Cuba

Fidel Castro, Cuba and socialism

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The death of Castro, long time leader of Cuba, last November provoked a polarised response. The establishment denounced him as a dictator who ruined Cuba, while some on the left celebrated him unquestioningly. Andy Brown argues that socialists must retain their critical faculties.

Fidel Castro’s death at the end of last year has provoked two basic reactions. One is the bitter and utterly hypocritical version of the right. Donald Trump said, “Castro’s legacy is one of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights.”

We on the left need take no lessons from those whose practice and associates are perfect illustrations, in the past and the present, at home and across the world (in Latin America especially), of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights.

Cuba's contradictions

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Last month a national congress in Cuba agreed to reforms aimed at opening the country up to market forces. Mike Gonzalez examines Cuba's contradictions

In April 2011 the Cuban Communist Party met in national congress. This was its first congress since 1997, and the first that would not be presided over by Fidel Castro - who used to be its general secretary as well as head of state and commander in chief of the armed forces. Four years ago Fidel passed the baton to his brother Raul, five years younger than him and minister of defence since the revolution of 1959.

Imperfect Cinema

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Death of a Bureaucrat, directed in Cuba by Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, opens on a factory where a worker creating busts of José Marti (leader of the Cuban independence struggle of the 1890s and icon of the 1959 Revolution) is killed in an accident. The last bust to emerge is the worker himself.

What follows is an extremely funny and pointed film about the inflexibility of bureaucracy. After his burial his son realises that his identity card has gone to the grave with him. Without it, his widow cannot collect her pension. But getting the body disinterred proves to be a nightmare of paperwork and permits. It is a satire, of course, and representative of a deeply creative moment in the culture of post-revolutionary Cuba.

Cuba after Fidel Castro: Following Fidel

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Fidel Castro has resigned from his position as head of the government of Cuba after 49 years in charge.

Even during the last 18 months when his brother Raul (five years his junior) was formally in power he has continued to control things, just as he has ever since he led the rebel army into Havana in 1959.

His resignation letter suggests it is time to pass the baton to a younger generation. The less charismatic Raul, who has been named president, has hinted at reopening negotiations with the US, while at the same time actively building relations with China.

Cuba's Dynastic Succession

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For the first time in 47 years Fidel Castro is not formally in control of the Cuban state.

Recent photographs show the man of legendary energy in slippers and pyjamas, recovering from an operation whose purposes remain the object of unsubstantiated rumours. And the same absence of concrete facts to work with informs the great debate about who will follow Fidel.

Music, Dreams and Desire

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Mike Gonzalez commemorates the extraordinary music of the Buena Vista Social Club.

The last time I saw Rubén González play piano he finished one tune with a visual joke: running his fingers up the keyboard, he continued beyond the edge of the piano, playing in the air. It was as if his extraordinary dexterity and skill had conquered what was there and needed some new challenges. Bumping into him a little later in a bar near the theatre, I realized how tiny he was, and how bent and arthritic his hands were. It made his artistry even more astonishing.

Cuba on My Mind

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Socialism without freedom is not worthy of the name.

My e-mail has been full to overflowing recently as the grandees of the international and Latin American intelligentsia lined up to defend Cuba. Some weeks ago, the Cuban government tried and summarily executed three hijackers who had seized a Cuban ferry. In the same period, 70 people were arrested and tried for opposition to the Cuban state and sentenced to jail terms of up to 20 years.

Down and Out in Havana

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Is Cuba free from capitalism? Chris Harman looks at the novels of a writer who does not think so.

Sometimes a novel can engross and repel you at the same time. Certainly that's what happened to me with Pedro Juan Gutiérrez's 'Anclado en Tierra de Nada' ('Anchored to the Land of Nothing')--the first part of his 'Dirty Havana' trilogy.

It repelled me because it belongs to the genre of what might be called 'lower depths' fiction. This wallows in the dirt, squalor, drunkenness and mechanical, dehumanised sexuality of those who live on the margins of society, where the artistic petty bourgeois merges with the lumpenproletariat.

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