Red Letter
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The Future Cuban Socialist Party
by Diego Vicente Tejera
Estimated Reading Time: 4 min

Poet and writer, Diego Vicente Tejera (1848-1903) was one of the few fighters for Cuba's independence who expressed concern about the social problems that would appear in the island's future.1 1. One of the few other fighters concerned with social problems was Carlos BaliƱo (1848-1925), who much after the war for independence was one of the founders of the Cuban Communist Party in 1925. Prevented by his frail health from bearing arms, he made, while in exile, propaganda for separation from Spain and later, in Cuba, founded the very short-lived, Cuban Socialist Party. We present here part of a speech to the Cuban workers in Key West, Florida; in 1897, expounding some of the socialist ideas he had acquired during his travels through Europe.

Luis E. Aguilar in Marxism in Latin America

Before Europe explodes into World War One and the Bolsheviks claim victory in Russia, let's keep in mind that the spectre continues to move through the rest of the world.

Translated from Diego Vicente Tejera, "Los futuros partidos politicos de la republica cubana," Razon de Cuba (Havana: Municipio de la Habana, 1948), pp. 32-42.

But for now, we have only one thing to do: the simple task of preparing. However just and noble our forthcoming fight against the exploiters of labor, we face today a battle that is more urgent, more vital, more "holy," if you will, and which requires the complete dedication of all our energies: a battle in which we are engaged for the purpose of eliminating from Cuba, along with Spanish domination, the old regime; a struggle that will inevitably lead us to a homeland, that is, to a ground upon which to build the foundations for our most cherished dreams. On this point we must remain firm. . . . so that no one can cunningly accuse the workers of Cayo 2 2. A reference to the Cuban workers of Key West, whom Tejera was addressing [ed.].of lacking in patriotism, or of being ignorant of it, or of allowing their own selfish interests to place obstacles in the path of the revolution that will liberate us and give us dignity. No! The Cuban laborer, long before he considered his miserable condition as a worker, had already sensed the misery of Cuba as a colony, and his first efforts in public life have been directed not toward the attainment of his rights within Cuban society itself, but rather toward the establishment of his primordial right to be recognized as a free man before the nations of the world. Because of this political instinct, which is manifesting itself admirably, he has understood that, above all and before everything else, a homeland must be created, and he has quelled his resentments for the time being in order to devote himself more vigorously to protesting his position as a despised colonist.

But with our impending triumph close at hand, let us begin to speak out and to take stands.

In all probability, we shall have in Cuba two main political parties, which will each represent both progressive and reactionary tendencies, and which will join together in undertaking the gigantic task of drafting a good constitution and good laws. This is just and natural. The laborer, the worker, can then, according to his tastes, affiliate himself with one side or the other, but it would be more desirable if he were to join ranks with the liberals.

But the Cuban laborer must keep in mind that neither the liberals nor the conservatives will be able to solve his specific problem, nor will they attempt to do so. He must be mindful that the two parties, engaging wholeheartedly in the more or less elevated struggle for control, will align themselves with the proletariat only in order to use it as a platform from which to make power-gaining promises, which are as deceitful as they are alluring.

The worker has to wage his own battles, openly, in broad daylight, whenever and however he can. Even the most superficial knowledge of the history of the European labor movements will substantiate that fact. Halfway through this century, when the age-old conflict between capital and labor reached its peak, the inexperienced laboring classes began to entrust their claims to the more powerful of the existing political parties. They even began to imagine that with the substitution of the republic for the ancient monarchical feudal systems, the redemption of the laborer would automatically become a reality, and the sun of paradise would once more shine upon the land. But the republic emerged, and it re-emerged in France, and it appeared in Spain, and radical parties seized control in other countries . . . and yet the worker continued to be dominated by the capitalist, just as persecuted and exploited as before, but made even more bitter, more wrathful by his new disappointments.

It would be, then, both feasible and extremely beneficial for the Cuban laboring class to form an independent party among those future parties that will attempt to direct and model the Cuban republic after their own designs. Such a group would have their own clearly defined platform, with carefully thought out procedures, and aspiring to nothing more or less than the attainment of justice. Its broad, generous standard would be easily adaptable so as to include the demands for the rights of others. It would become involved along with the other parties in contributing toward the betterment of the homeland. In other words, such a party's rise to power could not be regarded as anything less than a completely natural and plausible occurrence.

Tomorrow in Cuba, then, organize the great Socialist Party. Organize wisely and strongly; begin—by means of the press, public speeches, repeated excursions to villages and towns—an intense, tireless propaganda campaign. Clasp to your bosom all those on this lovely island who are in any way hemmed in by or shamefully dependent upon foreign capital: the industrial workers, the field hands, the wretched craftsmen and lesser employee—the dependent ones—all those who, in the midst of Cuban plenty, are without their just rewards. And from the beginning, faithfully maintaining the battle on strictly legal grounds, formulate your platform, support universal suffrage, send representatives to the houses of legislature, give equal attention both to your specific interests and to the general interests of the nation, demonstrate your ability to govern—and aspire to leadership!

But while the party is taking all this overt, public action, do not overlook the vast underlying task of moral and intellectual education. Do not forget that, during this transformation that is to take place in our society, it is important, in striving to maintain equality, that we do not merely allow those who are now on a higher plane to step down, but instead insure that those who are now below will move ever upward.

Who shall see in us the sullen demagogues of the decrepit European societies, products of age-old misery, saturated with the hatred of twenty oppressed generations, ready to fire their deadly arms at the first group of their fellowmen who cross their path? No! Cuban socialism will not and should not intimidate any person. The bourgeoisie must feel called upon to deal with this party cordially and courteously, and then perhaps, through mutual respect, we will achieve the final victory of justice.

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