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Vol. 78/No. 10      March 17, 2014

‘In prison, books helped us mature as Marxists’
(feature article)

René González, one of the Cuban Five, spoke at a Feb. 20 event during the Havana International Book Fair. Panelists from the United States, Cuba, Russia and Azerbaijan presented several new books to aid the defense effort (see photo above). González’s remarks are below; the translation and subheads are by the Militant.

As I was reading the book with Antonio’s paintings being presented today, it brought back memories — how could it not? — of our year and a half in the “hole.”

Our friend who spoke here [Cuban panelist Francisco Rodríguez] told us about when he found himself alone at an airport in France. “The revolution doesn’t abandon its sons and daughters,” he said.

When we found ourselves in the hole, our faith in the truth of that statement was put to a test. Of course, history had provided plenty of evidence for us to be confident this would be the case.

During the time we were in the hole, I developed a lot of admiration for Gerardo, Ramón and Fernando, because for two years the three of them weren’t able to have the slightest contact with their families. That was until the trial began, when they were finally able to state their real identities. I’d see them day after day, and — although I was going through my own family tragedy, imposed arbitrarily by the prosecution — I could not but feel admiration for them.

As I studied Tony’s drawings and read the stories recounted by my brothers, the first thing I noticed was something that surprises people — not me, because I went through the same experience. It’s the lack of anger, the complete lack of hatred or resentment when they talk about the conditions in the hole.

You might wonder, how can that be? They really did treat us badly and did everything possible to make us bitter.

We didn’t let them make us bitter

Well, it’s probably for that very reason, I think. In fact, one of the ways we were able to defeat them was that we left that situation with our spirits high, without hatred or resentment.

I’m realizing it’s hard for us to think about that period without recalling those little details, those creative schemes we came up with to overcome all the difficulties — the things we had to improvise, the ingenuity, the humor. The things that even in those conditions helped make life brighter and prevented the prosecutors from achieving what they wanted, which was to break us, to make us bitter, to damage us.

When you win you don’t have to become bitter. And that’s what happened — we won. We defeated them in the hole. We defeated them in the trial. And every day in prison my brothers are defeating the prosecutors, the judges, and all those who organized the frame-up case against us.

There’s probably an element here of what our friend [Russian panelist Viktor Avdeev] reminded me of, that wonderful [Soviet] novel How the Steel Was Tempered. Some say it’s a work of socialist realism; I’m not interested in that. What I do think is that it’s a great novel, and this kind of literature, among other things, helped us grow and be able to stand up to imperialism.

Some day when capitalism is a thing of the past, children will be taught about its stupidities. But unfortunately capitalist stupidity is still everywhere around us and seems to be in fashion. And so when we see something as beautiful as How the Steel Was Tempered, we view it as something strange.

The fact is that we’re here, and my brothers are still imprisoned, but they continue to win. And going back to that period of loneliness in the hole, you can’t help noticing how at a certain point, little by little, we were no longer alone.

Here with us we have Mary-Alice [Waters of Pathfinder Press]. Mary-Alice has been with us through all these years with her books, as part of the struggle — she’s like a member of the family.

Not a week went by that we didn’t receive the Militant with something about the Five in it. Getting out word about the cause, defending us. Multiplying our words, our thinking, our message. Over those more than 15 years we’ve always had the solidarity, the presence, the spirit of what she and her compañeros represent. The Five will be eternally grateful for that.

Books helped us see world and grow

In prison, the books by Pathfinder helped us mature, helped us grow, helped us see the world, helped us become more Marxist. In an environment where all you saw on television was inanities, you could shut yourself up in your cell, grab a Pathfinder book, start to read, and you were in another world.

You were learning, you were analyzing, you were maturing. Every day you read a book by Pathfinder you became a better person. And so, before all of you, I have to publicly express my gratitude to Mary-Alice.

The Militant would slip its way through the prison. My friends would take it and furtively sneak it into the library. It would be removed, and they’d slip it back in. It was a real struggle for people to be able to read Pathfinder literature, and they did read it. People in prison learned about the Five through Pathfinder, and they respected and appreciated us more. And we’re grateful for that.

What Mary-Alice represents is what has happened after those years when we were alone, when the only thing that sustained us was our faith in the Cuban Revolution. Today we have friends here from the former Soviet Union. We have a friend here from Iran, who recently gave me a book in Farsi [a new Iranian edition of The Cuban Five: Who They Are, Why They Were Framed, Why They Should Be Free]. And that means solidarity is growing.

Of course, we can’t be satisfied. There’s a lot to do and I believe now is the time to do it. Conditions have never been better than they are now to keep fighting and to send the message about the Five to the White House. Today each of us needs to do everything we can to keep widening the circle of people who know about the case, to keep widening the circle of solidarity. This is the time to pressure Obama.

Must reach beyond those we know

We need the solidarity of everyone. We need solidarity that goes beyond the left.

We need to go beyond the people we already know and reach out to those we don’t. Even to those we may be a little afraid of reaching because perhaps they don’t agree with us. A book like this one with Tony’s paintings can reach the heart of any decent person beyond their political ideas.

I want to conclude now, because it’s time for questions and comments. I’m sure you’ll have questions. The only thing I want to add is that if you go to the Museum of Fine Arts, you’ll see another great friend, another great Cuban, Kcho, creating an exact replica of the “hole.” It will soon open to the public.

Kcho is applying all his imagination and talent for that type of work. So we encourage you to go see it and be part of that experience, and hope a lot of visitors at the Fine Arts Museum will see it. We hope it becomes an instrument for this struggle.

But again, the main instrument is us — it’s you and it’s the people you can reach in any way possible. We need the solidarity of the world to press the White House. And for that we count on you.
Related articles:
Cuba welcomes return of 2nd revolutionary jailed in US
Minneapolis event celebrates return of Fernando González
Who are the Cuban Five?
Showings of paintings by Antonio Guerrero
‘Our struggle is reinforced by another standard-bearer’
Leadership from women was vital to Cuban Revolution
Cuban press covers presentations of new books on Cuban 5 at art studio, fair
‘No better way to open minds of people who have never heard the truth about Cuban Revolution than to introduce them to our five brothers’
‘Experience of Five similar to that of millions of workers in US’
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