Cuba’s challenge To Fairy Tale Of Western Virtue
Morning Star | Monday, 5 December 2016 | Click here for original article
The media’s treatment of Fidel and Mandela has been very different, but the goal – rewriting history to maintain the crushingly exploitative and yawningly unequal status quo in the world – remains the same, argues BEN CHACKO
THREE years ago, when Fidel Castro’s friend and ally Nelson Mandela died, the effusive tributes of world leaders floated on a chorus of media praise.
The revolutionary who led the Tripartite Alliance of the African National Congress, South African Communist Party and Congress of South African Trade Unions to victory over apartheid was “one of the world’s most revered statesmen,” the BBC declared.
US President Barack Obama hailed an “influential, courageous and profoundly good human being.”
Prime minister David Cameron had gone on a sanctions-busting tour of apartheid South Africa — all expenses paid by Strategy Network International, an organisation specifically set up to lobby against sanctioning the white supremacist regime — while Mandela languished in prison back in the ’80s.
But it didn’t stop him talking up a “true global hero” and ensuring he attended the funeral (if only to take selfies with other Western leaders).
From much of the world, the response to Fidel’s death in the early hours of last Saturday was equally respectful. Flags were flown at half-mast in South Africa, China’s president praised his “immortal contributions to socialism,” Russia noted that he had made Cuba “an inspiring example to many nations.”
But not over here. Theresa May did not even comment, while the monopoly media quickly went on the offensive, taking pot shots at Cuba’s late “dictator,” comparing Cuba’s liberator from the sleazy tyranny of Batista and colonial subservience to the United States to the murderous US stooge Augusto Pinochet.
The sniping extended even to parts of the left, and anyone who dared to voice appreciation for one of the most iconic leaders of the postwar world sparked outrage — Canada’s Prime Minister
Justin Trudeau was harried into qualifying an initially dignified tribute to Fidel with an unseemly dig at him within days.
Why the difference?
Mandela himself was in no doubt that he and Fidel were comrades. He was open about the fact that the Cuban revolution of 1959 had inspired his own Long Walk to Freedom.
He acknowledged the “special place in the hearts of the people of Africa” reserved for the Cuban people, who under Fidel’s leadership had contributed so much to the anti-apartheid struggle when white-minority rule was backed, bankrolled and armed by Washington and London.
Perhaps the man who saluted “the sacrifices of the Cuban people in maintaining their independence in the face of the vicious imperialist-orchestrated campaign to destroy the Cuban revolution,” adding “we too want to control our own destiny,” would not have been surprised at the vitriol spewed at Castro after his death. He might have found the tributes paid by those same imperialists at his own burial far more grating.
The media’s treatment of Fidel and Mandela has been very different, but the goal — rewriting history to maintain the crushingly exploitative and yawningly unequal status quo in the world — remains the same.
South Africa’s Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande once told the Morning Star of his anger at the way Mandela emerges in Western narratives isolated from the movement he was part of and stripped of his anti-imperialist politics: “The historical context of apartheid and the revolutionary nature of the struggle against it did not feature. As if Mandela stood alone. As if he was not a member, a cadre, a soldier.”
A dangerous revolutionary was sanitised and disarmed; defenders of the West could ignore its historical support for apartheid and the international role played by socialist countries — foremost among them Cuba, but also the Soviet Union — in fighting it. And it could “separate Mandela from his comrades and successors in order to attack South Africa.”
The challenge Cuba poses to the fairy tale of Western virtue is starker and, in this era of collapsing faith in the liberal Establishment, impossible to accommodate.
Not since the demise of European socialism in 1989 has confidence in capitalism been so shaken in its heartlands. The surrender of social-democratic parties to neoliberalism over the 1990s and 2000s has fatally undermined them.
Since the economic crash of 2008, people have been more and more willing to question the underlying assumptions of the capitalist state and the market economy — hence the return of radical left politics, exemplified in Britain by Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party.
And to a world questioning capitalism, what a dangerous example Cuba represents.
A small country, impoverished by a crushing blockade imposed by the most powerful nation on the planet for more than half a century — yet a country which has not only created world-class education and health systems, but sends doctors to heal the sick and give sight to the blind the world over.
A nation so magnanimous that in 2006 it even restored the vision of the man who, 39 years beforehand, had killed its hero Che Guevara.
A supposedly backward country — but such a giant of world medicine that in 2015 it became the first to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
A country that defied all the logic of global realpolitik to change the balance of forces in Africa against colonialism with decisive interventions in Angola and Namibia that changed the face of history.
“What country has ever needed help from Cuba and not received it?” Mandela asked. Not one.
Cuba’s message is beautifully simple, encapsulated in a single poster slogan: Another world is possible.
It’s the belief that motivates resistance to exploitation, poverty, war and the ruin of our natural environment the world over.
Fidel took opposition to injustice further than most, developing his revolutionary passion into a Marxist understanding that effective resistance means resisting the system.
It is capitalism that relies on exploitation to function, that causes poverty by concentrating wealth in fewer and fewer hands, that depends on the endless expansion which sparks wars and degrades the planet we live on.
Capitalism is inherently incapable of solving any of the problems we face — and while it lasts, they will all continue to worsen.
It’s that which makes it so important for Western politicians and media to slander and rubbish Fidel’s memory and his magnificent achievements.
Our responsibility will be to tell the truth about Fidel and about Cuba, and to stand in solidarity with the Cuban people in the face of a renewed assault on their revolution. Its continued success is needed not just for Cubans, but for all of us.
Ben Chacko is editor of the Morning Star.