Cuba: A Look at Raul vs. Fidel

Martin Guevara*

Fidel and Raul Castro at the first session of the new Cuban legislature on Sunday, February 24, 2013. Photo: granma.cubaweb.cu

HAVANA TIMES — I think that the timid but significant changes that Raul Castro has been implementing – with a number of variations that any sound analyst would make – are the best thing that could happen to Cuba.

The general-turned president, however, doesn’t exactly have the moral authority to advance these changes as his own, as he was never a dissident, never even a key figure of the Marxist-Leninist project undertaken on the island, within the Politburo or any other political institution established by the “Retrogression”.

In his defense, we can point to the fact that, in terms of awareness of everyday reality and the sympathy and affection awakened among the people, the contrast between Cuba’s Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR), Raul’s milieu of experimentation, and any other government institution was something you felt at base level.

It was common, for instance, to see a lieutenant colonel from the FAR heading back home in a public bus, asleep on his seat, totally oblivious to his surroundings, feeling protected, even, or to come across this officer giving someone from the neighborhood a lift on the side-car of his motorcycle.

To see a Ministry of the Interior (MININT) officer or Ministry-level cadre from the Cuban Communist Party (PCC), of the same rank or even three military ranks beneath our lieutenant colonel, do the same thing, you’d simply have to be dreaming.

What’s more, the FAR produced the products they consumed. As an institution, it had a different experience of reality than the rest of the country, an economically healthier existence, even during the long years of Soviet subsidy.

They produced everything they needed in terms of viands, provisions and essential equipment (provided it wasn’t a heavy or arms industry item). I worked as a civilian at a company run by the FAR and I am pleased to be able to vouch for this.

None of the changes Cuba has witnessed run contrary to Fidel’s political vision, as some would have us believe, or have been implemented so as to bring a new, brilliant revolutionary – Raul Castro, the dissident – to the fore.

The changes are part of a plan in which Raul assumes the risk, as the person at the helm, of being remembered as someone who did well, regularly or terribly (and this is something only time will decide).

Fidel, however, has earned an ineffaceable place in world history, as a leader considered excessively cruel by some, a dictator who governed by whim by others, or on a spectrum that runs from being a phoney to being a revolutionary to his sympathizers.

The fact I commend Raul for doing what I believe is right, given the current state of affairs in Cuba, does not, in any way, blind me with respect to his trajectory in power, nor does it make me forget that the man who would eliminate you if you showed the slightest bit of sympathy for any letter of the alphabet other than the “A”, is the same man who, today, assures you his policy is called “Z” and disturbingly intimidates you so that you will adhere to it.

From a pragmatic point of view, this would be beyond reproach. It does not, however, show much conviction. It recalls, rather, the most profound act of self-criticism he was able to muster after green-lighting the execution of his friend and subordinate Arnaldo Ochoa, for having been oblivious, as the general’s immediate superior, to the shady dealings Ochoa was accused of during a less-than-transparent, summary and highly irregular trial.

The confession, “I looked in the mirror and saw tears running down my face!”, left all of us speechless. Then, we had expected something along the lines of “I’m sorry for not having been vigilant enough”, or a “I, his immediate superior, shoulder the responsibility for his actions, I will take the blame, or resign,” or perhaps a “I want to dedicate this hara-kiri to all of the fans who are watching us on TV right now.”

To be frank, no one expected that last one. Raul is not Japanese.

In any event, no one should be at all concerned about future jobs or positions at the top. A new obsequious bunch already took them a long time ago.

Mao’s granddaughter is one of China’s wealthiest women, Dos Santos’ daughter is the richest woman in Angola, Fidel Castro’s son wins golf tournaments in Varadero, Raul’s daughter asks for more and more visas to travel to the United States… all of this makes us suspect that revolutions are carried out so that this vile (but nonetheless much-coveted and sought-after) thing called “money” can change hands.

It remains to be seen where those who once vociferated the grandiloquent “Homeland or Death”, and the fewer and fewer who do so today, will be in a decade or so. Will they take to the Sierra Maestra or Escambray mountain ranges to lead a counter-attack on this return to capitalism, this vile act of treachery, or whether they will rather resemble the daughters or granddaughters of those iron-willed leaders, who are much like those who are in power today?

One thing must remain clear: what makes a person a member of the Left, of a progressive or anti-establishment movement, is not what they say about themselves. As with everything else in life, it is a question of deeds, not of words.

Those who wield power and live like kings are the Right, no matter how they wish to portray themselves, and those who, in some way, seek to bring balance to the equation, are everything else in the spectrum. As in the good-cop-bad-cop trick, there will doubtless be some who will try to convince us that Raul freed Cuba by ripping it from Fidel’s claws.
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(*) An authorized Havana Times translation of the original published in Spanish by Martin Guevara.


14 thoughts on “Cuba: A Look at Raul vs. Fidel

  • June 12, 2013 at 3:41 pm
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    Thanks for appreciating my almost “mission impossible.”

    Marxism has so warped, discredited and sabotaged socialism, that rebuilding the Left on a non-state monopoly basis seems to be the height of impossibility.

    But, Martin . . . what else can one do?

    Good Luck in all your labors. Grady

  • June 12, 2013 at 6:13 am
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    Thank you Grady.

    I want to tell you one more thing. I am against the lies that I saw across my life in the middle of an leftish family. But I want to tell you, as I told many years ago to Margaret Randall, Huey Newton, or even Dean Reed ( an american communist rock star that used to visit Cuba), that for me, few things are more respectable than an american communist or left activist, because Grady, you really have a lot of work and suffering in front of you!!! and there’s no time to rest!

    Best regards,

    Martín

  • June 12, 2013 at 1:09 am
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    Well said, Martin . . . and thanks. We’re of the same heart, in many respects.

    And I think you are correct in your description of the Marxist deviation from socialism as a lie. In my view however, socialism, real socialism, is still the only hope for a peaceful and just world.

    The problem I keep running into is that Marxism has ruined almost the entire Left. Most activists cannot think creatively.

    Best regards.

  • June 11, 2013 at 8:59 am
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    Grady,

    Oh, so now you tell us to try to be civil?

    In this thread alone you have tossed unsubstantiated accusations at Moses, Martin and myself, while using the the following terms to refer to those who hold opinions contrary to yours:

    “stupid, spewing defamation, waste of our time, money-grubbing, confused, devoid of substance, vapid, shallow”

    If that’s your idea of how to be civil, I can’t wait to see you when you’re rude!

  • June 11, 2013 at 5:43 am
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    Thank you for your kind words, Grady.

    Perhaps in some topics we have different points of view, but it never mean that we can’t discuss looking for an agreement.

    The only one thing important in my writing work, more than say the things I am against of, is to say those things that we are in favor of, to find the point of agreement among the people that want peace, people that want the end of the hunger in the world, the end of the poverty, the end of the repression, in short, a new World. To end the belief of -Peace-War” is a natural vicious circle impossible to change and to stop. To end the belief of the absolute Power is necessary to put the society in order. To end the belief of in our world, there is a different kind and levels of human beings. To end the belief of the clean and pure goodness, coming from a kind of God, as Fidel or any dictator ( don’t matter if they say that they are the good ones or the devils) or any democratic president. But in this case I speak about my experience in the middle of the socialist lie ( or “not too much truth” if you prefer it)

    You can find me always taking a walk on that “path”.

  • June 10, 2013 at 8:20 pm
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    The Cuban people have no power at all. The Castro regime holds it all. This power is exercised through the party with the FAR providing the necessary muscle when required. The FAR have never fought against the US, not since the Bay of Pigs anyway.

    You like to go on about what you call monopoly capitalism, but in Cuba the monopoly is held by the military. The largest corporations on the island are all owned by the military. All of the tourism business is owned by the military, as are trucking, oil, restaurants, farms and sundry other businesses. As you well understand, money is power. In Cuba, the FAR controls the money.

  • June 10, 2013 at 2:04 pm
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    Both shallow and incorrect. The center of power In Cuba is the Cuban people. You know this, and it may be why you use all you comments to turn Cuban readers against the political leadership in power.

    The main purpose of the FAR is to try and defend the Cuban nation against aggression from the United States. Go ahead; try and deny it.

  • June 10, 2013 at 12:59 pm
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    Always good to hear from you, Moses. Glad you think it is funny.

    Hey . . . You and that other person act precisely like a tag-team for the personal defamation of Fidel and Raul. If the shoe fits, wear it.

    BTW, when history is done with monopoly-capitalism, you and yours will always be saddled with the shame of having been on the side of the monopoly banks and military-industrialists. Quite a legacy!

    You may believe that the world is going your way, but in the words of the song, the times they are a’changing.

  • June 10, 2013 at 12:37 pm
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    Your English is excellent, Martin; and I sincerely appreciate your kind reply. If my first response was rude, or in error, I apologize.

    Every single day in these HT blogs, certain people defame the traditional leaders of the Cuban “involution,” as you call it. It seems that these people can only interpret the motives of Fidel and Raul by their own money-grubbing hearts. And so, my friend, people like me, sincerely trying to find hope and truth, tend to be rather sensitive.

    Although I have rejected Marxism and its stupid maximum program of the state owning everything, I still think that Fidel and Raul, et al, are motivated by a great and self-sacrificing sense of patriotism.

    The wisdom that can be gleaned from the Cuban experience, in my opinion, is that political and social democracy can only rise on the basis of economic democracy. Those who do the work of society, whether workers or independent entrepreneurs, must own and control the instruments of production. In Cuba, this means a post-Marxian interpretation as to what real socialism is.

    What we–all of us–ought to do, Martin, is speak the truth as we see it, and try to do so civilly. I look forward to you next article, if it should come my way via HT. Cheers.

  • June 10, 2013 at 8:19 am
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    Raul’s reforms are designed to preserve and protect the monopoly on power held by the regime. It’s is no surprise that he comes from the Ministry of Defense. In Cuba, the FAR is the centre of all power. The party, the government and the money all flow from the centre.

    Cuba is like an inside-out watermelon: red on the outside & green in the middle.

  • June 9, 2013 at 11:02 am
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    Tag-team? That’s funny Grady. The recent spate of state trials and condemnations of past military dictators in Latin America is largely based on the relatively new internationally-accepted legal basis of “command and control responsibility”. This means that even if you didn’t give the order directly, if you were in charge of the people who did, you share their responsibility for the atrocities they perpetrated. The Castros have been in charge for 54 years. They have directly and indirectly made decisions that have destroyed the physical, cultural and spiritual infrastructure in Cuba. My “personal defamation” of the Beasts from Biran is a drop in the bucket when compared to what awaits the Castros when history is done with them.

  • June 8, 2013 at 6:34 pm
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    May be you are right Grady, and may be not, naturally.

    Of course I am confused, my mind is a nest of every kind of stuffs, plenty of angles, and colors as the rainbow. Actually I consider the contradictions as the roots of the intellectual enrichment.

    But, my friend, I never would say that the reason of Fidel and Raúl to do the Revolution, that I call in Spanish the “Involución”, was the profits. The kind of power that they reached in a such vertical society, was bigger than the one that money can buy. Believe me.

    I just talk about their family interested in money, in the Involución, as Mao’s family, and Dos Santo’s family.
    Thank you for use your precious time reading my humble opinion, i think that the only reason to exists the “Time” is because it have to be wasted.
    Sorry for my horrible English

  • June 8, 2013 at 1:27 pm
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    Apparently, Martin Guevara is a very confused writer. He spews forth the same personal defamation of Fidel and Raul as the usual imperialist, let’s-prepare-the-people-for-an-invasion journalism.

    And all the while he pretends to be waving his arms from the legitimate “Left.”

    It seems that he is of the same ideological school as our frequent HT, tag-team blog commenters, who spew personal defamation of Fidel and Raul with almost every literary breath.

    Raul, like Fidel, took control of the kitchen, then tried earnestly and patriotically to bake an authentically socialist cake. The problem is not, as Martin Guevara infers, that personal financial was their motive; it most certainly was not. The problem is that they relied on the erroneous, bourgeois recipe for socialism as was dished up in the 1800s by Marx and Engels, and accepted by the Left sectarians thereafter.

    In my opinion, Guevara’s article is totally devoid of substance. The only thing it teaches us is that even confused individuals can be literate, write vapid articles and waste our time.

  • June 8, 2013 at 8:16 am
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    Raul Castro simply did the absolute minimum he had to do to maintain control and keep Cubans from taking to the streets in rebellion. Even then, his ‘reforms’ were simply acts of common sense which can only be called reforms when they are compared to the nonsensical actions of his narcissistic older brother. Raul legalized cell phones and DVD players. He permitted Cubans to enter tourists hotels. He legalized the purchase and sell of homes and certain old cars. He has permitted barbers and manicurists to work for themselves. He even lets Cubans travel sometimes. Anywhere else on this planet, these behaviors would not be considered ‘reforms’. The truth is that had Fidel continued to rule he would have likely done exactly the same things.

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