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  • Heterodox Marxism
  • Marta Hernández Salván (bio)

“Como discípulo aventajado de [Louis] Althusser, [Régis Debray] sabe que no hay lectura (pero tampoco escritura) inocente. ¿Cuántas muertes provocan los libros que, como alguno suyo, proclamaron alguna vez la necesidad de los sacrificios de sangre?”

Régis Debray, like many other European intellectuals, fully endorsed the Cuban Revolution, which he saw as an unprecedented historical event brought about by “guerrilla warfare,” a new type of insurgency that, according to him, should set an example for other Latin American countries. Many of these intellectuals, including Jean Paul Sartre, went to Cuba with a preconceived notion about the revolutionary movement, which they could never reconcile with the reality they saw in their visit to the island. Others, like Debray, fully embraced the movement, wrote extensively about it, and even participated in the revolt. As we know, in 1968, Sartre signed a letter [End Page 151] condemning the Padilla affair, and Debray wrote his autobiography Contretemps: Éloge des idéaux perdus, an acrid analysis of those years of idealism about the Revolution. These two examples show that European intellectuals did not always idealize the Revolution, and that, on several occasions, they denounced the Cuban government for its censorship of literary work. In spite of this, Iván de la Nuez is one among many Cuban writers who blames European intellectuals for their early support of the Revolution and their failure to assess its politics in a critical way. Two important questions arise from this fact. The first is ethical: What was their intellectual responsibility for their lack of criticism during the 1960s? Is de la Nuez correct in his assessment of their intellectual blindness? The second is ideological: What type of discourse were they supporting? A similar phenomenon can be seen in the work of Cuban intellectuals. Although many of them, like the filmmaker and writer Jesús Díaz, rejected their own early involvement with the Revolution, others, like the social scientist and historian Rafael Hernández, have remained faithful (albeit critically) to it.

I am interested in looking at the deployment and interpretation of the ideological fantasies at play in the revolutionary process of the early 1960s, which is when the political foundations of the revolutionary movement were established. More specifically, I analyze the ideological legacy of the intellectual production of the 1960s—the first decade of the Cuban revolutionary period. The overarching goal of this paper is a closer and more nuanced analysis of a period often mythically represented as the golden decade of revolutionary change and ideological pluralism. For instance, Desiderio Navarro has claimed that the decade of the eighties represents the resurgence of intellectual political intervention in the public sphere (Navarro 2001, 359). Hernández also maintains that in the 1960s, intellectuals shaped the revolutionary cultural sphere and political debates (1999, 65).2 Not only were the 1960s perceived as a decade of pluralism, the Revolution and the intellectual projects of the vanguards that espoused its agenda were conceived as heretical phenomena that deviated from the norm. Although these claims were certainly true, state apparatuses were already imposing a rigid hegemonic state discourse in the 1960s. Violence and heroism, for example, were two essential topoi of revolutionary rhetoric whose ideological function could [End Page 152] not be challenged. Revolutionary subjectivity was characterized by the self-sacrificing and warrior-like attitude of the hero or guerrilla fighter. War was a key element of political discourse because revolutionary rhetoric was predicated upon guerrilla warfare, which was considered as a new model that all insurgent movements in Latin American ought to follow. By looking specifically at the cultural and political representation of violence and heroism, this essay studies the ideological underpinnings of 1960s revolutionary discourse in the cultural production of that decade. This paper explores the nature and significance of the latter phenomenon and how state ideology was deployed in the cultural production of the period.

More concretely, I analyze Pensamiento Crítico, a social sciences journal launched in 1961 and closed in 1971, which has recently been the object of controversy. Some scholars consider Pensamiento Crítico a symbol of the unsurpassed pluralism characterizing the...


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pp. 151-181
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