Socialist Action’s dear friend and collaborator Celia Hart died along with her brother Abel, 48, when her Volkswagon Bug struck a tree on Sunday, September 7 in Havana. Celia, 46, is survived by her two sons José Julián and Ernesto, who were 16 and 11.
During a brief outing we took with Celia following our May 2008 four-day Toronto conference on “Socialism in the 21st Century,” Celia reluctantly accepted from Socialist Action a gift of a skateboard for her son Ernesto. Ernesto, an avid skateboarder, was named after Ernesto Ché Guevara, who Celia insisted, to get the political juices flowing and focus her audience on the essentials of revolutionary strategy, followed in the footsteps of Leon Trotsky.
We do not know if this tragic accident was associated with the murderous hurricanes, whose 200-mile per hour winds have wrought massive devastation on the houses of at least 200,000 Cubans. Celia and Abel’s death was reported in the Cuban newspaper, Granma, The story was briefly reported by Associated Press. Funeral services were scheduled the day following the accident.
Celia and Abel were the children of Cuban Revolutionary heroes Armando Hart and Haydée Santamaria. Armando, now 88, was a leader of the Cuban underground prior to the 1959 revolution that brought Fidel Castro’s July 26th Movement to power. He served as Cuba’s first Minister of Education and later as Minister of Culture. It was Armando who first introduced his then physicist daughter Celia to the ideas of Leon Trotsky upon learning of her disillusionment with the “really existing socialism” that she experienced while earning her BA/MA degree in physics in what was then the German Democratic Republic. Celia received her Ph.D in physics in Cuba.
The books by Isaac Deutscher on Trotsky’s life and Trotsky’s classic exposition of the counterrevolution that unfolded in the Stalinist-dominated USSR, The Revolution Betrayed, opened a new vista of revolutionary socialist politics to Celia, who has since devoted herself to Trotskyist politics and related organizational issues.
Haydeé Santamaria participated with Fidel in the July 26,1953 attack on the Moncada Barracks that signaled the beginning of the Cuban Revolution and the end of imperialist domination. Haydée was a guerrilla fighter in the war that defeated the U.S.-backed Batista regime.
On the morning of Celia’s death she sent us a Spanish-language article in defense of the Cuban Five drafted by Celia and her associates in several Latin American countries. She asked that we publish it in the October issue of our newspaper.
Socialist Action and Labor Standard had long labored to prepare for publication a book of Celia’s writings, some 32 articles/essays in total. Translated and edited by George Saunders, with the help of Gerry Foley and others, the publication was only awaiting an introduction that George and I were preparing. After a too long delay, we had finally reached the point where it was a top priority on our agendas. Unfortunately, it was too late for Celia’s enthusiastic eyes and warm loving heart. We are pledged to complete this project soon and include in it a number of Celia’s most recent essays.
With Celia’s agreement we decided on an interim project, that is, to publish in pamphlet form a collection of five of her articles and interviews. These are included in the Socialist Action/Labor Standard pamphlet, Celia Hart Speaks: The Cuban Revolution and a World in Revolt, published shortly before our international conference in Toronto in May, 2008.
Celia was profoundly impacted by her conversations and exchanges with SA/USA and SA/Canada comrades during our Toronto conference and with her discussions with our comrades in the Mexican United Socialist League (LUS). Our Canadian comrades Barry Weisleder and Elizabeth Byce had made plans to visit Celia over the holiday season to continue our discussions.
In an email of September 4 Celia told us that she had explained to her associates and collaborators in Latin America that, “… Socialist Action was the group in the US that had the most in common with me.” In was in that email that we discussed new plans to meet in Cuba.
Our first contact with Celia was via email several years ago when we agreed to publish the aforementioned book of her writings. Before that we were stunned and overjoyed to read her scathing attack on Stalinism and her defense of Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution in her essay, “Socialist in One Country” and the Cuban Revolution. We published this immediately as a Socialist Action pamphlet with an introduction that I proudly drafted.
In early 2007 Celia and I met for several days in Mexico City, where we discussed two additional projects that SA would undertake, a visit with her friend Antonio Guerrera, one of the imprisoned Cuban Five, and our agreement that Celia would present two major talks at our Toronto conference.
Having reached the final stages of completing our too long delayed book of Celia’s writings, we have initiated the first steps necessary to visit Antonio. Our New York comrades have been engaged in work building the national demonstration planned for Washington, D.C. in defense of the Cuban Five. Socialist Action was the first groups to initiate a number of years ago a broadly-sponsored conference in San Francisco featuring Cuban Five attorney Leonard Weinglass.
We will follow through on another agreement with Celia to publish a third pamphlet devoted to her writings in defense of The Five.
Celia’s last email a few days before her death indicated that she was in collaboration with revolutionaries in Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Panama. It appeared that she was interested in having SA be a part of this collaboration or “regroupment” as she described it. We had hoped to discuss this further in the months ahead.
Celia was a staunch defender of the Cuban Revolution and an unswerving supporter of its historic leader Fidel Castro. But she was at the same time deeply concerned that the unending pressures of U.S. imperialism could result in the emergence of currents within the Cuban leadership that favored the restoration of capitalism in the manner of China. Her reference to this concern is clearly stated in her last communication.
Celia was proud to tell us that her defense of Trotskyist ideas had not gone unnoticed by the Fidel Castro she loved, admired and knew since her childhood. A letter from Fidel to Celia not long ago conveyed his appreciation of Celia’s writings and concluded with the assertion that Celia was not to be discouraged from expressing her views. “No one will hurt a single hair on your beautiful head,” said Fidel, a delighted Celia told us.
Celia took pride in being part of a Havana Book Fair event in February 2008 where a Spanish-language translation of Trotsky’s Permanent Revolution was prominently displayed with many copies sold. Celia was a featured speaker durinhg that time in a public presentation on the importance of this book. (See the last item in our pamphlet, Celia Hart Speaks, p. 63.)
Celia’s tragic death comes at a time when her authentic advocacy of Trotsky’s fundamental ideas is gaining a broader audience across Latin America. Her life was cut short by a fateful accident that will deny us her revolutionary insights into critical world events. Celia’s efforts to rehabilitate revolutionary Marxist continuity by being among the leading advocates of Trotsky’s contributions will stand the test of time.
Socialist Action will redouble our efforts to circulate her views widely and to continue the work she so vigorously and joyously began. We did not always agree with Celia, but we shared a common Marxist framework with which to pursue important issues in future discussions when the test of life itself makes it easier to evaluate the validity of each other’s assessments.
We believed that the publication of our book of Celia’s writings would be the first of several. This will sadly not come to pass. Regardless, Celia’s loving words and profound appreciation of the absolute necessity for the revolutionary transformation of society to rid the world of rapacious capitalism and imperialism will never be forgotten.
We follow in your footsteps dearest Celia, friend, comrade and ferocious fighter for the liberation of humanity.
We will send our profound appreciation for your life and work to your family and friends.
-Jeff Mackler, National Secretary, Socialist Action