psychiatrists’ bills
Let’s be a little bit better
And a lot less selfish
Let’s be a little bit better
And a lot less selfish.
Randy Alonso.- "Cita con angeles", an appeal to the best in humankind, in which Silvio Rodríguez has brought together Frank Fernández, Leo Brouwer, Chucho Valdés, José María Vitier, Juan Formell, Tata Güines, Niurka González, Noel Nicola, Vicente Feliú and Amaury Pérez, who is also with us today in the studio audience, incidentally.
The urgent angels who never manage to save us, as Silvio says. And in order for those urgent angels to be able to save the world, the intellectuals of Cuba have launched a call to all of the artists and writers of the world to create a worldwide anti-fascist front, in which many things will need to be done from this point on, and which I would like Carlos Martí to tell our people about now, as our round table draws to an end.
Carlos Martí.- Fernando’s presentation really did leave me thinking, because, in fact, the forum was an extremely important, powerful experience, and it became clear that we have an exceptional opportunity for creating this anti-fascist front. There is awareness, the intellectuals have resumed the place that corresponds to them in society and are working steadfastly, as the UNEAC document says, to achieve a civic role of commitment, to reach goals that will contribute to the current battle against neofascist ideas and practice.
I think that in Cuba, in addition, we have the privilege of being united in the vanguard of intellectuals and artists, we have an organization that is strong in this sense and we genuinely can call together not only the members of our organization, but also other organizations associated with intellectual work.
We are already being joined by the Cuban Journalists Union and the Cuban Association of Educators. We have spread this message to other scientific associations. I believe we have to mobilize all of the talent, all those who have something to contribute, in order to launch this front. We are going to call on the entire world to join in this anti-fascist front.
There are many things we must do.
I have some very recent news here in these wire service reports. This one comes from Latin America, and talks about an international front of intellectuals against the war. And I have this letter recently signed by a group of the most important Mexican intellectuals, regarding the case of the Commission on Human Rights, but it is also related, of course, to the current struggle against neofascism, and it was signed by a list of the leading Mexican intellectuals. In other words, we are in an exceptional position.
In the National Council, we were able to exchange a number of ideas to establish this front and a plan of action, and we are going to work on very concrete tasks. I want to mention a few of them.
We are working on the dismantling of this neofascist doctrine. We are going to send our ideas out to the world and connect up with all those who could form part of this front.
The call for participation in the front has already been translated into seven languages, and distributed to parliaments, universities, organizations of intellectuals and Internet websites, and it will continue to be distributed further.
In fact, we have already seen repercussions. For example, in the Spanish newspaper El Mundo, they quoted practically the entire document.
Randy Alonso.- It was also published in El País, another Spanish newspaper.
Carlos Martí.- Yes, it was also in El País, another Spanish newspaper, but mixed with other things.
Randy Alonso.- A number of Latin American newspapers have also reported on this call.
Carlos Martí.- Yes, and this is a tremendous source of encouragement, because we know we can continue to make progress in our task of getting the truth out.
Randy Alonso.- You mentioned a website as well.
Carlos Martí.- We are setting up a website, in the coming days, with the cooperation of the Ministry of Culture. It is a website of intellectuals and artists against fascism, and it will include e-mail and current information, constantly updated, as a means of calling on all those who want to participate in this front.
We will be calling on all of our colleagues around the world and all people of good will. We are going to do this with dedication, working on a daily basis, to counterract the manipulation of the media.
This media war against neofascism is crucial, because we have seen, during the war against the Iraqi people, how they have used the media to erase the Viet Nam syndrome from the memories of the American people. In other words, there is a genuinely fascist propaganda and disinformation campaign in progress.
We are devoting all of our efforts to this. There are many ideas. New publications are being organized. We will be participating in forums, exchanging documentation with similar fronts that are emerging in different parts of the world. Universities are a key place to promote this kind of reflection; so are scientific institutions, of course.
I am fully convinced that these and other measures will have immediate results. We must work quickly. We have all the necessary means, we have the talent in our country to organize a worldwide anti-fascist front. It is urgent that we take action now, because events are moving quickly and there is no time to waste. As a result, we must work on a daily basis to raise awareness and get the truth out.
This is our duty, to ensure that barbarism does not win out, and to ensure the salvation of human civilization and the light of its most transcendental spirituality.
Randy Alonso.- And this is a battle in which we will also be struggling to get out the truth about Cuba, in the midst of so many media lies, and in which Cuba’s intellectuals can clarify, through their own positions, Cuba’s position towards the world. It will also serve as an instrument in the battle for the defense of the most noble ideas of human culture, in the face of the fascist ideas they are trying to impose on the world.
With this we have reached the end of our round table today. I would like to thank the prestigious intellectuals and artists who have accompanied me on the panel or in the studio audience, and the guests we have had here with us, especially Comrade Abel Prieto, the Minister of Culture.
Esteemed viewers and listeners:
Rooted in the doctrines of the extreme right that openly proclaims the role of the United States as an empire destined to shape the future of the world, inspired by the most sinister thinking of Hitler and his fascist clique, spurred by a Messianism that revives "manifest destiny", the current U.S. administration is seeking to impose a worldwide fascist dictatorship.
A government that took power under the cloak of fraud has used the contemptible events of September 11, 2001 to legitimize its attempts to impose a preconceived policy of universal plunder and domination, on the basis of its devastating technological, military, pseudocultural and media power.
The military invasion of Iraq and the current threats against Syria and other nations are a brutal expression of the doctrine of preventive attack, proclaimed yesterday by Hitler and resumed today by Bush.
In the face of the neofascist goals of the current U.S. government, the writers and artists of Cuba -- inspired by the intellectual movement that in the United States, Europe, Latin America and other parts of the world has proclaimed, "Not in our name," and by the millions of men and women who have filled the streets with their cries of protest against the war -- have voiced their denunciation of the extreme danger facing humanity today and called for the creation of a massive international anti-fascist front, based on awareness and ideas.
In the face of the universal barbarism they seek to impose, I recall Fidel’s warning that "Without culture, no freedom is possible."