Cuba and Its Fight for Survival between World Empires

By Vicente Morin Aguado

Photo: Mara Bernardes

HAVANA TIMES – Trump’s administration has fully implemented the Helms-Burton Act and in doing so, has added fuel to the bonfire of contradictions between the US and European Union, that was never completely put out. With the attempt to tighten the noose, the Cuban Revolution has once again run into the savior of Europe and its economic opportunism.

I – From Lenin to Castro, making the most of inter-Imperialist contradictions

As revolutions subvert the existing order, they are at a disadvantage in the world that surrounds them, so a long and winding road of survival awaits them. Any rivalry between its powerful adversaries is a gift that any revolutionary process welcomes.

Let’s take a look at History. In April 1917, a train that was overly protected by German authorities crossed the country. One of its wagons carried thirty Bolshevik militants, headed by Lenin. The German government had prepared a time bomb for its Russian rival, sending its worst enemy to St. Petersburg.

The consequences of Germany’s decision gave rise to the October Revolution which shook the world for eight decades.

A master of politics, Fidel Castro knew how to take advantage of the contradictions between Imperialist superpowers ever since 1959, when he imitated the famous Sun King and declared: “I am the State.”

II – Nationalizing the Cuban economy: 1959 -1968, forcing the existing legal system

Photo: Mara Bernardes

It took him three years to consolidate the Cuban Revolution. On April 16, 1961, during the memorial service for victims of a bombing that took place the day before at an air force barracks by Cuban pilots, armed by the US, the hero of the Sierra Maestra announced the socialist nature of the political process in progress.

He had turned the largest Caribbean archipelago’s private assets into state property with surprising vigor. The Cuban government had reiterated the absolute legality of this unprecedented action in the history of the Western Hemisphere. This was a lie.

The capitalist system was dissolved and replaced by a Stalinist totalitarian socialism which prevailed in the revolution’s political protector, the Soviet Union.

Here’s a quick summary:

March 1959, Law 112: Expropiation of all economic goods embezzled by former dictator Batista’s regime, and his close collaborators.

“Article 24 of the Constitution (which had been in force since 1940) was ammended with this action, which prohibited the confiscation of assets, and stated that nobody could be robbed of their property, unless a competent legal authority ordered it and if there was justification for it to be put to public use or if it were of social interest; and always after the corresponding compensation was paid in cash, determined by the courts.” (Dr. Luis Rodriguez Grillo, Diario de Cuba, October 2015.)

The revolutionary government took on constitutional powers which the Council of Ministers granted de facto, violating that Constitution which Fidel Castro himself, when he became Prime Minister, had sworn to defend as one of the pillars of his struggle against the Batista dictatorship.

The Constitution protected private property from any possible violation of such a sacred economic principle. The guerrilla fighters in power made normal what the document considered exceptional.  

– On May 17th, Castro signed the Agrarian Reform Act on the peak of Cuba’s highest mountain, Pico Turquino. It limited land ownership to 30 caballerias, with exceptions of up to 100 caballerias. A second law limited this further to 5 caballerias. The clash with US companies, mainly the sugar industry, was inevitable.  (1 caballeria = 13.42 hectares)

Photo: Mara Bernardes

Their right to compensation was officially recognized, which would be determined by Cuba and paid in installments, via government bonds, and this could not be contested. In other words, imprecise “payments” that were far-removed from the Constitution’s legal framework.

– The 1959 Agrarian Reform Act was followed by laws that seized assets belonging to every company, to the extreme that the national banking system was nationalized on the one hand, and on the other, privately-run street stalls selling fried food.

– By 1968, private property had completely disappeared in Cuba.

Washington’s response came soon enough when on July 6, 1959, Eisenhower cut the annual sugar quota that the US had committed to buying from the island by 700,000 tons. Castro came back at him and nationalized all of the US assets in Cuba.

In passing, he reached out to the US’ rival Empire and strengthened the alliance, the pressure cooker reaching boiling point the following year when the USSR, seduced by Cuba, wanted to install 42 medium range ballistic missiles on the island, equipped with nuclear warheads, 90 miles away from its superpower rival.

III – The consensual EU Empire’s opportunism

Washington waged a multiple crusade against this Cuban heresy. In the Americas, only Mexico continued relations with the island. The embargo that is still in force today, was declared, an all-out economic war, accompanied by all kinds of secret military operations, employing many Cuban emigres, most of whom had been affected by the expropriations, the worse insult to a man, according to the extremely wise Machiavelli.

It seemed that Fidel Castro wouldn’t hold out, but then the US’ rivals came to his rescue. We already know about the USSR, but Europe came as a surprise, especially Franco’s Spain.

Franco was openly anti-communist, yet he maintained a close trade relationship with Castro’s revolution. Both Galicians, they shook hands on the downlow when it seemed that the international isolation of Cuba would triumph.

The Cuban Revolution took a deep breath, relying on the USSR’s priceless support, which was abruptly cut short when the Soviet Bloc collapsed and with it, the support of all Eastern Europe’s socialist countries, just like a line of Dominoes.

Photo: Mara Bernardes

Many analysts predicted that this effect would reach the Caribbean rebel, but that wasn’t the case, and life-saving oxygen was administered by the Spanish once again when the revolution was on the brink of death, applied by the socialist, but not at all communist, by the name of Felipe Gonzalez. The champagne socialists headed by Francois Mitterand and other sentimental patriots of the Old World followed his lead.

Cuba was desperate and it opened its economy to the capitalist world, receiving investments that stopped the resounding collapse of its GDP, which had been extreme in fact because it had depended on the former Russian Empire’s subsidies.

The Spanish and their Melia hotel chain particularly stood out, who set up 14 installations on the Cuban archipelago. As has been stated, these businesses are in partnership with the Cuban State, and one of the many peculiarities of this partnership has been that employees are paid by the government in devalued Cuban pesos (CUP), while profits are divided between the investors in foreign currency.

Capitalism within a shabby socialism. Now, similar vultures are crying out against Donald Trump’s decision, who is redeeming other capitalists, who were originally booted out by Fidel Castro.

Madrid’s influential newspaper El Pais, applying the bandaid before the injury, published the following months ago:

“The Spanish economy has a lot at stake in Cuba. For starters, its privileged position in the island’s hotel market; in the future, investment opportunities especially in renewable energy, cars and transport, where Spanish business expertise beats that of its competitors.” (27/09/2018)

Imperialist Europe has upheld its trade agreements with Cuba, which exceeds two billion USD per year. The issue at hand calls for them to reconsider the complaint they made with the World Trade Organization about the US, for the damages that the extra-territorial nature of the Helms-Burton Act implies, and if that isn’t enough, “European governments should at least have the mechanism to block US investments and products in Europe ready, which is described in the EU’s legislation.” (El Pais, idem.)

The US tycoon president is applying the logic that corresponds to a face-off between birds of prey: if you take advantage of someone else’s misfortune, trafficking something that was stolen from others, then don’t complain when they charge you for your betrayal.

Photo: Mara Bernardes

With Cuba threatened to death, other empires are offering their good offices.

China boasts its growing might at manufacturing highly competitive goods under a peculiar form of socialism, where there are multinational corporations and millionaires aplenty.

Russia, the heir of a first-class military industry, as well as fossil fuels ad libitum, is searching for Latin American bases to expand outside of its limited borders.

Cuba will have to flirt with all of these empires, but we need to distinguish between a government that says it represents what was once a socialist revolution, and a people who don’t want to lose the benefits that are still tangible of that social movement, but who are tired of waiting for the Kingdom of God on Earth.

However, the dilemma lies in the inevitable need for change. As a result of its own national development, the inevitable influence of the world that surrounds it, for not having changed in all this time, the social system will fail, dragging everything good that its creators made, to its death.

IV – Epilogue

A Cuban, the son of Asturians at a time when the national economy was able to attract tens of thousands of immigrants per year, answered El Pais, when he called for us to “forget” what happened in Cuba 60 years ago:

“It wasn’t only the eradication of capitalism back then that became State capitalism, which is today (2019) a failed and out-of-date military State capitalism.”

Vicente Morin Aguado:  [email protected]