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Castro: Political Power and the New Culture of Communication

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Among his many other achievements, Fidel’s accomplishments as the constructor of the new Cuban society include:

overthrowing capitalism in favour of socialism and its related principles of equality and solidarity;

defeating U.S. neo-colonialist domination to attain sovereignty,

independence and dignity;

upholding human rights in the areas of health, education, culture and sport; respecting racial equality, gender equality, food and housing for all;

and defending freedom of speech and the press, the latter being one of the domains in which Fidel’s example still has much to teach us, and creating a civilized social/political atmosphere without violence.

The basis of these exploits, which did not exist before 1959, is the political power of the people resulting from the Revolution that quashed the U.S.-backed state.

Arnold August

As early as 1953, the conquest of a new revolutionary people’s power was at the forefront of Fidel’s mind. This unshakeable goal was combined with the spirit of self-sacrifice that characterized his entire political life. Through defeats and victories from 1953 to 1956 until 1959, his every thought and action were inspired by this overriding guiding objective. It was indelibly combined with key creative tactics that were designed to convert the aspiration to conquer people’s power through armed revolution into a reality. This was the focus of Fidel’s passion.

The current new society bequeathed to the Cuban people finds its origins in the liberated areas during the wars of 1868 and 1895, the latter reaching new levels of organization under the leadership of the Revolutionary Party of Cuba and José Martí. Thus, the seeds of new political power were sowed in the second half of the 19th century, to be resuscitated and updated by Fidel in compliance with the new conditions. Local political power forged in the Sierra Maestra’s liberated areas in 1957–58 was embedded as a virtual state within the neo-colonial dominated state. The July 26 Movement and the Rebel Army were founded and developed by Fidel and his comrades. They grew as the seeds of the Communist Party of Cuba and the Armed Forces respectively. These institutions constitute two ramparts in the maintenance and development of the people’s power, in combination with Cuba’s socialist culture as the shield.

In the course of this epic victorious march and in the ensuing decades, Fidel contributed toward a new feature of the culture of enacting politics within the Cuban Revolution. He was a communicator par excellence, a key component to conquer and improve political power. Thus, his thought and action, among other aspects of his legacy, constitute a new culture of communication between the leader and his people. Let’s look at five examples of how Fidel’s culture of enacting politics was fuelled by the new culture of communication, both of which mutually propelled each other.

First, there was the 1953 writing and distribution of History Will Absolve Me. One may ask how it is possible to speak of the communication talents of a leader representing the people’s quest for political power, when he was imprisoned in solitary confinement, far from the masses. However, despite these extreme restrictions, he managed to communicate secretly with other jailed combatants, with some inmates serving time for common crimes and even with guards and prison employees. Before and after his defence, this was his extremely limited world.

Despite being limited to this underground communication system only and combined with the few books he was able to muster, he prepared his defence by memory. It was reported that he wrote and edited in his cell day and night, committing every word to memory until the moment he was brought to court. Only a person entirely devoted to solving Cuba’s problems through a revolution to open the path for people’s power could have maximized such scant communication tools at his disposal.

After delivering his defence from memory, he returned to his cell to find that his written statement had vanished. He set about rewriting it from memory. With close clandestine connections inside and outside the prison walls, he further expanded his communication with the people. Fidel smuggled out his defence piece by piece, using ingenious methods, such as using lemon juice for invisible ink to write on tiny bits of paper. By the time they reached their destination in Havana, the papers inscribed with invisible ink passed through prison security, but, as planned, they then dried up and could be read in Havana.

In Havana,  Melba Hernández and Haydee Santamaria, the two women who had participated in the Moncada attack, were among a handful of people in charge of assembling the pieces of paper like a jigsaw puzzle and then printing the text in pamphlet form. Fidel initially instructed his limited world, consisting mainly of these two women, to produce 100,000 copies of his defence. He wrote to Melba and Haydee on June 18, 1954: “Without propaganda there is no mass movement, and without a mass movement, no revolution is possible.” Fidel was no doubt inspired by this interaction with his two comrades, who once again, like in Moncada, were putting their lives on the line under the Batista dictatorship. They themselves, in turn, were galvanized by Fidel’s thinking and heroic resistance in prison. And thus the lemons growing from Cuba’s fertile soil returned to fertilize the revolutionary movement through Fidel’s makeshift pen.

A second illustration is Fidel’s unique communication skill in defending people’s power. On January 8, 1959, this time in front of an immense crowd in Havana, in contrast to the extreme limitations of his solitary cell, Fidel said, “There is immense joy. However, there is still much to be done. Let us not fool ourselves into believing that the future will be easy; perhaps everything will be more difficult in the future.” No doubt the leader was inspired by the jubilant people. However, he was also making use of his unparalleled perspicacity in front of overjoyed supporters, realizing that he had to convey to them, and the national TV audience, caution and vigilance for the coming months and years. Fidel and the people converged into one political and ideological entity by means of his dexterity to communicate. It is difficult to say whether that classic statement spontaneously emerged out of the Havana political atmosphere of the time, given his extraordinary gift to feel the pulse of his people, or whether Fidel had already thought it through. In any case, he said what had to be said.

Either way, there are many other memorable moments in which his communication was indeed spontaneous, leaving in its wake a permanent imprint on the Cuban political landscape. This brings us to our third illustration, which occurred on September 28, 1960, where Fidel spoke in Havana in front of a mass gathering. The transcript reads the way many Cubans still remember it today, either through their own participation or by that unequalled Cuban revolutionary collective memory, through family and friends. I quote from the transcript this first portion in parentheses:

“(Sounds of the explosion of a firecracker) Fidel says, ‘A bomb?’ (People shouting: ‘Block them! We will win!’) (People sing the national anthem and shout, ‘¡Viva Cuba! ¡Viva la Revolución!’)”

The transcript continues:

(Someone from the public speaks with Dr. Castro) (Sounds of a second explosion)

Fidel goes on:

… Do not underestimate the imperialist enemy.

Out of this dramatic U.S.-backed threat in the heart of Havana, the Committees for the Defence of the Revolution (CDRs) spontaneously emerged in the neighbourhoods and then further developed with the assistance of the Cuban revolutionary leadership. The need for this new type of mass organization was one of life and death for the Cuban Revolution. At the time, in 1961, their formation proved to be indispensable in defending Cuba against U.S.-supported and financed incursions and terrorist acts designed to subvert revolutionary political power. The CDRs, a fruit of the Fidel-and-the-people dynamic, also contributed substantially to governing at the national and local levels, especially from 1959 to 1976, when the political system was institutionalized and the new Constitution approved. The CDRs continued its work after 1976 in many other ways.

In sum, Che captured the essence of this unsurpassed leader-and-people communication. The guerrilla wrote, “At the big public mass meetings, one can observe something like the dialogue of two tuning forks whose vibrations interact, producing new ones in the speaker.”

The fourth illustration draws on a presentation by Fidel on November 25, 2005 to students and professors at the University of Havana on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of his entry there as student. While a student at the University, Fidel dealt in detail with problems confronting Cuba, such as the need to save electricity and oppose corruption. The talk was punctuated with applause and laughter, depending on the point being made. Reading through the transcript again, it provides an almost visual record, such is the vivid interaction of the leader with students and professors. About two-thirds of the way into the talk, he concluded with what was likely an instinctive statement based on perhaps the look on the concerned faces of the students:

This country can self-destruct; this Revolution can destroy itself, but they can never destroy us; we can destroy ourselves, and it would be our fault.

Once again, the defence and the further development of people’s power were at the centre of Fidel’s message. After this statement, the interaction between the audience and Fidel accelerated. Che also summarized Fidel’s relationship with the people in this way:

Fidel and the mass begin to vibrate together in a dialogue of growing intensity until they reach the climax in an abrupt conclusion.

More than 11 years after the University of Havana talk, corruption is still a problem. However, despite this and other problems, the Revolution based on the people in power is undefeated. The maturity and steadfast nature of the vast majority of Cuban youth may be one of the reasons for its enduring nature.

There are innumerable similar examples. One that comes to mind is February 4, 1962, when more than 1 million Cubans gathered in Plaza de la Revolución following the call of the Revolutionary Government to constitute the Second People’s National General Assembly. Last week was the 55th anniversary of this occasion when Fidel Castro had read the declaration and galvanized the people by both its content and his extraordinary flair for communication to consciously vote in favour of it. In fact, this historical moment inspired me to use a photo of this show-of-hands vote as the cover of my 1999 book on democracy in Cuba.

The fifth example is Fidel’s March 27, 2016 article “Brother Obama.” At first glance, as in the initial example of the 1953 Moncada defence, one may ask how an article written by the retired President in relatively fragile health can be illustrative of the leader–people dynamic by means of active communication between the two to defend the Revolution? While it was no longer possible for him to address and exchange with large crowds, aside from a few exceptions since 2008, he found a way through journalism, to which he had been attracted for many decades. During and right after the Obama visit, a lively debate erupted in the Cuban press and among the people regarding the approach taken to some of Obama’s speeches. It was far from unanimous. “Brother Obama” was written in the context of these controversies. Fidel knew, despite the condition of his health, what was happening in Cuba, and thus his most auspicious article struck a chord with society. It rippled like a wave through the political conversations taking place in Cuba and indeed internationally.

He began his “Brother Obama” address with the following:

“The kings of Spain brought us the conquistadores and masters.” It impacted many inside and outside Cuba, as Obama could not be naively appraised. There is a history of colonialism, neo-colonialism and imperialism from which Obama cannot be detached. However, one of the best and focused of Fidel’s charges was yet to come. He referred to Obama’s startling assertion, quoted by Fidel: “It is time, now, to forget the past, leave the past behind, let us look to the future together, a future of hope.” Fidel felt obliged to answer:

I suppose all of us were at risk of a heart attack upon hearing these words from the President of the United States.

Fidel, the revolutionary journalist, courageously wrote what many Cubans, and friends of Cuba, were thinking and writing in their respective ways. It was as if Fidel had somehow inhabited our minds. His timely intervention served as an enormous stimulus and fortification of the Cuban socialist cultural shield. This is held aloft by the vast majority of Cubans to protect people’s political power, independence and dignity and, with this, all the economic, social and cultural achievements of the Revolution.

This is but one of many examples that epitomizes Fidel’s uncanny ability to maintain his dialogue with Cubans through the pen. From the use of lemon juice as indelible ink in 1953 to employing appropriate instruments of writing in 2016, there existed one common thread: Fidel’s concern for the people’s needs of the time expressed by synthesizing them into his ever evolving Marxist-Leninist and Martiano thought to guide action with the goal of safeguarding political power as the foundation of the Cuban Revolution. Thus, in the course of history, Melba and Haydee became millions.

Throughout Fidel’s political life, he contributed to this new culture of communication without historical parallel, given its unique style and long duration, from 1953 to 2016. It is now part of the Cuban Revolution’s patrimony available to every Cuban to exercise on his or her own. But Fidel set the bar very high. Thus, it is not possible to replicate his example, because Fidel is Fidel. However, his legacy as a communicator is the model for leaders at all levels and for revolutionaries in general.

Fidel’s legacy is also part of the world heritage to guide writers and journalists in our countries, such as Canada, to maintain intimate dialectical communication with the needs and concerns of the peoples we are writing about and for.

English version of the Spanish-language presentation given as part of the panel titled “Fidel, Builder of the New Society” at the “Fidel, Politics, and Culture Symposium” held February 10–11, 2017 during the Havana International Book Fair.


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Cuba Honors Literary Legend Gabriel Garcia Marquez with Statue

  • Gabriel Garcia Marquez Statue in Havana, Cuba at the International Book Fair.
    Gabriel Garcia Marquez Statue in Havana, Cuba at the International Book Fair. | Photo: Reuters
The Colombian Nobel prize winner in Literature will be remembered in Cuba, one of his favorite destinations.

A statue to honor Colombian writer and Literature Nobel prize winner Gabriel Garcia Marquez will be unveiled in Havana, Cuba on Thursday to remember his literary work and legacy for Latin American writers.

RELATED: How Fidel and Gabriel Garcia Marquez Changed Cinema Forever

Cuban artist Jose Villa Soberon was commissioned to make the sculpture to be placed in the Museum of the Caribbean in Barranquilla. The current Colombian ambassador to Cuba, Gustavo Bell, insisted on also installing a copy in Havana, a city visited many times by the author.

Villa Soberon said that he only accepts work that he connects with, and this one caught his attention. The artist is also working on a sculpture of Cuban ballet dancer Alicia Alonso.

Some of Villa Soberon’s most famous works include a monument to John Lennon in a park in Havana, a sculpture of Ernest Hemingway located in the restaurant El Floridita in Havana and a Benny More figure on Paseo del Prado in Cienfuegos.

The garden of the Art and Literature Institute of Havana in the historical center of the city will hold the sculpture, which is inspired by the moment when the writer attended the Nobel Literature prize ceremony in Stockholm, Sweden in 1982.

RELATED: Cuban Film Festival to Open, Will Pay Tribute to Fidel

The statue of Garcia Marquez is wearing a liquiliqui, a traditional suit from South America, in the region between Venezuela and Colombia, and holding books and a yellow flower.

According to Villa Soberon, the 26th International Book Fair, celebrated in the Cuban capital from Feb. 9 until Feb. 19, provides the appropriate framework to inaugurate the piece.

He says it pays homage to Garcia Marquez on the 90th anniversary of his birth and 50 years after the publication of his masterpiece “One Hundred Years of Solitude.”

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US-led coalition air raids breach Syria sovereignty

Press TV 

Cuba has denounced US-led coalition airstrikes in Syria, saying they violate the Arab country’s sovereignty as they are not permitted by Damascus.

Cuban Ambassador to the United Nations Humberto Rivero made the criticism during a UN Security Council meeting in New York on Wednesday.

“We demand the cessation of the violations of Syrian sovereignty and the foreign military presence without the consent and the coordination of operations with the Syrian government, the only legitimately elected authority in the country,” Rivero said.

He further condemned the “politicization” of the crisis in Syria and “the tampering of the humanitarian crisis and the suffering” of people in the Middle Eastern country.

Those who are “supplying weapons, money and patronage to terrorist groups are responsible for the thousands of civilian victims of the conflict and the humanitarian situation,” the Cuban diplomat said, expressing his opposition to “the promotion of an interventionist agenda” in Syria.

The US-led coalition has been conducting air raids against what are said to be Daesh terrorists inside Syria since September 2014 without any authorization from the Damascus government or a UN mandate. Analysts have assessed the strikes as unsuccessful as they have led to civilian deaths and failed to counter terrorism.

The US Air Force is also carrying out airdrops of weapons, ammunition and other equipment to militants fighting against the pro-government forces in Syria.

UN chief optimist on ‘conflict freeze’

Separately on Wednesday, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned that the consequences of the Syria crisis had become “too dangerous.”

Speaking in a briefing at the UN office in the Swiss city of Geneva, Guterres stressed that the conflict had fueled instability in the Middle East region and terrorist attacks across the globe.

Touching on the upcoming Syria peace talks in the Kazakh capital Astana, the UN chief further expressed hope that the discussions could “lead towards a consolidation of the ceasefire and a freeze in the conflict.”

The cessation of hostilities took effect on December 30, following an agreement between Syria’s warring parties.

Mediated by Russia and Turkey with the support of Iran, the truce is the first of its kind that has been largely holding in Syria for almost three weeks now. Earlier attempts by the US to broker such a long-lasting ceasefire had failed.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Guterres underlined that the success of the Syria talks could “help create the conditions for a political process” regarding the Syria crisis.

The Astana talks, which are scheduled to be held on January 23, were brokered by Moscow, Ankara and Tehran.

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Cuban “Left” Opposition and Annexationists: Two Wings of the Same Eagle


In my previous article, titled “The End of Ideology in Cuba?,” I created a fair amount of controversy in stating, “I have always maintained that the most dangerous opposition to the Cuban Revolution comes from the so-called left, and not from the openly right Plattists, or annexationists.”

The majority of readers praised the article; many others participated in the serious debate; and only a couple very strongly objected to it, mainly singling out that particular sentence.

Thus, let us deconstruct the perception. It mentions the “openly right Plattists, or annexationists.” This means that there exists in Cuba both the openly pro-U.S. opposition and the hidden annexationists. The latter comprises these so-called “leftists.” Their narratives are carefully constructed to include some (mild) criticism of the American economic, social and political systems. They do not openly accept capitalism as an alternative, as opposed to the annexationists, who quite frankly do hold the U.S. up as their model. An American who has been living in Cuba as the adopted country for a number of years wrote some thoughtful positive comments on the article and the issue of socialism versus capitalism:

“Up North, in its simplest form, you could reduce it to acceptance of the ‘lesser evil.’ Both systems are flawed, but conveniently, socialism is more flawed, so let’s simply not go there. Any changes to capitalism are purely cosmetic with the objective of avoiding socialism. Here [in Cuba], since we have already arrived at socialism, the argument presented is: capitalism has some good features, let us just add (‘sumar’) those to socialism. Since the approach is to add to (‘sumar’), rather than subtract from (‘restar’), capitalism – that is what makes the objective here reverse to the one up North. Instead of improving socialism with the goal of avoiding capitalism, their idea is to adopt capitalism’s best features, as though both systems were compatible, with interchangeable parts, which of course they are not.”

This is a very good point indeed. One Cuban whom I consulted likened it to “using the spare parts of a Timex watch to fix a Rolex.” In this analogy, of course, the Rolex is socialism, while the Timex is capitalism. Nevertheless, the pieces making up both brands are just not compatible. It may be argued by some of the so-called “left” that Cuba is introducing certain market economy measures that amount to capitalism. However, the market economy existed long before capitalism, even in the most “primitive” systems. It is not an exclusive feature of any one system: capitalism did not invent it. In contrast, Cuba’s changes amount to improving the Rolex but with Rolex brand parts, and not some old pieces from a totally different and incompatible brand.

Thus, the “left” opposition objectively contributes to the American Dream of restoring capitalism in Cuba, even though they of course vehemently deny this. To portray their anti-capitalist image, some of them even define themselves as “democratic-socialists” as opposed to the Cuban socialist system, which is supposedly an authoritarian-type of socialism. The U.S.-centric view of systems specializes in adding hyphenated tickets to concepts, such asdemocratic-socialists. “Democracy” is perhaps the most manipulated concept in politics, an analysis that goes beyond the scope of this short article. Suffice it to mention for the moment that, based on the U.S.-centric view, the term democracy serves as a code word to contradict socialism. In Cuba, when this “democracy” tag is appended by sleight-of-hand, those in the North interested in subverting the Cuban Revolution know that the individuals espousing hyphenated socialism are in their ideological camp.

These and other similar trends within the “leftist” opposition, although seemingly in contradiction with each other, have at least one feature in common. Coming from different angles, they all converge into one common mindset: the Cuban system and government are “authoritarian,” the Communist Party of Cuba and the Army are omnipresent, and the system is centralized whereby the state plays too much of a leading role (even though Cuba has been decentralizing since 2008, but on its own terms within socialism). This opposition outlook ostensibly favours socialism, but their “socialism” is so very democratic. In order to foster this image, every incident in the Cuban system is pounced upon in order to paint Cuba as authoritarian. By relying mainly on some intellectuals, the “leftists” have set their sights on atomizing and dividing Cuban society, with the goal of destroying the unity it has been building since 1959.

In contrast, other Cuban commentators supporting the openly right annexationist trend criticize the Cuban government for not going far enough or fast enough in adopting what they also call “capitalist measures.” The annexationists openly advocate capitalism for Cuba under the tutelage of the U.S. This tendency also blames the “authoritarian” government for holding back what they envisage as Cuba’s inevitable slide into capitalism. Thus, “democracy” is manipulated by both the so-called “leftists” and the openly pro-U.S. and capitalist right.

There is another common denominator linking these two seemingly opposite extremes. There is no doubt that in Cuba today people engage in lively discussion and debate about improving Cuba’s socialism and political system. The attitude toward the U.S. in the new and complicated post-December 17, 2014 context is, of course, tied to these controversies. These deliberations are taking place at many levels and in various circumstances in the Cuban social and political systems. Carrying on a long-standing tradition, these debates constitute a feature of Cuban political culture. If, at this time, one takes the Cuban media as an example, a range of opinion articles is increasingly being published in the official press, such as Granma and Juventud Rebelde. Some of the pieces are written by what one could call “alternative” journalists and writers, such as Iroel Sánchez, Elier Ramírez, Enrique Ubieta, Luis Toledo Sande and Esteban Morales, just to name a few. These intellectuals and many others have their own active blogs and they participate daily through social media to resist the U.S.-led cultural war.

However, when the “left” or right opposition describes Cuba for the benefit of both foreign and some domestics consumption (and make no mistake about it, their views can be found in the foreign press hostile to Cuba), they invariably applaud and highlight what they call “opposition” or “alternative” journalists. The “leftist” opposition forces, supposedly the epitome of pluralism, cite only themselves and like-minded opponents, a very monolithic approach. This is also how the U.S. establishment media deals with debate. They cite only their own kind: a perverse consanguinity. In contrast, the real Cuban alternative intellectuals (only some of whom are mentioned above), those who work within the system for improvements, are blacklisted (or even vilified) by the “leftists.” They bestow these credentials on what they consider bona fide “alternatives,” invariably stirring up a backwash of invitations for both the “left” and right to travel to the U.S. or appear on foreign media in Cuba in exchange for delivering the goods: “Cuba is authoritarian or a dictatorship. Amen.” This quid pro quo is quite flagrant, to the extent that for a Cuban to receive these credentials from them could be considered the kiss of death.

Thus, both the “leftist” opposition and the openly right-wing annexationists are two wings of the same American eagle. One cannot underestimate their influence on some intellectual sectors in Cuban society – it would be naive to do so. However, it would also be wrong for the two wings to overestimate their appeal to Cuban society, because Cuban socialism is characterized by an exceptionally high level of political consciousness broadly accumulated over many decades. This allows Cuban revolutionaries and patriots to see through their manipulation and thus in the process further enrich the Cuban Revolution’s ideological heritage.

Source Prensa Latina

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Cuba and US Hold Cold War Compensation Meetings

  • A man rides a homemade bike with an advertising banner in Havana, Cuba, July 13, 2016.
    A man rides a homemade bike with an advertising banner in Havana, Cuba, July 13, 2016. | Photo: Reuters
Cuba has said that the blockade has cost the island nation US$125.9 billion.

Representatives of Cuba and the United States held a meeting Thursday to discuss mutual economic compensation over assets lost as a result of Washington’s decades-long blockade and the Cuban Revolution, an ongoing thorny issue since both nations restored diplomatic relations in July 2015.

RELATED: Why the US Immigration Policy Toward Cuba Had to Go

Washington seeks compensation for its assets seized during the Cuban revolution while Havana expects to receive something in return for the damage caused by the U.S. economic blockade on the island, which is still in force after more than a half-century.

The Cuban delegation reiterated that it is essential to consider the claims of the Cuban people for human and economic damages. Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez in September 2016 said the total cost of the blockade had been of US$125.9 billion.

Meanwhile, Washington said around 6,000 U.S. citizens and companies have reparation claims on Cuba with a total value of US$1.9 billion assets lost after the victory of the Cuban revolution in 1959.

However, these demands have been adjusted to current prices to reach almost US$8 billion, including an annual interest rate of 6 percent.

RELATED: Cuba-US: Obama to End ‘Wet Foot, Dry Foot’ Policy

Two previous meetings on the same issue proved fruitless. The first was held in Havana in Dec. 2015 and the other in Washington in July 2016, diplomatic sources said.

The new meeting follows President Barack Obama’s decision to end the “wet foot, dry foot” policy, a longstanding immigration policy that extends automatic residency to Cubans arriving in the country without visas.

The moves come with only days left in Obama’s presidency and increasing uncertainty over how a Trump administration might move forward with the U.S. relationship with Cuba.

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The Cuban Revolution Will Never Be Destroyed


Fidel Castro, former president and leader of the Cuban revolution, died in November at age 90.

  • Fidel Castro, former president and leader of the Cuban revolution, died in November at age 90. | Photo: Reuters.

“There is no alternative, nor a historical need to change systems, I do not think anything of what the enemies of Castroism are hoping for.”

Fidel Castro’s legacy and the power of the Cuban Revolution will live on, prominent Russian historian Nikolai Sergeyevich Leonov — who once served as Fidel Castro’s interpreter during the late Cuban revolutionary’s visit to the Soviet Union in 1963 — told EFE in a recent interview.

OPINIONThe World Must Learn From Cuba

Leonov, who wrote a book on Raul Castro’s personal life, recalled that “Cuba never reduced the importance of education, science and technology, even in the special period.”

“Fidel did not close off a single school,” he said, “overcoming the difficult years (after the fall of the communist bloc) before us. What can any other political force offer to replace the work of the Revolution?” he said during an interview with EFE.

“There is no alternative, nor a historical need to change systems, I do not think anything of what the enemies of Castroism are hoping for. The hopes of recalcitrant elements in Miami have no basis,” said Leonov, a former deputy director of the Soviet KGB.

ANALYSISAfter Fidel, What to Watch Out For in Cuba in 2017

He stressed that the Communist Party of Cuba approved a new socio-economic plan at its last congress in April to perfect the socialist model, although the island already leads in several fields in the Latin American continent, especially in medicine and science.

“Fidel was a giant who was ahead of his time. His commitment to education, tourism and public health are attainable social achievements. His legacy is indestructible; even the citizens of developed countries go to Cuba to find a cure for their diseases,” he added.

In his opinion, “Fidel, Raul, the party already marked the way,” and “the people fully support the party line, an inheritance of Jose Marti.”

“The party must be the sole guide of the people and must reflect at all times the fundamental hopes of the nation. Fidel did manage to create a strong nucleus, not like his predecessors (Simon) Bolivar or (Augusto Cesar) Sandino,” added the historian.

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The End of Ideology in Cuba?


In 1960, the American sociologist and academic Daniel Bell (1919–2011) published The End of Ideology. It became a classic book in official political science. The publication was listed by Times Literary Supplement as one of the 100 most influential non-fiction books in the second half of the 20th century. While there were other “end of ideologies” in the 1950s and early 1960s, Bell’s is considered the most authoritative. The many varieties that emerged from this school of thought have a common denominator. While not oversimplifying this important trend, for the purposes of this article one can say that it surfaced out of the perceived failures of both socialism in the former U.S.S.R. and capitalism in the West. It was born out of opposition to “extremism.”

In November 1968, along with other political science students at McGill University in Montreal, I founded the Political Science Students Association. It organized a strike around two basic demands. The first was student participation on faculty hiring committees; the second, linked to this potential student empowerment, demanded a more inclusive faculty and curriculum. This would include writings other than by Daniel Bell (who, of course, was considered mandatory reading and enjoyed uncontested reference in political science), progressive social scientists and the works of Marx and Lenin. These were all excluded at the time. After a 10-day occupation and strike, the students’ demands were finally met by the university.

Bell was blind to the inevitable uprisings that were about to take place in the U.S. among African-Americans shortly after his best-seller rolled off the press. These progressive struggles, like those of the Native peoples, who also revolted, have their origins in the Thirteen Colonies. In the 1960s, American students were also attracted to alternative ideologies and politics. In fact, the youth movement was omnipresent throughout North America and much of Europe. While this inclination in the 1960s was characterized by different left-wing political and ideological features, and experienced its ups and downs, it was the death knell for the End of Ideology hypothesis. However, Bell’s heritage keeps coming back to haunt us.

In Cuba, in the last year or so, there has been a steady increase in the End of Ideology code words and buzz phrases emitted by some marginal Cuban bloggers and intellectuals. They were timid at first but became increasingly bold. To mention just a few: complaining of what they see as a “sterile dichotomy between socialism and capitalism”; advising Cuban revolutionaries to be “balanced and more profound in offering their criticism” of U.S. imperialism; opposing what they consider the extremist “Fidelista” and “anti-Castro” positions, placing both on the same footing; labelling those who are Marxist-Leninist or Fidelista as “extremists” or “fanatics”; writing about “two major fallacies of what it means to be a revolutionary in Cuba, from the left and right,” both being based on “exclusive dogma”; and, finally, asserting that “life is much more profound than even ideology.”

Reading these pieces, my university days back in 1968 kept piercing through my thought process. How was it possible that we opposed the End of Ideology in the heart of capitalism yet now it rears its head in Cuba, of all places? One can argue that the opposition in Cuba is coming from the “left,” that is, from those who claim that they support the Revolution. Well, where else can it emerge if not from the so-called left? This is Cuba. Let us not forget that Bell had identified as a leftist. His opposition to ideology was ostensibly from the leftist outlook and not the right. This, after all, was how he won his credibility and credentials. Bell became disillusioned with socialism. He could not see an alternative so he decided to wage a struggle against both capitalism and socialism. His work is a reflection of his own personal/political predicament. Objectively, however, this so-called neutrality against extremes consists in throwing a life jacket in support of capitalism. It is no accident that he is so appreciated by the ruling elites of the West.

I have always maintained that the most dangerous opposition to the Cuban Revolution comes from the so-called left, and not from the openly right Plattists, or annexationists. It is a cancer in Cuban society that, if left to grow without sharp ideological resistance, can influence the most naive, especially among youth, intellectuals and artists.

When Bell wrote his essays in the late 1950s, which were eventually compiled in his 1960 volume, Cuba was the scene of the most glaring refutation in the world of his theory: the 1953 Moncada attack, its ensuing program and the Triumph of the Revolution on January 1, 1959. Fidel Castro and the July 26 Movement initiated in embryonic form the road toward a new Marxist-Leninist revolutionary ideology for Cuba. Far from being a period characterized by the end of ideology, Cuba provided the world with a resurgence of – and confidence in – the need for ideology. It represented the end of the End of Ideology. The Cuban Revolution erupted at the height of the Cold War yet it dug in its heels against any intimidation from the left or from imperialism. It did not represent the politically correct action and thinking at the time, not of the left and even less so of the right. Thus, in the initial period, Fidel had the acumen to not reveal the entire scenario. However, ideology was at the centre of the action and spirit.

Since 1953, Cuba has been and continues to be the quintessence of cultivating ideological principles. Every written and spoken word of Fidel is impregnated with ideology. It is not stagnant; on the contrary, it is continuously evolving according to the context. Otherwise, Cuba would not have been able to outlast its enemies all this time.

I am convinced that one of the main implicit objectives of the international corporate media campaign against the persona of Fidel right after his passing was imperialism’s revenge against him for not capitulating on ideology. Why, they may ask in frustration, did the Cuban Revolution never buy into the End of Ideology? It should have, according to official political science. Yet, after all these years, from July 26, 1953 to November 25, 2016, Fidel lived and died as he asked of others: a humble revolutionary.

In this historical context today, to try to impregnate Cuban political culture with “neutrality” on ideology, opposition to “extremes,” “equidistance” between socialism and capitalism, and so forth does not constitute a challenge to dogmatism of the left as it tries to portray itself. The real defiance is against socialism and Marxist-Leninist ideology. In the 1960s, Bell’s theory appealed to the ruling circles, who wanted to preserve the status quo. The elites were in power. They were not in any danger of being dislodged by their own capitalism! The End of Ideology critique of capitalism was then just a convenient cover for the critique of socialism. At McGill, in 1968, that was the main argument of the conservative faculty and administration. They were supposedly not in favour or against any ideology. All political options were welcome, but Bell was more welcome. He was supposedly against capitalism and socialism. However, those who favoured the capitalist status quo relied on the End of Ideology. Those who opposed the “extreme” ideology of the left were fully merged with the capitalist ideology, serving to propagate and elaborate it. The purpose of the End of Ideology, in the 1960s and now in Cuba, is to put an end to Marxist-Leninist and socialist ideology.

Source: Prensa Latina

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The World Must Learn From Cuba


"Cuba’s achievements expose the very limited, and often deplorable, nature of capitalist democracy."

By: Joe Emersberger

  • “Cuba’s achievements expose the very limited, and often deplorable, nature of capitalist democracy.

On the anniversary of the Cuban Revolution, why has the small Caribbean nation outperformed many capitalist democracies in key ways despite fifty years of attack?

According to UNICEF’s most recent statistics (updated to 2015), Cuba, for almost two decades, has had a lower child mortality rate than the United States. That’s an astounding human rights achievement – especially when you consider that Cuba has been under merciless assault by the United States for over fifty years – an assault that has included major acts of terrorism (like blowing up a factory and killing hundreds of workers in the middle of the Cuban missile crisis) not simply economic strangulation.

RELATED: Cuba-Trained Doctors Head to Standing Rock

What Cuba has accomplished while under sustained attack by a superpower shames every capitalist democracy in Latin America. There is no excuse for any having a higher child mortality rate than Cuba today, not even the countries that were the farthest behind Cuba when Castro seized power in 1959. Being stuck with depraved dictators like the Duvaliers or Somozas absolves the people of those countries (their victims) but not the political systems, and certainly not their sponsors in Washington. If every country in Latin America and the Caribbean had Cuba’s child mortality rate, there would have been about 136,000 fewer child deaths in the region in 2015 alone. People who scoff at Cuba’s achievements in health care are being contemptuous of human life, not only human rights.

In fairness, there are times when U.S. imperialists identify health care as a basic human right. Human Rights Watch recently did an extensive report on Venezuela’s struggling health care system but, shockingly, did not cite UNICEF statistics on child or infant mortality because they contradicted many of HRW’s claims.

The table below shows child mortality in Cuba and other selected countries according to UNICEF’s most recent data.

Kuwait and Saudi Arabia are two fabulously oil-rich dictatorships that are staunchly backed by the U.S. government. In fact, the United States went to war to re-install Kuwait’s dictatorship after it was overthrown by Iraq’s invasion in 1990. Chile spent decades under Pinochet’s dictatorial rule which was often praised by the international corporate media for its far right economic policies. Costa Rica is sometimes offered as example of what Cuba might have achieved “without repression”. Cuba, without exceptional natural wealth and despite decades of ferocious U.S. sabotage, has outperformed them all in reducing child mortality. Why? There are two general reasons.

Go ahead and blow off steam. We’ll ignore you.

I agree with people who say that “freedom of expression” is an end in itself – not just a way to get good public policy. However, extreme concentrations of wealth “take the risk out of democracy” as Alex Carey put it. If elites can dominate the means of communication then being able to publicly express harsh criticism of the government will have minimal impact on policy. Health care policy in the United States is a striking example. Public opinion has simply been dismissed. A closely related problem is the stunning ignorance that elites impose through control of the media while still allowing some dissent.

Cuba’s government does not tolerate dissent through the mass media, but, as Avi Chomsky observed in a detailed study “Cuban citizens nominate candidates and vote in secret ballot elections; they participate in mass organizations; they participate in neighborhood, workplace, and municipal where real problems are discussed and debated, and decisions made.”

The exceptional health outcomes Cuba has achieved under severe constraints point to a government that actually responds to the public’s concerns – and that does provide avenues for dissent to be expressed. I will anger some friends by saying that this does not make Cuba a democracy, but it does expose the absurdity of governments that congratulate themselves for allowing dissent while also ignoring widespread public dissatisfaction and disillusionment with impunity.

Spend forty hours a week under dictatorial rule – if you’re lucky.

Dictatorial workplaces (a key way to ensure elite control over wealth and investment decisions) are much more crucial feature of capitalism than competitive markets. Capitalists are often opposed to competitive markets as U.S. economist Dean Baker has often explained – most recently in his new book “Rigged.”

If you are lucky enough to have a steady job, even if you are lucky enough have a strong union that protects your income and dignity in the workplace, you are still spending a great deal of your life under dictatorial rule. Unions mitigate the dictatorial powers of CEOs and elite shareholders. Unions do not change the basic fact that ultimate control over investment and productions rests with an elite whose enrichment is deemed the highest priority. The arguments for allowing workplace dictatorship are no more compelling than arguments for dictatorship as a form of government. If workers in capitalist democracies spend so much of their lives under dictatorial rule at work, it should not be surprising that so many capitalist democracies compare poorly with Cuba in important ways. I am not arguing that workplaces are more democratic in Cuba than in most countries. I am saying that capitalism imposes such serious and barely discussed constraints on democracy that the distinction between “democracy” in many countries and “dictatorship” in Cuba is not as great as is typically assumed.

RELATED: When Africa Called, Fidel and Cuba Answered

Cuba’s achievements expose the very limited, and often deplorable, nature of capitalist democracy. That said, leftists in the United States and other rich western countries make a grave error when they exaggerate the shortcomings of U.S. democracy to such an extent that they embrace defeatism. The saying that “if voting could change anything it would be illegal” is quite dysfunctional. However, it is true that one cannot vote corporate power away in a single election.

I’ve focussed on Cuba’s child mortality rate, but, given the threat to human existence posed by the impact of human activity on the climate, it should be noted that Cuba has achieved rich country health outcomes with only a tiny fraction of the CO2 emissions per capita and without using nuclear power. With all its faults, if Cuba’s system spread to the entire world, humans could at least survive to work on eliminating those faults. The same cannot be said for capitalism. Learning from Cuba should be a high priority if we value survival.

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Cuba Marks 60 Years Since Late Fidel Castro Sparked Revolution

  • An image of late Cuban President Fidel Castro hangs on a building as a replica of the Granma yacht passes by during a march in Havana, Jan. 2, 2017.
    An image of late Cuban President Fidel Castro hangs on a building as a replica of the Granma yacht passes by during a march in Havana, Jan. 2, 2017. | Photo: Reuters.
On Jan. 1, 1959, Fidel Castro and his troops claimed victory for the Cuban Revolution after the fall of the Batista dictatorship.

Cuba celebrated 60 years Monday since the launch of its revolution in 1956, the first anniversary without late former president and revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, with a military parade and march of hundreds of thousands of citizens in Havana’s iconic Revolution Square.

ANALYSIS: After Fidel, What to Watch Out For in Cuba in 2017

The Cuban military, workers, students, children and youth joined in the events, one day after the country commemorated the anniversary of the occasion when Fidel Castro claimed victory for the Cuban revolution on Jan. 1, 1959, after dictator Fulgencio Batista fled Havana.

The march brought together a range of symbols representing Cuba’s long struggle for independence and sovereignty, beginning with a cavalry parade to represent the liberation struggle against Spanish colonization.

Another part of the parade featured a replica of the Granma yacht — on which Fidel and his revolutionary troops sailed to Cuba from Mexico in 1956 to launch the uprising against the Batista regime — symbolically “floating” on a sea of Cuban children adorned with blue. The island marked 60 years in 2016 since Granma arrived on Cuba’s shores on Dec. 2, 1956 with Fidel and Raul Castro, Ernesto “Che” Guevara, Camilo Cienfuegos and other revolutionary troops onboard.

Cuba holds the military and civilian parade every five years on Dec. 2 to celebrate the anniversary of the Granma landing, but this year it was postponed to observe nine days of national mourning after Fidel Castro’s death on Nov. 25 at the age of 90.

RELATED: Cuba Will Not Go Toward Capitalism Now or Ever: Raul Castro

Cuban soldiers, workers, students and crowds of other supporters followed in the march amid chants of “We are all Fidel, Fidel is the people!” and “Revolution is building!”

The day of anniversary celebrations in Havana’s Revolution Square comes just weeks after tens of thousands of Cubans filled the plaza to pay their last respects Fidel Castro, before his ashes departed for a cross-country tour to be interred Dec. 4 alongside independence leader Jose Marti and other national heroes in Santiago de Cuba.

The anniversary of the revolution also comes just weeks ahead of the inauguration of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, whose win in the Nov. 12 elections has cast a shadow of uncertainty over the future of the normalization of U.S.-Cuba ties, in progress for the past two years.

During Monday morning’s events, youth leader Jennifer Bello, a member of Cuba’s Council of State and president of the University Student Federation, recognized the strength of the Cuban people in driving forward both revolutionary struggle and the thawing of ties with the U.S.

“Cuba is not going to give up a single one of its principles,” she said, according to Cuba Debate.

“We would not have reached this process without the resistance of the Cuban people,” she added, referring to the progress toward normalization of U.S.-Cuba relations.

After negotiations, on Dec. 17, 2014, Cuban President Raul Castro and U.S. President Barack Obama announced plans to re-establish long-frozen relations between the two countries. In July 2015, the countries reopened their foreign embassies in Havana and Washington after more than half a century, and in March 2016, Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to visit Cuba since 1928.

OPINION: The World Must Learn From Cuba

These and other developments, including the launch of commercial flights from the U.S. mainland to Cuba and several other historic changes, have marked landmark reforms in U.S. policy toward Cuba and bilateral ties between the two nations.

However, Cuba maintains that the normalization of ties will not be complete until the United States lifts the financial, commercial and economic blockade against the island, closes down the U.S. military base at Guantanamo and commits to fully respecting Cuban sovereignty.

But Trump has demonstrated hostility toward Cuba and rejected the thawing of ties, claiming that the normalization process should be scrapped unless Havana agrees to a better “deal.”

Despite the many changes — combined with uncertainty under a Trump White House — Raul Castro has reaffirmed that the socialist country will never head toward capitalism.

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Comandante Fidel: Combatant to the End


By: Dr. Helen Yaffe

This file photo taken in the 1960s shows then Cuban Prime Minister Fidel Castro (L) lighting a cigar while listens Argentine Ernesto Che Guevara.

  • This file photo taken in the 1960s shows then Cuban Prime Minister Fidel Castro (L) lighting a cigar while listens Argentine Ernesto Che Guevara. | Photo: AFP

Fidel’s genius was his ability to meet the need for tactical steps, responding to the day’s urgencies, without losing sight of the strategic direction.

It could have been the armed struggle, terrorism, assassination or the serious illness which, at his own admission, nearly killed him in 2006; but in the end Fidel Castro lived through it all to die in peace.

RELATED: Revolutionary Icon Fidel Castro Dies: Live Updates

His death, at 90, on Nov. 25, 2016, has dominated news around the world. In Cuba, there will be several days of mourning, a procession through the island, and funeral on 4 December. Most Cubans on the island will mourn Fidel and pay their respects. Somewhere, rising up through their grief will be a sense of pride; that nature took el Comandante, and not the enemy. It must have been a source of comfort for Cuba’s Commander in Chief. He was a man that led the call to arms from the front: against Batista’s dictatorship, against US imperialism, against the “Batistiano” – the former Cuban elite who never ceased plotting their inglorious return to power, a group he labelled “worms” (gusanos). Right up to his scathing reflection about “brother Obama” following the U.S. president’s visit to Cuba early this year, Fidel never stopped fighting for the sovereign, independent and socialist Cuba he pledged to build.

Trained as a lawyer and tested as a soldier, Fidel’s genius was his ability to meet the need for tactical steps, responding to the day’s urgencies, without losing sight of the strategic direction. Dismissing him as a “dictator” censors a rich history of debate, experimentation, and collective learning that has taken place in Cuba under Fidel’s guidance.

In the 1950s, Fidel set out the Moncada Program, which committed to bring social welfare and land reform to the Cuban people, and confiscate the ill-gotten gains of the Cuban elite. This was his promise to the Cuban people, who came out in their masses to cheer Fidel on the long road to Havana in the first days of 1959. And in this, clearly, Fidel has been absolved by history. Also in those first years, one million Cubans left the island, most of them for the United States where they formed a pocket of violent opposition to Fidel and the Cuban Revolution. Who were they? They were the landowners, the businessmen, the politicians, who surpassed even previously shocking standards of graft and corruption. They fled the island, temporarily they thought. However, despite the financial, military, political and ideological support they received from successive U.S. administrations and state institutions, the Revolution could not be dislodged: not through mercenary invasions, sabotage, terrorism or biological warfare, not through the threat of nuclear war, not through regional and international isolation, not through the U.S. blockade, not through inducements, nor corruption, nor assassinations.

It is these Cuban exiles, and their allies, who have dominated U.S. policy-making on Cuba – converting Cuba into a domestic political issue. They have established the paradigm for academic writing and commentary on Cuba, controlled the media narrative, and in general obstructed our ability to understand Cuba as a country, Fidel as a man, and socialism as an alternative development strategy. So none of us should be surprised that on his death, unlike Mandela, Fidel is not forgiven his “crimes,” but continues to be lambasted as a dictator, supposedly the oppressor of an entire nation.

Elsewhere, however and well beyond the shores of Cuba, millions in the world will mourn a leader they claimed as their own. The leader of a revolution which defeated a U.S.-backed invasion, who stood up to U.S. imperialism, who sent doctors, educators and development workers to the poorest regions on the earth – almost as soon as they were trained up for free in Cuba. In the 1960s, Fidel railed against imperialism and colonialism in the United Nations, supported revolutionary movements in Latin America, Africa and elsewhere, and hosted the Tricontinental Conference to coordinate anti-imperialist forces internationally. From the 1970s Fidel sent the first of some 400,000 Cubans to defend Angola from the colonial aspirations of apartheid South African. In the 1980s Fidel condemned third world debt as unpayable. In the 1990s he denounced the devastating human costs of neoliberalism and warned the world about the ecological crisis which threatened humanity and the planet. In the 2000s he opened the doors of the Latin American School of Medicine (set up in 1999) to poor students from Africa, Asia and elsewhere, so that they too could study for free and return to serve their poor communities, and the Battle of Ideas he led showed what could be achieved in the field of culture and education.

RELATED: Fidel Castro: A Latin American Legend

Cuba today, is incomparable with the Cuba of 1959; just consider the island’s achievements in health, medicine, biotechnology, culture, art, sport, and combatting discrimination of every kind. They have built a new and alternative system of democracy, without political parties, and political celebrities, in which politics is not a career, and principles are not invented by publicists responding to the latest polls. Yes, there have been mistakes and shameful episodes. But Fidel’s strongest serious critic was always himself, just listen to his interviews with Ignacio Ramonet and Oliver Stone.

One thing we can assert is that Fidel stuck to his principles. A recent book by William LeoGrande and Peter Kornbluh on the secret history of negotiations between Washington and Havana documents that almost as soon as diplomatic relations were broken, their respective governments pursued avenues to restore or improve them. What is also clear, however, is that at various moments in history Fidel rejected an offer to reduce hostilities, to lift the U.S .blockade for example, because they were pre-conditioned on abandoning some anti-imperialist (or in the case of Angola, anti-racist) internationalist cause: withdrawing troops from Southern Africa, stopping vociferous support for Puerto Rican independence, ending support for the Central America revolutionary movements, and cutting off ties to the Soviet Union. These were demands that Fidel would not countenance. Commitment to international anti-imperialism could not be traded. “Men make their own history,”observed Karl Marx, “but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.”

Fidel has made history, and history has absolved him, even as, in his death, those ideological enemies continue to rage against his life.

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