The Revolutionary Legacy Debts

Some intellectuals of the first generation of the revolution, among whom were Heberto Padilla and Guillermo Cabrera Infante, were the first to be haunted by this inherent loss that was inscribed within Guevarian thought, at the ideological basis of the Cuban Revolution. It is thus clear that the disappointment with the revolution was present throughout the revolutionary period. Yet, it’s also true that, while many intellectuals lost their faith in utopian politics as a result of this, many others never lost their belief in emancipatory politics. This is actually the case with Padilla, whose collection of poems Fuera del juego (Outside the Game) still had a utopian ethos, despite their also manifesting a disappointment with the revolution. Fuera del juego’s “El discurso del metodo” (“The Discourse on the Method”), for instance, advises people to escape the island to avoid the errors caused by revolutionary reason. The poem also contests the main premise of the Cartesian cogito, which argues the epistemological dominance of reason over the senses. According to the poem, the arbitrary nature of revolutionary reason demonstrates that the Cartesian premise is false. No argument can prove that reason has primacy over the senses, nor are there arguments that can prove that revolutionary reason is arbitrary. The falseness can only be proven by the intuition of the senses: “Si despues que termina el bombardeo . . . / eres capaz de imaginar que no estas viendo / lo que se va a plantar irreme- diablemente delante de tus ojos . . . / yo te aconsejo que corras enseguida”9 (Padilla 1971, 11). The poem thus favors a metaphysical destabilization of reason to prove that reason should not be the only foundation of rationality and that senses should also be taken into account when establishing a revolutionary logic. The Padilla scandal notwithstanding, Fuera del juego belongs to a generation whose cultural production still reflected the general belief in the revolutionary project as a utopian possibility. The same was also true of the poetics of the eighties, of which Reina Marfa Rodriguez's work is one of the best examples.10

“Deudas” (“Doubts”), one of the representative poems of this period, retakes the idea of the debt articulated in Roberto Fernandez Retamar's conversationalist poem “El otro” (“The Other”), as I will explain below. As we will see, in “El otro” a political and historical debt to the first revolutionary heroes remains to be settled through the sacrifice of the newer generations. “Deudas,” in contrast, speaks from a gendered perspective and cares not about what is owed but about what women are lacking. The poem is concerned not with political debt as much as with individual and feminine lack: “hoy quisiera escribir lo que me falta . . . / bajar a mis profundidades sola y des- nuda”11 (1982, 46). If feminine subjectivity is no longer attained through heroism, what defines it? Certainly not heroic virtues but only nondescript characteristics and possessions: “soy sencillamente fea / con pecas, suenos y dolores”12 (ibid.). Contrary to revolutionary decorum, the pictures of the heroes that the revolution has traditionally commodified, such as Marrf and Ernest Hemingway, are considered in this poem to be trivial possessions. This gesture desacralizes the two heroes. It is only at the end of the poem that feminine subjectivity asserts itself by claiming its existence through the notions of debt and life: “y muchas deudas / infinitas deudas con la vida”13 (1982, 47). In other words, if revolutionary and masculine subjectivity can only be attained through the hero's sacrifice (death or destruction), women are claiming a nonheroic subjectivity articulated through the natural evolutionary phases of life (progress or construction). As we can see in this example, in the poetics of the eighties, the revolution, as in the case of Padilla, is still the only historical referent. The cultural and gender practices of revolutionary rhetoric need to be transformed, so subjective feminine practices will turn them upside down, the way Marx turned Hegelian dialectics on its head.

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