Lessons from Cuba, then and now
By Victor and Ellen Perlo, People's Weekly World, 31 January 1998
In 1959, we drove down the Florida coast to Key West, bought plane tickets to Havana, Cuba for $16 each. On landing, as the plane taxied to the terminal, an American businessman type, observing young men and women going through military training on a nearby field, sneered at their "lack of discipline." Three years later, at the Bay of Pigs, the U.S. invaders learned otherwise the hard way.
In Cuba, we found a happy people. It was a mere three months after the victory of the revolution. We've never seen anything like it, before or since. Riding on a bus, the passengers laughed, joked, and called out to us when our stop was reached. Little children on the street went up to the bearded, long-haired militia and patted them. They had won their revolution, which they had fought for long and hard. They were liberated from the Batista dictatorship; they looked toward a socialist future.
The swimming pools of the rich tourists' hotels were open to the people, Black and white, without charge. The restaurants were also open to all.
We stayed at a modern seafront hotel. But as the torrent of hostile, anti-Cuban, anti-Communist propaganda in the U.S. media was already having an effect, the mobs of tourists that in previous years had crowded Havana were missing. We were the only guests at the hotel, although Cubans filled the restaurant at meal times.
After a few days another American checked in, a youngish man escaping, he said, from a nagging wife. He was hoping to find the gambling and other facilities he had previously enjoyed. He didn't, of course.
I stopped in at the offices of El Hoy, the organ of the Popular Socialist Party (PSP), the name used by the Cuban Communist party. It was closely allied with Fidel Castro's 26th of July Movement and, in fact, a few years later the two merged into the Communist Party of Cuba, and El Hoy merged into Granma.
The editor of El Hoy, Carlos Rafael Rodriguez, welcomed me. Carlos Rafael was confident that Cuba would survive and flourish because of the overwhelming support of the Cuban people. He emphasized that the revolutionary forces would hold on to power even if the imperialists succeeded in assassinating Fidel. He stated that he was aware that he, himself, was a target: the premises of El Hoy had been destroyed more than once.
For me, his confidence in the permanence of the revolution was important. It came at a time when most liberals and left-of-center U.S. groups (although not the CPUSA) were writing off the Cuban revolution as bound to fail. And the confidence of Carlos Rafael Rodriguez has been borne out. Throughout subsequent decades, Carlos Rafael became a leading force in the Cuban government and Party.
For 37 years U.S. imperialism has conducted a vicious, unrelenting campaign, with no holds barred, against this small country. But all attempts to undermine it have failed. Slanderous propaganda, assassination plots, legal maneuver that violates international standards of commerce between nations.
European governments have verbally attacked Helms-Burton, but in practice government and corporations have yielded to it. Only Canada - its people, government and corporations - has steadfastly maintained normal relations with Cuba, defying Helms-Burton and its penalties.
Why is the United States so hostile toward this small island country 90 miles from our east coast?
The State Department "justification" for labeling a number of countries "rogue states" and for treating them accordingly is the charge that they sponsor terrorism. In the case of Cuba, there is no such charge, nor can there be as Cuba clearly eschews terrorism.
But the United States is guilty of violent terrorism against Cuba: the recent bombing of a number of Cuban tourist hotels and dropping their plant- destroying chemicals from planes, not to mention the many attempts to assassinate Castro, for which Washington does not consider it necessary to apologize!
The anti-Cuban blockade is a means of stroking the emigre Cuban capitalists who absconded with whatever they could get their hands on of Cuban property. That's not the only motive for hostility, but important.
Claims of debts to U.S. corporations for nationalized properties is another pretext. Of course, any foreign investment is undertaken at the risk of the investor, and claims have to be settled in accordance with the laws of the host country. Such claims are no business of the U.S. government.
In the case of Cuba, sabotage by the investing companies forced the nationalization, for the most part. The Exxon refinery at Santiago de Cuba is one example. Cuba was required by Exxon to supply the crude oil to be refined. Because of the U.S. blockade, Cuba had to buy its crude oil from the USSR, which offered favorable terms. But Exxon refused to process the Soviet oil, which Cuba had to have refined. Ergo, Cuba was forced to nationalize the Exxon facility.
And I have seen no claim on Cuba in Exxon's annual reports. Any such losses have long since written off and now emerge in order to get what they can from Helms-Burton. The damage done to Cuba by the U.S. economic warfare exceeds many times the total of all conceivable economic claims against Cuba.
U.S. corporations do not seriously expect to collect, but Washington wants to use Helms-Burton to hamper European competitors. There is no attempt to negotiate on the claims, nor is there any offer of relaxation of the blockade if the claims are met.
But the real, overriding reason for U.S. cold war aggression against Cuba is the hatred and fear of Communism on the part of the U.S. capitalist class, especially the leading, most powerful elements - including elected officials they control. They know that in any "fair" competition, socialism would come out way ahead. y Cuba freed from the hardships imposed by the U.S. blockade would be a powerful revolutionary influence on all of Latin America and the Caribbean - the neo-colonial backyard of U.S. imperialism. So the American power elite uses every device to tilt the playing field radically in their favor. y For many years the USSR gave favorable trade terms to Cuba. The Gorbachev-Yeltsin betrayal, which destroyed the USSR, was a serious blow to Cuba. And the Cuban people deserve great credit for surviving the intensified pressures that treasonous sellout exacted.
The support of the scores of Americans who break the blockade to take urgently needed commodities to Cuba expresses the solidarity of thousands of U.S. citizens. But such aid can only be a minor factor in relation to needs.
We look forward to the time when American labor will take the lead in cracking the corrosive U.S. blockade, in smashing Helms-Burton and ending the constant military provocations against valiant Cuba.
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