|Photo Credit: Moses Jackson|
In the United States, socialism and communism are emotion-packed, confusing, scary terms. They evoke dark, grainy photos of war and intimidating portraits of Lenin and Stalin. Cuba prompts similar reactions from many Americans – visions of Fidel Castro and the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Foreign relations between the US and Cuba are muddled by lack of information and outdated biases – largely on the part of Americans. One of the biggest huddles seems to be the hang-up on Cuba’s governance style, which if looked at objectively would soothe any misgivings Americans might have.
Cuba has a socialist government that is run by the communist party. Not the authoritarian Russian communist party of the Cold War, but an evolved, modern and even democratically inclined party in a socialist system where citizens vote for representatives at all levels. Cuban socialism isn’t about tyranny and unchecked state ownership and control – if it was, I have no doubt that the Cuban revolutionary spirit would have overthrown it in a fashion much like the revolution of 1959 [which was based on socialist ideals during a time when Cuba desperately lacked economic equality and adequate social safety nets].
However, socialism has been given little room to flourish in Cuba. The US-imposed economic blockade has effectively cut Cuba off from the global trade and financial assistance needed to building a strong nation [regardless of governance]. The blockade – inherently anti-socialist and anti-Castro – asserts that the economic challenges in Cuba are the de facto failed outcome of socialism. The UN General Assembly, however, recognizes the role of US policy in Cuba’s hardships and has called for an end to the blockade for the past 21 years, calling it “archaic” and “punitive.” Despite the blockade, socialist Cuba has maintained its egalitarian ideals and with fewer resources, all citizens make due with less.
Socialism [and the Cuban nation] should cease to be seen as a threat to US democracy and freedom. It’s time to move beyond the Cold War and embrace one of our [geographically] closest neighbors.
US suppression of Cuban freedoms needs to be recognized as a crime against humanitywithin the United States. It’s time to end the blockade.
In his writings, Ché Guevara explores Cuba as a vanguard in the resistance of US hegemony in Latin America. He highlights exceptional aspects of the Cuban revolution, while noting that “it fundamentally followed a logic derived from laws intrinsic to the social process.” It’s time to take Ché’s analysis and turn it back on ourselves. We stand at a strategic moment in time when we can act as the vanguards to influence social process again – towards improved foreign relations with Cuba [and ultimately a closer look at neocolonialism and imperialism].
My generation has no memories of the time when socialism and communism were an actual threat to the US. And, based on my experience in Cuba, I feel that it is my responsibility to dispel any misgivings about the country and its government. During our trip, we heard from professors who identified themselves as members of the communist party. They were friendly and open and struck me as oddly… normal. Cubans were eager to engage and had an astounding ability to differentiate between the American people and senseless policies of the American government. Rather than treat me [an American] with animosity for all the suffering my country has inflicted upon them, they were enthusiastic and happy to chat. After such understanding, I cannot comprehend how we continue to harbor negative feelings about this nation. Perhaps that is the greatest accomplishment of the blockade, prohibiting the flow of people and ideas and not allowing US citizens to experience and make their own opinion about Cuba.
“There is talk about the failure of socialism, yet where is the success of capitalism in Africa, Asia, and Latin America? Where is the success of capitalism in places where thousands of millions of people live? I believe that the failure of capitalism should be discussed as much as the failure of socialism in a small number of countries. Capitalism failed in more than 100 countries, which now face a truly desperate situation. I do not understand why this is forgotten. There is talk about the failure of socialism based on what happened in East Europe. Capitalism has ruined the world. It has poisoned the rivers, the seas, and the atmosphere; it is destroying the ozone layer, and it is disastrously changing the world's climate.”