By Pedro Campos
HAVANA TIMES — In its nearly 60 years at the helm of power, the Castros betrayed three great paradigmatic ideals which the majority of the Cuban people had fought for: Democracy, national independence and socialism.
The 1952 military coup broke away from the institutional life stipulated in the 1940 Constitution. When the wide-ranging opposition this created tried to look for a negotiated solution to making Batista leave power, including a call for elections, an ambitious youth leader from the Orthodox Party attacked Cuba’s second most important military fortress with several of his followers in Santiago de Cuba on July 26, 1953. Even though they failed, the attack managed to exacerbate political contradictions, channeling the struggle against Batista down a violent path and projecting a new “radical, revolutionary” leadership.
This was the birth of Castrismo, which was defined by violence and the division of Cuban society to hold control over this same society, both of which have been constants in its strategy to dominate.
The struggle against the Batista dictatorship to reinstate the democratic 1940 Constitution and its institutions, built up mass popular support from opposition groups to the point that the tyrant had to flee. The triumph of all of these mass movements in 1959 was capitalized on by Fidel Castro, the leader who led the attack on the Moncada Barracks and the guerrilla forces in the Sierra Maestra.
After repeating that the Revolution’s objective was to restore democracy in Cuba, Fidel and his entourage took power into their own hands, they ousted the provisional government, they didn’t reinstate the 1940 Constitution and they have called off democratic elections up until this very day, to allow for “revolutionary change, equality and social justice”, the populist/statist/autocratic project that has kept them in power indefinitely.
Thus, it was in 1959 that the first great betrayal to the democratic objective of that people’s movement took place. As a result, a civil war was triggered which included the Bay of Pigs invasion and the guerrilla war in the mountains again, especially in El Escambray, which left several thousand dead, more than a hundred thousand prisoners, a large part of whom received long prison sentences, as well as the exile of around a million Cubans.
Betraying National Independence
One of the Cuban people’s great wishes was to always consolidate the national independence process which began with the Republic in 1902. The Platt Amendment, US-backed interventions and “mediations” in the first 30 years of the Cuban Republic and its close ties with corrupt governments after 1940, had been conveniently exploited by the revenge seeking Spanish and International Stalinist Communism, unhindered by the Cold War, to put Cuba up against its neighbor in the North.
When Batista fell, US trade relations with the island were profuse and a non-majority part of the Cuban economy laid in the hands of US companies. Criticism of the guerrillas’ excesses in power and of Fidel’s resistance to reinstate a democracy, as well as the nationalization of vast terrains of land which belonged to US companies in 1959 and of its industry in 1960, created a fierce clash with the Castro brothers’ regime, which still hasn’t ended today.
Everything, taking into account the La Coubre steamship explosion, the Bay of Pigs invasion, US support for the opposition, the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 were Castro led attempts to export its “socialism” and destablize democracy in Latin America.
The perfect landscape for “anti-imperialism” always against the US which could be conceived by creating close ties with the USSR, the US’ main enemy in the Cold War. This led to a level of financial, political and military dependence which had never existed before in the time of the Cuban Republic. Installing Russian military bases and intelligence in Cuba and the latter voting with the Soviet Bloc at international bodies. There were strategic differences when it came to fighting methods, but the common goal was to “spread Socialism and overthrow Imperialism.”
The Socialist state centered regime and its dependence on the USSR ensured that Castrismo could consolidate itself and in doing this, strip the Cuban people of their sovereignty, which was hijacked by Fidel and his group, as well as subordinate the Cuban government to the USSR and Cold War’s general interests. No popular sovereignty, no national independence.
With the collapse of the USSR, subsidies, Russian oil exports and any aid in food, transport, machinery and arms disappeared overnight. The Castros’ economy plummeted. Its dependence on foreign markets and aid and the system’s own productive incapacity forced the Cuban government to look for new sponsors.
On April 16th 1961, Fidel proclaimed the “socialist nature of the Cuban Revolution” in front of thousands of supporters on the corner of 23rd and 12th streets in Havana. It was a demagogic act which was focused on winning over the support of Cuban workers and to get the USSR and other “socialist” countries’ to openly support his government in the face of an imminent invasion and the serious clash that they were already experiencing with their powerful neighbor in the North.
By adopting the principles of “Marxism-Leninism and the dictatorship of the proletariat” in an opportunistic manner, Castro established a kind of State-monopoly capitalism with its authoritarian nature, centralized decision-making process and wage-slavery for the sake of holding onto power, to the detriment of worker and the Cuban people’s interests.
Marti foresaw this: “The Socialist ideology, like so many others, has two main dangers. One stems from confused and incomplete readings of foreign texts, and the other from the arrogance and hidden rage of those who —with the purpose of climbing up in the world— pretend to be frantic defenders of the helpless to have shoulders on which to stand (1).” And also the consequences of the Socialist State: “From being his own servant, man would then become a slave of the State. From being a slave of capitalists, as they are now called, he would become a slave of public officials.(2)”
And just like all strains of Stalinist-statist “Communism”, which “compromised sublime justice with the mistaken or excessive ways of asking for it” (Marti also wrote) Castrism moved away from the original libertarian, self-government, humanist and democratic aspects of socialism, which encouraged workers to take a leading role, which encouraged full freedom and democracy and the development of free, private or associated forms of work, to become another vulgar dictatorship.
When it “nationalized” large, medium and small-size private property, nationally or foreign owned, it also interfered in all private businesses, production or services cooperatives, mutual health clinics, sponsored schools, leisure centers for associated workers and even retirement funds, union funds and property.
However, as well as always standing in the way of free, private or associated forms of labor and its progress, outside of the state-led economy, it locked up union leaders, advocates for self-management and worker control and supporters of free associated work. From 1989, it has been secretly purging the PCC and the government, dismissing, retiring, laying off, persecuting, harassing, repressing, insulting and even locking up thousands of public officials, supporters of democratic socialism.
Workers were never the real owners of factories or agricultural and services companies. They continued to be exploited with wage-slavery and in the worst and most primitive form of wild capitalism. Now, the owner of this capital wasn’t a person, but an impersonal State; and they never enjoyed a real democracy which would have allowed them to exercise their political rights.
Castrismo didn’t take on socialism as a way to emancipate society, to create a political democracy and a thriving economy, but it did say that it would and it promised it would. It was a vile betrayal of Cuban workers and socialist ideals.
1- “The coming slavery” Comments on the homonymous work by Herbert Spencer.
2- Letter to Fermin Valdes 1894.