Historical perspective: The Truth about the United States


5-27-05, 8:43am

A Cuban of universal stature had the opportunity to see first hand all the dangers implied by imperialism from the start: José Martí.

By 1880, US society was already capable of surprising a man like Martí, who by then had already spent time in Europe and several Latin American nations. The economic development and political system attained by that nation were different from everything else he had known. Nevertheless, Martí knew how to look beyond that and perceive some of the problems presented by US society, including the situation of immigrants, the duty of politicians to their country and the type of human being that was being formed. Thus, Cuba’s national hero demonstrated his concern for a country that while demonstrating a rapid material development, from the political point of view, could represent a threat for its neighboring nations to the south.

In March of 1894, Martí published in New York an article titled 'The truth about the United States' (Complete Works, Volume 28), which expresses his profound reflections on the northern nation and the contradictions within it: 'It is a mark of supine ignorance, of childish, punishable light-mindedness to speak of the United States, and of the real or apparent achievements of one of its regions or a group of them, as a total and equal nation of unanimous liberty and definitive achievements: such a United States is an illusion or a fraud. The hills of the Dakotas, and the barbarous, virile nation that is arising there, are worlds away from the leisured, privileged, class-bound, lustful and unjust cities of the East.'

Further on, in the same text, he writes, '(...) the bonds of union are loosening rather than tightening in the United States ... Rather than amalgamating within national politics, local politics divides and inflames it; instead of growing stronger and saving itself from the hatred and misery of the monarchies, democracy is corrupted and diminished, and hatred and misery are menacingly reborn.' A republic with those characteristics was not what Martí dreamed of for Cuba, or for the rest of the Americas, which is why he warns that 'an honorable man cannot help but observe that not only have the elements of diverse origin and tendency from which the United States was created failed – in three centuries of shared life and one century of political control – to merge, but their forced coexistence is exacerbating and accentuating their primary differences and transforming the unnatural federation into a harsh state of violent conquest.'

It was during the 1880s and 1890s that Martí’s political thought reached its highest development, and was consolidated in the struggle against Spanish colonialism and the expansionism of nascent US imperialism toward Latin America.

During those years, he had already learned from his trips through Europe and the young Latin American republics, where he engaged in praiseworthy intellectual labors and denounced the abuses of colonialism. He had the experience attained from preparing for a new war of independence for Cuba, in which he would fight not against the Spanish, but against the colonial government and system, without repeating the errors that caused the first war to fail.

In the United States, Martí dedicated himself to the arduous task of achieving unity among Cuban immigrants. On March 14, 1892, he founded the newspaper Patria, which he edited until he joined the Liberation Army. Regarding that publication’s objectives, he wrote, 'This newspaper is born, through the commitment and resources of Cuban and Puerto Rican independence advocates in New York, to contribute, without haste and without rest, to the organization of free men in Cuba and Puerto Rico (...).' This 'organization' that Martí refers to would turn out to be very important in terms of achieving the independence of the two islands and thus curbing the expansionist interests of the powerful Northern nation.

Shortly afterward, on April 10, 1892, he founded the Cuban Revolutionary Party, with the purpose of not only winning Cuba’s independence, but also fostering and aiding that of Puerto Rico. Other goals of this political organization, which proposed to 'establish (...) a new people, and one of genuine democracy,' was to ideologically prepare the armed struggle and achieve the internal organization of Cubans to win Cuba’s total independence. Only in that way could the island be kept from falling into the hands of the United States as a state or under the disguise of a protectorate or colony. Martí already knew the imperialist beast from within its entrails, and he knew that it had to be stopped or that it would end up swallowing all of Spanish America.

At that time, his idea of what kind of republic he wanted for his homeland was a mature one; it should be free of the stains of colonialism that offends and scorns, and of the vices of imperialism that denigrate and crush.

On May 19, 1895, José Martí was killed in his first battle for Cuban independence, struggling for the republic of which he had dreamed, one where 'the first law (...) should be reverence on the part of Cubans for man’s full dignity.' His anti-imperialist ideas remain an important instrument for understanding the problems currently threatening humanity. (Granma International)