Sunday, February 9, 2014

Anti-Political Politics, Solidarity, Nonviolence and Saving a Cuban Rocker from a Stalinist Show Trial Tuesday

"I would rather die as a poet then live as a politician." - María Elena Cruz Varela,
El País(1993)

I favor "anti-political politics," that is, politics not as the technology of power and manipulation, of cybernetic rule over humans or as the art of the utilitarian, but politics as one of the ways of seeking and achieving meaningful lives, of protecting them and serving them.  - Václav Havel, Politics and Conscience (1984)

Gorki Águila faces a Stalinist show trial on February 11, 2014. Please help him!
"What are the rights of revolutionary or non-revolutionary writers and artists? Within the Revolution, everything against the Revolution, no rights at all." - Fidel Castro, Speech to Intellectuals (1961)

There are moments when circumstances and context crystallize and underline an idea. Beginning Friday night listening to María Elena Cruz Varela present her self titled book in Coral Gables where she explained that what drove her to defy the Cuban dictatorship was not politics but a question of living in truth and saying what she thought. In a May 27, 1993 interview with the Spanish newspaper El País she bluntly stated: "I would rather die as a poet then live as a politician" Listening to her now one can understand that the vision she has of politics is one focused on power. In a multi-party democracy politicians have to appeal to voters to get elected but are fundamentally driven by getting into and staying in power. In the case of a totalitarian regime power is maintained through terror and repression and politics dominates everything including inter-personal relations. 

On Saturday, Rose Tang also wrote about another courageous artist living under a totalitarian regime in main land China, Cui Jian who is not only considered the father of Chinese Rock but also an icon for Chinese rebels. He played his songs for students during the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989 and the lyrics were critical of the regime in power there. Twenty five years later and he's still protesting injustices in China. One of his albums is titled "The power of the powerless" which is the title of Václav Havel's best known essay

Like María Elena, Václav Havel was a writer not a politician but unlike her Havel ended up being the president of his country while expressing a vision of politics at odds with the experience of what passes for politics both in Washington DC and in Havana which he explained in a 1984 essay Politics and Conscience:
One such fundamental experience, that which I called "anti-political politics," is possible and can be effective, even though by its very nature it cannot calculate its effect beforehand. That effect, to be sure, is of a wholly different nature from what the West considers political success. It is hidden, indirect, long-term, and hard to measure; often it exists only in the invisible realm of social consciousness, conscience, and subconsciousness, and it can be almost impossible to determine what value it assumed therein and to what extent, if any, it contributes to shaping social development. 
 Gorki Águila, and the group Porno para Ricardo, produced a song "I don't like politics, but she sure likes me comrade"and titled their album the same way. Gorki and his band are in the same "anti-political politics" that Havel, Jian and Cruz Varela address. In a totalitarian society when you reclaim the right to express yourself and to exist as a person you are not setting out to commit a political act, but because of the totalitarian context it does become political. The question that arises is why do the Castro brothers fear a poet such as Cruz Varela and send mobs to break her mouth trying to force feed a moderate petition for change that she and a handful of intellectuals made to the government? Why are the Castro brothers organizing surveillance around Gorki's home and organizing a smear campaign and show trial against the front man of a Cuban punk band? Havel offers a possible answer in the same 1984 essay and five years later history proved him right:
It is, however, becoming evident-and I think that is an experience of an essential and universal importance-that a single, seemingly powerless person who dares to cry out the word of truth and to stand behind it with all his person and all his life, ready to pay a high price, has, surprisingly, greater power, though formally disfranchised, than do thousands of anonymous voters. 
Tonight, came across the lyrics of a powerful video embedded below that are a re-interpretation of a
Catalán call to arms and resistance by Luis Ilach into a call for nonviolent resistance by Gorki and his band Porno para Ricardo. The idea that there are no rights outside of the revolution is a rotten idea because it places a particular political instance above universal rights and duties that transcend governments and ideologies.  Gorki and PPR's answer is to push back and bring the whole thing down to be free.

This leads to the inevitable question, "What can we do for Gorki?" and Havel had the answer thirty years ago:
 A great deal, to be sure. The more support, interest, and solidarity of free-thinking people in the world we enjoy, the less the danger of being arrested, and the greater the hope that ours will not be a voice crying in the wilderness.
Please let others know about his plight, sign a petition for his freedom, and join in the social networks to demonstrate your solidarity.

Below is a loose translation from the original Spanish:

The Stake (La Estaca)

Composer: Lluis Llach, Re-interpreted by Ciro Diaz Penedo

Old Felix spoke to me  
With dawn at the gate  
While we waited for the sun  
Watching the tanks pass by  

He says you don't see the stake  
To which our feet are bound  
If we can't free ourselves  
We shall never be able to run  

If we push it, it will fall  
It just cannot hold out anymore  
Surely it will  fall, fall, fall  
Because it's very rotten  

If you push it over here  
And I push it over there  
Surely it will fall, fall, fall  
And we can  free ourselves  

But some time has passed now  
My hands are bleeding  
When I surrender for an instant  
It makes itself heavier and bigger  
I very well know that it's rotten  
But despite that it weighs a lot  
That sometimes my strength gives away  
I sing this song louder.  

If we push it, it will fall  
Its that it cannot last anymore  
Surely it will fall, fall, fall  
Because it's very rotten  

If push it over here  
And I push over there  
Surely it will fall, fall, fall  
And we can  free ourselves  

Old Felix does not speak to me now  
A bad wind took him away  
He knows where 
While I'm still here waiting for the sun  
And when I see the boys of today pass  
I raise my voice and start to sing again  
The song that he taught me.  

If  we push it, it will fall  
Its that it just cannot last anymore  
Surely it will fall, fall, fall  
Because it's so very rotten  

If I push it over here,  
You push it strongly over there,  
Surely it will fall, fall, fall,  
Surely it will fall, fall, fall,   
Surely it will fall, fall, fall,  
Surely it will fall, fall, fall,  
Surely it will fall, fall, fall, 

Now! Now! Now!

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