Cuba at the crossroads
By Fidel Castro
Ocean Press, 1996. 179 pp., $21.95
Review by Roberto Jorquera
Cuba at the crossroads is a collection of speeches by Fidel Castro between November 1994 and April 1996. They open up the entire history of the Cuban Revolution and even the development of Fidel's socialist ideas.
The book is an important source for anyone interested in understanding the revolution and exploring the tactics and strategies of building socialism in a world dominated by capitalism.
It opens with speech given to the United Nations in October 1995 which summarises the passion and feeling that the Cuban Revolution has continued to inspire after 37 years of struggle:
"We want a world without hegemony, without nuclear arms, without racism, without nationalists and religious hatred, without outrages against the sovereignty of any country, and with respect for peoples' independence and free self determination; a world without universal models which completely fail to consider the traditions and cultures of all the peoples that make up humanity, without cruel blockades which kill men, women and children, young people and old, like silent atom bombs. We want a world of peace, justice and dignity, in which everybody, without any exception, has the right to well-being and to life."
The Cuban Revolution continues to set an example to the rest of the world's people fighting for social change. Fidel's reflections on the 50th anniversary of his involvement in politics in "Recollections of student days" helps us understand the long-term commitment which inspires the Cuban revolutionaries.
The collapse of the Soviet Union and the regimes in eastern Europe left Cuba without up to 80% of its trade. On this basis, many in the west forecast the immediate collapse of socialist Cuba.
However, Cuba continues to survive, with many of the gains of the revolution still in place though under enormous pressure.
Cuba has been force to reorganise its entire national economy. Most notably has been the opening up to foreign investment.
It is striking how clear and frank the Cuban government is in regards to these changes and their ramifications. Castro states,"The unquestionably capitalist elements introduced into our country have been accompanied by the damaging and alienating effects of that system. The phenomenon of bribery and corruption, unheard of during the 30 years of trade with the Soviet Union, can be appreciated in an incipient and growing form in our economic relations with capitalism."
Castro points to the experience of the Russian Revolution and its need to implement the New Economic Policy. "All this is costing us dear ... But we have to do it; there's no alternative", Castro says. "The party and the government will have to wage a colossal battle against such tendencies before they develop into a cancer devouring our ethics and revolutionary spirit."
Throughout his speeches, Castro turns back on US imperialism its hypocrisy about human rights. Which government, he asks, has supported every repressive government in Latin America and then had the nerve to tell others to respect human rights?
Against the hypocritical rhetoric, Castro notes that "by reducing infant mortality from 60 to 10 per 1000 live births and with other pediatric programs, the revolution has saved the lives of more than 300,000 children".
He also delivers a forthright defence of the revolution's democracy, asking what other country can get 95% of its population voting voluntarily, and going on to explain how Cuba's electoral system works.
This collection outlines the great example that the Cuban Revolution has set for the progressive and socialist movement in the past 37 years. Castro states," The revolution is our religion, which does not exclude anyone, including revolutionaries, from holding another. We are not expecting any rewards, because I believe that being a revolutionary — as Che said — is the highest level humanity can attain."