Cuba, imperialism and democracy

Image: Magda Ehlers


Who is interested in keeping Cuba on the list of terrorist states

I have friends in Cuba, where I've never been. And whenever I tried to have a conversation with the people there, it started well, but it ended badly. One reason: despite my immense solidarity with the struggles unfolding on the Island, especially since the 1950s, I never thought that they had reached socialism. Beyond what men and women could do, historical circumstances were more favorable to José Martí than to the Moor. Which is already impressive. By its virtues and even limitations, the Cuban Revolution contributes enormously to demonstrating the possibility of socialism and much more.

Starting with the limitations, the situation that has accompanied the Cuban process contributes to the examination of how a society in the midst of such a situation of scarcity cannot even contribute to the environmental catastrophe that devastates the planet. Pedreira which, on the other hand, did not prevent it from presenting several very positive social indicators, sometimes the best in Latin America. And I hope it contributes to bringing to light a topic that is a serious candidate for the gold medal of those rejected by the Social Sciences: that of the relationship between democracy and imperialism, especially in the current phase of the latter and in the face of the impasses of the former.

Attributing importance to the theme does not imply only usefulness, just as recognizing the importance of liberal democracy does not necessarily lead to the conclusion that political regimes in which certain presidents are elected at the beginning of the XNUMXst century AD are the end point of a long march since the first hominids came down from the trees. Finally, studying imperialism does not imply demonizing peoples or countries such as, for example, the English, the Japanese or the United States of America.

Blacksmith's house, wooden skewer

According to a stream of authors, not even ten years have passed and, in Cuba, the absence of multipartyism and state ownership of companies were, once again, lethal to freedoms and democracy.

The problem is that the very defense of freedoms and democracy was the justification presented by President Kennedy for the failed invasion of Cuba, which he, newly elected by the Democratic Party, authorized in April 1961. An invasion prepared during the republican's second term Eisenhower against a revolution that overthrew the dictatorship of Fulgêncio Batista, whose coup d'état, carried out in 1953, was supported by the republican president Eisenhower. The same that would continue, in close articulation with the military right, the mercantile-banking bourgeoisie and a pool of political parties, the infernal offensive against the important Vargas government (well elected in 1950), which, practically deposed, committed suicide in August from 1954.

Two months earlier, the young Guevara, passing through Guatemala, witnessed the overthrow of the Jacobo Arbenz government by the coup in which the participation of the US company United Fruit contributed to popularize the affectionate expression “banana republic”. For lack of space, I just observe that, in that same year of 1954, the USA took the first steps to replace the defeated French colonial-imperialism in the so-called Indochina, which would lead to the traumatic war against Vietnam. During this long conflict, the two parties fraternally alternated in “power” and participated in the overthrow of three governments in South America: Goulart, Allende and Isabel Peron. This list of interventions around the world is far from exhaustive.

How about we reverse the question? Fifty-nine years ago, when the blockade of Cuba began, how much were freedoms and democracy in the US?

Blacksmith's house, wooden skewer.

The admirable struggles for civil rights advanced, but it was not the time and place for Martin Luther King to tell that he dreamed of the integration of black people into a liberal democracy (August 1963), three years and three months for the wish to receive legal protection . And more than half a century before, in Minneapolis, black worker George Floyd stopped breathing.

Problem: Lyndon Johnson, the same president who signed the Civil Rights (and political, as well as several social) law, ordered meticulous support for the 1964 coup in Brazil, the starting point of a dictatorship that, always in the name of freedoms and democracy , lasted until 1985 and, as we suffered, left sequels and nostalgia. And – to boot – it deepened US involvement in the Vietnam War.

A map of democracy

Several studies empirically demonstrate that liberal democracies, even very backward and in crisis, only exist when articulated to capitalism and more than one political party. I will only address, by way of example, a book that has already become a classic on the subject and has wide circulation in university circles in much of the world, including Brazil. I refer to Models of Democracy, by Arend Liphart (Civilização Brasileira, 2003), who maps this regime in the world in 1995, when the so-called third wave of democratization (Huntington) was strong. For this well-done survey, the author had the collaboration of important researchers from much of the world.

Even so, I briefly cite some theoretical problems that relate to the theme of this article.

From the famous definition of democracy attributed to Lincoln, Lijphard adds “by the people” (by the people) an alternative: “in the case of representative democracy, government by (by) representatives of the people”. The immediate result is that the author leaves aside any reference to important real and potential contradictions intrinsic to contemporary societies, including contradictions strongly determined by the different insertions in the international system. In a book of 380 pages (369 in the 2nd edition in English), the author does not once refer to exploitation/class domination, imperialism or dependency. And to put democracies on the map, he uncritically draws on the reports of the Freedom House (notoriously linked to imperialism) published since 1972, which assign each country on the planet one of three classifications: “free”, “partially free”, “not free” (Lijphart, 69-70).

The author lists, for decades, from 1945 onwards, the democracies that, until 1996, had lasted at least 19 years. The seven countries that joined in 1945 were all, with the exception of Canada, European. During the period, that is, until 1977 (19 years before 1996), there was some diversification, but the pattern remained: more than half (19) in Europe, one in continental Africa (Tanzania), two in the vastness of the continent Asia (Israel and India), also two in North America (Canada and USA), one in Central America (Costa Rica), two in South America (Colombia and Venezuela). If the Old World was saved by Europe, the New turned around thanks to four Caribbean islands: Barbados, Jamaica, Bahamas and Trinidad-Tobago. In Oceania, Australia and two sparsely inhabited islands, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, are also on the map of democracy.

With that, we come to the second particularity. Even if we remove, due to their political and economic importance, the United Kingdom, Japan and Australia from the “island” group, there would still remain ten small political paradises surrounded by water on all sides, that is, 36% of the total number of democracies .

imperialism and democracy

The third observation has to do directly with the theme of this article. All imperialist countries are included in the short list organized by Liphard. And none that adopted, at that moment, anti-imperialist positions.

Chance? Or is it worth considering the hypothesis that, since the beginning of the Cold War, there has been a correlation between the political regimes of each country and the mode of insertion of these into the imperialist current on a planetary scale? In this period, there was, at the very least, a strong tendency for imperialist countries to adopt liberal democracy; and, on the other hand, the “flexibility” of dependents in relation to political regimes was maintained. Which, at least, provides the goop of eternal youth to these democracies that are always “in formation”, therefore “fragile”.

Does this insertion in the imperialist current occur as if they were billiard balls on a flat table where they only touch epidermally? Or, on the contrary, are there important links between the internal relations of a dependent social formation and the – shall we say – asymmetries in the international system?

Since the Cold War, the US has assumed the role of benevolent sheriff (?), always intervening in the defense of freedoms and democracy across the planet, even if this leads to the destruction of countries (Libya, Iraq), long-standing dictatorships and high lethality (Indonesia, Chile), structures that keep countries of immense potential as places of extreme inequality (Brazil, whose HDI is lower than that of Cuba), attempts to make a country retroact to the Stone Age (Vietnam), excellent relations with philosophic dictatorships , who survived for two decades after the end of World War II (Portugal and Spain)? Just one more concrete and well-known example: the big Brazilian media, together with the dominant internal and external social forces, USA at the head, actively participated in the 1964 coup (by the way, to avoid a “new Cuba” of great proportions). .

Yes, the thesis that liberal democratic countries have not fought with each other since the beginning of the Cold War is empirically correct, because before that, given the insufficiency of the sample, it would not make sense to touch on the subject. But there is also a close relationship between US hegemony in the imperialist camp, which includes a strong military presence, and peace within the camp. Hegemony in visible crisis – just turn on the tv – whose outcome is still very difficult to assess.

What about Cuba?

The problems arising from the strong geopolitical changes that accompanied the current phase of imperialism and left the Island in an extremely unfavorable situation are for another article. I just observe that the Eurasian countries that remained from the old and disunited field that claimed to be socialist have trimmed their edges and form, in the current phase of imperialism, a much more cohesive bloc, geopolitically contiguous, militarily respectable and with very pragmatic lines of action in the international field. .

Cuba, without natural wealth, without development of productive forces, without military power, with tourism on the rocks, so far removed from China and so close to the United States, was left with the difficult role of being a gauche in life.

What I highlight at the moment is that there, unlike what happened, for example, in Chile, the process of popular participation, despite the smaller range, crossed the threshold of liberal democracy. And, although until now, no political force has made it retroact below this limit, there was a great loss of momentum due to the difficulties of advancing in the direction of socialism. For example, the great challenge not faced by attempts at socialist revolution is to find the means of implementing a popular and proletarian multi-party system, without which the risk of merging party and state becomes exponential. On the other hand, in a state of war with the greatest political-military power on the planet, as has been the situation in Cuba since 1961, the pluriparty experiment entails extreme vulnerability. Just a brief examination of the role played by the UDN, a good part of the PSD, the PSP and even the PTB during a government that had nothing revolutionary, like the Brazilian one between 1961 and 1964. Even in two-party and multi-party bourgeois systems, as in the USA and England, the parties in government remained the same during both world wars.

On the other hand, for those who severely criticize the Cuban political regime, how far is popular participation in decisions taken by the Brazilian state? And the American? What is the quality of democracy in Colombia? And in the countries of the European Union? What is the political regime of Qatar, the pleasant host of the next World Cup? How scientific is the 2021 report of the Freedom House, in which Haiti appears as “partly free” and Cuba, as usual, “not free”? There's a blockade!

Popular participation in political decisions in Cuba, although it has advanced (and retreated) during the last sixty years, has not been able to produce a system of party representation congruent with a socialist revolutionary process that, incidentally, stalled. But, let's face it, it is in extremely bad taste to compare a party system like the one that generates Centrão all the time, including in the 1987-8 Constituent Assembly, with the Cuban participatory system. Was the Eldorado dos Carajás massacre in Cuba? Where is Amarildo? How much longer to find out who killed Marielle, of proletarian origin, black woman and activist of a party that proclaims itself anti-capitalist? When were free enterprise and multipartyism vital for the deepening of democracy in Brazil? After 32 years of the deepest and longest-lasting liberal democracy in this country, the unemployed, discouraged and underemployed number tens of millions of Brazilians (do we add their dependents?). But, of course, the apex of political development is liberal democracy.

And above the equator? How many black men and women couldn't breathe before (and after) that murder in Minneapolis? Even because they were, as if they were strange fruits, hanging from trees, which happened again in the throes of phase 1 trumpism.

I had left a few words about Cuba's admirable foreign policy for the end, but the text got long and that too is for another article. I just anticipate that, whether in terms of education, health or even the military, Cuban internationalism over these six decades, including after the implosion of the Soviet bloc, is an asset of the civilizing process.

But, in this period, even due to the difficulties of the bigger opponent, the situation is extremely serious.

Who is interested in keeping Cuba on the list of terrorist states? Is this blockade, like so many others, not the real terrorism? What prevents the critical intelligentsia from opposing it?

All solidarity with the Cuban people!

* Lucio Flávio Rodrigues de Almeida is a professor at the Department of Social Sciences at PUC-SP.


See this link for all articles