“Our revolution is neither capitalist nor communist!” protested Fidel Castro on television on 21 May of 1959. “We have been placed in a position where we must choose between capitalism which starves people and communism which resolves the economic problem but suppresses the liberties so greatly cherished by man …”
– pg. 142, RED HEAT, by Alex von Tunzelmann, Henry Holt, New York, 2011
In October 1959, a Soviet cultural delegation arrived in Havana. It was led by the press correspondent Aleksandr Ivanovich Alekseyev. Fidel was not told that the delegation was a front for the KGB, nor that Alekseyev had previously been the KGB resident in Buenos Aires, but it was clear from his reaction to Alekseyev’s arrival that he knew this was a line of communication straight to Moscow. When he first met Fidel, Alekseyev brought vodka and caviar. “What good vodka, what good caviar!” Fidel exclaimed. “I think it’s worth establishing trade relations with the Soviet Union!”
Alekseyev’s recollection is the earliest credible evidence of Fidel explicitly aligning himself with communism. A turning point had been reached.
For any Caribbean leader, the United States was too big to ignore. Those who ingratiated themselves sufficiently with it could survive. Everyone knew what happened to those who did not. Che Guevara had seen it in Guatemala. Fidel, like all would-be reformers in Latin America, was in a precarious position. If he accepted American help, he risked becoming a puppet. IF he refused American help, he risked being toppled.
– pg. 158, ibid.
Needless to say, I appreciate the fact that people still want to read what I have to say, but I do try to place myself in as realistic a perspective as possible. In a situation such as mine, one cannot afford to take one’s self too seriously; in fact, one sometimes has to fight against a feeling of being irrelevant, a sense of futile déjà vu, of having been here before and not having been able to effect change.
In the United States, they refer to citizens born in the years right after World War II (I man was born in 1947) as “Baby Boomers.” It is said that people in our part of the world were so happy that the war had ended in 1945, and that the so-called Allied nations had won, that they were making a lot of babies – a baby boom, hence “Baby Boomers.”
The generation known as Baby Boomers in America essentially was the generation which challenged and confronted the power structure in different areas during the turbulent decade of the 1960s. The decade opened with various attempts by young black Americans, supported by progressive young whites, to integrate public transportation and various public facilities in the Confederate states (Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, South Carolina, and so on) of the United States, the Deep South states which practiced segregation, which was known in South Africa as apartheid. This segregation featured the beatings, murders, and lynchings of any black men who challenged the segregationist status quo. Blacks in the South also fought for the right to vote in elections. This was the black civil rights struggle in America.
It is very seldom that there is an attempt to place the Cuban Revolution of 1959 in the context of the modern black civil rights struggle in America, which is considered by scholars as having commenced with the Rosa Parks incident in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955. But once Fidel Castro declared his revolution to be Marxist-Leninist and communist in 1961, Cuba’s proximity to Florida and America’s Deep South, and the fact that Cuba’s population was majority black, made it absolutely important in American foreign policy for the Cuban Revolution to be crushed. What if the black population in the American South reached any kind of conclusion that things were better off for black people in Fidel’s communist Cuba than in America’s segregated South?
The United States financed and organized an invasion of Cuba in April of 1961 by Cuban exiles trained in Guatemala and Nicaragua. This Bay of Pigs invasion was a failure, but the invasion provoked Castro into inviting and accepting Russian nuclear missiles and launching pads into Cuba. The result of Castro’s response to the Bay of Pigs invasion was the so-called Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962. For thirteen days, planet earth was on the verge of nuclear war between the United States and Russia. There were members of the American Joint Chiefs of Staff who actually argued for a nuclear attack on Cuba. U.S. President John Kennedy (a Democrat) resisted these arguments from his generals, and the world was saved.
The thing is, the United States enjoyed nuclear supremacy in 1962, and the Pentagon generals who directed the American war machine knew this. There was a frustration in the aggressive, right wing section of the American people about Kennedy’s refusal to unleash America’s might on Castro, and thus it was that the Republican Party hawks promoted a macho candidate for the American presidency in 1964 – Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona.
Kennedy had been assassinated in November of 1963, so the Vice-President who had replaced him in the American presidency, Lyndon Baines Johnson, was the Democratic Party candidate. During the 1964 presidential campaign, the Johnson team was able to convince American voters that Goldwater represented a threat of catastrophic nuclear war. And so, Johnson won quite easily.
As soon as he won, however, LBJ began to escalate the war in Vietnam. It was not that he was that different from Goldwater when it came to American foreign policy and militarism. It was that he had made less frightening arguments to the American people.
As I observe this year’s presidential campaign in the United States, I am minded of the 1964 campaign. I think Hillary Clinton will be able to take advantage of Donald Trump’s rhetorical extremism and win a big victory in November. All the evidence indicates that Hillary Clinton will be a militaristic president, but she does not give off the reckless vibes Donald Trump does. I think that down the stretch Hillary will be able to frighten the American public where the implications of a Trump presidency are concerned.
Now, insofar as the racial tension and violence in the United States over the last ten days are concerned, situations like these will play into Hillary Clinton’s hands. The Donald has alienated the black vote, the Mexican vote, the Muslim vote, and other minority voters. In so doing, he did light a fire under the white, imperialist base in America and he succeeded in riding roughshod over the rest of the Republican presidential field. But now, the prize is, as they say, “leadership of the free world.” This is more than a real estate deal. Much more.
When I left the United States in June of 1968 after completing a university course, the race issue was very bad, explosive. The overall socio-political climate in American cities was being destabilized by the Vietnam War, and issues related to it. As the years went by, it appeared to me in Belize, from this distance, that after the Vietnam War ended in 1975 and the United States abolished the military draft, that their leaders and policy makers were able to return America to a stability that had not seemed possible back in the Sixties.
Hurricane Katrina in 2005 exposed the fact that there is great poverty and suffering inside of the cities of the most powerful nation in the world. Today, it appears that there are socio-economic issues in the United States which may cause a return to serious domestic instability. On Tuesday this week, President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush shared the podium in Dallas, Texas. Obama is a Democrat, and Bush a Republican. They came together on Tuesday because America is in crisis. Magnificent America is in need of healing. There are implications for Belize and Belizeans.
Power to the people. Remember Danny Conorquie.