Cuba has made astonishing advances since its historic 1959 revolution. It stands proud as a sovereign citadel of socialism just a hundred miles (160 km) from the coast of a hostile, ever-threatening imperialist superpower, the United States. The US has imposed sanctions on Cuba for many decades, making life difficult for the socialist island. It is natural that many Cubans should be frustrated, as the country suffers not only from the long-standing embargo but also from the economic effects of corona-virus. But those Cubans tempted to support the imperialist enemy by conspiring against their own country’s government are making a serious error. Meanwhile, international solidarity with Cuba is more vital than ever at this difficult time, with US President Biden refusing to roll back the sanctions even to the limited degree that was briefly the case under Obama. Trump in fact tightened the sanctions still further, and Biden has not even reversed that tightening. As ever, the US hopes to strangle the revolution. A famous 1959 State Department memo spoke of breaking the Cuban economy, making people starve and thus forcing them into submission to Washington’s will. More recently, Mike Pompeo apparently said the same thing.
The many gains of the revolution have included the establishment of a comprehensive, free system of health care; massive investment in education and literacy; the struggle for the liberation of women and of racial minorities; the public sector was expanded and the big private capitalists expropriated. Advances in health included progress in medical science and medical training, with large numbers of doctors trained for free; there has been pioneering, world-class research including the development of the first meningitis B vaccine in 1985, new treatments for hepatitis and other diseases, and recently the development of a Covid-19 vaccine. Cuba has sent doctors to help other countries all over the world. And Cuban life expectancy is slightly ahead of the US. Literacy today is above 99%, compared with 77% before the revolution, or 93% across Latin America as a whole today. The education system is highly regarded and the teacher-to-pupil ratio is much better than elsewhere in the region.
In 2020, Cuba lost $9 million due to the US blockade, an act of economic aggression that has been repeatedly condemned by the United Nations General Assembly (every year since 1991, and most recently with only two countries voting in favour of the US sanctions). Not content with its economic blockade, coup-mongering and assassination attempts over many decades, the United States has, in a blatant act of further interference, announced its solidarity with the “protesters” in Cuba, who are represented as though nothing to do with the manipulations and machinations of the US, which has repeatedly engineered the overthrow of leftwing governments across the continent and which has been ferociously opposed to the Cuban revolution since its inception, putting it under siege. Biden has rejoiced in the protests and denied any responsibility for the suffering of the Cuban people. And Robert Menendez, a Democratic senator, claims that the “only embargo that exists is by the Cuban regime against its own people”, an insultingly obvious falsehood.
Let us now turn to the anti-Cuban propaganda being pumped out by the mainstream media. While the Guardian’s editorial acknowledges the impact of the embargo and of the pandemic, it still claims that Cuba should listen to Biden’s Secretary of State when Anthony Blinken calls for the will of the people to be heard. The fact is that the revolution is the will of the Cuban people. Simon Tisdall, writing in the Guardian, admits that the country’s revolution has suffered sabotage from without, but still also blames “corrupt” Cuban bureaucrats. But Cuba is not a particularly corrupt by international or regional standards (for example, Transparency International’s CPI index ranks it in the top half of its list, only slightly lower than Greece, and above Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, and many other countries both neighbouring and otherwise).
According to the Los Angeles Times, the Biden administration wants people to focus on the problems of democracy and human rights in Cuba. But why single out Cuba for such attention when US client-states such as Saudi Arabia and Israel are guilty of notorious abuses? Or when the US itself is notorious for its repression of Black people, its police brutality, its mass imprisonment of its own population, and not least its denial of its people’s fundamental rights (such as access to free health care)? Why does the wealthy imperial superpower not attend first to the beam in its own eye? By enforcing the deadly and vicious embargo, is it not doing enough damage already - how then to claim it has the Cuban people’s interests at heart? The US regime, run on behalf of the capitalist class, does not even have its own people’s interests at heart, let alone those of the Cuban people.
Javier Corrales wrote in The New York Times that the Cuban government had “denied its people the basic building blocks of the human spirit and body” for six decades, and thought government restrictions on businesses were a bigger factor than the embargo (conveniently enough, considering he is an apologist for the superpower that imposes the embargo, writing in the major newspaper of the Establishment). It might be thought that the US denies its people the building blocks of the human spirit and body through poverty, division, entrenched racial injustice and mass incarceration. But instead Corrales attributes these faults to a country that against all the odds has struggled to improve both the material and spiritual conditions of its people, caring for them, educating them, valuing them in a way that is alien to the US liberal-capitalist mindset. If capitalism and US intervention are the answers, then you wonder why Haiti, subject to repeated US interventions and a capitalist economy, is in such a dire state. Corrales thinks Cuba has perfected the “art of repression”. Yet the US created the state of siege and intervenes to try to stir up counterrevolution in Cuba. It should not be surprising that Cuba acts to defend the gains of its revolution. You would not think that the citizens of a country so infamous for police repression as the US would seek to lecture their neighbours, yet they do. Of course those seeking the overthrow of the Cuban government must be arrested, just as the US eventually acted against the coup-mongers who marched on Capitol Hill.
According to the Washington Post, “dictatorship” is the “true character” of Cuba. But does the Washington Post ever ask itself what the true character of the United States is - as a desperately unequal domestically repressive international imperialist bully with a vibrant far right movement? Others may have a different opinion of the “true character” of Cuba: the millions taught to read and write and educated for free to degree level; the millions given free health care; the many countries helped by Cuba’s medical brigades; South Africa, with whom Cuba showed such strong solidarity throughout the apartheid years. The true character of Cuba is equality, freedom from the diktats of imperial overlords, and solidarity with the oppressed everywhere.