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Cuba Sets a Global Example for the Achievements of Socialism

By Peter Phillips

In an all day conference, February 10, 2012, some 120 authors, professors, and journalists, from dozens of Caribbean, American and African countries, met with Fidel Castro. Those attending were invited participants for the “Intellectual Encounters for Peace and the Preservation of the Environment” event at the Havana Convention Center. Topics discussed in the nine-hour session were world peace, environmentalism, neo-liberal capitalism, and the continuing importance of socialism.

Fidel Castro (age 85) urged those assembled to a moral duty to prevent the extinction of humankind and challenge the expanding predations of neo-liberal global capitalism. He expressed concern for the inevitable collapse of Wall Street and the international monetary system. Paper money is worthless without backing from gold or other assets, Castro asserted. Environmental destruction is classless in that eventually all will suffer—both the rich and the poor—if neo-liberal capitalism continues on its rampart global destruction, he professed.

Castro’s main message was clear. Cuban socialism is an international example of a humanitarian economy in the world. “We have over 80,000 doctors,” he said, and “we are currently training 830 Pakistani medical students and many others from around the world.”

Fidel Castro, reverently referred to as “Commandante” by many of those present, was flanked by the Cuban Minister of Culture, Abel Prieto, and the president of the Cuban Book Institute, Zuleika Romay. The participants in the encounter were invited guests to the 2012 International Cuban Book Fair that ran from February 10 to 19 in Havana.

The nine-hour session went from 1:00 PM until after 10:00 PM, with only two short coffee breaks. Fidel gave extended responses during the event, commenting on the presentations, asking questions, and recalling the history of the Cuban revolution and Cuba’s humanitarian efforts over the past fifty plus years. Some 40 people presented briefings on their concerns. The lies and propaganda of the corporate/capitalist media were important themes for the day. One participant remarked how the global corporate media seeks to create a monoculture of the mind inside the capitalist countries.

As an invited author for the International Cuban Book Fair, I was honored to participate in the discussions held with the “Commandante.” His energy is inspiring and his command of history and contemporary issues is phenomenal. Castro had serious health issues a few years back, but remains mentally alert. He walked with assistance from his bodyguards, but remained fully participatory in the nine-hour session.

Cuba is an international example of the potentialities of socialism, and an ongoing symbolic challenge to marketplace capitalism. In the United States there is a continuing propaganda drumbeat against the Cuban revolution. Castro is often described as a military dictator repressing his people and blocking freedoms in Cuba. But this description ignores some undisputed social advances under his leadership that could serve as an example of what a society can do when it turns its resources to humanitarian purposes.

Contemporary neo-liberal capitalism undercuts wages, unions and social welfare, which results in the expansion of poverty, hunger, and extreme inequality. Cuba is a demonstration that humanitarian socialism can work for the masses. Cuba is the number one organic farming country in the world. Cuba has full employment, zero starvation, and some of the best health care in the world. Cuba’s life expectancy is equal to the United States and education up through university is paid for by the state for all students.

As a media-reform advocate, participant and observer, I watched tens of thousands of young people arrive at the International Book Fair in the old Spanish fort overlooking downtown Havana. These are multi-generations of people who have never suffered media advertisements. Three University of Havana literature majors, with whom I spent a full day, laughed hysterically when I asked them if they wanted a McDonald’s Happy Meal. They represent a people who accept the equality of socialism and collective growth of human betterment, and will strongly defend their way of life if necessary. As literature majors they have completed three years of Latin, and are starting classical Greek. They have had courses in historical and modern Latin American and European literature, and art. Their university education costs them nothing, and the government provides all textbooks and living expenses.

After the collapse of the USSR, Cuba lost most of it subsidies form the socialist block of nations. The early 1990s were a difficult transition. This was when Cuba opened it doors to those who wanted to leave. Some 30,000 people choose to move to the United States. Yet, ten million people choose to stay and build the independent socialist country that Cuba is today. Several other South American countries, notably Venezuela and Ecuador, have taken note of Cuba’s successes and are moving in a similar direction seeking socialist equality.

Some in the US believe that when the senior Cuban leadership from the 1959 revolution passes away, US corporations and displaced Cubans abroad will waltz back into Havana to return capitalism to the island. It is very clear to me, and many contemporary observers, that multiple generations of socialist Cubans will never allow this to happen.

_______________________________________________________________________
Peter Phillips is a Professor of Sociology at Sonoma State University and President of Media Freedom Foundation/Project Censored. He co-edited with Mickey Huff Censored 2011, which was published in Spanish for the International Book Fair in Cuba. Mickey Huff is the director of Project Censored and editor of the recently published Censored 2012, which was presented to Fidel Castro February 10, 2012.
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  • Blairand Donna February 22, 2012

    Cuban Socialism is a model of Democracy that people around the world can learn from. Che would be proud. Fidel has done a good job in spite of over 600 attempts by the CIA to assasinate him. The people of Cuba have much to be proud of.
    Shalom

    • KFC February 22, 2012

       And no internet.

      • Hckwll February 23, 2012

        yes limited access to the internet thanks to the fact that the unilateral blockade of the US denies Cuba to be linked to the major cable that goes through the Straits of Florida. Cuba has to rely on iratic and expensive satellite connection.

        • Tony B March 14, 2012

          exactly, Cuba has internet and soon will have a fibre optic connection via Venezuela. I spoke to people who visited Cuba recently and many use Facebook!

  • Blairand Donna February 22, 2012

    Cuban Socialism is a model of Democracy that people around the world can learn from. Che would be proud. Fidel has done a good job in spite of over 600 attempts by the CIA to assasinate him. The people of Cuba have much to be proud of.
    Shalom

    • KFC February 22, 2012

       And no internet.

      • Hckwll February 23, 2012

        yes limited access to the internet thanks to the fact that the unilateral blockade of the US denies Cuba to be linked to the major cable that goes through the Straits of Florida. Cuba has to rely on iratic and expensive satellite connection.

        • Tony B March 14, 2012

          exactly, Cuba has internet and soon will have a fibre optic connection via Venezuela. I spoke to people who visited Cuba recently and many use Facebook!

  • DorothyP February 22, 2012

     All those Drs and no medical supplies. Face it, no one tries to escape to Cuba on a raft.

  • DorothyP February 22, 2012

     All those Drs and no medical supplies. Face it, no one tries to escape to Cuba on a raft.

  • G.E February 24, 2012

    IDK, I’ve talked to people who’ve visited Cuba … They’ve painted a vastly different picture … 

  • G.E February 24, 2012

    IDK, I’ve talked to people who’ve visited Cuba … They’ve painted a vastly different picture … 

  • Rickdeal February 24, 2012

    Phillips if you think Cuba is so great why don’t you move there?  There are plenty of Cubans who would switch places with you.  Seriously, why don’t you just come out and say that you are a Communist/Socialist and be honest about what you believe in and support.  It would add intellectual honesty integrity to you.  There is a big difference between Cuban and Scandinavian socialism so don’t compare them to the Cuban dictatorship and oppression.  

    By the way I don’t eat at McDonalds and don’t want a happy meal.

  • Rickdeal February 24, 2012

    Phillips if you think Cuba is so great why don’t you move there?  There are plenty of Cubans who would switch places with you.  Seriously, why don’t you just come out and say that you are a Communist/Socialist and be honest about what you believe in and support.  It would add intellectual honesty integrity to you.  There is a big difference between Cuban and Scandinavian socialism so don’t compare them to the Cuban dictatorship and oppression.  

    By the way I don’t eat at McDonalds and don’t want a happy meal.

  • Peter Phillips February 25, 2012

    Rickdeal (or whatever your real name is)

    California is my home (5th generation) and I am ashamed of the homeless, the unemployed, the state of public education and tens of thousands of hungry children in our state.  Yes, democratic socialism could eliminate these ills and yes I support a more humanitarian society similar to what  is evident in Cuba. I want to make California a better place for everyone, open the jails for non-violent offenders, feed the hungry, put the homeless in the 100,000 vacant houses in the SF Bay Area.  I want to Tax wealth and make changes here at home. Free public education through university, free medical care for everyone, and productive jobs for all. California has many billionaires, and the state has more wealth then ever. We just need to set priorities on how wealth is used and eliminate gross inequalities.

    Peter Phillips

    • Rick February 27, 2012

       Doesn’t everyone want to solve the problems of poverty, education and health care?  Cuba and other Communist nations have these problems too, they just hide them and send you on a propaganda tour that you fell for.  Taxing the rich is not the solution to everything and Cuba is not a model for the world.  I see you don’t mention the benefits of freedom of speech, fair elections, the right to a fair trial and the other rights we have in the Bill of Rights and in the West.  Highlighting some of the minor achievements of Cuba does not make their system good.  Living under a police state is not most peoples’ idea of good.  Go talk to people who have suffered under these governments.  I know many who suffered in Eastern Europe, similar to Cuba.  It sucked and they had crappy health care, housing, shortages of food and no freedom.  Omitting the whole picture is not fair to people who don’t know better and is poor academics.
      Your goals of a better society are the same as most people but your ideas of supporting dictators and Communists are way out of line.  You have the right to express them under freedom of speech but others have the right to challenge you.  You put your ideas on an open internet forum for replies and people are more free to argue here than in your class where they depend on a grade.  At least you replied and explained your views.  I respect you more for that. 

      I do enjoy much of Project Censored and this year had some good articles.  I think it could be much better without glorifying socialism.

      Rick

      • Person March 16, 2012

         Socialism isn’t the worst thing that could ever happen to America.

  • Peter Phillips February 25, 2012

    Rickdeal (or whatever your real name is)

    California is my home (5th generation) and I am ashamed of the homeless, the unemployed, the state of public education and tens of thousands of hungry children in our state.  Yes, democratic socialism could eliminate these ills and yes I support a more humanitarian society similar to what  is evident in Cuba. I want to make California a better place for everyone, open the jails for non-violent offenders, feed the hungry, put the homeless in the 100,000 vacant houses in the SF Bay Area.  I want to Tax wealth and make changes here at home. Free public education through university, free medical care for everyone, and productive jobs for all. California has many billionaires, and the state has more wealth then ever. We just need to set priorities on how wealth is used and eliminate gross inequalities.

    Peter Phillips

    • Rick February 27, 2012

       Doesn’t everyone want to solve the problems of poverty, education and health care?  Cuba and other Communist nations have these problems too, they just hide them and send you on a propaganda tour that you fell for.  Taxing the rich is not the solution to everything and Cuba is not a model for the world.  I see you don’t mention the benefits of freedom of speech, fair elections, the right to a fair trial and the other rights we have in the Bill of Rights and in the West.  Highlighting some of the minor achievements of Cuba does not make their system good.  Living under a police state is not most peoples’ idea of good.  Go talk to people who have suffered under these governments.  I know many who suffered in Eastern Europe, similar to Cuba.  It sucked and they had crappy health care, housing, shortages of food and no freedom.  Omitting the whole picture is not fair to people who don’t know better and is poor academics.
      Your goals of a better society are the same as most people but your ideas of supporting dictators and Communists are way out of line.  You have the right to express them under freedom of speech but others have the right to challenge you.  You put your ideas on an open internet forum for replies and people are more free to argue here than in your class where they depend on a grade.  At least you replied and explained your views.  I respect you more for that. 

      I do enjoy much of Project Censored and this year had some good articles.  I think it could be much better without glorifying socialism.

      Rick

      • Person March 16, 2012

         Socialism isn’t the worst thing that could ever happen to America.

  • Omarkum3 February 26, 2012

    Hi Peter, I have a huge respect for the enormous and heroic efforts and achievements of Cuba. I fear and dred that Cuba may not be able to hold out much longer…it needs a revolution in the west to do so, I believe. So I read your article as a believer, in the undoubted conviction that Socialism is our only true hope.  However, I do fear that the glowing picture that you paint does not help, or reflect, the realities of the hardship that Cuba faces.    Cuba having no socialist block with which to trade, has gone down the road of market reforms and unemployment is growing apace.  I read recently that Raul had anounced that tens of thousands more were to be laid off.  Your non recognition of this, tends to undermine the credibility of the true points that you make.  I think this is important…Socialism can only be built upon factual recognition, and upon the democratic dictatorship of the working class.  My regards in struggle.  Martin

  • Omarkum3 February 26, 2012

    Hi Peter, I have a huge respect for the enormous and heroic efforts and achievements of Cuba. I fear and dred that Cuba may not be able to hold out much longer…it needs a revolution in the west to do so, I believe. So I read your article as a believer, in the undoubted conviction that Socialism is our only true hope.  However, I do fear that the glowing picture that you paint does not help, or reflect, the realities of the hardship that Cuba faces.    Cuba having no socialist block with which to trade, has gone down the road of market reforms and unemployment is growing apace.  I read recently that Raul had anounced that tens of thousands more were to be laid off.  Your non recognition of this, tends to undermine the credibility of the true points that you make.  I think this is important…Socialism can only be built upon factual recognition, and upon the democratic dictatorship of the working class.  My regards in struggle.  Martin

  • Mr. Blair M. Phillips March 13, 2012

    RickDeal – Cuban dictatorship and oppression?
     
    Geezz.. I suggest you read William Blums 2004 book on the American Governments “dictatorship and oppression” for the last 60 years entitled,”Killing Hope – U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2″.
     I think it’s published in 6 languages and has sold over 2 million copies. The American Government has murdered more people than the Nazis did in the Destruction of European Jews(R. Hilberg) overthrowing democratically elected governments. Fidel, Socialsim and the Cuban people are demonstrating “one  kind” of democratic system that appears to be working for the majority of people.  

    • row March 25, 2012

      I suggest you make a sincere effort to meet Cubans who have fled the country to find freedom in America. The US has plenty of ills plaguing it, but Cuba is no paradise for the actual people who live there.

      Have you ever even met a Cuban-American in your life? Someone whose family wishes they could leave the neighborhood committees and crushing poverty behind?

      the real cuba dot c om

  • Mr. Blair M. Phillips March 13, 2012

    RickDeal – Cuban dictatorship and oppression?
     
    Geezz.. I suggest you read William Blums 2004 book on the American Governments “dictatorship and oppression” for the last 60 years entitled,”Killing Hope – U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2″.
     I think it’s published in 6 languages and has sold over 2 million copies. The American Government has murdered more people than the Nazis did in the Destruction of European Jews(R. Hilberg) overthrowing democratically elected governments. Fidel, Socialsim and the Cuban people are demonstrating “one  kind” of democratic system that appears to be working for the majority of people.  

    • row March 25, 2012

      I suggest you make a sincere effort to meet Cubans who have fled the country to find freedom in America. The US has plenty of ills plaguing it, but Cuba is no paradise for the actual people who live there.

      Have you ever even met a Cuban-American in your life? Someone whose family wishes they could leave the neighborhood committees and crushing poverty behind?

      the real cuba dot c om

  • Frank March 14, 2012

    Best medical care in the world? Name one thing Cuba has done to advance the field of medicine. Companies in the United States have made enormous contributions in this area, all due to our evil capitalist system. If weren’t for the work of the United States and other western democracies Cuba’s medical institutions would still be practicing bloodletting .

    By the way, have you heard about all the poor Americans who have died trying to get to Cuba on little rowboats and inflatable rafts? Neither have I.

  • Frank March 14, 2012

    Best medical care in the world? Name one thing Cuba has done to advance the field of medicine. Companies in the United States have made enormous contributions in this area, all due to our evil capitalist system. If weren’t for the work of the United States and other western democracies Cuba’s medical institutions would still be practicing bloodletting .

    By the way, have you heard about all the poor Americans who have died trying to get to Cuba on little rowboats and inflatable rafts? Neither have I.

  • Plutocracy101 March 26, 2012

    March 25, 2012

    Cuban police round up beggars in advance of Pope Benedict XVI

    The repression in Cuba in advance of Pope Benedict XVI’s visit
    this week has been extended to include as its victims the most
    “defenseless and vulnerable” in Cuban society.

    Human rights activist Elizardo Sanchez complained Sunday that police have rounded up and jailed beggars and other street people
    to keep them out of the view of pilgrims, journalists and others
    visiting Cuba for the pope’s visit. Sanchez, head of the Cuban
    Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, said the
    detainees are being held in a facility known as “La Colonia,” off the
    highway leading to Havana’s international airport.

    “Our committee believes that the forced internment of these
    defenseless and completely vulnerable people is a disgusting violation
    of human rights by a government that favors first, its own political
    image,” Sanchez said.

    Any truth here???

     

  • Plutocracy101 March 26, 2012

    March 25, 2012

    Cuban police round up beggars in advance of Pope Benedict XVI

    The repression in Cuba in advance of Pope Benedict XVI’s visit
    this week has been extended to include as its victims the most
    “defenseless and vulnerable” in Cuban society.

    Human rights activist Elizardo Sanchez complained Sunday that police have rounded up and jailed beggars and other street people
    to keep them out of the view of pilgrims, journalists and others
    visiting Cuba for the pope’s visit. Sanchez, head of the Cuban
    Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, said the
    detainees are being held in a facility known as “La Colonia,” off the
    highway leading to Havana’s international airport.

    “Our committee believes that the forced internment of these
    defenseless and completely vulnerable people is a disgusting violation
    of human rights by a government that favors first, its own political
    image,” Sanchez said.

    Any truth here???

     

  • Economist March 27, 2012

    The latest Economist has the cover and a report on Cuba moving towards Capitalism, including laying off many government workers.  So much for the “achievements of Socialism.”

  • Economist March 27, 2012

    The latest Economist has the cover and a report on Cuba moving towards Capitalism, including laying off many government workers.  So much for the “achievements of Socialism.”