The conflict between Cuba and the United States is in not an accident. It is the logical expression of central historic tendencies in the modern world-system.
On the one hand, there is the tendency for a single core nation to emerge as hegemonic. The United States was the third hegemonic nation in the history of the world-system, following Holland, which passed through a cycle of hegemony during the seventeenth century and attained hegemonic maturity from 1620 to 1650; and Great Britain, whose movement through the cycle of hegemony occurred during the nineteenth century, attaining hegemonic maturity from 1850 to 1873. The spectacular ascent of the United States occurred as a result of its expansionist conquest of new territories that were incorporated into its national political boundaries during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; its accumulation of capital as a result of lucrative trade relations with the slaveholding societies of the Caribbean and the US South from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries; its investment in the highly profitable industries of textile in the nineteenth century and steel and auto in the twentieth century; and its development of imperialist policies during the twentieth century, enabling it to have access to the raw materials, cheap labor, and markets of the world. The height of its hegemony was from 1945 to 1968.
On the other hand, there is the tendency of the resistance of the colonized. The resistance is permanent and self-renewing, as a result of a human need and desire for social justice. Resistance can be repressed for a time, but it will express itself again. And the resistance is cumulative, in that it learns from the experiences of the past struggles in the nation and those of other lands. Like the capacity of a nation-state for conquest, the capacity for resistance by the people is driven by various factors. Accordingly, although all colonized nations and peoples will develop resistance struggles, some movements of national liberation will be more advanced than others.
We will see in subsequent posts on the Cuban Revolution that various factors have made the Cuban movement of national liberation advanced: the historic plantation economy of Cuba, thus creating a tradition and culture of rebellion typical of slave societies; the development of core-like activities, represented by middle class tobacco farmers, tobacco manufacturing, and the role of Havana as an international port, giving rise to a significant working class and middle class that were politically repressed and economically exploited by the colonial and neocolonial situation; the tendency, typical of slave societies in Latin America, toward the emergence of a significant mixed-race population and for blurred racial boundaries, giving rise to tendencies toward cultural and social integration among the popular sectors; the failure of the war of independence of 1868, leading to the control of the movement by the radical sector of the petit bourgeoisie by the 1890s; the lateness of Cuban independence, and the early arrival of neocolonialism, with the result that the movement developed for decades in a neocolonial context; and the influence of the Russian Revolution on the movement. Because of the advanced character of the Cuban movement, its charismatic leaders formulated penetrating insights, more advanced than those of the charismatic leaders of other lands. In the 1890s, for example, José Martí had forged in theory and practice the integration of anti-colonial and class struggles, and he had discerned the imperialist intentions of the United States. In the 1920s, Julio Antonio Mella introduced Marxist-Leninist concepts to the national liberation and class struggle, and in the same rebellious decade, women’s organizations emerged to call for the incorporation of issues of gender in the anti-imperialist and social struggle. All of these tendencies influenced Fidel Castro, who would develop them further in exercising charismatic authority from July 26, 1953 to January 2009. Fidel’s formation also was influenced by the ethical example of his father, a landholder who had not been socialized in bourgeois culture, and by the private Catholic elementary and high schools that Fidel attended.
Thus, there has emerged during the last half century an epic battle between the world-system’s most advanced neocolonial power and its most advanced revolution of national liberation. It is a battle that the United States has lost. Overspending in military forces and in consumption, rather than investing in economic production, the United States has experienced economic, commercial and financial decline since 1968. Although it continues to be the world’s dominant force militarily and ideologically, it no longer is able to impose its political project on the Third World, which has begun to assert its independence, particularly in Latin America. The US blockade of Cuba has been condemned by the nations of the world, and thus the blockade is beginning to hamper the conduct of US foreign policy and the attainment of its imperialist goals. For this reason, key political actors in the United States have called for an end to the US embargo of Cuba. Such a change would not imply, of course, that the United States would cease its efforts to destroy the Cuban Revolution. It would mean that US strategies in opposition to the Cuban Revolution would be more consistent with the accepted rules of the neocolonial world-system. But any adjustment in US policy that involves an end of the blockade would strengthen the Cuban Revolution and its capacity to resist US efforts to destroy it.
The US blockade has had a significant effect on Cuba, and it has resulted in many hardships for the people. However, during the last fifty years, Cuba has developed excellent systems of health and education, and it has formed committed leaders with advanced understanding at national and local levels and at upper and middle levels of authority. It has won the respect and admiration of the peoples of the world. Although there has been an erosion of revolutionary values since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the beginning of the “Special Period,” there remains nevertheless an enormous revolutionary fund among the people. The Cuban Revolution continues to confront its challenges with intelligence, vitality, energy, and hope.
The decline of the United States and the continuing vitality of the Cuban Revolution is an indication of the state of the world. The world-system is in decadence: since 1970, it has entered a terminal structural crisis (see “The terminal crisis of the world-system” 3/28/2014), and the response of the global elite has been, since 1980, to wage economic war against the poor, and in more recent years, to launch interventionist wars and to stimulate fascist popular violence, on the basis of distortions and lies, directed against governments that seek an alternative world-system. On the other hand, since 1995, the revolution of the Third World has renewed, and it has reached its most advanced stage. Various socialist and progressive governments, Cuba among them, are cooperating with one another in the development of an alternative more just and democratic world-system. Based on the well-spring of human thirst for social justice, they have faith in the future of humanity.
For those of us in the North, let us encounter the movements of the Third World, so that we may understand (see “What is personal encounter?” 7/25/2013; “What is cross-horizon encounter?” 7/26/2013; “Overcoming the colonial denial” 7/29/2013). Let us set aside cynicism and ethnocentrism, and let us cast our lot with faith, hope, and social justice. I will in subsequent posts endeavor to aid understanding of Cuba, the Cuban Revolution, and the charismatic leader who formed the Cuban people into a revolutionary people.
Key words: Third World, revolution, colonialism, neocolonialism, imperialism, democracy, national liberation, sovereignty, self-determination, socialism, Marxism, Leninism, Cuba, Latin America, world-system, world-economy, development, underdevelopment, colonial, neocolonial, blog Third World perspective