As a supporter of the 1959 Cuban Revolution, my most important concern is to build and more egalitarian and socially just society, with education, land, healthcare and work for all, and a regard the United States as the greatest threat by far to our revolutionary republic. I am all too well aware that Cuba was treated as a colony or a banana republic after the war of 1898, just as Jose Marti always warned. North American corporations controlled most of the economy and continued our dependency on sugar exports that we inherited from the colonial period, while gangsters and Mafia types were in change of the gambling, drugs and prostitution in Havana. For decades, Washington also supported a series of corrupt and repressive dictators who served its interests, the worst of which was the recently-overthrown Fulgencio Batista. It comes as no surprise to me that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) attempted to invade the country and overthrow the revolution, just as it did in Guatemala in 1954 or that it has on ongoing campaign of sabotage and assassinations since its failure at the Bay of Pigs in 1961. My greatest hopes for myself and my children are that they will never have to be concerned about poverty, hunger and unemployment again, and that my daughters will never be forced into pornography or prostitution to serve foreign tourists and gangsters. 1
One thing that I can never forget is that the U. S. lies when it claims to support democracy and freedom around the world. Far from promoting democracy abroad, the United States has reacted many times against the threat that democracy poses to American investments and corporate interests. In overthrowing democratic governments and supporting corrupt and pliable elites in Asia, Central America and the Caribbean, “ no nation in modern history has done this so often, in so many places so far from its shores.” 2 Almost always the real motivation for this is “ economic reasons—specifically to establish, promote and defend the right of Americans to do business around the world without interference.” 3 Corporations have been the dominant influence in U. S. politics since the late-19th Century, and foreign leaders who resist them often risk being overthrown. I can never forget that even before the war of 1898, Cuban leaders like Jose Marti were rightly concerned that American intervention in their revolution would merely substitute one form of imperialism for another. Far from endorsing the nationalist revolution in Cuba, the U. S. government feared that its proposals for democracy, social welfare and land reform would be a threat to American investments and business interests. 4 In addition, the Platt Amendment, passed by Congress along partisan lines, gave the U. S. the power to install and remove governments, supervise its treasury and foreign policy, and to intervene militarily whenever it saw fit.
I regard Che Guevara was an idealistic and humanitarian revolution, motivated by a genuine sense of outrage about the poverty of the majority of people in Latin America as well as the corruption and repression of the oligarchs and military dictators backed by the United States during the Cold War. He had seen firsthand in Guatemala in 1954 how the Central Intelligence Agency overthrew the leftist government of Jacobo Arbenz, which had been democratically elected but ran afoul of the United States by distributing land held by the United Fruit Company to poor peasant families. I remember how inspired I felt when Che joined with Fidel Castro in Mexico in planning an invasion of Cuba, which finally toppled another U. S.-backed dictator, Fulgencio Batista, in 1959. When the new government began nationalizing property belonging to American corporations, President Dwight Eisenhower again ordered the CIA into action to overthrow it, and also to assassinate Guevara and Castro. Che and Fidel Castro have promised us a more humane and democratic type of Marxist revolution. They have a new path for successful in these colonial and semi-feudal economies. 5 These conditions could not be abolished or wished away quickly and easily, as Lenin, Stalin, Mao and many others admitted. Che and Fidel also insist that the ideal society would be based on the comradeship of the guerilla vanguard and would favor “ moral over material incentives in socialist labor.” 6
Labor in the New Cuba will be a social duty owed to the collective, not only for the benefit of the individual or the family. This requires a new type of human being in a new society, where men and women are equal and we will all contribute voluntary and spontaneous work to develop the country. We should not become “ a wrinkled oligarchy of old Communist gargoyles” like the Soviet Union, and in fact I am glad that we have new leaders who are not at all like Kremlin mummies, but rather seem to be a “ young, informal, spontaneous and even somewhat sexy leadership.” 7 I hope we do not develop a rigidly authoritarian and bureaucratic regime in Cuba, but I fear that the persistent hostility of the United States government will push our leaders much further into the arms of Russia and China than they had ever intended. This carries with it the danger that we will be dominated by yet another foreign power, which is going to mean adopting the Soviet model as well—and came to depend on Soviet subsidies to survive. Colonies and semi-colonies like Cuba often failed to develop liberal, democratic forms of capitalism at all, much less social democracy or democratic socialism of the Western type. Western countries that were already urbanized and industrialized generally retained a regulated type of capitalism with a welfare state and parliamentary institutions, but Cuba was denied this path of development and was never even able to govern itself until after the revolution.
Hitchens, Christopher. Hitch-22: A Memoir. Twelve Publishers, 2010.
Kinzer, Stephen. Overthrow: America’s History of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq. Times Books, 2007.
Lowy, M. The Marxism of Che Guevara: Philosophy, Economics, Revolutionary Warfare, 2nd Edition. Rowman & Littlefield, 2007.
Luther, E. and T. Henken The Life and Work of Che Guevara. Penguin, 2001.
Perez, Louis A. Cuba: Between Reform and Revolution. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.