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100 Hours with Fidel: A Matter of Life or Death

from César Vallejo -

I have presented this book once before in Madrid. To launch a book is like waiting to welcome someone who is coming from afar. On that occasion in Madrid, my job was to tell those present what the book wasn’t, who wasn’t in it and what not to expect. Because I come from a country where insincerity and ignorance merge to produce points of view that only interest the privileged.


7 December, 2006



BELEN GOPEGUI

I have presented this book once before in Madrid. To launch a book is like waiting to welcome someone who is coming from afar. On that occasion in Madrid, my job was to tell those present what the book wasn’t, who wasn’t in it and what not to expect. Because I come from a country where insincerity and ignorance merge to produce points of view that only interest the privileged.

"A lie is not the same as a conditioned reflex —says Fidel in this book— the lie affects knowledge, the conditioned reflex affects the ability to think."

At that time, I tried to alter the reflex conditioning created by the mass media.

Today I am in an opposite situation. On the one hand, the people listening to me already know about the two previous editions of the book or have heard about them. On the other, I am in a land that is one with the book and its main protagonist. I think what might be useful here is to speak about what this book means to those who don’t live here, its uniqueness, and why it is not just necessary but vital; and to try and tell you why this book is, as people say about certain problems or situations, a matter of life or death for the leftists of the world.

GOPEGUI PRESENTING THE THIRD EDITION OF THE BOOK 100 HOURS WITH FIDEL AT THE KARL MARX THEATER IN HAVANA ON DECEMBER 1, 2006.

One of the fundamental figures in the history of humanity is Socrates. The life of this philosopher was dedicated to arguing what elements are essential in order to live according to good and that in no way should injustice be committed. Although his reasoning has been studied for 2,400 years, very few times has it been put into practice. The decisions that have marked the evolution of humanity have almost always been made to benefit capital or out of fear. There were times, like the French or Russian Revolution, when it seemed possible to escape that cycle; but in the end, those moments were devoured by the enemies of Socrates —those that only sought private gain at the cost of the common good.

I am going to compare this book with the conversations of Socrates. The scientist deals with the laws of nature, the intellectual with the laws of human conduct. That’s what Socrates did, and what Fidel does in this book, with one difference. Socrates, in the dawn of thought, was forced to act alone. Socrates said that out of necessity, he who wants to fight for justice must do so as a private citizen, not in public life. This was because he, like so many men and women throughout history, lived in a city full of small-minded interests, and attitudes of slavery and injustice. Socrates never gave up, as an individual, when faced with injustice. But he was unable to put the intellectual action of an entire people into practice.

What is unprecedented about this book, what is unique, is that it allows us to converse with a person who completely understands a phenomenon that has taken 2,400 years to develop. Socrates wanted to be fair, but the social organization in which he was immersed condemned him. Two thousand four hundred years later, in what Bush has defined as "a dark corner of the world," and what we today call the brightest place on Earth, here, precisely here, a collective of human beings put into practice what Socrates had barely suggested: for all people to be just they must live in a community organized according to this aim. This has been called revolution. And it is as if Fidel said to Socrates: you have spoken about how humans should live; now I will speak to you about the steps we have taken to make possible your model of behavior.

The Cuban Revolution has not been the first revolution and it is not just the result of the action of Cubans, but also of numerous struggles that have taken place in different points throughout history. The question is: What makes it different from others, more necessary, and even a question of life or death? It has many characteristics. Felipe Perez Roque described fifteen yesterday, all embodied in the figure of Fidel. I will mention only one, which in some way includes the others. "Never —says Fidel in this book— have we considered something immoral within the means of struggle." Like the majority of you, I come from a leftwing tradition. Before reading this book, there have been times when indignation and outrage led me to defend strategic decisions such as the German-Soviet pact as necessary to defend against the dirty attacks of the powerful. Now, I believe I have learned forever, as this book argues in an inescapable fashion, that rage must not be stronger than principles.

Fidel points out that "shrewdness, intelligence and psychology are one thing," and completely different from believing that the means can be separated from the end. It’s not even about whether the end does or does not justify the means; they are both one in the same. This truth is put forth in the book mainly by presenting facts, accounts of deeds, decisions and ways of behaving that are not the expression of a desire or a theory but rather experiences lived. The Cuban Five know very well what this means, while the government that holds them prisoner completely ignores it. The Cuban Five know that it is one thing to be crafty to protect one’s country and another to betray the values they defend, something they would never do. They know as much because they are exceptional men, but also because they are common people who grew up in an organized society and know it is possible. Rage should not be stronger than principles: this truth, like the entire book, is destined to become a universal reference for the left. That’s why it’s no surprise that it was necessary to revise and expand it in each edition: so that nobody forgets.

In 1966, a Nobel Laureate for Physics wrote in a letter: "In regards to words and deeds, I am not opposed to words, only to words alone without deeds. Don’t you think that some deeds should accompany the words so that something of the mathematician’s words is learned rather than just the words that the mathematicians use?" Many years before, as you know, in the Poema del CID, the same concern appeared expressed in this manner: "Tongue without hands, how dare you speak?!" We should always ask the capitalist politicians that question —"Don’t you think that some deeds should go along with the words?"— every time they dare speak about values, ecology, respect and solidarity: The book we are launching today shows with deeds and with words that maintaining a just conduct in any situation is the only way the left can advance, the only way the human species has to avoid being destroyed by our own ignorance.

"I am telling you our history," Fidel tells Ramonet at one point. Those of us who have not made the revolution, nor upheld it, but instead have barely seen it grow day by day, listen to the history of what has happened because it is also the history of our future. And we say to Fidel: Tongue with hands, yes, you have the right to speak.


        
 
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