Many of us have been shocked and disgusted by the venom with which the late Fidel Castro has been attacked in the mainstream press after his recent death. Vitriolic but imprecise, vague talk of his having done “terrible things”, but short on specific accusations. Let us be clear, it is not only Fidel Castro the man they are attacking, it is the Cuban Revolution and its achievements that they object to.
Free, comprehensive, secular education for all. No academies, no free schools, no university fees leading to a life of indebtedness.
Free medical care. No huge profits for Virgin Health Care or “Big Pharma”, but instead sending doctors to disaster zones and training large numbers of health workers from Africa, Asia and Latin America.
Agrarian reform broke up the huge sugar plantations that had existed since the days of slavery. Urban reform redistributed housing, forbade evictions and eventually abolished rent. Nationalisation of the banks, public utilities and oil companies prevented the export of vast profits to the US and Europe. And here lies the nub of the objections, the Revolution challenged capitalist property relations and this is what the mainstream press find unforgivable.
But they cannot openly object to these policies in case ordinary working people outside Cuba start to demand the same. So they hypocritically attack Castro personally over “human rights”, while saying little or nothing about the tyrannical regimes in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Of course there are restrictions on freedom of speech in Cuba, there are everywhere. It is equally illegal to praise the IRA or Islamic State in Britain. But Cuba has suffered untold terrorist attacks organised by the CIA working alongside criminal and fascist elements among the Cuban exile community in Miami. In 1976, a bomb destroyed a Cubana flight 455 over Barbados killing all 73 people aboard. Luis Posada Carriles, who is widely held responsible for this outrage, went on during the 1990s to be implicated in the series of bomb attacks aimed at the Cuban tourist trade in which many people were injured and an Italian tourist killed. Posada still lives openly in the USA.
However, the real crime of the USA is the economic embargo, the “blockade”, which has restricted trade with Cuba even to the extent of breaching the Geneva Convention, Article 23 of which prohibits restrictions on the free passage of medical supplies and food for children. Not content with restricting the trade of their own citizens, US courts can prosecute foreign companies that operate in the nationalised property of US citizens, while foreign companies that invest in Cuba are forbidden to operate in the USA. This has caused real hardship in Cuba, particularly after the collapse of the Soviet Union, but the fact that Cuba has succeeded in resisting this onslaught is yet another reason why the press attack Fidel Castro. An economic blockade is the highest state of international aggression short of actual war. The press has accused Fidel Castro of “bringing the world to the brink of nuclear war”, yet during the 1962 missile crisis, whose finger was on the nuclear button, Castro? No it was President Kennedy who was threatening to blow the world to smithereens.
Let us put matters in their regional context. Despite the effects of the blockade, you are still much better off being poor in Cuba than being poor in Jamaica or being poor and black in the USA. Housing in Cuba is overcrowded and often shabby, but there are no cardboard shanty towns. In the rest of the world, millions of children sleep on the streets at night, none in Cuba. Death squads operate in Colombia and Mexico, murdering trade unionists, socialists and other opponents of the rich and powerful, while African Americans are suffering a wave of shooting by the police all over the USA. These things do not happen in Cuba. Meanwhile the USA has a higher percentage of its population in prison than any other modern country except Stalin’s Russia and Hitler’s Germany. By age 23, 49% of African American men have been arrested. The USA should put their own house in order before criticising a smaller neighbour that has done infinitely better.
Fidel Castro is under attack as the figurehead of a country that has resisted the trend towards unrestrained neo-liberal capitalism and its accompanying drive to war. He was leader of a Revolution that removed a brutal, corrupt, murderous dictatorship and restored his country’s independence. In honouring Fidel we are rejecting these attacks and proudly saying that we stand with the Cuban Revolution against US aggression and for free education and health care against the profit motive everywhere.