The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Castro’s illness and the imperialist vultures

Sep 4, 2006

Ever since Fidel Castro was hospitalized for a serious operation, the U.S. press has carried a torrent of commentaries by people hoping that the “communist dictatorship” would soon be ended.

All those people who denounce the Cuban dictatorship ignore the fact that Castro and his forces came to power through a popular uprising that overthrew the disastrous dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista.

For a half century, Cuba had been the private hunting grounds of U.S. imperialism. Cuba had more U.S. investments than any other country in Latin America except one. Batista protected all these U.S. investments, skimming wealth off the top for himself. Batista pillaged the state treasury and enriched himself, especially through gambling and prostitution, which flourished in Havana. It was commonly said that the Cuban capital was the U.S.’s biggest brothel. The Mafia found a warm welcome there. All this wealth was based on the profound misery of the poor population in the cities and the countryside.

Organizations began to rise up against Batista’s regime, which was increasingly hated, even by a part of the middle classes. Some of these organizations, including Castro’s own, chose the route of guerilla struggle against Batista, who fled at the end of 1958, stealing away with hundreds of millions of dollars in plunder. The way was left free for Castro’s troops, who seized power in the first days of 1959.

At first, Castro didn’t want to break with the U.S. On the contrary, the new Cuban regime sought economic agreements with all countries that wished it well. But the U.S. refused to recognize Fidel Castro’s regime. When he established an agrarian reform which wasn’t at all revolutionary – basing it on the 1940 constitution drawn up by Batista himself – there was an outcry by all the Cuban reactionaries and from the U.S. But Castro didn’t give in to the U.S., even when it imposed an embargo on Cuba, that is, a prohibition on all U.S. sales to the island. This embargo, with different modifications, has lasted more than forty years.

In order to avoid economic strangulation, Castro turned to the Soviet Union and the Eastern European countries, which gave Cuba economic and financial support and enabled it to hold out. The misery which the Cuban people suffer from today isn’t basically due to the Castro regime, but comes from the embargo imposed by imperialism and from the underdevelopment of the island, which was there before Castro took power. With the disappearance of the USSR in the 1990s, and the end of the economic agreements Cuba had with it, the situation got worse.

It’s true that the Cuban government is a dictatorship. Opponents are silenced, including by being thrown into prison. We denounce this. But the word dictatorship can cover different realities. Even the U.S. media has been forced to acknowledge that the new regime promoted literacy and a system of free health care found nowhere else in the region on the South American continent – not to say in the U.S. itself!

On Haiti, the other big Caribbean island, misery and violence against the poor are frightful. Even today, most of the medical care existing in Haitian villages is delivered by Cuban doctors. Because of this, the Castro regime gets its political support from the poor population of Cuba and elsewhere.

In fact, it isn’t the Cuban dictatorship which bothers imperialism and the commentators who serve it. The imperialist governments, in particular in the U.S., have directly or indirectly supported and established many other dictatorships in Latin America and throughout the world. They reproach Castro for defying them for more than 40 years, and for proving that this regime offers the population a more dignified life, even if it isn’t easy.

The Castro regime has nothing in common with communism. Castro didn’t discover himself to be a “communist” until after he came to power and the connection with the Soviet Union was imposed by circumstances. But, faced with the attacks of imperialism and the lying campaigns of the media, we show solidarity with those who try to escape the hold of the great imperialist powers.