Ideological diversionism

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Ideological diversionism: ("Diversionismo Ideológico"), term first used by Raúl Castro, then Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces and now President of the Council of State of Cuba, delivered as a speech to the Ministry of the Interior (MININT) on June 6 of 1972 to celebrate its eleventh anniversary, and published in its entirety in the Cuban magazine Bohemia under the title "El diversionismo Ideologico, arma sutil que esgrimen los enemigos contra la Revolución" [1]. "Ideological Diversionism", as used by Castro defined the discursive practice of subjects who appropriated Marxist and communist rhetoric without the "true revolutionary commitment". The "diversionist" thus was a camouflaged subject that spoke as it were from the inside the lines of the Revolutionary cadres, but in reality subscribing the vices and habits of bourgeoisie values. Ideological Diversionism redefined the political culture of Cuban social landscape during the decades of seventies and eighties, functioning even as a legal and moral category to proscribe, and demoralize dissent and revolutionary citizens that adopted norms that the State sought as deviant from standard social conducts.

Raul Castro's definition of Ideological Diversionism[edit]

Castro's speech on "Ideological Diversionism" sought to come to terms with the so-called peaceful aggressions by imperialists. The argument behind this thesis was that since imperialism could not defeat socialist countries, their new form of aggression was to destabilize the socialist culture and developmental socialist ideals through the means of propaganda as "peace means" of subversion. This would consequently entail that specially the youth and the intellectual classes were the most prone to ideological manipulation. As Raul makes clear at one point during his speech:

"El diversionismo ideologico se realiza, ante todo, mediante la accion sobre la inteligencia, los sentimientos y la mente de las personas. Hacia esto se orienta todo el sistema de diversion ideologica a escala mundial. El objetivo de su atencion es en particular la juvetud y espcila la intelectualdia creadora, consideraso amobs por los ideologis imperialista como los recepctivos a su propaganda. En una de las instrucciones especial a los agendes de la guerra sicologica se les exige, asimismo, centrar su atencion "en las autoridades locales que influyen en la formacion de la opinion publica" [2].

"Ideological diversionism is done through a mediete action on the intelligence, sentiments, and the mind of people. The whole system of ideological diversion is oriented towards this goal at planetary scale. Their particular objective is the youth, and in particular the intellectual creative class, since they are considered as the receptors to their propaganda. In one of to the special instructions to the agents of the psychological war, they require focussing their work in local authorities that would influence in the shaping of public opinion".

Ideological diversionism in Cuban intellectual discourse[edit]

After Raul Castro's speech in 1972, many State intellectuals conceptualized and redefined the term of ideological diversionism as a concept to put into use in the "struggle" against imperialist heterodox social norms. In 1974, one of Cuba most important Marxist cultural critics, Jose Antonio Portuondo, delivered the lecture "Martí y el Diversionismo Ideologico", where he extended Castro's theoretical argument by offering a national genealogy of the concept, tracing it to the history of patriot and national independence martyr José Martí [3]. According to Portuondo, it was Jose Marti, a nationalist and exiled Cuban, well before Raul Castro, who first attacked "ideological diversionism" as a way to unmask those who fought against independence and in favor of the division within nationalist forces of the nation. In Portuondo's reading, Martí becomes the symbolic figure in which ideological diversionism is neutralized and contained, since there is never a possibility to diverge from what is in the interest of the Nation.

In 1979, a rather different intellectual, the educator Gaspar García Gallo, delivered a lecture entitled "El diversionismo Ideológico" in the Psychiatric Hospital of Havana. Unlike Portuondo, for Gaspar Gallo "diversionism" was rooted in the structure of human nature itself and it was to be contested from the biological as well as the psychological view of point. Intertwining dialectical materialism and pseudoscientific theories, a program that was beginning to take shape in the Lenin School of Havana as a pedagogical project, Gaspar Gallo argued that ideological diversionism, rooted in bourgeois vices and habits, was a product of an ill and corrupted nature [4]. These corruptions included, but were not limited to, homosexuality, western popular culture like The Beatles, laziness, and intellectualism. Gaspar Gallo offered, in the vein of naturalist of the 19th century, physiological stereotypes in which one could identified "members" of this psychological tendencies and deviations in the same way that later on students of the Cuban Communist Youth (UJC) will illustrate in the university journal Mella and Alma Mater. A couple of years before the lecture given by Gaspar Gallo, "ideological diversionism" was integrated into the official legal document Tesis y Resoluciones del Primer Congreso del Partido Comunista de Cuba (1976), and defined in these terms:

"El diversionismo es una labor encubierta , solapada, que consiste en criticar al marxismo desde posiciones supuesta mente marxistas, con un falso ropaje revolucionario, progresista, o a lo sumo aparentando imparcialidad u objetividad; que trata de introducir en las filas revolucionarias las ideas contrarias al socialismo, presentándolas como socialistas o como favorables al socialismo, o como ideas nuevas «superiores» a las del socialismo, que lo mejoran o perfeccionan. Toda labor ideológica persigue objetivos políticos. El diversionismo imperialista se dirige a minar, desde adentro, las fuerzas del socialismo; relajar sus bases ideológicas, introducir concepciones burguesas, mellar los principios básicos de la teoría científica del socialismo; entorpecer o frustrar los planes de desarrollo, desvirtuar los objetivos principales en la economía y en la formación comunista de las masas; dividir y sembrar la desconfianza en el seno de las fuerzas populares; tratar de desacreditar a los dirigentes; crear, en definitiva, un ambiente de relajamiento de los principios socialistas y de inconformidad en las masas, que sea caldo de cultivo para un retroceso ideológico, político y social que conduzca gradualmente a la derrota del socialismo".[5]

Intellectual antecedents of ideological diversionism in the Soviet Union[edit]

In the Cuban intellectual discussion, the concept of ideological diversionism is sometimes referred as having direct influence from the era of Stalinism [6]. Although in the Stalinist historiography the direct concept is never articulated as such, one could point for a possible intellectual origin the 1929 text "On Right Deviation in our Party", where Stalin heavily critiques Bukharin, the kulak culture, and "social democracy" tendencies within the Soviet Communist Party. Deviations, according to Stalin, unlike Mao, must never be present in the Party, since it a structure of division in the vanguard of the People [7]. Stalin's deviation differs from the "diversionist" position to the extent that it never seeks to establish a "foreign" influence or a linguistic appropriation of Marxist categories as an aesthetic of concealment. Stalin's critique of deviation centered on the nature and necessity to keep the nature of class struggle as a driven principle of Soviet Society. In the Cuban case, diversionism besides being about the formation of a class unity, as it was about exclusion of a particular social subject.

Another notable work about diversionism from the Soviet Union is Prosčety ideologičeskix diversantov (The Miscalculations of Ideological Saboteurs) by V. I. Strepetov, written in 1976, and translated into Spanish in 1980 by Editorial Progreso. This means that this work was read and perhaps studied in Latin America and Cuba [8], and that it was most probably influenced by Raul Castro's speech of 1972. Strepetov as Raul Castro, sees the danger of diversionism as a flow of ideas coming from the West and that seek to destroy the anti-bourgeois principles of the Soviet Union. Diversionism is seeing as an activity and even "sabotage" to undermine the different relations and core principles of the soviet people, including labor, discipline, and loyalty. Confronting the discourses of Western Marxism and the crisis of theoretical paradigms that explicate the new capitalist post-industrial constellation, Strepetov suggests that ideological diversionism fosters a new tool for imperial and United States domination, not through violence and war, but through culture and rhetoric. Precisely the Russian term diversantov means the flow of ideas coming "from outside", and not merely a deviation from the norm.

Ideological Diversionism as a cultural category[edit]

Ideological Diversionism was not only a political or juridical term, since it also functioned, even before Raul Castro's speech in 1972, to police conducts and norms of everyday citizens and the production of culture, whether it was fashion, literature, or cinema. Most of the cultural production censored since the mid-1960s in Cuba - novels like Adire y el tiempo roto (1967) by Manuel Granados, and poetry books like Fuera del Juego (1968) by Heberto Padilla - were judged and accused from the paradigm of diversionism. It was in the university circles and groups were ideological diversionism was intensified as a hate speech against plural thinking of an array of social actors. As Mella or Alma Mater, two of the official publications of the University of Havana makes clear, the diversionist were from the "intellectualized student", who wore sandals, carry books by Jean-Paul Sartre and had homosexual conducts, to the bureaucrat, those interested in fashion or even those who would mimic The Beatles' haircuts (see figure 1.). These deviant cultural incarnations were not only not possible in the public sphere, but also had to be eliminated from all possible political and social activity to prevent contamination. In everyday life speech, "diversionists" were labeled as "débiles" (weaks), "raros" (weirdos), and "gusanos" (worms), terms that picked out the heterogeneity of social groups that contested the Revolution from below starting in the first decade of the Revolution, as the personal case of Anna Veltfort, an art history student at University of Havana bears witness to it [9] (see Figure 1.).

Figure 1. "A los gusanos hay que hervirlos". Revista Mella, June 1965. "Los Gusanos".

Ideological diversionism was a cultural logic that led way for orthodox Marxist to foster a notions of ideological purity and normalization in Marxist culture. Hence, a great part of Western Marxism, from Jean-Paul Sartre's humanist existentialism and the Frankfurt School, to Antonio Gramsci and the debates of structuralism and post-structuralism in France, were banned from intellectual and academic circles within and out the University of Havana [10]. In the need to suppress "cultural" horizons of Marxist thinking, in favor of a "scientific mode" of dialectical materialism, ideological diversionism was by itself a cultural invention to suspend all possible cultural articulation of Marxism as such. In the Cuba of the 1970s, as one could see from journals such as Educación or Cuba Socialista, Marxism was understood as a hard science that little or nothing had to do with everyday hybridity of cultural forms and habits [11]. The sovietization of the political system of Cuba, starting in 1971 with the National Congress of Education and Culture and with the first Constitution of Communist Party in 1976, further catalyzed the closure of the many different and plural positions within socialism, Marxism, social democracy, and syndicalism during the first five years after the triumph of the Cuban Revolution. Ideological Diversionism was the operation by which power articulated a totalizing enframing of a national socialist culture.

Figure 2. "El intelectualizado" as a "ideological diversionist" subject. Revista Mella, 1964.El Intelectualizado.

Ideological Diversionism in contemporary popular culture[edit]

From an analysis of the politics of memory, many Cubans still remember the usages of ideological diversionism in everyday life, such as in schools, the street, the police, and the televised speeches of Fidel Castro. When asked to a 58-year-old Cuban from Miami accused and imprisoned for ideological diversionism, he remembered: "Yo claro que recuerdo el uso del término "diversionismo ideológico", era una palabra que se utilizaba para tildar a la gente que le gustaban las cosas del extranjero; ya sean zapatos caros, la música rock, o que incluso recibía cartas de sus familiares exiliados. Diversionista también era todo aquel que no simpatizaba y ni creía en los valores de la Revolución, y por eso sentía fuera de aquella sociedad. An otros le hacían actos de repudio, como tirarle huevos" [12]. Not only are testimonies alive in the living memory of Cubans within and outside the island, but in recent cultural production the term has also repapered. For instance, the punk band "Porno Para Ricardo", has included the term in many of their lyrics, and the frontman of the band, Gorki Águila, sometimes comes out in the stage wearing a T-shirt that reads "Viva el diversionismo Ideologico!" ("Hurray for ideological diversionism!"), a public provocation that today has lost all its radical intentions in contemporary Cuba. In New York, the Cuban poet Alexis Romay has recently published a book, Diversionismo Ideologico, where he writes about the political and social realities of Cubans of both shores through décima poems [13]. While, the young Cuban visual artist Hamlet Lavastida has worked through many of his pieces, the "ideological diversionism speech" and many of the political texts that were instrumental to the making of a new revolutionary subject after the Cuban Revolution.


1. Raúl Castro. "El diversionismo ideológico, arma sutil que esgrimen los enemigos contra la Revolución" (1972), Bohemia. Document could be found in Archivo de Connie:

2. Ibid. Translation to English is mine.

3. José Antonio Portuondo. Martí y el diversionismo ideológico. La Habana, 1974.

4. Gaspar García Gallo. El diversionismo ideológico. La Habana: Hospital Psiquiátrico de la Habana, 1979.

5. Tesis y resoluciones Primer Congreso del Partido Comunista de Cuba. Partido Comunista de Cuba Congreso. La Habana : Departamento de Orientación Revolucionaria del Comité Central del Partido Comunista de Cuba, 1976.

6. See the chapter " ¿Qué fue el diversionismo ideológico?" in Palabras del trasfondo (Colibrí, 2009) by Duanel Díaz Infante.

7. Joseph Stalin. "On the Right Deviation in the Party".

8. V. I. Strepetov. Prosčety ideologičeskix diversantov (The Miscalculations of Ideological Saboteurs). Leningrad : Lenizdat, 1976.

9. Lillian Guerra. Visions of Power: Revolution, Redemption, and Resistance 1959-1971. University of North Carolina Press, 2012.

10. For the censorship of non-soviet Marxism like Antonio Gramsci see Hablar de Gramsci (Centro de Investigacion y de la Cultura Cubana Juan Marinello, 2003), and "Benjamin no llego a La Habana" (Letras Libres, May 2008) by Rafael Rojas.

11. Gorki Aguila's T-shirt:

12. Personal testimony conducted by the author of this entry. March 2011.

13. Alexis Romay. Diversionismo Ideológico. Belascuain y Neptuno Ediciones, 2012.

Further reading[edit]

Ernesto Juan Castellanos. "El diversionismo ideológico del rock, la moda y los enfermitos". Revista Criterios, 2008.

External links[edit]

Alexis Romay's description of poetry book entitled Diversionismo Ideologico:

Gorki Águila and his punk rock band Porno Para Ricardo on "Ideological Diversionism":

Hamlet Lavastida's artworks on political speeches and ideological diversionism as discourse: