The Republic of Cuba under Fidel Castro was praised by so many leftists. They all saw in the charismatic Castro a true revolutionary figure. Unfortunately too many socialists, communists and progressives ignored the deformed dictatorial system, that masked itself as socialist. The right-wing media loves to expose the top-down dictatorship, which is hypocritical because the same right-wing fully supported the Batista regime that ruled Cuba until 1959. U.S presidents have tried (and failed) to kill Fidel Castro, but in the end capitalism is making a return to the island. Because under Raul Castro the ideas of the Cuban revolution and Che Guevara are losing grounds. Inequality is growing as the Communist Party of Cuba moves to deregulate more sections of the economy!
In 1994, Cuba started with their ”special period”. This was the result of the collapse of the Soviet-Union, which had supplied the island since the 1960’s. As Russia embraced austerity and capitalist barbarism, Fidel Castro remained committed to Stalinist orthodoxy, meaning total state (bureaucratic) control over the economy. But by 1994, he could no longer hide the fact that the island was in a deep crisis. Fuel shortages led to stagnation as factories were unable to produce goods. Cubans saw their living standards dropping. Boycotted by the capitalist west and abandoned by their allies, Cuba was for the first time completely alone in a capitalist dominated world!
The collapse of cheap oil led also to a rise in hunger. For the first time since 1959, Cubans learned what it was like to have limited amount of food. Starvation was avoided thanks to the fact that Castro forced his bureaucrats (for the first time ever) to think more independently and creatively. In the 1990’s Cubans lost around nine kilograms in average weight. Food shortages were a clear indication of a major crisis. Rebellion however never happened since most Cubans blamed the western trade embargo. Although this played a role the reality was that the centralized economy was unprepared for the sudden withdraw of cheap Soviet oil. Win-out this vital product Cuban society stagnated, which led to shortages in almost any sector!
Washington DC allowed humanitarian aid to be send to Cuba by private groups. However in 1996 with the introduction of the Helms–Burton Act, more restrictions were placed on foreign groups trading with Cuba. The U.S government called this act the ”Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (Libertad) Act of 1996”. By using the words: ”democratic” and ”solidarity” the Americans hide the real reason for their trade embargo. As said in the act itself: ”This law includes a wide variety of provisions intended to bring about “a peaceful transition to a representative democracy and market economy in Cuba”. Although the USA claims to fight for democracy, their real aim is to restore capitalism on the island. Their Helms–Burton Act was imposed on Cuba to further destabilize Castro’s government and to force capitalist law on him!
Fidel Castro could have embraced a socialist democracy, both in 1959 and after 1991. He could have created a workers state and a democratic economy based on public ownership. But because he was not a Marxist and did not understand socialism, Fidel choose the only model that was called ”Marxist socialism” in 1960, that model was top-down stalinism. Both Raul Castro and Ernesto Guevara also supported the Stalinist system out of idealism. They wrongly believe that this was the right road to communism, which revolutionary socialists always said it was not. Just before Guevara left Cuba he had become disillusioned in the Stalinist system, after a visit to the USSR in 1965. There he saw for the first time the deep gap between communist party bureaucrats and ordinary Soviet workers. It made him critical of a system that he helped to build in Cuba!
As the quality of life went down in the 90’s desperation rose. Socialist idealism died with the reality of growing poverty. Woman who were raised not to sell themselves as lust objects, suddenly realized that prostitution was a way to get dollars (and later euros). Although prostitution is illegal on Cuba, the die-hard reality is that many woman are living with very little income. The average wage is less then 30 dollars a month. As the government started to encourage western tourists to visit the island, prostitution grew. Because those who have access to U.S dollars can live a prosperous life. It is a sad reality that woman have to sell their bodies to obtain western money. The Cuban government is responsible for this, they created the duel economy. A parallel society of Cubans who are wealthier because of their work with tourists. These Cubans have access to dollars, euros and enjoy privileges way above the average worker!
Although sex for money was public knowledge in the 1990’s and early 2000’s, the government started to crackdown on prostitutes. After 2007 it became rarer to see them in public. This does not mean that woman no longer sell their bodies. Sex for dollars is still lucrative and since more tourists are coming to Cuba, woman will keep selling themselves out of the need to obtain a good income. Inequality has also grown since Raul Castro became president in 2008. Once a orthodox Stalinist who convinced his brother Fidel to follow Marxism-Leninism (Stalinism), Raul Castro has deregulated many parts of the economy. Although the state is still the owner of most means of production, each year since 2008 has resulted in more market based politics. American capitalists are already owning one factory on Cuba, something which was impossible under Fidel!
The elder Castro died on 25 November 2016, aged 90. Fidel outlived many U.S presidents who had tried to kill him. John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, all presidents who had tried to overthrown him during the Cold War and failed. History could have been very different if the USA had not been so hostile towards Castro in the first months after the revolution. Fidel had said that his revolution was not socialist and that he would not build communism. In fact many fighters of his 26th of July Movement were supporters of a capitalist democracy on Cuba. It was the anticommunist paranoia of U.S president Eisenhower that forced Castro into the Soviet camp. It took almost a whole year before Fidel explained that his revolution was socialist and based on Marxism-Leninism (Stalinism)!
Revolutionary socialists supported the expropriation of capitalists. But we rejected the bureaucratic top-down system that replaced the market economy. Also the banning of opposition newspapers we rejected. Che Guevara and Fidel Castro claimed that the whole opposition was part of the oligarchy and supportive of capitalist rule. This was however not the case. In their black/white thinking Fidel and Che attacked anybody who was not unconditional loyal to the revolution. What made Cuba different from others was the fact that a communist party was absence until 1962. The Integrated Revolutionary Organizations were founded two years after the fall of Batista, they however served as vehicles for the government. In March 1962, Castro fused all supportive groups into what you can call a political party embryo. This party was named the United Party of the Cuban Socialist Revolution renamed Communist Party of Cuba in October 1965. Still the party was not (yet) given a constitutional role to lead the country and the first party congress not held until the late 1970’s!
Unlike the Russian revolution of 1917, the Cuban revolution of 1959 was not led by workers. The Russian soviets (councils) who fought against the White Armies and their capitalist masters were organized by workers. Cuba’s revolution was more peasant based and lacked the support of urban workers. When Batista was overthrown by the guerrilla’s of the 26th of July Movement, workers were not given the political and economic power to rule. Instead Castro used the Batista state bureaucracy. Since only 150 to 500 members of the old ruling class were actual executed for their crimes, it is clear that most government bureaucrats switched allegiance after 1959. Castro never saw the workers as the class which leads the revolution. He never spoke of them as the class that should rule. From 1959 until 2008, Fidel Castro made all political decisions. Others were allowed to voice their opinion, but in the end it was Fidel who said YES or NO. Centralizing all political authority in one leader is however dangerous and not the right way. Castro in his life never understood that the working class is the only force can lead a socialist revolution!
Today it is a fact the 90% of all Cuban peso’s stored by the state bank is owned by only 15% of the total population. Proofing that only a small group of communist party members and those with access to dollars and euros enjoy financial wealth. Raul Castro started with major reforms after 2008. Firing almost 500.000 government employees and relaxing laws on the ownership of houses and small businesses. Still the economy remains handicapped by the trade embargo and the top-down system. Tourism is bringing some money but Cuba is plagued by corruption, low productiveness and very low salaries. As said, 15% of all Cubans own 90% of all money stored in the State Bank of Cuba!
Special Development Zones have been opened like the building of a new port facility in Mariel Bay, financed by investment from Brazilian and Singapore capitalism. Like the Chinese economic zones of the 1980’s, foreign capitalists are free to exploit Cuban workers here. ”Investors” will be given 50 years contracts compared with the current 25 year one. All businesses started in these economic zones will be 100% owned by capitalists outside Cuba. They will be charged no labour or local taxes and granted a 10 year reprieve from paying a 12% tax on profits. This is how Raul Castro slowly moves his country into the market economy, just like Deng Xiaoping did in China. It is ironic that the younger Castro who always rejected capitalist ownership, now enforces politics that favor capitalists over Cuban workers. Revolutionary socialists are however not surprised since all stalinists who once ruled in Eastern Europe, embraced the ”free market” system after 1990. Allies of Fidel Castro in Africa also abandoned socialism in favor of capitalism. Like the MPLA in Angola, which has rewritten its history books and removed any references to Marxism!
Under the cloak of socialism, the government of Cuba will move the country further down the capitalist road. This has to be done slow as the majority of Cubans reject capitalism. So they play the slow evolutionary card, while remaining loyal to the revolution in public. This is why true revolutionaries must raise the alarm. The gains of the Cuban revolution are slowly dying as the market reclaims the island. Cubans who are born after 1994 will only know a society were the government praises socialism yet allows capitalist logic to flourish. Young Cubans already feel little for icons like Guevara and Castro as money making becomes more important then revolutionary idealism. In Asia the next generation already looks beyond the propaganda of the ruling communist parties. Making a lot of money, being entrepreneurial and love your nation are the new dogma’s of China and Vietnam!
U.S president Barack Obama worked more closely with Cuba then any other president. However he was never able to end the trade embargo. Since the far-right Republican Party controlled both the House and Senate, the Democratic president was unable to end the embargo. Obama did however restored diplomatic relations and opened a American embassy on the island. However Donald Trump is not willing to be diplomatic. The far-right billionaire president is more in line with with right-wing Cuban exiles. These exiles left after the revolution and tried to overthrow Castro in 1961. Far-right terrorists belonging to exiled groups also bombed a civilian airliner and carried out terror attacks. The CIA trained and supported these terrorists in murdering supporters of the Cuban revolution!
In the USA, the Cuban exiles form a conservative right-wing ethnic group. Most exiles live in Florida and are a vital voting group for the Republican Party. This is why the ”Grand Old Party” (GOP) always voted against restoring diplomatic ties with Cuba. A hypocritical move because the Republicans supported restoring ties with China and Vietnam after they restored capitalism. It would be no surprise that if Raul Castro would decide to open the Cuban economy right now, the Republican Party would end the trade embargo. Despite that the Cuban exiles are a powerful voting base, the need of capitalists will always come before the need of a small exiled minority. The Republicans also abandoned anticommunist Chinese and Vietnamese groups. Today American conservatives are very ‘supportive of the Asian ”communist” governments who have impose austerity and capitalist barbarism on their countries. The true masters of the GOP will always be the ruling class!
Cuba’s future is grim. Inequality is rising as a result of a growing capitalist mentality. The old rulers around Raul Castro maybe blind to this, but the working class is not. Party bosses keep praising people like Ernesto Guevara and Fidel Castro, however behind their revolutionary facade lies the iron fact that Stalinist thinking failed. Cubans do not want capitalism or the capitalist mentality enforced by government bureaucrats. They used to be genuine believers in socialism. But now this idealism is slowing fading away as a new generation grows up in a system that is adapting to the demands of the world market. In schools the youth may learn about socialism, but there is a huge difference between what is told and what younger Cuba will experience in the future, when more and more capitalist laws become reality!