Cuba: to Preserve the Gains of Revolution
On July 26 1953 in the morning a group of revolutionaries led by Fidel Castro stormed the Moncada barracks in Santiago de Cuba. The first attack against the Fulgencio Batista’s dictatorship failed, but a signal to start fighting the regime was sounded.
A few years passed and a small group of patriots led by Comandante Fidel launched operations in Sierra Maestra. The guerilla war ended up in a triumphant march of the insurgents coming to Havana on January 1 1959. Batista escaped to the USA taking along the bags filled with dollars and gold. Many thousands of people greeted the heroes. The atmosphere of holiday didn’t divert Fidel Castro from making precise the further plans and issuing a warning that the future would not be an easy walk. He said the triumph didn’t mean solution to all the Cuban problems, but a right to start was gained.
The specific feature of Cuba revolution was that its leadership, no matter tactical mistakes and slip ups, never scarified the country’s strategic interests, national independence and sovereignty. There have been and still are many examples when rulers acted against their states’ national interests to preserve privileges and power and colluded with the “world strong ones behind the certain”. Fidel and his entourage never allowed such a possibility even in the hardest days of the revolution. For many years the socialist Cuba was the only Latin American country that voiced its own opinion defending national and joint Latin American interests without looking back at the Empire and its capability for repressive and punitive actions.
The economic blockade of the island led by Washington was a demonstration of reprisal against the “communist regime” aimed to incite hunger rebellions and counterrevolution. No way. The Fidel’s team was staunch. The majority of Cubans supported the course aimed at economy of resources, belt tightening and countering the subversive actions by the hired agents net of the US interests section in Havana. The non-government organizations of all kinds tried to exacerbate the situation, they staged publicity stunts in the form of protest actions, spread libels about the Cuban leadership (for instance the rumor about the 40 billion dollars Swiss account of Fidel was dissipated with special assiduousness). The dissidents failed to lead the street. The Cubans rose to rebuff the subversive efforts receiving on their own without any orders from above. Political scholars offer a simple explanation of the public consolidation: the Cuban revolution has national roots, its goal is the improvement of grass roots living standards, giving them what is required for comprehensive individual development, providing opportunities for self-actualization and making common people and their children confidently face tomorrow. That’s the reason the Cuban state spares no funds for free health and education.
The dismemberment of the Soviet Union and the socialist camp greatly damaged Cuban development. The enemies of the revolution predicted the forthcoming collapse of “Castro regime” impatiently waiting for “all people’s revolt”, they inflamed the separate episodes of public discontent in relation to the group of bureaucrats that undermined the program of actions aimed at keeping socialism alive on the island. Some of my colleagues – the journalists who visited Cuba in the Soviet times and praised for the success of socialism in Cuba – come to mind. The times abruptly changed and they “reformed” with great ease and started to denounce “the horrors of Castro’s dictatorship” trying to follow the Western anti-Communist professionals. They danced to the tune of those who paid. The Yeltsin government curbed the trade and economic relations and brought the cultural and science ties to the lowest level without looking back at the rich history of Cuba-Soviet Union relations. Then in 2001 the Lourdes Radar Electronic Radar station was closed. One more “good will gesture” in relation to the North American partner and, no doubt, an offensive action towards the Cubans because the decision was taken unilaterally.
Today the Cuban leadership thoroughly considers every step of its internal and external policy. No way would it abandon socialism – the choice made in the early days of the revolution. Nobody in the ranks of the Cuban Communist party harbors doubts the country needs improvement, modernization, more realistic approach to the way material and financial resources are used. “Live within one’s own means” is one of the today’s slogans. Multiparty system is out of question. The communist party is the only governing political organization according to the constitution, but it’s not the only reason. Any deviation from this principle jeopardizes independence and sovereignty of the country in the conditions of uninterrupted blackmail and pressure on the part of the USA.
The global financial and economic crisis along with the economic blockade of the USA significantly influenced Cuba. It was especially hard for its financial situation, the liquidity problems. Before the price of a ton of exported nickel was 50-54 thousand dollars, now it has become 6-7 thousand. The sugar prices went down significantly, the consumption of tobacco and rum lowered. More and more tourists come to Cuba but the profits rise slowly. The government took some measures to provide for employment of productive part of population (like spending budget money on credits, for instance). It has encouraged cooperatives, the development of private sector. The prohibition on selling equity and cars is lifted. The prevention of property concentrated in one hands is a matter of principle for the Cuban leadership. The threat of local “oligarchs” emerging along with destructive anti-socialist trends is considered to be quite real unless tough state and public control is exercised.
Cuba has to keep away from many programs of solidarity with other countries under the burden of financial and economic problems. Dozens of Cuban doctors worked in Latin America, Asia and Africa. Only within the framework of «Mision Milagros» (Mission of Miracles) over two thousand medical operations to restore sight were done. Ukrainian children received medical treatment in Cuban sanatoriums and boarding houses within the framework of the Chernobyl Program. 15 thousand doctors, mainly from developing countries, have been graduated from Cuba educational facilities in a dozen and a half years. Even now around 40 thousand foreigners study in Cuba to get higher education diplomas. They are doing it for free. The transition to commercial “missions” and training of specialists are options of no choice; one of the reasons is the Western propaganda in instilling Cubans with the idea: “You are the ones who pay for it”.
According to President Castro he modernizes the country without haste and without stop. The government is gradually becoming younger, services is a thriving private sector, farmers get land, the restrictions of the “special period” in the 1990s go back into the past, the transition to single internal currency is nearing the end etc. The allied relationship with Venezuela guarantees the energy security. The Cuban leadership pays back; no less than 25 thousand doctors, teachers to liquidate illiteracy, sports instructors went to work in Venezuela. The pro-US Venezuelan media raised the ballyhoo: Hugo Chavez “cubanizes” the Venezuelan armed forces and intelligence because the doctors and teachers are military advisors and intelligence officers “under disguise”. The fraud died away by itself. The Bolivarian government never hindered utter press freedom; there is simply no evidence of the Venezuelan state agencies being “infiltrated by Cubans”.
The US policy aimed at international isolation of Cuba has long ago failed without fame. The evidence – the annual voting in the United Nations on the issues of economic blockade imposed by the United States. Actually only the USA and Israel vote for it… Havana is an active member of the majority of Western hemisphere international organizations. The Cubans refuse the membership in the Organization of American States because it has never taken any concrete decision to defend the Cuban interests. The second reason is its inability to function because of suffocating US control. Havana successfully develops the mutually advantageous relations with the Latin American organizations like CELAC, UNASUR, Mercosur, and ALBA. Alba is a priority; it’s a new model of economic cooperation. Its goals are not exclusively commercial, but it creates space for vast economic interaction. Venezuela is a leading Alba member to cooperate with Cuba.
Multilateral ties with China are on the rise, the island is used as a beachhead for expansion in the Caribbean, against Vietnam and other countries. In the middle of July Raul Castro finished a foreign tour, he stopped in Moscow. Vladimir Putin said warm words about Cuba, an old friend and partner, he asked Raul to give his best regards to Fidel… According to Putin there have been different periods in bilateral relations. Today they are becoming more pragmatic but have accumulated a common heritage. Increase and diversification of trade turnout, energy, and key projects in transport, space research, pharmaceuticals, and TV communications were the issues at the top of agenda. The prospects of joint ventures made part of the talks too.