(The Economist’s article “Heroic Myth and Prosaic Failure” 12/30/08)
Very well researched piece written in the recent Economist on Fidel’s Revolution (the myth vs. the reality). An editorial like this is very tricky to write and my thoughts were, it was very balanced and well informed.
In fact, if you read my review on Che (Sodenberghs 5 hour epic), you’ll notice my biggest disappointment was the fact Soderbergh skipped 6 years of history between Part 1 film (The Triumph Cuban Revolution) and Part 2 (Che in Bolivia).
READ MY CHE REVIEW HERE.
The beginning of this article actually provides all the missing pieces left out of the film. The fact that 7 months into Fidel’s tenure as President of Cuba, that he revoked the promises of his July 26th Movement. Also mentioned is how Fidel promised to restore the 1940 Consititution of Cuba in his manifesto which Batista’s coup repudiated in 1952. Don’t forget Fidel’s Agrarian reform (to liberate Cuba from US corporations) that took a turn into nationalizing all Cuba property. And of course, then there was the alliance with Russia, which changed the nation into a Communist state. Che was a tremendous center figure in the implementation of all these twists and turns that confused and disappointed a homeland that was ripe for change. Instead of stepping away from corruption, the country turned into a police state overnight.
These are all things that Soderbergh’s Che epic conveniently left out after Part 1 ended. Only the romantic battle was shown. But after the emotional victory (of David & Goliath proportions), the audience is left wondering what became of the implementation of The Revolution, which personally, is what I find more intriguing to discuss and riddled with complicaitons.
The writer even points out:
“Communism in Cuba has had a better press than anywhere else. He has exploited the cult of Che in particular. Guevara’s myth—of the romantic rebel, not the murderous, militaristic Marxist of real life—burns as brightly as ever, recreated in hagiographical books and in a new Hollywood movie hitting American and British screens this month.”
The writer breaks down Fidel’s cryptic style when he explains…
“It was more because Mr Castro presented himself as a nationalist first and a communist second: the ‘intellectual author’ of the revolution, he always insisted, was not Marx but José Martí, a writer and political activist who perished fighting for independence in 1895. It was also because Mr Castro’s rule relied on his own charisma, his oratorical machismo and the regular mobilisation of vast crowds, as much as on the Communist Party machine or on repression.”
The chatboard after the article lights up like a Christmas tree with people arguing back and forth. Nothing polarizes people more that saying the word “Cuba” or “Che” in a room. Surprisingly, even intense Leftists are coming out of the woodworks online trying to decipher what went down 50 years later … A comment board message written by Leftist Sueco reads:
“He [Fidel] may be a great ruler in a Machiavellian sense, but his hunger for power and control trumped the ideal he once represented. Power is equally corrupting to both sides i guess. I am a leftist and yet I would never consider myself to be in the camp of a man like him. No political idea is worth the suffering of people.”
All in all. It’s worth the read so I’ll end this blog post so you can read the real thing. But I will end it with a final quote in the article, one that raps up the island in a nutshell.
“Mr Castro’s Cuba is a sad place. Although the population is now mainly black or mulatto and young, its rulers form a mainly white gerontocracy. The failure of collective farming means that it imports up to 80% of its food. The health and education systems struggle to maintain standards. Inequalities have risen. What matters for Cuban livelihoods is access to hard currency”
It is this access to hard currency (or lack thereof) that frustrates a young Entrepreneurial minded Cuban on the island today. It’s something that hopefully will change as close as 2009. For the first time ever as an American, I’m not embarassed or apologetic about my President. Obama’s tolerance, compassion, and respect towards different cultures coupled with his understanding of the dire need of democracy and access to information is reassuring. It’s restored my faith again at least in politics. I hope it serves as a beacon for my young counterparts in Cuba who have lost all faith in their future.
Just like the editorial ends, I echo the same sentiment in a positive way…
“But Mr Castro is in the late evening of his life. And what happens after him remains unclear.”
Read the Economists Heroic Myth and Prosaic Failure here.