Los campos de concentración de Castro
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Do You Remember the Revolutionary Offensive of 1968?

Do You Remember the Revolutionary Offensive of 1968? / Haroldo Dilla Alfonso

Haroldo Dilla Alfonso, Translator: Unstated

On March 13, 1968, Fidel Castro, in one of his miles-long speeches,

announced to the Cuban people what he called "the Revolutionary

Offensive*." In reality, it had nothing revolutionary about it, on the

contrary, it was an essentially counterrevolutionary measure intended to

eliminate the urban petty bourgeoisie. And with it to eliminate one of

the few areas of social autonomy remaining in the country after the

brutal nationalization of everything that moved. After this step, the

only thing left outside the State sector was a limited area of small

farm cooperatives of differing forms, that owned 30 percent of the land

and supplied something like 70 percent of the agricultural food to the

Cuban population.

The Revolutionary Offensive was one more step in the sociopolitical

control of the population and in the construction of a Thermidorian

regime with totalitarian aspirations that finally consolidated itself on

the base of Soviet subsidies. It was also another step in the repression

of everyone who seemed estranged from a new morality more similar to the

plebeian asceticism of the medieval peasant movements than the Marxist

proposal.

And it was a particularly damaging outburst of the anti-urban sentiment,

in the same way that cities were considered as nurseries of amoral

manifestations and the rural world as an idyllic place to cultivate the

new revolutionary virtues. If anyone doubts this, read this short

paragraph from a speech as homophobic as it is anti-urban, uttered by FC

in March of 1963:

"Many of those bums… have taken the extreme liberty of attempting

to go to some of the places of public attendance to organize their

faggoty shows… our society cannot make room for these degenerates. The

socialist society cannot permit that kind of degeneration. There are

many theories, I am not a scientist, I am not an expert in this matter,

but I have always observed one thing: the countryside does not yield

this inferior product. I have always observed this, and I always bear it

very much in mind."

And from here, obviously, they derived practices such as the

agricultural mobilizations that battered us for decades, the schools in

the countryside, and in the countryside they terrorized the families

until very recently, and the fatal UMAP** (Military Units in Aid of

Production) that destroyed the lives and dreams of thousands of Cubans.

All in an attempt to subjugate a Caribbean population to a stoical and

monastic lifestyle that, logically, the new political class escaped by

reserving for themselves intimate recreational sites within and outside

the country.

Recently I returned to the speech announcing the Revolutionary

Offensive. I hadn't gone back to it since that day I heard it, when I

was a teenager, stuck in the crowd filling San Lázaro Street. And

reading it served to reaffirm my conviction in the value of democracy,

of public debate, and of the independent press. Because the report

presented by Fidel Castro (FC) against small urban businesses — in the

midst of a several hour tirade that included observations about the

drought, the fight against imperialism and the victory of the 10 million

ton sugar harvest — constituted a gross manipulation of public opinions

that could only be carried out from uncontested power.

FC's report was based on a study applied to 6,452 private businesses —

including snack stands — and 955 bars, never making it clear if they

were included in the previous figure or were an additional number. It

was undertaken by Communist Party militants from each municipality with

the support of the surveillance entities, the CDRs — Committees for the

Defense of the Revolution — which obviously were determined to construct

the results to agree with the conclusions they wanted to reach, to

legitimize the operation. And in particular, those conclusions fed into

the political passions of the moment.

So the study presents frankly childish data such as specifying that 66

percent of the clients of the bars and 72 percent of the proprietors

were "anti-social and amoral" deviants from the revolutionary purposes.

Claims difficult to prove, but sufficient to identify the happy drinkers

as zigzagging enemies of the Revolution.

On the other hand, in his speech FC grossly distorted the statistics.

Let's say, for example, that when only 28 percent of the businesses were

not legally registered, this was presented as "almost a third"; or when

he had to explain that 51 percent of the business had good hygiene

conditions, 40 percent had average conditions, and 9 percent bad, he

presented this data as almost half "did not have good" hygiene

conditions. And so on, making the reading an invitation to laughter if

it weren't that through it he was hiding a wave of expropriations

against workers, against the "people" whom FC himself defined in his

legal plea of 1953***, and against the few remaining spaces of social

autonomy.

I say expressly workers, because there is something that neither the

endeavors of the investigators, nor the manipulation of the orator can

hide: of these 6,542 small businesses analyzed in Havana, 72 percent

were registered and paid their taxes on time, 88 percent of the owners

worked in their businesses and relied on family labor, and only 31

percent of them had other employees. And 73 percent of the owner

families had no other income, with the overwhelming majority having

daily gross revenues of less than one hundred pesos.

Curiously, only 6 percent of the business owners had requested to leave

the country.

In a country where at that time the only way to express discontent was

with your feet.

Translator's notes:

*The 1968 Revolutionary Offensive, according to Granma, the Communist

Party newspaper, was intended to fight selfishness and individualism and

eradicate parasitism. The government confiscated 55,636 small, private

businesses.

**UMAP — Concentration camps for religious believers, homosexuals and

other "counterrevolutionaries."

***Subsequently edited and published as "History will absolve me," this

refers to his statement at his trial for the attack on the Moncada

Barracks on 26 July 1953, generally taken as the start date of the

Revolution.

From Cubaencuentro

9 July 2012

http://translatingcuba.com/?p=19827

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