Published Friday, January 30, 1998, in yara!

JOHN SUAREZ
John Suarez manages the website of the Free Cuba Foundation. The Foundation was founded by FIU students in 1993, and has held conferences, demonstrations, and campaigned on the behalf of Cuban prisoners of conscience. The Free Cuba Foundation is based out of Florida International University(FIU). John is studying Biological Sciences at FIU. He was born and raised in Miami. His parents are Cuban.

Mahatma Gandhi: What we Cubans can learn from him


By John Suarez
On the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi we gather here today to remember his legacy, and what we Cubans can learn from him in our struggle for freedom. I think that the Cuban experience offers a cautionary vindication of Gandhi's more interesting ideas. For example, Gandhi states that, "Rights accrue automatically to him who duly performs his duties. In fact the right to performs one's duties is the only right that is worth living for and dying for. It covers all legitimate rights." Gandhi feared the expansion of the state in taking up the duties of the individual, in part I believe because of his view that rights stem from duties. When individuals give up their obligations and leave it to the state they are also giving up their rights at the same time. Gandhi's is very clear when he states:

I look upon an increase of the power of the State with the greatest fear, because although while apparently doing good by minimizing exploitation, it does the greatest harm to mankind by destroying individuality, which lies at the root of all progress. We know of so many cases where men have adopted trusteeship, but none where the State has really lived for the poor.

When we Cubans were writing that great "progressive" document which lifted off the shoulders of the Cuban people their personal responsibility to look out for the interests of their fellow man and embodied it in progressive legislation in the Constitution of 1940 the world hailed it as the most social democratic constitution of the Americas. Gandhi was warning Indian nationalists, many of them socialists, against precisely what we were doing. At first, he was ridiculed we were praised. Our Constitution lasted scarcely 12 years unable to preserve order and liberty on an island of 11 million. India, although not a perfect democracy, has been able for the past 50 years to preserve its democracy of over 600 million voters with diverse cultures and languages. Gandhi's movement was able to forge a lasting democracy.

Our own struggle against the tyranny in Cuba demands that we examine the errors which led to this four and a half decade ongoing disaster. When we carried out a struggle against the previous tyrant using bombs, assassination attempts, and filled with hatred can we not expect the results we have had? Gandhi said that "Moral results can only be produced by moral restraints." Where was the restraint when the majority of the Cuban people demanded that human beings be humiliated in show trials and then taken to the "paredon" to be executed. It is interesting to observe that the current tyrant decried prostitution, and a number of other vices it attributed to the corrupt and decadent previous tyrant, but what is Cuba like today four decades after his moral condemnation of the previous dictatorship. Nothing has changed for the better, but rather for the worst. Prostitution has exploded. The tyrant now invites tourists to Cuba that come seeking sex, and even exploit children in the evil practice of child prostitution. The Cuban nation must learn that, "moral authority is never retained by any attempt to hold on to it. It comes without seeking and is retained without effort." These are not my words but Gandhi's as is his counsel that ,"true morality consists not in following the beaten track, but in finding out the true path for ourselves and in fearlessly following it." What does he mean by that I think he is more specific when he states, "to observe morality is to attain mastery over our mind and our passions.." Morality cannot be imposed from above but arrived at by our own moral imagination informed by the laws of God.

Gandhi's concept of democracy and the individual's responsibility for maintaining it are prophetic for our times of decadence, complacency, and unruliness. Two of his principles alone are necessary for a democracy to survive and prosper. First that, "a born democrat is a born disciplinarian" and secondly that," a democrat must be utterly selfless. He must think and dream not in terms of self or party but only of democracy."

Our republic perished because of a lack of discipline in our political class. A class which tolerated anarchy in the form of political gangsterism, and often looked out for its own interests, and that of its parties at the expense of democracy. From Estrada de Palma to Carlos Prio Socarras through both revolutions and elections nothing changed. Until the last revolution of 1959 appeared on the scene Cuba's political system had been mainly the source of jokes and disillusionment, but its social, cultural, and economic system progressed substantially and life in Cuba improved steadily. The past century of progress in those areas was torn asunder by the rupture of the Constitutional order on March 10, 1952 and the complete implosion of Cuban political culture in the revolution that arrived on January 1, 1959. A revolution which embodies as its fundamental doctrine: hatred.

The socialists and communists say, they can do nothing to bring about economic equality today. They will just carry on propaganda in its favor and to that end they believe in generating and accentuating hatred. They say, when they get control over the State, they will enforce equality. Under my plan the State will be there to carry out the will of the people, not to dictate to them or force them to do its will.

Cuba's current tyranny should heed Gandhi's words that, "no society can possibly be built on a denial of individual freedom," and that their so-called claim of independence is a lie. Cuba is not independent, and it has been chained to a greater evil than the imperialism of Spain or that of the United States. Remember, for Gandhi, " independence means voluntary restraints and discipline, voluntary acceptance of the rule of law." There is no rule of law in Cuba. There is no restraint in Cuba. Just speak to our political prisoners and the horrors they have suffered, or to the survivors of the 13 de Marzo massacre on July 13, 1994 to see their lack of "restraint." The current tyranny embodies the precise opposite of Gandhi's concept of independence which to him, " means nothing less than the realization of the Kingdom of God' within you and on this earth." Cuba's tyranny embodies violence and is the antithesis of non-violence. "True nonviolence should mean a complete freedom from ill will and anger and hate and an overflowing love for all. This freedom from all attachment is the realization of God as Truth". - so stated Gandhi. We are a long way away from having that in Cuba, and I think we can all agree that is what we are struggling for in Cuba. .

Gandhi was a man that not only rejected imperialism as an evil and capitalism, as an end in and of itself, but he also consistently rejected communism and the socialism practiced in his time. Gandhi's rejection of socialism for its doctrine of class hatred was a courageous act in the 1930's and 40's when it was considered the rising movement which would sweep out the old and bring in a new order. His words are clear and succinct even over a half century later they resonate:

It is my firm conviction that if the State suppressed capitalism by violence, it will be caught in the coils of violence itself, and will fail to develop non-violence at any time. The State represents violence in a concentrated and organized form. The individual has a soul, but as the State is a soulless machine, it can never be weaned from violence to which it owes its very existence.

Although he rejects class hatred he offers in its place the doctrines of satygraha and ahimsa to prevent exploitation. He believes that the Capitalist has an obligation to use his skills and wealth voluntarily as a trusteeship to help those less fortunate then himself. He was ridiculed by those who preached militant atheism, and class war. Gandhi understood that to destroy one class of people is to destroy the other class as well. He also understood that inequalities of both talent and opportunity would always naturally exist. These two passages explicitly demonstrate this. .

It can be easily demonstrated that destruction of the capitalist must mean destruction in the end of the worker and as no human being is so bad as to be beyond redemption, no human being is so perfect as to warrant his destroying him whom he wrongly considers to be wholly evil.

We invite the capitalist to regard himself as trustee for those on whom he depends for the making, the retention, and the increase of his capital. Nor need the worker wait for his conversion. If capital is power, so is work. ... Either is dependent on the other. Immediately the worker realizes his strength, he is in a position to become co-sharer with the capitalist instead of remaining his slave. If he aims at becoming the sole owner, he will most likely be killing the hen that lays golden eggs. Inequalities in intelligence and even opportunity will last till the end of time. A man living on the banks of a river has any day more opportunity of growing crops than one living in the arid desert.

We believe that in our struggle against the current tyrant in Cuba that this is a struggle which must be carried out between Cubans. I do not wish the assistance of the United States or any other country to fight our battles for us. I remember Gandhi's warning that, "freedom received through the efforts of others, however benevolent, cannot be retained when such effort is withdrawn." If we wish Cuba to be free and independent, then we Cubans must struggle our freedom and not depend on others doing it for us. Yet, we demand that other nations not ally themselves with the forces of violence, hatred, and barbarism which today hold power. We believe that as Gandhi did that,"non-cooperation with evil is as much a duty as cooperation with good." We demand this of them out of our love for them. We do not want to see other countries degrades themselves further by supporting a tyranny founded in hatred.

Anyone who offends the sacred freedom of our adversaries is reprehensible, and more so if he or she does it in the name of freedom. These words do not belong to the Mahatma, but to Jose Marti. I haven't mentioned him in this talk because the next speaker will explore the relationship of these brothers in thought. One who was killed 103 years ago riding into horseback in a just war that he organized, and the other 50 years ago assassinated as he once again spoke out against war and hatred. However, I believe that all three offer us a general outline of what we can do to liberate our nation in a true and lasting sense. We must struggle and purify our hearts of the resentment and hatred we naturally feel for the crimes committed against us as a people. As much as it hurts to admit it. Our own Cuban brothers, and sisters have and continue to torture and murder. We cannot tolerate this, but we also cannot emulate this behavior. We must end it. We must be strong, and we must be willing to live for our beliefs as well as to die for them. We demand justice, but Gandhi offers us wise counsel, "justice will come when it is deserved by our being and feeling strong. " We must continue to learn all that we can about the crimes that have been and continue to be committed. Gandhi once again offers us guidance in our demand for justice,"Justice does not help those who slumber but helps only those who are vigilant."

Non-cooperation is a measure of discipline and sacrifice and it demands respect for the positive views.

We as part of the exile and as part of the democratic opposition must not cooperate with tyranny, and we must be open to strategies and ideas however unorthodox that are positive and contribute to accomplishing our goals.

Nonviolent non-cooperation with evil means cooperation with all that is good.

We must cooperate amongst ourselves. Not necessarily as one unified organization, but as a movement of individuals, organizations, and coalitions which seek to do good. We must be willing to help our brothers and sisters in China, Tibet, Burma, North Korea, Vietnam, and wherever else in the world in which injustice and hatred are on the march. We cannot be blind to the suffering of others and expect anything but the blindness of others to our own plight.

Non-cooperation is intended to pave the way to real, honorable and voluntary cooperation based on mutual respect and trust.

The moment the Cuban people decide not to tolerate the evil which reigns today in Cuba their non- cooperation will bring the regime down and in its place the foundations of a democracy rooted in mutual respect, trust, and justice will take root.

Real non-cooperation is non-cooperation with evil and not with the evil doer.

The Accord for Democracy which we signed on to a few weeks ago did not limit itself to the Castro brothers for a simple reason. We are battling the evil itself not the evil doer because when the Castro brothers die the tyranny does not necessarily die with them. We seek to transform institutions and individuals. Not just a change of faces and the continuation of a regime based in hatred. Gandhi, stated it as we repeat it today, "my Non-cooperation is with methods and systems, never with men."

Passive resistance, unlike nonviolence, has no power to change men' s hearts.

We do not subscribe to pacifism, but rather to resistance against evil using non-violent means. One of the following speakers will describe how to end the tyranny in Cuba using these means. We refuse to commit evil acts in the name of ending evil. We believe that evil means lead to evil ends, and we believe that both Cuban history and world history have proved this time and time again. Therefore, our war will be the last war in Cuba, and it will be a war against hatred. 50 years ago today on January 30, 1948 as Mohandes Gandhi entered the prayer grounds in Delhi, the assassin kneeled before him, then rose to fire three bullets in Gandhi's chest. Gandhi died instantly. The assassin, a well educated 35 year-old editor of a Hindu weekly in Maharashtra, he had planned the murder carefully: "I sat brooding intensely on the atrocities perpetrated on Hinduism and its dark and deadly future if left to face Islam outside and Gandhi inside." He wanted a war against the Muslim minority in India something that Gandhi had fasted against to stop. Gandhi's assassination had the opposite effect from what his assassin had wanted. The Hindu community stunned that one of their own had murdered the Mahatma determined to end the conflict, and the killing stopped. Mahatma Gandhi triumphed over his own assassination, and with his death turned India away from the slaughter of millions. In the war against hate Gandhi triumphed.

The war against hate is perhaps the last essential, definitive, and legitimate war.
Jose Marti

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