The US military intervention of 1898 and the establishment of the Republic in Cuba eclipsed the vision of Martí. The neocolonial republic was characterized by high levels of US ownership of Cuban plantations, industry and banks; and US ambassadors often dictated policies and influenced the selection of government officials. But Marti’s vision of a free Cuba remained alive in the hopes of the people, giving rise to intense popular movements against the subservient political class and the puppet national bourgeoisie during the 1920s and early 1930s, and again in the 1950s.
A revolution composed of peasants, urban workers and professionals, led mostly by members of the radical petty bourgeoisie, triumphed on January 1, 1959, utilizing an armed guerrilla struggle that moved from the mountains to the country to the city, supported by an urban clandestine struggle. Fidel Castro was the central figure inspiring and unifying the triumphant revolution. With an understanding that was a synthesis of the vision of Martí and Marxist-Leninist theory and practice, and possessing exceptional capacities in the art of politics, he led the revolutionary government in taking decisive steps in defense of the sovereignty of the nation and of the needs of the popular sectors. The most important and significant step was the agrarian reform law, which nationalized foreign owned plantations, constituting a decisive break with the neocolonial world-system (“Decisive revolutionary steps of 1959” 9/22/2014; “The Agrarian Reform Law of 1959” 9/23/2014; “The defining moment of the Cuban Revolution” 9/24/2014).
The United States responded with a policy that sought to destroy the Cuban Revolution by economically and diplomatically isolating the island nation from the hemisphere. Cuba incorporated itself into the socialist bloc of nations, developing particularly strong ties with the Soviet Union and other socialist nations of Eastern Europe. With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the socialist nations of Eastern Europe, Cuba entered into a profound economic crisis, but not a political crisis, as there was considerable popular support for a continuance of its socialist project. Adjustments were made in light of the new national and international situation, and there has been a slow but sure economic recovery. Moreover, Cuba was bit by bit ending its diplomatic isolation from America. When the political reality of Latin America was transformed in the first decade of the twenty-first century, Cuba became one of the leading nations in the search for alternative structures that would liberate the nations and the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean from the neocolonial world-system. The United States, with its own economic and financial power declining, was gradually losing control over its backyard.
During the course of this long conflict between the neighboring nations, the Cuban revolutionary process always distinguished between the people of the United States and the imperialist policies of the government. Accordingly, there has been repeated public recognition of the sons of the United States who gave their lives in defense of the cause of Cuban independence during the nineteenth century, and of current day organizations and activists in the United States who have worked in defense of just causes with respect to Cuba. There is appreciation of the African-American movement for its courageous struggle to attain civil and political rights in the United States, and for the anti-war movement of the late 1960s, credited with being an important factor in bringing the Vietnam War to an end. And there is appreciation for reformist efforts of US presidents: Lincoln, for the abolition of slavery; Franklin D. Roosevelt, for a reformist vision for the post-World War II world-system; and Jimmy Carter, for his defense of human rights, rooted in a religious ethic, and his effort to move toward the normalization of relations with Cuba, later eclipsed by reactionary presidents.
Thus, looking at the world from an anti-imperialist perspective, the Cuban revolutionary project tends to see the United States as consistently, and perhaps unavoidably, imperialist. But there is discernment that the United States is a nation that includes unsung heroes, courageous popular movements, and prominent political figures with reformist visions. From this perspective, Cubans do not tend to see President Obama as a reformer; rather, there is a tendency to see his plan for the normalization of relations as a change in methods, but not objectives. But there is appreciation for the steps that Obama has taken to move toward the ending of the blockade. At the same time, Cubans tend to believe that Obama can, and should, do more.
During the course of its nearly 150 years of revolutionary struggle, Cuba has developed a political culture that is rooted in universal human values, including respect for all nations and all peoples. There is in this notion a view that a “people” is sacred, and its customs, beliefs and symbols should be treated with respect. Accordingly, to treat disrespectfully a political representative of a nation, particularly a chief of state, would be disrespectful toward the peoples that form the nation that the chief of state arrives to represent.
President Barack Obama, accordingly, will be treated with the greatest respect by the Cuban government and the Cuban people. There will be no shouts of “Yankee go home” or signs proclaiming “Down with imperialism.” No one will throw eggs at the presidential limousine. Quite the contrary, people in the streets who can see him will greet him with friendship, waves and smiles. And in moments of interchange of the President with organizations of Cuban civil society, earnest efforts will be made to explain to the US President the various ways in which Cuba is a dignified nation, with the hope that he will listen and will be inspired to work for a more rapid dismantling of the blockade.
As Cubans prepare for the arrival of Obama, they are in a celebratory mood. They believe that they are achieving what they always have wanted: a truly free nation, working in accordance with its own political culture and cultural values on the social and economic development of the nation, in friendship and solidarity with all of the nations and peoples of the world, including their powerful neighbor to the north, for which they have respect for its scientific and technological achievements, and with which they have historic, cultural and familial ties. As they work for this goal of normalization with sovereignty, the Cuban revolutionary government, with the overwhelming support of the people, will continue to insist on the total elimination of the blockade and the return of the territory of the US Naval Base to Cuba. Cuba desires that the United States cease with its efforts to politically change Cuba, and accept that Cuba has the right to be Cuba.