People Vs. Ideology: The Cuba Story

Everywhere in Cuba I went, I simply needed to ask more and more questions. Has the revolution succeeded? That’s a big one, the question really. To answer that question, I had to go there, to get away from the North American hegemonic discourse that has destabilized the idea of socialism for the purpose of quelling potential alternatives to capitalism.

It’s been a long time since Fidel, Raul, Che, and Camillo led the 1959 Cuban Revolution, but yet, ask any Cuban, and the ‘Revolutionary Project’ continues today. The events of the mid-20th century in Cuba are not part of history, but are the foundation on which present-day Cuba operates. The benefits and drawbacks of the Cuban system are infinite, so I won’t begin to try to discuss them here. What I do know is that for 55 years Cuba has not just survived, but created a system of alternatives that needs to be taken seriously by a world dominated by the capitalist Global North.

In Cuba benefits like free health care and education (through the PHD level) are contrasted with more limited individual freedoms. When the calendar turns to 2015 and the UN’s Millennium Development Goals are reviewed, Cuba will be one of, if not the only country, to have achieved all 8. That is something worth taking notice of, as if that’s the case, the United States and the global institutions it controls must admit that the Cuban system is doing something right.

We still live in a world where Cold War rhetoric is used to form baseless attacks against things like Obamacare, and ‘communist’ is associated with an evil ‘other’ in the mainstream Western media. Neither socialism nor capitalism are perfect systems; in Cuba there are ongoing economic reforms and many in the United States are pushing for improved social services.

We need to turn away from a conversation of ideology and rather focus on what matters: the people and planet are systems of government are supposedly representing. Once we take ideology out of the conversation, we can focus on social inequalities and economic growth simultaneously, having a conversation that does not fit ideas and individuals into distinct ideological boxes. But how to take ideology out of the conversation is no easy task. What it takes is leadership from the world’s greatest thinkers, both those in power and those coming from the masses.

Politics should be based on people, and the uniqueness of those people in different parts of the world. Cuba is far from perfect, but what the ‘Revolutionary Project’ has done is presented a functioning alternative to global neoliberal capitalism.

So my ask of you: ask why your world you live in is the way it is, and consider the potential that alternatives may bring. Nothing is permanent: standardized time, systematic inequality, costly education systems, just 3 examples of less than 150-year-old systems. Therefore, never stop believing that these systems can be critically reviewed, analyzed, and re-adapted in the best interest of the world’s citizens.

The famous statue of Jose Marti holding a Cuban infant, pointing an accusatory finger at the U.S. compound on the Havana Harbour. The CIA-led “Operation Peter Pan” took 14,000 Cuban children away from their families to the US where most ended up in the foster care system.

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