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**Lessons from Cuba, then and now**

(Reprinted from the January 31, 1998 issue of the People's Weekly World. May be reprinted or reposted with PWW credit. For subscription information see below)

By Victor and Ellen Perlo 

In 1959, we drove down the Florida coast to Key West, 
bought plane tickets to Havana, Cuba for $16 each. On 
landing, as the plane taxied to the terminal, an American 
businessman type, observing young men and women going 
through military training on a nearby field, sneered at 
their "lack of discipline." Three years later, at the Bay 
of Pigs, the U.S. invaders learned otherwise the hard way. 

In Cuba, we found a happy people. It was a mere three 
months after the victory of the revolution. We've never 
seen anything like it, before or since. Riding on a bus, 
the passengers laughed, joked, and called out to us when 
our stop was reached. Little children on the street went up 
to the bearded, long-haired militia and patted them. They 
had won their revolution, which they had fought for long 
and hard. They were liberated from the Batista 
dictatorship; they looked toward a socialist future. 

The swimming pools of the rich tourists' hotels were open 
to the people, Black and white, without charge. The 
restaurants were also open to all. 

We stayed at a modern seafront hotel. But as the torrent of 
hostile, anti-Cuban, anti-Communist propaganda in the U.S. 
media was already having an effect, the mobs of tourists 
that in previous years had crowded Havana were missing. We 
were the only guests at the hotel, although Cubans filled 
the restaurant at meal times. 

After a few days another American checked in, a youngish 
man escaping, he said, from a nagging wife. He was hoping 
to find the gambling and other facilities he had previously 
enjoyed. He didn't, of course. 

I stopped in at the offices of El Hoy, the organ of the 
Popular Socialist Party (PSP), the name used by the Cuban 
Communist party. It was closely allied with Fidel Castro's 
26th of July Movement and, in fact, a few years later the 
two merged into the Communist Party of Cuba, and El Hoy 
merged into Granma. 

The editor of El Hoy, Carlos Rafael Rodriguez, welcomed me. 
Carlos Rafael was confident that Cuba would survive and 
flourish because of the overwhelming support of the Cuban 
people. He emphasized that the revolutionary forces would 
hold on to power even if the imperialists succeeded in 
assassinating Fidel. He stated that he was aware that he, 
himself, was a target: the premises of El Hoy had been 
destroyed more than once. 

For me, his confidence in the permanence of the revolution 
was important. It came at a time when most liberals and 
left-of-center U.S. groups (although not the CPUSA) were 
writing off the Cuban revolution as bound to fail. And the 
confidence of Carlos Rafael Rodriguez has been borne out. 
Throughout subsequent decades, Carlos Rafael became a 
leading force in the Cuban government and Party. 

For 37 years U.S. imperialism has conducted a vicious, 
unrelenting campaign, with no holds barred, against this 
small country. But all attempts to undermine it have 
failed. Slanderous propaganda, assassination plots, legal 
maneuver that violates international standards of commerce 
between nations. 

European governments have verbally attacked Helms-Burton, 
but in practice government and corporations have yielded to 
it. Only Canada - its people, government and corporations - 
has steadfastly maintained normal relations with Cuba, 
defying Helms-Burton and its penalties. 

Why is the United States so hostile toward this small 
island country 90 miles from our east coast? 

The State Department "justification" for labeling a number 
of countries "rogue states" and for treating them 
accordingly is the charge that they sponsor terrorism. In 
the case of Cuba, there is no such charge, nor can there be 
as Cuba clearly eschews terrorism. 

But the United States is guilty of violent terrorism 
against Cuba: the recent bombing of a number of Cuban 
tourist hotels and dropping their plant- destroying 
chemicals from planes, not to mention the many attempts to 
assassinate Castro, for which Washington does not consider 
it necessary to apologize! 

The anti-Cuban blockade is a means of stroking the emigre 
Cuban capitalists who absconded with whatever they could 
get their hands on of Cuban property. That's not the only 
motive for hostility, but important. 

Claims of debts to U.S. corporations for nationalized 
properties is another pretext. Of course, any foreign 
investment is undertaken at the risk of the investor, and 
claims have to be settled in accordance with the laws of 
the host country. Such claims are no business of the U.S. 

In the case of Cuba, sabotage by the investing companies 
forced the nationalization, for the most part. The Exxon 
refinery at Santiago de Cuba is one example. Cuba was 
required by Exxon to supply the crude oil to be refined. 
Because of the U.S. blockade, Cuba had to buy its crude oil 
from the USSR, which offered favorable terms. But Exxon 
refused to process the Soviet oil, which Cuba had to have 
refined. Ergo, Cuba was forced to nationalize the Exxon 

And I have seen no claim on Cuba in Exxon's annual reports. 
Any such losses have long since written off and now emerge 
in order to get what they can from Helms-Burton. The damage 
done to Cuba by the U.S. economic warfare exceeds many 
times the total of all conceivable economic claims against 

U.S. corporations do not seriously expect to collect, but 
Washington wants to use Helms-Burton to hamper European 
competitors. There is no attempt to negotiate on the 
claims, nor is there any offer of relaxation of the 
blockade if the claims are met. 

But the real, overriding reason for U.S. cold war 
aggression against Cuba is the hatred and fear of Communism 
on the part of the U.S. capitalist class, especially the 
leading, most powerful elements - including elected 
officials they control. They know that in any "fair" 
competition, socialism would come out way ahead. 

Cuba freed from the hardships imposed by the U.S. blockade 
would be a powerful revolutionary influence on all of Latin 
America and the Caribbean - the neo-colonial backyard of 
U.S. imperialism. So the American power elite uses every 
device to tilt the playing field radically in their favor. 

For many years the USSR gave favorable trade terms to Cuba. 
The Gorbachev-Yeltsin betrayal, which destroyed the USSR, 
was a serious blow to Cuba. And the Cuban people deserve 
great credit for surviving the intensified pressures that 
treasonous sellout exacted. 

The support of the scores of Americans who break the 
blockade to take urgently needed commodities to Cuba 
expresses the solidarity of thousands of U.S. citizens. But 
such aid can only be a minor factor in relation to needs. 

We look forward to the time when American labor will take 
the lead in cracking the corrosive U.S. blockade, in 
smashing Helms-Burton and ending the constant military 
provocations against valiant Cuba. 

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