4.19.2017 Doc of the Day

1. Charles Darwin, 1858.

2. Denton Loring Geyer, 1914.

3. Fidel Castro, 1961.

4. Octavio Paz, 1991.

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CC BY-NC-ND by Denis Collette…!!!

Numero Uno—“DeCandolle, in an eloquent passage, has declared that all nature is at war, one organism with another, or with external nature.  Seeing the contented face of nature, this may at first well be doubted; but reflection will inevitably prove it to be true.  The war, however, is not constant, but recurrent in a slight degree at short periods, and more severely at occasional more distant periods; and hence its effects are easily overlooked.  It is the doctrine of Malthus applied in most cases with tenfold force.  As in every climate there are seasons, for each of its inhabitants, of greater and less abundance, so all annually breed; and the moral restraint which in some small degree checks the increase of mankind is entirely lost.  Even slow-breeding mankind has doubled in twenty-five years; and if he could increase his food with greater ease, he would double in less time.  But for animals without artificial means, the amount of food for each species must, on an average, be constant, whereas the increase of all organisms tends to be geometrical, and in a vast majority of cases at an enormous ratio.  Suppose in a certain spot there are eight pairs of birds, and that only four pairs of them annually (including double hatches) rear only four young, and that these go on rearing their young at the same rate, then at the end of seven years (a short life, excluding violent deaths, for any bird) there will be 2048 birds, instead of the original sixteen.  As this increase is quite impossible, we must conclude either that birds do not rear nearly half their young, or that the average life of a bird is, from accident, not nearly seven years.  Both checks probably concur.  The same kind of calculation applied to all plants and animals affords results more or less striking, but in very few instances more striking than in man.Many practical illustrations of this rapid tendency to increase are on record, among which, (hiring peculiar seasons, are the extraordinary numbers of certain animals; for instance, during the years 1826 to 1828, in La Plata, when from drought some millions of cattle perished, the whole country actually swarmed with mice.  Now I think it cannot be doubted that during the breeding-season all the mice (with the exception of a few males or females in excess) ordinarily pair, and therefore that this astounding increase during three years must be attributed to a greater number than usual surviving the first year, and then breeding, and so on till the third year, when their numbers were brought clown to their usual limits on the return of wet weather.  Where man has introduced plants and animals into a new and favourable country,there are many accounts in how surprisingly few years the whole country has become stocked with them.  This increase would necessarily stop as soon as the country was fully stocked; and yet we have every reason to believe, from what is known of wild animals, that all would pair in the spring.  In the majority of cases it is most difficult to imagine where the checks fall, though generally, no doubt, on the seeds, eggs and young; but when we remember how impossible, even in mankind (so much better known than any other animal), it is to infer from repeated casual observations what the average duration of life is, or to discover the different percentage of deaths to births in different countries, we ought to feel no surprise at our being unable to discover where the check falls in any animal or plant.  It should always be remembered, that in most cases the checks are recurrent yearly in a small, regular degree, and in an extreme degree during unusually cold, hot, dry, or wet years, according to the constitution of the being in question.  Lighten any check in the least degree, and the geometrical powers of increase in every organism will almost instantly increase the average number of the favoured species.  Nature may be compared to a surface on which rest ten thousand sharp wedges touching each other and driven inwards by incessant blows.  Fully to realize these views much reflection is requisite.  Malthus on man should be studied; and all such cases as those of the mice in La Plata, of the cattle and horses when first turned out in South America, of the birds by our calculation, &c., should be well considered, reflect on the enormous multiplying power inherent and annually in action in all animals; reflect on the countless seeds scattered by a hundred ingenious contrivances, year after year, over the whole face of the land; and yet we have every reason to suppose that the average percentage of each of the inhabitants of a country usually remains constant.  Finally, let it be borne in mind that this average number of individuals (the external conditions remaining the same) in each country is kept up by recurrent struggles against other species or against external nature (as on the borders of the Arctic regions, where the cold checks life), and that ordinarily each individual of every species holds its place, either by its own struggle and capacity of acquiring nourishment in some period of its life, from the egg upwards; or by the struggle of its parents (in short-lived organisms, when the main check occurs at longer intervals) with other individuals of the same or different species.

But let the external conditions of a country alter. If in a small degree, the relative proportions of the inhabitants will in most cases simply be slightly changed; but let the number of inhabitants be small, as on an island, and free access to it from other countries be circumscribed, and let the change of conditions continue progressing (forming new stations), — in such a case the original inhabitants must cease to be as perfectly adapted to the changed conditions as they were originally. It has been shown in a former part of this work, that such changes of external conditions would, from their acting on the reproductive system, probably cause the organization of those beings which were most affected to become, as under domestication, plastic. Now, can it be doubted, from the struggle each individual has to obtain subsistence, that any minute variation in structure, habits or instincts, adapting that individual better to the new conditions, would tell upon its vigour and health? In the struggle it would have a better chance of surviving; and those of its offspring which inherited the variation, be it ever so slight, would also have a better chance. Yearly more are bred than can survive; the smallest grain in the balance, in the long run, must tell on which death shall fall, and which shall survive. Let this work of selection on the one hand, and death on the other, go on for a thousand generations, who will pretend to affirm that it would produce no effect, when we remember what, in a few years, Bakewell effected in cattle, and Western in sheep, by this identical principle of selection?

To give an imaginary example from changes in progress on an island:—let the organization of a canine animal which preyed chiefly on rabbits, but sometimes on hares, become slightly plastic; let these same changes cause the number of rabbits very slowly to decrease, and the number of hares to increase; the effect of this would be that the fox or dog would be driven to try to catch more hares; his organization, however, being slightly plastic, those individuals with the lightest forms, longest limbs, and best eyesight, let the difference be ever so small, would be slightly favoured, and would tend to live longer, and to survive during that time of the year when food was scarcest; they would also rear more young, which would tend to inherit these slight peculiarities. The less fleet ones would be rigidly destroyed. I can see no more reason to doubt that these causes in a thousand generations would produce a marked effect, and adapt the form of the fox or dog to the catching of hares instead of rabbits, than that greyhounds can be improved by selection and careful breeding. So would it be with plants under similar circumstances. If the number of individuals of a species with plumed seeds could be increased by greater powers of dissemination within its own area (that is, if the check to increase fell chiefly on the seeds), those seeds which were provided with ever so little more down would in the long run be most disseminated; hence a greater number of seeds thus formed would germinate, and would tend to produce plants inhabiting the slightly better-adapted down.*

Besides this natural means of selection, by which those individuals are preserved, whether in their egg, or larval, or mature state, which are best adapted to the place they fill in nature, there is a second agency at work in most unisexual animals, tending to produce the same effect, namely, the struggle of the males for the females. These struggles are generally decided by the law of battle, but in the case of birds, apparently, by the charms of their song, by their beauty or their power of courtship, as in the dancing rock-thrush of Guiana. The most vigorous and healthy males, implying perfect adaptation, must generally gain the victory in their contests. This kind of selection, however, is less rigorous than the other; it docs not require the death of the less successful, but gives to them fewer descendants. The struggle falls, moreover, at a time of year when food is generally abundant, and perhaps the effect chiefly produced would be the modification of the secondary sexual characters, which are not related to the power of obtaining food, or to defence from enemies, but to fighting with or rivalling other males. The result of this struggle amongst the males may be compared in some respects to that produced by those agriculturists who pay less attention to the careful selection of all their young animals, and more to the occasional use of a choice mate.

* I can see no more difficulty in this than in the planter improving his varieties of the cotton plant.—C.D. 1858. …
II. Abstract of a Letter from C. Darwin, Esq., to Prof. Asa Gray, Boston, U.S., dated Down, September 5th, 1857.

1. It is wonderful what the principle of selection by man, that is the picking out of individuals with any desired quality, and breeding from them, and again picking out, can do. Even breeders have been astounded at their own results. They can act on differences inappreciable to an uneducated eye. Selection has been methodically followed in Europe for only the last half-century; but it was occasionally, and even in some degree methodically, followed in the most ancient times. There must have been also a kind of unconscious selection from a remote period, namely, in the preservation of the individual animals (without any thought of their offspring) most useful to each race of man in his particular circumstances. The “roguing,” as nurserymen call the destroying of varieties which depart from their type, is a kind of selection. I am convinced that intentional and occasional selection has been the main agent in the production of our domestic races; but however this may be, its great power of modification has been indisputably shown in later times. Selection acts only by the accumulation of slight or greater variations, caused by external conditions, or by the mere fact that in generation the child is not absolutely similar to its parent. Man, by this power of accumulating variations, adapts living beings to his wants,— may be said to make the wool of one sheep good for carpets, of another for cloth, &c.

2. Now suppose there were a being who did not judge by mere external appearances, but who could study the whole internal organization, who was never capricious, and should go on selecting for one object during millions of generations; who will say what he might not effect? In nature we have some slight variation occasionally in all parts; and I think it can be shown that changed conditions of existence is the main cause of the child not exactly resembling its parents; and in nature Geology shows us what changes have taken place, and are taking place. We have almost unlimited time; no one but a practical geologist can fully appreciate this. Think of the Glacial period, during the whole of which the same species at least of shells have existed; there must have been during this period millions on millions of generations.

3. I think it can be shown that there is such an unerring power at work in Natural Selection (the title of my book), which selects exclusively for the good of each organic being.  The elder DeCandolle, W. Herbert, and Lyell have written excellently on the struggle for life; but even they have not written strongly enough.  Reflect that every being (even the elephant) breeds at such a rate that in a few years, or at most a few centuries, the surface of the earth would not hold the progeny of one pair.  I have found it hard constantly to bear in mind that the increase of every single species is checked during some part of its life, or during some shortly recurrent generation.  Only a few of those annually born can live to propagate their kind.  What a trifling difference must often determine which shall survive, and which perish!

4. Now take the case of a country undergoing some change.  This will tend to cause some of its inhabitants to vary slightly — not but that I believe most beings vary at all times enough for selection to act on them.  Some of its inhabitants will be exterminated, and the remainder will be exposed to the mutual action of a different set If inhabitants, which I believe to be far more important to the life of each being than mere climate.  Considering the infinitely various methods which living beings follow to obtain food by struggling with other organisms, to escape danger at various times of life, to have their eggs or seeds disseminated, &c. &c., I cannot doubt that during millions of generations individuals of a species will be occasionally born with some slight variation, profitable to some part of their economy.  Such individuals will have a better chance of surviving, and of propagating their new and slightly different structure; and the modification may be slowly increased by the accumulative action of natural selection to any profitable extent.  The variety thus formed will either coexist with, or, more commonly, will exterminate its parent form.  An organic being, like the woodpecker or misseltoe, may thus come to be adapted to a score of contingencies—natural selection accumulating those slight variations in all parts of its structure, which are in any way useful to it during any part of its life.

5. Multiform difficulties will occur to every one, with respect to this theory.  Many can, I think, be satisfactorily answered.  Natura non facit saltum answers some of the most obvious.  The slowness of the change, and only a very few individuals undergoing change at any one time, answers others.  The extreme imperfection of our geological records answers others.

6. Another principle, which may be called the principle of divergence, plays, I believe, an important part in the origin of species.  The same spot will support more life if occupied by very diverse forms.

We see this in the many generic forms in a square yard of turf, and in the plants or insects on any little uniform islet, belonging almost invariably to as many genera and families as species.  We can understand the meaning of this fact amongst the higher animals, whose habits we understand.  We know that it has been experimentally shown that a plot of land will yield a greater weight if sown with several species and genera of grasses, than if sown with only two or three species.  Now, every organic being, by propagating so rapidly, may be said to be striving its utmost to increase in numbers.  So it will be with the offspring of any species after it has become diversified into varieties, or subspecies, or true species.  And it follows, I think, from the foregoing facts, that the varying offspring of each species will try (only a few will succeed) to seize on as many and as diverse places in the economy of nature as possible.  Each new variety or species, when formed, will generally take the place of, and thus exterminate its less well-fitted parent.  This I believe to be the origin of the classification and affinities of organic beings at all times; for organic beings always seem to branch and sub-branch like the limbs of a tree from a common trunk, the flourishing and diverging twigs destroying the less vigorous —the dead and lost branches rudely representing extinct genera and families.

This sketch is most imperfect; but in so short a space I cannot make it better.  Your imagination must fill up very wide blanks.”   Charles Darwin, parts of two letters in a forum with Alfred Russel Wallace; 1858

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Numero Dos—“Pragmatism has been described as an attitude of mind, as a method of investigation, and as a theory of truth.  The attitude is that of looking forward to outcomes rather than back to origins.  The method is the use of actual or possible outcomes of our ideas to determine these ideas’ real meaning.  The theory of truth defines the truth of our beliefs in terms of the outcome of these beliefs.Pragmatism as a principle of method, like the Mendelian laws of heredity, lay for decades in oblivion.  It was brought to light and to the world’s notice in 1898 by William James, who by his wonderful literary style immediately gave it the widest currency.  The doctrine was originally proposed in 1878 by C. S. Peirce in a paper for the Popular Science Monthly entitled ‘How To Make Our Ideas Clear.’  This article was the second of six on the general topic–‘Illustrations of the Logic of Science.’  The other articles of the series were respectively called ‘The Fixation of Belief,’ ‘The Doctrine of Chances,’ ‘The Probability of Induction,’ ‘The Order of Nature,’ and ‘Induction, Deduction, and Hypothesis.’

In the famous discussion of ‘How To Make Our Ideas Clear,’ Peirce pointed out that by a clear idea is meant, according to the logicians, one which will be recognized wherever it is met with, so that no other will be mistaken for it.  But since to do this without exception is impossible to human beings, and since to have such acquaintance with the idea as to have lost all hesitancy in recognizing it in ordinary cases amounts only to a subjective feeling of mastery which may be entirely mistaken, they supplement the idea of ‘clearness’ with that of ‘distinctness.’  A distinct idea is defined as one that contains nothing which is not clear.  By the contents of an idea logicians understand whatever is contained in its definition, so that an idea is distinctly apprehended, according to them, when we can give a precise definition of it, in abstract terms.  Here the professional logicians leave the subject, but it is easy to show that the doctrine that familiar use and abstract distinctness make the perfection of apprehension, ‘has its only true place in philosophies which have long been extinct,’ and it is now time to formulate a method of attaining ‘a more perfect clearness of thought such as we see and admire in the thinkers of our own time.’

The action of thought is excited by the irritation of a doubt, and ceases when belief is attained; so that the production of belief is the sole function of thought.  As thought appeases the irritation of a doubt,  which is the motive for thinking, it relaxes and comes to rest for a moment when belief is reached.  But belief is a rule for action, and its application requires further thought and further doubt, so that at the same time that it is a stopping place it is also a new starting place for thought.  The final upshot of thinking is the exercise of volition.

“The essence of belief is the establishment of a habit, and different beliefs are distinguished by the different modes of action to which they give rise. If beliefs do not differ in this respect, if they appease the same doubt by producing the same rule of action, then no more differences in the manner of consciousness of them can make them different beliefs, any more than playing a tune in different keys is playing a different tune.”

Imaginary distinctions are made very frequently, it is true, between beliefs which differ only in their mode of expression. Such false distinctions do as much harm as the confusion of beliefs really different. “One singular deception of this sort, which often occurs, is to mistake the sensation produced by our own unclearness of thought for a character of the object we are thinking. Instead of perceiving that the obscurity is purely subjective, we fancy that we contemplate a quality of the object which is essentially mysterious; and if our conception be afterwards presented to us in a clear form we do not recognize it as the same, owing to the absence of the feeling of unintelligibility…. Another such deception is to mistake a mere difference in the grammatical construction of two words for a distinction between the ideas they express…. From all these sophisms we shall be perfectly safe so long as we reflect that the whole function of thought is to produce habits of action; and that whatever is connected with a thought, but irrelevant to its purpose, is an accretion to it, but no part of it”.

“To develop a meaning we have, therefore, simply to determine what habits it produces, for what a thing means is simply what habits it involves. Now the identity of a habit depends on how it might lead us to act, not merely under such circumstances as are likely to arise, but under such as might possibly occur, no matter how improbable…. Thus we come down to what is tangible and practical as the root of every real distinction of thought, no matter how subtle it may be; and there is no distinction so fine as to consist in anything but a possible difference in practice”.

As an example, consider the doctrine of transubstantiation. Are the elements of the sacrament flesh and blood ‘only in a tropical sense’ or are they literally just that? Now “we have no conception of wine except what may enter into a belief either, (1) that this, that, or the other is wine, or (2) that wine possesses certain properties. Such beliefs are nothing but self-notifications that we should, upon occasion,  act in regard to such things as we believe to be wine according to the qualities which we believe wine to possess. The occasion of such action would be some sensible perception, the motive of it to produce some sensible result. Thus our action has exclusive reference to what affects our senses, our habit has the same bearing as our action, our belief the same as our habit, our conception the same as our belief; and we can consequently mean nothing by wine but what has certain effects, direct or indirect, upon the senses; and to talk of something as having all the sensible characters of wine, yet being in reality blood, is senseless jargon…. Our idea of anything is our idea of its sensible effects; and if we fancy that we have any other, we deceive ourselves, and mistake a mere sensation accompanying the thought for a part of the thought itself”.

“It appears, then, that the rule for attaining … clearness of apprehension is as follows: Consider what effects, which might conceivably have practical bearings, we conceive the object of our conception to have. Then, our conception of these effects is the whole of our conception of the object”. (Italics mine).

An application of this method to a conception which particularly concerns logic occupies the last section of the article,—a use of the method to make clear our conception of “reality”. Considering clearness in the sense of familiarity, no idea could be clearer than this, for everyone uses it with perfect confidence. Clearness in the sense of definition is only slightly more difficult,—“we may define the real as that whose characters are independent of what anybody may think them to be”. But however satisfactory this is as a definition, it does not by any means make our idea of reality perfectly clear. “Here, then, let us apply our rules. According to them, reality, like every other quality, consists in the peculiar sensible effects which things partaking of it produce. The only effect which real things have is to cause belief, for all the sensations which they excite emerge into consciousness in the form of beliefs. The question therefore is, how is true belief (or belief in the real) distinguished from false belief (belief in fiction)”. Briefly this may be answered by saying that the true belief is the one which will be arrived at after a complete examination of all the evidence. “That opinion which is fated to be ultimately agreed to by all who investigate, is what we mean by the truth, and the object represented in this opinion is the real.” (Note: “Fate means merely that which is sure to come true, and can nohow be avoided”.) The real thus depends indeed upon what is ultimately thought about it, but not upon what any particular person thinks about it. This is clearly brought out in contrast to non-scientific investigation, where personal equation counts for a great deal more. “It is hard to convince a follower of  the a priori method by adducing facts; but show him that an opinion that he is defending is inconsistent with what he has laid down elsewhere, and he will be very apt to retract it. These minds do not seem to believe that disputation is ever to cease; they seem to think that the opinion which is natural for one man is not so for another, and that belief will, consequently, never be settled. In contenting themselves with fixing their own opinions by a method which would lead another man to a different result, they betray their feeble hold upon the conception of what truth is. On the other hand, all the followers of science are fully persuaded that the processes of investigation, if only pushed far enough, will give one certain solution to every question to which they can be applied. One man may investigate the velocity of light by studying the transits of Venus and the aberration of the stars; another by the opposition of Mars and eclipses of Jupiter’s satellites; a third by the method of Fizian…. They may at first obtain different results, but as each perfects his method and his processes, the results will move steadily together toward a destined center. So with all scientific research. Different minds may set out with the most antagonistic views, but the process of investigation carries them by a force outside of themselves to one and the same conclusion”. This conclusion, to be sure, may be long postponed, and might indeed be preceded by a false belief which should be accepted universally. But “the opinion which would finally result from investigation does not depend on how anybody may actually think…. The reality of that which is real does depend on the real fact that the investigation is destined to lead, at last, if continued long enough, to a belief in it”.

It will be seen that this article does not intend to put forward any new theory of truth. It is simply an attempt at expounding a new theory of clearness. Peirce desires to describe a new way of clearing up metaphysical disputes, the method, namely, of finding the meaning of each question by reducing it to its experimental consequences.

For Peirce a doctrine could be perfectly clear and yet false. This would be the case where one had a vivid idea of all the outcomes in experience involved by the idea, but yet was unable to prophesy any outcome that should be verified by future fact. Our idea of the object would not in that case ‘correspond to the reality’ in the sense of giving us a belief which could be ‘verified by all investigators’.

Peirce, then, instead of having a radical and startling theory of truth to propose, would consider himself an ultra-conservative on the question of what shall be called truth. Approaching the matter from the standpoint of a scientist, (for he says in another connection that he had at this time spent most of his life in a laboratory), he is concerned only with an attempt to apply “the fruitful methods of science”  to “the barren field of metaphysics”. For metaphysics seems to him very much in need of outside help. His different conception of the two disciplines may be seen from the following passage. In contrast to philosophy, he is eulogizing the natural sciences, “where investigators, instead of condemning each the work of the others as misdirected from beginning to end, co-operate, stand upon one another’s shoulders, and multiply incontestable results; where every observation is repeated, and isolated observations count for little; where every hypothesis that merits attention is subjected to severe but fair examination, and only after the predictions to which it leads have been remarkably borne out by experience is trusted at all, and then only provisionally; where a radically false step is rarely taken, even the most faulty of those theories which gain credence being true in their main experiential predictions”.

It is in a desire to elevate metaphysics to somewhere near this level that Peirce proposes his new theory of clearness, believing that much of the useless disputation of philosophy, as he sees it, will end when we know exactly what we are talking about according to this test.

On the question of truth he might indeed have referred to another of his early articles, where the same idea of the independence of truth from individual opinion is brought out. The much-quoted paper on “How To Make Our Ideas Clear” was, as we have noted, the second of a series called “Illustrations of the Logic of Science”. In order to get his doctrine of truth more adequately before us, we may turn for a moment to the first article of the series, the paper called “The Fixation of Belief”.

Here Peirce begins by pointing out four methods for fixing belief. In the first, or ‘method of tenacity’, one simply picks out the belief which for some reason he desires, and holds to it by closing his eyes to all evidence pointing the other way. The second, or the ‘method of authority’, is the same except that the individual is replaced by the state. The third, or ‘a priori method’, makes a thing true when it is ‘agreeable to reason’. But this sort of truth varies between persons, for what is agreeable to reason is more or less a matter of taste.

In contrast with these, and especially with the a priori method, a method must be discovered which will determine truth entirely apart from individual opinion. This is the method of science. That is, “To satisfy our doubt … it is necessary that a method should be found by which our beliefs may be caused by nothing human, but by some external permanency—by something upon which our thinking has no effect…. It must be something which affects, or might affect, every man. And, though these affections are necessarily as various as are individual conditions, yet the method must be such that the ultimate conclusion  of every man shall be the same. Such is the method of science. Its fundamental hypothesis, restated in more familiar language, is this: There are real things whose characters are entirely independent of our opinions about them; those realities affect our senses according to regular laws, and, though our sensations are as different as our relations to the objects, yet, by taking advantage of the laws of perception, we can ascertain by reasoning how things really are, and any man, if he have sufficient experience, and reason enough about it, will be led to one true conclusion. The new conception here involved is that of reality. It may be asked how I know that there are any realities. If this hypothesis is the sole support of my method of inquiry, my method of inquiry must not be used to support my hypothesis. The reply is this: 1. If investigation cannot be regarded as proving that there are real things, it at least does not lead to a contrary conclusion; but the method and conception on which it is based remain ever in harmony. No doubts of the method, therefore, arise with its practice, as is the case with all the others. 2. The feeling which gives rise to any method of fixing belief is a dissatisfaction at two repugnant propositions. But here already is a vague concession that there is some one thing to which a proposition should conform…. Nobody, therefore, can really doubt that there are realities, or, if he did, doubt would not be a source of dissatisfaction. The hypothesis, therefore, is one which every mind admits. So that the social impulse does not cause me to doubt it. 3. Everybody uses the scientific method about a great many things, and only ceases to use it when he does not know how to apply it. 4. Experience of the method has not led me to doubt it, but, on the contrary, scientific investigation has had the most wonderful triumphs in the way of settling opinion. These afford the explanation of my not doubting the method or the hypothesis which it supposes”. (p.12)

The method of science, therefore, is procedure based on the hypothesis that there are realities independent of what we may think them to be. This, it seems, is what Peirce regards as the fundamental principle of the ‘logic of science’. This principle, stated here in the first paper, is again stated as we have seen, towards the close of the second paper. There he says again, “All the followers of science are fully persuaded that the processes of investigation, if only pushed far enough, will give one certain solution to every question to which they can be applied…. Different minds may set out with the most antagonistic views, but the progress of investigation carries them by a force outside of themselves to one and the same conclusion…. This great law is embodied in the conception of truth and reality. That opinion which is fated to be ultimately agreed to by all who investigate,  is what we mean by truth, and the object represented in this opinion is the real. This is the way I would explain reality”. (p.300).

It is well at this point to call attention to a distinction. It is to be noticed that in the first paper and in the latter part of the second he is talking of a method for attaining truth. But in the body of the second paper he is talking of a method for attaining clearness. These two should be kept distinct in our minds. The use of the various methods described for finding the velocity of light were endeavors to find the truth, not to make our ideas clear. Clearness and truth Peirce believes to have no invariable connection. He says in ending the article on “How To Make Our Ideas Clear”, “It is certainly important to know how to make our ideas clear, but they may be ever so clear without being true”. (p.302, italics mine.) There are, then, two methods under consideration: the scientific method for reaching truth, with its postulate that there are independent realities, and the logical method for securing clearness, which as he has just stated, has no necessary connection with truth.

Now I should like to point out, in criticism, that these two methods cannot be used together, or rather that the postulate of the ‘scientific method’ will not endure the test proposed by the ‘method for clearness’. The scientific method postulates a reality unaffected by our opinions about it. But when we apply the method for clearness to this reality it seems to vanish.

The process is this: Peirce, as we will remember, begins his discussion of the real by defining it as “that whose characters are independent of what anybody may think them to be.” Then passing on to apply his method for clearness he finds that “reality, like every other quality, consists in the peculiar sensible effects which things partaking of it produce”, and adds that “the only effects which real things have is to cause belief, for all the sensations which they excite emerge into consciousness in the form of beliefs”. Reality is the sum of its sensible effects, its sensible effects are beliefs, so reality is a sum of beliefs.

Now, reality cannot be the sum of all beliefs regarding the real, because reality is defined in another connection as the object represented by a true opinion, and a true opinion is that which is fated to be agreed to after an investigation is complete. Reality then can consist only in certain selected beliefs. But if reality is this set of ultimately-adopted beliefs, what is truth itself? For truth has been defined as the beliefs which will be ultimately adopted.

In other words, when Peirce applies his method for clearness to the concept of reality, he reduces reality to truth. He identifies the two.  Then there remains no independent realty which stands as a check on truth. And this was the postulate of his method of science.

Since the application of his own method for clearness eliminates reality, it looks as though Peirce must abandon either this method or the postulate of science. He cannot use both the method for clearness and the postulate of the method of science.

We must remember that Peirce was a pioneer in this movement. And in making the transition from the older form of thought, he occasionally uses a word both in the old sense and in the new. Such would seem to be his difficulty with the word ‘reality’, which he uses both in the newer sense which the method for clearness would show it to have, and in the old orthodox sense of something absolute. When he says “reality … consists of the peculiar sensible effects which things partaking of it produce”, he seems to have the two senses of the word in one sentence. Reality consists in sensible effects, or it is that which is produced somehow by means of our senses. But, when things partake of reality, reality exists in advance and produces those effects. Reality is conceived both as the things produced and as the producer of these things.

A somewhat similar difficulty occurs, as I may point out again in criticism, in the use of the words ‘meaning’ and ‘belief’. Here the confusion is caused, not by using a word in two senses, as in the case of ‘reality’, but by using both the words ‘meaning’ and ‘belief’ in the same sense. Peirce defines both ‘meaning’ and ‘belief’ as a sum of habits, and indicates no difference between them.

Thus he says of meaning, “There is no distinction of meaning so fine as to consist in anything but a possible difference in practice”. (293) “To develop its meaning, we have, therefore, simply to determine what habits it produces, for what a thing means is simply what habits it involves”. (p. 292).

But he says similarly of belief, “Belief involves the establishment in our nature of a rule of action, or, say for short, of a habit”. “Since belief is a rule for action, it is a new starting point for thought”. “The essence of belief is the establishment of a habit, and different beliefs are distinguished by the different modes of action to which they give rise”. (p. 291).

Now it will be agreed that instead of defining belief and meaning in terms of the same thing and thus identifying them, we ought sharply to distinguish between them. To have the meaning of a thing is not at all the same as to believe in it. Thus one may have clearly in mind the meaning of centaurs or of fairies or of any of the characters of mythology without in the slightest degree believing in them. Defining these things in terms of sensible effects, we could say that we know  their meaning in the sense that we understand which sensible effects would be involved if they did exist. But to have a belief about them would mean that we would expect these sensible effects. In other words, a belief involves the possibility of fulfillment or frustration of expectation. To believe in anything is therefore a distinct step beyond understanding it.

In inserting these theories of reality and of belief in this discussion of a method for clear apprehension, Peirce is passing beyond a doctrine of clearness and involving himself in a doctrine of truth. We have seen that he does not seem to be able to maintain the postulated reality underlying his description of the scientific method for attaining truth. And it now seems that he is in equal difficulty with belief. If meaning is simply a sum of habits, belief is not simply a sum of habits, for the two are not the same. And if, as we have said, the quality that distinguishes belief from meaning is the fact that it involves expectation, then we appear to be on the verge of a new theory of truth,—a theory saying that truth is simply the fulfillment of these expectations.

Such, we may note, is the interpretation that Dewey puts upon the pragmatic method,—such is the theory of truth that he finds involved in it.

The interpretations of pragmatism which came particularly to the notice of Peirce, however, were those made by James and Schiller, and against these, we may say here, he made vigorous protest. These he regarded as perversions of his doctrine. And he was so desirous of indicating that his own theory of clearness involved for himself no such developments as these, that, in order to make the distinctions clear, he renamed his own doctrine.

His first article of dissent, appearing in The Monist in 1905, was directed mainly, however, against the looseness of popular usage. He traces briefly the doctrine’s growth. Referring back to his original statement in 1878, he says of himself that he “framed the theory that a conception, that is, the rational purpose of a word or other expression, lies exclusively in its conceivable bearing upon the conduct of life; so that, since obviously nothing that might not result from experiment can have any direct bearing upon conduct, if one can define accurately all the conceivably experimental phenomena which the affirmation or denial of a concept could imply, one will have therein a complete definition of the concept, and there is absolutely nothing more in it. For this doctrine he [Peirce, now speaking of himself] invented the name of pragmatism…. His word ‘pragmatism’ has gained general recognition in a generalized sense that seems to argue power of growth and vitality. The famed psychologist, James, first took it up, seeing that his ‘radical empiricism’ substantially answered to the writer’s definition, albeit with  a certain difference in point of view. Next the admirably clear and brilliant thinker, Mr. Ferdinand C. S. Schiller, casting about for a more attractive name for the ‘anthropomorphism’ of his Riddle of the Sphinx, lit, in that most remarkable paper of his on Axioms as Postulates, upon the designation ‘pragmatism’, which in its original sense was in generic agreement with his own doctrine, for which he has since found the more appropriate specification ‘humanism’, while he still retains pragmatism in a somewhat wider sense. So far all went happily. But at present the word begins to be met with occasionally in the literary journals, where it gets abused in the merciless way that words have to expect when they fall into literary clutches. Sometimes the manners of the British have effloresced in scolding at the word as ill-chosen—ill-chosen, that is, to express some meaning that it was rather designed to exclude. So, then, the writer, finding his bantling ‘pragmatism’ so promoted, feels that it is time to kiss his child good-by and relinquish it in its higher destiny; while to serve the precise purpose of expressing the original definition, he begs to announce the birth of the word ‘pragmaticism’, which is ugly enough to be safe from kidnappers”. (pp. 165-6).

Three years later Peirce published an article of much more outspoken protest, this time including in his repudiation the professional philosophers as well as the popularists. Writing for the Hibbert Journal (v.7) he states his case as follows:

“About forty years ago my studies of Kant, Berkeley, and others led me, after convincing myself that all thinking is performed in signs, and that mediation takes the form of dialogue, so that it is proper to speak of the ‘meaning’ of a concept, to conclude that to acquire full mastery of that meaning it is requisite, in the first place, to learn to recognize that concept under every disguise, through extensive familiarity with instances of it. But this, after all, does not imply any true understanding of it; so that it is further requisite that we should make an abstract logical analysis of it into its ultimate elements, or as complete an analysis as we can compass. But even so, we may still be without any living comprehension of it; and the only way to complete our knowledge of its nature is to discover and recognize just what habits of conduct a belief in the truth of the concept (of any conceivable subject, and under any conceivable circumstances) would reasonably develop; that is to say, what habits would ultimately result from a sufficient consideration of such truth. It is necessary to understand the word ‘conduct’, here, in the broadest sense. If, for example, the predication of a given concept were to lead to our admitting that a given form of reasoning concerning the subject of which it was affirmed was valid,  when it would not otherwise be valid, the recognition of that effect in our reasoning would decidedly be a habit of conduct”. (p.108).

After referring to his own expositions he continues, ‘… But in 1897 Professor James remodelled the matter, and transmogrified it into a doctrine of philosophy, some parts of which I highly approved, while other and more prominent parts I regarded, and still regard, as opposed to sound logic.  About the same time Professor Papirie discovered, to the delight of the Pragmatist school, that this doctrine was incapable of definition, which would certainly seem to distinguish it from every other doctrine in whatever branch of science, I was coming to the conclusion that my poor little maxim should be called by another name; and I accordingly, in April 1905, renamed it Pragmaticism.’ (p.109).

‘My original essay, having been written for a popular monthly, assumes, for no better reason than that real inquiry cannot begin until a state of real doubt arises, and ends as soon as a real Belief is attained, that a ‘settlement of belief,’ or in other words, a state of satisfaction, is all that Truth, or the aim of inquiry, consists in.  The reason I gave for this was so flimsy, while the inference was so nearly the gist of Pragmaticism, that I must confess the argument of that essay might be said with some justice to beg the question.  The first part of the essay is occupied, however, with showing that, if Truth consists in satisfaction, it cannot be any actual satisfaction, but must be the satisfaction that would ultimately be found if the inquiry were pushed to its ultimate and indefeasible issue.  This, I beg to point out, is a very different position from that of Mr. Schiller and the pragmatists of to-day…. Their avowedly undefinable position, if it be not capable of logical characterization, seems to me to be characterized by an angry hatred of strict logic, and even a disposition to rate any exact thought which interferes with their doctrine as all humbug.  At the same time it seems to me clear that their approximate acceptance of the Pragmaticistic principle, and even that very casting aside of difficult distinctions (although I cannot approve of it), has helped them to a mightily clear discernment of some fundamental truths that other philosophers have seen but through a mist, or most of them not at all.  Among such truths,—all of them old, of course, yet acknowledged by few—I reckon their denial of necessitarianism; their rejection of any ‘consciousness’ different from a visceral or other external sensation; their acknowledgment that there are, in a Pragmatistical sense, Real habits … and their insistence upon interpreting all hypostatic abstractions in terms of what they would or might (not actually will) come to in the concrete.  It seems to me a pity that they should allow a philosophy so instinct with life to become infected with seeds of death in such notions as that of the unreality of all ideas of infinity and that of the mutability of truth, and in such confusions of thought as that of active willing (willing to control thought, to doubt, and to weigh reasons) with willing not to exert the will (willing to believe).’ (pp.111, 112).

The difference between the position of Peirce and of James may be stated in another way as constituted by the fact that James introduces the factor of value as a criterion for meaning and for truth, while for Peirce these elements did not enter the question at all.  For James the value of a belief is an apparent evidence for its truth, while for Peirce value had no relation to truth.  For an account of this development of the pragmatic doctrine we pass on now to a discussion of James.”   Denton Loring Geyer, The Pragmatic Theory of Truth As Developed by Peirce, James, and Dewey; Chapter One of a dissertation at the University of Wisconsin, ” The Pragmatic Doctrine As Originally Proposed by Peirce,” 1914

jara-etc chile protest
Numero Tres—“Distinguished visitors from Latin American and the entire world, combatants of the armed forces of the people, workers: We have had 14 and a half hours of parading.  (Chanting) I think that only a people imbued with infinite enthusiasm is capable of enduring such tests.  Nevertheless, I will try to be as brief as possible (Chanting)We are very happy over this attitude by the people.  I believe that today we should outline the course to follow, analyze a little what we have done up to now, and see at what point in our history we are, and what we have ahead.  We have all had a chance to see the parade.  Maybe we who are on this platform could appreciate it better than you in the square, maybe still better than those who have paraded.  This May Daytells a lot, it tells a lot about what the revolution has been so far, what it has achieved so far; but maybe it does not tell us as much as it tells our visitors.

We have been witnesses, all of us Cubans, of every step taken by the revolution, so maybe we cannot realize how much we have advanced as fully as can be understood by visitors, particularly those visitors from Latin America, where today they are still living in a world very similar to the one we lived in yesterday.  It is as if they were suddenly transported from the past to the present of our revolution, with all its extraordinary progress as compared to the past.  We do not intend tonight to stress the merit of what we have done.  We merely want to locate ourselves at the point where we are at the present.

We had a chance today to see genuine results of the revolution on this May Day, so different from the May Days of the past.  Formerly that date was the occasion for each sector of labor to set forth its demands, its aspirations for improvement, to men who were deaf to the working class interests, men who could not even accede to those basic demands because they did not govern for the people, for the workers, for the peasants, or for the humble; they governed solely for the privileged, the dominant economic interests.  Doing anything for the people would have meant harming the interests that they represented, and so they could not accede to any just demand from the people.  The May Day parades of those days marked the complaints and protest of the workers.

How different today’s parade has been!  How different even from the first parades after the revolution triumphed.  Today’s parade shows us how much we have advanced.  The workers (Light applause) now do not have to submit themselves to those trials; the workers now do not have to implore deaf executives; the workers now are not subject to the domination of any exploiting class; the workers no longer live in a country run by men serving exploiting interests.  The workers know now that everything the revolution does, everything the government does or can do, has one goal: helping the workers, helping the people. (Applause)

Otherwise, there would be no explanation for the spontaneous sentiment of support for the Revolutionary Government, that overflowing good will that every man and woman has expressed today. (Applause)

Fruits of the revolution are seen everywhere.  The first to parade today were the children of the Camilo Cienfuegos school center.  We saw the Pioneers parade by with the smile of hope, confidence, and affection.  We saw the young rebels parade by.  We saw the women of the federation go by.  We saw children from numberless schools created by the revolution parade.  We saw 1,000 students from the 600 sugar-cane cooperatives who are studying artificial insemination here in the capital.  We saw young people, humble people, parade with their uniforms of the school center where they are learning to be diplomatic representatives of the future.

We saw the pupils of the schools for young peasants of the Zapata swamps parade by, the swamps that the mercenaries chose for their attack.  We saw thousands and thousands of peasants who are studying in the capital and who come from distant mountain areas or from cane cooperatives or from people’s farms parade.  We saw the young girls studying for children’s club work.  And here everyone of these groups staged scenes that are worthy of praise.  And we saw also what is going into the rural areas.  The volunteer teachers paraded and also representatives of the 100,000 young people on their way to the interior to wipe out illiteracy.  Where does this strength come from?  It comes from the people, and it is devoted to the people in return.

These young people are truly children of the people. When we saw them today writing Long Live Our Socialist Revolution with their formations we thought how hard it would have been to have all this without a revolution; how hard for any of these children from the mountains to have paraded here today, or any of these young people from the rural areas to have a chance to get to know the capital, or to study in any of these schools, or to parade with the joy and pride shown here today, or to march with the faith in the future shown today, because schools, university professions, art, culture, and honors were never for the children of poor families, in town or in the country. They were never for the peasant of the remote rural areas; they were never for the poor young fellow, black or white, or our countryside and cities.

Art, culture, university professions, opportunities, honors, elegant clothes were only the privilege of a small minority, a minority represented today with that grace and humor shown by some worker federations in their imitations of the rich. It is astounding to think that today more than 20,000 athletes paraded, if one remembers that we are just beginning. And this, without touching on the most marvelous thing we had a chance to see today, that is, this armed nation, this united people, which came to attend these ceremonies.

How would it have been possible without a revolution? How can one compare this present with the past? How can one avoid emotion on seeing endless lines of workers, athletes, and militiamen parade by? At times all went to intermingled. After all, workers, athletes, and soldiers are the same thing. Anybody could understand why our people must emerge victorious in any battle. We noted the many women in the ranks of the federations. The men were in the artillery units, mortar units, ack-ack units, or militia battalions. The women were the wives and sisters and sweethearts of the militiamen who marched by later in the battalions and those young men of the basic secondary schools, the Pioneers who paraded by were their sons.

And so one can see today the unity of the humble people who are fighting for the poor. Workers of every profession; manual laborers and intellectual workers; all were marching together, the writer, artist, actor, announcer, doctor, nurse, clinical employer. Marching together in great numbers under the flag of the national education workers union were the teachers, employees of the Education Ministry. (Applause).

Today we have had a chance to see everything worthwhile in our country, everything produced in our country. We have understood better than ever that there are two classes of citizens, or rather there were two classes of citizens; the citizens who worked, produced, and created and the citizens who lived without working or producing. These latter were parasites. (Applause)

In this young, fervent nation, who did not parade today, who could not parade here today? The parasites! Today the working people paraded, everybody who produces with his hands or his brain. I do not mean that workers who did not have a chance to parade were parasites, because they had to take care of their children, or were ill, or even just did not want to parade today. I am speaking only of those who were not represented here because they could not be represented by those who produce.

This is the people, the true people. He who lives as a parasite does not belong to the people. Only the invalid, the sick, the old, and children are entitled to live without working and are entitled to have us work for them and to care for them, and from the work of everyone they can be benefited. For the children, the old, the invalid, and the sick, we have the duty to work, all of us. (Applause) What no moral law will be able to justify ever is for the people to work for the parasites. (Applause)

Those who paraded today were the working people who will never resign themselves to work for the parasites. (Applause) In this manner our national community has understood what the revolution is, and has understood clearly what the meaning of a revolution is in which a nation gets rid of parasites from the outside and those inside. (Applause) We remember that because of the nationalization of the largest industries of the nation, and just before the U.S. factories were nationalized, some asked: Was not this factory a Cuban factory? Why should a Cuban factory be nationalized? Well, such a factory did not belong to the people, it belonged to some man. Now they belong to the nation. (Applause)

New Concept of Motherland
It was the custom to talk about the motherland; there were some who had a wrong idea of the motherland. There was the motherland of the privileged ones, of a man who has a large house, while the others live in hovels. What motherland did you have in mind, sir? A motherland where a small group lives from the work of others? A motherland of the barefoot child who is asking for alms on the street? What kind of motherland is this? A motherland which belonged to a small minority? Or the motherland of today? The motherland of today where we have won the right to direct our destiny, where we have learned to decide our destiny, a motherland which will be, now and forever–as Marti wanted it–for the well-being of everyone and not a motherland for few!

The motherland will be a place where such injustices will be eliminated, now we can have the real concept of motherland. We are willing to die for a motherland which belongs to all Cubans. (Applause) That is why the exploiting classes could not have the real concept of motherland. For them, the motherland was a privilege by which they took advantage of the work of others. That is why when a Yankee monopolist (shouts of Out!) when a leader, or a member of the U.S. ruling circles, talks about the motherland, they refer to the motherland of monopolies, of the large banking monopolies. And when they talk about the motherland, they are thinking about sending the Negroes of the South, the workers, to be killed to defend the motherland of monopolies. (Applause)

What kind of morality and what reason and what right do they have to make a Negro die to defend the monopolies, the factories, and the mines of the dominating classes? What right have they to send the Puerto Rican of Latin blood, of Latin tradition, to the battlefields to defend the policy of large capitalists and monopolies? This concept of motherland and this danger to their security to which they refer is the danger of the monopolies. You can understand what concept they have of morality, law, and rights, to send the Negroes of the South and the Puerto Ricans to the battlefields to fight for them. This is their concept of motherland. That is why the people receive the real concept of motherland only when the interests of the privileged classes are liquidated, and when a nation with its wealth becomes a nation for everyone, the wealth for everyone, and opportunity and happiness for everybody.

This happiness now belongs to those youths who paraded, and the families who know that their children can have a school, receive scholarships, and go to the best universities abroad, a privilege enjoyed only by the richest families. And today any family, regardless of how poor, has the opportunity to send its children to schools in the nation and abroad. Any family knows that thanks to the revolution its children have all the opportunities which formerly belonged only to the rich. A nation which works for itself, whether it be in defense of or in achieving wealth can achieve what the minorities cannot. (Applause)

The revolution can win the people with its fervor and enthusiasm. The revolution can utilize all intelligence and creative spirit and take everyone toward a path of well-being and progress. The people who spent 15 hours here today are the same people who formerly could not spend even one hour at a public rally, or who were paid or forced to go to a public rally. These enthusiastic people are the discouraged people of yesterday. The difference is that yesterday they worked for others and today they work for themselves. (Applause)

Fight Against Imperialism
Think of the men who died in recent battles and decide whether a single drop of blood was worth being lost to defend the past. Consider that these workers and youths, the children of workers, fell 10 or 12 days ago to defend what we have seen today. They fell to defend this enthusiasm, this hope, and this joy of today. That is why when today we saw a happy face or a smile full of hope, we though that each smile of today was a flower over the grave of the fallen hero.

It was like giving thanks to those who gave their lives in the battle against imperialism. Without them we would not have had the May Day parade. We would not have been able to see what passed in front of us today. What would have happened to our antiaircraft batteries, what would have happened to our cannons and our soldiers who marched here? What would have happened to our workers, wives, sisters, and factories? What would have happened if imperialism had established even a single beachhead on our territory? What would have happened if the imperialists succeeded in taking one part of our territory, and from there, with Yankee bombs, machineguns, and planes, would have launched an armed attack against us.

Let us not talk about what would have happened if the imperialist had won. There is no sadder picture than a defeated revolution. The uprising of slaves in Rome [Spartacus uprising] and their defeat should give us an idea of what a defeated revolution is. The Commune of Paris should give us an idea of what a defeated revolution is. History tells us that a defeated revolution must pay the victors in blood. The victors not only collect the past debts but also try to collect future debts. But under certain circumstances, it is impossible to crush a revolution.

It has never happened in history that a revolutionary people who have really taken over power have been defeated. What would have happened this May Day if imperialism had won its game? That is why we were thinking of all we owed those who fell. That is why we were thinking that every smile today was like a tribute to those who made possible this hopeful day. The blood that was shed was the blood of workers and peasants, the blood of humble sons of the people, not blood of land- owners, millionaires, thieves, criminals, or exploiters. The blood shed was the blood of the exploited of yesterday, the free men of today. The blood shed was humble, honest, working, creative blood–the blood of patriots not the blood of mercenaries. It was the blood of militiamen who voluntarily came to defend the revolution. It was spontaneously offered blood to defend an ideal.

This ideal was not the ideal with which the Yankees inclucated their mercenaries. It was not an ideal of parrots. It was not an ideal of the tongue, but of the heart. It was not an ideal of those who came to recover their lost wealth. It was not the ideal of those who always lived at the expense of others. It was not the ideal of those who sell their soul for the gold of a powerful empire.

It was the ideal of the peasant who does not want to lose his land, the Negro who does not want discrimination, the humble, those who never lived from the sweat of others, and of those who never robbed from others, an ideal that a poor man of the people can feel.

The revolution is all for him because he was mistreated and humilated. He defends the revolution because the revolution is his life. Before sacrificing this he prefers to lose his life. He knows that he may fall, but never in vain, and that the cause for which he falls will serve for millions of his brothers.

Humble, honest blood was shed by the fatherland in the struggle against the mercenaires of imperialism. But what blood, what men did imperialism send here to establish that beachhead, to bleed our revolution dry, to destroy our achievements, to burn our cane? It was to be a war of destruction.

U.S. Planned Aggression
We can tell the people right here that at the same instant that three of our airports were being bombed, the Yankee agencies were telling the world that our airports had been attacked by planes from our own airforce. They coldbloodedly bombed our nation and told the world that the bombing was done by Cuban pilots with Cuban planes. This was done with planes on which they painted our insignia.

If nothing else, this deed should be enough to demonstrate how miserable are the actions of imperialism. It should be enough for us to realize what Yankee imperialism really is and what its press and its government is. It is possible that millions have heard only the report that Cuban planes piloted by defectors had attacked our airports. This was planned, because the imperialist studied the plan to bomb and the way to deceive the entire world. This should serve to keep us alert and to understand that the imperialists are capable of the most monstrous lies to cover the most monstrous deeds.

U.S. leaders publicly confessed their participation–without any explanation which they owe the world for the statements made by Kennedy that they would never would participate in aggression–and save us the effort of finding proof. Who were those who fought against those workers and peasants? We will explain.

Privileged Class Mercenaries
Of the first mercenaries captured, we can say that, without counting ships’ crews, there were nearly 1,000 prisoners. Among that thousand we have the following: About 800 came from well-to-do families. They had a total of 27,556 caballerias of land, 9,666 houses, 70 industries, 10 sugar centrals, 2 banks, and 5 mines. So 800 out of 1,000 had all that. Moreover, many belonged to exclusive clubs and many were former soldiers for Batista.

Remember, during the prisoner interrogation that I asked who was a cane cutter and only one said that he had cut cane once. That is the social composition of the invaders.

We are sure that if we ask all those here how many owned sugar centrals, there would not be even one. If we asked the combatants who died, members of the milita or soldiers of the revolutionary army, if we compared the wealth of those who fell, surely there would be no land, no banks, no sugar centrals, or the like listed. And some of the shameless invaders said that they came to fight for ideals!

The invaders came to fight for free enterprise! Imagine, at this time for an idiot to come here to say that he fought for free enterprise! As if this people did not know what free enterprise is! It was slums, unemployment, begging. One hundred thousand families working the land to turn over 25 percent of their production to shareholders who never saw that land. How can they come to speak about free enterprise to a country where there was unemployment, illiteracy and where one had to beg to get into a hospital? The people knew that free enterprise was social clubs, and bathing in mud for the children because the beaches were fenced. The beaches were for the wealthy. One could never dream of going to Varadero, for that was for a few wealthy families. One could never dream of having a son study law. That was only for the privileged. A worker could never dream that his son might become a teacher or lawyer. Ninety percent of the sons of workers, or at least 75 percent of those who lived in places were there were no secondary schools had no chance to send their children to study. Not even in a dream could the daughters of the peasants dance here or parade here.

How can one of those who never knew labor say that he came to shed the people’s blood to defend free enterprise? (Chanting, applause) And they did not stop at their fathers’ mention of free enterprise; they included the United Fruit and the electrical company. Those were not free enterprises; they were monopolies. So when they came here they were not fighting for free enterprise; they came for the monopolies, for monopolies do not want free enterprise. They were defending the monopolistic interests of the Yankees here and abroad. How can they tell the Cuban people that they were coming to defend free enterprise?

They also say that they came to defend the 1940 constitution. How curious! That constitution was being torn into bits with the complicity of the U.S. Embassy, the reactionary church, and the politicians. So it is cynical for this group of privileged and Batista-type tyrants, criminals, and torturers to tell the people that they were coming to defend the constitution of 1940, which has been advanced by the Revolutionary Government.

Who represented you in the congress? The corrupt politicians, the rich, the big landholders. There was only a handful of workers in congress. They were always in the minority. The means of disseminating ideas were all in the hands of the rich. It was hard to learn about the horrible conditions because of that. The death of thousands of children for lack of medicine and doctors did not bother the free enterprise men. There was never an agrarian reform law because congress was in the hands of the rich. Even though the constitution said the land must be returned to the Cubans, and even though in 1959 the 1940 constitution had been in effect 19 years, no law took land from the Yankee monopolies, which had huge expanses.

Up to 200,000 hectares were held by some foreign monopolies. The constitution which said that land must be returned to the Cubans and the law setting a limit on landholdings were never enforced. There were teachers without employment, while children lacked schooling.

The Batista group took over through a coup sponsored by imperialism and the exploiting class; they needed such a man as Batista, so that the rural guard would serve the landowners against the peasants. (Applause) It did not matter to them that the nation was being plundered. The landowners did not give anybody modern weapons to fight that regime; they gave arms to that bloody regime itself, not caring about how it violated the constitution. The Yankees did not give arms to anybody to fight Batista. None of the fine little gentlemen fought, because they still had their Cadillacs; they had a regime that guaranteed their frivolous life. They cared nothing about politics, for they had a very good life. Now that their privileges have ended, they found a Yankee government willing to give them arms to come here and shed the blood of workers and peasants. (Applause)

Those gentlemen spoke of elections. What elections did they want? The ones of the corrupt politicians who bought votes? Those elections in which a poor person had to turn over his ballot in return for work? Those fake elections that were just a means for the exploiting class to stay in power? Those elections which were not a military coup? There are many pseudo-democracies in Latin America; what laws have they passed for the peasants? Where is nationalization of industry? Where is their agarian reform? (Applause)

A revolution expressing the will of the people is an election everyday, not every four years; it is a constant meeting with the people, like this meeting. The old politicians could never have gathered as many votes as there are people here tonight to support the revolution. Revolution means a thorough change.

What do they want? Elections with pictures on the posts. The revolution has changed the conception of pseudo-democracy for direct government by the people.

No Time for Elections
There had to be a period for abolition of the privileges. Do the people have time now for elections? No! What were the political parties? Just an expression of class interests. Here there is just one class, the humble; that class is in power, and so it is not interested in the ambition of an exploiting minority to get back in power. Those people would have no chance at all in an election. The revolution has no time to waste in such foolishness. There is no chance for the exploiting class to regain power. The revolution and the people know that the revolution expressed their will; the revolution does not come to power with Yankee arms. It comes to power through the will of the people fighting against arms of all kinds, Yankee arms.

The revolution keeps in power through the people. What are the people interested in? In having the revolution go ahead without losing a minute. (Applause) Can any government in America claim to have more popular support than this one? Why should democracy be the pedantic, false democracy of the others, rather than this direct expression of the will of the people? The people go to die fighting instead of going to a poll to scratch names on paper. The revolution has given every citizen a weapon, a weapon to every man who wanted to enter the militia. So some fool comes along to ask if, since we have a majority why don’t we hold elections? Because the people do not care to please fools and fine little gentlemen! The people are interested in moving forward.

They have no time to waste. The people must spend tremendous amounts of energy in preparing to meet aggression, when everybody knows we want to be building schools, houses, and factories. We are not warlike. The Yankees spend half of their budget on armaments; we are not warlike. We are obliged to spend that energy, because of the imperialists. We have no expansionist ambitions. We do not want to exploit any worker of another county. We are not interested in aggressive plans; we have been forced to have tanks, planes, machineguns, and a military force to defend ourselves.

The recent invasion shows how right we were to arm. At Playa Giron, they came to kill peasants and workers. Imperialism forced us to arm for defense. We have been forced to put energy and material and resources into that, although we would prefer to put them into more schools, so that in future parades there can be more athletes and school children. If our people were not armed, they could not crush mercenaries coming with modern equipment.

The imperialists would have hurled themselves on us long ago if we had not been armed. But we prefer to die rather than surrender the country we have now. They know that. They know they will meet resistance, and so the aggressive circles of imperialism have to stop and think.

So we are forced, by the threat of aggression to proclaim to the four corners of the world: All the peoples of American should rise in indignation after the statement that a country can intervene in another just because the first is strong. Such a policy would mean that the powerful neighbor takes the right to intervene to keep a people from governing themselves according to their own choice. It is inconceivable that there should be such miserable governments; after the aggression that killed peasants and workers, it is inconceivable that they have even begun a policy of breaking with Cuba, instead of breaking with Somoza, Guatemala, or the government in Washington that pays for planes, tanks, and arms to come her and kill peasants.

The Costa Rican government has said that, if mercenaries are executed, it will break with us. It has no reason at all for a break, so it seeks some pretext, and hits on the idea of if there are executions. That government, in insolent intervention, stated its disposal to break with us if any of the mercenaries are executed. It does not break with Kennedy who organized the expedition, or with Guatemala, or Nicaragua. We did not break with it; we merely answered the note.

Those who promote the policy of isolating Cuba at the orders of imperialism are miserable traitors to the interests and feelings of America. (Applause) These facts show us the rotten politics that prevail in many Latin American countries, and how the Cuban revolution has turned those corrupt forms upside down to establish new forms in this country.

New Socialist Constitution
To those who talk to us about the 1940 constitution, we say that the 1940 constitution is already too outdated and old for us. We have advanced too far for that short section of the 1940 constitution that was good for its time but which was never carried out. That constitution has been left behind by this revolution, which, as we have said, is a socialist revolution. We must talk of a new constitution, yes, a new constitution, but not a bourgeois constitution, not a constitution corresponding to the domination of certain classes by exploiting classes, but a constitution corresponding to a new social system without the exploitation of many by man. That new social system is called socialism, and this constitution will therefore be a socialist constitution.

Kennedy’s Protests
If Mr. Kennedy does not like socialism, well we do not like imperialism! We do not like capitalism! We have as much right to protest over the existence of an imperialist-capitalist regime 90 miles from our coast as he feels he has to protect over the existence of a socialist regime 90 miles from his coast. Now then, we would not think of protesting over that, because that is the business of the people of the United States. It would be absurd for us to try to tell the people of the United States what system of government they must have, for in that case we would be considering that the United States is not a sovereign nation and that we have rights over the domestic life of the United States.

Rights do not come from size. Right does not come from one country being bigger than another. That does not matter. We have only limited territory, a small nation, but our right is as respectable as that of any country, regardless of its size. It does not occur to us to tell the people of the United States what system of government they must have. Therefore it is absurd for Mr. Kennedy to take it into his head to tell us what kind of government he wants us to have here. That is absurd. It occurs to Mr. Kennedy to do that only because he does not have a clear concept of international law or sovereignty. Who had those notions before Kennedy? Hitler and Mussolini!

They spoke the same language of force; it is the fascist language. We heard it in the years before Germany’s attack on Czechoslovakia. Hitler split it up because it was governed by a reactionary government. The bourgeoisie, reactionary and profascist, afraid of the advance of a socialist system, preferred even domination by Hitler. We heard that language on the eve of the invasion of Denmark, Belgium, Poland, and so forth. It is the right of might. This is the only right Kennedy advances in claiming the right to interfere in our country.

This is a socialist regime, yes! Yes, this is a socialist regime. It is here, but the fault is not ours, the blame belongs to Columbus, the English colonizers, the Spanish colonizers. The people of the U.S. will someday get tired.

No Threat to U.S.
The U.S. Government says that a socialist regime here threatens U.S. security. But what threatens the security of the North American people is the aggressive policy of the warmongers of the United States. What threatens the security of the North American family and people is the violence, that aggressive policy, that policy that ignores the sovereignty and the rights of other peoples. The one who is threatening the security of the United States is Kennedy, with that aggressive policy. That aggressive policy can give rise to a world war; and that world war can cost the lives of tens of millions of North Americans. Therefore, the one who threatens the security of the United States is not the Cuban Revolutionary Government but the aggressor and aggressive government of the United States.

We do not endanger the security of a single North American. We do not endanger the life or security of a single North American family. We, making cooperatives, agrarian reform, people’s ranches, houses, schools, literacy campaigns, and sending thousands and thousands of teachers to the interior, building hospitals, sending doctors, giving scholarships, building factories, increasing the productive capacity of our country, creating public beaches, converting fortresses into schools, and give the people the right to a better future–we do not endanger a single U.S. family or a single U.S. citizen.

The ones who endangers the lives of millions of families, of tens of millions of North American are those who are playing with atomic war. It is those who, as General Cardenas said, are playing with the possibility of New York becoming a Hiroshima. The ones who are playing with atomic war, with their aggressive war, with their policy that violated the rights of people are the ones who are endangering the security of the North American nation, the security of the lives of unknown millions of North Americans.

What do the monopolists fear? Why do they say that they are not secure with the socialist revolution nearby. They are, as Khrushchev says, proving that they know their system is inferior. They do not even believe in their own system. Why don’t they leave us alone when all our government wants is peace.

U.S. Refusal to Negotiate
Recently, our government issued a statement that we were willing to negotiate. Why? Because we are afraid? No! We are convinced that they fear the revolution more than we fear them. They have a mentality that does not permit them to sleep when they know that there is a revolution nearby.

Fear? No one has fear here. The people who struggle for their liberty are never frightened. The frightened ones are the wealthy. The ones who have been wealthy. We are not interested in having imperialism commit suicide at our expense. They do not care about the death of Negroes, Puerto Ricans, or Americans. But we do care about every Cuban life. We are interested in peace.

We are ready to negotiate. They say that economic conditions can be discussed, but no communism. Well, where did they get the idea we would discuss that? We would discuss economic problems. But we are not even ready to admit that these talks so much as brush a petal of a rose here. The Cuban people are capable of establishing the regime they want there. We have never been thought of the possibility of discussing our regime. We will discuss only things that will not effect our sovereignty. We do want to negotiate on behalf of peace.

Those who do not worry about taking American people to war are being led by emotions. We have no fear. If they think so, let them get over that idea. No Cuban is afraid. If they think we will discuss internal politics, let them forget that, for one one will do that here. Let them discuss all topics they want to discuss. We discussed things with invaders, did we not? Well, we will debate with anyone. We are willing to talk. We are willing to debate. But does that mean we are aching to negotiate? Of course not. We are just taking a sensible step. Does that mean the revolution will slow down? Of course not! We will continue, picking up speed as we can.

Kill Foreign Invaders
If they want to say that that they do not care about the sovereignty of countries, let them. But we are ready to defend as well as to negotiate. We are ready to fire a million shots at the first Yankee parachutist that tries to land here. From the first moment they land on our soil they can be sure that they have begun the most difficult war they ever heard of. That war would be the beginning of the end for imperialism. With the same willingness to negotiate, we will fight. Even the Pioneers will fight. Each man, woman, and child has one duty in case of foreign attack–kill! If we were attacked by foreigners there would be no prisoners. The invading foreigners must know they must kill us all! While one lives, he has an enemy! Death struggle! There is no middle ground! It would be a war without prisoners!

If the invaders land on Cuban soil we will not want our lives. We will fight to the last man against whoever sets foot on our land. All men and women must know their duty. This duty will be fulfilled in simple and natural manner as peoples fight in a righteous war.

It is a crime that our people are not left in peace to complete our work of justice for those who once lived in humiliation and misery. It is too bad that illegitimate interests have determined to harm our country. While they tried to cut off our supplies, they were supplying mercenaries with weapons to invade our country and shed the people’s blood. And in this shameful task, who participated?

I have already told you of the social composition. Well, the priests were not missing either. Three of them came. None were Cubans, they were Spanish. You remember that when we asked them they said they came on a purely spiritual mission. They said they came on a Christian mission. But reviewing their books we find this: An appeal to the people by Ismael de Lugo: Attention Cuban Catholics: Liberating forces have landed on Cuban beaches. We come in the name of God–as if Calvino came in the name of God–justice, and democracy to reestablish trampled freedom; this must be a lie. We come because of love, not hate. We come with thousands of Cubans, all of whom are Catholics and Christians– what a lie–their spirit is the spirit of the crusades. (Editor’s Notes: Castro continues reading the message written by Father de Lugo…..)

And that gentlemen is not even a Cuban; he is a Falangist Spaniard. He could have saved all those appeals and warlike energy by fighting against the Moorish guard of Franco. Why should he come here with three other Falangist Spanish priests instead of going to Spain to fight for freedom against Franco, who has been oppressing Spanish people for 20 odd years and who has sold out to Yankee imperialism? The Yankees are not fighting for freedom in Spain, or Nicaragua, or Guatemala. They are great friends of Franco. And these Falangist priests came here, when it is in Spain they should fight for freedom for peasants and workers. That Falangist priest comes here instead to preach against workers and peasants who have thrown off exploitation. And there were three, not just one; and the fourth, in the Escambray, is a Spanish priest too.

Foreign Priests To Be Expelled
We are going to announce here to the people that in the next few days the Revolutionary Government will pass a law declaring void any permit to remain in Cuba held by any foreign priest in our country. And this law will have only one exception; do you know for whom? A foreign priest can remain with special permission, provided the government approves, if he has not been combatting the Cuban revolution; that is, if he has not displayed an attitude opposed to the revolution; that is, there will be exceptions if a priest has been honest, has not been combatting the revolution, has not been carrying out counterrevolutionary activities. He can request permission, and the government can grant it if it deems proper, because there are some foreign priests, by way of exception, that have not taken a stand against the revolution, although the general rule has been otherwise.

Of course, they will say we are impious, enemies of religion. Can they say that after a leader of the ecclesiastic service, while proclaiming that he is coming to give spiritual service, also signs a manifesto like this one–of this political nature? Can the revolution go on allowing these acts to go on with impunity?

And let these gentlemen come to bring hell here, to bring hell on earth here, with their war criminals, their Calvinos, their Soler Puigs, their big landowners, and their privileged sons, to bring hell on earth here to the peasants and workers? Can we let the Spanish Falange go on promoting bloodshed and conspiracy here through its priests? No, we are not disposed to allow it. The Falangist priests know now, they can begin packing. (Applause)

They have been waging counterrevolutionary activities in the schools, too, poisoning the minds of pupils. They have found fertile soil in schools usually attended by children of the rich. There they have been promoting counterrevolutionary poison in the minds of the young. They have been forming terrorist minds. They have been teaching hatred for the country. Why should the revolution stand for that? We would be guilty if we let that go on.

Nationalization of Private Schools
We announce here that in the next few days the Revolutionary Government will pass a law nationalizing the private schools. This law cannot be a law for one sector; it will be general. That means the private schools will be nationalized; of course, not a little school where one teacher gives classes, but private schools with several teachers.

Directors of private schools have displayed different types of conduct. Many private school directors have not been instilling counterrevolutionary poison. The revolution feels it is its duty to organize and establish the principle of free education for all citizens. The people feel they have the duty of training future generations in a spirit of love for the country, for justice, for the revolution.

What shall be done in the case of private schools that have not displayed counterrevolutionary conduce? The Revolutionary Government will indemnify those directors or owners of schools whose attitude has not been counterrevolutionary, whose attitude has been favorable to the revolution; and the revolution will not indemnify any school whose directors have been waging a counterrevolutionary campaign, who have been against the revolution. That is, there will be indemnity for those schools that have displayed a patriotic, decent attitude toward the revolution. They will be indemnified, and their directors will be invited to work with the Revolutionary Government in directing that school or another school. That is to say, these directors will be called on to help in the field of education, besides being indemnified.

The teachers and employees of all these schools, of a lay nature, will be given work. That is, the employees and teachers of these schools will have their work guaranteed. The pupils of these schools can go on attending them, the educational standards will be kept up and even improved, and furthermore they will have to pay absolutely nothing to attend these schools.

Religion Not Restricted
Villanueva is included in this nationalization, of course. They will say this impious government opposes religious instruction. No sir. What we oppose are those shameless acts they have been committing, and this crime against our country. The can teach religion, yes; in the churches they can teach religion.

Religion is one thing, politics another. If those gentlemen were not against the political interests of the people, we would not care at all about their pastorals, their discussions of religious matters. The churches can remain open; religion can be taught there. Would it not be much better if they had stuck to their religious teaching? Would it not be much better to have peace? They can have peace, within strict limits of the respect due the revolutionary people and government. But they cannot make war on the people in the service of the exploiters. That has nothing to do with religion; it has to do with blood, with gold, with material interests. They can have the consideration of the people, in the limits of that mutual respect for rights.

Christianity arose as a religion of the poor, the slaves, and the oppressed of Rome–the religion that flourished in the catacombs. It was the religion of the poor, and it obtained the respect of the laws. It coexisted with the Roman Empire. Then came feudalism. That church coexisted with feudalism, later with absolute monarchies, later with bourgeois republics. Here the bourgeois republic disappears; why should not that same church coexist with a system of social justice that is far superior to those previous forms of government? This system is much more like Christianity than Yankee imperialism or bourgeois republics, or the Roman Empire. We believe coexistence is perfectly possible. The revolution does not oppose religion. They have used religion as a pretext to combat the poor. They forget what Christ said about it being easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven.

Small Business man Protected
Those are the facts. We have spoken, as always, clearly. It means only that we are prepared to defend the revolution and continue forward, convinced of the justice of our cause.

We have spoken of our socialist revolution. It does not mean the little businessman or little industrialist need worry. Mines, fuel, banking, sugar mills, export and import trade–the bulk of the economy– is in the hands of the people. That way the people can develop our economy. The little industralist and little businessman can coesxist with the revolution. The revolution has always cared for the interests of the small owners.

Urban reform is a proof. This month all little landlords will be collecting around 105,000 pesos. Formerly if the tenant did not pay his rent the landlord did not collect; now a fund has been established to insure that the little landlord will be paid. The revolution will have some 80 million pesos a year for construction from the urban reform. And when rental is the only income of these landlords, the revolution has ruled that after the house is all paid for, the landlord will receive a pension. A socialist revolution does not mean that interests of certain sectors are eliminated without consideration. The interests of the big landholders, bankers, and industrialists were eliminated. No social interest of the lesser levels of society is to be condemned. The revolution will adhere to its word: No middle interest will be affected without due consideration.

Little businessmen industrialists have credit today. The revolution has no interest in nationalizing them. The revolution has enough to do with developing the sources of wealth it now has at its disposal. The revolution feels that there can be collaboration from the little businessman and little industrialist. It believes that their interest can coincide with those of the revolution. Counterrevolutionaries have claimed that barbershops would be nationalized, even food stands. The revolution does not aim at those. The solution of those problems will be the result of a long evolution. There are some problems; sometimes tomatoes and pineapples are sold in the city at far higher prices than in the country. There is still a small plague of middlemen. The revolution still has measures to take to do away with the middleman abuse, to improve consumption for the people. But I do not want anybody to be confused. I want everybody to know what to expect.

Call for Collaboration
Basically, the revolution has already passed its measures. Nobody need worry. Why not join in this enthusiasm, in this prowess? Why are there still Cubans bothered by this happiness? I asked myself that while watching the parade. Why are some Cubans so incapable of understanding that his happiness can also be theirs? Why do they no adapt to the revolution? Why not see their children in the schools here also? Some people cannot adopt, but the future society will be better than the old one.

This is the hour in which we, far from using the moment against those who do not understand, should ask them if the time has not come for them to join us. The revolution found it necessary to be detained. Perhaps they have. The revolution does not want to use its force against a minority. The revolution wants all Cubans to understand. We do not want all this happiness and emotion all to ourselves. It is the glory of the people.

We say this to those who have lied in the past and have not understood. We frankly say that our revolution should not be lessened by severe sanctions against all the mercenaries. It might serve as a weapon for our enemies. We say this because we tell the people all that will benefit the revolution. We have had a moral victory and it will be greater if we do not besmirch our victory.

The lives lost hurt us as much as they do others.  But we must overcome that and speak for our prestige and our cause.  What is before us?  The risks of imperialist aggression!  Big tasks!  We have reached a point in which we should realize that the time has come to make the greatest effort.  The coming months are very important.  They will be months in which we must make greater efforts in all fields.  We all have the duty to do the utmost. no one has a right to rest.  With what we have seen today we must learn that with efforts and courage we can harvest wonderful fruit.  And today’s fruits are nothing compared to what can be done if we apply ourselves to the maximum.

Before concluding, I want to recall what I said during the Moncada trial.  Here is a paragraph: The country cannot remain on its knees imploring miracles from the golden calf.  No social problem is resolved spontaneously.  At that time we expressed our views.  The revolution has followed the revolutionary ideas of those who had an important role in this struggle.

That is why when one million Cubans met to proclaim the Havana Declaration, the document expressed the essence of our revolution, our socialist revolution.  It said that it condemned landed estates, starvation wages, illiteracy, absence of teachers, doctors, and hospitals, discrimination, exploitation of women, oligarchies that hold our countries back, governments that ignore the will of their people by obeying U.S. orders, monopoly of news by Yankee agencies, laws that prevent the masses from organizing, and imperialist monopolies which exploit our wealth.  The general assembly of the people condemns exploitation of man by man.  The general assembly proclaims the following: The right to work education, the dignity of man, civil rights for women, secure old age, artistic freedom, nationalization of monopolies, and the like.  This is the program of our socialist revolution.

Long live the Cuban working class!  Long live the Latin American sister nations!  Long live the nation!  Fatherland or death!  We shall win!”   Fidel Castro, “Cuba Is a Socialist Nation;” May Day speech, 1961

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Nunero Cuatro—“Though small in stature and well into his seventies, Octavio Paz, with his piercing eyes, gives the impression of being a much younger man.  In his poetry and his prose works, which are both erudite and intensely political, he recurrently takes up such themes as the experience of Mexican history, especially as seen through its Indian past, and the overcoming of profound human loneliness through erotic love.  Paz has long been considered, along with César Vallejo and Pablo Neruda, to be one of the great South American poets of the twentieth century; three days after this interview, which was conducted on Columbus Day 1990, he joined Neruda among the ranks of Nobel laureates in literature.Paz was born in 1914 in Mexico City, the son of a lawyer and the grandson of a novelist.  Both figures were important to the development of the young poet: he learned the value of social causes from his father, who served as counsel for the Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata, and was introduced to the world of letters by his grandfather.  As a boy, Paz was allowed to roam freely through his grandfather’s expansive library, an experience that afforded him invaluable exposure to Spanish and Latin American literature.  He studied literature at the University of Mexico, but moved on before earning a degree.

At the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, Paz sided immediately with the Republican cause and, in 1937, left for Spain.  After his return to Mexicao, he helped found the literary reviews Taller (‘Workshop’) and El Hijo Pródigo (‘The Child Prodigy’) out of which a new generation of Mexican writers emerged.  In 1943 Paz traveled extensively in the United States on a Guggenheim Fellowship before entering into the Mexican diplomatic service in 1945.  From 1946 until 1951, Paz lived in Paris.  The writings of Sartre, Breton, Camus, and other French thinkers whom he met at that same time were to be an important influence on his own work.  In the early 1950s Paz’s diplomatic duties took him to Japan and India, where he first came into contact with the Buddhist and Taoist classics.  He has said, ‘More than two thousand years away, Western poetry is essential to Buddhist teaching: that the self is an illusion, a sum of sensations, thoughts, and desire.’  In October 1968 Paz resigned his diplomatic post to protest the bloody repression of student demonstrations in Mexico City by the government.

His first book of poems, Savage Moon, appeared in 1933 when Paz was nineteen years old.  Among his most highly acclaimed works are The Labyrinth of Solitude (1950), a prose study of the Mexican national character, and the book-length poem Sun Stone (1957), called by J. M. Cohen ‘one of the last important poems to be published in the Western world.’  The poem has five hundred and eighty-four lines, representing the five hundred and eighty-four day cycle of the planet Venus.  Other works include Eagle or Sun? (1950), Alternating Current (1956), The Bow and the Lyre (1956), Blanco (1967), The Monkey Grammarian (1971), A Draft of Shadows (1975), and A Tree Within (1957).

Paz lives in Mexico City with his wife Marie-José, who is an artist.   He has been he recipient of numerous international prizes for poetry, including the International Grand Prix, the Jerusalem Prize (1977), the Neustadt Prize (1982), the Cervantes Prize (1981), and the Novel Prize.

During this interview, which took place in front of an overflow audience at the 92nd Street YM-YWHA in New York, under the auspices of the Poetry Center, Paz displayed the energy and power typical of him and of his poetry, which draws upon an eclectic sexual mysticism to bridge the gap between the individual and society.  Appropriately, Paz seemed to welcome this opportunity to communicate with his audience.

 

INTERVIEWER

Octavio, you were born in 1914, as you probably remember . . .

OCTAVIO PAZ

Not very well!

INTERVIEWER

. . . virtually in the middle of the Mexican Revolution and right on the eve of World War I.  The century you’ve lived through has been one of almost perpetual war.  Do you have anything good to say about the twentieth century?

PAZ

Well, I have survived, and I think that’s enough.  History, you know, is one thing and our lives are something else.  Our century has been terrible—one of the saddest in universal history—but our lives have always been more or less the same.  Private lives are not historical.  During the French or American revolutions, or during the wars between the Persians and the Greeks—during any great, universal event—history changes continually.  But people live, work, fall in love, die, get sick, have friends, moments of illumination or sadness, and that has nothing to do with history.  Or very little to do with it.

INTERVIEWER

So we are both in and out of history?

PAZ

Yes, history is our landscape or setting and we live through it.  But the real drama, the real comedy also, is within us, and I think we can say the same for someone of the fifth century or for someone of a future century.  Life is not historical, but something more like nature.

INTERVIEWER

In The Privileges of Sight, a book about your relationship with the visual arts, you say: ‘Neither I nor any of my friends had ever seen a Titian, a Velázquez, or a Cézanne. . . . Nevertheless, we were surrounded by many works of art.’  You talk there about Mixoac, where you lived as a boy, and the art of early twentieth-century Mexico.

PAZ

Mixoac is now a rather ugly suburb of Mexico City, but when I was a child it was a small village. A very old village, from pre-Columbian times. The name Mixoac comes from the god Mixcoatl, the Nahuatl name for the Milky Way. It also means “cloud serpent,” as if the Milky Way were a serpent of clouds. We had a small pyramid, a diminutive pyramid, but a pyramid nevertheless. We also had a seventeenth-century convent. My neighborhood was called San Juan, and the parish church dated from the sixteenth century, one of the oldest in the area. There were also many eighteenth- and nineteenth-century houses, some with extensive gardens, because at the end of the nineteenth century Mixoac was a summer resort for the Mexican bourgeoisie. My family in fact had a summer house there. So when the revolution came, we were obliged, happily I think, to have to move there. We were surrounded by small memories of two pasts that remained very much alive, the pre-Columbian and the colonial.

INTERVIEWER

You talk in The Privileges of Sight about Mixoac’s fireworks.

PAZ

I am very fond of fireworks. They were a part of my childhood. There was a part of the town where the artisans were all masters of the great art of fireworks. They were famous all over Mexico. To celebrate the feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe, other religious festivals, and at New Year’s, they made the fireworks for the town. I remember how they made the church façade look like a fiery waterfall. It was marvelous. Mixoac was alive with a kind of life that doesn’t exist anymore in big cities.

INTERVIEWER

You seem nostalgic for Mixoac, yet you are one of the few Mexican writers who live right in the center of Mexico City. Soon it will be the largest city in the world, a dynamic city, but in terms of pollution, congestion, and poverty, a nightmare. Is living there an inspiration or a hindrance?

PAZ

Living in the heart of Mexico City is neither an inspiration nor an obstacle. It’s a challenge. And the only way to deal with challenges is to face up to them. I’ve lived in other towns and cities in Mexico, but no matter how agreeable they are, they seem somehow unreal. At a certain point, my wife and I decided to move into the apartment where we live now. If you live in Mexico, you’ve got to live in Mexico City.

INTERVIEWER

Could you tell us something about the Paz family?

PAZ

My father was Mexican, my mother Spanish. An aunt lived with us—rather eccentric, as aunts are supposed to be, and poetic in her own absurd way. My grandfather was a lawyer and a writer, a popular novelist. As a matter of fact, during one period we lived off the sales of one of his books, a best-seller. The Mixoac house was his.

INTERVIEWER

What about books? I suppose I’m thinking about how Borges claimed he never actually left his father’s library.

PAZ

It’s a curious parallel. My grandfather had a beautiful library, which was the great thing about the Mixoac house. It had about six or seven thousand books, and I had a great deal of freedom to read. I was a voracious reader when I was a child and even read “forbidden” books because no one paid attention to what I was reading. When I was very young, I read Voltaire. Perhaps that led me to lose my religious faith. I also read novels that were more or less libertine, not really pornographic, just racy.

INTERVIEWER

Did you read any children’s books?

PAZ

Of course. I read a lot of books by Salgari, an Italian author very popular in Mexico. And Jules Verne. One of my great heroes was an American, Buffalo Bill. My friends and I would pass from Alexandre Dumas’s Three Musketeers to the cowboys without the slightest remorse or sense that we were warping history.

INTERVIEWER

You said once that the first time you saw a surrealist painting—a picture where vines were twisting through the walls of a house—you took it for realism.

PAZ

That’s true. The Mixoac house gradually crumbled around us. We had to abandon one room after another because the roofs and walls kept falling down.

INTERVIEWER

When you were about sixteen in 1930, you entered the National Preparatory School. What did you study, and what was the school like?

PAZ

The school was beautiful. It was built at the end of the seventeenth century, the high point of the baroque in Mexican architecture. The school was big, and there was nobility in the stones, the columns, the corridors. And there was another aesthetic attaction. During the twenties, the government had murals painted in it by Orozco and Rivera—the first mural Rivera painted was in my school.

INTERVIEWER

So you felt attracted to the work of the muralists then?

PAZ

Yes, all of us felt a rapport with the muralists’ expressionist style. But there was a contradiction between the architecture and the painting. Later on, I came to think that it was a pity the murals were painted in buildings that didn’t belong to our century.

INTERVIEWER

What about the curriculum?

PAZ

It was a mélange of the French tradition mixed with American educational theories. John Dewey, the American philosopher, was a big influence. Also the “progressive school” of education.

INTERVIEWER

So the foreign language you studied was French?

PAZ

And English. My father was a political exile during the revolution. He had to leave Mexico and take refuge in the United States. He went ahead and then we joined him in California, in Los Angeles, where we stayed for almost two years. On the first day of school, I had a fight with my American schoolmates. I couldn’t speak a word of English, and they laughed because I couldn’t say spoon—during lunch hour. But when I came back to Mexico on my first day of school I had another fight. This time with my Mexican classmates and for the same reason—because I was a foreigner! I discovered I could be a foreigner in both countries.

INTERVIEWER

Were you influenced by any of your teachers in the National Preparatory School?

PAZ

Certainly. I had the chance to study with the Mexican poet Carlos Pellicer. Through him I met other poets of his generation. They opened my eyes to modern poetry. I should point out that my grandfather’s library ended at the beginning of the twentieth century, so it wasn’t until I was in the National Preparatory School that I learned books were published after 1910. Proust was a revelation for me. I thought no more novels had been written after Zola.

INTERVIEWER

What about poetry in Spanish?

PAZ

I found out about the Spanish poets of the Generation of 1927: García Lorca, Rafael Alberti, and Jorge Guillén. I also read Antonio Machado and Juan Ramón Jiménez, who was a patriarch of poetry then. I also read Borges at that time, but remember Borges was not yet a short-story writer. During the early thirties he was a poet and an essayist. Naturally, the greatest revelation during that first period of my literary life was the poetry of Pablo Neruda.

INTERVIEWER

You went on to university, but in 1937 you made a momentous decision.

PAZ

Well, I made several. First I went to Yucatán. I finished my university work, but I left before graduating. I refused to become a lawyer. My family, like all Mexican middle-class families at that time, wanted their son to be a doctor or a lawyer. I only wanted to be a poet and also in some way a revolutionary. An opportunity came for me to go to Yucatán to work with some friends in a school for the children of workers and peasants. It was a great experience—it made me realize I was a city boy and that my experience of Mexico was that of central Mexico, the uplands.

INTERVIEWER

So you discovered geography?

PAZ

People who live in cities like New York or Paris are usually provincials with regard to the rest of the country. I discovered Yucatán, a very peculiar province of southern Mexico. It’s Mexico, but it’s also something very different thanks to the influence of the Mayas. I found out that Mexico has another tradition besides that of central Mexico, another set of roots—the Maya tradition. Yucatán was strangely cosmopolitan. It had links with Cuba and New Orleans. As a matter of fact, during the nineteenth century, people from the Yucatán traveled more often to the United States or Europe than they did to Mexico City. I began to see just how complex Mexico is.

INTERVIEWER

So then you returned to Mexico City and decided to go to the Spanish Civil War?

PAZ

I was invited to a congress, and since I was a great partisan of the Spanish Republic I immediately accepted. I left the Yucatán school and went to Spain, where I stayed for some months. I wanted to enroll in the Spanish Loyalist Army—I was twenty-three—but I couldn’t because as a volunteer I would have needed the recommendation of a political party. I wasn’t a member of the Communist Party or any other party, so there was no one to recommend me. I was rejected, but they told me that was not so important because I was a young writer—I was the youngest at the congress—and that I should go back to Mexico and write for the Spanish Republic. And that is what I did.

INTERVIEWER

What did that trip to Spain mean to you, above and beyond politics and the defense of the Spanish Republic?

PAZ

I discovered another part of my heritage. I was familiar, of course, with the Spanish literary tradition. I have always viewed Spanish literature as my own, but it’s one thing to know books and another thing to see the people, the monuments, and the landscape with your own eyes.

INTERVIEWER

So it was a geographical discovery again?

PAZ

Yes, but there was also the political, or to be more precise, the moral aspect. My political and intellectual beliefs were kindled by the idea of fraternity. We all talked a lot about it. For instance, the novels of André Malraux, which we all read, depicted the search for fraternity through revolutionary action. My Spanish experience did not strengthen my political beliefs, but it did give an unexpected twist to my idea of fraternity. One day—Stephen Spender was with me and might remember this episode—we went to the front in Madrid, which was in the university city. It was a battlefield. Sometimes in the same building the Loyalists would only be separated from the Fascists by a single wall. We could hear the soldiers on the other side talking. It was a strange feeling: those people facing me—I couldn’t see them but only hear their voices—were my enemies. But they had human voices, like my own. They were like me.

INTERVIEWER

Did this affect your ability to hate your enemy?

PAZ

Yes. I began to think that perhaps all this fighting was an absurdity, but of course I couldn’t say that to anyone. They would have thought I was a traitor, which I wasn’t. I understood then, or later, when I could think seriously about that disquieting experience, I understood that real fraternity implies that you must accept the fact that your enemy is also human. I don’t mean that you must be a friend to your enemy. No, differences will subsist, but your enemy is also human, and the moment you understand that you can no longer accept violence. For me it was a terrible experience. It shattered many of my deepest convictions.

INTERVIEWER

Do you think that part of the horror of the situation resulted from the fact that the Fascist soldiers were speaking your language?

PAZ

Yes. The soldiers on the other side of the wall were laughing and saying, Give me a cigarette, and things like that. I said to myself, Well, they are the same as we on this side of the wall.

INTERVIEWER

You didn’t go straight back to Mexico, however.

PAZ

Of course not. It was my first trip to Europe. I had to go to Paris. Paris was a museum; it was history; it was the present. Walter Benjamin said Paris was the capital of the nineteenth century, and he was right, but I think Paris was also the capital of the twentieth century, the first part at least. Not that it was the political or economic or philosophic capital, but the artistic capital. For painting and the plastic arts in general, but also for literature. Not because the best artists and writers lived in Paris but because of the great movements, right down to surrealism.

INTERVIEWER

What did you see that moved you?

PAZ

I went to the Universal Exposition and saw Guernica, which Picasso had just painted. I was twenty-three and had this tremendous opportunity to see the Picassos and Mirós in the Spanish pavilion. I didn’t know many people in Paris, and by pure chance I went to an exhibition where I saw a painting by Max Ernst, Europe after the Rain, which made a deep impression on me.

INTERVIEWER

What about people?

PAZ

I met a Cuban writer who became very famous later, Alejo Carpentier. He invited me to a party at the house of the surrealist poet Robert Desnos. There was a huge crowd, many of them quite well known—but I didn’t know a soul and felt lost. I was very young. Looking around the house, I found some strange objects. I asked the pretty lady of the house what they were. She smiled and told me they were Japanese erotic objects, godemiches, and everyone laughed at my innocence. I realized just how provincial I was.

INTERVIEWER

You were back in Mexico in 1938. So were André Breton and Trotsky: did their presence mean anything to you?

PAZ

Of course. Politically, I was against Breton and Trotsky. I thought our great enemy was fascism, that Stalin was right, that we had to be united against fascism. Even though Breton and Trotsky were not agents of the Nazis, I was against them. On the other hand, I was fascinated by Trotsky. I secretly read his books, so inside myself I was a heterodox. And I admired Breton. I had read L’Amour fou, a book that really impressed me.

INTERVIEWER

So in addition to Spanish and Spanish American poetry you plunged into European modernism.

PAZ

Yes, I would say there were three texts that made a mark on me during this period: the first was Eliot’s The Waste Land, which I read in Mexico in 1931. I was seventeen or so, and the poem baffled me. I couldn’t understand a word. Since then I’ve read it countless times and still think it one of the great poems of the century. The second text was Saint-John Perse’s Anabase, and the third was Breton’s small book, which exalted free love, poetry and rebellion.

INTERVIEWER

But despite your admiration you wouldn’t approach Breton?

PAZ

Once a mutual friend invited me to see him, telling me I was wrong about Breton’s politics. I refused. Many years later, I met him and we became good friends. It was then—in spite of being criticized by many of my friends—I read with enthusiasm the Manifesto for a Revolutionary Independent Art written by Breton and Trotsky and signed by Diego Rivera. In it Trotsky renounces political control of literature. The only policy the revolutionary state can have with regard to artists and writers is to give them total freedom.

INTERVIEWER

It would seem as though your internal paradox was turning into a crisis.

PAZ

I was against socialist realism, and that was the beginning of my conflicts with the Communists. I was not a member of the Communist Party, but I was friendly with them. Where we fought first was about the problem of art.

INTERVIEWER

So the exposition of surrealism in Mexico City in 1940 would have been a problem for you.

PAZ

I was the editor of a magazine, Taller. In it one of my friends published an article saying the surrealists had opened new vistas, but that they had become the academy of their own revolution. It was a mistake, especially during those years. But we published the article.

INTERVIEWER

Publish or perish.

PAZ

We must accept our mistakes. If we don’t, we’re lost, don’t you think? This interview is in some ways an exercise in public confession—of which I am very much afraid.

INTERVIEWER

Octavio, despite the fact that you are a poet and an essayist, it seems that you have had novelistic temptations. I’m thinking of that “Diary of a Dreamer” you published in 1938 in your magazine Taller and The Monkey Grammarian of 1970.

PAZ

I wouldn’t call that diary novelistic. It was a kind of notebook made up of meditations. I was probably under the spell of Rilke and his Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge. The truth is that the novel has always been a temptation for me. But perhaps I am not suited to it. The art of the novel unites two different things. It is like epic poetry, a world peopled by characters whose actions are the essence of the work. But unlike the epic, the novel is analytical. It tells the deeds of the characters, and at the same time, criticizes them. Tom Jones, Odette de Crécy, Ivan Karamazov, or Don Quixote are characters devoured by criticism. You don’t find that in Homer or Virgil. Not even in Dante. The epic exalts or condemns; the novel analyzes and criticizes. The epic heroes are one-piece, solid characters; novelistic characters are ambiguous. These two poles, criticism and epic, combine in the novel.

INTERVIEWER

What about The Monkey Grammarian?

PAZ

I wouldn’t call that a novel. It’s on the frontier of the novel. If it’s anything, that book is an anti-novel. Whenever I’m tempted to write a novel, I say to myself, Poets are not novelists. Some poets, like Goethe, have written novels—rather boring ones. I think the poetic genius is synthetic. A poet creates syntheses while the novelist analyzes.

INTERVIEWER

If we could return to Mexico during the war years, I would like to ask you about your relationship with Pablo Neruda, who was sent to Mexico as Consul General of Chile in 1940.

PAZ

As I said earlier, Neruda’s poetry was a revelation for me when I started to read modern poetry in the thirties. When I published my first book, I sent a copy to Neruda. He never answered me, but it was he who invited me to the congress in Spain. When I reached Paris in 1937, I knew no one. But just as I was getting off the train, a tall man ran up to me shouting, Octavio Paz! Octavio Paz! It was Neruda. Then he said, Oh, you are so young! and we embraced. He found me a hotel, and we became great friends. He was one of the first to take notice of my poetry and to read it sympathetically.

INTERVIEWER

So what went wrong?

PAZ

When he came to Mexico, I saw him very often, but there were difficulties. First, there was a personal problem. Neruda was very generous, but also very domineering. Perhaps I was too rebellious and jealous of my own independence. He loved to be surrounded by a kind of court made up of people who loved him—sometimes these would be intelligent people, but often they were mediocre. The second problem was politics. He became more and more Stalinist, while I became less and less enchanted with Stalin. Finally we fought—almost physically—and stopped speaking to each other. He wrote some not terribly nice things about me, including one nasty poem. I wrote some awful things about him. And that was that.

INTERVIEWER

Was there a reconciliation?

PAZ

For twenty years we didn’t speak. We’d sometimes be at the same place at the same time, and I knew he would tell our mutual friends to stop seeing me because I was a “traitor.” But then the Khrushchev report about the Stalinist terrors was made public and shattered his beliefs. We happened to be in London at the same poetry festival. I had just remarried, as had Pablo. I was with Marie-José, my wife, when we met Matilde Urrutia, his wife. She said, If I’m not mistaken, you are Octavio Paz. To which I answered, Yes, and you are Matilde. Then she said, Do you want to see Pablo? I think he would love to see you again. We went to Pablo’s room, where he was being interviewed by a journalist. As soon as the journalist left, Pablo said, My son, and embraced me. The expression is very Chilean—mijito—and he said it with emotion. I was very moved, almost crying. We talked briefly, because he was on his way back to Chile. He sent me a book, I sent him one. And then a few years later, he died. It was sad, but it was one of the best things that has ever happened to me—the possibility to be friends again with a man I liked and admired so very much.

INTERVIEWER

The early forties were clearly difficult times for you, and yet they seem to have forced you to define your own intellectual position.

PAZ

That’s true. I was having tremendous political problems, breaking with former friends—Neruda among them. I did make some new friends, like Victor Serge, a Franco-Russian writer, an old revolutionary. But I reached the conclusion that I had to leave my country, exile myself. I was fortunate because I received a Guggenheim Fellowship to go to the United States. On this second visit, I went first to Berkeley and then to New York. I didn’t know anyone, had no money, and was actually destitute. But I was really happy. It was one of the best periods of my life.

INTERVIEWER

Why?

PAZ

Well, I discovered the American people, and I was thrilled. It was like breathing deeply and freely while facing a vast space—a feeling of elation, lightness, and confidence. I feel the same way every time I come to your country, but not with the same intensity. It was vivifying just to be in the States in those days, and at the same time, I could step back from politics and plunge into poetry. I discovered American poetry in Conrad Aiken’s Anthology of Modern American Poetry. I had already read Eliot, but I knew nothing about William Carlos Williams or Pound or Marianne Moore. I was slightly acquainted with Hart Crane’s poetry—he lived his last years in Mexico, but he was more a legend than a body of poetry. While I was in Berkeley, I met Muriel Rukeyser who very generously translated some of my poems. That was a great moment for me. A few years later, she sent them to Horizon, which Spender and Cyril Connolly were editing in London, where they were published. For me it was a kind of . . .

INTERVIEWER

Small apotheosis?

PAZ

A very small apotheosis. After New York, where I became a great reader of Partisan Review, I went on to Paris and caught up with some friends I’d met in Mexico. Benjamin Péret, for example. Through him, I finally met Breton. We became friends. Surrealism was in decline, but surrealism for French literary life was something healthy, something vital and rebellious.

INTERVIEWER

What do you mean?

PAZ

The surrealists embodied something the French had forgotten: the other side of reason, love, freedom, poetry. The French have a tendency to be too rationalistic, to reduce everything to ideas and then to fight over them. When I reached Paris, Jean-Paul Sartre was the dominant figure.

INTERVIEWER

But for you existentialism would have been old hat.

PAZ

That’s right. In Madrid, the Spanish philosopher Ortega y Gasset—and later his disciples in Mexico City and Buenos Aires—had published all the main texts of phenomenology and existentialism, from Husserl to Heidegger, so Sartre represented more a clever variation than an innovation. Also, I was against Sartre’s politics. The one person connected to French existentialism with whom I was friendly and who was very generous to me was Albert Camus. But I must say I was nearer to the surrealist poets.

INTERVIEWER

By the end of the forties you had published two major books, the poems collected in Freedom on Parole and The Labyrinth of Solitude. I’ve always been curious about the title of Freedom on Parole. Does it have anything to do with the futurist poet Marinetti’s “words on leave”?

PAZ

I’m afraid not. Marinetti wanted to free words from the chains of syntax and grammar, a kind of aesthetic nihilism. Freedom on Parole has more to do with morals than aesthetics. I simply wanted to say that human freedom is conditional. In English, when you are let out of jail you’re “on parole,” and parole means “speech,” “word,” “word of honor.” But the condition under which you are free is language, human awareness.

INTERVIEWER

So for you freedom of speech is more than the right to speak your mind?

PAZ

Absolutely. Ever since I was an adolescent I’ve been intrigued by the mystery of freedom. Because it is a mystery. Freedom depends on the very thing that limits or denies it, fate, God, biological, or social determinism, whatever. To carry out its mission, fate counts on the complicity of our freedom, and to be free, we must overcome fate. The dialectics of freedom and fate is the theme of Greek tragedy and Shakespeare, although in Shakespeare fate appears as passion (love, jealousy, ambition, envy) and as chance. In Spanish theater—especially in Calderón and Tirso de Molina—the mystery of freedom expresses itself in the language of Christian theology: divine providence and free will. The idea of conditional freedom implies the notion of personal responsibility. Each of us, literally, either creates or destroys his own freedom. A freedom that is always precarious. And that brings up the title’s poetic or aesthetic meaning: the poem, freedom, stands above an order, language.

INTERVIEWER

You wrote Freedom on Parole between 1935 and 1957, more than twenty years. . . .

PAZ

I wrote and rewrote the book many times.

INTERVIEWER

Is it an autobiography?

PAZ

Yes and no. It expresses my aesthetic and personal experiences, from my earliest youth until the beginning of my maturity. I wrote the first poems when I was twenty-one, and I finished the last when I turned forty-three. But the real protagonist of those poems is not Octavio Paz but a half-real, half-mythical figure: the poet. Although that poet was my age, spoke my language, and his vital statistics were identical with my own, he was someone else. A figure, an image derived from tradition. Every poet is the momentary incarnation of that figure.

INTERVIEWER

Doesn’t The Labyrinth of Solitude also have an autobiographical dimension?

PAZ

Again, yes and no. I wrote The Labyrinth of Solitude in Paris. The idea came to me in the United States when I tried to analyze the situation of the Mexicans living in Los Angeles, the pachucos, or Chicanos as they’re called now. I suppose they were a kind of mirror for me—the autobiographical dimension you like to see. That on one side. But there is also the relationship between Mexico and the United States. If there are two countries in the world that are different, they are the United States and Mexico. But we are condemned to live together forever. So we should try to understand each other and also to know ourselves. That was how The Labyrinth of Solitude began.

INTERVIEWER

That book deals with ideas such as difference, resentment, the hermetic nature of Mexican man, but it doesn’t touch on the life of the poet.

PAZ

True. I tried to deal with that subject in a short essay called “Poetry of Solitude and Poetry of Communion.” That article in some ways is the poetic equivalent to The Labyrinth of Solitude because it presents my vision of man, which is very simple. There are two situations for every human being. The first is the solitude we feel when we are born. Our first situation is that of orphanhood, and it is only later that we discover the opposite, filial attachment. The second is that because we are thrown, as Heidegger says, into this world, we feel we must find what the Buddhists call “the other share.” This is the thirst for community. I think philosophy and religion derive from this original situation or predicament. Every country and every individual tries to resolve it in different ways. Poetry is a bridge between solitude and communion. Communion, even for a mystic like Saint John of the Cross, can never be absolute.

INTERVIEWER

Is this why the language of mysticism is so erotic?

PAZ

Yes, because lovers, which is what the mystics are, constitute the greatest image of communion. But even between lovers solitude is never completely abolished. Conversely, solitude is never absolute. We are always with someone, even if it is only our shadow. We are never one—we are always we. These extremes are the poles of human life.

INTERVIEWER

All in all, you spent some eight years abroad, first in the United States, then in Paris, and then in the Mexican diplomatic service. How do you view those years in the context of your career as a poet?

PAZ

Actually, I spent nine years abroad. If you count each of those years as a month, you’ll find that those nine years were nine months that I lived in the womb of time. The years I lived in San Francisco, New York, and Paris were a period of gestation. I was reborn, and the man who came back to Mexico at the end of 1952 was a different poet, a different writer. If I had stayed in Mexico, I probably would have drowned in journalism, bureaucracy, or alcohol. I ran away from that world and also, perhaps, from myself.

INTERVIEWER

But you were hardly greeted as the prodigal son when you reappeared . . .

PAZ

I wasn’t accepted at all, except by a few young people. I had broken with the predominant aesthetic, moral, and political ideas and was instantly attacked by many people who were all too sure of their dogmas and prejudices. It was the beginning of a disagreement that has still not come to an end. It isn’t simply an ideological difference of opinion. Certainly those polemics have been bitter and hard-fought, but even that does not explain the malevolence of some people, the pettiness of others, and the reticence of the majority. I’ve experienced despair and rage, but I’ve just had to shrug my shoulders and move forward. Now I see those quarrels as a blessing: if a writer is accepted, he’ll soon be rejected or forgotten. I didn’t set out to be a troublesome writer, but if that’s what I’ve been, I am totally unrepentant.

INTERVIEWER

You left Mexico again in 1959.

PAZ

And I didn’t come back until 1971. An absence of twelve years—another symbolic number. I returned because Mexico has always been a magnet I can’t resist, a real passion, alternately happy and wretched like all passions.

INTERVIEWER

Tell me about those twelve years. First you went back to Paris, then to India as the Mexican ambassador, and later to England and the United States.

PAZ

When I’d finished the definitive version of Freedom on Parole, I felt I could start over. I explored new poetic worlds, knew other countries, lived other sentiments, had other ideas. The first and greatest of my new experiences was India. Another geography, another humanity, other gods—a different kind of civilization. I lived there for just over six years. I traveled around the subcontinent quite a bit and lived for periods in Ceylon and Afghanistan—two more geographical and cultural extremes. If I had to express my vision of India in a single image, I would say that I see an immense plain: in the distance, white, ruinous architecture, a powerful river, a huge tree, and in its shade a shape (a beggar, a Buddha, a pile of stones?). Out from among the knots and forks of the tree, a woman arises . . . I fell in love and got married in India.

INTERVIEWER

When did you become seriously interested in Asian thought?

PAZ

Starting with my first trip to the East in 1952—I spent almost a year in India and Japan—I made small incursions into the philosophic and artistic traditions of those countries. I visited many places and read some of the classics of Indian thought. Most important to me were the poets and philosophers of China and Japan. During my second stay in India, between 1962 and 1968, I read many of the great philosophic and religious texts. Buddhism impressed me profoundly.

INTERVIEWER

Did you think of converting?

PAZ

No, but studying Buddhism was a mental and spiritual exercise that helped me begin to doubt the ego and its mirages. Ego worship is the greatest idolatry of modern man. Buddhism for me is a criticism of the ego and of reality. A radical criticism that does not end in negation but in acceptance. All the great Buddhist sanctuaries in India (the Hindu sanctuaries as well, but those, perhaps because they’re later, are more baroque and elaborate) contain highly sensual sculptures and reliefs. A powerful but peaceful sexuality. I was shocked to find that exaltation of the body and of natural powers in a religious and philosophic tradition that disparages the world and preaches negation and emptiness. That became the central theme of a short book I wrote during those years, Conjunctions and Disjunctions.

INTERVIEWER

Was it hard to balance being Mexican ambassador to India with your explorations of India?

PAZ

My ambassadorial work was not arduous. I had time, I could travel and write. And not only about India. The student movements of 1968 fascinated me. In a certain way I felt the hopes and aspirations of my own youth were being reborn. I never thought it would lead to a revolutionary transformation of society, but I did realize that I was witnessing the appearance of a new sensibility that in some fashion rhymed with what I had felt and thought before.

INTERVIEWER

You felt that history was repeating itself?

PAZ

In a way. The similarity between some of the attitudes of the 1968 students and the surrealist poets, for example, was clear to see. I thought William Blake would have been sympathetic to both the words and the actions of those young people. The student movement in Mexico was more ideological than in France or the United States, but it too had legitimate aspirations. The Mexican political system, born out of the revolution, had survived but was suffering a kind of historical arteriosclerosis. On October 2, 1968, the Mexican government decided to use violence to suppress the student movement. It was a brutal action. I felt I could not go on serving the government, so I left the diplomatic corps.

INTERVIEWER

You went to Paris and then to the United States before spending that year at Cambridge.

PAZ

Yes, and during those months I reflected on the recent history of Mexico. The revolution began in 1910 with great democratic ambitions. More than half a century later, the nation was controlled by a paternalistic, authoritarian party. So in 1969 I wrote a postscript to The Labyrinth of Solitude, a “critique of the pyramid,” which I took to be the symbolic form of Mexican authoritarianism. I stated that the only way of getting beyond the political and historical crisis we were living through—the paralysis of the institutions created by the revolution—was to begin democratic reform.

INTERVIEWER

But that was not necessarily what the student movement was seeking.

PAZ

No. The student leaders and the left-wing political groups favored violent social revolution. They were under the influence of the Cuban Revolution—and there are still some who defend Fidel Castro even today. My point of view put me in opposition, simultaneously, to the government and the left. The “progressive” intellectuals, almost all of whom wanted to establish a totalitarian socialist regime, attacked me vehemently. I fought back. Rather, we fought back—a small group of younger writers agreed with some of my opinions. We all believed in a peaceful, gradual move toward democracy. We founded Plural, a magazine that would combine literature, art, and political criticism. There was a crisis, so we founded another, Vuelta (“return”), which is still going strong and has a faithful, demanding readership. Mexico has changed, and now most of our old enemies say they are democratic. We are living through a transition to democracy, one that will have its setbacks and will seem too slow for some.

INTERVIEWER

Do you see yourself as part of a long line of Latin American statesmen-writers, one that could include Argentina’s Sarmiento in the nineteenth and Neruda in the twentieth century?

PAZ

I don’t think of myself as a statesman-poet, and I’m not really comparable to Sarmiento or Neruda. Sarmiento was a real statesman and a great political figure in addition to being a great writer. Neruda was a poet, a great poet. He joined the Communist Party, but for generous, semi-religious reasons. It was a real conversion. So his political militance was not that of an intellectual but of a believer. Within the party, he seems to have been a political pragmatist, but, again, he was more like one of the faithful than a critical intellectual. As for me, well, I’ve never been a member of any political party, and I’ve never run for public office. I have been a political and social critic, but always from the marginal position of an independent writer. I’m not a joiner, although of course I’ve had and have my personal preferences. I’m different from Mario Vargas Llosa, who did decide to intervene directly in his country’s politics. Vargas Llosa is like Havel in Czechoslovakia or Malraux in France after World War II.

INTERVIEWER

But it is almost impossible to separate politics from literature or any aspect of culture.

PAZ

Since the Enlightenment, there has been a constant confluence of literature, philosophy, and politics. In the English-speaking world you have Milton as an antecedent as well as the great romantics in the nineteenth century. In the twentieth century, there are many examples. Eliot, for instance, was never an active participant in politics, but his writing is an impassioned defense of traditional values, values that have a political dimension. I mention Eliot, whose beliefs are totally different from my own, simply because he too was an independent writer who joined no party. I consider myself a private person, although I reserve the right to have opinions and to write about matters that affect my country and my contemporaries. When I was young, I fought against Nazi totalitarianism and, later on, against the Soviet dictatorship. I don’t regret either struggle in the slightest.

INTERVIEWER

Thinking about your time in India now and its effect on your poetry, what would you say about the influence of India?

PAZ

If I hadn’t lived in India, I could not have written Blanco or most of the poems in Eastern Slope. The time I spent in Asia was a huge pause, as if time had slowed down and space had become larger. In a few rare moments, I experienced those states of being in which we are at one with the world around us, when the doors of time seem to open, if only slightly. We all live those instants in our childhood, but modern life rarely allows us to reexperience them when we’re adults. As regards my poetry, that period begins with Salamander, culminates in Eastern Slope, and ends with The Monkey Grammarian.

INTERVIEWER

But didn’t you write The Monkey Grammarian in 1970, the year you spent at Cambridge University?

PAZ

I did. It was my farewell to India. That year in England also changed me. Especially because of what we must necessarily refer to as English “civility,” which includes the cultivation of eccentricity. That taught me not only to respect my fellow man but trees, plants, and birds as well. I also read certain poets. Thanks to Charles Tomlinson, I discovered Wordsworth. The Prelude became one of my favorite books. There may be echoes of it in A Draft of Shadows.

INTERVIEWER

Do you have a schedule for writing?

PAZ

I’ve never been able to maintain a fixed schedule. For years, I wrote in my few free hours. I was quite poor and from an early age had to hold down several jobs to eke out a living. I was a minor employee in the National Archive; I worked in a bank; I was a journalist; I finally found a comfortable but busy post in the diplomatic service, but none of those jobs had any real effect on my work as a poet.

INTERVIEWER

Do you have to be in any specific place in order to write?

PAZ

A novelist needs his typewriter, but you can write poetry any time, anywhere. Sometimes I mentally compose a poem on a bus or walking down the street. The rhythm of walking helps me fix the verses. Then when I get home, I write it all down. For a long time when I was younger, I wrote at night. It’s quieter, more tranquil. But writing at night also magnifies the writer’s solitude. Nowadays I write during the late morning and into the afternoon. It’s a pleasure to finish a page when night falls.

INTERVIEWER

Your work never distracted you from your writing?

PAZ

No, but let me give you an example. Once I had a totally infernal job in the National Banking Commission (how I got it, I can’t guess), which consisted in counting packets of old banknotes already sealed and ready to be burned. I had to make sure each packet contained the requisite three thousand pesos. I almost always had one banknote too many or too few—they were always fives—so I decided to give up counting them and to use those long hours to compose a series of sonnets in my head. Rhyme helped me retain the verses in my memory, but not having paper and pencil made my task much more difficult. I’ve always admired Milton for dictating long passages from Paradise Lost to his daughters. Unrhymed passages at that!

INTERVIEWER

Is it the same when you write prose?

PAZ

Prose is another matter. You have to write it in a quiet, isolated place, even if that happens to be the bathroom. But above all to write it’s essential to have one or two dictionaries at hand. The telephone is the writer’s devil, the dictionary his guardian angel. I used to type, but now I write everything in longhand. If it’s prose, I write it out one, two, or three times, and then dictate it into a tape recorder. My secretary types it out, and I correct it. Poetry I write and rewrite constantly.

INTERVIEWER

What is the inspiration or starting point for a poem? Can you give an example of how the process works?

PAZ

Each poem is different. Often the first line is a gift, I don’t know if from the gods or from that mysterious faculty called inspiration. Let me use Sun Stone as an example: I wrote the first thirty verses as if someone were silently dictating them to me. I was surprised at the fluidity with which those hendecasyllabic lines appeared one after another. They came from far off and from nearby, from within my own chest. Suddenly the current stopped flowing. I read what I’d written—I didn’t have to change a thing. But it was only a beginning, and I had no idea where those lines were going. A few days later, I tried to get started again, not in a passive way but trying to orient and direct the flow of verses. I wrote another thirty or forty lines. I stopped. I went back to it a few days later, and little by little, I began to discover the theme of the poem and where it was all heading.

INTERVIEWER

A figure began to appear in the carpet?

PAZ

It was a kind of review of my life, a resurrection of my experiences, my concerns, my failures, my obsessions. I realized I was living the end of my youth and that the poem was simultaneously an end and a new beginning. When I reached a certain point, the verbal current stopped, and all I could do was repeat the first verses. That is the source of the poem’s circular form. There was nothing arbitrary about it. Sun Stone is the last poem in the book that gathers together the first period of my poetry: Freedom on Parole. Even though I didn’t know what I would write after that, I was sure that one period of my life and my poetry had ended, and another was beginning.

INTERVIEWER

But the title seems to allude to the cyclical Aztec concept of time.

PAZ

While I was writing the poem, I was reading an archeological essay about the Aztec calendar, and it occurred to me to call the poem Sun Stone. I added or cut—I don’t remember which—three or four lines so that the poem would coincide with the five hundred and eighty-four days of the conjunction of Venus with the Sun. But the time of my poem is not the ritual time of Aztec cosmogony but human, biographical time, which is linear.

INTERVIEWER

But you thought seriously enough about the numerical symbolism of 584 to limit the number of verses in the poem to that number.

PAZ

I confess that I have been and am still fond of numerological combinations. Other poems of mine are also built around certain numerical proportions. It isn’t an eccentricity, but a part of the Western tradition. Dante is the best example. Blanco, however, was completely different from Sun Stone. First I had the idea for the poem. I made notes and even drew some diagrams that were inspired, more or less, by Tibetan mandalas. I conceived it as a spatial poem that would correspond to the four points on the compass, the four primary colors, etcetera. It was difficult because poetry is a temporal art. As if to prove it, the words themselves wouldn’t come. I had to call them and, even though it may seem I’m exaggerating, invoke them. One day, I wrote the first lines. As was to be expected they were about words, how they appear and disappear. After those first ten lines, the poem began to flow with relative ease. Of course, there were, as usual, anguishing periods of sterility followed by others of fluidity. The architecture of Blanco is more sharply defined than that of Sun Stone, more complex, richer.

INTERVIEWER

So you defy Edgar Allan Poe’s injunction against the long poem?

PAZ

With great relish. I’ve written other long poems, like A Draft of Shadows and Carta de creencia, which means “letter of faith.” The first is the monologue of memory and its inventions—memory changes and recreates the past as it revives it. In that way, it transforms the past into the present, into presence. Carta de creencia is a cantata where different voices converge. But, like Sun Stone, it’s still a linear composition.

INTERVIEWER

When you write a long poem, do you see yourself as part of an ancient tradition?

PAZ

The long poem in modern times is very different from what it was in antiquity. Ancient poems, epics or allegories, contain a good deal of stuffing. The genre allowed and even demanded it. But the modern long poem tolerates neither stuffing nor transitions, for several reasons. First, with inevitable exceptions like Pound’s Cantos, because our long poems are simply not as long as those of the ancients. Second, because our long poems contain two antithetical qualities: the development of the long poem and the intensity of the short poem. It’s very difficult to manage. Actually, it’s a new genre. And that’s why I admire Eliot: his long poems have the same intensity and concentration as short poems.

INTERVIEWER

Is the process of writing enjoyable or frustrating?

PAZ

Writing is a painful process that requires huge effort and sleepless nights. In addition to the threat of writer’s block, there is always the sensation that failure is inevitable. Nothing we write is what we wish we could write. Writing is a curse. The worst part of it is the anguish that precedes the act of writing—the hours, days, or months when we search in vain for the phrase that turns the spigot that makes the water flow. Once that first phrase is written, everything changes—the process is enthralling, vital, and enriching, no matter what the final result is. Writing is a blessing!

INTERVIEWER

How and why does an idea seize you? How do you decide if it is prose or poetry?

PAZ

I don’t have any hard-and-fast rules for this. For prose, it would seem that the idea comes first, followed by a desire to develop the idea. Often, of course, the original idea changes, but even so the essential fact remains the same: prose is a means, an instrument. But in the case of poetry, the poet becomes the instrument. Whose? It’s hard to say. Perhaps language. I don’t mean automatic writing. For me, the poem is a premeditated act. But poetry flows from a psychic well related to language, that is, related to the culture and memory of a people. An ancient, impersonal spring intimately linked to verbal rhythm.

INTERVIEWER

But doesn’t prose have a rhythm as well?

PAZ

Prose does have a rhythm, but that rhythm is not its constitutive element as it is in poetry. Let’s not confuse metrics with rhythm: meter may be a manifestation of rhythm, but it is different because it has become mechanical. Which is why, as Eliot suggests, from time to time meter has to return to spoken, everyday language, which is to say, to the original rhythms every language has.

INTERVIEWER

Verse and prose are, therefore, separate entities?

PAZ

Rhythm links verse to prose: one enriches the other. The reason why Whitman was so seductive was precisely because of his surprising fusion of prose and poetry. A fusion produced by rhythm. The prose poem is another example, although its powers are more limited. Of course, being prosaic in poetry can be disastrous, as we see in so many inept poems in “free verse” every day. As to the influence of poetry on prose—just think about Chateaubriand, Nerval, or Proust. In Joyce, the boundary between prose and poetry sometimes completely disappears.

INTERVIEWER

Can you always keep that boundary sharp?

PAZ

I try to keep them separate, but it doesn’t always work. A prose piece, without my having to think about it, can become a poem. But I’ve never had a poem turn into an essay or a story. In some books—Eagle or Sun? and The Monkey Grammarian—I’ve tried to bring the prose right up to the border with poetry, I don’t know with how much success.

INTERVIEWER

We’ve talked about premeditation and revision: how does inspiration relate to them?

PAZ

Inspiration and premeditation are two phases in the same process. Premeditation needs inspiration and vice-versa. It’s like a river: the water can only flow between the two banks that contain it. Without premeditation, inspiration just scatters. But the role of premeditation—even in a reflexive genre like the essay—is limited. As you write, the text becomes autonomous, changes, and somehow forces you to follow it. The text always separates itself from the author.

INTERVIEWER

Then why revise?

PAZ

Insecurity. No doubt about it. Also a senseless desire for perfection. I said that all texts have their own life, independent of the author. The poem doesn’t express the poet. It expresses poetry. That’s why it is legitimate to revise and correct a poem. Yes, and at the same time respect the poet who wrote it. I mean the poet, not the man we were then. I was that poet, but I was also someone else—that figure we talked about earlier. The poet is at the service of his poems.

INTERVIEWER

But just how much revising do you do? Do you ever feel a work is complete, or is it abandoned?

PAZ

I revise incessantly. Some critics say too much, and they may be right. But if there’s a danger in revising, there is much more danger in not revising. I believe in inspiration, but I also believe that we’ve got to help inspiration, restrain it, and even contradict it.

INTERVIEWER

Thinking again on the relationship between inspiration and revision, did you ever attempt the kind of automatic writing the surrealists recommended in the first surrealist manifesto?

PAZ

I did experiment with “automatic writing.” It’s very hard to do. Actually, it’s impossible. No one can write with his mind blank, not thinking about what he’s writing. Only God could write a real automatic poem because only for God are speaking, thinking, and acting the same thing. If God says, “A horse!” a horse immediately appears. But a poet has to reinvent his horse, that is, his poem. He has to think it, and he has to make it. All the automatic poems I wrote during the time of my friendship with the surrealists were thought and written with a certain deliberation. I wrote those poems with my eyes open.

INTERVIEWER

Do you think Breton was serious when he advocated automatic writing?

PAZ

Perhaps he was. I was extremely fond of André Breton, really admired him. It’s no exaggeration to say he was a solar figure because his friendship emitted light and heat. Shortly after I met him, he asked me for a poem for a surrealist magazine. I gave him a prose poem, “Mariposa de obsidiana”—it alludes to a pre-Columbian goddess. He read it over several times, liked it, and decided to publish it. But he pointed out one line that seemed weak. I reread the poem, discovered he was right, and removed the phrase. He was charmed, but I was confused. So I asked him, What about automatic writing? He raised his leonine head and answered without changing expression: That line was a journalistic intromission . . .

INTERVIEWER

It’s curious, Octavio, how often a tension allows you to find your own special place—the United States and Mexico, the pachuco and Anglo-American society, solitude and communion, poetry and prose. Do you yourself see a tension between your essays and your poetry?

PAZ

If I start to write, the thing I love to write most, the thing I love most to create, is poetry. I would much rather be remembered for two or three short poems in some anthology than as an essayist. However, since I am a modern and live in a century that believes in reason and explanation, I find I am in a tradition of poets who in one way or another have written defenses of poetry. Just think of the Renaissance and then again of the romantics—Shelley, Wordsworth in the preface to Lyrical Ballads. Well, now that I’m at the end of my career, I want to do two things: to keep on writing poetry and to write another defense of poetry.

INTERVIEWER

What will it say?

PAZ

I’ve just written a book, The Other Voice, about the situation of poetry in the twentieth century. When I was young, my great idols were poets and not novelists—even though I admired novelists like Proust or Lawrence. Eliot was one of my idols, but so were Valéry and Apollinaire. But poetry today is like a secret cult whose rites are celebrated in the catacombs, on the fringes of society. Consumer society and commercial publishers pay little attention to poetry. I think this is one of society’s diseases. I don’t think we can have a good society if we don’t also have good poetry. I’m sure of it.

INTERVIEWER

Television is being criticized as the ruination of twentieth-century life, but you have the unique opinion that television will be good for poetry as a return to the oral tradition.

PAZ

Poetry existed before writing. Essentially, it is a verbal art, that enters us not only through our eyes and understanding but through our ears as well. Poetry is something spoken and heard. It’s also something we see and write. In that we see the importance in the Oriental and Asian traditions of calligraphy. In the West, in modern times, typography has also been important—the maximum example in this would be Mallarmé. In television, the aural aspect of poetry can join with the visual and with the idea of movement—something books don’t have. Let me explain: this is a barely explored possibility. So I’m not saying television will mean poetry’s return to an oral tradition but that it could be the beginning of a tradition in which writing, sound, and images will unite. Poetry always uses all the means of communication the age offers it: musical instruments, printing, radio, records. Why shouldn’t it try television? We’ve got to take a chance.

INTERVIEWER

Will the poet always be the permanent dissident?

PAZ

Yes. We have all won a great battle in the defeat of the communist bureaucracies by themselves—and that’s the important thing: they were defeated by themselves and not by the West. But that’s not enough. We need more social justice. Free-market societies produce unjust and very stupid societies. I don’t believe that the production and consumption of things can be the meaning of human life. All great religions and philosophies say that human beings are more than producers and consumers. We cannot reduce our lives to economics. If a society without social justice is not a good society, a society without poetry is a society without dreams, without words, and most importantly, without that bridge between one person and another that poetry is. We are different from the other animals because we can talk, and the supreme form of language is poetry. If society abolishes poetry it commits spiritual suicide.

INTERVIEWER

Is your extensive critical study of the seventeenth-century Mexican nun Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz a kind of projection of the present onto the past?

PAZ

In part, but I also wanted to recover a figure I consider essential not only for Mexicans but for all of the Americas.  At first, Sor Juana was buried and forgotten; then she was disinterred and mummified.  I wanted to bring her back into the light of day, free her from the wax museum.  She’s alive and has a great deal to tell us.  She was a great poet, the first in a long line of great Latin American women poets—let’s not forget that Gabriela Mistral from Chile was the first Latin American writer to win the Nobel Prize.  Sor Juana was also an intellectual of the first rank (which we can’t say for Emily Dickinson) and a defender of women’s rights.  She was put on a pedestal and praised, then persecuted and humiliated.  I just had to write about her.

INTERVIEWER

Finally, whither Octavio Paz?  Where do you go from here?

PAZ

Where?  I asked myself that question when I was twenty, again when I was thirty, again when I was forty, fifty . . . I could never answer it.  Now I know something: I have to persist.  That means live, write, and face, like everyone else, the other side of every life—the unknown.”  Octavio Paz, “The Art of Poetry–#42;” The Paris Review, 1991: https://www.theparisreview. org/interviews/2192/octavio- paz-the-art-of-poetry-no-42- octavio-paz.

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