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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

    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

    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
    **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

    From Cubaencuentro

    9 July 2012