A young Brazilian colleague asked what does “revolution” mean to me and I discovered to my astonishment that I hardly knew what to say. I babbled a few half empty words, some terminology that often defines the grammatical meaning of the word: Social revolution is a sudden change of a violent nature, a rupture, substituting the power of one class for another, the emergence of new classes of the powerful and of the dispossessed, a transformation… But it has left me thinking about it because “revolution” at least for Cubans, is practically indefinable. In fact, the Cuban revolution has, for a long time, ceased to be one. That is to say, here things have stopped changing for decades, and also for decades the power has been in the hands of the same class: The socialist nouveau bourgeoisie formed from some of the same bourgeoisie of years past and supported by a large group of the mediocre, representing the “proletarian” meritocracy. The most significant transformation that persists is the continued increase in the dispossessed, which now is determined not only by material goods but also by rights.
In the end, without meaning to, the young Brazilian colleague put me in a difficult frame of mind. For people like me do not like to think about the revolution; we reject the term naturally and almost unconditionally. We have come to perceive the words revolution and involution as synonyms.
On the other hand, at a subconscious level we renounced a long time ago trying to define it. How does one describe with words the phenomenon that for 50 years has absorbed our lives and shaped our destiny as individuals, as a people and as a nation? How does one conceptualize a half century of dictatorship, lies, destruction, false ideology, a myth built on the sacrifice of generations of Cubans? How could one explain with words the widespread poverty and corruption, the institutionalization of lies, fear, denunciation, moral and material deterioration, uncertainty, rupture, loss of values, despair? Revolution is a sick old woman, emaciated, pale and cold; a sad specter muttering premonitions of a holocaust. Nobody sees her, few hear her, a few opportunists even thrive in her shadow, and also there are many (including those and other opportunists) who wait anxiously because, in the end, the outdated old woman rests in peace, forever.
Photo courtesy of Xanthi Revueltas. Taken from this site.