HAVANA TIMES — After 60 years, the Cuban political project continues to be a paradigm for a group within the global Left. Let’s take a simplified look at the milestones in this ambivalent love story of those who admire Cuba, but haven’t moved here just yet, preferring to defend the Revolution from Boston or Paris.
In the late ‘60s, the Revolution had already been exhausted in practice, although it remained very much alive ideologically-speaking. With great skill, Fidel used the sudden but much-needed and correct social changes, at least when it came to healthcare and education, which were made during that decade thus creating a positive international image.
As soon as the economy lost its inertia of the ‘50s, and even more so once voluntarism ended up sinking the economy in 1970 with its failed sugar harvest, it became clear that there wasn’t any support for its achievements and there wouldn’t be in the Stalinist spin that was implemented of its own accord and not because of Soviet pressure, applying such unpopular measures such as the nationalization of absolutely every private venture or business.
This reality didn’t discourage a whole generation of European and Latin intellectuals, children of the post World War II boom and its changes, which led to a desynchronization between capital distribution and the distribution of rights, and they saw this anticipated adjustment in the Cuban project and they admired Latin autocratic leadership, once again.
They didn’t allow reality to ruin the ever so beautiful example of May ‘68’s utopian spirit, for the time being.
With a Europe moving towards its system of the “welfare state” in the ‘70s, the US updating a series of withheld rights and in Latin America between the ‘60s and ‘80s, notorious outbreaks proved that such social achievements can be gained without bloody revolutions or in spite of them, and this led to many intellectuals, who used to applaud Fidel’s politics, to begin to distance themselves.
Once the Soviet Union’s artificial support had been lost the poorly distributed but widespread poverty in communist Cuba became evident. The global Left’s social masses were slowly withdrawing themselves in the face of the sad sight of a rupture between discourse and reality, between slogans and millions of Cubans escaping an island that was supposedly run by the most just state in history.
Even after this mass exodus, of the masses, some really important intellectual figures remained or appeared such as Noam Chomsky and Ignacio Ramonet. I am going to use them to illustrate two archetypes of the last fling with Fidelista ideology.
Chomsky made great contributions with linguistics, his transformational grammar revolutionized psychology and how we understand speech; this prestigious intellectual later moved to the political arena where he became a dedicated fighter in the anti-US campaign. We can agree with his criticism or not, but he was free to criticize his country. Finding an understanding of his hostile views towards the US in the Cuban leader, he joined his anti-capitalist crusade with the defense of the Castro brothers.
Ramonet is an influential and well-known author and journalist, he defends a world without the evils of neoliberal globalization and he promotes the redistribution of income and wealth. His approach seems to be based on a personal “feeling” with the autocratic Messiah. Ramonet serves them as a propagandist while he enjoys being near his childhood idol.
I believe both Chomsky and Ramonet to be people with immense culture and intelligence, of great sensitivity and involvement with improving human lives, but, the first must know and knows that if he were Cuban and criticized the government an ounce of what he has done to the US, he would live in jail or in a psychiatric hospital. The second must know and knows that if he were Cuban, his intellectual autonomy would be constrained to never-ending praise for the State.
I understand that we need models on the Left and that it is hard to find them in the North Korean madhouse, in Chinese ultracapitalism or in the far-off lands of Vietnam or Laos, but damn Noam, damn Ignacio, damn the rest of the Left still in love with Fidel, criticizing imperialism and fighting for humanity… Just remember that Cuba isn’t just the Castro brothers and that this small group of humans also have a right to freedom, defend us!