The Anti-Imperialist truth about Cuba
Written By: Kate Woolford Published: 05/10/2020
Since the beginning of the Cuban revolution, thousands of articles have been published with the sole intention of undermining and demonising the socialist movement. To present Fidel as an all-powerful villain and to depict Cuba post-Batista as an authoritarian dictatorship, which rejected human rights and freedom. This article goes through some of the misinformation and outright lies spread by news outlets about Cuba and Fidel.
The Washington Post published an article that ended with the message, “Cuba’s communists ought to realize by now that they cannot jail free speech, no matter how hard and often they try.”
Let’s have a look at the credibility of this article.
The article is centered around Jose Daniel Ferrer (the leader of UNPACU) it claims “He has been through a lot, including years in prison” but fails to mention that he spent a lot of his time in prison for his role in the kidnapping and beating of Sergio García González, a former member of UNPACU. The article also conveniently forgets to mention the video footage showing Ferrer violently beating his head against a table and then claiming he was beaten by prison officials. So, what about his organization, UNPACU? In 2016 the Patriotic Union received $99,431 from the US government. Soon later another former member, Meleidys Gómez, accused Ferrer and his brother of fraud, claiming “they used the organizations U.S funding for personal purposes”.
The article also makes reference to Oswaldo Payá being killed in a ‘suspicious car wreck’ but fails to elaborate. The reality is, Spanish politician Carromera was found guilty of reckless driving after a video confession of the incident.
Historically Cuba had never attempted to place any repression on Payá. After he was invited to win the Sakharov Prize [for freedom of thought] to human rights, the president of France sent a message to Fidel to inform him that Payá said he wasn’t allowed permission to leave. Many political analysts and ‘intellectuals’ also pushed this agenda, but he collected the prize and returned to Cuba, continuing to normal life until his death. So how does press work in Cuba? Fidel claimed, “if what you call freedom of the press is the right to mount a counter-revolution and allowing Cuba’s enemies to speak and write freely against Socialism and the Revolution, to write slanders and lies and create conditioned reflexes, I’d have to say that we are not in favor of that freedom”. Censorship existed and continues to exist in Cuba, however, this is also a country that has been blockaded by the empire, the victim of inquisitors laws such as the Helms-Burton Act and the Cuban Adjustment Act, a country that is threatened by the United States on a daily basis, they make the fair assertion that they simply don’t want to allow their enemies the opportunity to exploit that freedom.
In reality, Cuba is a lot more tolerant than the media allows people to believe. Various mass organizations have their own media. The students have theirs, the workers, the unions, even the military and they have the freedom to publish what they believe is necessary to publish. Before his death, Fidel promoted the concept of encouraging a critical spirit in the media, “in order to perfect their system”. There are also a lot of foreign newspapers from America and Europe distributed in Cuba – anyone can buy them, it is not a crime.
On November 27th, 2016 news outlet Inquisitr published an article claiming Fidel “betrayed friend, historians say – let Revolutionary leader [Che] die in Bolivia”.
The article states historians claim that “Castro himself sent Guevara on what turned out to be a suicide mission” and “Castro appeared to have completely cut off contact with his former friend and top lieutenant”.
First, we need to understand a bit about the history of Che and the Cuban revolution. Since the early days of the Cuban revolution, Che had always maintained that afterward, he would go to lead a revolution in Argentina. Following the overthrow of Batista, Che wanted to establish a revolution in Bolivia with the objective that the struggle would spread throughout the region, back to his homeland of Argentina.
Initially, Fidel encouraged Che not to leave for Bolivia because he didn’t believe that the conditions were ready for a revolution at that time. Fidel eventually managed to convince him to fight alongside the Guerrilla movement in Congo, against Moises Tshombé. Che left in 1965, at which time the narrative pushed by Inquisitr was also pushed by the international media – that there had been a rupture in the relationship of Che and Fidel, that Fidel had ‘purged’ Che from the Central Committee which led to him making the decision to publish the letters Che had written him from Congo. Che claims, “I’m sorry to not have believed enough in you…” and wrote Fidel poetry from his camp, clearly disproving the accusations of a conflict. In 1966 Fidel managed to convince Che to return to Cuba so they could plan a guerilla campaign in Bolivia. When Che left for Bolivia Fidel never “cut off ties” as the Inquisitr article claims. After being informed of issues that were happening in the camp, due to the split between two leaders Che and Monje, Fidel made effort to help Che and invited Juan Lechìn to Havana for three days to try to persuade him to back the guerilla movement, which he promised to. After Che’s death, Fidel made the statement; “there are so many indelible memories he left us, which is why I say that he is one of the noblest, most extraordinary men I’ve ever known, which would have no importance unless one believes that men like him exist by the million – millions and millions of them – within the masses”.
So, the two main claims of this article are untrue. First that “Castro sent Che on a suicide mission to Bolivia” as Che went to Bolivia with the intention of spreading the revolution to Argentina, something he had wanted to do before the Cuban revolution. And secondly, the claim that “Castro appeared to have completely cut off contact with his former friend”, as, throughout the struggle in Bolivia, Fidel consistently tried to help Che from his position in Cuba, by convincing people to help him and support the cause.
On 2nd December 2019, Tampa Bay Times published an article about gay rights in Cuba which claims, “In 1964 Fidel and Raul Castro rounded up gay people and sent them to Military Units to Aid Production (UMAP), forced labor camps for those suspected of improper conduct.”
First, we need to understand the context of the UMAPs. In the early years of Castro’s leadership, Cuba was under imminent aggression at the hands of the United States, the ‘dirty war’, the Playa Girón [Bay of Pigs] invasion, the Cuban Missile Crisis; during that period Castro decided to institute obligatory military service as a form of protection from US imperialism. At that time a toxic culture of machismo was present within the Cuban population, many of the men that were conscripted for military service were strongly opposed to homosexuality and there was widespread rejection of them serving in military units. For people that were excluded from duty UMAPs were created, these weren’t centers exclusively for gay people, they also included people that couldn’t serve under a flag for religious reasons and people that hadn’t had the level of education that was required to serve in the military.
They were never ‘internment camps’ or ‘punishment units’ like the column published by Tampa Bay Times tries to illustrate them as. On the contrary, the people that worked in the UMAPs were offered the same amount of benefits as the hundreds of thousands of recruits that had been drafted into the armed forces. After learning about the prejudices against homosexuals in the institutions, Castro asked for a review of the issue and these units lasted only around three years.
Towards the end of his life, Castro promoted LGBT rights unapologetically. Cuba has gay clubs and bars and celebrates pride every year. Cuban citizens claim, “Cuba has changed a lot and that includes the mentality of the people. There is no problem with being gay, transgender, lesbian or bisexual” adding that “there are many inclusion programs directed to teach people how to accept differences and support the gay community.” Since 2008, gender reassignment surgery and hormone replacement therapy have been available free of charge under Cuba’s national healthcare system and since 2013, Cuban law banned workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation.
On 26th November 2016, The Telegraph published a column that makes a lot of the orthodox anti-Castro claims.
First, the accusation is that Fidel was a “dictator” and declared himself “father of the people”. It’s important to understand how the Cuban government operates. Unlike a traditional multiple party Government, where the extent of the candidate’s success often depends on the financial ability to purchase advertising or their connections to the media, which has little to do with their ability to govern, Cuba runs as a one-party structure – not as a dictatorship.
In Cuba one of the first principles is that the party doesn’t nominate candidates, candidates are nominated by the people; the people in each electoral district meet in an assembly and appoint the candidates who are going to represent them. The party has no say in it. The Cuban national assembly with other 600 delegates is made up of half of district delegates, who have not only the role of serving on the municipal assemblies but also of nominating candidates for the provincial assemblies and national assemblies. Unlike how the article would lead you to believe, Fidel is also hostile to the cult of personality. In Cuba, there’s not a single school, factory, hospital, or building named after him. No state agency wastes its money taking and passing out official photographs or portraits of Fidel.
“The only other consistent driving force of his career was a visceral anti-Americanism”. This claim commonly derives from a letter Fidel wrote to Celia that stated “I’m going to wage a war against [the Americans]. I realise that’s going to be my true destiny.” Castro later spoke about the letter saying, “I’ve seen so many horrors [carried out by the US government] that I think the words I wrote were fair. And it wasn’t against the Americans as a people; on the contrary, an American citizen is welcomed in Cuba more warmly than any other country in the world. There are no prejudices or complexes here; complexes create hatred and contempt. Here there’s no contempt for American citizens.”
The depiction that the driving force of Castro was solely anti-Americanism is based on speculation rather than reality. Castro has consistently shown he cares more for the American working class than the American elites do themselves. After Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, Fidel immediately offered medical aid to the United States. The pride of the American Government dictated that rather than accept the 1610 doctors that Fidel offered, they would rather let their own citizens die on the roofs of houses or hospitals. No one evacuated the US citizens from stadiums and in nursing homes, people were euthanized to prevent death by drowning. The US in 1959 tried to leave the Cuban population without doctors, yet in September 2005 Castro was the first to offer the US doctors when they needed it most.
“In the aftermath of this triumph [the Bay of Pigs], Castro announced for the first time that Cuba was a socialist state, and at the end of 1961 declared himself a “Marxist-Leninist”. He had not so much been converted to communism as discovered it to be the most convenient means of exercising absolute rule, and of securing his Soviet ally”. This is another common misconception. Raúl, Che, and Fidel were all communists both before and during and Cuban Revolution. Raúl was in the communist party before the assault on Moncada Barracks and was introduced to the works of Marx and Lenin by Fidel himself. Fidel claimed in an interview with Igancio Ramonet, “if we hadn’t read Marx’s books on political theory, and if we hadn’t been inspired by Martí, Marx, and Lenin, we couldn’t have possibly have conceived the idea of a revolution in Cuba, because, with a group of men, none of whom have gone through a military academy, you can’t wage a war against a well-organized, well-armed, well-trained army and win a victory starting practically from scratch. Those ideas were the essential building blocks of the revolution.”