The Havana Biennial

Marcelo Guimarães Lima, Dark Fruit, acrylic on paper, 21.5x28cm, 2020


The boycott of the current Havana Biennale is part of a general context of attacks on the Cuban state and the Cuban people, attacks led by the US state aided by associated countries

Let's put it in the simplest and most direct way possible: the proposal that articulately circulates in the boycott networks of the current Havana Biennale is inserted, and could not fail to be inserted, in a general context of attacks on the Cuban state and the Cuban people, controlled attacks by the US state aided by associated and subordinated countries in which the neoliberal-totalitarian ideology and practice of our historical present prevails. A present that wants and asserts itself as anti-historical par excellence, that is, regressive, imposing, unquestionable.

And this notwithstanding the “well-intentioned” critics, and they exist (with or without quotes) but who, unfortunately for them and for their best intentions, in certain situations cannot be distinguished from the expressly malicious ones.

Following the same “democratic universalist” logic, it would probably be necessary to boycott the European biennials and the equivalent exhibitions in the USA insofar as political-cultural reasons are invoked or the “implicit collaborationism” of artists who refuse to explicitly, punctually, denounce the evils and even the political crimes of their respective states. Crimes such as, for example, invasions, wars, genocide, trade embargoes, appropriation of resources, implicit or explicit censorship, criminalization of states and unilateral imposition of various sanctions against states and entire peoples, etc.

Promoting democracy elsewhere and at the same time, as we are witnessing today, undermining what remains of democratic life in the “paradigm” countries of liberal democracy, the USA, France, England, among others, is perhaps not the best strategy for convincing those who apparently need convincing. Julian Assange would certainly have something to say to us about freedom of information and actions against the laws of political leaders in democracies if we could consult him.

Recent and not so recent examples of arbitrariness that make international law mere chatter devoid of real sense abound: the inflexible and interminable “universal” embargo, that is, imposed universally and unilaterally by one country, the USA, against Cuba, is a example, among others, several other examples of illegalities and arbitrariness exercised in the name of liberal democracy and its “values”. Arbitrariness that cannot disguise, for those who want to see reality as it is, the “unequivocal” logic or reason of power as power, that is, of violence which, in order to be exercised, can at the same time invoke noble ideals and, in the end, dispense with its own justifications in the actual exercise of power.

Cuba with its revolution demonstrated that real independence, national self-determination needed a change of sociopolitical regime to become effective in Latin America. Dangerous lesson, still current or even more current than ever in our neoliberal era. The vicissitudes of the Cuban revolution, the direct confrontation with imperial power and its internal and external allies, decisively expressed the power of the popular will. Cuba has shown that no state or regime, however “strong” or imposing, can resist a generalized embargo, such as the sanctions imposed on the small Caribbean country for so many decades, if it does not have decisive popular support.

Similarly, understanding the contradictions of the Cuban revolutionary process, and they exist as they exist for any and all historical processes that aim at another future for the peoples, contradictions in which internal factors and powerful external constraints of the world situation are mixed, is a crucial task for progressive struggles in our time.

But above all, the future of Cuba and its revolution is an autonomous task and decision of the Cuban people, a people who sacrificed themselves to build a more egalitarian society and will certainly not abandon, despite all the difficulties, pressures and blackmail, the dream and the struggle. For, after all, pure and simple capitulation, the abandonment of the revolutionary struggle is, behind liberal rhetoric, the usual demand of the usual adversaries.

The Cuban people do not ask for or need advice to manage their affairs. Just as Cuban artists are the ones who must decide on the country's artistic and cultural initiatives for the benefit of Cuban society, they certainly do not need outside advice or orders.

*Marcelo Guimaraes Lima is an artist, researcher, writer and teacher.


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