That First Central Committee

Fidel Castro durante la constitución del Comité Central del Partido Comunista de Cuba, el 3 de octubre de 1965
Fidel Castro during the formation of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba, on October 3, 1965.

Fifty years ago the first Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) made its appearance. It was composed of one hundred people, among whom there were 57 commanders of the Revolution, nine captains, one lieutenant and 33 civilians. Of that constellation only eight remain alive and in office, not including Fidel Castro. The average age of these “survivors” who made it to today is approximately 83 years.

The last time there was a formal election to the Central Committee was in 1997 during the Fifth Congress of the PCC. On that occasion, 14 members from the initial list remained, but that was 18 years ago and, after the deaths of Vilma Espín, Juan Almeida, and more recently of Jorge Risquet, plus the retirements due to dismissal or illness of Roger Acevedo, Osmany Cienfuegos and Pedro Miret, the so-called “historic generation of the Revolution” has been considerably narrowed in its number.

We can consider the case of Commander Guillermo Garcia, still active, although he is not a member of the current Central Committee, he was in that inventory of tried and tested revolutionaries unveiled on 3 October 1965, the same day that, to justify the work of these creators of anniversaries, the Party was baptized with the epithet of “Communist,” Ernesto Guevara’s farewell letter was read, and the newspaper  Granma was founded.

Aside from Raul Castro, those remaining active include Ramiro Valdés (83 years), Jose Ramón Machado Ventura (85), Abelardo Colomé Ibarra (76) and the youngest of all, Leopoldo Cinta Frías, who on 17 July of this year turned a mere 72. Added to that are Armando Hart (85), who is in a wheelchair, General Ramon Pardo Guerra, head of the Civil Defense, and Julio Camacho Aguilera, who only appears in the commemorations of minor importance. The birthdates of the latter two do not appear in any accessible register.

The implacable laws of biology lead us to calculate that the decline will be much more dramatic when the eighth Party Congress takes place in 2021

The implacable laws of biology lead us to calculate that the decline will be much more dramatic when the eighth Party Congress takes place in 2021 (if it is held at all). By then, there will probably be no one who feels guilty for the executions or the confiscations, which is the price to be paid today for displaying the crest of having belonged to the historic generation who earned its pedigree on that October night at the Chaplin (now the Karl Marx) theater, which served as the stage to present the brand new Central Committee.

In this one hundred names are two suicides (Osvaldo Dorticós and Haydee Santamaria), one executed (Arnaldo Ochoa), and one sentenced to 20 years in prison (Jose Abrantes). But most died in combat or in a hospital bed; or have gone into retirement, either through the infirmities of age or dismissals. At least none have defected (as far as we know), if that serves as a point of honor to those who did the casting.

It was a troop obedient to the will of the Maximum Leader. Those who fell docilely accepted their punishments, and those who ascended humbly assumed their promotions. They silenced their differences and tried to applaud like members of the best claque. They knew when to raise their hands in approval and how to step over those  compañeros who deviated from the path and, in this trance, they became skilled in the dark drafting of informers’ reports

They are already past or passing. We will have to learn to forgive without forgetting. The future, as the irreverent rocker Gorki Aguila says, belongs entirely to the future.

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