Some memorable events of 1868

Por: Hno. Jesús Bayo M. FMS

There are events that mark our lives and are memorable milestones in history. Seen in the perspective of time and space, these facts take on transcendent significance, even if space-time coordinates are limited for humans subjected to an existence as short as it is fleeting.
Those of us who were already right fifty years ago will remember characters and facts that guided the future of humanity: space travel and the arrival of man on the moon, the death of Luther King, the youth revolution, the military invasion of Czechoslovakia, the ecclesial renewal of the Second Vatican Council, the tragedy of Tlatelolco in Mexico, etc. Next, I will evoke some of these events that still resonate in my memory.

Youth Revolution in Europe: French May 1968
The social movement known as French May 1968 reflects the changes that were taking place in Western European countries, particularly in France, but also in the United States, Canada and other Countries of America. In the 1960s there was a time of accelerated cultural, social and economic changes in Europe: exodus from the countryside to cities, strong industrialization, increasing living standards, mass insertion of women into the student and labour world, widespread access to shows and social media (massification of film and television).
Between the 1950s and 1970s the nations of Western Europe acquired a new face, even if the changes reached each place at different rates. Rural and urban populations are reduced, agriculture is mechanized and work activity in factories and offices increases, young university students reach prominence with social class ranks as important as workers. Juvenile subcultures such as beatniks and hippies appeared; there was a strong social sensibility of fighting for justice; it’s the time of the song-protest, it was fashionable the music of the Beatles, the Rolling Stone, Bob Dylan, etc. Youth criticized capitalism, admired various revolutionary political leaders, joined left-wing political parties, supported anti-colonialist movements in Africa, Asia, and America.
On the philosophical and literary plane emerged new currents of thought: Jean Paul Sartre with his existentialism, the Freudian Marxist Wilhelm Reich proposed the sexual revolution, Herbert Marcuse criticized Soviet Marxism, Louis Althusser opened his Marxist-Leninist thought towards Maoism, Georges Lefévre and Roger Garaudy were critical communists of Marx and Lenin; Mounier and Maritain proposed Christian personalism.
In the Western world, young women (students and workers) during the 1960s were embedded in the social and political life of the time, broke traditional domestic molds, acquired economic autonomy, and co-education became widespread.
In addition, the emigration from the countryside to the city and the massive presence of women in the university and labor world changed the patriarchal conception of women, who had been seen as dependent on the father or husband, from a legal and social perspective.
Other details that reflected cultural change in the female world were: the evolution in the way of dressing through fashion of new outfits (miniskirts and trousers), alone or as a group frequented bars and nightclubs, smoked and drank like men, had greater leadership in political and work life, delayed the age of marriage and motherhood , the use of the birth control pill and birth control, etc.

This was the socio-cultural context of French May 1968 in which working and university youth claimed greater rights and criticized colo-nialism, authoritarianism, machismo, capitalist society that allowed them to study, consume and work, but did not satisfy all their ideals of justice for the world.
Youth, in particular, young univer-sitarios became aware of their influence on society. From the 1960s on, the age band of youth, which lasted to thirty-five, increased the years devoted to the study and delayed the beginning of its insertion into the world of work. Young people born after World War II became aware of their importance in society for the advent of a new historical period. The youth revolution in Paris in May 1968 was a sign of this emerging new reality. In other cities in Europe, America and the world, young people replicated these same concerns of social and cultural change.

Crisis in Eastern Europe: Prague Spring
If the concerns of young people in the nations of the West were reflected in Paris, new airs of renewal will emerge in Prague for the countries of the East of Europe. The doctrine of Leonid Brezhnev (1906-1982), president of the Soviet Union during the long period from 1964 to 1982, limited the sovereignty of the East countries that tried to approach the West; their yearnings for change were subjected to ideological, economic and military pressures.
Czechoslovak leader Alexander Dubcek (1921-1992) attempted to open in his country when he was elected secretary general of the Communist Party in Czechoslovakia in 1968. However, the Kremlim was relentless and, in Brezhnev’s dictate, this nation was invaded militarily by soldiers from Warsaw Pact countries. In this way, Soviet doctrines and troops prevented the evolution of the socialist bloc countries to other, more democratic positions and prevented someone from moving the so-called “iron curtain” (East Countries).
As of the spring of 1967, Prague university students had spoken out against power outages under the slogan “More Light”. This slogan could be interpreted in several ways, as they concerned not only power outages, but the opening of new cultural and political windows. Students also called for freedom of thought and expression to be allowed and political opponents not to be persecuted or criminalized.
The students had been repressed, but continued to demonstrate during 1968, after Alexander Dubcek was elected general secretary of the Communist Party in January of that year. Its programme envisaged implementing its own status for Slovakia, allowing new political parties and abolishing media censorship.
This new policy of openness had been brewing for years in Czechoslovakia, so the new political leader of 1968 proposed something different, albeit without breaking or contradicting Moscow’s military and political dominance. It was risky to establish freedom of the press for all, the legal admission of other political parties and the right to strike of workers, as envisaged by the programme of the new Czechoslovak political leader.

The news announced by Dubcek was poorly seen by the Moscow government, which soon organized a military invasion. The occupying soldiers had to guarantee and defend Soviet communism, its proletariat class positions, the existence of a single party and union: workers without the right to strike, without freedom of expression or association.
This intervention and deployment of armed forces left 137 civilians dead and half a thousand wounded. The military invasion, called by Moscow Operation Danube, was swift and impressive. More than 250,000 soldiers, 2,300 tanks and 700 aircraft from the armies of the USSR, Bulgaria, Hungary and Poland invaded Czechoslovakia on the night of 20-21 August 1968. Prague was completely militarized.
The contingent was then increased to 750,000 soldiers and 6,000 tanks. This ended the attempt at social, political and economic reforms. Soviet troops remained stable, while soldiers from other countries withdrew at the end of 1968. (Russian soldiers would also be withdrawn in 1991).)
This began the Moscow-called period of “normalization” that would mark Kremlin policy in the “Soviet orbit” until the end of the 1980s, when the opening began and the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. After the military invasion in 1968, many czechoslovakia civilians migrated to other lands seeing that it was impossible to make social changes in their country.
In my view, the most important thing about the Prague Spring was to show the world that communism in Eastern Europe (at least in Czechoslovakia) was imposed by force and did not rest on popular will. This would be confirmed in the early 1990s, with the dissgregación of the USSR and the dissolution of the Soviet bloc.
Leader Dubcek, who thought of a different kind of socialis-mo from the Soviet, was deposed and relegated to a secluded place to work as a ranger. Twenty years passed forgotten, until he appeared as a hero in St. Wenceslas Square when the so-called “velvet revolution” triumphed in 1989. He had three years to live, but he still had the same ideals, although his disciples would be in charge of implementing them.
After 1991, Czechoslovakia was divided into two autonomous democratic states: the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Currently, both are members of NATO and the EU.

Luther King: combating racial discrimination
Martin Luther King (Atlanta, 1929–Memphis, 1968) was a pastor of the Baptist Church in the United States and a bold civil rights advocate, especially through the fight against discrimination faced by blacks.
He began the anti-discrimination movement in 1955. In Mahatma Gandhi’s example, Luther King opted for peaceful action and mobilized many people to fight for the just cause he championed. He was also inspired by Henry David Thoreau’s theories about legal criticism and civil disobedience. They were the same principles that inspired Nelson Mandela in his fight against apartheid in South Africa.

In 1960 he promoted a demonstration of black stu-diantes in Birminghan, Alabama, for which he was imprisoned, but with his claim he achieved equality for blacks in access to libraries, canteens, buses and parking lots.
In 1963, more than 250,000 people gathered on the march over Washington. At the foot of Lincoln’s memorial, Luther King delivered the famous speech that began with the expression: I have a dream. In this allocution he advocated equality among all human beings and for world peace.
His anti-racial segregation movement had international support when Luther King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. He also had the support of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and the Congress on Racial Equality. However, his peaceful movement was attacked by anti-integration and pro-violence groups, such as: Black Power, Black Panthers, Black Muslims.
In 1965 he led a major demonstration with thousands of people defending civil rights peacefully. On that occasion they traveled from Selma to Montgomery (about a hundred kilometers) to speak out against racial discrimination and for peace for all.
On April 4, 1968, he was killed in Memphis by James Earl Ray, a common white criminal. His death left an ideal of combating violence and racial discrimination, two essential aspects of human dignity. He never favored contempt, but he spoke out against unjust laws opposed to human dignity and moral law.
Luther King chose to implement the principles of peace and non-violence and applied them creatively in his fight against racial discrimination. He got President Johnson, Kennedy’s successor after the assassination, to enact the Civil Rights Act in 1964 that recognized equality for all citizens. Luther King’s democratic and peaceful model is recognized and valued to this day, not only in the United States but around the world. The impact of his death because of peace and equality endures in our memory. I still remember the page of the paper announcing his death, and I admire his example. Blessed are those who fight for peace!

Evangelization and development:
Second Conference of the Latin American Episcopate in Medellin
The background to the Second General Conference of the Latin American Episcopate in Medellin is at the Second Vatican Council. Paul VI, after closing the Council in 1965, met with the directive of the Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM), chaired by Msgr. Manuel Larraín (Bishop of Talca, Chile), and proposed to bishops to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the creation of that ecclesial body that had been founded in Rio de Janeiro in 1955.
He urged those present to be sensitive to Latin America’s problems and to consider how to implement the Council in the countries of America and the Caribbean according to their social reality. The initiative seemed good to the bishops and soon began the preparation of the second general assembly. During 1966 and 1967, congresses were held on different ecclesial issues in different countries.

The second CELAM Conference was held in Medellin (Colombia) under the theme: “The Church’s presence in the current transformation of Latin America in the light of Vatican II”. Previously, two preparatory texts were sent to bishops to facilitate the study of the different topics. As a backdrop were also the documents of the Second Vatican Council and paul VI’s encyclical on the development of peoples, Populorum progressio, published in 1967.
Paul VI traveled to Colombia to inaugurate the assembly on August 24, 1968, which would be closed on September 6. The event was attended by 247 attendees between bishops and other delegates of the episcopal conferences, twenty-two delegates of the Pope and other delegates of the Latin American Conference of Religious (CLAR), as well as experts and other non-voting guests. During the first three days, seven bishops presented their presentations on relevant matters of the Church and the world.


The lines marked in these presentations would serve to illuminate the work of sixteen committees, which produced so many other concluding documents, which were grouped into three different sections:
(a) Human Promotion: Justice, Peace, Family and Demographics, Education and Youth;
b) Evangelization and growth of faith: Popular Pastoral, Pastoral of Elites, Catechesis and Liturgy;
c) The visible Church and its structures: Movement of Laity, Priests, Religious, The Formation of the Clergy, Poverty of the Church, Pastoral Of The Whole and Social Media.
We could say that Medellin was an expression of “the age of majority” for the local churches of Latin America, both of their theological reflection and of their pastoral practice. It wasn’t just about bringing the Church up to date on the continent in the light of Vatican II. It was a moment of particular grace and an opportunity to outline the concrete face that the Church should show “on the continent of hope”, committed to the social changes that occurred everywhere. The Model Church proposed by the Council would be assumed in the constitutions Lumen Gentium and Gaudium et Spes.
However, some topics such as ecumenism, emerging cultures in urbanism, secularization and atheism were not addressed, and will be discussed at the subsequent conferences in Puebla (1979), Santo Domingo (1992) and Aparecida (2007). Medellin also recognized that human development is part of evangelization and that the history of salvation is no stranger to one’s liberating history and commitment to the poor and marginalized.
The Medellin Conference marked the beginning of other ecclesial initiatives in Latin America, where the Catholic Church had a tradition, but felt new calls for reflection and commitment to those most in need. Medellin allowed the Council to be rethrated within the Latin American context, in a synodal, inculturated and prophetic way, with social relevance. This preferential option for the poor will be resumed in the Puebla document and at all other CELAM General Conferences.
The struggle for justice and commitment to the poor will produce numerous martyrs on the continent, prophets who will give their lives for the gospel. Monsignor Oscar Arnulfo Romero, one of the most notable, was canonized with Pope Paul VI on October 14. Other witnesses of charity and justice will also one day be recognized, despite the shadows of sin and death that obscure the Church.
Without medellin’s documents, without assessing the theological and pastoral processes they aroused, it would be impossible to understand the guiding lines of subsequent conferences. Nor could we understand well without all this backdrop the Pontifical Magisterium of Pope Francis. Many of the symbols and language used by the current Bishop of Rome refer us to “a poor Church for the poor”, “a Church on the way out to the peripheries of the world”. His language and testimony have some echo of the calls of Medellin, Puebla, Santo Domingo and Aparecida, valid references for our Church.
The Social Doctrine of the Church and the Pontifical Magisterium after the Council have united evangelization with human promotion. Human development and economic progress are no strangers to the Church’s essential concern for evangelization. The Church is a sign of salvation in the world for all men, but she is interested in integral liberation and all that humanization promotes. Life, family, work, health, education, peace, the media, freedom, justice, truth, love, economics, culture, ecology and any other area referred to the human person and the society in which he lives are ecclesial concerns.

Evangelization and development:
Second Conference of the Latin American Episcopate in Medellin
The background to the Second General Conference of the Latin American Episcopate in Medellin is at the Second Vatican Council. Paul VI, after closing the Council in 1965, met with the directive of the Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM), chaired by Msgr. Manuel Larraín (Bishop of Talca, Chile), and proposed to bishops to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the creation of that ecclesial body that had been founded in Rio de Janeiro in 1955.
He urged those present to be sensitive to Latin America’s problems and to consider how to implement the Council in the countries of America and the Caribbean according to their social reality. The initiative seemed good to the bishops and soon began the preparation of the second general assembly. During 1966 and 1967, congresses were held on different ecclesial issues in different countries.
The second CELAM Conference was held in Medellin (Colombia) under the theme: “The Church’s presence in the current transformation of Latin America in the light of Vatican II”. Previously, two preparatory texts were sent to bishops to facilitate the study of the different topics. As a backdrop were also the documents of the Second Vatican Council and paul VI’s encyclical on the development of peoples, Populorum progressio, published in 1967.
Paul VI traveled to Colombia to inaugurate the assembly on August 24, 1968, which would be closed on September 6. The event was attended by 247 attendees between bishops and other delegates of the episcopal conferences, twenty-two delegates of the Pope and other delegates of the Latin American Conference of Religious (CLAR), as well as experts and other non-voting guests. During the first three days, seven bishops presented their presentations on relevant matters of the Church and the world.
The lines marked in these presentations would serve to illuminate the work of sixteen committees, which produced so many other concluding documents, which were grouped into three different sections:
(a) Human Promotion: Justice, Peace, Family and Demographics, Education and Youth;
b) Evangelization and growth of faith: Popular Pastoral, Pastoral of Elites, Catechesis and Liturgy;
c) The visible Church and its structures: Movement of Laity, Priests, Religious, The Formation of the Clergy, Poverty of the Church, Pastoral Of The Whole and Social Media.
We could say that Medellin was an expression of “the age of majority” for the local churches of Latin America, both of their theological reflection and of their pastoral practice. It wasn’t just about bringing the Church up to date on the continent in the light of Vatican II. It was a moment of particular grace and an opportunity to outline the concrete face that the Church should show “on the continent of hope”, committed to the social changes that occurred everywhere. The Model Church proposed by the Council would be assumed in the constitutions Lumen Gentium and Gaudium et Spes.

However, some topics such as ecumenism, emerging cultures in urbanism, secularization and atheism were not addressed, and will be discussed at the subsequent conferences in Puebla (1979), Santo Domingo (1992) and Aparecida (2007). Medellin also recognized that human development is part of evangelization and that the history of salvation is no stranger to one’s liberating history and commitment to the poor and marginalized.
The Medellin Conference marked the beginning of other ecclesial initiatives in Latin America, where the Catholic Church had a tradition, but felt new calls for reflection and commitment to those most in need. Medellin allowed the Council to be rethrated within the Latin American context, in a synodal, inculturated and prophetic way, with social relevance. This preferential option for the poor will be resumed in the Puebla document and at all other CELAM General Conferences.
The struggle for justice and commitment to the poor will produce numerous martyrs on the continent, prophets who will give their lives for the gospel. Monsignor Oscar Arnulfo Romero, one of the most notable, was canonized with Pope Paul VI on October 14. Other witnesses of charity and justice will also one day be recognized, despite the shadows of sin and death that obscure the Church.
Without medellin’s documents, without assessing the theological and pastoral processes they aroused, it would be impossible to understand the guiding lines of subsequent conferences. Nor could we understand well without all this backdrop the Pontifical Magisterium of Pope Francis. Many of the symbols and language used by the current Bishop of Rome refer us to “a poor Church for the poor”, “a Church on the way out to the peripheries of the world”. His language and testimony have some echo of the calls of Medellin, Puebla, Santo Domingo and Aparecida, valid references for our Church.
The Social Doctrine of the Church and the Pontifical Magisterium after the Council have united evangelization with human promotion. Human development and economic progress are no strangers to the Church’s essential concern for evangelization. The Church is a sign of salvation in the world for all men, but she is interested in integral liberation and all that humanization promotes. Life, family, work, health, education, peace, the media, freedom, justice, truth, love, economics, culture, ecology and any other area referred to the human person and the society in which he lives are ecclesial concerns.

The Revolutionary Offensive: An Economic and Cultural Option in Cuba
In Cuba, during 1968 significant changes have been forged since the triumph of the Revolution in 1959. I will point out only two events that occurred at the beginning of the year, which will have a strong impact in this historic period that will culminate eight years later with the first Congress of the Party in 1975 and with the Constitution of 1976. Here I will refer, in particular, to the Cultural Congress of Havana, in January 1968 and to the “revolutionary offensive” proposed by Fidel in the speech of March 13 of the same year.

a) The Cultural Congress of Havana
Cuban intellectuals and personalities from more than seventy countries participated in the Cultural Congress of Havana. His development had a background in Fidel Castro’s speeches to intellectuals (1961)1 and che Guevara’s proposals in his letter-report on “socialism and man in Cuba” (1965).2 The memory of Che, murdered in Bolivia on October 9, 1967, was present at the congress as an emblematic figure of revolutionary culture and economy.

In addition, until the congress came the echo of the problems raised by the various approaches of the so-called “microfraction” that had cultural and political conno-tations between 1966 and 1968. These problems came from the different composition in the organizations that fought against the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista.
There were three main groups that played a leading role in the triumph of the Revolution: the 26 July Movement, the Revolutionary Board and the People’s Socialist Party. At first, they did not have all the same methods and ideals, but in 1961 they came together as a single political body of the Revolution to form the “Integrated Revolutionary Organizations” (ORI). This merger would not be easy because not all leaders exactly coincided with the thinking and practice of revolutionary leaders: Fidel Castro and Ernesto Guevara (murdered in 1967).
In January 1968, the ORI’s “dissenting leaders” were ideologically and politically challenged, legally accused and condemned for their fractional, conservative and reactionary political intent. Some forty leaders were judged by their political disiden-cia, which was an eloquent sign that ideological uniformity was sought.
In the Cultural Congress of Havana the notion of revolutionary intellectual was delimited, armed struggle was claimed, the figure of Che Guevara was exalted. The concepts of culture, politics and revolution, study, work and fusil were linked as signs of the new society. The elitist and bourgeois culture would be replaced by popular culture because the people with their traditions had to be the place of the revolutionary intellectual.
The “General Declaration” (collective document of The Congress) assumed that in the struggle for national liberation and in the creation of socialism, the ideological battle must be given. Therefore, the belonging of revolutionary intellectuals to the cultural avant-garde would be their active militancy in the social struggle to break with the role of the specialist of capitalism. The new culture involved a political, military and revolutionary commitment. The intellectual had to be an agent of cultural change for the people within it. Literary and scientific exercise would be weapons of revolutionary struggle.
Revolutionary intellectuals and artists should unite theory and practice, study and military defense of the Revolution, mastery of science and the arts alongside physical work, according to the model proposed by the integral new man. Writers, artists, intellectuals and scientists, together with the workers and peasants would be the builders of that ideal man.

b) The Revolutionary Offensive
Fidel Castro’s March 13, 1968 speech, delivered on the steps of the University of Havana, publicly announced the “revolutionary offensive.” Schools, hospitals, factories, banks and large means of production in agriculture, industry, services and large shops had already been nationalized in previous years. In order to accelerate communism, the stateization of all types of ownership and activity, especially retail and small business, was now proposed.
In this way, the Cuban Revolution acquired in practice a marked communist character where the state would be the sole owner, manager and guarantor of the properties, with the means of production and the market. All citizens would become state workers and have secured work, wages and livelihoods. This would ensure that capitalism was removed from the root and would allow the emergence of the new man in an egalitarian society.

The revolu-tionary offensive based on the new economic policy was immediately implemented. More than fifty thousand small businesses and commercial establishments were nationalized: wineries, restaurants, cafes, bars, butchers, barbershops, clothing and footwear shops, laundromats, mechanics workshops, handicrafts, carpentry, bookstores, bakeries, hardware stores.
The results of this 1968 cultural, political and economic orientation may be evaluated by economists and expert political analysts. People who lived during this period will be able to assess the consequences and results, with the positive and negative aspects of the economic system that was implemented in Cuba. This model would endure until the new economic guidelines were implemented over the past decade, indicating the great importance of those events of 1968 in Cuba.

Conclusion
We alluded to five historical events that occurred fifty years ago. It is likely that some readers may be able to evoke other facts relevant to Cuba and the world that occurred half a century ago. Our interest is to understand that the current reality of the world and Cuba is not disconnected from the great events of the past. People are interdependent and historical facts are interconnected.
On the other hand, at the end of this year 2018 we will also be able to remember some facts that have marked our personal experience and the history of our world. Perhaps some of these facts can also be remembered half a century later. In this event of our experiences and the great historical events we will be able to discover the passage of God who is never absent from our history, a great reason for gratitude. Ω

Notes
1 Particular relief had the “Words to Intellectuals” at the National Library on 16, 23 and 30 June 1961. Also the closing address of the First Congress of Writers and Artists at the Chaplin Theatre (present-day Karl Marx) on August 22 of the same year.
2 This is a letter sent by Ernesto Che Guevara to Carlos Quijano, editor of the Uruguayan weekly Marcha, which was published on 12 March 1965 and also reproduced in

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