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What You Don't Know About Cuba Tells You About YOUR Future

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All of us are stoked. My wife, Peggy and I and 14 Berea College students are leaving for three weeks in Cuba beginning on Monday (May 5th). We'll return on the 25th. So I probably won't be writing here till then.

Last Wednesday night, Thursday evening, as well as Friday morning and afternoon, Dr. Cliff Durand -- the co-founder of the Center for Global Justice in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico -- helped us all understand what we're getting into. Cliff has been leading delegations to Cuba for the last 25 years. He's an honorary member of the faculty at the University of Havana.

Here are some of the salient ideas he shared:

1. One cannot understand Cuba's revolution without understanding neo-colonialism. Neo-colonialism refers to the dynamics of control whereby "former" colonies continue to be governed by their colonial masters even after "independence." The control remains because the now-liberated colony continues its economic relationships with its "mother country." Of necessity, these relationships foster a dependency similar to that which characterized the original colonial relationship.

2. In other words, former colonies find it impossible to break free from domination by their colonial masters unless they also break free from the capitalist system which of necessity has local governors placing the interests of their international partners ahead of their own citizens. Put otherwise, there is an indissoluble link between revolution, independence, and capitalism's alternative, socialism.

3. Cuba is the first country in the world to engage in a revolution as a neo-colonial state. Although after 1902 it had freed itself from the domination of Spain, it did so only to become an economic appendage of the United States. Dependency and control by the United States was the form neo-colonialism took in Cuba.

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4. The Cuban Revolution of 1959, led by a trained lawyer (Fidel Castro) and a medical doctor (Che Guevara) opened the way to a new experiment in human dignity and social justice. The experiment's adoption of socialism promised to free Cuba from the dependency international capitalism uniformly imposed on former colonies.

5. Cuba has proven resilient in the face of a 50 year economic embargo imposed by its former neo-colonial "mother country"--the United States. The economic support of the former Soviet Union made it possible for Cubans to enjoy a "middle class" way of life that made Cuba the envy of the Third World.

6. Though characterized in the U.S. as "subsidies," the Soviet contributions to the Cuban economy were seen in Cuba as "fair trade." Economic relationships indexed the prices of Cuban raw materials (sugar, tobacco, nickel . . .) to those of the finished products (tractors, refrigerators, spare parts . . .). In fact, this represented an implementation of the New International Economic Order (NIEO) petitioned in 1973 by the entire former colonial world in reparation for the exploitation experienced under colonialism. (Nations of the Global South also demanded transfer of capital and technology -- also provided by the USSR to Cuba.)

7. Cuban Democracy: Cuba has a parliamentary system with no political parties, which are seen as divisive. The Communist party is not an electoral organization; it sponsors no candidates. Rather it is the depository of the ideals of the Cuban revolution. In the Cuban form of democracy, elections are held at the municipal, provincial and national levels. At the national level, "Mass Organizations" (five federations of (1) workers, (2) women, (3) small farmers, (4) students, and (5) Committees for the Defense of the Revolution) nominate candidates. (Mass organizations are like 5 political parties sharing commitment to cooperation rather than competition.) All the organizations enjoy equal representation in the Cuban parliament. Forty-seven percent of the delegates there are women. The National Assembly (parliament) elects a Council of State, which then elects a president and vice-president. According to frequent independent polls, well over 80% of the Cuban population supports this system.

8. The Cuban Revolution has passed through five identifiable stages:

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o 1960s Revolutionary Fervor: Here the revolutionary government implemented land reform, nationalization of industries and virtually the entire Cuban economy. The U.S. economic embargo (specifically intended to produce hunger, sickness, and social chaos) necessitated alliance with the Soviet Union. During this early period moral incentives worked to unite the people in a common social project. Che and Fidel enjoyed great trust on the part of Cubans.

o 1970s Adoption of Soviet-Style Central Planning: Here Cuba followed the example of the Soviet Union, the most prominent model of socialism available. More specifically, it adopted the agricultural methods of the Green Revolution with its heavy dependence on chemical pesticides and fertilizers. The entire agricultural system was organized into state farms. (This was later admitted to have been a major mistake).

o 1985 Rectification: In the face of excessive bureaucracy and inefficiencies, the entire Cuban population participated in a national dialog to suggest remedies. The process was interrupted by the collapse of the Soviet Union. Overnight Cuba lost 80% of its trading partners. A decade-long period mirroring the experiences of the world's "Great Depression" (1929-'45) set in for Cuba.

o 1990s "Special Period": Contrary to the experience following the collapse of socialism throughout Eastern Europe, and despite the extreme hardships of its Great Depression, Cuba did not experience a general uprising aimed at regime change. Neither did the government eliminate social programs to deal with the crisis. Instead it strengthened its social safety net and set a goal of "equal distribution of scarcity. " In the face of extreme impoverishment, the government introduced reforms including:

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Mike Rivage-Seul is a liberation theologian and former Roman Catholic priest. Recently retired, he taught at Berea College in Kentucky for 36 years where he directed Berea's Peace and Social Justice Studies Program.Mike blogs (more...)
 

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Of course, USANs are stuck on the president electi... by Mike Rivage-Seul on Sunday, May 4, 2014 at 8:15:16 AM
Excellent very instructive article, Thanks ___ Hav... by urb musak on Monday, May 5, 2014 at 1:20:35 PM
Excellent read.Looking forward to your followup.Li... by George W.Reichel on Sunday, May 4, 2014 at 10:00:42 AM
A very interesting read, Mr Rivage-Seul, many than... by mhenriday on Sunday, May 4, 2014 at 10:07:00 AM
It will be interesting to follow you on your trave... by Pal Palsimon on Sunday, May 4, 2014 at 10:12:55 AM
What does it say about my future? I dont understan... by Paul Easton on Sunday, May 4, 2014 at 10:17:37 AM
Dear Paul,Your skepticism may be well-founded. I'v... by Mike Rivage-Seul on Sunday, May 4, 2014 at 10:29:43 AM
As one who spent two years in Cuba in the early si... by Deena Stryker on Sunday, May 4, 2014 at 3:43:40 PM
Being of Cuban descent, but born in the USA, I liv... by Mary Perez on Sunday, May 4, 2014 at 7:45:45 PM
I guess it it true that Cuban methods of productio... by Paul Easton on Monday, May 5, 2014 at 12:04:10 PM
You'll have trouble with me too, if you say somet... by Pal Palsimon on Monday, May 5, 2014 at 5:08:27 PM
It seems to me that his message is that we should ... by BFalcon on Sunday, May 4, 2014 at 11:15:11 AM
get ready for "equal distribution of scarcity" - B... by Charles Roll on Sunday, May 4, 2014 at 8:28:07 PM
All good thoughts and I essentially concur with th... by BFalcon on Tuesday, May 6, 2014 at 2:36:05 AM
I don't mind the living with the problem of scarci... by Pal Palsimon on Monday, May 5, 2014 at 5:11:33 PM
I've heard the nasties in the "Cuban problem" were... by Bud Martin on Sunday, May 4, 2014 at 10:18:28 AM
The fact that the "Cuban problem" persists, sans t... by foggygoggles on Sunday, May 4, 2014 at 11:57:24 AM
Alas, the Kennedy's attitude toward Cuba lives on ... by Deena Stryker on Sunday, May 4, 2014 at 3:45:11 PM
I've heard the nasties in the "Cuban problem" were... by Charles Roll on Sunday, May 4, 2014 at 8:51:22 PM
Any analysis of the relationship of the Kennedys w... by Vernon Huffman on Monday, May 5, 2014 at 3:19:31 PM
Bud, half of Miami are rich ex Cubans who hate/ed ... by Shirley Braverman on Sunday, May 4, 2014 at 11:47:04 AM
On this subject you are very knowledgeable Shirley... by Pal Palsimon on Sunday, May 4, 2014 at 3:23:33 PM
can an American retire in cuba? ... by George C on Sunday, May 4, 2014 at 12:01:32 PM
Americans are not allowed to spend money in Cuba b... by Guglielmo Tell on Sunday, May 4, 2014 at 12:27:34 PM
I look forward to your reply, Guglielmo, and even ... by Mike Rivage-Seul on Sunday, May 4, 2014 at 1:59:18 PM
My answer is ready below and well, I'm here. ... by Guglielmo Tell on Sunday, May 4, 2014 at 10:24:33 PM
I imagine they would take away your Social Securit... by Pal Palsimon on Sunday, May 4, 2014 at 3:25:16 PM
Yo Gufliermo! It's really not hard to obtain a Tr... by Deena Stryker on Sunday, May 4, 2014 at 3:48:43 PM
Well, this is good news for George C. Maybe things... by Guglielmo Tell on Sunday, May 4, 2014 at 9:00:14 PM
When you make a revolution, you must get rid of it... by Pal Palsimon on Sunday, May 4, 2014 at 3:27:26 PM
Pal Parsimony, I have no idea who you are or why y... by Sophia Bright on Sunday, May 4, 2014 at 4:08:37 PM
Well I got over my Indian ancestors being killed. ... by Pal Palsimon on Monday, May 5, 2014 at 6:06:26 PM
Sophia might actually be the Good Witch of the Wes... by Jim Arnold on Monday, May 5, 2014 at 8:12:37 PM
What do you think of this per G Tell: "Batista kil... by Pal Palsimon on Monday, May 5, 2014 at 6:16:59 PM
Bravo Pal! You do understand a bit of history and... by Shirley Braverman on Sunday, May 4, 2014 at 5:11:00 PM
Batista killed about 20,000 people, all off courts... by Guglielmo Tell on Sunday, May 4, 2014 at 8:34:59 PM
Knowing my own country and the Cubans in Miami, I ... by Pal Palsimon on Sunday, May 4, 2014 at 3:29:46 PM
It's so wonderful that people risk their lives to ... by Rodger Malcolm Mitchell on Sunday, May 4, 2014 at 3:53:02 PM
Almost as wonderful as those that flood into the U... by Shirley Braverman on Sunday, May 4, 2014 at 5:20:45 PM
I see you don't understand anything about foreign ... by Pal Palsimon on Monday, May 5, 2014 at 5:19:53 PM
...also, the aid is given ONLY if the country acce... by Pal Palsimon on Monday, May 5, 2014 at 6:03:14 PM
Cubans don't do it that much anymore. Mexicans, Ho... by Guglielmo Tell on Sunday, May 4, 2014 at 8:44:58 PM
I've been thinking of jumping a boat headed for Cu... by Pal Palsimon on Wednesday, May 7, 2014 at 4:32:18 AM
Well, there's always the option of having a friend... by Jim Arnold on Wednesday, May 7, 2014 at 1:15:47 PM
I guess there are ways you could do it.... but too... by Pal Palsimon on Wednesday, May 7, 2014 at 3:14:59 PM
Yeh, it's me. I was just tryin to throw off those ... by Jim Arnold on Thursday, May 8, 2014 at 8:28:17 AM
I could tell You: look who's talking about hell! B... by Guglielmo Tell on Monday, May 12, 2014 at 6:36:26 PM
I was making a little joke. Too little, it seems. ... by Jim Arnold on Monday, May 12, 2014 at 7:16:13 PM
Though I can think of exceptions on both counts, e... by Daniel Vasey on Sunday, May 4, 2014 at 6:10:00 PM
When the US ends its embargo (an act of war), sabo... by Jim Arnold on Sunday, May 4, 2014 at 7:33:06 PM
Well, this is so absolutely true. ... by Guglielmo Tell on Sunday, May 4, 2014 at 8:53:39 PM
Well, here is the big thing of mine. 1. Firs... by Guglielmo Tell on Sunday, May 4, 2014 at 9:14:07 PM
2. In other words, the so-called underdevelopment ... by Guglielmo Tell on Sunday, May 4, 2014 at 9:16:51 PM
3. Now Cuba: things, frankly, didn't turn out to b... by Guglielmo Tell on Sunday, May 4, 2014 at 9:19:33 PM
4. Democracy and renovation: nothing has been rec... by Guglielmo Tell on Sunday, May 4, 2014 at 9:21:03 PM
5. Chavez was talking about "communal power" -- tr... by Guglielmo Tell on Sunday, May 4, 2014 at 9:26:33 PM
This article garners it's greatest importance in b... by Neal Chalabi Chambers on Sunday, May 4, 2014 at 11:23:04 PM
Oh so right when you say Castro triumphed "despite... by Pal Palsimon on Monday, May 5, 2014 at 2:38:26 AM
Great read - Here's another little point about Cub... by Tim Bastable on Monday, May 5, 2014 at 1:46:13 AM
Yes, I remember they made news of that here, but d... by Guglielmo Tell on Monday, May 5, 2014 at 9:27:41 AM
Here are the keys to your new, anti-capitalist Ame... by Pal Palsimon on Monday, May 5, 2014 at 3:51:15 AM
... by Paul Easton on Monday, May 5, 2014 at 12:00:20 PM
Got it, anyone who disagrees with you doesn't und... by Shirley Braverman on Monday, May 5, 2014 at 10:38:50 PM
Once again, it is clear you are talking about issu... by Pal Palsimon on Monday, May 5, 2014 at 11:25:57 PM
P.S. I don't make statements I cannot support by ... by Pal Palsimon on Monday, May 5, 2014 at 11:34:46 PM