More than half of the world’s population is less than 30 years of age, and the rest of us who are above that age, some even more than twice the figure, are ruling the world. In addition, we probably understand less than ever what we are doing and what we should be doing to shape the world so that is gets better for all, especially those at the bottom. No, I don’t think that those below 30 know better what to do. Yet, they are the ones who must sort it out before they reach their life’s ‘mid-day’ of 40 or 45. One of the most important things to solve is inequality – between individuals and groups of human beings; between small and big countries, and larger groups of countries and organisations; and inequality at many other levels and in different forms since. We human beings seem to be obsessed with creating inequality rather than equality – yet knowing that it is equality that serves us all best.

One of the world’s great champions of equality within his own land, and one of fieriest anti-imperialists we have known, Fidel Castro, passed away on 25 November at the age of 90. He had been the revolutionary leader of Cuba since 1961; since 2008, behind the scene as he had handed over the mantle of power to his five years younger brother Raul Castro. When Fidel Castro in 1959 succeeded in the overthrow of the despotic President Batista, which he and other revolutionaries had attempted to oust for more than a decade, it was in certain ways and easy task since the regime and ‘playground for America’s rich and immoral’ was unsustainable. In 1961, after USA’s failed Bay of Pigs invasion, Fidel Castro stated, “What the imperialists cannot forgive us, is that we have made a Socialist revolution right under their noses”. That was the first time that it was announced that the Cuban government was socialist.

When we judge the Cuban revolution, America’s reaction to it, the hostile relations between the two countries and their ideologies till this very day, we must realise that we see it all through eye glasses of the decades in question. The zeitgeist has changed and the majority opinions about Cuba will keep changing. We must remember that the Cuban revolution happened at the height of the Cold War, with all its illogical, and some logical, fears and concerns. It was a war about the West’s capitalism against the Soviet Union’s socialism and communism, and if it wasn’t, we were told it was. Judged by more sober thinking, with less intoxication from propaganda of the time, we see that the two political and economic systems were not the only reasons for the ‘war’; it was also a competition for world leadership. The West, with USA at the top, was winner of the Second World War, and it kept the Cold War going to win that war, too, which it did when the Soviet Union collapsed a quarter century ago. Russia, USSR’s centre, came out the looser, and what is left of its greatness, and its imperialism, is still being fought by America and Western Europe.

Cuba was ideologically part of the socialist and communist thinking, and it became part of the Soviet Union’s economic shelter (with low oil prices and high sugar prices) without which America might have finished it off sooner. Cuba suffered economically and ideologically after the fall of the Soviet Union. The little land with ten million people, 150 kilometers across the ocean from the south-east of America, was of course never a threat to America, not even during USSR’s heydays, but it was portrayed to be so through America’s propaganda, supported by many other right-wing countries, and partly even by social-democratic regimes, or at least by major groups within those countries, members of the NATO military alliance with America. There is finally some thaw in relations between USA and Cuba, mostly on the terms of the superpower. However, I don’t think that there will be normal relations between the countries until Cuba gives up its socialist equality policies, turning back the clock to before the revolution. That will be good only for the few, but not for the many in Cuba – and it will also take away the dream of many in Americans and people in other countries that alternative systems to capitalism exist.

But how did Cuba really fare over the more than six decades since the revolution, and the struggle to prepare and achieve it? I believe that life for poor and middle class people was a great success during Castro’s rule, especially in the key fields of education and health for all. Had America never introduced its embargo against Cuba, and had developed supportive rather than hostile policies towards its weak neighbour, Cuba could have become a beacon to many other Third World countries – and even offered lessons to America and other industrialised countries. Cuba’s individual human rights record would then also have been better. Its relations with the Soviet Union, which was also imperialistic, could have been more equal.

Generally, we know – if we want to see it – that the world would have been a better place for all if imperialist America had behaved better towards the small and vulnerable people at home and abroad. Alas, it seems not to be what superpowers think of as their first choice. But then it can happen if we all work for it to happen. We know that the world became better for the colonies, and the colonial powers, too, once the imperialists let go of their ‘possessions’ – yes, including the countries on the Sub-continent and UK. When Pakistan became independent, well, as independent as it is allowed to be vis-à-vis the big and strong internally and internationally, it became a better land, and it has the potential of greatness when everybody can participate equally.

Finally today, let me briefly say something about the multi-polar world we are beginning to see – as the title of my article promised I would discuss. After the end of the Soviet Union, with China still not having reached superpower level, America has rained alone. My countryman, the renowned peace professor Johan Galtung wrote in an article just a few days, entitled ‘The State of the World Right Now: A Macro View’, published by the TFF Network, Lund, Sweden, that he sees the emergence of eight centres or poles in the world, with groups of several countries in each. After he had discussed and listed the groupings (which I shall do only in a forthcoming article), he added: “And there is the multi-regional Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, SCO, with China and Russia, Islamic countries, India and Pakistan. There is a waning state reality, smaller states being increasingly absorbed into regions. There is a waxing region reality”, Galtung says, referring to the eight regions he anticipates, adding that they might be eleven, if West Asia, Central Asia and Northeast Asia become own regions.

With all this then coming, there is still a chance for Cuba to continue along its own development path, and for others to learn from it and develop own models, locally and regionally. There is a possibility that USA, too, will learn from others, not only wield the sword of power. There could also be potential for revival of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) with its 120 member countries, mostly in the South, and Cuba as a member from its formation in 1961.

A multi-polar world could lead us into a more positive 21st century than the way the 20th century was. We might even realise that socialism wasn’t such a bad idea after all, and that much in capitalism was and is bad unless it is well regulated. Those who are young today must sort out all this for us; they can indeed create a more equal and fairer world, with less imperialistic and heavy handed superpowers and major powers. We would be able to draw lessons from diverse big and small lands, including Cuba – and we would begin to see through the hollowness of imperialistic regimes and their economic, ideological, religious, and military self-serving thinking. The world would become better for all.


The writer is a senior Norwegian social scientist with experience in research, diplomacy and development aid.