Monday, May 11, 2015

On communism and socialism

"I am a communist of the Cuban Communist Party," Raul Castro said Sunday. "The party never allowed the believers. Now we are allowing that believers also be part. This is an important step."

On Saturday, Fidel Castro penned an op-ed commemorating Victory Day, a celebration of the 70th anniversary of Nazi Germany's surrender to the Soviet Union. In it, Castro, who ceded power to his brother in 2008, referred to Lenin as a "brilliant revolutionary strategist," lauded communism, decried capitalism and wrote that the recent cooperation between China and Russia has formed a "shield of world peace and security, so that the life of our species may be preserved."

"The 27 million Soviets who died in the Great Patriotic War also did so for humanity and the right to think and be socialists, to be Marxist-Leninists, communists, and leave the dark ages behind," Fidel Castro wrote on state-run Granma.

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    "Dialogue will continue and should continue but not necessarily based on demands and claims of privilege for the Church. It's enough that, once and for all, the place and the mission of the Church in society and in its relations with a secular state be recognized," spokesman Orlando Marquez said.

    While Cuba's government still harasses dissidents and has no intention of breaking the dominance of the Communist Party or allowing multi-party elections, it has released many of the more high-profile peaceful opponents from long prison terms, a process helped by the Church's nudging.

    Despite their softer tone, many experts say the Castros are simply practicing realpolitik rather than experiencing a spiritual awakening.

    In 1959, a majority of the clergy in Cuba were Spanish and deeply conservative so a rift was inevitable when Fidel Castro's rebels overthrew dictator Fulgencio Batista.

    "They were imbued with anti-communism from the Spanish civil war. They sided with the United States and supporters of the old Batista regime and so the trouble began as a political, not religious, confrontation," said Enrique Lopez Oliva, a historian of religion at the University of Havana.

    "Yes, the Castros have changed, but so has the Church, and that is why reconciliation is now possible," he said.

    The Castros both claim that the lessons of Christ's life and socialism are compatible.

    "If people call me Christian, not from the standpoint of religion but from the standpoint of social vision, I declare that I am a Christian," Fidel Castro said in an oral autobiography with journalist Ignacio Ramonet, published in 2006 shortly before illness forced him to hand over power to Raul.

    "The Church is the largest non-governmental organization in Cuba and still has a significant following," he said. "They needed the Church for legitimacy and as a mediator internationally and domestically."