|In Honor of Fidel by Steve Jonas|
December 6, 2016
Fidel Castro is one of the great figures, a luminary indeed, in development of socialism for the human species. As I have written elsewhere (and certainly others have as well), the most important reason for the eventual development of socialism world-wide is that our species, and many others, will not survive in anything like our-their present form if that does not happen. And so, in my view, we have to rate as Fidel’s primary achievement that with him and through him and the leadership he gathered around him, Cuba has become the only nation on Earth to establish socialism, without resorting to war with enemies both internal and extremal. Given that Cuba’s most implacable foe is the most powerful capitalist country in the history of nation-states, and is, to the Florida Keys at least, only 90 miles away, for me this has to rank as his most remarkable achievement.
As is well-known, the United States ruling class has been at it for 55 years, time-and-again mobilizing the rabid Cuban-emigre community to do its bidding in a variety of ways. It should be pointed out that the vast majority of these people chose to leave. Except for a relative few, during the time of the Fidel-Carter “boat-lift,” only a few left involuntarily. And of course, the anti-Castro/Cuba propaganda has been incessant, for all of these years. (I did note, in the generally virulently anti-Castro/Cuban propaganda that has been spewing forth from the U.S. media in the wake of Fidel’s passing, that two of the most virulent commentators have been named Diaz-Balart. One is a U.S. Congressman, the other a television personality. One wonders of their particularly high level of hostility to Fidel, personally, has anything to do with the fact that his first wife, Mirta Diaz-Balart, was an aunt to both of them.)
U.S./anti-Castro-Cuban propaganda has from the beginning focused around the words “individual freedom, free speech, and uninhibited travel.” Of course, if the U.S. had not been determined, almost from the beginning of Fidel’s government and the work to establish socialism in Cuba, to overthrow that government, perhaps it would have been possible to accommodate an opposition within Cuba. But since that opposition’s no. 1 goal would always have been, and would be in the future were conditions to change within Cuba, to achieve that end, what motivation would there be for the Cuban government to accommodate those demands?
Further, it must be recalled that in the summer of 1962, as I was told by a U.S. Army captain who was part of the build-up taking place all along the East coast of the U.S., (I met him because he was the brother of a nurse I was dating at the hospital in rural New Jersey where I was doing part of my medical internship), the United States was actually preparing for the invasion of Cuba. (This narrative was much later confirmed to me by a career Army officer, West Point grad., who was in the military at the time.) That was the true origin of the “Cuban Missile Crisis.” Khrushchev did not arbitrarily place nuclear-tipped missiles in Cuba. He put them there, in response to a request from Fidel, to provide a bargaining chip in protecting Cuba against U.S. aggression. As is well known, it worked, although not in the way it is always presented in U.S. propaganda about the event.
But Fidel and the Cuban people have had another series of achievements which I think do not receive nearly enough attention. The Cuban government may not allow those political forces which would attempt to bring them down to have free speech in Cuba. But at the same time, a great series of benefits for the lives of the Cuban people have been achieved. As I have written previously, let’s consider what the Cuban people would NOT have were socialism to be overthrown there. As I said in that column:
First off, 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. [As for the situation in the U.S., of course, not only is there not “Medicare-for-all”, but if Trump’s nomination of one of the most rabidly right-wing physicians in the country to be his Secretary of Health and Human Service means anything, the Republicans are not only going to repeal Obamacare, depriving 20 million U.S. citizens of health insurance, but they are also going to go after Medicare.In Cuba, there are very few police on the streets, at least in the three major cities we visited last spring, 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. 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 or on misogyny, and xenophobia either (as does the party of, for example, Senators Cruz and Rubio). And so on and so forth.”
To paraphrase what I said back in May, I think that, in honoring the memory of Fidel and his monumental achievement of leading the establishment of socialism on the front porch, as it were, of the most powerful anti-socialist power in the world, in addition to correctly talking about the theory, it is vital also to talk about the practice. It is vital to talk about what the Cuban Revolution has achieved in practical terms for its people, especially in the context of the “55 Years War” waged against it by the United States. Would the Cuban people really like to have the “U.S.” model imposed on them, the one so heavily promoted by Senators Cruz and Rubio and then lose everything they have gained over the years? (By the way, both of those Senators’ parents were indeed Cuban refugees. But they were refugees from Batista’s, not Castro’s, Cuba. Funny how you never hear those facts either from them or any “news” show.) This in return for having an “opposition party” or two, which if it/they were to be modeled on the Repubs. so close to the Cruz-Rubio model, could actually run on racism and homophobia, while destroying the national health and free national education? I don’t think so.
Go Cuba! Let’s keep the memory and honor of Fidel intact, as one 21st-century form of socialism reaches for even greater heights, over time.
*Cuba, unfortunately, from my perspective, does engage in the ‘drug war,’ but their drug-‘crime’-related prison population, unlike that in the U.S., is miniscule.
October 30, 2010
I WAS surprised when, towards the end of 1975, I received an invitation from the Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, to meet him at his residence. He opened the door himself, poured me a glass of whisky, poured one for himself, and without any further ado asked me: “Tell me, Uri, have you decided to destroy all the doves in the Labor Party?”