A spectre is haunting the United States–the spectre of normal relations between the United States and communist bugbear Cuba. For the lazy, captured US media, it’s all about the Cold War poses struck by Republicans (and a few Democrats like New Jersey senator Bob Menendez) whose needles are permanently stuck in an anti-Castro groove. Add a few snips about how US corporations can’t wait to get into the Cuban market and you have the domestic version of the story.
But is it really as simple as big business finally tilting the balance away from right wing nuttery? It’s tempting to say yes. The machinations of capital are relentless and there can’t be any doubt that capital wants Cuba back in the worst way, but being slightly smaller in both area and population than Pennsylvania, it’s hard to believe the attraction of the Cuban market finally thawed the ideological iceberg of the Embargo all by itself.
Certainly generational change has helped take the risk of losing Florida’s electoral votes out of the issue. A recent survey of Cuban-American adults for the Miami Hearald showed about equal support for both sides of the issue, with wide support for normalization from respondents under 65. Opposition to the Castro regime just isn’t that potent an issue any more even for Cuban-Americans.
Then there’s the notion that a throwdown over Cuba policy benefits the Democrats in 2016 by encouraging a rift between doctrinaire conservative Republicans and liberal business Republicans while giving Democrats greater appeal among the non-crazy center. This scenario not only doesn’t need Congress to end the Embargo, it benefits from congressional drama. While I have no doubt that resuming relations with Cuba is a sincere goal among the liberal bourgeoisie, they need have no genuine expectation of success to make this argument part of the 2016 political strategy.
Is there more to the story? Let’s look around and see what some on the left are saying.
In Defense of Marxism strikes a triumphalist note, while cautioning that the change in US tactics does not mean the end of America’s efforts to destroy the Cuban revolution. It also rightly notes the history of US terrorism in Cuba; since the US is a major perpetrator of terrorism globally, this is fitting. IDoM also takes note of the Venezuela connection. Targeting Cuba and targeting Venezuela are part of the same Imperialist project.
On Wednesday December 17, the United States admitted that its attempt to bully Cuba into submission had failed. This should be seen as a victory for the Cuban Revolution and its resilience against the relentless onslaught of the most powerful imperialist power on earth only 90 miles away from its shores. However, US imperialism has not given up on its aims: the restoration of the rule of private property and the destruction of the gains of the revolution. It has just changed the means to achieve the same result….
The statement from the White House announcing the change of policy starts with a clear admission of bankruptcy: “A Failed Approach. Decades of U.S. isolation of Cuba have failed to accomplish our objective of empowering Cubans to build an open and democratic country.” Of course, where it says an “open and democratic country” what they really mean is a capitalist country, where “democracy” is just a fig leaf for the rule of big corporations…
The coming to power of the Bolivarian revolution in 1998 threw a new life line to Cuba. On the one hand, it meant the exchange of Venezuelan oil for Cuban medical services on very favourable terms. On the other, it broke the isolation of the Cuban revolution and provided the hope that it could spread even further.
Trotskyist World Socialist Website looks at the potential thaw (after noting that the Obama administration is slapping new sanctions on Venezuela allegedly to punish it for it’s handling of protests earlier this year) as evidence of the Castro regime saving saving what’s left of itself by means of Chinese-style state-controlled capitalism:
No doubt the demands of the Chamber of Commerce and the American Manufacturers Association for access to the Cuba market played a major role in Obama’s decision. So too did the prospect that a massive influx of US dollars would do far more than the economic blockade to unravel what remains of the radical reforms instituted by the Cuban Revolution, while helping to bring to power a more pliant regime in Havana, restoring the kind of neocolonial relationship that prevailed before 1959.
For its part, the Castro regime sees the turn toward its longtime imperialist nemesis as a means of salvaging its rule and pursuing a path similar to that of China, preserving the privileges of the ruling strata through the development of capitalism and at the expense of the Cuban working class.
It’s this view that I find the most suggestive. While the Cuban revolution deservedly enjoys broad from the serious left, that support often comes with criticism of the stratified, ossified, top-down nature of the regime. Is the Castro regime so pressed for money that they have no choice? Is it kidding itself that it can dance with the Beast and not come away unharmed?
Obviously, there are many factors at work here besides the US business community seeing an opportunity to extract value from Cuban workers and Cuba’s natural heritage. What is going on under the surface?