Blas Roca

Blas Roca. Art: Marcelo Guimarães Lima
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By LUCILO BATTLE REYES*

Entry from the “Dictionary of Marxism in America”

Life and political praxis

Francisco Wilfredo Calderío López (1908-1987), known as Blas Roca Calderío, was born into a family of poor workers with a tradition in the struggle for Cuban independence, being the eldest of nine children. He took his mother's surname due to the norms of the time. In elementary school, he barely reached the fourth grade; as a child, he had to work at a wide variety of jobs to help support his household. He suffered strong oppression from the bourgeois-landlord society and dependent on his time, as he was poor and mestizo – which contributed to forge his spirit of rebellion against injustice and oppression.

With the help of his teacher Ernesto Ramis, when he was still very young, Wilfredo Calderío took a teaching course, qualifying himself to teach in kindergarten; although he liked the profession – which he practiced for two years (1924-1926) – he was forced to leave it, as he did not submit to political maneuvers. Thus, following the family tradition, he became a shoemaker, and it was from there that he would forever be linked to the struggles of the working class, joining the trade union movement and making contact with Marxist literature.

In 1929, he joined the pioneering Communist Party of Cuba (PCC), starting to head the Shoemakers' Union in his city; the following year, he took over as secretary general of the Federación Brera de Manzanillo (FOM) and, at the same time, local secretary of the party. At this time, he suffered his first political arrest, in Prince's Castle, in Havana, for three months. In 1931, he was elected a member of the CPC Central Committee, and in 1932, he was arrested for the second time. Upon leaving prison the following year, he prepared the general strike in Manzanillo – contributing to the mobilization that ended the dictatorship of Gerardo Machado.

In 1933, he participated in the Fifth Plenum of the CPC Central Committee; in this event, he used the pseudonym Julio Martínez, but soon, at the request of Rubén Martínez Villena, he adopted the pseudonym Blas Roca – which, in 1939, when the elections for the Constituent Assembly were called, he made official as his real name. Upon returning to Manzanillo, he founded Mabay's soviet, Cuba's first. Shortly afterwards, the party transferred him to Havana, incorporating him as a member of the Political Executive (Biro) of the Central Committee. At the end of 1933, he was provisionally appointed general secretary, a position ratified in 1934 (at the Second Party Congress), where he remained until 1961, when the Popular Socialist Party (the name the PCC had adopted in 1944) decided to dissolve itself to form, together with the July 26 Movement and the March 13 Revolutionary Directory, a unique organization of Cuban revolutionaries: the Integrated Revolutionary Organizations (under the leadership of Fidel Castro).

In August 1934, Blas Roca made his first trip to the Soviet Union to participate in the preparatory meeting for the VII Congress of the Communist International; a year later, he headed the PCC delegation in Moscow, being elected a member of its Executive Committee for Latin America. As such, he gave valuable collaboration to the Latin American workers' and communist parties: the case of his visit to Brazil, during which he was able to meet Luiz Carlos Prestes in prison, talk to him and help break the isolation in which he had been kept; and also, the attention he gave to the Mexican Communist Party, when it was going through a leadership crisis. In 1940, he chaired the delegation of Communist Revolutionary Union Party (PURC), in the Constituent Assembly. From then until Fulgência Batista's coup d'état in 1952, he was a member of the Chamber of Deputies.

Blas Roca forged his solid culture in a self-taught way; read everything. In his childhood, he came into contact with various works, from Cuban history to universal literature – such as Les Miserables, Don Quixote, among others available in the family library. This fed his thinking with democratic ideals and social justice, whose core was the thinking of José Martí. Later, when he began to participate in proletarian struggles, he came into contact with Marxist literature. he read then The ABC's of Communism of Bukharin, The State and the Revolution of Lenin and A Criticism of Political Economy of Marx, who were followed by the Communist Party Manifesto and The capital, among other classic works of Marxism (as they arrived in Cuba). It was, finally, a synthesis of the revolutionary organic Cuban intellectual of the XNUMXth century, who articulated Martí's “Cubanity”, ethics, Latin Americanism and anti-imperialism, with the universality of Marxism-Leninism.

The arrival of Blas Roca at the top leadership of the first party of Cuban communists marks a qualitatively superior stage in the process of Marxist-Leninist maturation of this association – as a vanguard political instrument of the Cuban revolution. The Marxist's organizational experience – born of his grassroots militancy, permanent theoretical studies and his work to unify the party –, together with his effort and dedication, convinced him of the need to rethink the party's strategy and tactics: as a science of the leadership of the class struggle of the workers, in the specific conditions of the colonial and dependent countries. Thus, a radical tactical-strategic change in party action would begin – centered on the struggle for legality, alliance with progressive sectors without losing class principles, revolutionary propaganda and the search for hegemony.

After the revolutionary victory in January 1959, at the first plenary session of the PSP (February 1959), Roca guided the work of his party towards “defending the Revolution and making it advance”. Later, he chaired the commission responsible for drawing up the draft Constitution of the Republic – approved by popular referendum in 1976.

He was a member of the Central Committee of the new PCC from its foundation (1965) until he died (1987), being buried with the honors of a general killed in war. “An exceptional man, of singular virtues and extraordinary talent, has ceased to exist” – affirmed Fidel Castro at the time – “an exemplary revolutionary who dedicated his entire life to the cause of the humble”.

Cocontributions to marxism

Blas Roca was one of the first communist leaders of colonial and neo-colonial countries to replace, in a broader perspective, the Leninist approach to the struggle for national liberation, and to subject to rigorous criticism what he considered as “sectarianism” or “leftist childishness” from earlier times. previous years – when the communists marched “alone against everything and everyone”. He fought against positions that he understood as sectarian, affirming them as clumsy, exclusionary, divisive; an evil that should be expelled from the ranks of the party, as it opposed the fruitful and fundamental process of unity: the basis of victory.

He understood the socialist revolution in the spirit of the founders of Marxism, as a concrete, necessary, objective historical process – subject to the law that starts from the internal contradictions of the capitalist regime (which lead to its own destruction, opening flanks to the establishment of socialism), and that it develops uninterruptedly, in correspondence with the historical tasks posed by social development, and in close interrelationship with the subjective factor, the culture and the disposition of the class struggle of the popular masses.

Thus, he rejected the mechanistic conception of the revolution as an “inevitable fact” (an idea that permeated the revolutionary movement at the time); considered that neither national liberation nor socialism would come spontaneously or mechanically, as a natural and easy result of the development of economic and social needs, but that it would be necessary for the masses, culturally organized, to understand the need for transformations and to be ready to carry them out. them. He understands, therefore, the revolution as a “cultural fact”, in the Martian and Marxist sense; class struggle is the driving force of society, the engine that drives the transformation process that leads to social progress and the true liberation of man: socialism.

Blas Roca knew his national reality well, and with it the validity of the ideal of national emancipation, initiated by the liberators of 1868 and 1895, which claimed a new stage of struggles – for definitive independence. He acted according to this ideal, in an original way, with a view to understanding the objectives and tasks of the revolutionary movement that correspond to the system of concrete historical contradictions – as taught by Marxism –, according to the needs and specificities of each nation. He argued that Cuba was a country that had never been free; which, after ceasing to be a colony of Spain, was subjected to the webs of neocolonial domination by Yankee imperialism.

He perceived the USA as the new colonizers, whose defeat was the main strategic objective of the revolution. He approached the issue of national liberation on the basis of the distinction made by Lenin – in discussing the Theses Colonials, at the II Congress of the Communist International (CI) – on the national character of the struggle of the oppressed countries against the oppressor country. He rejected the theses of “pure revolution” and “class against class”, which came out of the VI Congress of the Communist International, and which had so much harmed the Cuban revolutionary process of the 1930s. He solved the national problem from the perspective of class struggle and fundamental role of the working class in it.

It showed that, in the conditions of colonial and dependent countries, there was the fundamental contradiction of capitalism – between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat –, reinforced by the contradiction between peasants and landlords, but that above them there was still a broader and more clear contradiction, of a national character. : that between the oppressed nation and the oppressor country, which “opposes the country as a whole” to foreign imperialists. He pointed to this contradiction as being what gave the Cuban revolutionary process its own character: as a previous step towards the social revolution.

Thus, Blas Roca established an action plan to reach the broadest united front, with the participation of all parties and organizations that were willing to fight for a national defense program, anti-imperialist and democratic, bringing together the classes oppressed by imperialism. In this unifying process, he attaches central importance to the unity of the working class; he understands that the national cause is not a cause alien to the proletariat, but its supreme duty. From the particular way in which each class was affected by economic dependence on imperialism, the author elaborated a theoretical model of the socio-class structure of Cuban society and its political behavior in the face of national liberation and socialism.

This problem, so far little addressed by the international communist movement, was a significant methodological contribution by Blas Roca to Latin American thought and to colonial countries in general. He showed which classes are interested in completing national liberation, and singled out the working class as acting most decisively in this regard: as the most revolutionary class in the national liberation movement towards socialism.

He conceived of national liberation and socialism as a single process – in the Leninist spirit of uninterrupted revolution. For him, these stages are closely interrelated: in each stage, the tasks of the previous stage are posed and resolved; one stage becomes another in the uninterrupted development of the revolution. He understands that, under Cuban conditions, the struggle for national liberation had to be anti-imperialist and, being anti-imperialist, had to be a struggle for socialism, as a guarantee of national sovereignty , economic and political independence.

Thus, he rejected the interpretations of the ideologues of the dominant oligarchies in Latin America, who defended the investments of foreign monopoly capital as a development factor; showed that this accentuates the country's dependence on foreign capital. Some economists consider him the first Latin American thinker to use the category of dependent capitalism (according to which dependency is seen beyond the imperialist phenomenon) – a conception that later on would be used by other theorists to explain the economic situation of neocolonial countries and dependents. For Blas Roca, dependency is an implicit phenomenon in the Leninist theory of imperialism; by analyzing it, he places it at the center of production relations, at the very basis of the process of capitalism and the development of imperialism. Furthermore, the Cuban Marxist fought “geographical fatalism”, which he considered to be a neocolonialist doctrine.

Blas Roca was an outstanding classist educator of the working masses. In his sermon, he considered that, in order to liberate themselves definitively – together with the other exploited classes of society –, workers needed to fight in the political terrain, through their own party (establishing their power), and, still, to know the revolutionary theory of Marxism (in which the conditions of its liberation are expressed). And for those who do not participate in politics “because they don't like it”, he taught that such abstention makes them even more slaves, as it facilitates the triumph of their enemies. As for those who make politics in a party of the rich, he showed that, in doing so, they allow themselves to be dragged into a caudillo position, contrary to the interests of their class, thus perpetuating their misery. He fought reformism and economism within the working class, considering them an expression of bourgeois ideology.

Furthermore, he rejected the myth of the supposed “ideological incompatibility of Marxism” with Cuban cultural traditions; he set out to demonstrate the universal character of Marxism and the legitimacy of the working-class party in our particular conditions. He understands that the Marxist or communist movement had arisen in Cuba as a result of the capitalist regime, so that it could not be considered any more or less exotic or foreign than the capitalist social system lived in the country; and also, that the working-class party had been created as a result of capitalist oppression, a fact that awakens the worker's class consciousness, forcing him to organize to defend himself.

Blas Roca also showed the connection of the Communist Party with the tradition mambisa (independence guerrillas) – because its roots are in the seed sown by those fighters who in the XNUMXth century collaborated with José Martí in the founding of the Cuban Revolutionary Party. historical stage; called for a battle against the falsifications of history, in order to rescue for the masses the revolutionary values ​​contained in the national tradition (linking them with their current struggle).

Along the way, he considered the dissemination of José Martí's ideology and example to be essential. From his first works, he proclaimed Martí to be a “flag of the revolution”, declaring that the Cuban working class and its party were its legitimate heirs and continuators. In his polemics, he energetically rejected those who sought to oppose Martian and Marxist ideas; he warned that this was a position of counter-revolutionaries. He explained that Martí, in the XNUMXth century, would not have been able to pose the problems that Cuba faced at the time – with the particular development of capitalist forms under the semi-colonial regime –, but that these problems should be solved by current communists: rooting them based on the ideas of Martí and following the principles of Marxism-Leninism.

For him – as for Mariátegui, Julio Mella or Martínez Villena – Marxism could be neither a copy nor a copy, but a creation born of the very reality of our peoples, because Marxist thought is not a prescription, but a method of study, a guide – and the party program is an effort to creatively apply it to the practice of revolution. This is what Marx and Lenin advocated: not to reproduce clichés or formulas, but to study real life, in order to find specific ways in which, in each situation and in each country, one can march towards the great common goal of socialism.

Blas Roca's work aims to feed the mass consciousness with the fruitful anti-imperialist feeling of Martian roots; underpins the character of US imperialism as the historic enemy of our Latin American peoples. But he recognizes, like Martí, that “understanding with the United States is not impossible”; he explains that the people of Cuba are not opposed to the US, despite their desire to free themselves; Cubans are opposed to the control and monopoly exercised by foreign capitalists over their economy.

Blas Roca strongly defended internationalism; for him “homeland is humanity”. He expressed a clear awareness of the need for solidarity with all liberating, democratic and progressive struggles – of all peoples – as being a duty, and even as part of the Cuban liberation struggle itself. He maintained that those who refuse internationalism, mutual aid among all peoples, thus serve imperialism – which seeks to divide in order to dominate and oppress.

Under his leadership, his party never failed to support Lenin's nation in solidarity; it gave political, moral and material help, including sending fighters to the International Brigades in support of the Spanish Republic. In this spirit, he shared Martí's thesis on the international role of Cuban independence: as a “Latin American achievement”; as a means of preventing US domination of our America and as a struggle for all of Latin America.

Theorist, organizer and propagandist, Blas Roca built one of the largest and most solid communist parties in Latin America, with no room for divisive tendencies. However, being leader, teacher and disciple, he never considered himself to be the party itself. His manner of leading was firm but calm – without raising his voice. He was aware that the strength and greatness of the party depended on the combined efforts of all comrades, the leadership and the rank and file – and on their connection with the masses.

His conception of party discipline was based on respect for the Leninist principles of collective leadership and democratic centralism – far from authoritarianism and voluntarism (which then affected many parties in the international communist movement). He was opposed to practicalism in the activity of communist combatants: he strongly defended the need for study, for the appropriation of theories, a condition for the constant improvement of party work (because in this way it is possible to better understand the essence of the capitalist regime). His party was a school of political culture. In this regard, he endeavored to ensure that his cadres and militants had access to and studied classic works of Marxism, as well as works of national and universal culture, such as Cuban history, the arts, the sciences.

The publishing houses that the party built were responsible for making these works available to the people in general. By these and other means, he managed to forge a prestigious intellectuality, at the same time that he established ties of collaboration with various writers, artists, scientists and other creators (revolutionaries and progressives) who did not militate in his ranks. Roca was always attentive to the need to forge the greatest possible unity between manual workers and intellectuals – in order to feed popular political struggles with broad contributions from culture.

The defense of national identity, of national culture, was the compass with which he led his party to such a cultural effort. It impelled resistance to the imperialist, denationalizing and stultifying cultural invasion, which does everything to deform and crush what is national and progressive in each culture – always trying to impose its ways and concepts, its cultivation of banality and pessimism, in order to defend its neocolonial domination.

His contribution to unity between Marxists and believers in the struggle for national and social emancipation is still significant. He disseminated the Marxist conception of religion, myth and dogma, as beliefs resulting from ignorance, which, in antagonistic societies, have social roots – being promoted by the misery, oppression and precariousness of the teaching of the masses. He understood that it was not God who created the human, but the human who created God; and that the way to overcome religion would not be through a struggle against it per se, but through the class struggle against oppression and exploitation (causes of the religious reflex). Therefore – like Lenin – he advocated attracting the people, despite religious prejudices, to the active and militant struggle against poverty and oppression. He made it clear that Marxists are totally against all anti-religious violence and persecution. He maintained that in revolution there is room both for those who invoke god, as well as those who do not believe in its existence.

He was an energetic fighter against all the prejudices that divide and humiliate human beings, which also divide the forces of the revolution. He accused degrading racist discrimination, which segregates men by their skin color, and promoted the feeling of national solidarity; he considered that the origin of his people was one and the same – since, since their birth as a nation, Cubans constituted a mestizo country, in which whites and blacks, together, contributed to national construction. He taught that it is the exploiting classes and imperialism that cultivate racial prejudice – to divide workers.

In the face of the revolutionary victory (1959), Blas Roca demonstrated his capacity for Marxist analysis. Stripped of dogmatic formulas, he defended the triumphant Cuban Revolution, pointing out that, although it did not conform to any previously recognized classical scheme, it confirmed the cardinal theses of Marxism-Leninism. He led his co-religionists to the conviction that, given the characteristics of the Revolution, a new revolutionary vanguard was being forged, whose unifying center was Fidel Castro – the new leader of the working class – and that, therefore, the necessary unity would not be achieved with the adhesion this new leader to the party, but that it was essential for the party to accept Fidel Castro's leadership.

With this astute political vision, the Cuban communists, in June 1961, dissolved their party and placed their flags in the hands of Fidel Castro – an unprecedented event in the history of the communist movement. In an interview that addresses this historic process, Blas Roca stated: “When it fell to me to hand over the leadership of the Party to Fidel Castro, he was already the undisputed leader of the Revolution… I was a simple bearer of what history had already given him”. Since then, Blas Roca has defended Fidel Castro's leadership against all those who tried to impede it; at her side, he worked with lucidity, dedication and a creative spirit.

Blas Roca's previous theoretical preparation, as well as his revolutionary, political and ethical integrity, made him capable of being both object and subject (protagonist) of Cuban social transformation – a lesson in Marxist revolutionary creativity that retains its value for socialist forces in America Latin and worldwide. This is the fundamental reason why he is considered a full member of the historic leadership of the Cuban Revolution.

Comment on the work

Blas Roca left a prolific body of work, in which reflections on the fundamental problems of the Cuban Revolution stand out.

Among his writings – many of which are preserved by the Archive of the Institute of History of Cuba (AIHC), in Havana –, the following stand out: “Informe al VI Pleno del CC del PCC” (AIHC, out. 1935), in which he offers an analysis of the strategic-tactical reorientation of the party, which put an end to the “infantilism of the left” of the first years; “The classes facing the catastrophe” (Fundamentals Magazine, Nov. 1939), in which he analyzes the socio-class structure of Cuban society and its position before the liberating revolution and socialism; “For the equality of all Cubans” (AIHC, 1939/ pamphlet), which exposes the class roots of racial and, in general, social discrimination, typical of bourgeois society, dealing with ways to overcome it and the role of the Marxist party in this emancipatory process; “¿Qué es Unión Revolucionaria Comunista?” (AIHC, 1940/ pamphlet).

A work of political education on the importance of the political struggle of the working masses and the need for them to have their own party (which distinguishes the union struggle from the political struggle), and which also addresses the emancipatory objectives of the Communist Party as an authentic party of the people (unlike bourgeois parties); “The XNUMXth anniversary of our party: a letter and an article” (El Comunista magazine, 1940), text on the process of Marxist maturation of the party, its overcoming of sectarianism and dogmatism; “Revolutionary education” (Social Editions, Havana, 1940), in which he bases the need for general theoretical and cultural preparation of revolutionaries and exposes the Marxist thesis that without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement; “Charla” (AIHC, Feb. 1942/ pamphlet), lecture in which he explains how the exploiting classes use the means of propaganda to confuse and deceive the masses, analyzing the dialectical path of the liberating and socialist revolution in the conditions of our peoples according to the Leninist conception of uninterrupted revolution.

“Conference in homage to Carlos Marx” (AIHC, May. 1942/ pamphlet), in which he defends the fundamental theses of Marxism and its need as a revolutionary theory for popular emancipation; “José Martí, radical revolucionario de su tiempo” (1948), central article of his work popularizing the life and work of Martí, published in the collection Seven Marxist Approaches to José Martí (Havana: Editora Política, 1978), in which he reveals the significance of the apostle of Cuban independence as the “flag of the revolution”; “Report for the discussion of the Thesis of the PSP on the current situation: Primer Pleno del PSP after the 1959 January triumph” (Rev. Fundamentals, Feb. 1959), a report of political and theoretical value that reveals peculiarities of the triumphant revolution and presents the thesis that it is necessary to “defend the revolution and make it advance”.

Among his main books, the following stand out: The foundations of socialism in Cuba (Havana: Editorial Pages, 1943). In this classic of his, the Marxist analyzes the emancipatory theory and practice present in the history of Cuban political ideas, rooted in the autochthonous tradition, but with a universal projection; There, he offers profound contributions to the common treasure of Marxism, based on its creative application to the peculiar conditions of neocolonial Cuba. The work was not written for academic purposes, but conceived as a combat weapon, in a didactic and educational way, with the aim of clarifying consciences and uniting wills, in accordance with the demands of the emancipation movement in that complicated national and international situation. .

It was considered by Che Guevara as “the great little book by Blas Roca, destined to give the masses the knowledge of the historical need that can lead them to a happy conclusion”, satisfying “the yearnings that fluctuate in the majority of the population”: “To me was a great help in understanding and systematizing the entire Cuban process”.

In his extensive written work, Blas Roca also left a large amount of literature aimed at children and young people: short stories and comics, among other genres, published in newspapers and magazines – all with a sensitive educational purpose. Among them are: Readings (Havana: Ministerio de Educación, 1972), and Chatting with Laura (Havana: Edit. Gente Nueva, 1983).

Of his work, we also mention: “We take care of the unit” (AIHC, 1938/ pamphlet); “El reformism in the trade union movement” (AIHC, 1945/ leaflet); “Our triumph is safe, our victory is inevitable” (Fundamentals Magazine, sep. 1950); “Our path” (Today, Jul. 1959); “Today more than ever 'defend and advance the revolution': intervention in the Full Committee of the National Committee of the PSP” (Rev. Fundamentals, Apr. 1960); “The truth about the calumnias of the enemies of the Cuban revolution” (Rev. Fundamentals, Nov. 1960); “Fidel's great speech must be studied and assimilated by all” (Socialist Cuba Magazine, Apr. 1962); “It is absurd to believe in a sovereign and governor of the universe” (Today, Apr. 1962); “Patriotism and internationalism are integrated into the proletarian ideology” (Today, May. 1962); “The Revolutionary Government and the Party promote, organize and guide the development of culture” (Today, sep. 1963); “El camino del pueblo” (Rev. Socialist Cuba, Jan. 1964); “Conversando con Blas Roca”, interview with Alina Martínez Triay (The Communist Militant, Aug. 1985).

To sign his texts, the Marxist used several pseudonyms, such as: Marcos Díaz, Francisco, Tío Francisco.

With his work and example, Blas Roca is rooted in the historical and cultural memory of the Cuban people, as one of the thinkers who most contributed to the spread of progressive social, political and cultural ideas of his time – and to human betterment. He is one of the essential men in the foundational struggles of the Cuban people.

*Lucilo Battle Reyes, historian and philosopher, he is a professor at the Universidad de Ciencias Pedagógicas Enrique Varona (Havana). Author, among other books, of Blas Roca, continuer of the work of Baliño and Mella (Editorial of Social Sciences).

Translation: Yuri Martins-Fontes and Felipe Deveza.

Originally published on the Praxis Nucleus-USP.

References


BATTLE REYES, Lucilo. Blas Roca: virtud y ejemplo – the image of an exceptional man. Havana: Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, 2008.

CASTRO Ruz, Fidel. “Words on the farewell to the duel of Blas Roca”. Granma, Havana, 27 Apr. 1987.

CASTRO Ruz, Raúl. “Words on the homage act of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias (FAR) to compañero Blas Roca on his seventieth birthday”. Rev. olive green, n. 32, 13 Aug. 1978.

GUEVARA, Ernesto Che. “Words on the delivery of prizes for the emulation of studio circles of the Ministry of Industries”. In: Writings and speeches – Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, Havana, 1977, t. 6.

RODRÍGUEZ, CR “Blas Roca, simple and great at the time” [interview]. La Habana Tribune, July 25 1993.

SERA, Aida; REYES, Beloved. “Blas Roca y las luchas obreras en Manzanillo (1925–1933)”. left, University of Santiago de Chile, n. 28, Jul. 2016. Disp.: https://dialnet.unirioja.es.


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