Aleida Guevara: “In Cuba, the people are the only master we serve”
Friendship Association Switzerland | Tuesday, 7 November 2017 | Click here for original article
Interview with Aleida Guevara March (1) Interview conducted by Andrea Duffour *
How is it that a Cuban doctor is taking part in humanitarian missions in Africa and taking interest in agrarian reforms in Brazil?
AG In Cuba doctors are educated to care for the people, the only master we serve. From the beginning of my career I accepted the international character of my calling and that is why it is normal that I should be prepared to go and work wherever I am needed.
Already for more than 25 years I have been working with the Landless Rural Workers’ Movement in Brazil, and I am very proud of it. As a Latin American woman I think it is one of the most consistent popular movements we have, and again, as a doctor, I think of the need for adequate nourishment, especially for the children. The agrarian reform is essential for the people to be able to feed themselves; it needs to turn into reality our dream of being owners of what we produce, free from theft and plunder of our natural resources.
What role could Che and Fidel play in the cultural struggle between capitalism and socialism today?
AG Che and Fidel are examples of cultured men who knew the important role cultural education plays in the struggle for liberation. Knowledge frees you, enables you to understand what it is that you need, and what you can do to fulfil these needs. Their lives are inspiring examples that push us forward. If they could succeed, why shouldn’t we?
“Crear riquezas con la conciencia, no conciencia con las riquezas “ (Create riches, with conscience, not conscience concerned only with wealth) said late Fernando Martinez Heredia (2), great expert on Che and Fidel, who we’ve just lost…
We should realise the dream of a human being aware of its membership in a specs, capable of practicing solidarity and not brutality, compassionate and not indifferent, capable of understanding that the greatest wealth is knowing how to share what we have, even, for example, smiles. We are trying to turn this dream into reality, but we are constantly being taught that every day of our life we should be more and more individualistic, and forget that by nature we are social beings, who live in community with others. What is worst, by doing so we are destroying our foundations and are heading for a void.
The Late Francois Houtart (3) has analysed the concept of a good life, of the indigenous peoples of the Andes, el sumak kawsay, which has been incorporated into the constitution of Ecuador. Is there anything comparable in the thoughts of Che?
Che was very clear in his thoughts and very consistent. His entire life showed what he thought. He is the best communist I know; what was important for him, throughout his work, is the wellbeing of mankind, wellbeing with dignity; that is why we talk of the right to work, the right to decent living accommodations, free healthcare and education as the inalienable rights of all human beings. We talk of respect, knowing that it must be won through hard work and struggle against great opposition, but we must be prepared to defend it.
How would you define a revolutionary?
I think that our Fidel defined the revolutionary when he created the concept of Revolution: he must possess understanding of ethics, honesty, compassion, respect for the people, dedication to his goal, and a great capacity for love.
In the film, Cuba Si! (Chris Marker, 1961), young Fidel explains that the French must understand that political parties have not resolved a single major problem, and that dominant classes might be moving in the direction of fascism, while the revolution in Cuba is on the side of socialism. In view of the social situation in France today, has this claim lost any of its relevance?
It is important to know how the French people feel. Are they happy with what they have? Do they feel safe? How do they see their future?
I live in a different society that is not perfect but concentrates on human beings and allows us to grow up learning from our mistakes, as we do so correcting them.
There are no parties in our elections – there are only the people; that fact defines the candidates and the people are without doubt the greatest participants. Perhaps it would be good to analyse the role of people’s scrutiny of candidates they name from the left. I have considerable sympathies for the workers party of Belgium, which will grow because people are able to sense the coming change. The times we are living in require that we should have fate in people. They should be shown clearly what we want, and why it is important that we do so. What do we need? Education accessible to all, which we must not allow to be privatized. For our patients, free high quality health care for all. Why do you allow, in your countries, public hospitals to be closed, or not to function as they should, forcing people to take their health problems to the private sector? And housing? If your government provides you with these, and with much more than all these, then you are happy, because otherwise you would have to look for other solutions, and only you can do that.
If that is the case, are we in Europe usurping the world socialist?
I do not want to be too strict, but whenever I am in these regions I do not see any unity, we allow ourselves the luxury of divisions. When we are so few, what the devil are we doing? Socialism means respect for different peoples, fulfilled lives, and more than anything else unity, otherwise where can we find the strength that we need to change reality?
Some friends from Cuba tell me that you have only one party, but that it protects the interests of the people, and that in Europe there are many parties bearing different names, but that they all represent only one party, the party of capital.
Frei Betto said “We have to make up our mind whether we want to save the capitalist system, or mankind” (4). What are the alternatives to capitalism in the world today?
Since the disappearance of European socialism, especially the Soviet Union, capitalism has turned into the most unscrupulous and brutal system. It no longer has any competition close by, and it is therefore not interested in preserving the public health care system, and certainly not the free high quality education; social achievements that took decades of workers’ struggle to achieve are being privatized and the worst thing of all is the indifference of the working classes that preceded this…
Do you ask yourself why it is that the World Health Organization came to my country to ask for help in trying to control the Ebola epidemic? It is because my people are educated on ethical values, solidarity, dignity and love. That is the reason why Cuban doctors risk their lives, because we are aware that the sacrifice of one man or one people is not important, if what is at stake is the fate of mankind.
Aleida, how do you see the Cuban youth, born with all the benefits of the Revolution and perhaps taking them all for granted?
It is necessary to work with the young continuously, it is necessary to listen to them and show them the way, but always by personal example! The young are our hope, but they are, unfortunately, always put under the greatest pressure by those who wish to do harm to the revolutionary process. It is important that all the necessary information reaches them and is available to them; for example, watching recently an excellent television program about the struggle against the bandits who revolted after the victory of the Revolution, they recognized themselves in their fathers and grandfathers who had taken part in the epopee of the Revolution. The young were full of respect and admiration for our peasants, our army and the militia. I believe it is a healthy youth, compassionate, hugely patriotic and with revolutionary inclinations.
In December of 2016 I also asked Fernando Martinez Heredia is there any reason for concern about the possible disillusionment or de-politicization of Cuban youth, comparable to the one that affected the young in the West. The Cuban philosopher agreed that capitalism is working on de-politicization and debilitation of the masses, to make sure they do not have unified ideas but by imposition no ideas at all, but he reassured me that Cuban youth is critically inclined and prepared. After the physical disappearance of Commandant Fidel, he said, many spontaneously proclaimed: “I am Fidel”.
Our dear friend was a wise man….
We are moving forward and it is true that the pain of losing the great father of all Cubans is turning into strength and creative energy; one day we will have to be prepared to say to people like them: You are gone, knowing that there is no retreat from our Revolution. Be continent, we are continuing your work and the future is secure.
How wonderful it is to hear these words!
In 1964 one journalist (5) on the Francophone Swiss television asked Che whether anything had changed in the relationship of the US and Western Europe to Cuba. I am asking you the same question.
No, they are still dreaming of annexing the great part of the Antilles and do not understand that it is better for us to drown in the sea than betray the glory that we have lived. If you look into the documents published by the US admiral at the time when Cuba was still a Spanish colony, you will see that they were using the same methods as today, economic and naval blockades that were to destroy the island through famine and disease, decimate the population and prepare it for a take it over, because they knew us to be rebellious and invincible people.
Can we talk about the most recent attacks, for example, the attempts to co-opt the young students and revolutionaries in Cuba, or carry out a soft coup d’état as in Venezuela, organized as usual by the US in collaboration with our European media?
They are not new attacks. They simply continue, using money as a means of subversion, a strategy to which only people with no ethics succumb. We must be aware of the strength of the enemy, Che said; North American imperialism must not be trusted at all. The case of Venezuela is a different matter; it is evidence of despair and proof that the people involved are completely without ethics. Can you imagine what it means to set fire to a children’s hospital? Can that be done by human beings? For my people, the life of a child is sacred. I do not understand and do not accept anything that jeopardizes the life of a child, so do not make me face such people because I would be in danger of losing control.
How do the Cuban’s understand the Arab spring or the opposition in Syria?
First of all, we could ask any European how he would feel if the army of any country from the Third World interfered in their internal affairs. How would they feel if bombs started falling from the sky on their houses and hospitals? What would they think of the people who watch every day horrible scenes from those attacks and are unable to ask their governments to stop economic support for those responsible for those atrocities? The internal problems of a country can be solved only by its people and no one has the right to influence them. Our Benito Juarez has said “Respect for the rights of others means peace”. Manipulation of our lives and misinformation create confusion among people. Respect is essential; we can and we must live in peace.
I have to ask you for help. Here in Europe we have lost all values and have become so poor that the only thing left to us is money. Che spoke of the creation of a new man (6) and of values not made of metal. How did you create this new man in Cuba? Is it possible to rise above one’s circumstances?
Dear friends, as Che has explained, the new man will never be a finished product; every time we improve society we must be prepared to improve ourselves as human beings; that would be the guarantee that everything that needs to be changed will change. That is our goal, and we are working on it.
* Andrea Duffour is member of the national Committee of the Friendship Association Switzerland – Cuba, www.cuba-si.ch
(1) Aleida Guevara is a medical doctor, allergy specialist, working at the William Soler Pediatric Hospital in Havana. Among other things she is the author of documentaries Chavez, Venezuela and the New Latin America (2004),Present Absences (2006), MST: Seed of Hope (2008), interview given to Joao Pedro Stédile, national leader of the Brazilian MST. She is the daughter of Aleida March and Che Guevara, and is the director of the Che Guevara Study Centre.
(2) Historian, essayist, philosopher, at the University of Havana, director of the Cuban magazine Critical Thought (Pensamiento Crítico). He died on June 12, 2017, several hours after completing his homage to Francois Houtart.
(4) Legrandsoir.info/Entretien-avec-Frei-Betto-par-Andrea-Duffour.html/ (fr)
(5) rts.ch/archives/tv/interview-du-che J.Dulmur, only interview in French,
(6) Text by Che Guevara, written in the form of a letter in 1964, published as Socialism and Man in Cuba.