Raul Castro at the Crossroads / Carlos Alberto Montaner
Carlos Alberto Montaner, 10 December 2016 — Raúl Castro is on his own.
Gone is his mentor, his paternal figure, the man who molded his life and
led him at gunpoint — literally — from insignificance to the nation's
leadership. But he did so brusquely, reminding him every so often that
he despised him for his intellectual limitations. That never ceased to
Many years ago, Raúl realized that Fidel was the revolution's essential
stumbling block — his arbitrary voluntarism, his stubborn foolishness,
his improvisations, the odious way in which he wasted time in
interminable conversations and perorations. But he also knew that
without Fidel there would have been no revolution. On one hand, he
admired him; on the other, he rejected him. There was something
monstrous and fascinating in a person who talked for eight consecutive
hours without the least concession to his bladder or that of the
Nevertheless, life had taught Raúl that a deeper problem existed:
Marxism-Leninism, in which he believed blindly in his youth, and the
reason he killed others without compunction, was a misguided doctrine
that led to gradual impoverishment.
If Fidel had been different, or if relations with Washington had been a
lot better, nothing essential would have changed. The unproductiveness
of the system did not depend on the leader's errors or character, or the
economic embargo, but on the system's lack of adaptation to human
nature. It always fails.
The same had happened in the Soviet Union, in East Germany, in
Czechoslovakia, in Poland. Whether the subjects were Slavs, Germans or
Latins made no difference. Romania had been granted "most-favored
nation" status by the United States.
It mattered not whether communism was being tested on societies with
Christian, Islamic or Confucian roots; it inevitably failed. Nor did it
depend on the leaders' quality or formation. Their plumage could be
varied: lawyers, union bosses, professors, teachers, even elevated labor
activists. None was any good.
In addition, it was easy for Raúl to confirm that the market economy,
with its simple way of rewarding the entrepreneurs and punishing the
lazy, gave large though unequal fruit. His own father, Galician Ángel
Castro Argiz, was a living example: he arrived in the Republic of Cuba
at a young age without a penny, even without education, but at his death
in 1956 he left a fortune consisting of $8 million and an organized
agricultural business that employed dozens of people.
The issue now facing Raúl is how to dismantle the horrid contraption
generated by his brother and himself almost 60 years ago without being
buried in the rubble of that useless system. By now he knows that his
"guidelines," which is how his timid, sometimes puerile reforms are
called in Cuba, are ill-placed Band-Aids stuck on a socialist system
beyond salvation, a system made worse by military management in all its
economic activities nationwide. But he has said, over and again, that he
didn't replace his brother to bury socialism but to save it.
I suppose he already knows that communism is beyond salvation. It has to
be buried. That's what Mikhail Gorbachev discovered when he tried to
rescue it by applying drastic reforms: perestroika — giving it a
transparent air of fearless discussion — and glasnost –convinced that it
could be the best productive system created by human beings.
In a few years, Gorbachev's salvage operation sank communism, not
through the clumsiness of the rescue team but through the system's
insolvency and the poor theoretical formulation of Marxism-Leninism.
Central planning was a bungle. Keeping the mechanisms of production from
private hands was counterproductive. The committees for the assignation
of prices were totally unaware of the people's needs or reality. The
constant presence of the political police destroyed coexistence and
generated all kinds of psychological ills.
When Raúl Castro read "Perestroika," Gorbachev's book, he became so
enthused that he ordered a special edition just for his officers. Fidel
found out, scolded him in a humiliating manner and recalled all copies.
Fidel was not interested in the people's material well-being but in his
own permanence in power. Gorbachevism, he said, would lead to the
disappearance of communism.
He was right, but only half right. Raúl is at the same crossroads where
Gorbachev stood, but with the added flaw that today almost no one — much
less the profound idiots — thinks that communism can be saved. At least,
none of the nations that have managed to abandon it has reversed that
decision. They learned their bitter lesson. For now, the symptoms show
that Raúl will maintain the same Stalinist course drawn by his brother,
but there's a difference: Fidel is no longer alive. He is buried in a
huge rock at Santa Ifigenia cemetery. If Raúl doesn't rectify that
course, he is a coward.
Ed. note: English version is from Mr. Montaner's own blog.
Source: Raul Castro at the Crossroads / Carlos Alberto Montaner –
Translating Cuba -