By La Izquierda Diario México
Tuesday May 14, 2019
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews
Daily Left (LID): How do you evaluate this event?
Gabriel García Higueras: This is an event of great academic and political importance. It is transcendental that an encounter of this nature has taken place in Cuba. As I said this afternoon, at the beginning of my presentation, since 1990 there has not been an international congress on Trotsky that brings together such a number of presentations and speakers from so many countries. Frank García’s call and organization have been magnificent, as well as the reception he has found in the public. The fact that it takes place in Cuba is unprecedented and will mark a milestone in the research on Trotsky that will be carried out in this country. It should also be noted that the conference is taking place despite not having sufficient organizational support. This is very meritorious and evidences the dedication and commitment of those who have made it a reality.
LID: What is the importance of this taking place in Cuba?
Gabriel García Higueras: Without a doubt, it is very important that this event has been allowed in Cuba, which also reveals a greater political openness to address issues that were previously censored. As is well known, for a long time Trotsky was a taboo figure on the island, since the revolutionary government of Cuba, by aligning itself with the bloc of communist countries, adopted the Stalinist version of his role in the Russian Revolution. Precisely, Leonardo Padura writes about this distorted vision in one of the texts that make up his recent book Agua por todas partes (Tusquets, 2019). So this event is a vindication of one of the essential figures of socialist thought in the twentieth century.
On the other hand, I think it is important that Trotsky’s work be made known to new generations of Cubans. In that sense, the presentation of two of his fundamental books: The Revolution Betrayed and Latin American Writings, will be of enormous importance in this event.
In addition, tomorrow we will have the scoop of world premiere of the documentary on the life of Trotsky in the process of editing, The Most Dangerous Man in the World, by filmmaker Lindy Laub, who has had the historical advice of Suzi Weissman. It is the most complete and best-documented film ever made about Trotsky. And I say this because I saw the trailer at the Leon Trotsky Museum in Mexico nine years ago.
LID: Why don’t you tell us what your participation consisted of?
Gabriel García Higueras: Well, I dealt with Trotsky’s historiographic representation in the Soviet Union during the perestroika. That subject is important because, at that time, a revision of the official history was initiated and, therefore, his figure as the protagonist of the Russian Revolution was recovered. Moreover, this revision allowed the appearance of new historical narratives about Trotsky, some of which are still circulating in Russia.
Due to the fifteen minutes I had for my presentation, I limited myself to presenting the main lines of the subject. I would also have liked to talk about the historical vision of Trotsky in Russia today.
LID: You also presented a book…
Gabriel García Higueras: Yes, this is Trotsky’s second edition in the mirror of history, published in Mexico two years ago. Although I couldn’t bring many copies from Lima, I’m excited that my book will be consulted in libraries by avid Cuban readers.
LID: What about Trotsky today?
Gabriel García Higueras: He is a thinker whose ideas are unavoidable to understand the main processes of the contemporary world. Trotsky reflected and wrote about such a diversity of problems that his ideas always illuminate our vision of reality. Just to cite one example, his theory is key to understanding the Russian Revolution and the historical process that began in 1917. In that perspective, his writings provide us with solid arguments to understand the degeneration of the first workers’ state and the causes for its disappearance.
Interviewed: Pablo Oprinari
You can also read: Trotsky revisited in Havana, Cuba
THE LEFT DAILY MEXICO
May 19, 2019
Pablo Oprinari interviewed Frank García Hernández, organizer of the recent “First International Academic Event on Leon Trotsky”, held in Cuba, in which the Leon Trotsky Center for Studies, Research and Publications (Argentina-Mexico) participated.
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
IdZ What is your assessment of the Trotsky event held in Cuba?
FG: I always thought that the event was going to mark a before and an after. I know that if we had done it in Brazil or Mexico -countries where it is possible that the 2nd and 3rd edition of this meeting will take place- it would not have been the same, because, although we have not had much financing due to all the economic problems that Cuba has, we did achieve a very large international participation, with high-level presenters such as Robert Brenner, Paul LeBlanc, Susy Weissman or Eric Toussaint, You have come [CEIP León Trotsky, N del E], those from the Karl Marx Center for Socialist Studies, the Casa León Trotsky Museum, researchers from the three most important universities in Brazil have arrived, participants and academics have come who at other times are not meeting because of the traditional disputes that their political organizations have, but who come because Cuba is everyone’s land and nobody’s.
Trotsky, Cuba and the current situation in the country have brought people from all over the world: from India, Iran, Turkey, Italy, Austria, Germany, France, Great Britain, Argentina, Canada, Spain, the United States, Mexico, Peru, Venezuela, Brazil, intellectuals from Colombia and Pakistan, who were finally unable to attend, Michael Lowy and Tariq Ali also wanted to be present and at least ten other exhibitors. The event, in fact, should have lasted four days, but it was impossible, almost impossible, and cannot leave. We had a very difficult logistical situation so we couldn’t receive a foreign audience. I hope you understood and didn’t bother with us. To those of us who asked them not to come, we never did so for political reasons, much less for personal reasons. If we had accepted the 192 applications for public participation we would have collapsed, in fact, you saw that in the room where we were, they would not have had space.
The only thing I didn’t like about the event is that there wasn’t much Cuban public, which I think was due to bad management, it’s our responsibility, and that could give the false idea that in Cuba there is no will to meet Trotsky. Moreover, the lack of time caused the program not to be ready for the first day.
But the event, for me, in spite of its problems, is a total advance. In addition, the Institute of Philosophy undertook to publish the memoirs of the event, an institute that if it had not been for him we would not be here today. We must also thank the director of Casa Benito Juárez, where this congress was held. And we would also like to thank the logistical support given to us by the Juan Marinello Cuban Institute of Cultural Research, which also seems to be preparing to collaborate in the publication of the memoirs.
If this is done, if this book is published, it would be the first time that a book dedicated to Trotsky and the sociopolitical-cultural phenomena that has been generated around him would appear in Cuba. Trotsky’s other text that appeared, as a book, was published in the sixties by the militants of the Revolutionary Workers’ Party (Trotskyist), who were militants in the Fourth International Posadista. That book did not travel around the country because it was confiscated and never went to press.
Were other articles or materials by Trotsky published?
FG: In Cuba, only the following articles by Trotsky have been published without suffering censorship: one in the Revolution newspaper, of the 26th of July movement, in the cultural supplement “Lunes de Revolución” where a very short excerpt from the History of the Russian Revolution, published by Guillermo Cabrera Infante, appeared. That was in 1960.
Later, in 2014-2015, “Lenin’s Last Struggle” was published in Cuba, a compilation of Lenin’s writings and letters, which was originally published by Pathfinder Publishing, which ceded its rights to the Social Sciences Publishing House; there appeared some letters from Trotsky to Lenin. And after I taught the postgraduate course on Leon Trotsky, in November 2016 – the first in Cuba and had a great impact on the student body – almost two years later, in January 2018, the centennial of the Red Army, part of Trotsky’s speech at the founding of the Red Army was published in a Santa Clara cultural magazine.
So now, when we publish this book, we are going to live in Cuba a before and an after, because when all the presentations that were made are published, we are going to skip the political taboo that is Trotsky. With Trotsky in Cuba something very similar happened to what the Peruvian writer Héctor Béjar says in his book, which was awarded the Casa de las Américas Essay Prize in 1966, when he stated that after the 20th Congress of the CPSU, we all knew about Stalin’s crimes but nobody told us that the one who was not a criminal was Trotsky.
And the same thing happened in Cuba: after the fall of the Soviet Union, we all knew about Stalin’s crimes, but no one here has said that Trotsky was not guilty of what he was accused of. That is the importance of the event. To begin to say in Cuba that nothing that was said about Trotsky is true. And Trotsky is not even mentioned in the history books that students receive. Maybe the university students know him, but it’s very difficult for high school students to know about him.
Without a doubt, Padura’s work, The Man Who Loved Dogs, helped arouse curiosity, but they have no book to go to cover the doubts and learn more. On the other hand, friend and comrade Celia María Hart Santamaría could not successfully spread Trotsky[‘s ideas] in Cuba. Circumstances made her end up being a sniper on the roof of a tower. No one saw her, no one could see her, even though they felt her shots, accurate, very accurate.
IdZ: They talk about the dynamics of the event and the first repercussions.
FG: The academic level is very good, excellent, there is no complaint. We have to thank everyone for their presence. There was even the collaboration of Lindy Laub, a well-known North American filmmaker, who had participated in the Festival del Nuevo Cine Latinoamericano, here in Havana in 1999, and Suzi Weissman, her producer, who in turn was a speaker. They both brought a documentary that we enjoyed the 42-minute work-in-progress, The Most Dangerous Man in the World with unpublished images that no one has ever seen. We did this in a small but very collaborative room of the Young Directors Exhibition. Unfortunately, there weren’t many Cubans, but the important thing is that it was projected in Cuba.
What is real is that Trotsky, as a historical character has had an impact on sectors of the Cuban university student body, since students from Santiago de Cuba wanted to come to the event, they came from Santa Clara without even having the economic conditions, they came from Matanzas. Today in Santa Clara and Havana there are students who are reading and studying the books that you and other comrades brought to the event. For them, for those Cuban students, I ask for the most solidary of the help. They have only two titles. So I call on internationalism to send them material, magazines, books.
Escritos Latinoamericanos is, moreover, a text that has impressed some Cuban historians very much, because we had never been able, or even knew, that León Bronstein had dedicated political analysis articles to the Cuban situation of his time and especially to the Bolshevik Leninist Party. For me, who wrote the history of Cuban Trotskyism, that is a fundamental contribution. Another important point is that this Friday Latin American Writings will be donated, along with the text by Gabriel García Higueras, Trotsky in the mirror of history, to the library of the House of the Americas, the institution that attracted intellectuals such as Cortázar, Benedetti, Galeano and that today continues to be one of the best points of convergence on the continent. This library is very much visited by the Havana intellectuals. Also this Friday, May 17, Writings… will arrive at the libraries of the Faculty of Philosophy and History, and at the Central Library of the University of Havana.
I always make a very necessary clarification: the event was an academic activity about Trotsky and all the political, social and cultural phenomena that came out of it. It was not a call for international Trotskyist convergence. The perception that we young people have that we feel part of the Cuban Marxist left, that we use Marxism to understand reality, is that Trotsky belongs to the system of communist ideas, to all the theory that Gramsci, Rosa Luxemburg, Lenin, Marx, Mariátegui give us. Some bureaucrats want to point out Trotskyists to us; I have nothing against Trotskyism, evidently, yes, some necessary and enriching divergences of criteria, but let’s remember that Stalin began to use that term to make believe that the followers of the Left Opposition were not Leninist Bolsheviks, but a tendency alien to the revolution.
We were missing Trotsky. We lacked Trotsky to understand what happened in the Soviet Union, because none of the referents of Marxism that I mentioned, as well as Che Guevara or Fidel Castro, could, for different reasons, give a systemic explanation of what happened. Trotsky has the courage to have done so since 1936, the courage to have developed a sociological analysis that we didn’t know about, and for which we Cubans are very interested.
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.