Ready for the opening...
More than half a million people visited the Havana International Book Fair which has just closed. The long queues that formed in order to buy books were an impressive sight. But the Fair is not only a place for the buying and selling of books, but also an open space for debate and discussion of left wing ideas.
This was the first time that the Spanish Frederick Engels Foundation participated in the Fair. We came breaking the “cultural embargo” decreed by the Madrid Publishers Association. Our mere presence here, therefore, was an act of solidarity with the Cuban revolution and its resistance in the face of an imperialist blockade.
A big poster of Lenin, next to one of Trotsky, decorated the centre of our stand. On one side we had posters of the international Hands Off Venezuela Campaign, including the one announcing Chavez’s meeting with the workers in Madrid. On the other side, we had posters against the imperialist war on Iraq. It was clearly an internationalist, revolutionary and Marxist stand.
To us, one of the most surprising aspects was the enormous interest in Trotsky’s ideas, together with Lenin one of the leaders of the Russian Revolution, which have been so slandered over the years. Many told us “we have heard of Trotsky many times, mostly negative appraisals, but we had never had the chance to read him”. Out of more than 800 books and pamphlets sold, the best sellers have been those by Trotsky (we sold out of copies of The Permanent Revolution), and those about Trotsky and his struggle against Stalinism (we also sold out of Lenin and Trotsky what they really stood for by Ted Grant and Alan Woods). Another one of our best sellers was the recently published The Cuban Revolution, past, present and future, by the Spanish Marxist current El Militante.
...and in full action
The interest in Trotsky’s ideas came from young and veteran comrades alike, Cuban in the main, but also from El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, etc. But the ones who were most interested (apart from the Cubans) were the Venezuelan comrades, who are living through a revolutionary process and are anxious for Marxist theory. Most of them knew of Trotsky (from Hugo Chavez quoting him) and all of them enthusiastically agreed with the latest speech by Chavez in which he talked of the need to go beyond capitalism and towards socialism. The Venezuelan ambassador to Cuba, Adán Chávez, also came to our stall, bought a few books and congratulated us on our work.
The book launch of Reason in Revolt and the Hands off Venezuela Campaign was also a success, not only because of the amount of people who came (about 35) or the number of books sold at the end (21), but above all because it must have been one of the first occasions in which the ideas of Trotsky were publicly expressed on the Island for a long time. We are now in the process of discussing the launching of a Cuban edition of the book. We are very honoured to have had Celia Hart introducing the book launch, since she is the Communist who has recently reopened the debate about Trotsky in Cuba with her articles. To this we must add the presence of a veteran communist militant who participated in the revolutionary war against the Batista dictatorship, worked with Che Guevara in the Ministry of Industry and who believes Trotsky’s thought is the best way to defend the Cuban revolution today.
The warm welcome given to the Frederick Engels Foundation, and above
all to the ideas of Trotsky in Havana, encourage us to continue with
our task of defending the ideas of revolutionary Marxism and to be
present again at next year’s Havana International Book Fair.