Aug 28, 1998
In the first week of August, U.S. Treasury agents raided a trendy "cigar bar," an upscale restaurant and a posh private club in New York City, in search of ... people who dared smoke a Cuban cigar! In Manhattan, 15 people were arrested – among them two corporate executives, four investment brokers, a real estate operator and a banker, as well as the operators of the three places which were raided. The charges lodged against them ranged from illegally selling a Cuban cigar to illegally possessing one. When asked why the government was targeting these particular – and notably wealthy – people, a government spokesman was reported as answering: "High profile Cuban cigar prosecutions are a deterrent that not only responds to violations of federal law but also supports U.S. foreign policy, helping to deny economic benefits to Cuba."
No, it wasn't the heat of August which played havoc with the brain of some eager-beaver agent hungry for advancement; the very same issue was being played out the very same week on a more serious level in Washington, D.C. U.S. Treasury Department officials announced a crack-down on businessmen going to Cuba. Alamar, a company which has organized contacts between U.S. businessmen and Cuban officials ever since 1974, was notified that it may be in violation of the travel regulations which had been revised last March, and that the business people it escorts to Cuba can expect to be "detained" on their return.
The regulations had been toughened after executives from 50 U.S. corporations met for a "seminar" in Cancun, Mexico, last March, discussing the possibilities of investment in Cuba. An Alamar representative then escorted some of them on a one-day visit to Cuba. Among those who went to Cuba were top executives of Caterpillar, and mid-level officers of Mobil Oil, Texaco, Pharmacia & Upjohn, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Continental Grain and Tenneco. Not only did they have a highly publicized meeting with Fidel Castro and other Cuban officials, the executives also announced that they had asked Alamar to arrange a trade show for them in Cuba in September.
It's clear that a certain number of U.S. corporations are chomping at the bit, as they watch their competitors from other countries set up shop in Cuba. While none of them seem ready openly to violate the embargo, they do seem to be trying to put themselves into position to move back into Cuba when the embargo is finally lifted, and maybe even bring pressure now to speed up the process.
Moreover, some important newspapers have lined up behind them, particularly the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has added its voice to the call for a lifting of the embargo.
The official position of the United States up until now is that the embargo has not been called in question. And two laws passed in the 1990s overtly linked, for the first time, the possibility of lifting the embargo to Castro's departure from power. A spokesman for Jesse Helms, the co-author along with Dan Burton of the 1996 law, recently reiterated Helms' famous statement that before the embargo can be lifted, "Castro has to leave, vertically or horizontally." But, he suggested, Castro's departure may not be so far off. "We're so close. Castro's revolution is dead."
Of course, Castro is 71 today, and the Cuban economy has been undergoing a particularly difficult time since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the cancellation of trade agreements and subsidies which Cuba had obtained from the USSR. But U.S. presidents – nine of them have now held office since Castro came to power – have regularly been predicting Castro's demise almost since the day he took power. Sometimes, of course, as with the Bay of Pigs and a series of other assassination plots planned by Cuban exiles with the help of the American CIA, the involvement of the U.S. government went way beyond the level of just a simple prediction. And always, from the time the first embargo was imposed up until today, the U.S. government has actively sought to try to strangle the economy of Cuba, hoping to hurry along Castro's political demise, if not his mortal one.
This coming January 1st will mark the 40th anniversary of the victory of the Cuban revolution, a revolution which threw out Fulgencio Batista, the hated Cuban dictator and front man for U.S. interests in Cuba. This revolution drove the American Mafia from the island, expropriated U.S. and later almost all business holdings in the country and took measures which improved the lot of most layers of the Cuban population.
Fidel Castro, Che Guevara and their comrades, who had remained an isolated guerrilla force in the Sierra Maestra Mountains for several years, were finally able to take power in January 1959 after a general revolt of the population broke out. The strength of their revolution was that it embodied the aspirations of the Cuban population to get rid of the dictatorship and of American control over their island.
Cuba, before the revolution, like other underdeveloped countries, was weighed down under foreign domination. Havana, known as the "brothel of the Caribbean," was a city of casinos run by American gangsters. Its streets were filled with all types of prostitution, starting with the very youngest children. Drugs were rampant, including those provided for the tourists on their fling away from "home." Panhandling was a way of life.
What industry did exist was built up in foreign-dominated enclaves. The mines, the sugar mills, the oil refineries were all foreign-owned and often staffed by a foreign work force, at least in its more skilled and technical layers. Eighty-five percent of Cuba's trade was with the United States.
In the countryside, latifundia agriculture ruled. Three- quarters of all arable land was controlled by only 22 corporations – 13 of which were U.S. owned, nine others owned by a few wealthy Cuban families. The vast majority of the peasantry owned no land at all. Working as sharecroppers, tenant farmers or agricultural laborers, they worked on the latifundia of the sugar growers or cattle ranchers. And their jobs were insecure: while 500,000 people were employed in the sugar industry in one way or another, only 25,000 of them worked year round.
The railroads, the roads and the ports had all been built to serve the sugar plantations and mills and the mines, disregarding the needs of the population to travel between towns. There was no public transport to speak of.
Medical care was practically unknown in rural areas, and not much better for the poor population in the cities. There were no effective means of sanitation in the countryside, and little better in some of the poor districts of Havana.
Public education was non-existent in large parts of the countryside. Two-fifths of the rural population and over one-tenth of the urban population could not even read.
Effectively, there were no social programs: no sick pay, nor unemployment benefits nor retirement benefits; at the same time, unemployment officially touched almost one-third of the work force.
The U.S., whose corporations were the biggest beneficiary of this situation, had dominated Cuba politically ever since the U.S. "won" Cuba as one of the prizes of its victory over Spain in the war of 1898. Batista, like the dictators before him, rested on the support of the army and, sometimes, the open intervention by the United States. His army, a large modern one, was equipped and paid for by the U.S. government. Batista's regime was known not just for its corruption, but also for its widespread use of terror. The wealth taken out of the country found its counterpart in the prisons, torture and assassinations with which Batista controlled the population.
The goals of those revolutionaries who came to power on January 1, 1959 were the end of Batista's dictatorship and the corruption it engendered; development of the Cuban economy; real political independence from the U.S.: and an improvement in the lives of the ordinary Cuban people.
It was a nationalist program, in no way qualitatively different than the programs of nationalist movements which have taken over power in many countries. In fact, it was simply a statement of intent to fulfill the goals set out by the Cuban Constitution of 1940, written under the direction of Batista himself.
But Castro, Guevara and their fellow revolutionaries came to power not only by taking over the old military apparatus, as many other nationalists have done, but with vast popular support inside of Cuba and in opposition to what the United States wanted. The U.S., after all, had supported Batista almost up to the very end. When the Cuban revolutionaries took over power, they did not integrate their own troops into Batista's old army; rather they integrated what was left of that army, the part that didn't flee with Batista, into their forces, under their officers. The U.S. thus had lost this apparatus on which it had long controlled the situation inside of Cuba.
While Castro, Guevara and their comrades wanted to establish a working relationship with the U.S., they were not ready to acquiesce to its every demand. They were able to resist U.S. pressure because they had popular support, which they were ready to call upon and which thus allowed them to go further and initiate programs in favor of the population. And, this of course, strengthened their popular base.
The U.S. was not worried about Castro's program. It was worried about the popular support for the regime and its dynamic, including where it might spread to, including beyond Cuba.
For United States imperialism, it was intolerable to have Cuba, 90 miles from U.S. shores, setting an example for all of Latin America, showing what a country can do when its population is mobilized. If little Cuba could force the U.S. to back off, how much more could not Brazil or Argentina have done? This was all the more intolerable for the U.S., given that the world situation was politically and socially very different from that of today. The wave of nationalist revolts against colonial rule was still unfolding. European powers were being chased from their old colonial possessions. U.S. imperialism, having watched from the sidelines as China carried out its revolution, having fought to a draw in Korea and preparing to go into Viet Nam, was also facing a growing revolt of the black population inside its own borders.
From the very early days of the Cuban revolution, the U.S. brought pressure to bear, first to see if the revolutionaries would step aside and allow officers from Batista's army, whom the U.S. had tried to put in power at the last minute, to wield the power. But Castro not only did not support the U.S. candidates, finally he took over the office of Prime Minister himself in February, adding his considerable prestige to shore up the new government. For a few months after that, the U.S. government continued its pressure, holding the new government at arm's length, perhaps giving the revolutionaries of 1959, like others before them, the chance to retreat from their aims once in power. Certainly, the Cuban revolutionaries made overtures to the U.S. government. Castro, himself, went to the United States in April 1959, in hopes of carrying out discussions to regularize Cuba's relations with the U.S., to get commercial credits and immediate financial aid to tide Cuba through the crisis it was then facing. It was the U.S. government which, for all practical purposes, snubbed him, turning down all his requests for aid. Eisenhower went to play golf, instead of receiving him.
The very first measures taken by the new regime had been moderate ones, aimed simply at preventing a total collapse of the Cuban economy and at giving some immediate aid to the population: currency restrictions, to prevent capital flight; seizure of property belonging to Batista and his associates who had fled; rent reductions for the population; regulations requiring owners of vacant urban land to sell it to someone who would develop it; distribution of food to the population.
As moderate as these measures were, Castro found himself, when he went to Washington, subject to a lecture from U.S. Vice-President Nixon.
Far from submitting to this pressure, the Cuban regime countered. The new regime proposed an Agrarian Reform law, expropriating lands larger than 3,300 acres for sugar or cattle lands and 1,000 acres for all other land, offering compensation pegged at the valuation which the companies had themselves declared for tax purposes in 1958, to be paid out with 20-year bonds and 4.5% interest. At that point, the smallest holding of the big sugar corporations was 35,000 acres; Cuban Atlantic Sugar, the largest, owned 100,000 acres.
Washington sent off a note, formally accepting the reform, in reality setting conditions for it that Cuba could not meet: the reform might be legal within the framework of Cuban law, but ONLY IF it was "accompanied by payment of prompt, adequate and effective compensation." It was a not-so-veiled threat, a statement of U.S. intent to apply a squeeze to Cuba, if the regime took things further.
When the Cuban government, nonetheless, began to implement the land reform, the U.S. encouraged active sabotage of land holdings in Cuba. The summer was marked by a great deal of violent resistance organized by the great landholders in the countryside. By January 1960, U.S. planes, sometimes even piloted by U.S. airmen, were carrying out bombing raids on Cuba in the interests of the supporters of Batista who had already gone into exile and the big landowners who by this point were also streaming out of Cuba.
After the U.S. cut back the quota of sugar it agreed to purchase, Cuba, in February of 1960, signed commercial agreements with the USSR. The U.S. set in motion a rapid series of measures designed to tighten the screws on the Cuban regime. Within a few months, the U.S. government had suspended all purchases of sugar, and U.S. corporations in Cuba began scaling back their operations. Cuba announced a law allowing the government to "intervene" in companies where production was disrupted by any of a series of problems.
It was at that point that the U.S. government established its first embargo on most exports to Cuba, an embargo which has continued in one form or another from October 1960 up to this very day.
As was apparent, even at the time, the U.S. government was also setting in motion preparations for military action to topple the new regime. Cuban exiles were being trained and armed by the CIA for what took the form, in April 1961, of the Bay of Pigs invasion.
In anticipation of this invasion, the economic squeeze on the island was intensified. U.S. oil companies refused to process oil coming from the Soviet Union in their Cuban refineries. U.S. mining corporations refused to pay the new taxes which the regime had imposed on corporations. The Cuban regime began to "intervene" in these companies.
Finally in May 1960, Cuba established diplomatic relations with the USSR. In October, a law was passed nationalizing all big foreign holdings and most big Cuban ones. Within the next few months, almost 400 enterprises were taken over by the government. On January 3, 1961, the U.S. broke all diplomatic relations with Cuba.
State ownership of the large enterprises, combined with loans and the favorable trade arrangements Cuba enjoyed for almost 30 years with the Soviet Union, gave Cuba the means to survive despite U.S. hostility. Above all, these things gave the regime the means to ameliorate the living conditions of the population, which is one of the pillars on which the regime's survival has rested.
Quickly after taking power, the new regime moved to alleviate some of the worst problems. The casinos were shut, the gangsters sent packing, prostitution was outlawed. More importantly, the population was given a means to survive which did not depend on prostitution and panhandling.
In the first months, the regime moved simply to organize food distribution to the population. But it also moved to institute a series of social programs, many of which never have existed in other underdeveloped countries, and certainly not the totality of what was developed in Cuba.
The new regime paid attention, for the first time in Cuban history, to improving sanitary conditions and making water supplies safe. Clinics, hospitals and neighborhood medical centers were established throughout the country - - and medical care was made free for the population. In 1959, Cuba had had only nine doctors per 10,000 population. By 1990, that figure had improved to 37 per 10,000 people. Latin America as a whole continues today to have only eight physicians for each 10,000 population, with a country like Guatemala having only four. A whole series of diseases tied to sanitary conditions, which devastate underdeveloped countries, have been eradicated in Cuba.
The consequence of these programs translated into a steady increase in life expectancy in Cuba, reaching 75 by 1991; in 1959 it had been 64. The improvement in infant mortality rates was even more extreme: deaths were reduced from 34.7 per 1,000 live births in 1959 to 10.7 in 1991, to 7.2 per 1,000 today. The rate for all of Latin America taken together is somewhat over 50 deaths per 1,000 live births. In 1993, the rate of infant mortality in Guatemala stood at 79 per 1,000, almost ten times Cuba's figure.
Illiteracy was practically wiped out by the revolution. In Cuba, high school attendance reached almost 90% of the school age population, in contrast to countries like Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Costa Rica, among the more prosperous of the countries of Latin America, which enroll less than three-quarters of their young people in secondary education. Overall, the figure for Latin America puts school attendance at the secondary level at only about half the school-age population. In Haiti, secondary school attendance was only 15% of the school-age population.
Free childcare; subsidies for food, housing and electric power; renters allowed to gain title to their houses after so many years of rent payments – these things all contributed to improving the lot of the working population in Cuba after the revolution.
Social programs like sick pay, unemployment benefits and pensions were established, covering essentially the whole population.
Undoubtedly, all of these social protections taken together didn't mean much for the wealthy people, all those "gusanos" who fled to Florida in the first days, or for those middle-class people who were attracted to the nationalist stand of Castro, at least in the revolution's first months. And those social protections don't raise the Cuban standard of living to the level which exists in the United States, as the U.S. government regularly reminds us (a meaningless and stupid comparison, given the difference between an imperialist country which has stolen wealth from all over the world and an underdeveloped country which has had its wealth stolen from it). But for the poor Cuban population, these protections were vital, a difference between life and death.
Of course, Castro stands at the head of a dictatorship, paternalistic though it may be. Attempting to develop the economy, it leaned on the population for production; but it also tried to improve the conditions of life of the population, at least at the level of what is possible in an underdeveloped country. But even to do that, the Cuban regime had to be ready to break the power of the landlord class and to break the grip of U.S. imperialism. When Castro nationalized the economy, he had the means to do that. Whether consciously or not, in using the state to own and direct the economy, Castro gave himself the means to overcome individual private interests which were strangling Cuba, especially the poor layers of the population.
Even under the less than favorable conditions then obtaining, Cuba's nationalized economy proved itself to be superior to the functioning of the economy in other underdeveloped countries. Above all, nationalization of the economy proved itself superior to what the imperialists were doing in the underdeveloped world.
In 1960, it was considered utopian to think that any underdeveloped country could institute the kind of reforms in favor of the population that Cuba was implementing. Impossible... that a poor country should extend education, medical care, sanitary improvements, social benefits to its whole population. But Cuba did extend these things. Impossible...that a land reform be carried out, getting rid of the latifundia, allowing the peasants the means to make their living working the land. But Cuba did that. It's why Cuba was so attractive at that time. It was doing what other countries in Latin America could not do.
In fact, at least in certain domains, Cuba could stand comparison with what existed in the United States, despite the enormous differences in the wealth they each controlled. Take, for example, the rate of infant mortality, which is a good indicator of conditions for the population. The most recent statistics show that Cuba's rate of infant deaths, standing at just over 7 per 1,000 live births, is better than that of the United States, which stands at 8 per 1,000.
But Cuba could not overcome its underdevelopment, not within the framework of a single country, and a small one at that. But Castro chose, nonetheless, to try to industrialize the country. When Castro threw the country into a kind of race to industrialize, that meant he chose not to develop food crops, depending instead on importation of food. Every effort was put into growing more sugar cane, in order to get enough foreign exchange with which to buy the machinery, etc. which were needed.
Even the help of the USSR, insofar as it consisted in buying up all the sugar cane that Cuba could provide, was a trap. It did not help Cuba become less dependent on the world market. Soviet purchases of sugar did not reduce this dependency; they only masked it for awhile, especially given the favorable terms of trade which existed for Cuba with the Soviet Union.
When the collapse of the Soviet Union rapidly canceled almost all help coming from that direction, Cuba's economy could only undergo a rapid and brutal collapse itself, starting in 1989.
Cuba depends on imports for its petroleum which supplies most of the country's energy needs. Those imports dropped from 13 million tons of oil in 1989 (all from the Soviet Union) to only five million tons in 1993 (only three of which came from Russia). Cuba also depended on imports for half of its food supply, as well as for almost all new machinery and replacement parts for old. But in the four years from 1989 to 1993, its total import bill fell from 8.1 billion dollars to 2.2 billion.
Imported food became scarce, and so did everything else. Since the production of electricity depended on petroleum, Cuba suffered through widespread cutbacks in electrical power. Vehicles depending on gasoline have been replaced by bicycles. Public transportation almost disappeared. Without gas, agricultural equipment became useless. Fertilizer and insecticides disappeared. Medicines grew scarce. With electricity cutbacks, and without new machinery, the factories more and more stood idle. The gross national product may have fallen by almost 50% in the five years time from 1989 to 1994. The production of sugar was cut in half between 1989 and 1994.
The cause of Cuba's economic collapse lies not with the follies of an "aging leader," as the media love to refer to Castro today, nor with the so-called "Cuban system," that is, state-ownership of much of the Cuban economy.
The immediate cause of Cuba's recent problems stem, quite obviously, from the collapse of the Soviet Union and the reduction and then cessation of Soviet aid in a context where the U.S. continued trying to strangle the Cuban economy through the embargo.
Trade with the USSR and the Eastern bloc was important not only or even essentially because the terms of trade were favorable to Cuba, and because the USSR extended loans which were practically considered outright grants, but also because there was someone with which Cuba could trade. Without that, the U.S. embargo, which continued without cease from 1960 up until today, might have strangled Cuba long ago.
Whatever aid Cuba derived from the Soviet Union, it also lost an enormous amount to the embargo and to the military costs which were necessitated by the ever-ongoing threat of military action by a CIA-funded bunch of exiles, or even by the U.S. itself.
During the Cold War years, the U.S. government used, as its pretext to justify the embargo, Cuba's ties to the Soviet Union and the threat this supposedly aimed at the U.S. But the Soviet Union is no more. The Cold War is long past. The pretext of the Soviet threat is long gone.
The regime itself now says that Cuba is no longer an example for the rest of Latin America. In fact, Cuba had been very prudent about encouraging other struggles for years. In any case, it certainly doesn't rouse enthusiasm the way it once did. The Cuban population itself is certainly much less mobilized. The majority of the population is today less than 30 years old, born ten years or more after the revolution. They never knew the atrocities and destitution on which the old regime rested. Today, someone looking from the outside might find as many reasons to call Cuba a failure as to note its successes. And whatever example Cuba might set is less contagious given that the international situation today is radically different from what it was in the 1960s. There has been a marked shift to the right; and reactionary political forces are playing on the despair and anger of the suffering masses.
Nonetheless, not only has the U.S. not moved so far to "normalize" relations with Cuba. It has even seemed to toughen its stance.
The summer of 1993 saw not only a new exodus of emigrants, which the U.S. at first encouraged, and then just as quickly discouraged. It also saw some rioting in Havana and other demonstrations against the regime. The summer of 1993 was undoubtedly the most difficult moment politically for the regime.
It was in this context that the U.S. passed new laws and regulations to make the embargo more stringent. The first of them was the Toricelli bill, the so-called "Cuban Democracy Act" of 1992; the second was the Helms-Burton bill, the so-called "Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act" of 1996; finally, new regulations derived from these acts were promulgated in 1997, and then revised in March of this year. Each time, the embargo was made more encompassing.
The goal of all these new acts and regulations was made perfectly clear by the various authors of the bills. "Wreaking havoc with Cuba's economy" – that's what Representative Toricelli proposed as the aim of his bill. "Giving him [Castro] a final push over the brink" – that's what Jesse Helms proposed.
The USSR may have fallen, but when Cuba didn't fall with it, that seems only to have encouraged U.S. imperialism to tighten the screws. They want Castro on his knees, and with him the Cuban people.
A few countries have been willing to ignore the embargo. The most important of these, outside the Soviet sphere, were Canada and Mexico. But recently, other countries – among them, Spain, France and Venezuela – have joined them. And there has been an outcry against the provisions of the Helms-Burton act which penalize the corporations of other countries for carrying out any financial transactions with Cuba. While trade with the Soviet Union almost collapsed, other trade picked up somewhat, even if not nearly enough to make up for what had been lost.
This new trade, along with a severe belt-tightening imposed on the population, apparently allowed the Cuban economy to ease past the worst of this crisis. Cuba has, however, in the last months, been undergoing a severe drought, which has further reduced the sugar harvest and cut back food production. What this will do remains to be seen.
In any case, Cuba's economy picked up somewhat from its low point which appears to have been in 1993 or '94, even if it still is far behind the level it enjoyed at the end of the 1980s.
But even this small resumption was in great measure based only on a major increase in the tourist trade. Revenues from tourism increased from 165 million dollars in 1989 to 850 million in 1994 to an estimated 1.8 billion dollars in 1998. Tourism today has replaced sugar as the number one industry for earning foreign exchange. Together with companies from Europe, Japan and Canada, the Cuban state has been constructing hotels. And it has once again legalized prostitution, providing this service to the wealthy who come to its shores for a little fun and relaxation. Begging in tourist quarters has once more appeared on the streets of Havana.
At the same time, Cuba has opened up its economy for joint ventures with private investors, and it has actively courted private investment from corporations in other countries. The U.S. Department of State estimates that the total investment between 1990 and 1997 in these joint ventures had reached somewhere between 1.1 and 1.4 billion dollars. Cuba has said, early in 1998, that it had 332 such joint ventures. It's not clear exactly what these ventures are, but many of them are undoubtedly in the tourist industry.
In 1993, the regime also made the dollar legal for use as currency inside Cuba. One of the aims of this "reform" was to reduce the unofficial exchange between the peso and the dollar which it did (going from 55 pesos to the dollar to 4 pesos to the dollar). But the "reform" also made the dollar the currency of choice for use inside Cuba. And that obviously penalized all those parts of the population who had no access to dollars; above all the poor population, unless they got dollars from the tourists. By contrast, it favored those Cubans who have family members living in the exile community in the U.S., those Cubans who work in the tourist industry – including the prostitutes, pimps and drug dealers – and those Cubans working for foreign companies.
At the same time, the government opened possibilities for individual Cubans to establish their own little businesses, many of which have been aimed at the tourists and other international visitors. The government also opened agricultural markets at which private farmers outside the cooperatives could sell what they produce beyond the quota they owe the government.
While this has undoubtedly resulted in some more restaurants and boutiques for tourists, or even for those with enough dollars to afford the prices that tourists can pay; and while it may help create a class of small individual proprietors, and may even enrich a certain number of them; it will certainly not improve the situation of the poorest layers.
In fact, all these policies taken together are very likely to mean wider impoverishment of the majority of the population, to the benefit of increasing wealth for a few. Whatever social programs have given protection to the population in Cuba are put increasingly at risk by all these moves.
Cuba did what regimes all over the world are doing today when confronting severe economic crisis: it called on the population to go through a period of austerity, "the special period in peacetime." And while the economy seems to have recovered slightly since 1993, there is no indication that the programs destined for the population have recovered accordingly.
If the Cuban economy has revived a bit, it has revived on the basis of policies which increasingly take Cuba back in the direction of what it was trying to escape when Castro and Guevara led the guerrillas down from the Sierra Maestra in 1958. The child prostitutes appearing once again in the tourist areas are testament to how far back that is, and what level of impoverishment and degradation it can mean for the population. Quite obviously, this will only continue when the U.S. finally lifts the embargo and recognizes Cuba.
Cuba long ago came up against the limits of what can be accomplished within the framework of nationalist development, especially, of course, if that nation is a small one like Cuba. But these limits hold everywhere. Imperialism still dominates the world today. And one country cannot develop itself, above all it cannot develop an independent industry other than by going through the world market. But it is precisely in that market that the labor of an underdeveloped country is underpriced and that of the industrialized countries is overpriced. Moreover, the wealth that had long been stolen from Cuba and other countries lies in the accounts of the big corporations in the imperialist countries. Cuba has not ever, and still does not gain the full benefit of what it produces. It can only fall further and further behind.
For revolutionaries facing the conflict between the United States and Cuba, there can be no question of whose side we are on. Without any reservation, we take Cuba's side in this conflict which pits an imperialist power against an underdeveloped country trying to escape the grip of imperialism – all the more so, since it is "our own" imperialism.
But solidarity doesn't mean that we call Cuba something other than what it is.
Over the years, Castro has been described by many leftists as a kind of "unconscious socialist" who began his struggle under a nationalist banner, but by the pressure of events was forced to take a socialist road.
It's true that Castro began to call himself a communist, and gave that label to his revolution – after the USSR intervened in the Cuban situation with economic aid.
And, of course, apologists for the American bourgeoisie were quick to call him that, when they wanted to consign him to limbo – just as some of them at one time called Martin Luther King Jr. or Jane Fonda, "communists."
But the Cuban revolution was never a "communist" revolution, its aim was not the construction of socialist society by the working class and the spread of that revolution to the proletariat around the world.
Its basic aim was always essentially only the independent development of Cuba, using whatever means Cuba's leaders found necessary at any moment to take a small breathing space from the imperialist vise. But the space they gained was ever so small, and in one way or another, whether by the disappearance, "vertically" or "horizontally," of Castro, whether by the Castro regime itself bringing imperialism back in while reducing the standard of living of the population so as to make investment "interesting" from a capitalist standpoint, many of the conquests of the Cuban revolution today stand on the brink of being lost.
The problems of our time cannot be solved in one country alone. They can be addressed only by putting the immense industrial and technological resources of the big imperialist powers at the service of all the people of the world. That is the aim of the proletarian revolution.
The Cuban people, including its leaders have made a fight for 40 years against the domination by imperialism. The nationalist aims of their struggle – real independence, a continuing improvement in the lives of the poor masses – can be realized only through the proletarian revolution, the revolution that is yet to be made.