What Did Fidel, the Humorist World Statesman, Mean?

A former self-confessed socialist turned mass media career writer and friend of Zionism, Jeffrey Goldberg, wrote an important think piece on a probable war against Iran: “The Point of No Return”, The Atlantic, September, 2010 issue.

Fidel Castro, a prolific reader and analyst of world affairs, read the article and took a unique tactical step: he invited the Establishment writer to hear the leader of Cuba’s revolution “warn the world public opinion hoping…to contribute to avoid” yet another war in the Middle East that could “have lethal consequences for the rest of the world. This is what Fidel told his University of Havana audience, September 10, in response to Goldberg’s writings.

Fidel accepted the presence of Goldberg’s friend, Julia Sweig, the Council of Foreign Relations director for Latin American Studies, a Rockefeller Senior Fellow. Fidel and Sweig also know one another. I believe Fidel knew that with Sweig present he could send a message directly to the capitalist class and its politicians in Washington and Jerusalem.

But Fidel made a mistake by not having the sessions tape recorded. He also made a mistake in using humor, which, apparently, went over the writer’s head. As it stands now there is voluminous speculation about what Fidel really meant about two important issues: 1) Does the Cuban “model” work? 2) Did Fidel make a mistake in the 1962 missile crisis?

1) What did Fidel mean when he replied to Goldberg’s question: “I asked him if he believed the Cuban model was still something worth exporting.” Both Goldberg and Fidel agree that Fidel replied: “The Cuban model doesn’t even work for us anymore.”

Goldberg wants us to believe that there can only be the literal interpretation: it doesn’t work. And then, one is to assume Fidel is advocating some form of capitalism. Goldberg, however, is unaware of how humorous Fidel is.

Fidel explained his reply during his September 10 speech, in which his new book, The strategic counteroffensive, was launched. He said that Goldberg’s question “implicitly suggested that Cuba exported the Revolution”, something Fidel has long denied, at least since the end of the 1960s. So, I think that Fidel’s reply was a humorous way of saying Cuba does not export its economy or its revolution generally.

Fidel has always opposed the capitalist system, as he reiterated in this speech, but his government was forced to survive upon the fall of Cuba’s economic-political partners in 1989-90, and it adopted various market mechanisms, partial sales of some property and joint ventures with foreign capital, plus the use of foreign currency by all who can acquire such—still a minority of the population. These regressions from socialism have sometimes been employed by nearly all communist party-led governments from the time of the New Deal during Lenin’s life down to today.

Cuban leaders are indicating that the economy is failing, and more reforms are about to occur. What should they be? As a solidarity worker-writer for and with Cuba since April 1961, and during eight years working for the Cuban media, I have long encouraged implementing worker control, putting the working class truly in power by diminishing the nearly exclusive power of government officials (and civil servant bureaucrats) to make the most important decisions. In short, to stimulate worker enthusiasm, worker creativity and production, let Cuba be what is called a “proletarian dictatorship”, and thereby a more true democracy.

2) On the matter of whether Fidel was mistaken about the 1962 missile crisis when, according to Goldberg, Fidel “recommend[ed] that the Soviets bomb the U.S.” And Fidel allegedly answered, “After I’ve seen what I’ve seen, and knowing what I know now, it wasn’t worth it all.”

I will not try to interpret what Fidel meant, but he did not say he had been mistaken in his September 10 speech. Read Fidel’s reply. I must admit I am uncertain what Fidel really did mean. He goes on to talk about a drunken Russian president.

What is important about this question of possible nuclear war back then is that Fidel is worried about nuclear war today. It seems that he is so worried that he has taken the extraordinary step of criticizing an ally, Iran, which is aiding Cuba economically. According to Goldberg, Fidel “criticized Ahmadinejad for denying the Holocaust and explained why the Iranian government would better serve the cause of peace by acknowledging the ‘unique’ history of anti-Semitism and trying to understand why Israelis fear for their existence.”

Unfortunately, in this writing on his blog, Goldberg does not actually quote Fidel’s criticism but rather describes and interprets it. The same can be said about the title of this September 7 piece: “Fidel to Ahmadinejad: ‘Stop Slandering the Jews’”. While the inter-quotes indicate these are Fidel’s words, this is not written in the text.

Fidel seems to appeal to Jews around the world, including Zionists, by speaking favorably about them, their culture and religion, their long struggle of survival against pogroms and the Holocaust, and he spoke admiringly of their resistance and intelligence. He told Goldberg, “I don’t think anyone has been slandered more than the Jews. I would say much more than the Muslims.”

Fidel seems to appeal to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Muslims around the world, in his September 10 speech: “Muslims were attacked and persecuted for their beliefs by the European Christians for much more than 12 centuries.”

He added: “Palestinians are deprived [of] their lands, their homes are demolished by gigantic equipment, and men, women and children are bombed with white phosphorous and other extermination means.” And he added that other Muslims in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq are being murdered by conflicts imposed upon them by US presidents.

Conclusion:

1. To Goldberg: Always tape important interviews with leaders. Always double check when in doubt about what they mean, especially if you are not allowed to tape record—which may have been the case with Goldberg.

2. Regardless of the exactness of the statements in question, what is important about Fidel’s initiative here is that this great political leader and statesman is speaking directly to the major players and encouraging an ally and two enemies to accept the olive branch.

3. Fidel is also encouraging criticism and self-critique among friends and allies.

I hope that government leaders, communist party members, solidarity workers with Cuba, with all ALBA lands and other countries take Fidel’s intentions to heart. We must be open to dialogue, to criticism and self-critique. And we must work tirelessly to prevent and stop wars.

PS: Fidel invited Goldberg, Sweig, and Adela Dworin, the president of Cuba’s Jewish community to see his favorite animals exercise in Cuba’s dolphin aquarium. Goldberg wrote that Fidel thinks the dolphin show is the best in the world, “completely unique”, because it is an underwater show with human divers performing acrobatics with them. And Goldberg concluded that he had never seen anyone enjoy a dolphin show as much as Fidel did.

I know the show myself. It was a favorite of mine when I lived there. What is interesting to me about this is: a) The world’s major communist leader, a fan of these intelligent kindly animals, sends a message to war makers: be as gentle as dolphins; b) On the same day, I was observing a wild dolphin “show” where Rio Sado meets the Atlantic Ocean, in Setúbal, Portugal. And this was during Europe’s largest festival (Avante newspaper) of communists and other leftists sending a message of world peace.

Ron Ridenour is a veteran journalist and author of nine books, the latest is Tamil Nation in Sri Lanka. Read other articles by Ron, or visit Ron's website.

7 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. MichaelKenny said on September 13th, 2010 at 9:05am #

    Wow! I hadn’t realised that the Cuban regime was so near to collapse that it needed this sort of panciky propping up! In the same vein, the man who interpreted for Erich Honecker during his 1980 visit to Cuba said in a recent TV documentary that Honecker told Castro (in 1980!) that communism had failed and that all the communists could do was play for time. Castro agreed with that statement.

  2. bozh said on September 13th, 2010 at 9:46am #

    Egalitarians may or may not all by lonesome selves fail egalitarianism. But egalitarianism wld never ever go away or be a failure once it is established over centuries or millennia!
    In SU, building socialism, ended most likely because of military threat to the russian repuplic.
    Russia stood a chance of instant evanescence by the hands of greatest criminal minds.
    And i haven’t heard that even one russian, ukrainian, or bielo-russian complained for gorbachev ending that process.

    Fascism had ca 10 k yrs to develop fascisticly thinking people; socialists only a few turbulent decades to develop right thinking people.
    They had to fight own fascists; nazis, which devasted russia, and fear world plutos and their bns of devoted serfs! tnx
    And look whappened to iraqi, pashtuns, pal’ns and what wld happen in future by these mosters!

  3. cub4_sky said on September 13th, 2010 at 1:56pm #

    oh…I get it now – fidel is a comedian.
    51 years of oppression & misery
    11 million slaves working for $20 a month
    turning a once prospering nation into a third world country (look at the numbers prior to 1959)

    not funny…but nice try.

  4. teafoe2 said on September 13th, 2010 at 5:12pm #

    cub four sky misses Meyer Lansky:)

    “once prospering nation” my…, er, donkey. In 1959 even Time Magazine admitted the Batista dictatorship was so blatantly corrupt and oppressive it had to go.

    The truth is that Pre-revolution Cuba amounted to little more than a Mafia plantation.

  5. kalidas said on September 14th, 2010 at 8:21am #

    “Little Israel”

  6. hayate said on September 14th, 2010 at 9:46pm #

    cub4_sky

    Are you a bear cub – as in “bears and cubs”?

    ;D

  7. Andres Kargar said on September 14th, 2010 at 10:25pm #

    Jeffery Goldberg can write what he wants. No matter what he says, he and his imperialist buddies cannot deny the fact that Latin America is on revolutionary fire and an independent course today, thanks to the incessant struggles of the its people, but also because of the role model that the Cuban Revolution has unveiled to Latin America and the whole world.

    How can the world forget the example of thousands of Cuban doctors who have been volunteering in the remotest and the most deprived areas of the world?

    How can Africa forget the assistance and dedication of Cuban volunteers in its struggles against imperialism and colonialism?

    The answer is that the world cannot and will not forget the example of the Cuban revolution.

    Viva Cuba, Viva El Comandante Fidel Castro!
    Hasta la Victoria Siempre!