“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx
Aug 17, 2015
On August 14, the U.S. flag was raised over its embassy in Havana with Secretary of State John Kerry in attendance. Of course, the diplomatic opening means the U.S. will slowly bring Cuba closer into the U.S. orbit and under growing U.S. imperial domination. This can only be a defeat for the Cuban masses.
But the fact that the U.S. government formally recognized the same Cuban government that it had tried to crush for more than half a century also spells a kind of defeat for U.S. imperialism, as well.
As President Obama admitted in his speech announcing the U.S. policy change on December 14: “Decades of U.S. isolation of Cuba have failed to accomplish our objective....”
The U.S. did much more than just try to “isolate” Cuba, as Obama said. The U.S. carried out a real war, both economic and military. It imposed a suffocating economic embargo that caused deprivation and suffering for more than half a century! The U.S. also sponsored a military invasion in 1962. When that failed, the U.S. kept the military pressure up by sponsoring terrorist attacks, bombings, sabotage, aircraft hijackings and assassinations.
Why? First, because a big part of the population in Cuba had dared to rise up and overthrow a dictator who had protected U.S. interests on the island. He protected not just the U.S.-owned plantations, mines, oil refineries and utilities – but also the big U.S.-owned resorts and casinos that had made Cuba into the playground and whorehouse of the U.S. wealthy and elite.
Second, the Castro government that rode this mass revolt to power refused to buckle under to demands and threats of the U.S. government and corporations. On the contrary, Castro actually dared to order Standard Oil and United Fruit to pay taxes! And when they refused, the Castro government nationalized their property.
These measures made Cuba a symbol of defiance around the world. A small, relatively poor country, barely 90 miles from U.S. shores, stood up to the U.S. This defiance threatened to spread and encourage more revolts and greater opposition to U.S. domination right in its own “backyard” – that is, Central and Latin America.
“Putting the hammer” to Cuba became a real priority for U.S. foreign policy.
The U.S. tried to make propaganda hay out of all the people who fled Cuba, those who today are still most concentrated in Miami. But most of those who fled the country in the first period were mainly the wealthy, the big Cuban property owners and those who gained their wealth and privileges from U.S. domination.
Certainly, the Castro government was a bourgeois government. It was not a government of the Cuban working class and poor, but a dictatorship over them. But in order to gain even a small measure of independence and survive the confrontation with the U.S., the Castro government still needed the support of the Cuban working class and poor. So it gave them a material stake in the new regime, especially by carrying out sweeping educational and health programs that went well beyond anything that existed in other Latin American countries. In fact, the Cuban government was able to raise some literacy and health care levels above the U.S. itself. And they did this despite the threats and deprivations that the U.S. imposed through its economic and military might.
In its first decades, the Castro government also benefitted from the economic and military support of the Soviet Union which, in its own rivalry with the U.S., gained in Cuba an important ally. Of course, when the Soviet Union disintegrated in the early 1990s, Cuba became more isolated than ever – and this caused much greater hardship, inequality and injustice. But it still was able to survive.
For decades, Cuba stood as a kind of example that U.S. imperialism, as dominant and powerful as it is, cannot control everything. But the gradual opening of Cuba to trade and investment, especially from the U.S., can only mean that whatever gains that the Cuban people made, especially in education and health care, are in the process of being destroyed.
What is happening in Cuba shows once again that there is no half-way solution for the poor and working classes in the underdeveloped countries. Simply getting out from under the worst forms of imperial domination is impossible in the long term.
Imperialism must be destroyed. The billions of poor and working masses in the underdeveloped countries must take power themselves, and spread their revolution to the workers and poor in the imperialist countries.