José Martí had forged a movement that responded to the two issues of colonial domination and social inequality: a movement that was anti-imperialist, seeking to establish a truly independent nation; and that sought social equality, in which all would be included as full citizens of the nation, regardless of race or class. Julio Antonio Mella (see “Julio A. Mella and the student movement” 7/7/2014) was formed in the moral and intellectual environment established by the powerful teachings of Martí (“José Martí” 6/26/2014). But Mella had experienced the “rotten fruit” of representative democracy, and he therefore lived in a different historic moment. He had seen what Martí could not possibly have imagined: the participation of the Cuban national bourgeoisie in the imperialist project of the United States, reducing itself to a figurehead bourgeoisie; the participation of ample sectors of the middle class in the corruption of the republic; and the loss of direction, the “moral blindness” and the “inertia of the soul” that defined the society of the republic (see “A neocolonial republic is born” 7/1/2014). From Mella’s vantage point, Martí’s formulation of a society made by all and for the good of all seemed impractical. Mella discerned the need for a struggle by workers, peasants, and the poor that would take power from the political class that had surrendered its dignity to the interests of US corporations and that had forgotten the needs of the humble. Thus, Mella gave a Marxist reading to Martí. By deepening its awareness of the dynamics of class differences and contradictions, he pushed the legacy of Martí to a more advanced stage. But he also preserved essential dimensions of Martí, such as anti-imperialism in defense of national independence as well as the ethical messages of Martí, like the need for personal sacrifice in defense of ideals. Mella therefore also contributed to the evolution of Marxism-Leninism, in which its political theory and practice would be integrally tied to the struggles of neocolonized peoples for full independence. This synthesis and fusing of Marxism-Leninism and Martí, initiated by Mella, would be brought to fruition in the 1950s and 1960s by Fidel Castro and the “generation of the centenarians,” so-called because they inaugurated a new stage of armed struggle during the year of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Martí (Vitier 2006:124-36; Instituto de Cuba 1998:223).
Mella was the most advanced leader of what has come to be called the “Generation of 1930.” He represents an important step in the evolution of a Cuban ethic tied to political practice, which has had four important moments: Carlos Manuel de Céspedes and the first independence struggle of 1868 (see “The Cuban war of independence of 1868” 6/17/2014); José Martí and the second war of independence in 1895, which turned to anti-imperialism and an inclusive concept of democracy; Mella and the Generation of 1930, which, influenced by the Russian Revolution, took the first steps in the fusing of Marxism-Leninism and the revolutionary ethic and analysis Martí; and Fidel Castro and the “generation of the centenarians,” which brought the revolution to a new stage of armed struggle, the triumph of which made possible a deepening of the theoretical-practical synthesis of Marxism-Leninism and the teachings of Martí that had been initiated by Mella.
The evolution in Cuban political practice and theory was a part of the evolution of the political theory and practice of Marxism-Leninism on a global scale, which has had five important historic movements: Marx and the Western European workers’ movement of the 1840s; Lenin and the Russian Revolution of 1917-24; the adaptation of Marxism-Leninism to China by Mao; the synthesis of Marxism-Leninism and the Third World anti-colonial perspective, represented by Ho, Fidel, and others in the period 1946 to 1979; and the post-1995 renewal of socialism in the Third World, represented by the Bolivarian Revolution in Latin America (see “The social and historical context of Marx” 1/15/14; “Reflections on the Russian Revolution” 1/29/2014; “Ho reformulates Lenin” 5/7/2014; “Ho synthesizes socialism and nationalism” 5/8/2014; “Ho’s practical theoretical synthesis” 5/9/2014; “A change of epoch?” 3/18/2014; “Is Marx today fulfilled?” 3/20/2014; “The alternative world-system from below” 4/15/2014).
Assassinated at the age of 26, Julio Antonio Mella is remembered and appreciated in Cuban popular consciousness today for his important contributions in the development of the Cuban Revolution and as a symbol of the revolutionary tradition of Cuban students. At the entrance to the University of Havana, one can find Mella Plaza and monument, where each academic year begins with a ceremony presided by the elected officers of FEU, the student organization that he created.
Instituto de Historia de Cuba. 1998. La neocolonia. La Habana: Editora Política.
Vitier, Cintio. 2006. Ese Sol del Mundo Moral. La Habana: Editorial Félix Varela.
Key words: Third World, revolution, colonialism, neocolonialism, imperialism, democracy, national liberation, sovereignty, self-determination, socialism, Marxism, Leninism, Cuba, Latin America, world-system, world-economy, development, underdevelopment, colonial, neocolonial, blog Third World perspective, Cuban Revolution, neocolonial republic, Julio Antonio Mella