The Guardian • Issue #2064

Learning from Cuba

  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2064

Really standing up to the US is something Australia could do, but which the vast majority of our media and both our largest political parties – for all their chest-puffing talk of “sovereignty” – treat as a total impossibility. Cuba has done it. Cuba shows that actual independence and actual socialism are achievable. Cuba has a flourishing culture and a health system that puts ours to shame and shows up the US health system for the criminal catastrophe it is.

Cuba is an inspiration. It’s also a warning. There is a price to pay for standing up to the US. The last time Australia tried that, under the Whitlam government, we had a coup. Whitlam wanted to nationalise resources and was far too independent on military matters for the USA’s liking – so Australia wound up with an unelected government running the country with both topics very much off the table. The lesson has been learned by the supposed party of the workers, and the Australian Labor Party is very careful to let the US know that Labor’s idea of sovereignty now amounts to joining in on the United States’ campaign to encircle and stifle China.

The Cuban people have been standing up to the US since 1959, and have more than paid the price, with a blockade designed to starve Cuban people into kowtowing to the self-styled “land of the free.” If freedom was the USA’s concern, it wouldn’t be propping up Israel’s apartheid in Palestine, or the Egyptian military dictatorship, not to mention all the anti-freedom dictatorships which have grown fat on US aid in the 64 years since the Cuban revolution.

The blockade of Cuba is not about freedom. It’s about power. Unlike military regimes around the world which receive active encouragement or a mild “tut-tut” from the USA, Cuba is a challenge to US power and the hyper-capitalist US system. A short boat ride from the United States is a society where money can’t buy power and where nobody has to choose between poverty and health.

Many Guardian readers will remember the TV series Breaking Bad, in which an Alberquerque high school science teacher, faced with ruin and humiliation because of the cost of cancer treatments, becomes a drug manufacturer and is rapidly corrupted. This tragic story could not have been made in Cuba, where healthcare is a right, not a luxury.

A doctor known to the Guardian staff told of a friend in the US who did all the right things by the country’s health system. He had a good job and paid a lot for health insurance. He died of an entirely preventable disease because his insurance company refused three times to pay for a test he needed and fobbed him off with a less expensive – but useless – test. This would not happen in Cuba. The USA exports weapons and military bases. Cuba exports doctors and teachers.

Another area Cuba can teach richer countries a lot about is climate change, in the areas of adaption and mitigation. Previous Guardians have described the “organoponics” farming systems by which Cuba feeds its people. Nobody goes hungry.

Cuba could also teach us something about democracy. The recently introduced Family Code went through extensive genuine community consultation all throughout the island before being voted on. Unlike in Australia, where politicians who own an average of 1.34 investment properties per person look forward to a nice pension after they leave Parliament, Cuban politicians keep their day jobs while in office, and get the same pension as the people they represent.

Fidel Castro once said that revolution can’t be exported because it is impossible to export the objective conditions that make revolution possible. The Communist Party of Australia looks to Cuba as an inspiration rather than as a model to copy.

The Cuban people have shown that there is a price to pay for achieving real independence and socialism.   They’ve also shown that the price is worth paying.

Viva Cuba! End the blockade!

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