By Harold Cárdenas Lema
On March 5, 2019, Bernie Sanders was obliged to register as a member of the US Democratic Party, one of the many obstacles to his candidacy. On that same day, Fox News celebrated the attacks launched on him by Hillary Clinton’s team. And first thing in the morning, the official medium of the Communist Party of Cuba accused him of being an obedient pawn of his country’s power elites, who would usher an ‘imperialist social democracy’. Bernie managed something difficult: uniting against him the Republican, the Democratic and at least part of the Cuban establishment.
If anticommunism has defined the identity of the Cuban exiles, the struggle against the United States defines the history of the Revolution. Resorting to a common enemy as a means of achieving national unity is a usual feature of authoritarian regimes, but in the case of Cuba it’s also a reality. Six decades of sanctions and harassment explain the defensive mentality in the island. But recognizing an adversary is one thing, and the hysteria promoted by the advocates of official thought is a whole different one.
The ghost of Obama’s visit haunts Cuban ideologues. In March 2016, a black President arrived in the Caribbean island, younger than the local leaders, better at communicating, well-advised by his team, unafraid to refer to past mistakes, and accompanied by his family. As he left, there were strong reactions in the press to remind the people who the enemy was. The Ministry of Foreign Relations even highlighted the event on TV as an ‘assault’ on national values, while institutionally describing the visit as a success. If the moderate Obama challenged the stereotypical image of him that the Cuban State sold its people, the idea of a socialist President in the US must give them plenty of restless nights.
Radical ideologues find Trump more convenient than Bernie Sanders
Last year’s text in Granma –a must-read for whoever studies party media–, highlighted ‘signs’ indicating that Sanders aspired to become President of the United States. Maybe the first clue for the author was his 2016 candidacy, or that one month earlier American media announced his new campaign for 2020. It wasn’t exactly smoke signals. The text is authored by Luis Toledo Sande, who must be very sharp in his analysis to have access to a mass medium that’s beyond the reach of most Cubans specializing in international relations.
Bernie is not even close to the presidency. Most Democratic voters have yet to declare for their candidate, and Bernie himself is yet to battle Trump, but one year ago Granma denounced him and socialist congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The newspaper of the ruling party in an island under US sanctions decided from the start of the presidential race to rant and rave against the most progressive candidate in that country. This could be difficult to understand, if there wasn’t an obvious intention to remind the Cuban people once again that the enemy is whoever ‘the ones who know’ decide, whether he is a socialist or not.
If the progressive miracle happens, and Sanders wins the presidency and improves the bilateral relations, the Cuban government would be tested. Proposed reforms should be implemented, social complaints should be heard and the country’s administrators should have to show efficiency. In practice, it’s more likely that they will devote that energy to denouncing siren calls, centrists with a sheepskin and members of the fifth column who try to confuse the innocent people. There will be a new campaign, with adjectives and labels to persecute the non-government actors who support the improvement of relations. They will dust off the Soviet literature against European social democracy and they will proclaim faith in the people while they limit their access to forbidden texts. It’s so predictable.
Nothing coming from the United States will pass the mandatory purity tests of the Party
There’s little mention in Cuba already of Fidel Castro’s speech where he announced that the destruction of socialism would come from within. There are no calls to criticism or to changes in mentality. All that didn’t end with Trump, but much earlier, when citizen’s participation was again interpreted as giving ammunition to the enemy.
Of course, Granma’s editors cannot be fooled by Sanders. Toledo Sande calls him Bernard, because, to him, shortening the name of a 78-year-old socialist Jew seems dangerous. As his text published by the Party reads: ‘Sanders will do what the leading figures of the empire allow him or order him to do. And he will probably feel satisfied with that.’ Maybe that’s why, on Sunday night, Bernie Sanders praised the Cuban educational system, and just last night the literacy campaign, comments which may cost him the Democratic candidacy. It must be a plot ordered by the leading figures of the empire. So far, Bernard is not the candidate that the Democratic establishment, the Republican establishment, or the most radical ideologues in Havana want, but he already leads. Yes, he probably feels quite satisfied.
Contact the author at: firstname.lastname@example.org
(Translated from the original)