Cuba-Socialism's Fading Legacy

By Vradenburg, George | Tikkun, May/June 2009 | Go to article overview

Cuba-Socialism's Fading Legacy


Vradenburg, George, Tikkun


CUBA RECENTLY CELEBRATED THE FIFTIETH anniversary of the Castro Revolution. The celebration was a quiet affair. Raul Castro, Fidel's successor, made a short, uninspiring speech. Fidel was nowhere to be seen (he's alive, but suffering from what is thought to be a debilitating case of diverticulitis).

This writer recently had the opportunity to visit Cuba as part of a Council on Foreign Affairs fact-finding trip to experience firsthand this mysterious neighbor just off our Florida coast.

Anyone advocating socialism needs to visit Cubato learn of the choking, oppressive environment it creates, so hostile to individual initiative, prosperity, innovation, and political expression.

My overwhelming impression was one of sadness. Sadness that Old Havana's marvelous Spanish colonial architecture has decayed-the pockmarked buildings are propped up with fragile wooden scaffolding. And post-Revolution construction is Sovietstyle- concrete, boxy, ugly. Cars, many of them once brightly colored 1950s Chevys, are now fragile rusty remnants with Russian engines, spewing black exhaust everywhere. There is little retail enterprise since the state owns virtually all land, property, and economic activity; individual enterprise exists only at the margin. Billboards rally Cubans against a hostile United States with political slogans, not with advertisements for new products.

Sadness, too, at the loss of the possibilities the Cuban and American people would experience if our relationship were the kind one would expect of close neighbors.

Cuba is a beautiful island. Most Americans, if they recall Cuba at all, remember only the glamorous nightclubs, hotels, and beaches of a Mafia-controlled, anything-goes culture so vividly portrayed in Coppola's The Godfather: Part II." That reality ended abruptly with the 1959 takeover by Castro. Shortly after our failed 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion, Fidel turned to a full-throated embrace of the Soviet Union and Marxist-Leninist socialism, leading the two countries to end formal ties and causing the United States to adopt a strict economic embargo. And so, for almost fifty years, our relationship with Cuba has been frozen in political and economic amber, becoming one of the few remaining relics of the Cold War.

Those who left Cuba having suffered at Fidel's hand want the United States to have nothing to do with Cuba unless and until Fidel, Raul, and the entire regime are gone. Senator Menendez of New Jersey, a vigorous opponent of change in Cuba policy, tells the story of his father, a labor organizer, who was arrested and shot by firing squad without trial when Fidel outlawed all independent trade unions.

Will the socialist regime fold foDowing the death of Fidel and Raul Castro? Not likely, at least not soon. Simply put, the American policy of forcing regime change in socialist Cuba through political and economic isolation has failed. Socialist Cuba has proven more economically resilient and more resistant to political change than advocates of U. …

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