[In 2013 at age 87. Photograph: Cubadebate/Xinhua Press/Corbis]
When Fidel Castro reached eighty years old in 2006, and was, according to western powers, apparently lying on his death bed, he handed over the Cuban revolutionary government to his brother, Raul. Since the change-over, Cuba has seen no radical diversion from the revolutionary policies developed and employed by the Castro’s. However, Raul Castro is now flirting with the US and the rest of the capitalist establishment. Fidel is yet another figure head although a huge one. Over time, encroaching and incremental realities of a global economy and the needs of Cubans who are separated from that economy have produced a more relaxed, state-directed economy. With a local and family owned tourist industry, a world-class medical delivery system, and both small owner and state-run agricultural production, the Cuban economy is two-tiered. There is one price for the tourist and another, better price, for the locals. And, the push and pull of these two realities have brought benefits that help subsidize social programs such as health care, education, infrastructure reconstruction, and even their state supported baseball teams.
Despite the barbarity of its Spanish and US colonial history, the lost expectations of the Soviet era alignment, and expected economic mistakes in a developing nation, Cuba has emerged, maybe not victorious, but certainly as a survivor. They have managed to confound US aggression, US isolation and survive a complete breakdown of their communist aligned countries and its patron states. Regardless of these set-backs, Cuba is known as the most educated, healthy, and socially progressive state in the Caribbean. At the same time, Cuba is unfortunately better known as a political fortress, holding its own residents in a monotone political limbo to counter the efforts by the United States (US). They seek through every available method to crush the revolution that Castro and his band were able to achieve in the face of great odds and empty Cuba of US imperial ownership. The only question remains is will the revolution fail or manage to hold off yanqui attempts at counter-revolutionary invasions at all levels from the vociferous Cuba- American community and the US government’s obvious and transparent plans for a post-Fidel Cuba.
Some regional analysts, the US government, and certainly the majority of the Cuban diaspora living in other countries, mainly the US, can hardly contain themselves—believing that Fidel’s death will be death knell of the Cuban revolution and the Marxist politics that have dominated the island nation for 50 years.
Since 2002, the University of Miami, with government grants, has funded the Cuban Transition Project (CTP). The CTP studies and makes recommendations on the expected transition and “reconstruction” of Cuba from a communist state to a post-communist state. According to Pravda, since at least 2006, US administrations have funded a Cuban Transition Manager (CTM) and a team of political and social operatives ready to disrupt daily life and foment discontent when Fidel Castro dies. The CTM plans to have a new, US controlled government in place within 180 days after the death of Fidel. This US funded, reactionary force has at least 57 million dollars (2006) to fund this “transition.” Observers recognize the “team” will likely use its resources to oust Raul Castro and the Castro trained ministers.
While there will certainly be changes in Cuba after his death, Fidel, recognizing his mortality, and the need for Cuba to hold on to the revolution, made provisions for the government and state after his death. He created some insurance for the continuation of the revolution by recruiting, training and employing a cadre of socialist officials that are now in their 30’s and 40’s. He placed these revolutionary stalwarts in key government posts. Raul Castro may be flirting with opening Cuba to the US but the sense of revolution is still in the streets, military, and the present government.
Furthermore, Cuba, Which learned to survive in a hostile environment led by the US, will again have to redefine its economic survival. The Cold war is long over and Russian assistance has disappeared. Regionally speaking, Cuba’s relationship with its oil rich patron state of Venezuela is in a tenuous and uncertain mode. The results of the Venezuelan elections were essential to Cuba’s economic and political choices. Maduro, the successor to Chavez, won a closely contended election and he faces an economy and society wavering from sabotage bent political operatives from the US and its neighbor states aligned with the US. Without the oil reserves of Venezuela and significant investment of European tourist euros, Cuba could turn to the creeping capitalism of China—the Chinese style of state and party run capitalism. The success of the Chinese model has been an astounding rejection of socialist principles and yet an icon for the developing world. Even first world states can no longer compete with the efficiency of China’s political economy. The US alone owes billions of dollars to the Chinese communist state. Experimentation with the Chinese model may prove useful and such changes may inspire Cuba and other Caribbean states looking for economic relief or it could continue to divide the various Caribbean nations politically. Impoverished and isolated Caribbean states may look to China and Venezuela for guidance and assistance as Cuba did with the Soviet Union, in previous decades. But, alas, this would mean an end to the revolution. The fact that China has turned into a pseudo-capitalist, single party run economic machine will be nearly impossible for Cuba to ignore.
But if the US assumes that forcing a general capitulation by the Cuban government, military interference, and staging mass demonstrations will return Cuba back to the Batista days then they should be ready for a long and bloody fight. Mass demonstrations will almost invariably lead to the Cuban military’s involvement. And then there is the question of a powerful US military force just over the fence at Guantanamo Bay.
However, if a post-Fidel Cuba is allowed an internal change, guided by the present government, and takes calculated steps, there could be a peaceful transition to a political model based on successful socialist states. The Cuban people, long steeped in revolutionary politics and mindful of the pre-Castro years are politically savvy and intelligent. They have been marginalized by the US and its allies. The openly hostile attitude of the US toward Cuba is among the main reasons that the revolutionary government, created by Fidel Castro, has survived.
It may be that, despite the dire economic and social predictions by the US, transitional expectations of the CTP, and the political strategies of the CTM, the Cuban people and government will not abandon their hard fought incremental progress. Cuba may yet survive the death of Fidel Castro.
It is not hard to imagine a Cuba, free of the Castro’s, isolated by the US, and ignored by the Caribbean community, falling victim to US hegemony. The US has strongly held onto an overt aggressive political stance fueled by the Cuban expatriate community and their votes in the swing state of Florida. The CTM and the CTP have deep pockets. The South American states and The Caribbean Community, dominated by US trade and the US military, are too weak to engage Cuba in any meaningful political and economic relationship. Given all these indicators, it appears that Cuba, alone and weak, will not be able to deflect US strategies for very long after Fidel Castro dies.
But, while a US dominated Cuba seems a fait accompli to many political observers, it is also easy to imagine a Cuba which holds dearly to its revolutionary history and defies the US again. Continually, since the revolution, the Cuban revolutionary government has continued to surprise the imperial west and beat the odds. Now, they have a mature political structure and a mature political populace. They have a long established trade and tourist relationship with other socialist leaning countries and non-socialist countries in both Europe and the Americas. They have made slow but evident progress with this strategy. This solid relationship is essential in that the world is engaged with Cuba and hence it is not fully defined by its isolation from the US. Whichever way Cuba leans after Fidel Castro’s death, it is almost certain that change is coming to an island nation which is forged by revolution and survives against the odds, ninety miles from its most bitter enemy.
JP Miller is a disabled veteran, journalist, and writer who lives in the Outer Banks of North Carolina beside the Atlantic Ocean. He has published short stories and political essays in The Literary Yard, The Southern Cross Review, The Greanville Post, Pravda, Countercurrents, Uncommon Thought and Cyrano’s Journal.