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Words to the intellectuals, 57 years after

Date: 2018-07-05 11:01:14


Havana, Cuba. -  The top leaders of the revolutionary government exchanged ideas, concerns and interests with Cuban artists and intellectuals in the premises of “Jose Marti National Library”, on June 16, 23 and 30, 1961.

That necessary and enlightening encounter was wrapped up by a speech delivered by then Prime Minister Fidel Castro, who went down in history with the name of “Words to the intellectuals.”

Logically, an accurate analysis of that document requires approaching it within the historical context that the country lived at that moment. Transcendental events were happening, such as the Revolution taking over the entire educational system and all the media (printed press, radio and television), as well as the enacting of a university reform.

The mercenary invasion of Playa Giron was defeated while the greatest and most transcendental intellectual, political and cultural event of the nascent revolution was also taking place. The Literacy Campaign was carried out by thousands of young people who sang an anthem in which they declared: “We are the vanguard of the Revolution.”

That was the situation of the country when the meetings with intellectuals were held at the National Library.

The purpose of Fidel's words was to keep the revolutionary dialogue with intellectuals and artists open. He sought to distinctly advocate freedom of creation against dogmas; to support all who were willing to take their chances with the Revolution; and to prevent sectarianism-dogmatism from wreaking havoc in that field.

At the same time, he meant to uphold the Revolution’s primacy in view of specific problem; and therefore, its right to control intellectual activity and freedom of expression wherever necessary. He exhorted the intellectuals to have faith and confidence in the Revolution.

Fidel spoke here as the highest leader of the Revolution and managed to establish a close relationship between principles, strategy and tactics in the midst of a very complex political and ideological situation.

His address had a discursive, colloquial and dialoguing tone. He always kept a persuasive tone; handled arguments and tried to influence and convince with phrases such as: "the Revolution cannot be, at heart, an enemy of liberties."

One of his phrases is very well known and often misconstrued for the purpose of distorting it:  “…within the Revolution, everything; against the Revolution, nothing…” These were words of unity, of coherence, which helped establishing an open and flexible cultural policy, with freedom of tendencies.

That phrase should not be taken out of its context. Like in the rest of his speech, Fidel synthesized the ideas that "the Revolution must seek that not only all revolutionaries march together with it (...) the Revolution should seek that anyone who has doubts becomes a revolutionary (...) the Revolution should never give up counting on the majority of the people."

The debates paid off that same year, with the creation of the Union of Cuban Writers and Artists (UNEAC) and the strengthening of institutions like Cuba’s National Ballet, the National Library, Cuban Institute of Art and Cinematographic Industry (ICAIC), Cuban Broadcasting Institute (ICR), Casa de Las Americas, the Symphonic Orchestra and the National Publishing House.

Translated by Pedro A. Fanego

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