ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Against All Odds

Cuba has contributed in no small measure to the re-emergence of the hope of a socialist alternative.

The two main revolutions of the 20th century, the Russian and the Chinese, failed to provide working models of socialism. They thus left un-refuted the most powerful argument against the organisation of society on the basis of equality and cooperation as against hierarchy and competition – its alleged impracticality. But 50 years ago, on 1 January 1959, following the military victory, after three years of armed struggle, of a group of young, bearded guerrillas of the Rebel Army over the forces of the US-backed dictator, General Fulgencio Batista, a remarkable journey along the path of equality and cooperation began in Cuba, a long march that continues, against all odds, to this day. What explains the survival of the revolut ion despite the presence of myriad obstacles?

First of all, the triumph of the Rebel Army was not merely a military victory, for the guerrillas enjoyed mass popular support. The Cuban people were solidly with the revolution when it swept aside the ruling elite – the capitalist class, the landlords and their hangers-on – and defied Washington, “expropriating” and nationalising the properties of the United Fruit Company (famous for teaming up with Washington in the formation of many a banana republic), the sugar estates and the ranches. They boldly purged the institutions of the state of the lackeys of neocolonialism, initiated a process of local democratic functioning, and began instituting free public education at all levels, as also free universal healthcare, and then declared that they were socialists (it was during the US-backed Bay of Pigs invasion in April 1961 that Fidel Castro famously declared, “Well yes, we are socialist!”).

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