On the Meaning of the Death of Fidel Castro

What should be the left’s reaction to the death of Castro? It should be to forget Castro as soon as possible. Castro was without doubt a fascinating personality. Certainly he was an example of the grand heroic leftist stand and leftist revolution. And yes Cuba was a small country resisting a global superpower. The question though, is has Cuba produced anything new in the last thirty years in terms of creating a new model of social practice, economic practice, cultural practice or political democratic practice? The reality is that Cuba has been stagnating for a long time now, and it is one of the most depressing features of Castro’s rule – the revolution happened, but the people were left waiting (and indeed are still waiting): once the revolution occurred, the country was left waiting for something beyond that revolution: namely the reconstruction of socio-economic systems and the development of newer ways of creating efficiency in the economy, creating new cultural or social activity. The heroic greatness of the Cuban people is that they have remained faithful to the revolution, indeed any suffering they have experienced has been for the memory of revolution. Why should we now forget Castro? Because that very reverence for Castro and the Cuban revolution has prevented the ideals of that revolution from being furthered. The legitimization of the Cuban revolution is – paradoxically – the very thing that has prevented further gains of the left. Cuba has always been seen by the left has a ‘socialist paradise’ ignoring the very real fact that this reverence that we, on the left, feel has also prevented us from furthering the discussion that we need to have with regard to rethinking leftist forms of socio-economic organization. The lesson here is that the true test of a revolution is not that the revolution occurs, but the true test is – metaphorically – “what happens the next day”? So what is next for Cuba? Will the strengthening of American-Cuban relations lead to a “middle way” that we now see emerging in China? Will Cuba embrace western liberalism? Either of these would lead Cuba on a dangerous trajectory, and would undoubtedly lead to a catastrophe. But there is a another danger, and that is the danger that a Trump presidency will lead to a hardening of American-Cuban relations, as will empower and embolden hardliners in the Cuban government, who will then resist the need for change in Cuba, the need to move past the stagnation. In a certain way, the dilemma of Cuba is the dilemma of the left internationally: namely that the left has been effective in mobilizing great numbers of people, but have been plagued with an inability to propose new socio-economic systems – revolutionary mobilization conceals a social stasis.

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