Panel examines role Chinese generals played in revolution

Dylan Boyle

A panel discussion Thursday evening in the Memorial Union Gallery shed light on the roles of three Cuban revolutionary generals of Chinese descent and their works in Cuba after the revolution in the field of agriculture.

Featured speaker Mary-Alice Waters, president of Pathfinder Press, spoke on her role in editing interviews with Armando Choy, Gustavo Chui and Moises Sio Wong for the book “Our History is Still Being Written” and the benefits of social reforms after the Cuban revolution.

Panelists Juan Luis Vivero, auditor for Latinoamericanos and graduate student in chemistry; Mack Shelley, professor of political science and statistics; Keith King, graduate student in agronomy and public relations officer for Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences; and Aaron Bleich, sophomore in history and co-chairman for ISU Socialists; gave their reactions to the book and each discussed different parts to provide context for the audience of about 75.

“The book is not about Cuba, and it’s not about the past,” Waters said. “It’s probably, more than anything else, an introduction to the Cuban Revolution and what that revolution is about – how it was made, who made it, who made it possible and what it means when working people take state power and use it to transform their social relations and to advance them and transform them in the process.”

Choy, Chui, and Wong coupled a massive literary campaign in Cuba with land reform that transformed a whole generation of young people in Cuba, Waters said.

“They tried to see what was possible when human beings worked together to accomplish and transform the society in which they lived and not be restricted by private property and capital,” Waters said.

The land reform programs in Cuba at the end of the 1950s set a limit on how much land people could acquire – but once they acquired it, they could not lose the land to a bank if the farm failed.

Waters described the often-unknown relations between China and Cuba in the years before and after the revolution and how a significant number of Chinese immigrants have left a lasting impact on Cuba’s economy and society.

She said discrimination against Chinese immigrants, which occurred during Fulgencio Batista’s rule, was halted after the revolution.

“This has been accomplished nowhere else in the Americas,” Waters said. “It was a revolution that ended discrimination based on the color of a person’s skin because … it ended the separation between the rich and the poor.”

Bleich and Waters both said the three individuals’ youth made a difference.

“They were our age,” Bleich said.

Waters said the youths weren’t out to change the course of history – they just wanted to change the way people in their country were being treated and never expected to one day become generals or leaders of their country.

Waters summed up the revolutionaries’ attitude with a quote from the book, “those who are not capable of fighting for the freedom of others will never be able to fight for their own.”