A new day for Cuba?

Two days ago, President Obama announced an easing of economic restrictions with Cuba, signaling the beginning of the end of five decades of the American Embargo. This news was greeted with elation by many in Cuba and those who sympathized with Cuba as something that should have happened years ago, while the Cuban exile community and the Republican party saw this as a compromise of “American ideals”.

The American – Cuban relationship is of course, a complex by-product of both the Cold War and American expansionism, as well as the aspirations of nationalists on the island nation. Since the days of the Civil War, and certainly the Spanish-American War, Cuba had long been eyed as a potential strategic addition to the United States.  Fidel’s revolution was as much against the corrupt Batista government as it was against American influence, which had been pervasive since the Spanish-American War nearly 6 decades prior. And here lies our primary concern.

While media pundits bash Obama as a “communist” and insist he is somehow strengthening the Castro government, the opposite is probably true.  There is great potential danger for the Cuban revolution in this “opening up.” For years, the Cuban government aspired to self sufficiency. When Che Guevara’s influence was still strong in the early sixties, Cuba embarked on projects to industrialize and diversify their economy away from sugar cane. While the overly ambitious project failed, Cuba did manage to achieve some level of self-reliance out of both desire and necessity.  The Soviet Union was a generous ally, but an ally at a considerable enough distance to afford the Cuban government breathing space to pursue its own policies without much hindrance.  Cuba survived, and while the displays of opulence from the pre-revolutionary days were a memory, the country made do, guaranteeing at least a basic standard of living for its population, while pursuing a robust foreign policy across the third world. Western products and cultural exports did manage to seep into Cuba, but the embargo did create a buffer between Cuba and many of the worst aspects of the consumerist anti-culture of its northern neighbor. The fall of the Soviet Union did much to force Cuba to become even less dependent on foreign assistance, at the price of declining living standards and great difficulty. Nevertheless Cuba remained stable when its Eastern bloc allies fell apart.

The pundits of Fox news and the like are right, but, as usual, for the wrong reasons.  The embargo does shore up the Cuban government, but not as a scapegoat for problems, but by putting it into a corner where it has no choice but to remain aloof from the US and pursue its own policies. The flood of money and goods which would come from American investment, tourism, and communication would quickly put the Cuban people in a position of absolute dependence on the US.  It would also allow far more of the negative, decadent aspects of American pop culture into Cuba, polluting its younger generations.  This, combined with the American policy of pushing color revolutions throughout the world, means an increasing encroachment on Cuban sovereignty.

As the historical record of the last 50 years tell us, there have been countless instances in which American “humanitarian” efforts were covers for attempts to foment instability.  These are like to increase tenfold once the floodgates open. The American government also is no doubt shoring up its position in Cuba in order to detach Cuba, which is geographically closer to North America, from the Russian sphere, given the recent tensions between Putin and the Euro-Atlantic world: Russia’s relationship with Cuba has become far closer in the past few years, despite a frosty period in the 1990’s.  The Fidel and Raul are nothing if not survivors, and they have survived this long for a reason, there is no doubt they area aware of the fine line they need to walk.  Nothing the United States offers comes free.

Cuba’s position today is as dangerous as any in its history.  It has the chance to see a potential influx of wealth and goods to alleviate some of the difficulties facing its people. But at what cost? No matter what one thinks of the Cuban Revolution or Fidel, it is undeniable that they gave Cuba a place in history and an independent path, fulfilling the dream of how many nationalists before him. The revolutionaries cleared up organized crime, dealt with foreign companies pillaging their country’s wealth, and thumbed their nose at a superpower.

James Connolly, an Irish nationalist, once said that the freedom and liberty of a nation is based upon the “welfare of each in the happiness of all, and is inconsistent with the selfish desire for worldly wealth”.  Prosperity may make Cubans forget what freedom is.  Freedom, is not the petty, trivial freedom to choose between McDonald’s and Burger King, but the freedom they bought with the blood of their patriots and years of struggle on behalf of the Cuban nation.

Today, the Cubans are faced with a monumental decision.  The choice is between an independent Cuba, or one that is dominated by a clique of foreign capitalists.  Let us hope that the Cubans of today are ready for the task, as their forefathers were before them.

A fine speech excerpt in which Fidel speaks of how the poor, the peasant have learned to defend the revolution and train in arms better than any of the privileged, the parasites, and the sons of the parasites, who wish to raise the banner of treason and crime.  When they come, they will not, he says, be facing boys/cowards, but men.

This was the spirit of the revolution in the early years, one that we can only hope has not been extinguished entirely.

About Ray Wilson

Ray Wilson resides in New York City. He holds a degree in history and studies philosophy, theology and entomology in his free time.