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POST-FIDEL CUBA by Dr. James Millette

posted 19 Jan 2017, 19:10 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 19 Jan 2017, 19:36 ]
Dr. James Millette is a Caribbean scholar whose specialty is Caribbean history and whose expectations are that one day the Caribbean people “will rise”. He has lived and worked in the Caribbean, in the United Kingdom and in the United States.
The death of Dr. Fidel Castro, el comandante, has brought the Cuban revolutionary process to a very
Image result for fidel castro interesting place. On this, all commentators seem to agree. What they disagree on is exactly what that place is.

Some say it is the end of an era. Some say it is the beginning of the end of an era. Some say it is the end of the "dictatorship" of the Castro brothers, Fidel and Raul. And others believe that it is the beginning of a reverse migration from Miami to Havana. Optimistic promoters of those views, especially by those whose ancestors fled the island in 1959, expect a spectacular resurgence of the social, economic and political leadership that prevailed in pre-revolutionary Cuba.

All of these theories, at best, are only partly true and are likely to be all put in the discarded bin when the real story is told. They rely on the prioritization of the Cuban process as a recent phenomenon mainly involving Cold War antagonisms and ideological competition between capitalism and an increasingly vibrant world socialist movement.

This is perhaps part of the truth, but certainly it is not the whole truth. Part of the reason is that the revolutionary crisis in Cuba occurred, and is continuing at a unique time in world history. The existence of a Cuban state which not only dared to be different but also successfully to defend itself against reaction and aggression is one of the entities that distinguishes it from, say the Haitian experience, and many other engagements with colonialism and imperialism.

The other part has to do with the fact that there was a Cuban revolutionary process going all the way back to the colonial period back to the earliest of so-called “discovery”. In the late nineteenth century the process was further radicalized as Cuba tried to realize the dream of national independence, and to abolish slavery for good. The fact that it co-existed with the struggles taking place in the wider Caribbean only deepened its significance.

In Caribbean historical time episodes of resistance go back to the indigenous peoples who preceded the Maroons who preceded Saint Domingue which preceded Jamaica which preceded Guyana and Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago and Grenada and St. Vincent and others. Seen in that light, the Cuban revolution is but a phase in the development of Caribbean progress which has been underway long before 1959.

It has also been a vital part of the autonomous, anti-colonial, decolonization and independence movements that flourished throughout the region and the world since 1945. It is not an exaggeration to say that there would have been no independence at the time that it occurred in South Africa, Namibia, Angola and Mozambique without the unstinting sacrifice of the Cuban people and the leadership of the Cuban revolution. And Fidel Castro was a major contributor to that process.

In this context his name is to be remembered not only in relation to his contemporaries - Marcus Garvey, Norman and Michael Manley, Tubal Uriah “Buzz” Butler, Luis Muñoz Marin, Eric Williams, Errol Barrow, C.L.R. James, Cheddi and Janet Jagan, Walter Rodney,
Amilcar Cabral
Maurice Bishop, Nelson Mandela, Amilcar Cabral and the like- but also in relation to his historical predecessors, towering figures like Cudjoe and Nanny, Cuffy,Toussaint L’Ouverture, Henri Christophe, Bussa, Bogle, Martí, Maceo, Esteñoz and Ivonnet, to name only a few.

Here in the Caribbean, in the independence and post- independence period, Cuba was so intimately involved in the decolonization process that theories and developments aspiring to transformational political and economic change always perceived Cuba as providing an alternative model to the modest, limited, status quo, Westminster tinkering that was normative in the region. And so Cuba became one pole in a binary selection of choices, and Puerto Rico –and its imitators in the Caribbean- became the other.

Fidel has died at a time when both models are stressed. Puerto Rico, burdened with foreign debt, has become an outstanding casualty of the economic model that bears its name. Cuba, challenged by future developments, is taking a leap in the dark, at a time when normalization, not isolation, seems likely to become the order of the day.

Cuba seems to possess the tools with which to defend the best aspects of the economic and political system it has spent half a century in creating. One of these tools is that it seems to be on the right side of history.

First, the Caribbean people have always been opposed to colonialism and imperialism, not promoting it. Colonialism and imperialism still persist in the Caribbean and the world, and there is much work to be done in combatting these practices in their modern form. But they are on the defensive, and some of their best scholars, writers and analysts are themselves saying that the old order is running out of options to perpetuate itself.

In fact globalization, the newest and most combative form of imperialism, increasingly is associated with the imperialism of classes and decreasingly the imperialism of countries, to such an extent that it is now seen to threaten the sovereignty and integrity of even the most powerful countries themselves. So that Cuba's historic antipathy to imperialist domination, from Hatuey to Fidel, has to count for something and will undoubtedly play a significant role in the world that is developing.

Secondly, the Cuban economy, whatever one might say about its debilities, is autonomous, if not completely independent. One of the major future conflicts –the character of the economy, capitalist or socialist- will be fought on Cuban soil, in international conditions increasingly tolerant of economic diversity, and led by a generation of Cubans grown up and socialized by the Revolution. Adversity is a master teacher. And the Cuban nation has been a master class for more than fifty years.

Thirdly, the utter confusion of the opponents of the Cuban revolutionary process, the contortions and the contradictions they have been forced to embrace, and the winnowing of the enemies of the Revolution in the United States and in the world, are paving the road for ultimate Cuban success.

The process continues.

James Millette,
Chairman Emeritus

Gerry Kangalee,
19 Jan 2017, 19:17