The Cuban revolution — a hindsight observation

“I am Fidel Castro and we have come to liberate Cuba,” so claimed the Cuban Commandanté in 1959, upon the eve of the revolution. 56 years and an embargo later, the isolated republic of Cuba still stands to some in the third world as a beacon of hope for revolutionary change to empower their exploited proletariat and to others as the last of the old Leninist tyrannies.

However, like all great events in a country’s history, there is some nuance and complexity needed in the analysis of the revolution. This incessant repetition in bourgeois society that Castro is a despotic authoritarian and everything post-1959 in Cuba is without merit is frankly childish. This climaxed in 2012 when at the Republican primaries, 2 candidates openly wished death upon Castro and received jubilant applause [1]. The situation is clear to anyone watching closely, that regardless of ideology, the real resentment towards Castro is because of his refusal to accept Washington’s dictates. Why else would the United States level severe sanctions on Cuba for nearly 60 years due to” human rights abuses” whilst simultaneously mourning a Saudi tyrant? [2] The whole policy is an exercise in doublespeak.

The fact is that Castro could have been Mahatma Gandhi but as soon as he disobeyed orders from the moneyed class in Havana and Washington, he overstepped a clear line, principally in destroying the century long hegemony the United States had enjoyed over Cuba. Castro’s platform of sweeping nationalisation and higher taxation on foreign companies infuriated Washington, with Arthur Schlesinger noting that Kennedy wanted to bestow, “the terror’s of the earth on Cuba,” [3] and pondering, “If only Castro could be induced to commit an offensive act, then the moral issue would be butted, and the anti-US campaign would be hobbled from the start,” these statements being uttered before any human rights abuses were even mentioned. [4]

Subsequently, 60 years of attempted subversion took place, including sponsoring “state terrorism” [5] in the form of Operation Mongoose, a covert invasion, an attempted false flag operation to destroy the country [6] and a 60 year old embargo aimed at economic subversion. The fact is that this is a country which has been under constant threat for the last 60 years from the greatest military superpower that has ever existed.

And yet the reason for the failure of these operations has been quite consistently because the Cuban people opposed it. Indeed, the Bay Of Pigs invasion failed quite simply because the Cuban’s didn’t turn on Castro, they adored him and preferred him quite considerably to the US backed mobster that preceded him.

Yet the country has progressed internally from strength to strength, with Kofi Annan even calling its development, “impressive” and claiming, “Cuba should be the envy of many other nations far richer”. However, it didn’t achieve this easily, with many of its social indicators matching or surpassing those of the Northern countries in the hemisphere, particularly regarding health standards; with a life expectancy of 79 years, infant mortality at 4 out of 100,000, practically eradicating hunger amongst the young, 99% vaccination and 97% with access to clean water, Cuba is leading the way in development, even achieving 4 of the millennium goals set. However, the progress extends to all sectors of life, with literacy rates at 99%, free education for all children and 87% staying for secondary education, add to this the fact that Cuba’s main exports are doctors, it’s little wonder why Cuba is such a beacon to those in the third world. The UNICEF reports would make even the most affluent countries blush. [7]

Remember, the context here is crucial; this didn’t happen in a vacuum, Cuba is a third world country under economic siege and constant threat of subversion from the greatest superpower to ever exist. It is clear Castro deserves at least some credit for Cuba due to his major public spending particularly in the fields of education and medicine.

As for the human rights abuses and lack of democratic freedom, once again the situation needs to be contextualised. Despite the British government conceding that there have been “some improvements” [8] over the development of the regime, there are legitimate concerns over these. However, there are a number of factors to consider, principally the fact that Cuba has been at war since its inception. Under war-time conditions in Britain, of course democratic freedoms were compromised, could a man speak openly on the radio about the bombing of Dresden? Were elections not abandoned during the war until an allied victory was certain? Whilst the two situations were not particularly comparable in scale, the issue persists that in times of war, liberal democracy cannot persist as usual, and so if the USA were to meet with Cuba around the negotiation table, perhaps political dissent would follow. Further, the first executions just after the revolution were not entirely dissimilar to capital punishment that occurs so frequently in Texas. Whilst there was no official trial, many were cohorts of the US-backed Batista, who had presided over the slaughter or thousands of suspected “communists”. However, in the eyes of the United States this man was a benevolent dictator, mainly because he had secured backing from huge sectors of private capital and was backed by mafia thugs which had significant influence over the Kennedy’s. Consequently, Batista embraced selling off Cuba and its workers to the highest bidder for capitalist exploitation, and yet now Castro dares to reverse this course, with considerably less violent means, he is brandished a despot, a terrorist, a thug.

The history of Cuba is a complex one, far too nuanced to be summarised in a clichéd platitude from a corporate politician. The figure of Castro will still for many years to come inspire and anger millions, in the words of the commondanté himself, “let the history decide”.

[1] http://www.nationaljournal.com/2012-presidential-campaign/romney-wishes-castro-gone-gingrich-wishes-same-for-heckler-20120125

[2] http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/01/obama-saudi-pay-respects-king-abdullah-150127184744732.html

[3] http://www.chomsky.info/books/hegemony02.htm

[4] http://fas.org/irp/ops/policy/docs/frusX/31_45.html

[5] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuban_Project

[6] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Northwoods

[7] http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/cuba_statistics.html

[8] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/cuba-country-of-concern/cuba-country-of-concern

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