Rapprochement in Havana or Intended Regime Change? America’s Kiss of Death

Opening the US embassy in Havana is a transparent effort at stifling/arresting the Cuban revolution as it consolidates its domestic achievements and transitions to a more stable Latin American setting, one no longer tyrannized over by American financial-commercial-military dominance. This is not the 1960s. Cuba is not alone in the region. US intervention has to be less blunt, more crafty, though still insidious in its hatred of a free people creating their own society. (What I saw a decade ago has not changed, a world-class medical system, people whether in the cities or in the mountains with dignity and strength written on their faces, children at the center of the social system.)

Considering US efforts to isolate and punish Cuba over the last half-century-plus and the tendency of any revolution to stabilize often at the expense of its inner vision, I think that Cuba in world historical terms has done well for itself, much to a gnashing of teeth in Washington unused to resistance of this quality and kind. Why couldn’t the little varmints behave, so we could have Batista-like fleshpots, agribusiness and mining investment, and supply an abundance of arms to put down labor agitators, opposition political figures, and incipient revolutionists? The demonization of Fidel, worthy of the present demonization of Putin, confirmed in 1959—not that by then a confirmation was needed—America’s global counterrevolutionary role. Cuba must not be allowed to happen. Yet it did, proximity to the US all the more intolerable.

From those early days we see already the interior mental workings of the proto-fascistic mind, a built-in domino theory and effect in which failure to stop Cuba in its tracks will have Cuban hordes invading Miami (ironically, the ultra-Right rather than the Left, and less an invasion than seeking protection and companionship of Americans having the same ideological persuasion), so that a toughened-out posture was absolutely necessary if the US was to save face in the remainder of its world military/business adventurism. If Fidel were to be allowed to succeed, America would suffer irremediable damage both as a unilateral power source and in the eyes of its imperialist colleagues. Hence, under Kennedy, the Cuban missile crisis shortly thereafter—yes, saying goodnight to our young son and the babysitter as we went off to a concert in New Haven, not knowing whether we would see them alive again.

US presidents play for keeps, all the more testimony to the tenacity of the Cuban people to have survived (and continue to) in the face of pressures few others, notably Vietnam, have been able to withstand. The Yankee Colossus shaped the future of Latin America for quite some time—e.g., dictatorships in Brazil, Argentina, and Chile, along with Central American death squads, CIA and other covert activities rife throughout—yet Cuba remained free and comparatively unbloodied. Why expect any change now, precisely when the US is on another international rampage, prepared, in the same suicidal mindset exhibited by Kennedy, to see to completion the staring down, isolation, and dismemberment of China and Russia? Obama and, regrettably, Kerry, who carries water for him, have emerged, even more than their predecessors, as world-class spoilers, spoilers of a democratized global structure in which the impoverished and disadvantaged masses, brought to that plight largely through US actions, provide illustration and warning of what to expect following today’s ceremony in Havana. With regime change the dominating political instinct and policy framework of the Obama administration, one sympathetic to the Cuban revolution and the Cuban people can only urge caution—and a thorough awareness of America’s past conduct and future direction.

America will not lie down, particularly given its humongous military investment and corresponding now bred-in-the-bone militarism, and watch the world power system become decentered, nor relinquish its own hegemonic global aspirations, still less sit idly by while its structure of advanced capitalism face unaccustomed challenges in world financial and commercial markets—and internal parasitic-exploitive mode of economic growth proving destructive of growth because the breeding ground for unemployment and rising poverty. When in trouble, the age-old imperialist wisdom is, Project Outward, postpone if not dissolve contradiction through a forcible market penetration and parallel campaign of diverting the attention of the masses to that end. Cuba is a test case in contradiction-resolution, an exercise in ego-building (aka domination) through the politically sadistic pleasure of bashing the weaker party, especially rewarding when done in the name of peace.

New York Times reporter Michael R. Gordon’s article, “Kerry to strike Delicate Balance in Havana for Flag-Raising,” Aug. 14, is, like Kerry’s remarks, hardly balanced for he writes that the Kerry visit “reflects the balance that the Obama administration is trying to strike between working with an authoritarian government and supporting Cuba’s beleaguered dissidents.” Not much wiggle-room here for crediting the integrity and gains of the Cuban revolution, Gordon portraying Cuba as a totalitarian regime, period. And Kerry is not much help, specifically calling on Cuba to facilitate and encourage Cuban capitalism, as in “the president has taken steps to ease restrictions on remittances, on exports and imports to help Cuban private entrepreneurs,” or again, “we urge the Cuban government to make it less difficult to start businesses, to engage in trade,” or, as he notes, in an off-the-wall view of the economic embargo, that both parties need to make concessions: “the embargo has always been something of a two-way street. Both sides need to remove restrictions that have been holding Cubans back.” As though, somehow, Cuba has inflicted equal pain on the US.

Gordon, alert to the nuances of Kerry’s address, deplores Cuba’s alleged recalcitrance on the embargo front: “Many of the steps that the United States is taking to encourage political and economic change here [tacit if genteel admission of regime change on modal economic lines] will fall short unless the Cuban government makes reciprocal moves.” The Cuban policy is one grand recitation of encouragements: the policy “encourages telecommunication companies,” “also seeks to encourage entrepreneurship,” and “seeks to encourage financial transactions between the United States and Cuba,” in all three cases demanding changes in Cuban policy, as in commissions on changing dollars into pesos.

Where US rhetoric founders in self-serving bathos is when Kerry declares, “Cuba’s future is for Cubans to decide,” and then, steeped in layers of coded meaning, he goes on: “the people of Cuba would be best served by a genuine democracy [i.e., once for all an end to Fidel and Raul, and open to US NGOs’ funding and influence], express their ideas and practice their faith [i.e., a restoration of pre-revolutionary values and the role of the Church as it was, not as, now, under Pope Francis],” etc. When he adds, and “where the commitment to economic and social justice is realized more fully; where institutions are answerable to those they serve; and where civil society is independent and allowed to flourish,” one wonders, on all three counts, what model he could possibly have in mind, certainly not the US, where the commitment to economic and social justice is perhaps at a long-term low since the New Deal, where the responsiveness of institutions to the people is a nonstarter in today’s Age of Disconnect, and an independent civil society, free from business dominance and a militarist ethos, is a chimera.

My New York Times Comment on the Gordon article, same date, follows:

To strike a balance between an authoritarian government and beleaguered dissidents: It’s gratifying to see The Times’s unbiased word-choice. In truth, NYT is back with its correspondent Ruby Phillips in 1959, distorting the news, engaging in polemics, jumping feet first into the Cold War–as it is also doing now.

Allegations of communism back in style, a faithful reproduction of State Dept./Obama policy and thinking. I pray that Cuba enters into these relations with eyes wide-open, for the US obviously has ulterior motives, to wit, regime change, financial-commercial penetration, cleansing Latin America of putative subversion.

What would satisfy the US? My guess, privatization of the health system coupled with corporate control of sugar, and, bringing the Cuban people to their knees, forcing the recantation of socialism. Otherwise, US-Cuba relations will remain strained. Posing a structural-cultural alternative so close to the American shore is as welcome as the plague, for it becomes a reminder of how savage US global policy is, and how unequal the US social system at home.

Norman Pollack Ph.D. Harvard, Guggenheim Fellow, early writings on American Populism as a radical movement, prof., activist.. His interests are social theory and the structural analysis of capitalism and fascism. He can be reached at pollackn@msu.edu.