President-elect Donald Trump stated, “Fidel Castro’s legacy is one of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights.”
While the mainstream media has snatched at the opportunity to make numerous attacks on Cuba, painting it as a backwards country under totalitarian rule, it is necessary to examine the island’s tremendous advances that resulted from the Cuban Revolution. Cubans have had access to healthcare, education, job security and food—all guaranteed by the state. Cuba has the lowest infant mortality rate in Latin America, even lower than the United States.
US politicians and media argue that Cuba has not had the technological advances seen in the US, unfairly comparing the island to the northern imperialist giant. In fact, it would be better to compare Cuba to other islands in the region, including Haiti, which shared striking similarities in the first half of the 20th century (ie., population, development, total national wealth). How is it possible that this small island country was able to achieve such progress despite its big enemies? The answer is the Cuban Revolution.
The lives of Cuban people have not been easy. Only 90 miles from Florida’s shores, Cuba presented a close challenge to the heart of global imperialism. This brought a curse on the island and its citizens, a curse called embargo that continues to be in place and is among the harshest foreign policies implemented by the US. As a result, the Cuban people have paid the price of over 100 billion dollars and have suffered immensely over the years.
So, if you’re looking for the culprit of Cuba’s scarcity of resources, technology, industry and wealth, or for the precarity of Cuban lives, the US government and its embargo should be first to blame.
This is not to romanticize the Cuban government—as it functions today or under Fidel Castro. I am not a supporter of Castro, but I defend the Cuban Revolution and its conquests, including the expropriation of national and imperialist capital, forming the material basis for universal healthcare and a public education system rivaling that of industrialized countries. In fact, Castro’s government was compelled to go beyond his originally-conceived program because the Cuban masses and workers pushed to expropriate the bourgeoisie, which was completely subordinated to imperialist pressures.
To make an honest appraisal, however, we must acknowledge the Cuban government’s record of repressive policies. In the 1960s and 70s, LGBT people were harshly persecuted and repressed, which was a break from the tradition of communists who defended LGBT rights prior to the establishment of Stalinism. There has also been a lack of political freedom in Cuba: political prisoners have spent a lifetime in prison and the ban on Trotskyist literature was loosened only recently.
Castro ruled with an iron first, but far from being “one of the world’s most repressive leaders,” as stated in the Washington Post, his dissenters were not purged by the thousands, as with Stalin in the Soviet Union. In Cuba, there was no “state terrorism”, like those of the CIA-backed military dictatorships in Central and South America.
Fidel Castro led an anti-imperialist revolution and became a popular hero, a living myth who represented the sentiment of the oppressed. Despite later becoming a “communist icon”, Castro was not in fact a communist when he led his army into guerrilla warfare to eventually take over Cuba. Upon defeating Batista’s government, he was forced to expropriate due to a boycott by the US and national bourgeoisie. Facing an extremely difficult situation at the head of the Cuban government, he aligned with the bureaucratically-degenerated USSR, a workers’ state with a political caste at the helm.
Under the aegis of the Soviet Union, Castro reproduced the model of “socialism in one country” and discouraged other revolutions in Latin America. He advocated a cautionary approach in Chile in the early 70s, when a revolutionary uprising threatened to take power. He advised triumphant Sandinistas in Nicaragua not to follow the Cuban example.
This absence of internationalist perspective, intrinsic to socialism, played a part in undermining the chances for the Cuban regime’s survival. Fidel and Raúl Castro, along with the the highest ranks of the government, Communist Party and armed forces, were instrumental in brokering national economy’s opening to world markets. The restoration of capitalism under way in Cuba has its primary accomplices in the Castroite political elite. Thus, we must continue to defend the Cuban revolution, its popular conquests, and the socialized character of the means of production, even against the Cuban government itself.
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We stand against the reactionary campaigns of the imperialist press and Cuban gusano lobby, in their attempts to discredit Fidel Castro and thus delegitimize the Cuban Revolution.
Despite political differences that prevent our uncritical endorsement of the regime and Castro’s career, the Cuban Revolution and their conquests should be embraced and defended.