There is no reason to respect backlash in any corner of the globe
By : Matt Sedillo
The Southwest Political Report
With the passing of Fidel Castro there has been much reflection on the meaning of the life and times of the Cuban revolutionary. The US media predictably has slandered Castro as a dictator, a tyrant and the key figure in slowing the economic development of the nation of Cuba. This is striking considering the fact that Cuba has faced the longest economic blockade of the past two centuries. It also demands noting that is the US currently committing war crimes on Cuban soil on Guantanamo Bay. Upon every street corner and in every corner of the globe empire speaks only hypocrisy.
In social media much attention has been drawn to the early days of the revolution and its treatment of the LBGTQ community. It should be clearly stated that in Cuba from 1959-1979 homosexuality was illegal. That is indefensible. There is no defending that. There is no contextualizing that. Many have pointed to the fact that Cuba has acknowledged this history of injustice and made great strides to make the nation a much more egalitarian society for all Cubans of various genders, sexualities and orientations. It is also pointed out that in many regards the US has a far worse record towards these communities and has been far less progressive on these issues. It should definitely be stated that the US is an extremely low social metric to judge social justice against. This is a capitalist nation that allows for billionaires and houselessness. There is no justice here at all. Any small inkling of social or economic equity is subject to vicious backlash at any given political moment. This is the US there is no justice here. Cuba on the other hand is a socialist nation. Cuba was meant to be a dictactorship of the proletariat, meaning a worker’s state, meaning a society that belonged to and was controlled by the people. Persecution on the basis of gender, sexuality or orientation clearly is an abuse and there is no defense of that. For the first twenty years of the revolution, between 1959-1979, homosexuality was illegal. Despite whatever may have followed regarding the Cuban LBGTQ community that is simply not something that can be defended.
Opposition to the social and economic gains of the revolution and the material differences that it made in the lives of everyday working people are quite a different story however. It should also be stated that Fidel Castro is not the Cuban Revolution. Che Guevara is not the Cuban Revolution. The insurrection that made possible the Cuban Revolution is not the Cuban Revolution. The Cuban Revolution consists of the labor, the dreams, the aspirations and struggles of millions. The strides made in education, in healthcare, the revolutionary struggles supported around the world, the medical care sent around the world, were not the accomplishments of one man but of millions of people. While the US has spent decades bombing nations throughout the world Cuba has been sending medical doctors throughout the world. But they did not send one man in fatigues giving speeches but rather thousands upon thousands of people who just as equally as anyone represent the revolution.
The Cuban revolution, the insurrection that made it possible and the lives of those who initiated it cannot be disassociated from the larger world or the various political struggles of the twentieth century. Particularly, initially, the struggles of Latin America and later those of much of the decolonizing world. Fidel Castro as a student traveled to Bogota with a delegation in support of the liberal reformer Jorge Gaitan who was murdered by arch reactionaries during the visit of the delegation. Castro joined in the spontaneous rebellion that followed though not in a sustained organized fashion. Many consider the assassination of Jorge Gaitan as the beginning of la violencia, the longest civil war of the twentieth century. Che Guevara was working as a young doctor in Guatemala during the coup orchestrated by the CIA in the interest of United Fruit against reformer Jacobo Arbenz. The toppling of Arbenz led to a series of horrid comprador military dictatorships in Guatemala culminating in the genocidal Rios Montt. The two leading figures of the Cuban insurrection against the puppet government of Batista were long familiar with the hand of the Yankee imperialist and their comprador lackeys.
Batista like other compradors throughout the world ran Cuba in the interest of foreign capital. Unlike his counterparts in Central America who were committing repression in the name of United Fruit, with equal or greater brutality, Batista was in deep with American organized crime. The film the Godfather II depicts a character Hyman Roth as played by legendary acting coach Lee Strasberg cutting a cake of Cuba and offering slices to his associates as well as a scene where he celebrates with the protagonist Michael Corleone, “Michael we are bigger than US steel.” Hyman Roth is based on real life crime figure Meyer Lansky, who was in very real life a very real business associate of Batista. Prior to that Batista had also been an associate of Charles “Lucky” Luciano. This is the government that the 26th of July Movement overthrew, one with close ties to the American organized crime.
Capitalism is the exploitation of surplus labor and the commodification of the surplus product. In every day terms that means the owners profit from the labor of the workers and everyday objects are produced for the purposes of being sold rather than their practical use in day to day life. A lot goes into making that possible and all kinds of systems of organized repression are necessary to maintain those exploitative relationships, but boiled down, independent of whatever else may be happening in a time and place given its case specific history, that is what capitalism is. Cuba under Batista was capitalist. Under capitalism nothing can be done that cannot be sold. What was Batista’s Cuba selling and to who?
In the course of human history, tourism. as we understand it is a relatively recent pheneomon. The means and methods by which this form of travel, where one’s whole life not need be dedicated to “exploration” is less than two centuries old. The means and methods by which many people could travel a great distance for short periods of time is less than a century old. Modern imperialism that still shapes the world we live in is far older. Tourism as we understand it cannot be disassociated from imperialism. Batista was selling Cuba as a destination for what is referred to as “vice”, the stuff you cant do at home. He was selling Cuba to American tourists.
This comprador government that sold Cuba in this manner to foreign capital was the government overthrown by Fidel Castro and the 26th of July Movement.
When you see scenes from Little Havana this is what they are demanding the return of. When you see them celebrating the death of Fidel Castro a man who lived to 90 despite hundreds of assassination plots and attempts by the CIA this is what they are demanding. When you see the hashtag #MakeCubaGreatAgain this should not be confusing. The Miami politics of backlash deserve no more respect than those of US white nationalists. No you do not owe respect to people demanding the reconstitution of Capitalism, especially not when embodied by Trump. When you see Donald Trump costumes and his name in lights at events celebrating the death of Castro, as were evident as these celebrations, this should not be surprising. After all Donald Trump really is not so different than the men who did business with Batista. Make America Great Again only means one thing. Make Cuba Great Again means the same. You do not owe either respect.