A ‘reserve of socialism’

Petr Akopov

The Cuban President flew from Moscow to Beijing. Miguel Diaz-Canel’s visit to Russia and China comes one month after the 60th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the most intense moment of the Cold War, during which the US and the USSR were closer than ever to nuclear conflict. People like to compare the present time with October 1962, although today the situation is fundamentally different: in Moscow and Washington, no one seriously plans to use atomic weapons. But for Cuba, over all these decades, the main thing has not changed – the same enmity on the part of the United States and even Castro still leads it. Yes, not Fidel, but his younger brother Raul, who was one of the leaders of the 1959 revolution: even now, without holding any posts, he determines the strategic issues of life and politics of the island.
Fidel was the leader of a small country Cuba, according to the main indicators, is in the seventh ten countries of the world, but in the 60-80s it was very influential. In those years, it was Cuba that was at the forefront of the anti-imperialist movement – not the big USSR and China, but a small but proud island. Its influence was not limited to Latin America, extending to the Middle East and Africa – and it was not only ideological, but also military influence (Cubans fought in Angola and Ethiopia). It is clear that Cuba received resources for such an active foreign policy from participation in the world socialist camp – and, first of all, from economic ties with our country. But the choice of strategy on the world stage was determined by the Castro brothers – their revolutionary spirit, confrontation with the United States and faith in the victory of socialism on a global scale.
The collapse of the USSR hit the island in the strongest way: in the 90s, the economy and living standards fell sharply, ties and trade with Russia collapsed. But then Cuba had an ally in the form of neighboring Venezuela, which solved its problems with oil and allowed it to maintain the socialist system. Yes, the Cuban authorities gradually reformed social relations and the economy – fo-reign business came, small private property was allo-wed – but in general, Cuba remains a kind of “reserve of socialism”: of course, not of the North Korean type, but very far from China or Vietnam, where they also build socialism, but already very market.
Cuba is a poor but proud state that is of great importance to Russia. Not only in terms of direct confrontation with the United States – now it makes no sense to deploy missiles there – but also in terms of the economy. Our companies have a lot of projects on the island (on which not only China but also Western countries such as Canada and France are actively working), and the projects are really mutually beneficial. The tourist opportunities of Cuba are also huge – and will not be superfluous at all for our citizens, cut off from European resorts for the coming years.
But the main significance of Cuba is that we have a lot to learn from it. Not building a second Cuba is just as impossible for Russia as becoming a “second Iran.” Russia generally cannot reproduce foreign models at home – neither American or German, nor Chinese or Japanese – and the understanding of this fact in itself is the most important lesson learned by us after the insane collapse of the USSR and the rejection of the socialist way of life. We need our own model, which is based on our own experience, but also takes into account the experience of other countries and civilizations.
The Cuban experience is interesting not for its economic results – more than modest – but for its persistence in defending its independence. This does not mean that we should turn into a besieged fortress, and Cuba is not one: she had a lot of contacts around the world even in the most difficult years for her 90s. This does not mean that we must build socialism—we have already turned this page in our history. This does not mean that we need to incite our citizens to many years of heavy sacrifices in the name of freedom and independence – the weight and resources of Russia are incomparable with those of Cuba.
But we need to believe in our own ideals and the ability to stand against a strong opponent, just like the Cubans believed. Yes, there were many who disagreed with Castro, and with socialism, and with enmity with the United States, but the Americans began the blockade of Cuba – and they began it solely for imperialist reasons. They didn’t like the fact that some socialists came to power in their backyard, who not only decided to get rid of the American masters, but also made friends with their main geopolitical opponent – these Russian communists. The Americans wanted to strangle Cuba, but they could not do it either in the 60s or even in the 90s, when it was left without the support of Moscow. Castro challenged America – and Cuba has stood up to it to this day.
Russia has challenged the entire West and wants not only to survive, but also to build a new world order. Naturally, not alone and not counting on the “world revolution of the proletariat” (as the Soviet leaders thought 100 years ago), but using the energy of the already ongoing global transformation of the world order and the crisis of both the West and the Atlantic model of globalization. Fight for Ukraineis only the first part of our battle, for success in which we must believe in ourselves and our strength, in our victory. Not only in Ukraine – here we understand that we are returning the lost unity, we are not allowing the temporary split to become permanent – but in general. We must be convinced that we will stand on the world stage, because the objective course of world history works for us. We must be sure that we can defend our ideals, even those still not fully understood by the elite and still being formulated after decades of mindless consumerism. Moreover, to defend them both on the world stage and at home, constructing the social system that will meet our national code and ideas of justice. Internal and external struggle are inseparable from each other: it is impossible to win on the world stage without believing that Fidel Castro believed in what he fought for. And, speaking at the opening of the monument, Vladimir Putin said that the Comandante “dedicated his whole life to the selfless struggle for the triumph of the ideas of goodness, peace and justice, for the freedom of oppressed peoples, for a decent life for ordinary people and social equality.” And speaking about relations between Cuba and Russia, the president said that we “will continue to work together to defend the great values of freedom, equality and justice.”
Not only Putin, but all of us need to really believe in the ability to defend our right to an independent, just and united Russia in a new world devoid of Western hegemony. Such confidence in one’s ideals and strengths is Castro’s main example for us.