Unease has been my companion in the weeks leading to January this year. I knew that it was as inevitable as the night following the day that the 50th anniversary of the Revolution would unleash paeans to the totalitarian regime in the international media. True to form, the resident shills in Havana have pumped out screeds to the “Robolution,” as many Cubans have characterized it, blending the Spanish word for theft into the original. It’s hard to say whether the less than light-hearted word play is intended to convey the betrayal of purported ideals of the revolution as the Cuban populace understood them in 1959- the restoration of democracy chief among them- as in “Que robo,” or “What a beat”; or whether the reference is to the theft of every single scintilla of real property belonging to every single human being on the island and off, as in “I’ve been robbed.”
Whatever the case, even the veteran journalist apologists in Havana have had to tamp down their praise, as the regime has had to tamp down their “celebrations,” ostensibly because of the straitened circumstances as the result of the trio of hurricanes the island has endured. It is interesting to note that the major official celebration in Santiago was closed to ordinary Cubans, those upon whose backs and hopes and freedom the revolution has managed to maintain itself in power in an unending cycle of poverty and repression. Instead, the festivities were limited to 3,000 party apparatchiks. The event, aside from serving as a delicious metaphor for the present state of Cuba, for the gross inequality between the party and the population, lends itself the suggestion that perhaps there is not the will, political or popular, to celebrate the occasion. It seems probable that yet another factor is the hesitancy of the junta to bring together thousands of screaming Cubans to “celebrate” the unconscionable, perhaps more of a wild card to the powers that be than one would suspect.
Because true to form, the message was that there would be yet more struggle to come. There are those that posit that the embargo has maintained the regime, as opposed to Stalinist repression, say. However, it’s all semantics. Revolutions have a beginning and ending. The word revolution is a noun, not a verb. But this revolution is unending, ever exhorting more from its captive population, always on the brink of becoming. As long as it presents itself in this manner, a seemingly eternal struggle, it is not forced to acknowledge reality, namely that this cadre of leaders has dragged the island nation, once the Pearl of the Antilles, into the third world.
You will not pick up on this, the “greatest” achievement of the Castros, reading any of the media reports and editorials. Ignorance, compounded by bigotry, leads to the bruiting of the talking points of the revolution, namely literacy and healthcare. Never a mention that the regime inherited a population with a 70 percent literacy rate and more doctors per capita than in Britain, that Cubans were forced to trade in their freedom, their rights to self-determination, due process and a host of other civil liberties for a ration book. Comparisons are made to Haiti, as if Haiti would ever have been deemed a fit parallel in the 1950’s. Over and over, we are told that the Castroite regime has outlasted 10 US Presidents, as if it were an occasion for praise, instead of the result of lessons learned at the knee of Papa Stalin with pointers from the East German Stasi.
So here’s a little primer for those who pretend to inform the rest of us. There is no Cuban Revolution. It is over, done, finito. It died in 1960, or thereabouts, when Cubans awoke to the nightmare of a half century hangover. What is left is just one more tin pot dictatorship with an attitude and a very good public relations department. So spare me the historical milestone. It should occasion articles on the half century of misery, squalor and repression visited on the Cuban people and nothing else.