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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 7/23/21

The 62 Years War Against Cuba

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"Either this nation shall kill racism, or racism shall kill this nation." (S. Jonas, August, 2018)

Che y Fidel. This is how it all started.
Che y Fidel. This is how it all started.
(Image by Wikipedia (commons.wikimedia.org), Author: Alberto Korda)
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Almost from the time the Russian Revolution began, on November 7, 1917 (new calendar), one or more Western Imperial powers waged war against it. Sometimes the war was military, as in the United Kingdom-led Intervention (under Winston Churchill) that began in 1918, and the Nazi's Operation Barbarossa that began in 1941. More often it was economic and political. I have described it as "The Seventy-five Years War Against the Soviet Union," for it was waged to a successful conclusion, for Western Imperialism, with the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1992. Indeed, a major element of Western/mainly-U.S./led foreign, and at times military, policy since the time of the Russia Revolution has been to attempt to prevent the peaceful development of one form or another of socialism in any country in which it made its appearance.

This explains, for example, the refusal of the Western powers to support the elected Republican government in Spain (1936) because it had major socialist elements in it. And the pattern continued after World War II, e.g., North Korea (1950-53), Iran (1953), Guatemala (1954), Vietnam (1954), Hungary (attempted, 1956), Brazil (1964), the Dominican Republic (1965), Chile (1973), Afghanistan, (1978-86), Nicaragua (partial, 1980s), the Soviet Union (which, despite having nuclear weapons, succumbed to the 75 Years War Against the Soviet Union, 1917-1992), Iraq (2003), Cuba (since 1961, unsuccessful, but still trying), Libya (2012), Venezuela (2017). Certainly not all of these countries were "socialist" in the Marxist sense, but they all did have major left-wing elements in their governments, which the Western powers, most especially the United States, found threatening, at one level or another.

Which brings us to Cuba. The "Fidel-led" Cuban Revolution which successfully took over the nation on January 1, 1959, was seen as an especial threat by the United States. It has had major socialist elements in its economy and political structure since it was established. It did away with the domination of its economy by a small group of local capitalists and landowners, allied with gambling and criminal elements from the United States. From early on it was setting an example for the rest of Latin America as to what might be accomplished by a socialist revolution of one sort or another. And so, on one level or another, with one set of tactics and strategy or another, from the time of the "Bay of Pigs" invasion to now (with a brief relaxation of the campaign under President Obama [see below]), allied with reactionary elements from, and to some extent in, Cuba, the battle has been ongoing.

The full details of the current unrest/protests in Cuba are unclear, and likely never will be. Certainly, U.S. policy, both direct and indirect has much to do with the current situation, which is occurring in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. At all levels, from the basic function of the economy, to trade, to living standards, to the availability of goods and services, since its founding Cuba and it people have suffered at the hands of the U.S. While it existed, the Soviet Union provided major assistance to Cuba (to say nothing of making sure that the threatened major U.S. invasion of 1962 was prevented). But of course, that aid ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Certainly, there is genuine anger directed at the government because of the current economic situation, again in the context of the pandemic. But the reports of what has been going on in terms of street protests, and counter-demonstrations in support of the government, has been as least somewhat distorted by, for example, reporting that used images of demonstrations which did not take place in Cuba but elsewhere, at different times(!) So the full picture is not known, and likely will not be for quite some time.

At the same time, especially since the fall of the Soviet Union, for the most part U.S. policy has continued to have been aimed at making life in Cuba as difficult as possible, with the continued hope that doing so would lead in one way or another to the overthrow of the nominally Communist government. Under Trump, of course (gotta get the Cubo-Gusano-Miami vote, ya know) the sanctions against Cuba had become particularly onerous. It is highly ironic, and deadly, that while Cuba has been able to develop its own vaccine, and inject it into the arms of over 2 million of its citizens (out of a population of 11 million-plus), because of the sanctions, the government had trouble obtaining the syringes and needles needed for the injections. But so far, at least, the socialist government has remained in place.

But supposing, just supposing, that sometime during this "62 Years War" it had met with success, and the Cuban government had been overthrown. Supposing Senators Cruz and Rubio and etc. had been able to impose their will upon Cuba and its people, re-installing private ownership of vast tracts of land and private ownership of the industrial means of production, and private control of trade, and so on and so forth. Well, a few years ago I considered that possibility, that would create a state that I characterized as "Cruzbio's Cuba." Following a visit to Cuba in 2016, during the modest thaw in relations that had been introduced by President Obama, I wrote a column that described that alternate reality. Here, with some slight editing, are major elements of that column. They certainly reflect what Cuba would look like if the current Communist government were replaced.

Cruzbio's Cuba: What it Would Look Like
On July 1, 2015, President Obama announced the re-establishment of full diplomatic relations with Cuba. The process has followed a carefully developed time-line. The President himself described the US policy that has been followed since 1962 as:

"A Failed Approach: Decades of U.S. isolation of Cuba have failed to accomplish our objective of empowering Cubans to build an open and democratic country. (sic) At times, longstanding U.S. policy towards Cuba has isolated the United States from regional and international partners, constrained our ability to influence outcomes throughout the Western Hemisphere, and impaired the use of the full range of tools available to the United States to promote positive change in Cuba. Though this policy has been rooted in the best of intentions, it has had little effect - today, as in 1961, Cuba is governed by the Castros and the Communist party.

"We cannot keep doing the same thing and expect a different result. It does not serve America's interests, or [those of] the Cuban people, to try to push Cuba toward collapse. We know from hard-learned experience that it is better to encourage and support reform than to impose policies that will render a country a failed state. We should not allow U.S. sanctions to add to the burden of Cuban citizens we seek to help."

Of course, the U.S. economic embargo of Cuba, which has been in place since the early 1960s and was significantly strengthened under Bill Clinton (!), had done much to hold back the normal development of Cuba. It is the product of Congressional legislation, and the Republican Congress has made it clear that there will be no change in that policy as long as it remains in charge of it. The objective of the embargo (and non-recognition as well), has always been stated by the U.S. supporters of it to be the "empowering [of] Cubans to build an open and democratic country." (These open policies have also been accompanied by on an ongoing secret campaign against the government of Cuba by the CIA and presumably other U.S. government, and perhaps non-government, agencies, to overthrow the Cuban government. [As of 2016] this campaign had included a total of over 600 documented assassination attempts on Fidel Castro alone, which is about one a month on the average since the U.S. broke off relations at about the time of the Bay of Pigs attempted invasion in 1961.) The primary objective has of course been the prevention of the peaceful development of socialism in a country, following some sort of anti-capitalist/anti-colonial revolution.

Every 2016 Republican candidate for the Presidency has strongly criticized the President's policy. Out in front on this one have been Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. Presumably what Cruz and Rubio want is a return to the 55-year old campaign to build "to build an open and democratic country." The two Senators never fail to point to their status as children of Cuban refugees as giving them special qualifications to take the positions that they do. Neither, however, also points out the neither of their parents actually fled Cuba after the triumph of the Revolution in 1959. Cruz' father actually escaped the Batista dictatorship in 1957 and Rubio's parents fled it under the same dictatorship in 1956. Be that as it may, both Senators presumably would like to have a Cuba that looks as much like the United States as possible, you know, "open and Democratic."

However, let us stop for a moment and take a look at what Cuba would look like had the Castro Revolution failed, or one of the subsequent U.S. attempts to overthrow it had succeeded. A capitalist Cuba never would have not done the following (this list having been put together during the course of a week-long trip that my late wife Chezna Newman wife and I made to Cuba in 2016):

· * Cuba would not have the national health service that it presently has that provides free health care to all Cubans, and also to foreign visitors who didn't happen to travel with emergency health insurance. We were told of one U.S. national who didn't have that insurance, had to be taken to hospital for an acute emergency, was treated totally properly, and tried to offer the hospital payment in cash. The hospital couldn't accept it because no hospital in Cuba has an office to carry out such transactions.

· * Cuba would not have free education, from pre-school through graduate school. Further, Cuba would not have an educational system for children/persons with developmental disabilities which a) provides for training so that, if possible, each can become self-supporting as an adult, and b) if not, then provides residential care for them for the rest of their lives.

· * Cuba would not have a virtual 100% literacy rate (one of the first major accomplishments of the Cuban revolution). By contrast, in 2013 in the United States, 32 million adults could not read, giving an illiteracy rate of 14%. Cuba does have an AIDS problem, but unlike in the early days, gay persons are not the subject of official discrimination. Although heroin use is illegal, unlike in the United States there is a national program for supplying free clean needles to addicts (which vastly reduces the incidence of AIDS transmission).

· * Doctors from all over the Third World would not be being trained for free at the Latin American School of Medicine in Havana (ELAM), which is one of the world's most advanced medical schools.

In Cuba [at least when we were there in 2016] there are very few police on the streets, at least in the three major cities we visited, Havana, Cienfuegos, and Santiago de Cuba. Of those that there are, we only saw one who carried a pistol. We did see several who had empty holsters. Although the population is about 35% Afro-Cuban, it is unlikely that there are very many random shootings of unarmed black men by police. We were told that there is a certain degree of racism among the generally equal thirds of Cuban society divided between the Latinos, the Mestizos and the Afro-Cubans [and this has been reported as a problem that still exists]. But there is certainly no official government-sponsored discrimination against Afro-Cubans and, since there is only one political party, there is none that runs on racism or on homophobia either (as does the party of Senators Cruz and Rubio). And so on and so forth.

But I think that, in promoting the Cuban Revolution, in addition to correctly talking about the theory, it is vital also to talk about the practice, to talk about what the Cuban Revolution has achieved in practical terms for its people, especially in the context of the "62 Years War" waged against it by the United States. Would the Cuban people really like to have the Cruzbio "U.S." model imposed on them, and then lose everything they have gained over the years, in return for having an "opposition party" or two, which if it/they were to be modelled on the Republicans so close to the Cruzbio model, could actually run on racism and homophobia, while destroying the national health service and free national education? I don't think so.

Conclusion

No one can predict the final, or even the interim, outcome of the present turmoil in Cuba. It could very well be that with a combination of: really, objectively, bad living conditions; a decline in the effectiveness of state-sponsored services; the continuing spread of the pandemic; the activity of U.S. intelligence services; the activity of illegal in-nation anti-government forces (especially if armed); the actions of agents provocateurs, both domestic and foreign; it is conceivable that the communist government of Cuba could be overthrown after all of these years of survival against U.S. imperialism. Indeed, the Western imperialist powers, led by the United States, eventually triumphed in what became "The 75 Years War Against the Soviet Union." Who is to say, that given the dire straits that the nation is in right now due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. might not triumph in "The 62 Years War Against Cuba." One can only hope that that will not be the case.

(Article changed on Jul 23, 2021 at 9:36 AM EDT)

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Steven Jonas, MD, MPH, MS is a Professor Emeritus of Preventive Medicine at StonyBrookMedicine (NY) and author/co-author/editor/co-editor of over 35 books. In addition to his position on OpEdNews as a “Trusted Author,” he is a Senior (more...)
 
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