[OPE] Celia Hart, 1962-2008

From: <glevy@pratt.edu>
Date: Thu Sep 11 2008 - 20:43:45 EDT

via Mike L. / In solidarity, Jerry

Celia Hart, 1962-2008

*Celia, A Hurricane of Militancy*

Néstor Kohan - /Rebelión/


It's an enormous loss. It seems as though it can't
possibly be true.
Celia Hart Santamaría has just died, along
with her brother Abel, in an
automobile accident in Havana. We
learned of it last night. Pablo
Kilberg, the tireless friend of the
Cuban revolution and of Celia (one
and the same), called us and gave
us the sad news. And just now, when
she's missed more than ever!
Such a feeling of impotence. Such an ugly
feeling in the mouth, in
the throat, in the stomach.

Everyone presented her as
"the daughter of..." Not that that's bad.
Her mother was
Haydeé Santamaría Cuadrado [1922-1980], a revolutionary
militant, emblematic and symbolic of the Cuban Revolution, comrade of

Fidel Castro from the first days, assailant of the Moncada barracks,

founder of the Casa de las Americas. Her father, Armando Hart
[1930 - ], historic leader of the Cuban Revolution,
along with Fidel as
well, the founder of the July 26 Movement, the
Revolution's Education
Minister, and the inspirer of its celebrated
literacy campaign. Besides
her parents, Celia counted among her
family Abel Santamaría Cuadrado
[1927-1953], Fidel's
political collaborator since before Batista's coup
d'etat, later an
assailant at the Moncada barracks, captured alive,
tortured and
killed by the Batista dictatorship.

But Celia was much more
than "the daughter of" or the "niece of". She
had, has and will always have her own light and brilliance. Who could

doubt it?

I came to know Celia through her father. It
was Armando who was most
insistent that we should get to know Celia.
Between the two of them,
father and daughter, there was a very
strong relationship, affecting and
emotional but also intellectual
and political. Every writer, when they
write, has in mind a dialogue
with someone. It pleases me to say that
Armando was one of Celia's
imaginary readers, along with Fidel Castro.
She always had their
opinions in mind, in a real or imaginary dialogue.
Every time Celia
wrote to me, she confessed: "I imagine what my father
think" or "what Fidel must be thinking of what I'm saying,"
sure that Fidel will love it."

I reached
Celia through Armando. For more than a decade, in the middle
of the
moral and intellectual desert of the '90's, during the fierce and
unrelenting reign of neoliberalism all over the world, Armando Hart
wrote to us after reading a piece about Marx and the third world,
published in the Casa de las Americas magazine. As enthusiastic as a
boy, he sent us a lecture of his on the Communist Manifesto. A personal

meeting followed an exchange of letters and articles, thanks to
and comrade Fernando Martínez Heredia, as much a
Guevarist as father and

The bond with Armando
strengthened. He wrote a prologue for a book on
Latin American
Marxism that until now has unfortunately still not been
published in
Cuba (although it has already been prepared for
publication). I in
turn, had the honor of writing a prologue for his
book /Marx, Engels
y la condición humana /[/Marx, Engels and the Human
Condition/]. Later in one of his visits to Argentina, Armando Hart came

as guest lecturer for the Cátedra Che Guevara. In these
with the father, in addition to Martí,
Ingenieros, the Reforma
Universitaria, Mella, Guiteras and Fidel,
Marx and Engels, Che y Freud,
the subject of his daughter always
came up. It was recurrent. Armando
had an admiration for her that he
never concealed. He told us, again
and again, "Celia is like
Haydeé [Celia's mother], but of today, in

The first time I saw her, Celia did not begin by
talking about the Latin
American revolution, of Fidel, of Che or
Lenin, Trotsky and the
Bolsheviks. No! Before we'd even opened our
mouths, the first words
she said to us, smiling ear to ear, were:
"I'm so jealous of your
relationship with my father."
That's how she was, tremendously ironic
and tender at the same time,
profoundly human, very lovable above all
else. The living antithesis
of the impersonal "machine" that transforms
the politics
of revolutionaries into something soulless, cold,
bureaucratic. Filled with affection, tenderness,
humanity, we could
talk about any Latin American issue, of Chávez, of
future, of the Miami gusanos or whatever, and in the middle,
invariably, she'd crack a joke, a pun, something ironic or an
unexpected allusion to her love, my friend. Celia spoke, presented, and

wrote irreverently, breaking the molds and the rules of the road,

breathing life into the fossilized, musty, boxed up discourse of the

traditional left. She was a whirlwind of ideas. She spoke incredibly

fast, sometimes so fast it was difficult to follow. She generated

tremendous enthusiasm with young people. I witnessed it in Cuba as
as Argentina (a very short time ago, Chilean friends told me
they were
thinking of inviting her to that Andean country).

During these years, we talked about many things, about mutual
as well as various nuances. When the argument became
heated, Celia shot
me a smile: "Okay, well you know that I'm a
physicist by profession."
And from there the laughter bloomed.
We loosened up and carried on.

Celia played an enormous role
in the battle of ideas of recent times,
within and outside of Cuba.
In my humble opinion, Celia Hart's word was
very useful and very
effective. It served, as we say in Argentina, to
heads," or in other words, to make one think. Celia helped to
think! She provoked the different Latin American leftist tribes,
forcing them to listen to one another (a difficult job, for sure).

She pushed traditional communists, formed in the cultural world of
Soviet Union, against the wall and forced them to abandon
prejudices and to read, at last, the
"unnameable" and "demonic" Leon
Trotsky, so
often erased from photos and histories both through
censorship as
well as the self-censorship of various generations
educated in
Stalinism. Although it may have been only for the sake of
they had to read Trotsky. Some reacted with bitterness, but
majority adopted a different, softer, more rational attitude, taking
Celia's idea as a challenge and from there, they had to go back and
rethink old dogmas, outdated and completely ineffective for today. Who

could accuse Celia of not understanding the cultural and political
of Eastern Europe, after the end of the Soviet Union, which
fell with
the Berlin Wall, when she had lived for years and studied
physics in the
very German Democratic Republic (GDR)? Who could
accuse Celia of being
"counter-revolutionary," "fifth
columnist," or whatever, knowing that
she loved - not just
admired, but loved - Fidel Castro?

Without mincing words,
Celia corrected the Trotskyists of Latin America
but also of Europe,
speaking to them of Fidel and Che, with politically
arguments, and also with love. She told them, again and again,
internationalism is not confined to pamphlets and university
magazines, or salon rhetoric, that the Cuban Revolution sent almost half

a million internationalist combatants to Angola and the rest of
America. Celia obliged them to call for the freedom of the
five Cuban
revolutionaries imprisoned in the United States. She
asked them, every
chance she got, to abandon crystallized formulas
and look at Cuba and
its revolution with different, less prejudiced

In the case of Maoism, some of its leaders were very
upset with Celia
for her criticism of Stalin (a figure also
questioned, incidentally, by
Armando Hart Dávalos in a piece
where he commented the famous [Trotsky]
biography by Isaac
Deutscher, an author he gave his daughter to read at
a very young
age). In Havana, we introduced the Secretary General of
Argentine Maoist party to Celia so that he might speak personally
with her and in this way understand who she was and how she thought,
above and beyond her articles, in this way perhaps doing away with
certain prejudices.

We insisted. Celia's great virtue has
always been her interventions,
not always planned, nor serenely
calculated (and always the cause of
plenty of anguish and headaches
when the bourgeois press tried to
manipulate or misrepresent her),
forcing the left to think. To think!
That activity that is not
always practiced when the alleged Marxist
(whatever the ideological family in question, each to its
ghetto) becomes a safe conduct pass to ruminate and repeat slogans,
without doing its own reflection, or critical thinking.

the cultural world of the left, Celia was viewed as a "rare
Fidelista Trotskyist? Critical of bureaucracy and the
market and a
defender to the death of the Cuban revolution?
Guevarist on fire that
doesn't participate in official or
institutional tributes to Che? How
is that? More than one person has
thought, "Explain that to me!"

What it is, is that
the massacres and military genocides of Latin
America, perpetrated
under the mandate of North American imperialism,
did not only burn
bodies and make people disappear. They also burned
books and tried
to make thoughts disappear.

Celia's iconoclastic and, at one
point, ecumenical proposal, did not
start from zero, nor was it the
product of a new alchemy. It was a
point of arrival. Before she
propagandized with her very personal
prose, whose literary
brilliance was not indifferent to the dance of the
muses, other
comrades had tried to combine this synthesis of cultural
and diverse politics.

For example, in his 1970 book /The
Marxism of Che Guevara/ (various
editions), Michael Löwy had
tried to restore Che's integrity - not only
as a heroic guerrilla
but also as a top-flight Marxist thinker -
defending the Cuban
revolution and promoting Guevarism while being
inspired by Leon
Trotsky, Rosa Luxemburg and the young György Lukács.
Very close to Löwy, in 1972, comrade Carlos Rossi (a pseudonym)
/La revolución permanente in América Latina/
[/Permanent Revolution in
Latin America/] (see
http://amauta.lahaine.org/). There Rossi analyzed
the entire
contemporary history of our America from the theories of
unequal and
combined development and permanent revolution, while
endorsing the
strategy of Cuban and Guevarist style armed revolution on
continental scale. Two unambiguous antecedents of Celia's proposals
and political essays.

When Celia asked us last year, in June
of 2007, to introduce her book/
Apuntes revolucionarios. Cuba,
Venezuela y el socialismo internacional/
[/Revolutionary Notes.
Cuba, Venezuela and International
Socialism/]([Buenos Aires,
Fundación Federico Engels, 2007], a
collection of her
internet articles, published in large part by our
mutual friend and
comrade Luciano Alzaga, who contributed greatly to
Celia's thoughts and making her known outside of Cuba) we
said this
to her publicly. We were reminded of those two "forgotten"
works, previous to Celia's book and her precursors by thirty years. Far

from any kind of presumption or self-regard, so common among certain

gurus of the academic left, she was neither offended nor angered.
didn't pretend to have discovered gunpowder for the umpteenth
With extreme, almost exaggerated humility, Celia responded
that she
considered herself a "recent arrival" to the
world of political and
social theory and recognized that her
unorthodox suggestions (however
you wanted to look at them) didn't
spring from nowhere, but were instead
an extension of previously
established tradition.

That was Celia! That gesture is a
complete picture. She didn't need to
boast of anything. Simply
because she had a lot to say. Only the
mediocre need cling to
established forms, lacking their own content.
That night, at the
introduction of her book, there was an overflow crowd
of nearly two
hundred young people. Celia ended up speaking perched on
a table,
surrounded by a sea of militants from diverse tribes of the
(not only Argentine, but even Sandinistas, and Celia argued with
them, without abandoning the 1979 revolution). She only managed to
reunite the diverse chapels of our divided left, after years and years

of populist, reformist, and postmodern hegemony.

Löwy himself made reference to Celia in his latest research about
el Che
and present Guevarism. When the Brazilian researcher sent us
the proofs
for a chapter of his book, seeking suggestions and
opinions, we asked
him, "Aren't you going to include the
current Guevarists in the Manuel
Rodríguez Patriotic Front
(FPMR) in Chile? And Celia in Cuba?" In the
same way, with the
same humility, the historian and researcher put them
in the final
edition. In writing about her, Löwy referred to the
"incendiary writings of Celia Hart," highlighting them among
the recent
expressions of contemporary Guevarism (See Michael
Löwy and Olivier
Besancenot: /Che Guevara: una braise qui
brűle encore/ [/Che Guevara, an
Ember that Burns Again/]
Paris, Mille et une nuits, 2007. Chapter "La
guevarista en América Latina." [The Guevarist Legacy in Latin

America] p. 153). When that book hit the street, both authors,
by Trotsky but also by Che Guevara, were immediately
accused - as though
it were something terribly serious - of being

Unstoppable, full of militant
enthusiasm, Celia always wrote with
urgency. She sent her articles
to her friends, asking for comments at
the last minute, asking on
what page of what book this or that citation
might be found, and
that's how we argued, with frankness, loyalty,
fraternally, without
double entendres, without calculating institutional
favors or petty

The last exchange we had was over a sub-variant
of Argentine Trotskyism:
Morenoism, the group that invited her for
the last time to our country.
When she asked our opinion, we said
the same thing we'd always said.

>From a position of respect
for the dedication of an often sacrificed
militancy, we considered
the enormous distance that separated the
high-sounding rhetoric and
incendiary literature of Morenoism from a
prolonged, mundane,
earthly, largely reformist history, as something
unconcealable, and
that's how we put it to her. We provided concrete
examples from
Argentine history that Celia had no reason to know about.
not always dignified nor decorous that, in our view, did not
from "evil" and even less from individual "treachery"
by such and
such a political leader - generally forceful and quite
willing to
sacrifice - than from a conception and a political
strategy that we
viewed as wrong, often uncritically institutional
and electoral.

Apart from this timely example and many other
questions shared over the
years, with Celia we spoke about the
historical polemics that at the
time, pitted the followers of Nahuel
Moreno against those of Mario
Roberto Santucho, killed by the
military dictatorship in 1976 (one of
the main leaders of Guevarism
in Argentina and in the Latin American
southern cone - where he
shared the trenches and organization with the
Chilean Miguel
Enríquez, the Uruguayan Raúl Sendic and the Bolivian
brothers Inti and Coco Peredo). Celia always said the same thing to me,

face to face, in more than one conversation, as well as in writing:
know, my dear Néstor, that my party is that of Che
Guevara and Robi
Santucho." She never ceased to repeat it to

Celia was insistent about a number of things. One of them
was the
necessity for a real dialogue and concrete unity among the
left. Not unity with power factions, but a unity of the
left, where the
differences are not always antagonistic

For example, when in September of 2007, the
Colectivo Amauta and the
Cátedra Che Guevara organized a
street shutdown (at Callao and
Corrientes, in the heart of Buenos
Aires) and a public class in defense
of the political prisoners,
Celia didn't fail them. Together with
messages received from around
the world, the extensive, emotional and
committed letter Celia sent
on behalf of the prisoners represented the
Cuban voice with dignity
in this united effort, where very diverse
currents converged. Celia
acted while circumventing any temptation to
be guided by reasons of
state. She wasn't thinking about nor
prioritizing the diplomatic
relations between the state of her country
and Kirchner's
government, but was more concerned with the situation of
Argentinean political prisoners then on a hunger strike. She was
most logical.

Later, the Colectivo Amauta and the
Cátedra Che Guevara launched an
initiative to organize an
International Guevarist Seminar for June of
2008. Celia wrote us
again. She told us that they'd invited her to
inaugurate an official
monument to Che in the city of Rosario
(Argentina), where along with
leftist sects, others associated with the
Kirchner government and
local social democratic currents would be
present. As she told us,
she declined the invitation. She clarified to
us that she was not
looking for the spotlight by the "use of a
name." Neither did she want official contacts with the
Argentine government, nor did they interest her. She opted to support

the initiative for the International Guevarist Seminar, but through
own suggestion. She offered to participate personally (a trip
couldn't happen since the non-official organizers couldn't come
up with
the money for her flight) and also promised to fight to
convince the
numerous sects inspired by Trotskyism to support the
movement that was
being made in defense of Che and the Cuban
revolution. She clarified to
us that probably these organizations
wouldn't support them, but she
insisted and tried to convince them.
So it became known to various
comrades to whom she sent letters with
her appeals. In front of the
various picketing organizations, we
read her letter of support for the
event, with great enthusiasm.

Why did Celia support this other initiative? Had it been for
reasons of
personal friendship? I really don't think so. I'm sure
that she also
had many friends and admirers in the official ranks at
the event.
Perhaps we're wrong, but we suspect that her intention
was always
directed at removing Che from the poster and the statue,
in order to
recover who he really was, someone untameable, who
didn't generate
condescending or nostalgic whispers, but rather,
anger, diatribes and
discomfort in official society as well as the
reformist currents that
insisted on defaming him.

In the
last conversation that we had before this unfortunate accident,
Celia called me by telephone from Buenos Aires. She'd been in Argentina

a few days. When she told me that she was not going to be able to

participate this time in the Cátedra Che Guevara, I insulted
affectionately, given the mutual trust we had. She laughed
She asked forgiveness again and after that the
conversation led to the
problems in Argentine politics and the Latin
American debate over the
Colombian insurgency and Uribe's attacks.
Celia didn't waver on this
issue either. She began with her
customary enthusiasm to defend the
brothers and sisters of the
Colombian FARC and put forward her belief
that today more than ever,
the Latin American left in its various forms
and groups, must
support the insurgency. We interrupted her to remind
her that the
phones in Argentina are tapped by the police and it
wouldn't be a
good idea to talk about this subject this way. She
laughed a lot
when I reminded her that we were not in Cuba, and that it
behoove her to return to the practices of the times in which her
mother and father had to protect themselves from repressive
organizations, as well as intelligence. That was our last conversation,

just a few days ago.

So that's how Celia always was. A
Vietnamese tank entering the Yankee
embassy, a Soviet tank taking
Berlin by storm. Unstoppable! No-one
could stop her. A hurricane of
militant energy.

She never assumed, nor was she interested in
a "decorative" position.
She might have lived comfortably,
enjoying, far from the political
realm, her prestigious surnames.
This option didn't seduce her in the
least. What's more, I'm sure
that she despised it. Her interest was
always in being a militant,
no matter whether this brought "problems" as
a result of
the troubles in which she involved herself. Her preferred
words were
not "let's see when we've had a few drinks" (although we also

had a few) but rather, she prioritized political debate, the work,
militant challenges on a continental scale, without losing day
to day

Nothing of nostalgia for the past, all
the effort toward the future.
Perhaps that's why Celia loved Julio
Antonio Mella so, who once wrote,
"The future must always be

So geographically distant from Celia but always
close to her in the
heart and in ideals, we send an enormous embrace
to her father, Armando
Hart, to her children, to all her family, to
her comrades in Cuba and
everywhere, who loved and will go on loving

*Machetera is a member of *Tlaxcala*
<http://www.tlaxcala.es/>*, the
network of translators for
linguistic diversity***. This translation may
be reprinted as long
as the content remains unaltered, and the source,
author, and
translator are cited.*

Dearest comrade Celia, hasta la
victoria siempre!

Buenos Aires, September 8, 2008

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Received on Thu Sep 11 20:50:01 2008

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