By Sam King
Cuba is routinely attacked and maligned in the capitalist-owned mass media. It is subject to a strangulating economic blockade by the United States. It is even militarily occupied by the US – which has held the Guantanamo Bay naval base since 1903.
The extreme imperialist hostility is not just some misguided policy or unfortunate accident. It is for very good reason that the most powerful capitalist government in the world wants to crush the small island and its people. They have committed the crime of showing that the oppression and exploitation we see around the world today is not inevitable.
Popular and Socialist
The Cuban revolution is certainly popular. There is no possible way a tiny island, just 90 miles from the US coast, could survive against the might of US imperialism for over sixty years, if it were not a profound movement involving the overwhelming majority of people on the island.
The Cuban revolution is also socialist. After defeating a blood-thirsty US backed military dictatorship, in 1960 the revolution took the large farms, waters, factories, shops, oil refineries, hotels, the telecommunications system and other “capital” out of the hands of private capitalist former owners (like the Bacardi family) and put all major resources in the hands of Cuba’s working majority. This is the fundamental ingredient for all of Cuba’s world-famous social achievements that came after.
Imperialism’s Failure to Crush Cuba
The imperialist economic blockade against Cuba is extreme and crippling. The legacy of colonialism and semi-colonial underdevelopment up until 1959 is perhaps the most debilitating force working against the country. Yet, despite all this, in terms of human and social development, Cuba somehow stands head and shoulders above other countries of the Global South. In many ways, it even stands above the rich, imperialist countries like Australia, Japan and the US.
The Cuban Revolution has a rich history, that all serious revolutionaries need to study. The following are just a few examples of Cuba’s world beating victories – achieved under blockade – that humiliate even the richest capitalist countries.
Free Education and a Healthy Population
Cuba offers free education from elementary school through university. The adult literacy rate in Cuba is 99 percent (according to UNESCO), the second highest in the world.
Healthcare is also free, and Cuba has the highest ratio of doctors to patients in the world at 6.7 doctors per 1,000 people. Life expectancy in Cuba is 80.45 years for women and 76.50 years for men. That is close to the longest in the world and longer than the United States. The 2017 infant mortality was 4.0 per 1,000 live births – one of the best in the world.
Under Cuba’s constitution “any form of discrimination harmful to human dignity” is prohibited and gender reassignment surgeries have been available under its national healthcare, free of charge, since 2008.
World Leading Research
After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 (which had been Cuba’s main trade partner) and still subject to the crippling US economic blockade, Cuba sought to develop its people in whatever ways were still possible. That saw the beginning of what would become highly successful Cuban pharmaceutical, biotechnology and software development industries.
In 2015, the World Health Organisation reported that Cuba had become the first country to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis. That was achieved using Cuban technology.
Cuba has developed a lung cancer vaccine, called CimaVax, which is now even undergoing clinical trials for release in the USA. Cuba has also produced effective vaccines for cholera, malaria, meningitis B, hepatitis B, dengue, Covid-19 and more.
In November 2019, the United Nations estimated that there were over 30,000 Cuban doctors active in over 67 countries. Since 1969, a total of 325,710 Cuban health workers have participated in missions in 158 countries. At any given time, it is often the case that more Cuban doctors are stationed overseas doing critical medical work than the number provided by every other country in the world combined. For example, far away Cuba has done far more to develop the health care system in Timor Leste than Australia has ever done.
Prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba not only sent doctors overseas, but also its military. Most importantly, Cuba sent a large volunteer army to Angola in 1975 to support the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) and confront an invading army of the South African Apartheid regime.
The Cuban and MPLA forces eventually defeated the all-white army, forcing South Africa to withdraw from Angola and Namibia. This was one of the decisive blows that eventually led to the complete defeat of Apartheid in 1994. Cuba’s selfless contribution was acknowledged by Nelson Mandela when he visited Cuba in 1991, soon after his release from prison.
Cuba as a Threat
Obviously, none of these inspiring examples would have been possible had Cuba remained a capitalist country. Why would any capitalist ruling class pursue policies that put people before profits?
At the same time, nobody could expect a small Caribbean Island to develop some perfect model for humanity’s future. No one country could ever achieve that. There are plenty of serious problems in Cuba – especially since the pandemic. Marxists argue that true human liberation can only come with revolution in the advanced countries – like Australia, the US, Japan and Europe.
Yet Cuba’s remarkable achievements, despite everything, remain a powerful indication of what is possible. If Cuba can do all of that, imagine what could be achieved by a revolution that expropriated the capitalists in a rich industrialised country like France or Australia, or the USA. Imagine what humanity will be able to achieve when working people take power in every country and we finally begin to organise our labour and resources towards human needs.