Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
Harkishan Singh Surjeet
CUBA will be celebrating the forty-fifth anniversary of its revolution on January 1. As the Cuban people join in festivities and rejoicing, we of the CPI(M) send our best wishes and greetings on this occasion.
Even in the midst of this rejoicing and festivities, the Cuban people cannot afford to remain off guard. The US, which has never been able to reconcile to the existence of a socialist state just 90 miles off its coast, is still not at ease. The US continues to intensify its efforts at targeting Cuba.
Throughout 2003, Cuba was engaged in countering various provocative steps by the Bush administration. The latest in its malicious campaign is the accusation that Cuba is developing biological weapons. President Bush is himself leading this campaign. In speech after speech he has targeted Cuba and arrogantly declared his resolve to see the end of socialism and the restoration of “free market democracy” in the island. But whatever be the machinations that imperialism employs, US imperialism will never succeed in its aim at subverting socialist Cuba.
In the euphoria that accompanied the disintegration of the Soviet Union and setbacks to socialism in Eastern Europe, the imperialist drumbeaters predicted that Cuba would follow suit in no time. But the people of Cuba have rebuffed all such propaganda, bringing to nought these ill-conceived dreams. The Cuban revolution continues to live and flourish. The Cuban people had endured immense sufferings and made tremendous sacrifices before the success of the 1959 revolution. Since then, they have defeated all machinations and conspiracies to overthrow the revolution and its gains. The revolution has given their life a new meaning and therefore they are determined to defend it with all their might.
The situation at the time of the triumph of the Cuban revolution on January 1, 1959, was entirely different from what exists today. Initially, even the United States was quick to recognise the new government. It was only when the new government of Fidel Castro began expropriating property owned by big American companies (the United Fruit in particular) that opposition from the US began. As a consequence of the US ban on oil supplies to Cuba, the latter signed an agreement to purchase oil from the USSR. The refusal of the US owned refineries based in Cuba to process Russian oil led to their nationalisation. The Eisenhower administration broke diplomatic relations with Cuba immediately after the US refineries in Cuba were nationalised. Cuba continued to establish closer relations with the USSR and a host of pacts were signed.
Cuba is often portrayed in the capitalist media as a repressive dictatorship, plagued with a multitude of problems. Stray incidents are blown out of proportion to portray a picture contrary to facts. What is blacked out by the imperialist controlled media is the tremendous achievements made by Cuba in various fields.
SOCIAL SECTOR ACHIEVEMENTS
Everyday, we in India and many other countries the world over are repeatedly told that the economy can no longer afford to sustain the social security benefits that were given to its citizens earlier. We can no longer afford free education, we can no longer get subsidised health care, cheap transport and a host of other services that were once available at subsidised rates and that we will have to pay for them. While there is an increase in productivity, we are told that the possibility of providing social security is diminishing. But this is not the case with Cuba, which despite severe constraints imposed by the US blockade is pledged to not just continue but also expand such benefits to its people.
Health and education continue to be the major priorities for the Cuban revolution. Half of Cuba’s doctors (3000), along with many others privileged sections of Cuba’s populace, deserted Cuba after the revolution. Cuba now has 67,000 doctors, i.e. twenty per single doctor who deserted the island country. It has the highest number of doctors per head of population anywhere in the world. While there were just 97 hospitals in 1958, Cuba now has 267. There is one doctor per every 169 persons, the infant mortality rate is 6.5 as compared to 60 at the time of time of the revolution, and all births take place under medical care. This is the lowest for any third world country and even surpasses many capitalist powers. Even in the US the infant mortality rate is 8. Life expectancy has risen from 55 to 76 years. Health care, including advanced surgical procedures, is free for all its citizens. Even neuron transplants done for Parkinson’s disease is done for free.
One of the prime reasons for the increased life expectancy, apart from the improved health care, is provision of nutrition for the masses. Despite the criminal economic blockade that it has been subjected to, Cuba has been able to provide its citizens adequate nutrition that has resulted in increased life expectancy. Children are provided a litre of milk a day free of cost.
Cuba continues to send thousands of health professionals to other countries to provide assistance, even outstripping the WHO in providing doctors to the third world countries. It had sent hundreds of its doctors to Angola. Currently there are over 2000 health professionals from Cuba working in more than 50 countries, Brazil being one of them.
Its achievements in the field of education are also equally astounding. It has the highest number of teachers per capita in the world. Prior to the revolution, in 1958, illiteracy was around 30 per cent. The scourge has been totally eliminated. One of the first campaigns launched after the revolution was about literacy. Groups of volunteers, totalling 270,000, fanged out to different regions of the country in an effort to eliminate this scourge. Women and the rural population were specially targeted. In 1960, in a speech at the United Nations, Castro had proclaimed that “Cuba will be the first country of America that, after a few months, will be able to say it does not have one illiterate person.” Cuba stood to his words. By 1961, Cuba’s illiteracy rate had come down to 4 per cent. Now it is 0.2 per cent—- almost all of them constitute the elderly people who did not enjoy the facilities available today in Cuba. It has one of the best student-teacher ratio for primary schools—- 1:20
END TO GENDER DISCRIMINATION
One of the other outstanding achievements has been the remarkable progress to eliminate discrimination against women. In 1960 only 7 per cent of Cuban women had employment. Most of them were low-paid domestic servants. Cuba initiated retraining programmes enabling women to take up employment outside traditional areas. This has led to women’s wages nearly averaging that of men. Apart from education, childcare, options for birth control etc. have enabled women to break shackles. Thanks to these measures, a majority of the scientists in Cuba are now women.
Our critics, while agreeing that Cuba has indeed done what other countries could not achieve in the fields of education, health etc, point out that Cuban economy has not shown such significant growth. The reasons are not hard to find. In the first place, when the revolution took place, Cuba was an underdeveloped country. Secondly, after the revolution it has been subjected to an economic blockade imposed by the US from 1962. When it was a colony Cuba’s entire trade was with the US, with its economy being geared to provide the US with sugar and a holiday destination. 64.5 per cent of Cuba’s exports and 73.5 per cent of its imports between 1954 and 1958 were with the US. But with the Soviet Union and the East European socialist countries stepping in, Cuba’s economy became heavily dependent on them.
However, a new situation arose after the disintegration of the Soviet Union. Cuba devised newer methods to come out of the crisis. It concentrated on redeveloping its tourist industry and has made use of its doctors and scientists to turn itself into a leader in biotechnology. The Cuban revolution has never sought to copy any model and always tried to adapt socialism to the realities obtaining in Cuba. Fidel Castro rightly said that “One should not be dogmatic; that is one of the secrets of revolution.”
Cuba is gaining more and more friends with each passing day. This includes American citizens also. Solidarity committees have been formed in various countries. It is under the aegis of the solidarity committee in India that a shipload of foodgrains was delivered to Cuba a few years ago. It was an expression of solidarity and friendship of the Indian people. It is a matter of pride that the Cuban president, Comrade Fidel Castro, himself was there to receive this shipment. It would be pertinent to note that the immense difficulties that Cuba faces did not deter it from sending soldiers and medical personnel to countries in distress. Nearly a lakh volunteers were in Nicaragua, and its doctors are now working in Africa, the Caribbean and Latin American countries, sometimes in dangerous situations.
But it is not at the economic level alone that the US sabotage is applied. Apart from financing and supporting the right-wing Cubans living in Miami to carry out terrorist attacks on Cuba, the US has over the years taken the plea of “democracy and human rights” to legitimise its policy of hostility and aggression towards Cuba. The Cuban government has effectively refuted the lies and slander against it. Despite these accusations, provocative acts and attacks against it, Cuba remains undeterred. For 45 years the heroic people in this small Caribbean island just 90 miles of the coast of the most formidable imperial power have struggled and withstood onslaughts. Those who spelled the doom of Cuba after the disintegration of the Soviet Union are amazed that they have been proved wrong; they are astounded at the immense courage and determination displayed by the Cuban people.
But the US continues scheming and plotting against this small state. Beginning with the Bay of Pigs attack on April 17, 1961, when about 1,400 Cuban exiles, trained and financed by the CIA, landed at the Bay of Pigs, the US has made umpteen attempts to destabilise the socialist state. Hundreds of assassination unsuccessful attempts against the leaders of the revolution, especially against Fidel Castro were made. US government sponsored and supported terrorist acts against Cuba have caused the death of 3478 Cuban citizens and physical injuries to 2099 others. The Elian Gonzalez episode is well known. Now five young Cubans have been sentenced by a Miami court on trumped up charges of espionage. It was a grossly unfair and unjust trial. The five Cuban heroes were punished solely for having fought against the terrorist groups that operate from Miami. Comrade Fidel Castro asked, “What is Cuba’s sin? What honest person has any reason to attack her?”
Now Cuba has been named as one among the “axis of evil” that the US has set to target. But as President Castro warned, “it might turn out to be the last of this administration’s fascist attacks, because the struggle would last a very long time.”
CUBA: A SYMBOL OF ASPIRATIONS
Cuba is a beacon light for all the Latin America peoples, who are facing loss of livelihood and impoverishment due to the neo-liberal policies imposed by the United States and international finance capital. Cuba is winning more and more friends in South America, much against the wishes of the United States. The defeat of the anti-Chavez forces in Venezuela and the victory of Luis Inacio Lula da Silva in Brazil have taken place much to the chagrin of the US. These victories will provide a boost to the struggle against the policies of globalisation and liberalisation. People in the Latin American and Caribbean countries look towards Cuba and its leader Fidel Castro for motivation. Cuba has become a symbol of their struggles and aspirations. Cuba has, in fact, been in the forefront of the campaign against globalisation and liberalisation.
Cuba is a source of inspiration for all anti-imperialist forces and those fighting for socialism and peace. The United States, unremitting policy towards Cuba has been to try to destroy the revolution. The Cuban people’s determination to defend their revolution is a source to strength for all people around the world who are fighting for justice, freedom and socialism.
As President Fidel Castro Ruz said, “The name of Cuba will go down in history for ever because of what it has done and is still doing for humanity in the fields of education, culture and health in the most difficult period that our species has known.
“Our country is blockaded by the only superpower and almost blockaded by Europe, but these together will not be able to defeat the Cuban revolution, among other things because together they do not have and will never have either the human capital or the moral values to do what socialist Cuba has been able to do.”