Global Independent Analytics
Jay Watts
Jay Watts

Location: Canada

Specialization: History, Marxism-Leninism, Imperialism, Anti-imperialism.

Cuban Steel In The Hour of Chaos

Even with US subversion and despite the genocidal actions of the US government, Cubans, being great internationalists, seek greater openness in their relations with the American people.

At its recent Congress, the Cuban Communist party has made unity a prime focus, an acknowledgment that as Cuba moves to normalize relationships, the US offensive against Cuba will deepen and evolve. US soft power is about as soft as a brick (backed up as it is with the world’s largest and most expensive military), and just as subtle. As one can see from Alastair Cooke's recent piece, US soft power deployed most closely resembles the tactics favored by the Mafia. (Fitting for the world power that Gerald Horne called the Gangster Republic.) A widespread perception that the US has lifted many sanctions against Iran is not matched by reality:

U.S. Treasury officials, since “implementation” day, have been doing the rounds, warning European banks that the U.S. sanctions on Iran remain in place, and that European banks should not think, even for a second, of tapping the dollar or euro bond markets in order to finance trade with Iran, or to become involved with financing infrastructure projects in Iran.

Witness the Brazilian impeachment fiasco, a transparent ruse by an utterly corrupt Brazilian elite to unseat the president of the world’s 7th largest economy. President Dilma Rousseff's party is based on the progressive social movements of the toiling classes, and as a member of BRICS, a barrier to American hegemony. Brazilian golpistas in Congress almost immediately decamped to Washington, DC after their lower house triumph: a farce worthy of O. Henry or Evelyn Waugh.

With regards to Cuba: US actions like the ongoing blockade, the Bay of Pigs invasion, germ warfare attacks, and the myriad of assassination attempts against Fidel Castro (and other Cuban state figures) represent severe attempts to strangle the Cuban people and their revolution. While operations like the Bay of Pigs and assassinations are now out of fashion for the US in the Americas, the deployment of soft power tactics and programs will remain a mainstay of American policy.

Josefina Vidal, the negotiator for Cuba during the normalization talks with the US, has remarked numerous times during those talks about the US government's continued funding of anti-Cuban programs. Defenders of President Obama point to a Republican-controlled Congress as the source of all impediments to his good intentions, but the fact remains that under Obama, the State Department continues to request, and receive, funds from Congress for what they fatuously call “various activities in support of the Cuban people.”

Even a recent piece by a former Democratic Party staffer in the American magazine Jacobin (no friend to Cuba) admits that the non-socialist, opportunist “left" in Cuba depends on the "US government for recognition, funding and organizational support." Corey Payne writes:

Many opposition groups respond to this set of challenges by coalescing around US-supported actions — whether through recognition, funding, or organizational support. This tactic, while incredibly prevalent among right-wing and centrist dissidents, is also found among social democrats and other would-be leftists, who choose to embrace imperialism out of expediency.

The US’ ruling elite are keenly aware of the divisions in their society and how they can be used for societal control (less keen to use this knowledge to resolve them in any substantial manner unless it serves the interest of capital). They will be keen to exploit existing divisions in Cuban society, and manufacture new ones, if necessary.

So what form will US subversion take? I expect it will be a heightening of already-existing attempts to exploit perceived divisions in Cuba’s society, two high-profile examples of which have received the substantial US and international press coverage in the past couple of years.

There was the American spy and USAID contractor Alan Gross, a well-paid operative who was apprehended by the Cuban government installing level military technology in Cuban synagogues under the guise of assisting a Jewish humanitarian group. This cynical attempt to sow discord between the Cuban Jewish community backfired spectacularly, earning Alan Gross the scorn of the Cuban Jewish community and five years in prison until he was released in December 2014 in a prisoner exchange for three members of the Cuban 5. Alan Gross’ mission had its basis in mid-20th century American attempts to exploit the circumstances of Jews in the Soviet Union.

There was the fiasco of Zunzuneo, the "Cuban Twitter” project funded by USAID. In an attempt to create instability in Cuba, Zunzuneo specifically targeted Cuban young people via text messages to instigate flash mobs. The Spontaneous Revolt via SMS didn’t work too well on Cuban young people, lacking the necessary conditioning that exposure to corporate viral videos of brand stunts provides US youth.

For this, the US government spent $1.5 billion, a staggering amount of money for a project in a country like Cuba (with access to currency hampered by the US embargo).

In the Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White), the US government has a long-standing and loyal ally (and a relatively cheap one for the US Treasury: at $15-30 USD per participant, per March). However, within Cuba they’re not well regarded by even non-political Cubans, their protests often end up dispersed by counter-protests rather than security forces. It doesn’t help that “Damas de Blanco” was a pre-revolutionary term used in Cuba to denote a woman with money. And within Latin America, the group is looked upon as distasteful if not outright perverse – attempting to co-opt the struggles of the various Latin American mothers’ groups who long organized on behalf of imprisoned, persecuted, disappeared, or murdered family members”, who suffered at the hands of US-friendly and/or puppet governments. It’s hard to say whether or not the organization will be able to overcome this severe handicap or just remain useful for US photojournalism.

As the Black Lives Matter movement grows, we can expect from the US government and its well-paid associates (USAID, NED or other) to make repeated attacks on Cuba by exploiting the circumstances of the Afro-Cuban population.

The sting felt by the US government when the Civil Rights Congress presented the “We Charge Genocide: The Crime of Government Against the Negro People” paper to the United Nations in 1951 was potent. A devastating documentation of US crimes against African Americans, it created an international awareness of the deep similarities between those who stood in the dock at Nuremberg and the US ruling elite. (Nationally, it was almost entirely suppressed outside of the leftist media). 

There’s already some "Cuban specialists" in American academia, much like the Sovietologists of days past, ready to serve US interests in the same manner. Expect the musings of Enrique Patterson and Ramón Colás of the Race Relations Project (himself a significant recipient of NED funds) to receive an airing in the US media, beyond the usual appearances in the Miami Herald.

Often a selective reading of the Cuban state’s own self-critical publications forms the basis for the work of these Cuban specialists (a strange rebuke to those that claim Cuba is a closed society, not given to open dialogue about its problems). Added to poor readings of Cuba’s own publications will be liberal helpings of anecdote and conjecture, to make a potent mix of divisive propaganda with a progressive patina.

Undoubtedly, there are problems with the circumstances of Afro-Cubans in Cuba - criticisms made by the party itself at its Congress and in its own publications, and by Afro-Cuban academics in Cuba like Dr. Esteban Morales Dominguez, the author of the excellent "Desafíos de la problemática racial en Cuba” and editor of the collection “Race in Cuba.” He writes:

It is certain that in Cuba we must also work a lot for the differences and social inequalities to end and disappear. This is a problem that affects many blacks as it does whites, although within them, most blacks seem to have the biggest disadvantages. This results mainly from the inequalities, the points of historical departure which opened in 1959 and the different racial groups that today makeup the Cuban society.

Morales says that “Fifty years of revolution, as radical as it may have been, are not enough to end 450 years of colonialism,” but he also explains that "Cuba is the only country in the world in which blacks and mestizos have the state and the government as their ally. If there had not been a revolution, the blacks would have had to make one to reach the level which more than a few of us have achieved.”

Undoubtedly, there are contradictions inherent in the tourist industry which exacerbate the existing circumstances of Afro-Cubans. Cuban tourism in its current incarnation was a creation of the US blockade during one of the most painful moments of the Special Period. The Ministry of Tourism was set up in 1994, following the fall of its largest trading partner, the Soviet Union, the Cuban government’s need for currency and international trade was at its highest. 

From personal experience and discussions with Cubans, there is a very pronounced racial divide in the high-end hotels (which, alas, I’ve only rarely had occasion to stay in on my trips to Cuba). I’ve been told this is primarily based on the preferences of wealthy guests, who are more comfortable with white Cubans.

I’m hopeful that with the party Congress’ renewed focus on race issues and equity and re-invigoration of State Owned Enterprises (where the preferences of skittish white tourists don’t have to be accommodated and (in fact) the bulk of Cuban economic activity happens), Cubans will be able to meet these challenges head on.

2,103 Cuban soldiers died in the fight for freedom in Angola against racist South African forces. Much more were injured. Cuban anti-racism and internationalism were at the core of this struggle, recognized by Nelson Mandela as helping win a victory that “destroyed the myth of the invincibility of the white oppressor” and led to the fall of apartheid in South Africa. (One guess as to which side of the conflict the US was on?)

Even with US subversion and despite the genocidal actions of the US government, Cubans, being great internationalists, seek greater openness in their relations with the American people. Operating in good faith, US citizens can witness remarkable triumphs of the Cuban Revolution virtually unknown in the US. A recent trip to Cuba by Executive Director of the Correctional Association of New York, Soffiyah Elijah, revealed to her that US prisons “don’t value humans in the same way” as Cubans, as she witnessed a deeply human incarceration system that would never think to shackle pregnant women in labor. The iron grip of decades of US propaganda and gusano sob stories can, and must be, loosened.

Fidel said in his address to the Cuban Communist Party Congress:

We all reach our turn, but the ideas of the Cuban communists will remain as proof that on this planet, working with fervor and dignity, can produce the material and cultural wealth that humans need, and we must fight relentlessly to obtain these.

Guantanamo must be returned to Cuba. The blockade must be ended. And Cubans must be granted the freedom to pursue their own socialist development model and the dreams of José Martí with all of the humanity, internationalist spirit and dignity that has characterized their revolution since well before the dictator Batista fled Cuba on December 31, 1958.  It is the duty of every progressive person to defend it.

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