History, Top Stories

60 Years On: Reflections on the Revolution in Cuba

Sixty years ago, as thousands of Cubans celebrated the fall of Fulgencio Batista’s regime, an atmosphere of hype and hatred was also overtaking Havana. Not many people foresaw what was to come, but on January 1, 1959, the Republic of Cuba was murdered. Few tears were shed for her at the time—some were too busy desperately packing their bags, while others were preoccupied with burning cars and smashing storefront windows. The institutions not destroyed by the previous dictatorship were savagely dismembered in the following months and years by the Castro regime. Cuba’s National Congress would never again return to session in the National Capitol building (or anywhere else, for that matter). Christmas, bars and cabaret clubs, independent trade unions, religious schools, private clubs, large and small businesses, any and all vestiges of what was Cuba before communism—all of these were destroyed, expropriated, or otherwise expunged from the lives and minds of the Cuban people.

The Cuban Revolution never disguised its contempt for the greatest symbol of the Republican era: Havana itself. The Havana Hilton hotel was renamed, and the city’s glorious buildings, beautiful parks, grand mansions, statues, theatres, and museums were all deemed too bourgeois and ostentatious by the revolutionaries, products as they were of the hated “capitalists and imperialists” they had just driven from power. All this too was now consigned to oblivion or simply neglected as if it had been complicit in some unimaginable evil. “Bourgeois Havana,” hitherto one of the world’s most socially and culturally rich cities, gradually collapsed. One by one, its buildings fell into ruin and disrepair, and in their place, nothing was built after 1959 that would return the city to its former splendor.

The bourgeois Republic’s glamour had masked its cruelty and inequality, but the Revolution ushered in a violent and grotesque cruelty of its own, as ugly as the Soviet brutalist architecture that now filled the Havana suburbs with hundreds of square housing complexes devoid of elegance and grace. Havana began to resemble a permanent war zone, in which a seemingly unending battle would be waged for the next 60 years and counting between the revolutionary tyrants and the ordinary people who populate the city, and who, generation after generation, give it life.

Fidel Castro knew that Cubans in the 1950s would not receive him as some kind of redemptive socialist deity (as North Koreans had done with the Kim dynasty). So, instead, he demanded allegiance to the Revolution itself, the romantic idealism of which masked the pitilessness of the political system that had replaced the Republic Castro despised. “Revolution” meant the liberation of the island and its people from Batista’s dictatorship and battles in the mountains of the Sierra Maestra. It meant “social justice” and the promise of equality for all. It meant the sugarcane harvest, the nation’s newly forged ties to the equally revolutionary Soviet Union and its Communist Party, anti-imperialism, and the cult of Che Guevara. And, in the end, of course, it meant Fidel Castro himself.

If you had a house, ate the State-rationed food, enjoyed access to free healthcare and education, then this was all thanks to the Revolution. And if you suffered or went hungry, or were persecuted and oppressed, if you denounced your “counter-revolutionary” neighbors and relatives to the secret police and pelted political dissidents and homosexuals with eggs, then this too was all for the Revolution. Every time a Cuban referred to the Revolution, instead of the Republic or the government or simply Cuba, he became more than a mere citizen—he became a soldier of revolutionary progress. Uncountable crimes were perpetrated and justified in the name of that single word.

It would be decades before the people fully understood the fraudulence of 1959’s heady idealism, but it was corrupt from the start, when hundreds were sentenced to death by Che Guevara’s revolutionary tribunals and executed in La Cabaña. On August 23, 1968, Castro gave a speech justifying the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the armies of the Warsaw Pact, and in that moment, he effectively surrendered Cuba’s sovereignty and extinguished any remaining pretense of national liberation. Should the same kind of revolt have erupted here, the Soviet Union now had permission to invade the island and restore the revolutionary order by force. From that point onwards, Cuba was no longer free. Once again, the island was condemned to be a docile servant to the new imperialists.

Today, ”Revolution” is a word empty of meaning for most Cubans. People prefer to call the regime “the system,” or “the thing.” Words die when they no longer refer to anything specific, when they are repeatedly used without precision, and when they no longer make any sense to anyone. Young Cubans, hungry for knowledge, modernity, and technology, now prefer to dream of evolution. They blame the revolutionary winds which once intoxicated so many for the devastation of millions of families—those who escaped predestined misery and left loved ones behind, those who were murdered or left to languish in Castro’s jails or forced labor camps, those who perished on rafts or drowned trying to reach the US, and those who remained to suffer the oppressive poverty of a corrupt and brutal dictatorship.

When he replaced his brother as Head of State in 2008, Raul Castro began a slow and insufficient process of reform that nevertheless significantly changed the lives of thousands of Cubans. For the first time since 1959, Cubans were permitted to stay in hotels (a privilege previously reserved for foreign tourists and the revolutionary elites), to apply for a private license to run a small business, to open a restaurant or rent a room, and to buy and sell cars and houses. But following the thaw in diplomatic relations between the US and Cuba, President Obama’s visit to Havana, Trump’s election, and the death of Fidel Castro, the moribund regime found itself more politically vulnerable than ever. Fearing that liberalization would awaken young Cubans and destroy the private kingdom the Castro family had built on the country’s ruins, the regime’s repression of dissidents, artists, and journalists exponentially increased. The arrival of the internet was delayed to prepare the conditions for online censorship and control over fledgling private initiatives was tightened. The system is once again being transformed from within in a desperate attempt to prevent the Revolution consuming itself. At the end of last year, the National Assembly approved new constitutional reforms intended to safeguard the Castro legacy for the revolutionary dynasty’s descendants.

Castro is right to worry. A new generation of Cubans, naturally immunized against ideological doctrine and yearning for the prosperity and liberty their parents were denied, is looking beyond the regime. No evil is eternal, and Cuba’s youth are more connected with the world outside than ever before. But, for the time being, there is not much “social justice” to celebrate in Cuba. An economic abyss still separates the regime’s leaders from average workers earning less than 30 dollars a month. The new rich bourgeoisie are no longer big businessmen, capitalists, and entrepreneurs, they are the relatives of important military personnel and members of the Communist Party who still control the most luxurious hotels, restaurants, and bars on the island. Almost nothing remains of the Revolution’s promises of opportunities and civil liberties for all, for which so much blood was spilled. On the contrary, a strict system of surveillance and control has been its most durable “achievement.” For Cubans, the promise of liberation remains a dream, endlessly deferred.


Jorge C. Carrasco is a Cuban journalist and writer. His writing has appeared in outlets such as Washington Examiner, the Western Journal, the Foundation for Economic Education, and CapX, among many others.


  1. ga gamba says

    If only Washington hadn’t cut off Havana from the international capitalist institutions! Fidel would have showed them then.

  2. Gringo says

    Question to Castro supporter: For 2015-2020, the UN’s Economic Commission on Latin America shows Life Expectancy for Cuba at 79.6 years, which is 3.9 years higher than Life Expectancy of 75.7 years for Latin America and the Caribbean. Does this indicate that the Castro brothers have been good stewards for the people of Cuba?

    Answer: Of course.

    Question. for the 1950s, the UN’s Economic Commission on Latin America shows Life Expectancy for Cuba as being 8.2 years higher than Life Expectancy for Latin America and the Caribbean. Does this indicate that Batista was a good steward for the people of Cuba?

    Answer: er….ummm

    This exercise suggests two conclusions.
    1) The Castro brothers inherited a country that was better off than most countries.
    2) While Cuba under the stewardship of the Castro brothers has made good progress in public health metrics, the record of the rest of Latin America in public health metrics shows that totalitarianism is not needed for progress in public health.

    Life Expectancy 1950_1955
    Cuba 59.5
    Latin America and the Caribbean 51.3

    Life Expectancy 1955_1960
    Cuba 62.4
    Latin America and the Caribbean 54.2


    • ga gamba says

      Live longer under a tyrannical system of deprivation. Sounds like punishment, does it not?

    • Inherited? If I could take over Amazon or Microsoft, even I could show a profit over several years without doing anything special.

  3. Gringo says

    For those who claim that the embargo is the cause of Cuba’s economic problems, consider milk production. From 1961 to 2017, milk production increased 54% in Cuba, compared with an increase of 328% in Latin America. From 2000-2013, nearly half (49.9%) of Cuba’s milk supply was imported. (Currently, FAO doesn’t have import data beyond 2013.)

    Not even the PSFs (Pendejos sin Fronteras- idiots beyond borders) have told us that the CIA was shooting the descendants of Ubre Blanca, a.k.a. Fidel’s wonder cow. . 🙂 This stagnation of milk production in Cuba is entirely the responsibility of the Castro regime. Had Cuba’s milk production increased from 1961 to 2017 as much as milk production increased in Latin America, it would have produced 1.5 million metric tons of milk in 2017 – while Cuba’s actual milk production in 2017 was about a third of that- 541 thousand metric tons.

    1961 Milk Production, Metric tons 1961 and 2017.
    Cuba 1961 350,000.
    Cuba 2017 541,100.
    Latin America 1961 18,569,829.
    Latin America 2017 79,545,712.

    Cuba’s milk production in 2017 was 55% greater than it was in 1961. Latin America’s milk production in 2017 was 328% greater than it was in 1961.

    2017 milk production divided by 1961 milk production.
    Cuba 1.55
    Latin America 4.28

    Milk production: http://www.fao.org/faostat/en/#data/QL Livestock Primary: Milk [whole fresh cow]: Production

    Milk imports: http://www.fao.org/faostat/en/#data/FBS Food Balance Sheets: Milk excluding butter

  4. dirk says

    But, Gringo, I’m rather curious at the technical details of this slow growth in milk output in Cuba. Maybe you can explain. In Latin America there are two systems of milk production. The modern type with Holsteins (or other pure bred types) in dairy stables and with fodder transport. And the small scale dairy holder with 2 to 5 cows on grassfields of his own or semi-wild fields nearby. For the first one you need a lot of capital , inputs, construction, knowledge and infrastructure. For the last one nothing at all, just some land and freedom (peasants are no fools). A dairyfarmer with 4 cows easily produces milk for his own family plus 5 other families. Sale on the farm or house to house nearby. Such small producers deliver milk for about half the population in , e.g.,Colombia and Brasil (and even now in Russia and Moldova). What do you know about these things in Cuba??

    • Gringo says

      I am not an agronomist. For starters, look at Ubre Blanca.
      FAO stats indicate
      1) Reduction in Cuba’s cattle herd
      2) Beef production less than half it was in the 1960s
      3) Milk production per cow went from 7000 in 1961 to 19250 in 1988 to averaging 15266 (hg/an) from 2010-2017, so there has been some success from Ubre Blanca.

      From Michael Totten. The Lost World, Part I

      Castro’s checkpoints are there to ensure nobody has too much or the wrong kind of food.

      Police officers pull over cars and search the trunk for meat, lobsters, and shrimp. They also search passenger bags on city busses in Havana. Dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez wrote about it sarcastically in her book, Havana Real. “Buses are stopped in the middle of the street and bags inspected to see if we are carrying some cheese, a lobster, or some dangerous shrimp hidden among our personal belongings.”….
      I was actually glad to see cows on the road because the bus slowed enough that I could get a good look at them and even take pictures. Whatever the Cubans are doing with cattle, it’s wrong. The poor things are skeletons wrapped in leather. No wonder milk, meat, and cheese are so hard to come by.
      I know next to nothing about cattle ranching, but the eastern (dry) side of my home state of Oregon has plenty of ranches, and I can tell you this much: Oregon cows have a lot more land to roam free on. They wander for miles eating scrub out in the semi-desert.

      Agricultural fields in Cuba are microscopic, whether they’re for ranching for farming. They’re misshapen and haphazardly planted as if they’re amateur recreational farms rather than industrial-scale operations that are supposed to feed millions of people. My father grows pinot noir grapes in a vineyard no larger than these, but he really is doing it for recreational purposes in his retirement. He’s happy if he breaks even.

      Cuba doesn’t even break even—hence the checkpoints to ensure no one is “hoarding.” The country could produce many times the amount of food it currently does. Deforestation wouldn’t be necessary. Most of the Cuban landscape I saw is already deforested. It’s just not being used. It’s tree-free and fallow ex-farmland. I’ve never seen anything like it, though parts of the Soviet Union may have looked similar.

      Imbecilic communist agriculture practices aren’t the only problem. <b.An invasive weed from Angola is choking half the farmland that would be in use, and no one seems to have a clue how to get rid of it.

      Weed from Angola- one unintended consequence of Fidel’s sending troops to Africa.


      • Another unintended consequence of Fidel’s sending troops to Africa is a huge uptick in the incidence of HIV/AIDS on the island.

      • dirk says

        Gracias, Gringo, I didn’t know that miracle cow, Ubre Blanca, but interesting to learn about that record. Records are always something nice to know about and strive at, but, in the end, people will ask ” where is the milk”, because, milk output does not depend on super stars (as is neither the case in the human world) but on average results of average cows with average feeding and care, and these are abominable in Cuba, I understand. But not clear to me why, because you don’t need special brands, techniques, modern or record cows, just plain, ordinary cows and knowledge, and average human skills and efforts. And some freedom to act, of course, not always allowed by governments, whether capitalist or communist. The father of the Ubre Blanca super cow was a Canadian Holstein bull, bravo for Canada, thus!
        Andre Voisin I also know, a very famous french specialist on dairy, grasslands and productivity, I wonder what he was looking for in Cuba, and also wonder what his experiences were about the land, the dairy, the farmers and the politicians there!

        • Cliff says

          It used to be said, in jest and in truth, that it was better to kill your mother-in-law than a cow. The penalty re m.i.l. was 15 years in prison, for killing the cow, 25 years. Selling the meat was punished by 5 years, buying was 1 year. If your cow died, the very first thing you did was to call the vet to certify it died of natural causes, otherwise off to jail you went. Milk was for you and your family, not for sale. Unless you had a cow, possession of milk other than the milk ration for kids or provably store bought UHT was proof of black market activity. Rustling was a major problem, so if your cow disappeared, quickly off to the police to report it. Their first reaction was that this was a con, and you were the first suspect, so even if the remains were found 5 miles away, it was you who was to blame. I was in Cuba 1999-2005, and beef was only available ( legally ) in the government run ( redundant ) stores, and pretty low grade it was. With all this, any surprise that few people wanted to keep cows?

          • Exactly Cliff, and this is what I meant with ” if having freedom to keep cows and sell the milk”, because this is not always so, neither in communism, but also not in capitalism. As well in Brasil, Colombia (though, not succeeded there) as in Austria, small dairy keepers are forbidden to sell raw milk or cheese from raw milk, for hygienic reason, obviously. But this is nonsense of course, my mother bought daily raw milk and was used to boil it before use, never any problems, the whole idea is to stop the small scale holders, and to industrialize the husbandry. In Cuba, the idea was a Marxist one, a small scale farmer (2 cows) is, similar to a factory owner, a capitalist, in possession of production means, not allowed, dangerous, should be in the hands of the proletariat, or the government.

          • I must tell you about this one, Cliff, today in our newspaper, an article on new and old forms of Marxism, of philosopher Maarten Boudry. He mentiones there the old question (not of his own phantasy, I think) how many chickens one may have before becoming a capitalist. A proletarian can have a few of them for his own family, but as soon as he takes some more, and starts selling the eggs to his neighbours, he becomes a dirty capitalist, an oppressor, the class to be conquested.

      • Gringo says

        From Michael Totten’s article:
        An invasive weed from Angola is choking half the farmland that would be in use, and no one seems to have a clue how to get rid of it.

        Managing the invasive Marabou weed in Cuba: How to make the best of the worst.

        Marabou weed, also known as the sicklebush, is a highly aggressive invasive tree species in Cuba. Originally from South Africa, it grows in all soils, altitudes and microclimates, and is located in almost all of the vegetation types on the island. It is a dense woody tree that can grow up to 8-10 meters tall and is covered in thorns.

        It is estimated that Marabou weed covers 1.7 million hectares of once productive land. It invades abandoned agricultural land and can limit the productive capacity of farming areas currently in use. It competes for space in protected areas preventing the establishment of native vegetation. In forests, its presence hinders management and harvesting, significantly increasing costs.

        Interesting that it “invades abandoned agricultural land.”
        Q.Where does Cuba have “abandoned agricultural land?”
        A.. After the loss of the Soviet sugar daddy, Cuban sugar found out it could not compete on the international market. From 1990 to 2014, Cuban sugar production fell 79.6%, from 7,579,007 tons to 1,640,000 tons.

        Maracu can be used for charcoal.

        However, because the wood is termite resistant, it is attractive for domestic use including tool handles, furniture, handicrafts, fence posts and fuelwood. Moreover, its ability to burn slowly made it an ideal source for high quality charcoal – its most widespread use. Despite its undeniable advantages, it a very difficult species to eliminate and is undesired by many farmers and land managers….

        A model reforestation program replaced maracu with eucalyptus and pines .But for the most part it is difficult to eliminate.

        • dirk says

          Bush and shrub encroachment, gringo, is not only a problem in Cuba, it’s everywhere else in the world threatening grasslands and degraded farm areas. Not only communism and socialism, even capitalism and free market here play their part, because, the increasing pull of cities is now name of the game, that’s where it’s all going on, and where the young people want to be. Rural skills, the management of grasslands and meadows and grazing herds, it’s all vanishing quickly, the bioindustry and feedlots are taking over. What can be done? I,m sure that Andre Voisin would have had a solution to that. Alas, scientists and management of ecosystems, meadows and rangelands is no longer hot, now, it’s all genetic improvement and factory farming.

          • Gringo says

            Yes, degradation is a issue worldwide. however, For example, mesquite in Texas invaded marginal land that was overgrazed. However, your following statement about urbanization has very little to do with Cuba’s problem with invading marabu:

            Not only communism and socialism, even capitalism and free market here play their part, because, the increasing pull of cities is now name of the game, that’s where it’s all going on, and where the young people want to be.

            Urbanization is NOT the overriding reason for marabu’s invading cropland. Urbanization in Cuba went from 73.4% in 1990 to 77% by 2014-2017. Not a big deal so NOT the main reason at all for the marabu invasion.

            Recall that marabu “invades abandoned agricultural land.”
            Recall that I previously pointed out that from 1990 to 2014, Cuba’s sugarcane harvest fell about 80% because sugar previously going to the Soviet sugar daddy could not compete on the international market.

            Area harvested for sugar cane, ha
            1990 1,420,300
            2017 387,704

            That is over 1 million ha of abandoned sugarcane land.
            That is the main problem with marabu.


          • dirk says

            I wasn’t talking on Cuba Gringo, but in general. Millions and millions of wastelands and grazing area in Africa are overgrwon with mezquite now, a shrub from the same family as sicklebush. Hopefuly, the Chinese are buying more land there (though, in former comments I was against it), they without doubt know better how to deal with those rangeland problems. Not only cropland, also rural populations dwindle everywhere, I don’t know why,life is so much better there.

          • dirk says

            One more remark, Gringo. I worked for some time on the last sugarcane plantation in Surinam. The sugar had a high artificial price, due to Brussel agreements. As soon as this subsidy was abandoned, the plantation also got broke, all bush now again, and the factory a ruin. Brasil, Australia and the South of the US (and some central american nations) are delivering sugar from cane now, much cheaper. Though, remember the pictures of Fidel, harvesting cane by machete? He really knew how to do it, impressive it was (unlike Che, the doctor).

        • dirk says

          Nice photographs Tars, beautiful flowers, and even used to grow as a bonsai. However, it is a leguminous shrub with pods and seeds , not unlike mezquite, another invasive shrub (this one from Mexico, but a troublesome plague in African savannahs), so, no lemon fruits to be picked from, only pods and seeds (edible for men and wildlife).

  5. TheSnark says

    The Castro regime’s main justification for staying in power is the US boogey-man threatening the “independence” of Cuba. If the US dropped its embargo, the regime would no longer be able to hide its incompetence behind its nationalism.

    • Indian kid says

      Why doesn’t the US drop its embargo? One of the ways to make Cuba capitalist is to show them how much better their life can be under it. And if that idea starts spreading, the Castro descendents will either slowly lose power or have to restrict the imports, both moves of which will move the country where we want it to be.

      • TarsTarkas says

        If the US tried to drop the embargo, Raul would try to foment some disturbance that would politically force Trump to not do so. A super-Khashoggi event, perhaps. He is smart enough to know that free trade with the US would destroy his regime.

      • Gringo says

        Why doesn’t the US drop its embargo? One of the ways to make Cuba capitalist is to show them how much better their life can be under it.
        For example, a US firm could build a tourist hotel. A Cuban worker would be so much better off working for the Yanqui dollar, right? Actually, the Cuban government would vbe so much better off. Cuban Gov. to Keep 92% of Worker Salaries

        Cubans working for firms with foreign capital on the island received a bucket of cold water Tuesday when a new resolution published in the official Gazette fixes their salaries at only 8% of what the joint venture or foreign companies must pay the government in hard currency for their services.

        That is slave labor.
        Recall Cuba’s reaction to Bolsonaro’s wanting more equitable treatment for Cuban physicians working in Brazil.xxx

        “The Cubans get approximately 25 percent of the salary. The rest feeds the Cuban dictatorship,” Mr. Bolsonaro told the Correio Braziliense newspaper earlier this month, adding that he met a Cuban doctor who wasn’t allowed to bring her children with her. “Can you maintain diplomatic relations with a country that treats its own like that?”

        In response, Cuban authorities told the Pan-American Health Organization — which has helped manage the program — that its doctors have to leave Brazil.

        Cuba’s response to Bolsonaro’s wanting Cuban physicians being permitted to bring their families to Brazil and to pay the Cuban physicians a more equitable wage was to withdraw physicians from Brazil.
        When you are dealing with a totalitarian government, “free trade” is a bit of an oxymoron.

  6. Gringo says

    The regime’s main justification for remaining in power is that it wants to remain in power.

  7. E. Olson says

    Didn’t Michael Moore carefully and without bias document the wonders of Cuban socialism? The only thing I could never figure out is why Michael didn’t stay in Cuba given how superior he showed it to be over the awful USA.

    • Jay Salhi says

      Cut the guy some slack. He had nine luxury residences in the US to look after.

  8. Gringo says

    Fidel Castro knew that Cubans in the 1950s would not receive him as some kind of redemptive socialist deity (as North Koreans had done with the Kim dynasty). So, instead, he demanded allegiance to the Revolution itself, the romantic idealism of which masked the pitilessness of the political system that had replaced the Republic Castro despised.

    This indicates that from the beginning of his decades in power, Fidel Castro was an astute politician. Very few politicians were as adept as Fidel Castro in acquiring power and maintaining himself in power. What he did with that power is another matter.

    I am reminded of Fidel’s oft-cited statement about Revolution .From Fidel Castro -Wikiquote.

    Within the revolution, everything; against the revolution, nothing.

    Benito Mussolini-Wikiquote

    All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.

    Rather similar statements from Fidel, the Communist dictator, and Mussolini, the Fascist dictator.

    This was no accident, as Georgie Anne Geyer noted in her biography of CastroGuerrilla Prince: The Untold Story of Fidel Castro. Georgie Anne Geyer informs us that as an adolescent, Fidel was a fanboy of Fascist dictators.

  9. Gringo says

    Because my previous comment had too many links (3), it didn’t pass through the spam filter. With fewer links:
    Fidel Castro knew that Cubans in the 1950s would not receive him as some kind of redemptive socialist deity (as North Koreans had done with the Kim dynasty). So, instead, he demanded allegiance to the Revolution itself, the romantic idealism of which masked the pitilessness of the political system that had replaced the Republic Castro despised.

    That decision indicates that from the beginning of his decades in power, Fidel Castro was a very astute politician. Few politicians have been as skilled as Fidel in acquiring power and in maintaining that power. What he did with the power he accrued is another matter.

    Talk of “Revolution” reminds me of Fidel’s oft-quoted statement about Revolution. From
    Fidel Castro- Wikiquote.

    Within the revolution, everything; against the revolution, nothing.

    Compare Fidel’s “within the revolution” statement to one of Mussolini’s. From Benito Mussolini- Wikiquote.

    All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.

    Georgie Anne Geyer, in her biography of Castro, pointed out this was no accident, as the adolescent Fidel was a fanboy of Fascist dictators.

  10. Farris says

    The 60+ year Reign of Terror. Castro’s revolution threw the baby out with the bath water, in exchange for becoming a Soviet client state. Greed and corruption made Batista who he was and greed and corruption made Castro who he was.

  11. Robert Darby says

    Back in the 1960s and 70s Cuba was the radiant beacon of hope for those who were still determined to believe in the liberating potential of revolutionary socialism, especially as it was a Third World nation – the region where all the action was in those days – but even then there were sceptics on the Left, such as Christopher Hitchens. It is notable that when he was still a sufficiently fervent radical (International Socialists) to join a Czechoslovakian “work delegation” to Cuba in 1968 he was rapidly disillusioned. Hoping like so many to find “a brave departure from the grim, grey pattern of Soviet socialism” (as he puts in in Hitch-22), he was disturbed by the lack of freedom of movement, the evident strict limits on the scope of artistic expression, and the interminable speeches of Castro. The most decisive incident was the great leader’s defence of the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia, that final nail in the coffin of proletarian internationalism, which occurred during his stay.

    In the 1970s when I was studying a unit in South American history at uni I myself wrote a long essay describing how Cuba’s dependence on and subordination to US imperialism had been replaced by economic dependence on and political/military subordination to Soviet Social imperialism. And yes, if you are wondering about that Chinese expression, I was in those distant days a hard-line Maoist, and would have regarded it as cowardly and evasive not to fill my essays with the jargon and concepts of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse-tung thought. Our teacher was a fairly standard academic leftist, but he was impressed by the scale of my research and the length of the document (60 pages of handwriting, with 170 references, I find as I drag it out from the back of an old filing cabinet), and sufficiently fair-minded to give it the somewhat ambiguous grading of A/B. Given the endless hours I wasted back then attending demos and handing out leaflets, I am amazed that that I ever found the time to research and write such a thing.

    I mention these details in order to astound younger followers with the news that in those days teachers could still give good marks to papers and essays with which they violently disagreed (as in this case); and also that in those pre-computer times written work meant hand-written work (and woe-betide those students whose handwriting was illegible).

    I note that Gringo compares Castro’s statement “Within the revolution, everything; against the revolution, nothing” with Mussolini’s, “All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.” Hitchens, with his surprisingly detailed theological knowledge, goes one better, and cites Thomas Aquinas: “Outside the church, no salvation.”

    • Gringo says

      The most decisive incident was the great leader’s defence of the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia, that final nail in the coffin of proletarian internationalism, which occurred during his stay.

      Margaret Randall was a lefty who spent about two decades in Latin America- including a decade in Cuba. She returned to the US in 1984- really. Here is her response to Castro’s speech on the Soviet invasion. To Change the World: My Years in Cuba.

      When Fidel addressed the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia he spent some time conceding that invasion is always wrong. He applauded the Czech people’s defense of their sovereignty. But then he went on to talk about the United States’ imperial designs and the necessity of defending the Socialist bloc. There were times, it seemed, when one country’s sovereignty must be sacrificed to the collective good. I remember that I and others considered the fact that Fidel didn’t simply defend the invasion without a caveat indicative of political independence. How extraordinary, we thought, that the leader of a tiny island nation has the courage to stand up to the Soviet Union; not how tragic that no one in the socialist world can risk unequivocally supporting a sister nation’s rejection of outside domination.
      [p 226/241- p227/242]

      What Randall doesn’t acknowledge is that suppression of civil liberties etc. to maintain strength against the US was also Castro’s rationale for ruling in Cuba. He merely acknowledged the same “right” for the Soviet Union- which is hardly “standing up” to the Soviet Union.

      Randall is one confused Commie. She is not confused about the “murder of the Rosenbergs,” though, even though with the passage of a half century much has been published about them to debunk the “murder” narrative. Not many people believe that these days.

      While she generally thinks that Fidel was the greatest thing since sliced bread, some ambivalence has entered into her opinion of Fidel.

      I also have my own ideas about Fidel Castro, the man and revolutionary. I believe he was one of the twentieth century’s most brilliant visionaries and extraordinary teachers. His passion, courage, intelligence, and early analysis were exemplary. In general terms I also agree with much of his assessment—especially his early assessment—of regional and global politics. I’m not one of those naïve critics who claim the Cuban leader betrayed his supporters when he pronounced the revolution socialist in 1961, or insists that U.S. hostility pushed Cuba into the arms of the Soviet Union.
      At the same time, I see a detachment that comes from age and entrenchment, a rigidity resulting from having been in power far too long. …[p 248/289]
      But somewhere along the way, at some point in these almost fifty years, I believe it would have been healthier for Cuba’s future for him and those in his governing circle to have understood that power too tightly held becomes power entrenched. I am not suggesting that Fidel became a dictator along the lines of a Pinochet or an Idi Amin

      Margaret Randall tells us that Fidel was the greatest thing since sliced bread, but he stayed in power too long. She acknowledges that Fidel was a Commie from Day 1- “I’m not one of those naïve critics who ..insists that U.S. hostility pushed Cuba into the arms of the Soviet Union. ” But she doesn’t acknowledge that the goal of Commie leaders is to be Dear Leader for Life. Castro was no different from Lenin, from Stalin, from Mao, from Hoxha, or from the Kims, in intending to be Dear Leader for Life. In fact, given how Fidel was a fanboy of Fascist dictators in his adolescence, it is plausible that he latched onto Communism as being the most likely way he could be Dear Leader for Life.

      However, she was correct that Fidel wasn’t “a dictator along the lines of a Pinochet.” Pinochet stepped down after losing a referendum to keep him in power 8 more years. That wasn’t Castro’s style.

      She left Cuba in 1980 because she lost her job in 1979- though she was still being paid- some internal political intrigues which she doesn’t detail. She was eventually reinstated, but still left for Nicaragua.

      She denounces the corruption of Ortega and Borge in Nicaragua, but says nothing about Fidel living like a king in Cuba. How many residences did he have???

      • Jay Salhi says

        Pinochet tortured and murdered thousands of people but he was an alter boy compared to Castro. One third of the population of Cuba risked their lives fleeing the countries in leaky boats. There was no similar mass exodus of refugees from Pinochet’s Chile, where the economy improved on Pinochet’s watch.

  12. dirk says

    Our number one author Harry Mulisch, recently passed away, few times nominated for the Nobel Prize literature, had a childish admiration for Cuba and Fidel, and wrote a booklet about his trip to Cuba in 1968. He wrote about the: -direct democracy (like Foucault about Khomeiny, thus), the suppression there of expropriation, starving to death and analphabetism-. He was by far not the only believing intellectual, I wonder what Sartre’s opinion was. The torture and punishment of Padilla he judged as wellcome criticism of counter revolutionary activity.

    • dirk says

      In the meantime, I saw he visited Fidel and Che accompanied by Simone Woman-is-not-born-as- such, elle le devient, de Beauvoir. But…..he wrote a protest after the Padilla scandal, so, that’s at least something! There still is/was hope!

    • Northern Observer says

      The longer I live the more I think that the root cause of our illness, the natural biome of the pathogen so to speak, is in the minds of Western intellectuals. Communism having failed the world over has crawled back home from where it spawned, the minds of the western intellectual class. So Communism will not have been truly defeated until it is as foreign in the minds of Western intellectuals as the cult of Sol Invictus or the belief in the living Norse Pantheon of Gods.

  13. incredible how so many people don’t accept the superiority of the socialist economic model. Thankfully a new generation of congresswomen and men see otherwise.

    • I visited Batista’s Cuba in the mid fifties as a teenager, flying from Key West to Havana, in a DC3 if I remember correctly. At that time the only hint of the revolution I saw was some graffiti on signs and walls.

      There was a great disparity of wealth visible but it struck me at the time that no one looked starved or hungry.

      Everybody seemed busy, Latin loud and happy, I remember, a few years later being surprised that Castro succeeded.

  14. the usual says

    Shared a hot tub with a die very hard Castro follwerer. Now that it was legal she said in hot tub of the Best Western in Del Mar, she was going to Cuba!!!! She lurved Castro and his brother and this was back in 2004 and my little sister was in the pool shouting, you go girl! There’s something about mass murdering socialists that makes them atractive to women. Is it the beret? I think that jane fonda chick just went for the beret and chance to shoot down B52s. Some girls……..

  15. This is always how communism/socialism (same fruit, same tree) is promoted by its proponents. They all think they’re the commissar with the dacha in the Kolya forest (or mansion in Havana), the German appliances, the limousine with private driver. None of them think they’ll be the ones tied up in front of a wall or dead in a ditch.

  16. Pingback: Cuba: 60 Years of Bloody, Impoverished, Oppressive “Revolution” | The Universal Spectator

  17. rosignol says

    There is a third possible conclusion: The official government statistics in Cuba are propaganda, and are no more trustworthy than the statistics generated by other Communist governments.

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