Abstracting myself from the problems currently distressing humanity, our homeland had the privilege of being the cradle of one of the most exceptional thinkers to have been born in this hemisphere: José Martí.
Tomorrow, May 19th, is the 115th anniversary of his glorious death.
The magnitude of his grandeur would be impossible to assess without taking into account that those with whom he penned the drama of his life were also exceptional figures, such as Antonio Maceo, perennial symbol of the revolutionary resoluteness that led the Baraguá Protest, and Máximo Gómez, the Dominican internationalist, who taught the Cuban combatants in the two wars of independence in which they took part. The Cuban Revolution, which for more than half a century has resisted the onslaughts of the most powerful empire ever to have existed, was the fruit of the teachings of those predecessors.
Despite the fact that four pages of Martí’s diary have been absent from materials within the reach of historians, what he wrote in the rest of that personal and meticulously written diary, confirmed by other documents of his from those days, is more than enough to know the details of what took place. As in Greek tragedies, it was a dispute between giants.
The day before his death in combat he wrote to his close friend Manuel Mercado: “I am in daily danger of giving my life for my country and duty, for I understand that duty and have the courage to carry it out – the duty of preventing the United States from spreading through the Antilles as Cuba gains its independence, and from falling upon, with that additional strength, our lands of America. All I have done so far, and all I will do, is for this purpose. I have had to work quietly and somewhat indirectly, because to achieve certain objectives, they must be kept under cover; to proclaim them for what they are would raise such difficulties that those objectives could not be attained.”
When Martí wrote those lapidary words, Marx had already written The Communist Manifesto in 1848; in other words, 47 years before Martí’s death, and Darwin had published The Origin of the Species in 1859, to quote just two works that, in my judgment, have had the greatest influence on the history of humanity.
Marx was such an exceptionally altruistic man that his most important scientific work, Das Kapital, would possibly never have been published if Friedrich Engels had not taken it on himself to compile and order the material to which its author dedicated his whole life. Engels not only took charge of that task, but was the author of a work titled Introduction to the Dialectics of Nature, in which he talked then of the time when the energy of our sun would be exhausted.
Humankind did not yet know how to release the energy contained in matter, as described by Einstein in his famous formula, and did not have access to computers able to undertake billions of operations per second and capable of receiving and transmitting, as well, the billions of reactions per second that take place in the cells of the dozens of pairs of chromosomes contributed in equal parts by mothers and fathers, a genetic and reproductive phenomenon of which I had some notion after the triumph of the Revolution, searching for the best characteristics for the production of food of animal origin within our climatic conditions, which is being extended to plants via their own hereditary laws.
With the incomplete education that citizens of more resources used to receive in schools, generally private ones, which were considered as the best centers of education, we became illiterates, a little above those who did not know how to read and write, or who attended public schools.
On the other hand, the first country in the world in which there was an attempt to apply the ideas of Marx was Russia, the least industrialized of the European countries.
Lenin, creator of the Third International, was of the view that there was no organization in the world as loyal to the ideas of Marx than the Bolshevik faction of the Russian Social Democratic Workers Party. Even though life in a large part of that immense country was semi-feudal, its working class was highly active and extremely combative.
In the books that Lenin wrote after 1915, he was an untiring critic of chauvinism. In his work Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, written in April 1917, a few months before the Bolshevik faction of that party took over power from the Menshevik faction, equally demonstrated that he was the first to understand the role that the countries subjected to capitalism, like China and others of major weight in diverse regions of the world, were being called on to play.
In its turn, the valor and audacity of which Lenin was capable was demonstrated in his acceptance of the sealed train that the German army, out of tactical convenience, had given him to travel from Switzerland to the approach to Petrograd, which immediately prompted his enemies within and outside of the Menshevik faction of the Russian Social Democratic Workers Party to accuse him of being a German spy. If he had not used the famous train, the end of the war would have caught him by surprise in distant and neutral Switzerland, with which the optimum and appropriate minute would have been lost.
In some way, by pure chance, two sons of Spain – thanks to their personal qualities – came to play a significant role in the Spanish-American War. One was the chief of the Spanish troops in the El Viso fort, which defended access to Santiago from the El Caney heights, an officer who fought until he was fatally wounded, having inflicted more than 300 casualties on the famous Rough Riders – tough U.S. horse riders organized by then Lieutenant Colonel Theodore Roosevelt, whose precipitate landing had to be made without their fiery horses. The other was the admiral who, fulfilling the stupid order of the Spanish government, sailed out of Santiago Bay with the select force of the marines aboard, leaving with the squadron in the only way possible, which was to move each boat in single file through the narrow access, and facing the powerful yanki fleet, whose lined-up battleships fired their powerful cannons on the Spanish ships, of far less speed and armor plating. Logically, the Spanish ships, with their complement of combat and marine troops, were sunk in the deep waters of the Bartlett Trough. Only one was left just a few meters from the edge of the abyss. The survivors of that force were taken prisoner by the U.S. squadron.
The conduct of Martínez Campos [Captain-General of Cuba] was arrogant and vengeful. Full of rancor over his failure to pacify the island as he had done in 1871, he backed the ruinous and rancorous policy of the Spanish government. Valeriano Weyler replaced him in the command of Cuba; this man, with the cooperation of those who sent in the USS Maine battleship to seek a justification for intervening in Cuba, decreed the reconcentration of the population, which caused tremendous suffering to the people of Cuba and served as a pretext for the United States to establish its first economic blockade, which gave rise to an enormous scarcity of food and provoked the death of countless individuals.
That led to the viability of the Paris negotiations, in which Spain renounced all sovereign and ownership rights over Cuba, after more than 400 years of its occupation in the name of the king of Spain in mid-October 1492, in the wake of Christopher Columbus’ affirmation: “This is the most beautiful land that human eyes have ever seen.”
The Spanish version of the battle that decided the fate of Santiago de Cuba is the best known, and there was doubtless heroism if one analyzes the number and ranks of officers and soldiers who, in the most disadvantageous of situations, defended the city, honoring the fighting tradition of the Spaniards, who defended their country against Napoleon Bonaparte’s battle-hardened soldiers in 1808, or the Spanish Republic against the Nazi-fascist charge of 1936.
An additional ignominy fell upon the Norwegian committee that awards the Nobel prizes, when it sought ridiculous pretexts for awarding that honor in 1906 to Theodore Roosevelt, who was twice made president of the United States, in 1901 and 1905. His real participation in the Santiago de Cuba battles at the head of the Rough Riders had not even been clarified and there could have been much legend in the publicity that he subsequently received.
I can only give testimony to the way in which the heroic city fell into the hands of the Rebel Army forces on January 1, 1959!
It was then that the ideas of Martí triumphed in our homeland!