Fidel’s Retirement

I’m gradually shaking off the inertia of laziness that my vacation has left me with. With the headlines on BBC and CNN concerning Fidel’s retirment, I felt it necessary to write a quick little blurb on this issue.

The capitalists have made a good deal of propaganda trying to portray the Cuban Revo as only being and continuing to be because of Fidel himself, and this is being reflected in the reaction by many in the media and amongst the political pundits concerning what his retirment means for Cuba. This is also shown in the many attempts to assasinate Fidel since he came to power – wikipedia quotes comrade Fabian Escalante (one of Fidel’s bodyguards) as stating there have been at least 638 CIA orchestrated attempted assasinations. The theory was crudely that if Fidel goes, so does the revo.

Fidel is only one person. He is extremely symbolic, and yes, his death would have been damaging to the revo, and his death in the future could also see some ideological change within the Cuban Communist Party. But Fidel does not the revo make, and the revo does not end with him retiring or dying. It is a mistake both by capitalists and by some elements of the Left to overexagerate Fidel’s importance, as symbolic as he may be.

I am not forseeing any immediate change in the existing Cuban model, especially not towards capitalist restoration akin to the Soviet Katastroika or the Chinese model of authoritarian capitalism a la Deng Xiao Peng. When I was last in Cuba, and discussing the current situation (this was in December 2006) with international solidarity activists and members of the Cuban CP and military officers, there was some talk of a ‘Chinese model.’ And there have been some movements towards this brought about by the Special Period of the Katastroika. While there was some support for this and various marker socialist models amongst the individuals I spoke with, there were also those who felt that while the status quo was inadequate and needed change sought a deepening of socialism – the development of a more particpatory economy and democracy.

Of those who advocated the deepening of socialism (and they were roughly equal in number to the market socialist/Chinese model faction) they voiced the concern of US and proxy aggression as one of the main deterrents to this ‘deepening.’ They spoke of the need for greater support from Latin America, and looked to the growin Latin American revo, of which Venezuala is only the most advanced element, as a potential counterbalance to imperialist aggression and a source for revolutionary reinvigoration for Cuba. They saw Cuba’s importance as being largely a symbolic challenge to imperialist hegemony in the Western hemisphere, as well as providing crucial assistance in developing healthcare, education and sustainable farming practices for Latin America and the Caribbean.

Fidel, based on his past statements and actions, is no friend of the Soviet Katastroika, market socialist or Chinese models, and this is his main symbolic importance now, and he can be expected to tip the scales against such models as long as he can. There are forces of cahnge for these models though, especially within the bureaucracy that has benefited from the limited capitalistic reforms required by the Special Period.

The future of the Cuban Revo does seem intimately linked to the success or failure of the current Latin American revolutionary movements. The expansion and deepening of these movements provides Cuba with breathing space from imperialist aggression, and allows for the deepening of the Cuban Revo itself.

The external factors of these revolutionary movements provide the key to understanding what the next President of Cuba will do.

7 thoughts on “Fidel’s Retirement

  1. I would have to say that there is potential for vast economic improvements in Cuba as a result of Fidel’s self-imposed retirement, for no other reason than the fact that it gives a way for the US to loosen the economic embargo whilst (in its eyes, anyway) saving face and not being seen to cave in to Fidel. That said, it’s also worth pointing out, I think, that whatever Fidel may have done for the revo, apologists who point out the good things that he’s done are rather like those that point out that the trains ran on time in Mussolini’s Italy: it might be true, but rather misses the elephant in the room…………..

  2. Yes, Fidel and the Cuban revo have made mistakes, and it is necessary to be honest and upfront about them; this of course requires people to be upfront about the mistakes of other nations as well. Its all very well criticising Cuba for X, Y, and Zed as long as one also criticices the USA, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Isreal and so on. so, sure, lets be fair and objective about all states, including the imperialist powers and their client states.

    As for the blockade. It is incredibly criminal and has been overwhelmingly opposed within the UN with numerous motions having been passed against it; the US of course uses its veto power to render these non-binding or null and void, much as they do for motions on Isreal. The silly thing is that the blockade is one of the main props of the Revo. There are some more intelligent members of the US imperialist class that do recognise that removing the blockade would be more effective in undermining the Revo than maintaining it, but to date they are in the minority there.

  3. Jonathan,

    How can you write off the wholesale murder of dissidents as mere ‘mistakes’? Also, let’s not play the moral equivalence game here: Fidel is a murderous and corrupt dictator, and the attitude of the US towards other nations which, arguably, have acted just as despicably as Fidel’s regime cannot change that. It may make the US utterly hypocritical, but moral equivalence doesn’t absolve Fidel. To suggest that Fidel’s regime has made mere ‘mistakes’ is akin to suggesting that the Holocaust was a ‘mistake’.

  4. J Galt, I’m almost speechless at your question. While it may be bad form to answer a question with a question, might I ask you how it is not criminal? I’ll try to make a thread just for this discussion as soon as I can. All I’ll say for now is that it amounts to collective punishment, and also is, in my opinion, a crime against humanity, even comparable to Stalin’s role in the 1930s Ukrainian famine (Holodomor). It has been consistently been voted against by overwhelming majorities in the UN and condemned by these majorities as violating international law and the UN Charter. The most support ever for the embargo within the UN was four votes for it, 88 against, the remaining being abstentions. All of the four in favour of it (in 1993) were either the US or its client states (Isreal, Albania and Paraguay). The most recent vote that I’m aware of (2002) saw 173 votes against and three for (USA, Isreal and the Marshall Islands).

    On another note, as much as I oppose the embargo, I really do think that it props up the authoritarain socialism of present-day Cuba. This is both counter-productive to the aims of the embargo (to overthrow Castro), and damages the ability for libertarian socialist ‘deepening’ of the revolution.

  5. Hi Loki.

    I would hardly use the comparison of Hitler with that of Castro. I will accept that the authoritarian socialism of his Cuba is problematic, and that it is not the socialist paradise that many in the Left believe it to be. The main ones that I can see are the former forced labour camps and the previous approach to both homosexuals and AIDs. Greater freedom of speech is of course necessary. The existing infrastructure, such as the Committees for the Defence of the Revolution have indeed been perverted away from genuine bottome up neighbourhodd councils and defence organisations and do serve to maintain a top-down authoritarian system.

    But it is important to emphasise that Cuba is not as dictatorial as some other places, such as China as well as Taiwan and Singapore (based on my personal experiences), not to mention places such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Alot of the hype about Cuba’s ‘dictatorship’ is overreported while the authoritarianism of other ‘firendly’ states is underreported if at all. This does lead many on the Left, who recognise the authoritarianism of Cuba and do criticise it, to defend the Cuban revolution.

    Cuba and its revolution remains highly symbolic even with its authoritarainism. It cannot be denied that it has had its successes, primarily in the fields of medicine, education, art, and even pioneering work in the development of sustainable agriculture. These successess need to be defended while the authoritarianism needs to be critiqued and the infrastructure given the power to actually be what it says it is, a bottom-up council system of participatory economy and democracy.

  6. Pingback: Reflections on Cuba | "catch a fire"

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