Friday, January 2, 2009

Raul in Santiago

Raul Castro marked the 50th anniversary of the Cuban revolution in Santiago with a reflective speech that used the word “communist” only once. He engaged in no Marxist theorizing about stages of history or where Cuba stands dialectically in the construction of socialism. Instead he described the revolution, as his brother has done many times, as the culmination of the fight for independence that Cuba began in the 19th century.

[AP’s coverage of the “toned-down festivities” that occurred “under the enduring public absence of Fidel Castro” is here. The Herald’s Cuban Colada provides this link to The New York Times of January 2, 1959 where you can see an image of the front page and read R. Hart Phillips’ dispatch on Batista’s flight, the impending naming of Urrutia as president, and the scene in Havana.]

Raul looked back to the revolutionary struggle five decades ago and recalled that, six decades earlier, Cuba had won its independence from Spain but fell immediately into the “absolute domination of the nascent U.S. imperialism, which didn’t delay in showing its true aims in blocking the [Cuban] Liberating Army from entering this city [Santiago].”

“For us it was clear that armed struggle was the only way,” he continued. “We revolutionaries considered again, as Marti had done before, the dilemma of the necessary war for independence that was left unfinished in 1898. The Rebel Army took up again the arms of the mambises [the 19th century rebels against Spain] and after the triumph transformed itself forever into the undefeated Revolutionary Armed Forces.”

Raul looked to the next 50 years and warned of difficulties. He cited Fidel’s November 2005 warning that the revolution could destroy itself from within. He recalled that “one after another,” all U.S. administrations have tried “to force a regime change” in Cuba, “in one way or another, with more or less aggressiveness.” He acknowledged failures – “there are too many past and recent examples” – and declared that “we revolutionaries are our own main critics.”

His generation’s duty, he said, is “to prepare the new generations to assume the enormous responsibility of carrying the revolutionary process forward.” In that, unity will be the guidepost; again tying the revolution to the 19th century independence struggle, he said: “Since October 10, 1868, disunity was the fundamental cause of our defeats. As of January 1, 1959, unity, forged by Fidel, has been the guarantee of our victories.”

Cuba has certainly had its share of external enemies, so it’s natural that they would be discussed on an occasion such as this. And the link between the barbudos of 1959 and the mambises of 1898 has been made many times, starting when the first shot was fired against Batista’s forces. One can debate whether that link is made from conviction or political expediancy (or both), and one can debate the degree to which it resonates with Cubans in 2009.

But the speech leaves me wondering how Raul Castro or his successors will act, what they will say, and how they will locate Cuba in history if, sometime in the next few years or the next fifty, there is no more external enemy.


Anonymous said...

Lo que dirán o harán, lo saben solo unos pocos... Ahora, sería razonable pensar que la Revolución cubana sin su "enemigo histórico" habría "triunfado"????????? What´s your point?

Muchos saludos, MMF81.

Anonymous said...

"But the speech leaves me wondering how Raul Castro or his successors... will locate Cuba in history if... there is no more external enemy."

Sorry, Phil, but you just don't get it. If the U.S. didn't exist, Fidel and his successors would have to invent it. Hostility to the U.S. has been the bedrock of the Castro regime. Whenever there is a hint of change in the U.S. position, the Castros immediately quash it with a crackdown or more violent means, such as the shooting down of the Brothers to the Rescue planes. If Obama gives a serious hint of a change in U.S. policy, expect a vigorous response from Fidel Castro (who appears to be still running the regime from behind the scenes.) So be prepared for more dead Americans, if that is what is needed to keep the Castro brothers in power.

leftside said...

Anon, you don't get it. If US Imperialism did not exist, then Fidel Castro would not have led a armed Revolution. The fact is that US Imperialism does exist, as Cubans know all too well. Castro is admired around the world for successfully standing up to it.

And the Brothers to the Rescue intent to provoke Havana is what caused those deaths. They (and US authorities) had ample warning that further incursions into Cuban airspace would not be tolerated.