By Ciro Bianchi Ross
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
Former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was given in Cuba, in 1946, the treatment of head of government, and the National Hotel reserved for him, of course, the Apartment of the Republic, which was intended for the most distinguished official guests. During the Second World War, the press had made his image of a good-natured and implacable grandfather habitual at the same time. He was an insatiable smoker of cigars. When he leaned out of the door of the Boeing 17 that brought him, he raised his right hand and with his index and middle fingers in the shape of a vee he greeted the crowd waiting for him at the Rancho Boyeros airport and applauded him enthusiastically: Sir Winston repeated for the Havana people the sign of victory, a gesture he coined throughout the war.
And there began the headaches for the Cuban protocol and the British legation in Havana, because the former premier did not respect timetables or formalities and was governed only by what the day had in store for him. He would get up at five in the morning and from that moment on he would put the entire hotel in check. One rainy day, annoyed because he could not take his usual dip in the pool, he suddenly ordered that they pack their bags to leave and asked them to get rid of them as soon as the sun came up. He spent his free time playing cards with anyone who wanted to join him. “He eats, drinks and smokes without restrictions of any kind. And in quantity,” wrote Enrique de la Osa in his report on the visit.
It was the second time Winston Churchill had visited our country. Many years ago, in 1895, he had celebrated his twenty-first birthday here. The then young officer of the fourth Regiment of Hussars came in his personal capacity to see the war that the Cubans were waging for their independence against Spain, and here the future Lord of the British Admiralty received his baptism of fire. At that time he also became fond of Cuban rum. He says so explicitly in his memoirs.
What was Winston Churchill looking for in 1895 in these lands? He said it clearly in his book: the adventure for the adventure itself. He was anxious to know what a war was like.
Churchill came from Sancti Spiritus with a Spanish troop of three thousand men moving towards Arroyo Blanco. He marched on horseback for hours and made campaign life: he slept in a hammock, bivouacked with the troop, bathed in the rivers… Days passed and nothing happened, until one morning, at breakfast time, his group was surprised by a closed discharge coming out of the nearby forest and a horse that grazed peacefully next to Churchill received a fatal wound on the side.
The Spaniards rushed to where the shots came from and found no one. Churchill had already been warned that in Cuba the enemy was everywhere and nowhere… “When I witnessed all these operations I could not help but think that the bullet that had hit the horse had certainly passed one foot from my head. So, at least, it had been under fire. It was something,” says the former prime minister in his memoirs. He understood the situation: Spain would be ruined and bleed to death in front of a ragged army armed, above all, “with a terrible knife called a machete”. It was a weapon handled by soldiers for whom war “cost them nothing, apart from misery, dangers, and privations”. But even so, Churchill sympathized with Spain. Rather, he felt sorry for the Spaniards.
Let’s go back to that Havana of February 1946. Churchill asked to be driven through the city in a convertible car and since Cuban protocol did not have a similar vehicle, the owner of the Partagás cigar factory offered his and he himself gladly served as a driver in exchange for the visitor reciprocating with a visit to his company, in which he was pleased. One of the traditional vitolas of the Romeo y Julieta brand bears the name of the British politician. Pinar del Río distinguished Churchill with the title of Favourite Son. He spent a whole afternoon locked up in the brothel of Marina, in Colón Street. His aide during his stay on the island was the then young lieutenant José Ramón Fernández.
Churchill’s lunch with President Grau San Martín, whose menu is still maintined, was tinged by the anecdote. Sir Winston left for the Presidential Palace with all the packing that the occasion required only to return to the hotel a few minutes later… I had forgotten the cigars. Then, another unplug: the retinue had to go round and round around the Palace for ten minutes so that the former premier and the president would meet at the scheduled time.
At the end of lunch, Grau forced Churchill to go out to the North Terrace before which many Havana citizens were waiting to greet him.
Churchill said: “I feel very pleased in this beautiful Island of Cuba where I have been so well received…”. And he continued, in Spanish: “I take the opportunity to say: Long live the Pearl of the Antilles!
At the end of his stay, he made another enthusiastic statement: “If I didn’t have to see President Truman, I would stay here for a month.
By La Tizza
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews
The universalization of Marxism, beginning in the 19th century, is a reality that few people dare to contradict or ignore. The history – sometimes tragic, it is worth acknowledging – of how this universalization took place (the roads it has traveled, the bifurcations it has had and its contradictions and complexities) needs to be reconstructed as part of the cultural heritage of the Marxist tradition. Above all, this is because it has to be part of the struggle for the revolutionary transformation of the world. Following in the footsteps of one of the currents of Marxism, the one inaugurated by Lev Davidov Bronstein – better known as Trotsky – an academic meeting was held in Havana from May 6 to 8, .
Under the decisive impulse of Frank García Hernández, of the Juan Marinello Cuban Institute of Cultural Research (ICICJM); and with the help of the Institute of Philosophy, the Casa Benito Juárez – headquarters of the debates -, in addition to the ICICJM itself, for Cuba; as well as the Casa Museo León Trostki, of the Federal District of Mexico, the event of study and tribute to the founder of the Red Army was held. More than forty foreign researchers met in Cuba – not a few of them militants in revolutionary organizations – who have dedicated part of their theoretical analyses and political itineraries to the personality and thought of the famous occupant of the Soviet armored train during the Civil War of 1918-1921. Together with their Cuban peers – who acted as moderators in the eight thematic roundtables that met during the three days – they outlined the political and theoretical ups and downs of the promoter of the Fourth International.
May 6 was devoted to characterizing the revolutionary trajectory and intellectual biography of Lev D. Trotski: his theoretical conceptions; his performance as a political leader and military strategist; his positions in the Soviet leadership before and after Lenin’s death; his exile and his assassination in Mexico. His ideas about the Permanent Revolution, uneven and combined development, the organization of the State and factory production in the conditions of socialist construction, among other topics, were revisited. At the end of the day, it became clear that Trotsky’s personality and thought have their own merits in the Marxist tradition, which need to be understood and explained as one of the referents of revolutionary movements in the contemporary world.
For their part, the dates of May 7 and 8 were conceived to understanding the transcendence of Trotskyist thought in two essential dimensions: in terms of political theory, aesthetics, art, literature… in the end of universal culture – and for this, three panels met in a very tight intermediate day – and in geographical terms, with their impact beyond Soviet borders, specifically in Turkey, Mexico, the United States, the Caribbean in general, Cuba in particular and South America – themes, with their specificities that occupied the hours of the last day and extended the sessions almost three hours beyond those originally planned – .
The days of the meeting were also a space for militant and committed solidarity – not without criticism – and internationalism with Cuba and Venezuela, immediate objectives of U.S. imperialist aggression. This was evidenced in multiple interventions that earned the most resounding applause in each of the thematic tables.
In all probability, the most important balance of the event was the set of questions that it left open – although more than one panelist tried to give him his own answer -; some of them could be summarized in:
– How can the socialist transition be managed in a conscious, organized and cultured way?
– How does the dynamic of the relations between (and the struggle of) social classes take place in the socialist transition, what role does the bureaucracy play in these dynamics?
– What strategies to follow in the face of capitalist reaction, especially its most stark expression, fascism in its various national and international manifestations?
Is the internationalization of struggles and proletarian internationalism a tactic, a strategy, a reason of state, a necessity of revolution, how to practice it?
– How are the noblest ideas about socialism and the revolutionary transformation of society perverted, what are the antidotes against bureaucratization and deformations, what lessons can be drawn from the experience of the USSR and all the socialism of the twentieth century?
– if socialism is not only a way of conceiving the expanded production and reproduction of the material and spiritual life of people and nations, how can we understand a different, not opposed, type of art, literature, everyday life… in short, a different type of culture – which, in Trotsky’s words, cannot be “proletarian”, but “socialist”?
– How to process and assume contradictions and differences in the revolutionary field when not all visions and practices are coincident? How to understand the difference, the antagonists and the enemies?
The previous ones are only a limited sample of the multiple questions that, with their concrete forms, Trotsky formulated in diverse moments. He gave it his own answers, but the strength that his questions still have gives an account of the need to retrace his steps and the whole Marxist tradition in all its complexities and contradictions, just as the revolutionary thought that was not buried with the rubble of the Berlin Wall advanced.
When around 7 p.m. on May 8, with the raised left clenched fist, the event dedicated to Lev D. Trotski ended and the universalization of Marxism opened a new chapter, this time from Havana.
A CubaNews translation. Edited by Walter Lippmann.
More than 200 artists are present at the XIV edition of the Art Fair for Mom, sponsored by the Fondo de Bienes Culturales, which takes place every year in the Cuban capital and other provinces of the country, prior to the celebration of Mother’s Day.
This Friday was officially inaugurated at the Pabexpo exhibition center, the event, which this time also pays tribute to the 500th anniversary of the foundation of the village of San Cristóbal de La Habana.
Mercy Correa Piñero, director of FCBC’s National Crafts Center, emphasized in her words of welcome to guests, journalists, and the general public, the significance of the national scope of this 14th edition of Arte para Mamá, the second to reach all the Fund’s affiliates in the country, published by ACN.
Outstanding Cuban singer Annie Garcés and her group animated the event with the interpretation of well-known themes such as Mauricio Figueiral’s conga Agua; Todo natural, by Adrián Berazaín; and Tú me amas, by Andy Villalón.
In around 600 exhibition spaces, visitors can find artistic and cultural promotions from all over the country, including crafts, textiles, ceramics, handcrafted furniture, footwear, goldsmith’s pieces, Arte en Casa products and different works of art and literature.
Representing the Cuban cultural industry are the Empresa de Grabaciones y Ediciones Musicales (EGREM), the Distribuidora Nacional del Libro, Génesis Galería and the Instituto Cubano de Arte e Industria Cinematográfica (ICAIC).
The fair will be open every day until Saturday, May 11, from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., except Wednesday, May 1, in rooms B and C of the venue.
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
The Coppelia ice cream parlor, located in the central streets L and 23, in Havana’s Vedado, will close its services to the public for maintenance and repair work from next May 2 until June, and simultaneously will also cease production of the ice cream factory of the same name.
According to a note to our editorial staff, “the objective is to make technological improvements in the factory, improve the ice-cream production processes, and create the conditions for the definitive and stable production of Coppelia ice-cream.
“Taking advantage of this stop, improvements and maintenance actions will also be carried out in the ice-cream parlor, which will allow a better service to the population and the rescue of offers that have always characterized this emblematic site of the capital”.
We hope that the changes are not only structural, but that the reopening will lead to an improvement of the service, Achilles’ heel of the installation.