Arnold August: Three Articles on Fidel

Nov 30, 2017 by

Three articles on Fidel

  • One Year Later: Fidel’s Thinking on Cuba-U.S. Relations is Still the Principal Guide, by Arnold August
  • Fidel’s Action and Thinking Confronting Hurricanes Today, by Arnold August
  • Fidel: In the Name of Humanity and the Salvation of our Planet We Continue Forward!! by Danny Glover

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Dear friends,

Allow me to welcome all the many new subscribers to this News Letter. The almost daily increase is very encouraging.

One Year Later: Fidel’s Thinking on Cuba-U.S. Relations is Still the Principal Guide

By Arnold August, published in teleSur November 25, 2017. Also reprinted in Globalization, Alainet, Investig’ Action and others

On Dec. 17, 2014, the world witnessed the simultaneous surprise announcements by presidents Raul Castro and Barack Obama to re-establish diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States after more than five decades. However, the fallacy was floated that this decision represented a step toward “normalization.” On that day, Obama claimed that the move was intended to “begin to normalize relations between our two countries.” Nevertheless, as historic as this decision was regarding the reopening of the respective embassies, it did not at all mean that the path was in fact toward normalization. It was nothing of the sort.

In fact, “normalization” contradicts the very logic behind the announcement (referred to as 17D by the Cubans). Obama indicated that the United States considered its Cuba policy a failure because it did not achieve U.S. goals, among others, of bringing “democracy” to Cuba or of nudging Cuba toward an “open economy” (market economy or capitalism). Nor did the policy succeed – indeed, it backfired – in its objective of isolating Cuba from the rest of Latin America. Consequently, the United States was forced to change its tactics to achieve the same historic goal of bringing the changes to Cuba and increasing its dwindling influence in what it considers to be “its backyard.”

Thus, despite Obama’s assertion, there was no basis at all for believing that a process of normalization was being undertaken. Furthermore, one can refer to a few examples that puncture holes in the star-spangled bubble. First is the ongoing U.S. blockade, which Obama only slightly amended (despite his wide-ranging executive powers, which would have availed him to do far more) while voluntarily imposing a record number of fines on international organizations, financial and otherwise, for trading with Cuba. This, of course, tightened the effect of the blockade.

Second, despite his executive powers to do so (and the Democratic Congressional majority in his first term), he did not close the prison in Guantanamo or return the territory to Cuba. Third, his administration practically outdid all his predecessors in the allotment of funds for CIA-backed subversive “democracy promotion” programs in Cuba. On this point, recently released documents indicate that a massive amount of U.S. CIA-backed funding took place in the years 2014–2016. This, it must be recalled, took place while the Obama administration was negotiating diplomatic ties with Cuba and even after the publicly announced new Cuba policy. Thus, many Cuban authorities and commentators were asking what kind of normalization this was.

Yet, flying in the face of reality, the illusion of “normalization” persisted. Moreover, in early 2016, as Obama was planning his trip to Cuba for March to crown his signature foreign policy legacy, this daydream was enhanced from staid black-and-white to color.

Moreover, during Obama’s actual visit to Havana, the Cuba-U.S. policy fostering the figment of the imagination of “normalization” went even further, turning itself into a high-definition Hollywood blockbuster. Hitting a fever pitch, it was stage-managed to the hilt through the Hollywood-type projection of U.S. imperialism’s new image in the form of Obama and his entourage. During those three days in March, nothing looked more “normal” in the international arena than Cuba-U.S. relations! For some, it consisted of a barely veiled euphoria.

Thus, “normalization” became even further entrenched by some as a fait accompli. By design, seduction replaced open aggression to achieve the five-decade-long elusive goal of breaking down Cuba’s will to bring the archipelago into the realm of U.S. interests. “Aggression” and “seduction” are closely related not only literally but also politically, as they are two sides of the same coin.

Nevertheless, given the high level of political consciousness among the vast majority of Cubans, they were not mesmerized by a pied piper in the form of Obama. Not everyone fell for this. Steeped in Cuban leader Fidel Castro’s ideas, Cuban revolutionaries in the government and the press immediately took up the sword in the form of the pen and the spoken word to deconstruct the Obama narrative. Cuba was abuzz. Nevertheless, it was Fidel himself who dealt a devastating blow to the U.S. daydream of seduction as the new tactic to replace open aggression.

Who can forget the Comandante’s now legendary ironic reflection titled, “Brother Obama,” wherein he ripped apart the Obama narrative? In essence, Obama wanted to win over Cubans (for the first time from the advantageous position of the U.S. operating from within Cuba) to the idea that their future is tied to U.S. benevolence. As Obama said on 17D, “Some of you have looked to us as a source of hope, and we will continue to shine a light of freedom.” This misconception of potential “common values” and interests facilitates the false notion that diplomatic relations combined with a few cosmetic measures lead to “normalization.”

Obama’s evangelical overture to Cubans encompassed the appeal to “leave the past behind. It is time for us to look forward to the future together” –,” as he said in Havana in March 2016, to build the myth of easy compatibility between the two systems. A slide toward mutual conformity could only mean that Cuba would give up its principles. Would the U.S. give up its political and economic system to identify with Cuba and thus facilitate “normalization?”

Fidel’s “Brother Obama” is but one example of many warnings of the U.S. goal to subvert the revolution by changing tactics. This Fidelista idea has been repeated in many forms since 1959. For example, several decades ago, he said, “Even if one day the relations between socialist Cuba and the empire would improve, that empire would not cease to crush the Cuban Revolution.”

To take just one more example, only a month after 17D, Fidel wrote a missive to university students: “I do not trust the policy of the United States, nor have I exchanged one word with them, though this does not in any way signify a rejection of a peaceful solution to conflicts or threats of war.”

Fidel’s thinking can be encapsulated into: yes to the diplomatic relations that Fidel pursued since 1959; but no to trusting the U.S. long-term goal hidden by the normalization mirage ad infinitum.

Fidel passed away a year ago on Nov. 25, 2016, only a few weeks after Trump’s unexpected victory in U.S. elections. The new U.S. administration ushered in a change from Obama’s seductive policy toward a hostile, aggressive narrative coupled with corresponding measures to tighten the blockade while maintaining diplomatic relations as the main feature of the Obama opening.

In the context of the Trump Cuba policy, the tenets of the “normalization” myth – emboldened by the virtual across-the-board majority opposition in the United States and abroad to the Trump Cuba policy – have doubled-down in promoting the myth of “normalization” under Obama. Taking advantage of the fact that Obama looks so immaculate compared with Trump on Cuba, who would dare to argue that Obama did not desire the “normalization” for which he took the first step? Who can shut their eyes to the Obama policy being short-circuited by Trump? Equating Obama with “normalization” is so “politically correct” in some academic circles to the extent that any dissenting commentator is supposed to be intimidated by this hoped-for hegemonic opinion on Cuba-U.S. relations.

Is Fidel’s resistance to the “normalization” narrative as a non-existent silver lining of the cloud no longer valid? Are his crystal-clear ideas on the empire’s opportunistic use of tactical changes to reach the same elusive goals of domination no longer applicable?

Cuba-U.S. relations will never be the same as they were before 17D irrespective of who occupies the White House. U.S. ideological and political incursions into Cuba’s socialist culture, while still relatively marginal, take on new dimensions with fresh devotees. For example, serious observers cannot help but notice among some youth and some self-employed private sector workers the existence of preconceived positive views about U.S. society, culture and even its political system. Consider this as a litmus as to the view that U.S. cultural inroads transcend presidential mandates: Has the proliferation in Havana streets of U.S. flags worn as clothing diminished since the election of Trump and his aggressive rhetoric? No. In fact, this trend’s steady increase shows no sign of let up even though Trump is head of the empire and its visible face along with the flag. The new president is riding on the coattails of the Obama legacy consisting of irruption into Cuban socialist culture.

As a final thought on these days as we acknowledge the validity of Fidel’s thinking: What will happen if the Democrats win back presidential power in 2020? If this trend that currently creates illusions about “normalization” (and its corollary of a political and economic system for Cuba that bears more of a stark resemblance to the U.S. than the Cuban Revolution) continues, what will happen in November 2020? Cuba’s socialist and political system will be the target of an unprecedented and coordinated ideological and political offensive based on the daydream-come-true of “normalization.”

Fidel’s thinking on Cuba-U.S. relations is not only valid today but represents a life-and-death struggle to conserve and expand the Cuban Revolution. Fidel’s ideas constitute the most important point of reference today – and tomorrow – on Cuba-U.S. relations for all of us who are committed to defending the Cuban Revolution.

Not only do his ideas frame the content as the solid and irreplaceable guide, but just as important is the form with which Fidel delivered his thoughts. He courageously stated and wrote what he thought – with precision timing in his delivery – to defend the Cuban Revolution. This was his only criterion.

Fidel’s ideas and his heroic attitude in declaring them are, one year after his passing, more valid than ever. His example stands out not only for Cubans but for revolutionaries around the globe.


Fidel’s Action and Thinking Confronting Hurricanes Today

By Arnold August, as published originally in La Jiribilla.

Also reprinted in Cuban Network in Defense of Humanity, Investig’Action, People’s Voice and others.

November 25, 2017

I arrive from Canada at Havana’s José Martí International Airport on October 22, 2017 around 11:30 p.m. Waiting to receive me is the president of the Cuban Institute of History, René Gonzalez Barrientos. He has come despite my having pleaded with him not to pick me up, given his heavy responsibilities in organizing the October 24–26 Second International Symposium, The Cuban Revolution: Genesis and Historical Development. René insists that, as I am an invited guest, it is his responsibility to do so. Alone with a car and no driver, we haul my heavy baggage loaded with books for a presentation in Cuba’s capital. We are headed to the Communist Party of Cuba’s modest but very hospitable Hotelito.

It is my first visit to Cuba since the devastating Hurricane Irma. After inquiring about his health and that of his wife and family, I ask about the situation in Cuba since Irma. What follows is the equivalent of a keynote address adapted to the conditions of driving a car through Havana late at night.

René points out in a lively and descriptive manner how Cuba recovers as a result of Fidel’s thinking and action on confronting hurricanes, as if one has been present at each of the massive recovery efforts during the many hurricanes that have descended upon the archipelago since 1959. There are several aspects comprising what Fidel called confronting the “natural phenomena coups” (perhaps making reference to the Batista coup d’état, which Cuba overthrew during the Revolution).

One such feature is the Fidel-inspired strategy of maintaining reserves to confront either military or natural incursions into Cuba. It leaves no stone unturned. The outstanding historian and host takes his avid one-person-audience through this experience both in time and space, as confident in his country’s policy as he is in driving in the oftentimes difficult conditions.

From the very first hurricanes that violently shook the palm trees – and much more – after the Triumph of the Revolution, Fidel elaborated his two-pronged thinking: save lives and keep the people informed. Thus, metaphorically speaking, Cuba’s national tree, the royal palm, still stands strong despite repeated aggressions.

We arrive at the Hotelito. René insists on taking the time to ensure that the guest is well received and comfortably settled, overlooking no detail.

It is appropriate to add that due to Fidel’s on-the-spot inspections and encouragement of his people during all the hurricanes, he remains a living legend brought to life once again through the photos that have been published by Cubadebate following Irma’s ravages. Are the Comandante’s actions, like that of his thinking, still valid as an example today?

Yes, his example of self-sacrifice in combatting these “coups” continues to be valid and to flourish. During Irma, for example, from my home in Montreal I watched Cuban television’s excellent interview of a worker in one of the most devastated areas on the north central coast of Cuba. As the worst of the recovery operations was in the process of being completed in his region, he declared in a matter-of-fact manner that he and his brigade of workers were heading to Havana to assist the effort there!

While René may not like the words that follow, given his modesty, it is timely to assert today, as we commemorate the first anniversary of Fidel’s passing, that the passion and depth with which the historian exposed his views on the Fidel tradition of combatting natural disasters also reminds one of Fidel. Thus, René’s work, and that of many other such examples in Cuba, constitutes another proof that Fidel’s work and action remains valid today.

I guess that is why the enemies of the Cuban Revolution today, as they did one year ago, attempt to disparage either directly – or indirectly in a cowardly manner – the validity of Fidel today. However, the Cuban palm trees continue to weather the storm of ongoing Western-led cultural aggression against Cuba’s socialist culture.

Original Source in Spanish in La Jiribilla

Fidel: In the Name of Humanity and the Salvation of our Planet We Continue Forward!!

by Danny Glover Citizen-Artist, published in Cuba Network in Defense of Humanity

I still have vivid memories as a 12-year old of my first real awareness of Fidel and of the Cuban Revolution. I was with my parents and their fellow trade unionists in their post office workplace in San Francisco, California excitedly watching televised visual projections and running commentary about the progressive insurgent victory Fidel led against the Batista dictatorship.

The televised visual dialogue between Fidel and the multitude of Cuban faces and voices was electric and inspiring. For my parents, Civil Rights generation and for my emerging generation of Black Power, progressive multicultural, social justice, and trade union solidarity movements, the commanding images of Fidel and the sincere persuasive pitch of his voice, loomed bold, courageous, and ethical. On this first remembrance of Fidel’s physical death it is highly relevant and above all beneficial to recall and to emphasize his earnest and optimistic approach to living and to dying. I think foremost about his direct contributions to the conquered grounds on which progressive and transformative humanity in Cuba and our culturally diverse world exist today.

Fidel was a catalytic leader. He was unwavering in convening Cuban citizens, progressive social movements and governments across the world to proactively confront and resolve oligarchy-class rule, unjust national debt, pervasive poverty and disease, intensified racial and gender discrimination, and unjust wars. He led with critical self-reflection around new, radical perspectives and approaches, and charted governance and public policies to harness knowledge, culture, and science benefiting the whole of humanity.

We commemorate Fidel’s life as a living-spirit among us that still inspires and guides millions among progressive and revolutionary citizens, social movements and governments to continue to step forward and advance humanity in social and cultural justice, economic welfare, environmental stability, and peace.

Source:  Cuba Network in Defense of Humanity

Best regards,

Arnold August

Arnold August, a Canadian journalist and lecturer, is the author of Democracy in Cuba and the 1997–98 Elections and Cuba and Its Neighbours: Democracy in Motion. Cuba’s neighbours under consideration are on the one hand Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador and on the other hand the U.S. His third book on Cuba is entitled Cuba-U.S. Relations: Obama and Beyond.
Follow Arnold on Twitter @Arnold_August
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