Fidel Castro stepped down today as the head of state of socialist Cuba.
The Cuban revolution and socialist Cuba, a bone in the throat of United States imperialism, has and continues to survive the ruling class-made intrigues which have sought to destroy it – the economic blockade which began in 1960 and continues to this day; the CIA organized and funded Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961; the naval blockade or "quarantine" in the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 which almost led to an American-Soviet nuclear World War III; the many assassination attempts directed against Fidel Castro personally by CIA sources; the sabotage launched against Cuban agriculture and industry by the import of defective machine parts, attempts to destroy crops and livestock.
All of this from a government whose ultimate insult to the Cuban people was that they had not made a revolution but had merely been puppets of an evil charismatic leader; when Fidel went the revolution would go with him and the privately owned sugar plantations, gangster run luxury hotels would all be restored, an illusion or self delusion that the Bush administration and much of the mass media continue to peddle. Hopefully, these self delusions will not lead the Bush administration to seek to end its ignominious reign by a final vicious act a military attack on Cuba, expecting as the CIA men did in 1961, to march straight to Havana and be greeted by cheering throngs.
Cuba's survival over the last 49 years, including the last 17 when the Soviet Union ceased to exist, is one of the greatest stories in the history of socialism and anti-imperialism, which were and are dialectically inter-connected in modern history.
Cuba was very important to the developing strategy or "game plan" of U.S. imperialism from 1898, 19 years before the Soviet Revolution and the birth of the Communist wing of the world socialist movement, to the development of the cold war, when that "game plan" was globalized. While the Spanish-American War was sold to the American people as a war to "liberate" Cuba from Spanish colonialism, the anti-Spanish Cuban rebel army was not permitted to participate in the Spanish colonial surrender in Havana. The U.S. Army occupied Cuba until the Cubans had put into their Constitution provisions demanded by Sen. Orville Platt, Republican of Connecticut and frank exponent of imperialism, giving the U.S. the "right" to veto Cuban treaties, trade, and loan agreements with foreign powers and intervene militarily in Cuba, all in the name of "protecting" Cuban "self-determination" and Independence.
This policy became the model for direct and long-term U.S. intervention with gunboats and marines throughout central America and the Caribbean over the next 35 years. While the policy was liberalized under Franklin Roosevelt, who repudiated direct military intervention, withdrew marines, and advocated a "good neighbor" policy of encouraging both economic and social reforms and Pan American solidarity, in practice, the U.S. continued to support its corporations and dictatorships that were friendly to those corporations. Even under Roosevelt, indirect U.S. intervention was essential to the overthrow of a liberal revolution in the mid 1930s and the establishment of the Batista dictatorship, which the Cuban people led by Fidel Castro and his fellow revolutionary fighters finally overthrew in 1959. Roosevelt, who was capable of being both frank and had a remarkable sense of humor, referred to leaders like Batista in Cuba and Trujillo in the Dominican Republic and Somoza in Nicaragua as "a son of a bitch but our son of a bitch."
When it became clear to the Eisenhower administration in late 1959 that Fidel and his followers wouldn't simply "face reality" and dampen down the revolution, and become "our son of bitch," the economic war, attempted military invasion, sinister and occasionally comical assassination attempt and raids and sabotage against Cuba were launched and continued for many years.
Cuba survived I would say because its revolution remained close to the people. In spite of the economic war, which amounted to attempted strangulation, in spite of the chronic shortages of many goods, it has achieved spectacular developmental gains in health care, education, general social development, all in the context of a full employment planned socialist economy. One can only imagine how much more Cuba could accomplish for its own people if it had as a friend a progressive America that would both co-exist and cooperate with it, not only ending the blockade but working with Cuba and the newly emerging socialist oriented governments of Latin America to make Franklin Roosevelt's "Good Neighbor"policy and support for Pan-American solidarity a twenty-first century reality. Since U.S. imperialism began in Latin America, and Cuba played such a large role in its historical development, reversing it in Cuba and in Latin America would be a giant step to reversing it globally.
George Bush, running around Africa and running into people who are chanting Obama at him, made a predictable and hilarious statement about Fidel's resignation today. He called it a step in the transition to "democracy" and demanded "democratic elections" not the kind of elections that the "Castro brothers" have been "foisting" on Cuba (why he threw in Raul I don't know, but it may have some deep Freudian meaning connected to his Brother Jeb).
Actually, for Bush to call for democratic elections anywhere, given the stealing of the 2000 election and the still unresolved questions about the Ohio vote in the 2004 election is a little bit like his friend the late Ken Lay of Enron demanding full investigations and strict prosecutions of corporate corruption.
The ruling circles of U.S. imperialism have especially hated Fidel Castro, I think because he beat them over and over again at their own propaganda games. Immediately after the revolution, before it assumed its socialist character, he went on the Ed Sullivan Show. He desegregated the big tourist hotels in Havana (segregated not for Cubans as such but for rich especially Southern American guests) and advertised the hotels in African American communities. At the famous 1960 meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, when U.S. media was vilifying him, he stayed at Harlem's Hotel Theresa. During the Bay of Pigs invasion, he personally led Cuban forces and rallied the Cuban people. He escaped assassination attempt after assassination attempt, some very narrowly. During the "Mariel boatload" which right-wing Cuban exile groups and the U.S. sought to use to destroy the Cuban revolution, he let people leave, including significant numbers of criminals who then became a major problem for American cold warriors who initially welcomed them as "refugees" from "Communist totalitarianism." In the aftermath of the dismemberment of the Soviet Union, when everything became much more difficult, he and the Cuban people stood their ground, to the amazement of both friends and enemies throughout the world.
Fidel Castro has long been a hero to many millions of people in Latin America, workers, peasants, and progressive intellectuals. As an historian, I suspect he will go down in history as the most significant and positive Latin American leader in the 20th century, just as I know that George W. Bush is in a very close race with James Buchanan to go down as the worst president in U.S. history.