Cuba and her Permanent Revolution
This essay is not a refitting of Trotskyist theories to the Cuban Revolution; first, because they don’t fit and second, because the author is not a theorist, Marxist, Trotskyist, or any other kind.
What this essay is, from the point of view of a person who has lived there for the past eight years, is a clarification of what real revolution should be and an ode to the continuous revolutionary changes that have always and are still taking place on the Island by the people of Cuba, led by that brilliant Grand Old Man of Revolution Fidel Castro Ruz.
Revolution, first and secondary dictionary definitions notwithstanding, is momentous and positive sweeping changes, shakeups, and transitions that continue, rather than one single complete movement or a turning round and round on an axis. That at least is how even my littlest granddaughters understand the concept.
All progressives acknowledge the great transformations made in the early years following the 1959 triumph of the Revolution: land reform, nationalization of public utilities, elimination of gambling, drugs and the American Mafia, and the landmark literacy campaign.
Even U.S. progressives still give high marks to Cuba’s exceptional free health care and education for all Cuban citizens, including university education, from infancy through old age. Perhaps they don’t fully grasp the real significance of this in the world, but they take note nonetheless.
What U.S. leftists don’t get, and the peoples of Latin America and the Third World do, is that the people of Cuba have continued their revolution. Cuba is not a historic Soviet-style fossil, preserved like the 50s American cars on the road here, but a most praiseworthy and human-centered revolution-in-progress.
Cuban life expectancy—it is 50th in the world compared to the U.S. 53rd—did not come overnight on January 1, 1959. It comes through continuous upgrading, funding and prioritizing the physical quality of life of ordinary people. This permanent revolution in medical care has been, and is being, gradually and steadfastly and generously shared with many other countries around the globe.
Nor did every Cuban classroom with a TV, every school with computers, no more than 20 students per teacher in elementary classrooms and 15, yes 15, per teacher in junior highs—a source of envy to most U.S. public school teachers- happen with a single blow. These advances, and the spread of university centers to every province, are happening through continuous revolutionary struggle.
While scientists from several Western nations are clamoring for a crash program on the scale of the Manhattan Project to urgently develop clean energy, and every nation is at least giving lip service to the dire need for energy conservation, little Third World blockaded Cuba is getting something done about it.
Termed the “energy revolution,” Cuba has embarked on serious energy saving that includes, but is not limited to, TV and billboard reminders to turn off lights when you leave the room, free exchange of incandescent for long-life light bulbs, and mass distribution of electric rice cookers and even electric pressure cookers to save gas energy.
This article is not about highlighting raising the cultural level of all the people, or guaranteed nutrition for everyone with free snacks and lunches in schools, or reforestation, or the struggles against corruption, or learning about and experiencing democracy at the neighborhood level, or protection of the marine environment or well, many, many, many of the other Cuban endeavors underway.
It is simply a reminder that Cubans’ choices should be protected, not solely for their sovereign right to make them or because they were ground breakers in bygone days, but because Cubans are engaged in the daily struggle of permanent revolution and an example for us all.
Hasta La Victoria Siempre
—Prensa Latina, October 10, 2006