The political legacy of Fidel Castro
Fidel passed from this world five years ago today
Today is the fifth anniversary of the death of Fidel Castro. I can see from my apartment balcony the temporary outdoor theatre that has been constructed on the huge stairway that is the entrance to the University of Havana, where a commemoration of the anniversary of his death is being held.
As my own contribution to the commemoration, I reproduce here (unedited) my blog post of November 28, 2019, written on the occasion of the first anniversary of Fidel’s death.
The political legacy of Fidel
November 28, 2019
On the first anniversary of his death, Cubans have been reflecting on the meaning of the life and work of the historic leader of the Cuban Revolution.
Fidel Castro Ruz was born in Birán, in the then Eastern province of Oriente, in 1926. The son of a Spanish peasant immigrant who became a landholder, Fidel was educated in private Catholic schools, where he came to appreciate the Christian personal ethic of his teachers, without ever being convinced of the existence of God. During the years of his secondary education, he was formed in the nationalist tradition forged by the nineteenth century Cuban revolutionary José Martí, and he read all the published works on the Cuban wars of independence. At the University of Havana, he was influenced by progressive professors and by participation in student organizations and protests, and he read on his own the works of Marx, Engels, and Lenin. By the time of his graduation from the university in 1950 (with a bachelor’s in Diplomatic and Administrative Law and a Doctor of Law), he had formulated a plan for a Cuban popular revolution, based on a synthesis of Cuban revolutionary nationalism and Marxism-Leninism.
He organized and led a political vanguard dedicated to the taking of power through guerrilla war and, with control of the state, to the implementation of the necessary changes to protect the economic, social, and political rights of the majority, previously denied on a massive scale. It was a revolution of, by, and for the humble. It was a masterful political construction that broke the neocolonial model based on dependency and subordination to the United States; and that was an exemplary realization of the Latin American process of decolonization and independence, initiated in the nineteenth century. He guided the revolution through imperialist aggressions, an interminable economic blockade, and the economic crisis resulting from the collapse of the Soviet Union and Eastern European socialist bloc. At the dawn of the twenty-first century, with the emergence of new emancipatory movements that embraced Cuba as a model of Latin American dignity, he played a leadership role, along with Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, in forging Latin American and Caribbean unity, integration, solidarity, and cooperation. This alternative model for international relations has been endorsed unambiguously by the Non-Aligned Movement, an organization of 120 governments of the Third World established in 1961.
On May 1, 2000, Fidel expressed to the people a definition of revolution, thus providing a political testament to guide the people in the coming times. For Fidel, revolution is a sense of the historic moment and a capacity to change all that ought to be changed, in ourselves as persons, in the society, and in the world. It is to treat all persons with respect, providing them with access to the work, education, health, and culture that they need to develop their capacities, their sentiments, and their spirituality. It is based in an unshakable faith in victory, a permanent spirit of optimism, and a belief that nothing is impossible. It is fed by ideas, which are nurtured by an accumulated culture and a permanent study of the history of humanity and of the forging of the nation. Its most important arm and shield is the truth.
The people of Cuba are a revolutionary people that Fidel taught to be revolutionary. He remains alive in their memories, their hearts, their minds, and their convictions. Led by the vanguard that he formed and by the most Fidelist of Cubans, Raúl, they continue to strive to construct a nation that is sovereign, independent, socialist, democratic, prosperous, and sustainable.
The people of Cuba have revolutionary faith in the future of humanity. They believe that the peoples of the world in solidarity can build a world that is a just, democratic, and sustainable. They believe that decisive and intelligent revolutionary political action by the world’s peoples is necessary to save humanity, inasmuch as the capitalist world-economy has entered a stage of savagery, in which the global elite responds with aggressions and violence to contradictions that it cannot understand. They see their own revolution as a modest but important step in building an alternative and more just world, for it demonstrates the possibility of the fulfillment of impossible dreams.
Calviño, Manuel. 2017. “La voz del pueblo, en la voz de Fidel, se crece.” In Granma: Órgano Oficial del Comité Central del Partido Comunista de Cuba, Suplemento Especial (November 24):3.
de la Hoz, Pedro. 2017. “La forma viva y fulgurante del concepto de Revolución. In Granma: Órgano Oficial del Comité Central del Partido Comunista de Cuba (November 25):5.
Elizalde, Rosa Miriam. 2017. “Fidel y el imposible.” In Granma: Órgano Oficial del Comité Central del Partido Comunista de Cuba, Suplemento Especial (November 24):7.
González Barrios, Rene. 2017. “Una especia que tiene prohibido no soñar.” In Granma: Órgano Oficial del Comité Central del Partido Comunista de Cuba, Suplemento Especial (November 24):8.
González Santamaría, Abel. 2017. “El más martiano de todos los cubanos.” In Granma: Órgano Oficial del Comité Central del Partido Comunista de Cuba, Suplemento Especial (November 24):10.
Guerra López, Dolores B. 2017. “Una construcción política en dialogo con las ideas y la realidad.” In Granma: Órgano Oficial del Comité Central del Partido Comunista de Cuba, Suplemento Especial (November 24):2.
O’Connor, María Carla and Rachel Morales. 2017. “El líder de las utopías posibles.” Juventud Rebelde, Suplemente Especial (November 25):8.
Pradas Dariel, 2017. “Pasos sobre la escalinata.” Juventud Rebelde, Suplemente Especial (November 25):4-5.
Rodríguez, Pedro Pablo. 2017. “Fidel, humanista.” In Granma: Órgano Oficial del Comité Central del Partido Comunista de Cuba, Suplemento Especial (November 24):5.
Rodríguez Rodríguez, Elvis R. 2017. “Con la verdad como arma y escudo.” In Granma: Órgano Oficial del Comité Central del Partido Comunista de Cuba, Suplemento Especial (November 24):11.
Ubieta Gómez, Enrique. 2017. “Las bases de nuestro patriotismo.” In Granma: Órgano Oficial del Comité Central del Partido Comunista de Cuba, Suplemento Especial (November 24):12.
Today, fours year later, I would like to make two further observations. First, Cuba has undergone an important transition to a new generation of leadership. The Communist Party of Cuba is functioning as it was designed, as a vanguard political party that guides the people toward the necessary road. Meanwhile, Miguel Díaz-Canel, First Secretary of the Party and President of the Republic, who was formed by the process that Fidel labored to create, heads a collective leadership team, as he constantly calls and exhorts the people to revolution.
Secondly, four year later, I would be more inclined to conclude the commentary by referring not to the savagery of capitalism in its current stage but to its parasitic economic unproductivity and its moral decadence.
I also would like to refer the reader to my August 17, 2021 Substack commentary, which describes Fidel’s scientifically-informed yet prophetic defense of the neocolonized peoples and nations, declared to all the world in major international forums as the global powers turned to neoliberalism.
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