TEDx Havana Speech 2015
Thursday, November 12, 2015 at 10:43AM
Tom Hayden in Cuba

Tom Hayden with his book "Listen Yankee! Why Cuba Matters" and the book that inspired it, "Listen Yankee!" by C. Wright Mills. (Photo: 2015, Emma Taylor)Speech broadcast this Saturday, Nov. 14, to the TEDxHavana conference on the Cuba-United States normalization process. Over two thousand are attending.

HOLA, HELLO A TODOS LOS COMPANEROS Y COMPANERAS EN HAVANA!

THANK YOU TO ANDRES LEVIN OF TED FOR INVITING ME AND ARRANGING THIS LONG DISTANCE ADDRESS.

QUE VIVA FIDEL AND PRESIDENT RAUL CASTRO. Y AS A NORTE AMERICANO I WANT TO THANK PRESIDENT OBAMA FOR HIS COURAGEOUS DECISION TO OPEN A NEW RELATIONSHIP ACROSS THE AMERICAS. QUE VIVA. THAT IS WHY FOR THIS OCCASION I HAVE THE FLAG OF TH 26TH JULY MOVEMENTNEXT TO AN EARLY AMERICAN FLAG FROM OUR REVOLUTIONARY TIMES LONG AGO.

SALUDOS TO THE CUBAN FIVE! HOLA RENE GONZALES Y OLGA SALANUEVA! I MET RENE AND OLGA WITH RICARDO ALARCON IMMEDIATELY AFTER HIS RELEASE...

AFTER ALL THE CRUELTIES THAT THE FIVE ENDURED, I COULD UNDERSTAND RENE'S PROFOUND SKEPTICISM TOWARDS OUR GOVERNMENT. I KNEW, HOWEVER, THA A RELEASE WAS BEINGPLANNED ALTHOUGH ANYTHING MIGHT HAVE GONE WRONG.

I WANT TO THANK SENATOR PATRICK LEAHY, HIS WIFE MARCELLE, JIM McGOVERN, BARBARA LEE, AND THE HEROIC WORK OF TIM RIESER THROUGHOUT THE PROCESS. TIM TOOK EVERY POSSIBLE STEP, INCLUDING WHAT THE MEDIA CALLED "SPERM DIPLOMACY". BELIEVE ME, THE BIRTH OF A BABY TO LOVING PARENTS IS FAR DEEPER THAT A DIPLOMATIC ACT. MY WARMEST HELLO TO ADRIANA PEREZ AND TO GERARDO HERNANDEZ (AND RAMON LABANINO, ANTONIO GUERRERO, FERNANDO GONZALES...)

BUT IT WAS THE CUBAN LEADERSHIP, AMONG THEM JOSEFINA VIDAL, WHO NEGOTIATED THIS HISTORIC DECISION. I AM FULLY AWARE OF THE DIFFICULT DEBATES THAT MUST HAVE TAKEN PLACE IN HAVANA, AND HOW THE CUBANS HAVE BEEN BETRAYED MANY TIMES BEFORE BY EMPTY GESTURES. 

TO PRESIDENT OBAMA, I CALL ON YOU TO SWIFTLY TERMINATE THE REMAINDER OF THE US EMBARGO BEYOND THEPOSITIVE STEPS TAKEN SO FAR. I GIVE YOU ONE SMALL EXAMPLE. THE US EMBARGO PREVENTS AN AUTHOR LIKE MYSELF, WITH MY COLLABORATOR RICARDO ALARCON, FROM SENDING OR SELLING BOOKS IN HAVANA. ANOTHER REASON TO LIFT THE BLOCKADE AND NOW!

PRESIDENT OBAMA IS FACING A DILEMMA WITH HIS POSITION ON HUMAN RIGHTS. EVERYONE KNOWS, INCLUDING ALANGROSS, THAT THE US AID AND THE CIA, HAVE BEEN PROMOTING AND FUNDING SO-CALLED DEMOCRACY PROGAMS IN MIAMI AND YOUR ISLAND, WHICH ARE THE COMPLETE OPPOSITE OF DEMOCRACY. I ASK YOU, PRESIDENT OBAMA, HOW CAN GREATER OPENNESS OR DEMOCRACY BE ACHIEVED BY SECRET COVERT PROGRAMS? HOW THE AMERICAN BRAND OF “ DEMOCRACY” CAN GAIN ANY LEGITIMACY OR CONTINENTAL RESPECT. THIS IS A CONTRADICTION THAT MUST BE RESOLVED. I HOPE THAT CREATIVE DIALOGUE BETWEEN CUBA AND THE MANY ELECTORAL DEMOCRACIES IN THE AMERICAS WILL LEAD TO A PRACTICALRESOLUTION.

ALTHOUGH THE CUBANS LED THEIR OWN STRUGGLE, I AM GRATEFUL TO THE THOUSANDS OF US CITIZENS IN THE VENCEREMOS BRIGADES, THE PASTORS FOR PEACE, THE DC CENTER ON DEMOCRACY AND LAURA CARLSON AND DAVID BROOKS IN MEXICO CITY- AND ESPECIALLY ANDY SPAHN IN LOS ANGELES WHO HAS NEVER CEASED TO PUSH FOR THIS NORMALIZATION EVEN WHEN IT SEEMED IMPOSSIBLE.

THAT'S WHAT WE'VE BEEN PART OF, PHENOMENAL WORLDWIDE SOLIDARITY MOVEMENT OF PEOPLE WHO SACRIFICED THEIR LIVES, FORTUNES AND SACRED DIGNITY TO START A CHAIN OF SOLIDARITY THAT MADE THE IMPOSSIBLE POSSIBLE, WHICH FINALLY RESULTED IN A PROFOUND CHANGE OFAMERICAN PUBLIC OPINION. 

I MUST PAUSE HERE IN MEMORY OF MY CLOSE FRIENDS SAUL LANDAU AND LEONARD WEINGLASS, WHO PASSED AWAY BEFORE THEY COULD OBSERVE THE JOYOUS RESULT OF ALL THEY LABORED TO ACHIEVE. THE LESSON IS THAT OFTEN WE CANNOT SEE THE HISTORY WE ARE CHANGING BEFORE OUR EYES. WE NEED TO HAVE FAITH THAT PREVIOUS GENERATIONS WILL DELIVER GREAT THINGS TO OUR CHILDREN'S HERITAGE. 

I MUST ALSO THANK POPE FRANCIS FOR HIS INSRUMENTAL ROLE IN PROMOTING DIALOUE AND COEXISENCE AS WELL AS MANY LIBERATION STRUGGLES IN THE HEMISPHERE. ISSUES BETWEEN MARXISM AND LIBERATION THEOLOGY WILL CONTINUE TO BE DISCUSSED IN AN ATMOSPHERE OF RESPECT. 

THERE ARE VERY REAL DANGERS AHEAD. THE EXTREME CUBAN RIGHT, LED BY RUBIO, CRUZ, MENENDEZ, ROS-LEHTINEN IN CONGRESS ARE DEVOTED TO DESTABILIZING VENEZUELA AND BLOCKING THE CUBAN-US AGREEMENT BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY. WE KNOW THAT THERE ARE OMINOUS PLOTS IN THE PENTAGON, THE CIA, THE REPUBLICAN PARTY, AND AMONG EXTREMISTS ON THE GROUND.

THEY DREAM OF OVERTHROWING THE CUBAN STATE. AND ALSO REMOVING OBAMA AND THE DEMOCRATS IN WHATEVER ORDER.

FORTUNATELY, PUBLIC OPINION AMONG CUBAN-AMERICANS IS SUPPORTIVE OF NORMALIZATION AND TRADE, LIKE THE OPINION OF ALL AMERICANS.

WHEN I SPOKE TO A CUBAN FIVE MEETING EARLIER THIS YEAR, I PREDICTED THAT THE COMING NORMALIZATION WOULD REQUIRE A THREE YEAR PROCESS AND STRATEGY. I STILL BELIEVE THAT.

IN THE WORDS OF THE WISE ALFREDO GUEVARA, WE ARE ENTERING A PRE-POST CASTRO ERA. WE ARE ENTERING A PRE-POST OBAMA ERA. POPE FRANCIS IS 79 YEARS OLD. DRAMATIC TRANSITIONS ARE ON THE HORIZON IN THE NEXT THREE YEARS.

WE MUST UNITE, UNITE, UNITE TO PREVENT THE SUBVERSION OF AMERICAN POLITICAL DEMOCRACY BY THE RIGHT-WING IN 2016 AND 2018.

THERE IS ANOTHER DANGER UNFOLDING, THE EFFORT BY MULTI-NATIONAL CORPORATIONS TO TRANSFORM CUBA INTO A SAVAGE MARKET CAPITALISM. I AM CONFIDENT THAT CUBA CAN DEAL WITH A FLOOD OF TOURISTS - THEY ALREADY RECEIVE ONE MILLION CANADIANS A YEAR. BUT WHAT ABOUT STARBUCKS ON THE ISLAND?

THERE IS NOTHING IN KARL MARX ABOUT STATE OWNERSHIP OF COFFEE SHOPS. BUT IF CONSUMER CAPITALISM COMES TO CUBA, THE ROLE OF MCDONALDS OR WALMART WILL BE A POINT FOR NEGOTIATION. I HOPE THAT ALL WORKERS JOIN THE FIGHT FOR A LIVING WAGE, AND THAT COFFEE SHOPS IN THE US WILL FEATURE CAFE CUBANO. THE SAME ISSUES ARISE ABOUT CUBAN BASEBALL PLAYERS. THEY HAVE WORKERS RIGHTS TO PLAY IN THE MLB, AND CUBAN FANS WANT TO WATCH THEM PLAYAND IF MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL WANTS TO BUY CUBAN PLAYERS AND BRING THEM TO THE US WITHOUT TREATING THEM LIKE UNDOCUMENTED WORKERS WITH MANY ABUSES AND DANGERS.IF TOMMY LASORDA COULD PITCH IN CUBA BEFORE THE REVOLUTION, WHY CAN’T CUBAN STARS COMPETE IN THE MLB WITH PROPER CONTRACTS AND A PORTION OF REVENUES SENT BACK TO IMPROVE SPORTS FACILITIES IN CUBA. I AM GLAD TO SEE THAT BASEBALL ORGANIZATIONS FROM BOTH OUR COUNTRIES ARE SITTING DOWN TO SORT OUT THE ISSUES IN AN ATMOSPHERE OF RESPECT. CONGRATULATIONS IN PARTICULAR TO THE ANGELOS FAMILY IN BALTIMORE. 

WHEN I FIRST VISITED CUBA IN 1968, I CARRIED A 1960 EDITION OF CUBA SI! BY MY MENTOR C. WRIGHT MILLS, WHO DIED OF HEART STRESS FROM HIS LENGTHY INTERVIEWS WITH CUBAN REVOLUTIONARIES AND THE UNCONSCIENABLE HARRASSMENT BY CONSERVATIVE US MEMBERS OF WHAT MILLS DESCRIBED AS OUR POWER ELITE. MY 1960 EDITION IS SIGNED "CON SOLIDARIDAD" BY RICARDO ALACON, LIKE MYSELF A LIFELONG STUDENT OF MILLS. 

PARTICIPATORY DEMOCRACY WILL EVOLVE IN CUBA ALONG WITH ELECTORAL DEMOCRACY, GRADUALLY AND WITHOUT SUBVERSION OR VIOLENCE. 

IN THE WORDS OF JOSE CARLOS MARIATEGUI THE PERUVIAN THEORIST WHO DEEPLY INFLUENCED THE YOUNG RICARDO ALARCON, REVOLUTION REQUIRES A "HEROIC CREATION". IT IS HEROIC BECAUSE OF THE SACRIFICE AND STRUGGLE AND ITS CREATION MUST BE ORIGINAL, NOT A COPY OF OTHER REVOLUTIONS.

I SAY WITH DEEP RESPECT AND CONFIDENCE THAT THE CUBAN PEOPLE AND GOVERNMENT WILL ACHIEVE A TRANSITION TO FREER ELECTIONS LIKE THOSE TODAY IN CENTRAL AND LATIN AMERICA, AND THAT IT WILL BE BASED ON A DEEPER PARTICIPATORY DEMOCRACY WITH POPULAR ASSEMBLIES, WORKERS’ COUNCILS AND COOPERATIVES. THE STATE WILL BE DEMOCRATIZED FURTHER AND DEMOCRACY WILL BE MORE THAN CASTING BALLOTS FOR A SMALL NUMBER OF PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES. I HOPE THAT EVERYONE HERE WILL RE-READ WHAT MILLS HAD TO SAY INLISTEN YANKEE IN 1960 AND MY BOOK WITH THE SAME NAME [2015]…

WE LIVE TODAY IN MARTI’S "OUR AMERICA" WITH IMMIGRANT RIGHTS AND SOCIAL JUSTICE MOVEMENTS CROSSING OUR BOUNDARIES. 

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