Join, Silence, Kill


I could barely sleep last night. A book left me tossing and turning, staring at the ceiling grid in my bedroom. “The Man Who Loved Dogs,” the novel by Leonardo Padura, shaken by his sincerity, by the corrosive acid he throws on the evasive Utopia they wanted to impose on us. No one can remain calm after reading of the horrors of a Soviet Union we were made to venerate as children. The intrigues, purges, assassinations, forced exiles, even though read in the third person, would rob anyone of their sleep. And if, on top of this, we watched our parents believe that the Kremlin was the guidebook for the world proletariat, and knew that the president of our country, until recently, kept a photo of Stalin in his own office, then the insomnia becomes more persistent.

Of all the books published on this Island, I dare say that none has been as devastating as this one to the pillars of the system. Perhaps that’s why they only distributed 300 copies at the Havana Book Fair, of which barely 100 reached the hands of the public. It’s hard, at this point, to censor a work that has seen the light of day from a foreign publisher and whose author is still living on his dusty road in Mantilla. Because of the visibility he’s achieved beyond the Island, and because it is nearly impossible to keep subtracting names from the national culture without its becoming sparsely populated, we readers were lucky enough to get to peek at his pages. Trotsky’s assassin is revealed in them as a man trapped by the obedience of the militant, one who believed everything his superiors told him. A story that touches us very closely and not just because our country served as a refuge for Ramón Mercader in the last years of his life.

Padura puts in the mouth of his narrator that his was the generation “of the gullible, of those who romanticized and accepted and justified everything with eyes focused on the future.” Our generation, however, was bitterly touched by the frustration of our parents, seeing how little they’d achieved, those who once went on literacy campaigns, who gave their best years, projecting for their children a society with opportunities for all. No one emerges unscathed by this, there is no social chemistry that holds up before such a stubborn reality. The long night tossing and turning gave me time to think, not only about the garbage swept under a doctrinaire carpet, but also about how many of these methods are still being applied to us and how deeply Stalinism was instilled in our lives.

There are books–I’m warning you–that open our eyes, such that we can never again sleep in peace.

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97 thoughts on “Join, Silence, Kill

  1. From Yoani’s videos I wouldn’t say that dissidents are hiding their books. Well, they are hiding one. ” Internet for Dummies”. I think Dummies are illegal in Cuba.

  2. Komar, that’s what I wrote: “read them in secret” means read them at home. If they want to read them outside, or afraid a visitor to their home will see them, they cover them with fake book covers, something revolutionary of course, which few Cubans would be interested in opening. I will say that people have become a lot more bold in recent years, but a friend of mine will still put on fake covers on the books or magazines I leave behind. He even does it with magazines such as the Economist, which he was scared to be caught reading.

    But most of the stuff I leave behind is non-political yet simply unavailable in Cuba. One friend loves looking at pictures of food so I always bring down gourmet magazines. It keeps his hopes alive for the day when he escapes from Cuba.

  3. Love Cuba
    Junio 6th, 2011 at 12:46

    Can’t Cubans read books at home?

  4. You’re somewhat right comrade, but it’s a lot harder to bring in books than computers to Cuba. I bring in books to Cuba, and the Cubans read them in secret or with fake book covers on them to avoid being snitched on, but I get through customs because the stuff I bring in is relatively harmless and we pretend it’s our reading material. When I used to bring in larger amounts of literature I was pulled aside every time and searched page by page.

  5. Love Cuba
    Junio 5th, 2011 at 22:23

    I’m sure, if Cubans can bypass American embargo on computers, the can get books also.

  6. Comrade Komar wrote: “I suggest, You read the book “Passage Through Armageddon: The Russians in War and Revolution, 1914 – 1918″ by W Bruce Lincoln”

    Thanks Comrade, his books are widely available so I’ll give it a read. I like reading different points of view, something people take for granted in America.

    You’ll enjoy Cuban bookstores when you move there, I hope Fidel and Che are your two favorite authors, and all you care reading about is how great Cuba is and how evil America is. Don’t bother looking for a cookbook section, the only section is the “Fidel and Che are great” section

  7. Anónimo
    Junio 5th, 2011 at 20:26

    You got me here. The Jews in the kibbutz communities moved their operations to China.

  8. Oh, I’m sorry, I based my comment on what you said in Post 83, which was this:

    As to collective farming, it still exists in Israel and is doing very well. Look-up word “kibbutz” in Google and see for Yourself.

    So, in a matter of one day, the kibbutzim have gone from doing very well to not doing great, like everyone else?

  9. Love Cuba
    Junio 5th, 2011 at 18:58

    Listen Pam, do You have TV. Turn it on. Now days nobody is doing great. See, Greece, Portugal, Island and so on. Good Old USA is in debt up to it’s ears, so why bunch of hard working Jews in the kibbutz should be better off. After all they are not a magicians.

  10. pamela
    Junio 5th, 2011 at 17:07

    How was I to know that in post #78 You write about famine 1921. NEP was promulgated by decree on 21 March 1921, by then famine, which had begun in the winter of 1919-20 was raging in capitalist Poland. Famine wasn’t effect of any kind economic policies, but the effect of the destruction caused by Great War. In time of war no economy policy works. Lenin wasn’t magician and couldn’t fix destruction from Great War, revolution, civil war and several foreign interventions, one was from already starving Poland, fix with stoke of the pen. In those times life of the farmer wasn’t easy. The Reds were stealing food from him, The Whites were stealing from him and tsarist also didn’t shy from helping themselves. I suggest, You read the book “Passage Through Armageddon: The Russians in War and Revolution, 1914 – 1918” by W Bruce Lincoln so I don’t have to write this much.

  11. Actually, kibbutzim in Israel are in trouble. Go the Haaretz website and type in kibbutz, and you’ll see many articles about this.

  12. Komar, I forgot you mentioned the kibbutz. Not doing so well these days, so you’re wrong there, but more power to anyone who can make that lifestyle work. Unlike Russia, nobody was forced into collective farming there, it was all done out of free will. The Stalinist version was called slavery.

    In the USA the collective lifestyle is doing better. You might want to join a communist commune, check it out:

    The guy admires Cuba so you’ll be very happy talking with him. I’m sure you’ll get good health insurance too. Just one thing if you look at the video, they expect you to do your fair share of the work. If you’re like most communists I know, that won’t be too appealing to you. But let us know if you join up.

  13. Thanks Pamela, for the link.

    Komar, read it and learn something.

    Komar, I had assumed you knew what the NEP (New Economic Policy) was. I shouldn’t be surprised you know nothing of Russian history, nor that you’ve never read Lenin. In the old days I used to get in endless discussions with Marxists who had never read Marx, Leninists who never read Lenin, Stalinists who never read Stalin, and Maoists who never read Mao

    Good to see that nothing has changed. Which really tells us something, because all this literature and history is so easily accessible via the internet.

  14. Lenin and the First Communist Revolutions, VII

    “War Communism”, the Red Terror, and Lenin’s Famine

    Almost immediately after they seized power, Lenin’s Bolsheviks inaugurated an endless stream of economic decrees and policies. These proved to be disastrous, resulting in a horrific famine, depopulation of the cities, and an enormous decline in living standards. So unpopular were these policies that after they were finally altered in mid 1921, Lenin tried to re-write their history. It was at this point that the Bolsheviks economic policies from 1918-1921 were dubbed “War Communism,” and declared to have been a temporary expedient forced upon Lenin’s government by wartime conditions. In fact, so-called “War Communism” began before serious fighting erupted, and continued after the Whites had been decisively defeated. It was not a wartime expedient; it was the policy that Lenin wanted to pursue in war or peace. As Pipes explains, “War Communism as a whole was not a ‘temporary measure’ but an ambitious and as it turned out premature attempt to introduce full-blown communism.” (The Russian Revolution) As noted earlier, Lenin’s ideas on desirable economic policy were vague at best. So upon taking power, he looked around the world for inspiration; what caught his eye was the “War Socialism” of the German Kaiser. As Paul Johnson notes:

    So one might say that the man who really inspired Soviet economic planning was Ludendorff. His “war socialism” certainly did not shrink from barbarism. It employed slave-labourers. In January 1918 Ludendorff broke a strike of 400,000 Berlin workers by drafting tens of thousands of them to the front in “labor battalions.” Many of his methods were later to be revived and intensified by the Nazis. It would be difficult to think of a more evil model for a workers’ state. Yet these were precisely the features of German “war socialism” Lenin most valued. (Modern Times)
    The primary features of War Communism were:
    Uncontrolled inflationary printing press finance, ultimately leading to hyperinflation and nationwide reversion to barter
    Near universal nationalization of manufacturing; widespread nationalization of retailing
    Stringent price controls upon and forced requisitioning of agricultural products; state monopoly on grain purchases
    Forced labor for civilians as well as the military

    http://econfaculty.gmu.edu/bcaplan/museum/his1g.htm

  15. Love Cuba
    Junio 5th, 2011 at 09:09

    How stupid, do You think, I’m. Did You really read books by Lenin?. Read my ass, You didn’t. If You read them, than You wouldn’t write: “Lenin’s version of socialism starved to death a couple million people, and he finally had to backtrack to capitalism with his NEP, i.e. private farming.” Lenin died in 21 January 1924. Collectivization campaign of 1928-1933 begun 4 years after his death, and he didn’t backtrack to capitalism. Ukrainians resisted collectivization by destroying some farm equipment and sabotaged planting crops, so Stalin doesn’t get it. Take my word for it for I don’t want to write 10 pages of explanations. As to collective farming, it still exists in Israel and is doing very well. Look-up word “kibbutz” in Google and see for Yourself.

  16. I guess that’s why Fidel kept a picture of Stalin in his office, and Che signed his letters “Stalin II.”

  17. Love Cuba
    Junio 5th, 2011 at 09:09

    It is truth that Lenin and Trotsky believed in the “dictatorship of the proletariat”. Stalin, on the other hand, had “totalitarian regime” on mind, same as did Hitler. The first one lets the working class make decision, leaving rich capitalists out. The second one, gives all decision making powers to one person, in this case Stalin, leaving everybody else out, with not exceptions.

  18. Damir
    Junio 5th, 2011 at 09:02

    In America we do not call it “Aggression Force” but “Peace Keeping Force”. Like in Vietnam, for example or Panama.

  19. Love Cuba
    Junio 5th, 2011 at 08:49

    You asked me: “Now how come greedy socialists never let workers or writers protest?”
    Well, I don’t know. May I remind You some facts from American history?
    The Ludlow Massacre for start. What was that? Picnic or protest? Maybe Colorado National Guardsmen joined protesting miners.
    May 4 massacre or Kent State massacre. Few students died protesting war in Vietnam.
    Here is more recent history. Look it up.
    http://thehill.com/blogs/e2-wire/677-e2-wire/121153-more-than-100-arrested-at-coal-mining-protest-in-front-of-the-white-house
    Welcome to reality, pal.

  20. Komar said: “One may think, if not for Lenin’s death and Trotsky’s assassination, it is possible to create socialist society.”

    Really? Where did you get that impression? Just wondering, because I read Lenin and Trotsky and they both believed in the “dictatorship of the proletariat” and shooting everybody who got in their way, which they did during the Russian Revolution.

    Lenin’s version of socialism starved to death a couple million people, and he finally had to backtrack to capitalism with his NEP, i.e. private farming. Trotsky wasn’t content with the Russian revolution like Stalin was, he wanted to export it by violence to every country in the world. Sort of like the dispute between Fidel and Che.

  21. Komar, pot 38, metalurgic industry is subsidised, so is wheat, so is car industry ( billions given away do count too), ol industry (what a surprise this one…), ethanol and soya, not to mention the industry of death, the biggest industry in the usa – Agression Force (military branch of usanian dictatorship).

  22. Comrade Komar my friend, all I asked was the reason you mentioned “Grapes of Wrath”? Now the reason you finally gave in your last post, after false claims it was banned, have absolutely nothing to do with Yoani’s blog article.

    Yes, the 30s were tough times for some Americans, and I’m glad American writers were free to protest greedy capitalists and FDR could put in some great social programs.

    Now how come greedy socialists never let workers or writers protest?

  23. Love Cuba
    Junio 5th, 2011 at 01:35

    Give me a break. I nowhere said that Steinbeck was communist. Steinbeck wasn’t involved in any kind of politics. He supported war in Vietnam for the same reason today most Americans support war in Iraq and Afganistan. Puerly patriotic reason not a political one. As to “Grapes of Wrath” it is fiction. He wrote it on base of his observatins of present day life. Not to promote communism or bash capitalism. Frankly, his observation of present day life were accurate. I know that from memoirs people who lived through those times. One of them, for example, was a mailman who visited peoples houses, delivering mail, and saw how they live. I also listened to a lady on the radio, who described how poor her family was during “Great Depression” and she said that her family was lucky for most of the town families were worse off than her family was.

  24. Back to the topic of this blog. I won’t be able to read this book since there is no English translation to be found. Not even a Polish one. As I can gather this book tells life stories of Trotsky and Mercader, Trotsky’s assailant. However I happen to know a little about both of them, from my dissident times in late seventies and early eighties. I happened to read a lot of this stuff. So, to keep it short: Trotsky parted with Lenin. Later he wanted to mend his ways with Lenin. Lenin accepted Trotsky back and wanted him to be his successor. Both of them wanted to create socialist society. Same time Stalin wanted create totalitarian regime, but Lenin and Trotsky were in the way. After Trotsky’s assassination and Lenin’s death Stalin hijacked socialist ideas of Lenin and Trotsky and turn them into totalitarian regime. He even made Mercader national hero for Trotsky’s assassination. One may think, if not for Lenin’s death and Trotsky’s assassination, it is possible to create socialist society. Unfortunately, we’ll never find this out for Stalin stopped this process and imposed totalitarian regime on Soviet Union.

  25. The ALA, which I often support when they are really fighting for freedom, is also the source of many false “banning” claims, and might be the source of the list Komar copied and pasted. The reason for this is that some members of the ALA are Stalinists who believe the books they like should be required reading in every school in the land and any attempt to get in their way is “censorship”. At the same time they support fascist dictators who ban liberal thought and even support the imprisonment of librarians in Cuba:

    http://www.cubanet.org/CNews/y03/jun03/09e4.htm

  26. Komar, I did google and find it, and as I showed in my post, you copied and pasted false information. E.g. contrary to what you pasted here, in Kanawha the Grapes of Wrath was never censored anywhere or anytime.

    And you still haven’t told us your point about mentioning the Grapes of Wrath? I guess you didn’t realize the author was an anti-communist who thought Castro was a jerk?

  27. Love Cuba
    Junio 5th, 2011 at 01:05

    Find it Yourself. Type in Google “banned books usa”

  28. Komar, you misunderstood a previous post of mine. I asked for more information on the Americans who were sent to the gulag for reading Grapes of Wrath. A rhetorical question of course. Not only was Grapes of Wrath an instant best-seller despite being branded “communist” by friends and foes alike, but at the height of the cold war I found Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Fidel and Che available in every bookstore and library I went to, and I even read the first four. Strange that the CIA or FBI never bumped me off, or followed me around, or prevented me from getting a job. How weird is that?

    You still haven’t told us your point about mentioning the Grapes of Wrath? I guess you didn’t realize the author was an anti-communist who thought Castro was a jerk?

  29. Komar, Even if what you wrote was true, probably copied and pasted from some blog, removing a book from the shelves of .00001 of American libraries does not constitute a ban, any students of those schools could easily find the Grapes of Wrath and nobody was ever punished for selling, owning, or reading it.

    But is what you wrote true? Let’s take a look at your first example:

    THE GRAPES OF WRATH
    by John Steinbeck
    “Banned in Kanawha, Iowa, 1980”

    Here’s the details of the “ban” that year:
    the books were removed from the “required” reading list of 2 sophomore English classes in 1 school, although both teachers were allowed to “recommend” the book for reading, and copies were still kept in the school library. In other words, no censorship or banning involved, just the opposite.

    You still haven’t told us your point about mentioning the Grapes of Wrath? I guess you didn’t realize the author was an anti-communist and thought Castro was a jerk?

  30. Humberto Capiro (El Cibergues@)
    Junio 4th, 2011 at 23:04

    It wasn’t my attempt. Love Cuba asked mi for it: “Maybe you or Damir can provide us with more information on that episode in American history.” in post #57.

  31. Making a point of YOUR “GRAPES OF WRATH” DESPERATE ATTEMPT at INTELLECTUALISM!! Comrade Komar!

  32. Humberto Capiro (El Cibergues@)
    Junio 4th, 2011 at 22:05

    Why do you repeat Yourself? Is it desperation?

  33. Comrade Komar said: “What bad situation are You talking about. Nobody reads English version of this blog. I do not see any new readers posting here. Just You and me. You are the one with nothing to say. All You do is posting links to Youtube. I forgot, You also write about tonnes and hectares that has nothing to do with topic of this blog. Topic is the book, Yoani writes about. Oh, I forgot mention rankings, You posted under two names.”

    Comrade Komar! AGAIN!!!!!!!!“grasping at straws” also “clutching at straws ” 1. trying to find some way to succeed when nothing you choose is likely to work Jerry, grasping at straws, searched the backup tapes from last week, looking for the missing files. 2. trying to find reasons to feel hopeful about a bad situation

  34. Humberto Capiro (El Cibergues@)
    Junio 4th, 2011 at 21:14

    HI, MICKI. What bad situation are You talking about. Nobody reads English version of this blog. I do not see any new readers posting here. Just You and me. You are the one with nothing to say. All You do is posting links to Youtube. I forgot, You also write about tonnes and hectares that has nothing to do with topic of this blog. Topic is the book, Yoani writes about. Oh, I forgot mention rankings, You posted under two names.

  35. Love Cuba
    Junio 4th, 2011 at 13:09

    “You also said you were a dissident, does that make you a liar?”

    The lie is not a lie if You believe in it.

  36. Comrade Komar !! “grasping at straws” also “clutching at straws ” 1. trying to find some way to succeed when nothing you choose is likely to work Jerry, grasping at straws, searched the backup tapes from last week, looking for the missing files. 2. trying to find reasons to feel hopeful about a bad situation

  37. Love Cuba
    Junio 4th, 2011 at 13:22

    THE GRAPES OF WRATH
    by John Steinbeck

    Considered “dangerous” because of obscene language and the unfavorable depiction of a former minister.
    Banned in Kanawha, Iowa, 1980; Morris, Manitoba, 1982.
    Challenged by Vernon-Verona-Sherill, New York, School District, 1980;
    Richford, Vermonth, 1991.(?)

    OF MICE AND MEN
    by John Steinbeck

    Considered “dangerous” because of its profanity and “vulgar language.”
    Banned in Syracuse, Indiana, 1974;
    Oil City, Pennsylvania, 1977;
    Grand Blanc, Michigan, 1979;
    Continental, Ohio, 1980l
    Skyline High School, Scottsboro, Alabama, 1983.
    Challenged by Greenville, South Carolina, 1977;
    Vernon-Verona- Sherill, New York, School District, 1980;
    St. David, Arizona, 1981;
    Telly City, Indiana, 1982; Knoxville, Tennessee, School Board, 1984.

  38. IF YOU WANT TO HELP THE CUBAN PEOPLE JUST FOLLOW THEM ON TWITTER!! AND SPREAD THE WORD!LETS FOLLOW THE NEW TWITTER CLASS OF “YOA UNIVERSITY”!! (YOA is short for Yoani) @Ainimartinvaler @odafy @fofyto34 @instante_claudi @willysincensura @juanpgoberna

  39. The Truth about Cuba’s infant mortality rates.

    The link to this article is : http://www.cubaverdad.net/weblog/2009/10/the-truth-about-cubas-infant-mortality-rates/

    Also, the United States, unlike many other countries, including Cuba, uses state of the art equipment to try and save even the most premature of babies, who don’t have a very good chance of living. Many premature babies die on the same day that they are born in the United States and they are counted in the infant mortality rate. Cuba does not even try to save these types of babies, and, they report them as stillborn, which does not count in the infant mortality rate. Also, there are many forced abortion in Cuba when tests reveal a less than perfect fetus. I believe that Dr. Oscar Biscet objected to this policy and he paid the price for it.

  40. A post about Yoani from the Little Brother Blog:

    Yoani Sánchez

    Not long ago, a Cuban in her thirties outshone the stardom of almost all the enemies of the gerontocratic of the regime that governs her country. Yoani Sánchez shares the now historic podium with those who belong to the Castro family, their acolytes and gatekeepers, considered the most visible faces of evil.

    What has been the terrible work of this driven woman from Havana? Simple: to dare to have a blog. To dare to use Twitter as an unclosable door of freedom and expansion. And to spread the virus of cyber-expression to Cuban souls who will, in the future and to a greater or lesser extent, integrate themselves into this axis of evil (from the official point of view).

    It doesn’t surprise me that some of the Island’s traditional opponents, brave as borders, have a grudge against this girl of Generation Y: she has unwittingly become Public Enemy Number 1 of the tropical dictatorship.

  41. Comrade Komar says: “Some of his books were banned in American schools.”

    You mean one county school board in California took the Grapes of Wrath off its shelves for one whole year back in 1939. I hear the county school supervisors sent their secret police into every home in America and any American caught with the book was sent to cut sugar cane in Florida. I hear Henry Fonda spent years in the American Gulag. Maybe you or Damir can provide us with more information on that episode in American history.

  42. A DISSIDENT IS NOT A LIAR! QUITE THE OPPOSITE!

    A DISSIDENT, broadly defined, is a person who actively challenges an established doctrine, policy, or institution. When dissidents unite for a common cause they often effect a dissident movement.The noun was first used in the political sense in 1940, with the rise of such authoritarian systems as the Soviet Union.[1][2]The term dissident was used in the Eastern bloc, particularly in the Soviet Union, in the period following Joseph Stalin’s death until the fall of communism. It was attached to citizens who criticized the practices or the authority of the Communist Party. The people who used to write and distribute non-censored, non-conformist samizdat literature were criticized in the official newspapers. Soon, many of those who were dissatisfied with the Soviet Bloc began to self-identify as dissidents.[3] This radically changed the meaning of the term: instead of being used in reference to an individual who opposes society, it came to refer to an individual whose non-conformism was perceived to be to the good of a society.[4][5][6] An important element of dissident activity in Soviet Russia was informing society (both inside the Soviet Union and in foreign countries) about violation of laws and human rights: see Chronicle of Current Events (samizdat) and Moscow Helsinki Group.

  43. Cuba had one of the highest numbers of doctors per capita – more than in the United Kingdom. The mortality rate was the third lowest in the world. According to the World Health Organization, the island had the lowest infant mortality rate of Latin America and the 13th lowest in the world – better than in France, Belgium, West Germany, Israel, Japan, Austria, Italy, Spain, and Portugal. Cuba had the highest rates of education spending in Latin America. Cuba had the 4th highest literacy in the region at almost 80% according to the United Nations, higher than in Spain. Economy could not always keep up with demand. Cuba had already the highest telephone penetration in Latin America – but thousands were still waiting, which caused frustration.

  44. Comrade Komar:

    First you praise Steinbeck for presenting the truth, now you condemn him as a liar? Do you have an opinion on something, or is it just trash talking?

    You also said you were a dissident, does that make you a liar?

  45. Rick, it was a joke! The more the merrier to be the CUBAN WIKIMEAOS (WikiLeaks)!

  46. Love Cuba
    Junio 4th, 2011 at 03:25

    Here I have to agree with You. John Steinbeck was dissident. Some of his books were banned in American schools. He was dissident and liar. All dissidents are liars.

  47. @ #46

    Humberto, Sorry about the reposing of your data on the rankings it was a test attempt at nesting the figures in a table using HTML for ease of understanding when posting to the blog and an inadvertent keystroke sent it before I meant to, my apologies. RickV

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