Thursday, March 19, 2020

Cuba triumphs where capitalism has failed

By Nikos Mottas.

Speaking to medical students in Havana, on 19 August 1960, communist revolutionary, guerrilla fighter and doctor Ernesto Che Guevara was pointing out: 
"The work that today is entrusted to the Ministry of Health and similar organizations is to provide public health services for the greatest possible number of persons, institute a program of preventive medicine, and orient the public to the performance of hygienic practices [...] Some day, therefore, medicine will have to convert itself into a science that serves to prevent disease and orients the public toward carrying out its medical duties [....] The doctor, the medical worker, must go to the core of his new work, which is the man within the mass, the man within the collectivity" [1].
Six decades passed since then. Che was murdered by the imperialists and their stooges in Bolivia. However, he left behind a invaluable legacy of heroism and selflessness, being a great example of how a doctor can devote his whole life to the cause of socialist revolution. 

For over sixty years Cuba faces the continuous hostility of U.S. imperialism, with the a severe, inhumane economic and financial blockade imposed on the island. The counterrevolutionary events in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe in the beginning of 1990s costed Cuba its most valuable allies, thus creating enormous difficulties in the country’s economy. 

However, under the inspiring and firm leadership of Fidel Castro and his comrades, Cuba made significant progress. The socialist construction born fruit and the small country of 11 million people managed to create one of the best healthcare systems in the world. 

Cuba’s healthcare success is a true story. Even bourgeois institutions, such as the World Health Organisation, the IMF and the World Bank have aknowledged this fact. In 2001, the then president of the World Bank James Wolfensohn praised Cuba for its national health system [2]; in 2006, the BBC included Cuba’s healthcare system in the world’s best ones [3], while in 2014 WHO’s former General Director Margaret Chan expressed her admiration for the achievements of the country in healthcare, characterizing Cuba’s national health system a “model for the world” [4].

The Cuban people can be proud of the Revolution’s achievements in the healthcare sector. Despite the blockade, the country has developed a free and universal healthcare system, guaranteed by the state and accessible to the entire population without limitations and discriminations. Cuba became the first country in the world to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV and Siphilis, while the infant mortality rate is lower than in the United States

An extraordinary fact is that Cuba has one of highest doctor-to-patient ratio in the world, with 9 doctors for every 1,000 citizens, which is more than double the rate in the U.S. [5] Another fact that highlights the Revolution’s focus on healthcare is the existence of 23 medical schools where Cuban and foreign nationals can study medicine free of charge. 

We would literally need days of writing in order to count one by one the achievements of the Cuban Revolution in healthcare. The point of this article is to remind us that Cuba is a long-time champion of internationalist solidarity, with over 325,000 Cuban health workers participating in missions in 158 countries throughout the world since 1969 [6].

The current situation of COVID-19 pandemic reveals the truth: While the healthcare systems in the U.S. and most of Europe are on the brick of collapse, being unable to provide adequate protection to the working people, Cuban doctors are on internationalist missions abroad (Italy, China, Venezuela, etc), helping foreign nations to successfully confront the Coronavirus outbreak. A few years ago, Cuban medical groups were sent to support the fight against the outbreak of Ebola and Cholera, in West Africa and Haiti respectively.

The pandemic of Coronavirus has exposed the failure of the healthcare system in the heart of capitalism, the U.S. The theory of “cost and profit”, the privatization of public health sectors, have been proved totally disastrous for the working class in Europe and the Americas. Even governmental officials and credible bourgeois sources in the U.S. admit the inability of the country’s healthcare system to respond successfully to the COVID-19 crisis.  

At the same time, while the capitalist world faces the tragic consequences of the “profits above people” doctrine (which is inherent in capitalism), Cuba is in the front line of the fight against the pandemic. The Cuban state, operating on the basis of central planning, has taken all the needed prevention measures for the protection of the people. Furthermore, Cuba has produced at least 22 anti-virus drugs, among them the Interferon Alfa 2-B, which has been used in China for the treatment of COVID-19 symptoms. 

The above lead us to certain conclusions. The most significant one is that, in times of a pandemic, socialism proves its superiority over the rotten and outdated capitalist system. 

This is a vindication for Fidel, Che and all the heroic revolutionaries who fought for socialism and independence. Cuba triumphs where capitalism has utterly failed. 

[1] Che Guevara talks to young people, Pathfinder Press, 2000.
[2] Jib Lobe, Learn from Cuba, says World Bank, IPS, 1 May 2001.
[3] Keeping Cuba Healthy, BBC Newsnight, 1 August 2006.
[4] Salim Lamrani, "Cuba, un modèle selon l’Organisation mondiale de la santé", Opera Mundi, 30 July 2014 and also on "World Health Organization describes Cuba's health system as exemplary", Prensa Latina (via Granma), 21 October 2015.
[5], 23 July 2019.
[6] Granma, 15 July 2016.
* Nikos Mottas is the Editor-in-Chief of In Defense of Communism.