Fidel Castro – loss of the greatest contemporary revolutionary leader
Today we mourn the loss of Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz, who holds a special place in the hearts and minds of the people of Cuba, Latin America and all anti-imperialists and progressive people world-wide. His death on 25 November, at the age of 90, is a loss for the entire world.
Fidel Castro was the greatest contemporary revolutionary leader. He led the Cuban revolution and aided people struggling against imperialism across the world. His political analysis informed and educated the international socialist movement.
Born in 1926, after leaving university Castro took part in the rebellions in the Dominican Republic and Colombia. On 26 July 1953 he led the attack on the Moncada Barracks in Santiago de Cuba. Most of the rebels were imprisoned or executed. At his trial Castro’s defence was his manifesto for revolution in which he declared ‘History will absolve me.’
Released from prison in 1955, Castro went to Mexico where he met Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara. He reorganised Cuba’s revolutionary movement, which now took the name ’26th of July Movement’ in honour of the Moncada attack. The movement toppled the Batista dictatorship on 1 January 1959.
After the revolution’s victory Castro became Cuba’s Prime Minister and later its President. The US has spent the past 57 years trying to overthrow Cuba’s socialist regime. In 1960 it imposed an economic blockade and the following year it organised the unsuccessful Bay of Pigs invasion. The economic sanctions remain to this day. The CIA made several hundreds attempts to assassinate Castro. Recently diplomatic relations were restored by Obama, principally to improve US relations with Latin America.
Castro was central to the development of the most advanced working class political leadership in the world today – renowned for its internationalism. He followed the great strategic slogan of Che Guevera, ‘Create, Two, Three Many Vietnams’ – that is to understand that US imperialism, the greatest reactionary force on the planet, could defeat individual struggles so it must be defeated by advancing numerous struggles against it.
Tens of thousands of Cubans volunteered to fight in anti-imperialist struggles. Most notably Cuban troops played a decisive role in breaking apartheid, by defeating South Africa’s military intervention into Angola and Namibia in 1988 – one of the greatest acts of internationalism in modern history.
Hundreds of thousands of Cubans have also provided medical assistance in many countries across the world.
Castro had perceptive understanding of imperialism, whether it was in relation to the 1973 coup in Chile, imperialism’s numerous adventures in Africa, or the recent and current interventions in the Middle East seeking regime change.
Castro, combining Cuban patriotic struggle with internationalism, was in line with the same great revolutionary tradition that produced Mao Zedong and Ho Chi Minh in Asia – although it is easier for people in the West to understand Castro’s greatness compared to the Asian revolutionary leaders, because he came from a European culture and Cuba is a more developed country than the very poor countries of Asia.
Part of Castro’s greatness was shown in the difficult period after fall of USSR in 1991. With vital imports slashed and Cuba’s main export market (for sugar) no longer available, Castro’s approach was that above all the conditions of the Cuban people had to be protected. This was why he was so popular – whereas Soviet leaders from Stalin to Brezhnev industrialised the economy regardless of the conditions of the people, thereby undermining support for USSR. Castro always put the conditions of the people as the central point – thereby ensuring the support of the people. That approach, including the universal free healthcare system, results today in life expectancy in Cuba being higher than in the US and explains the extremely high level of education of its population.
Fidel Castro was the inspiration for Latin American revolutionaries such as Hugo Chavez. One of the leaders of the Nicaraguan revolution Tomas Borge when asked who were the five leaders in the world he most admired famously replied: ‘First, Fidel Castro. Second, Fidel Castro. Third, Fidel Castro. Fourth, Fidel Castro. Fifth, Fidel Castro.’
But Fidel Castro’s popularity and stature in Latin America were so great that they went far beyond politics. He had the support both of the greatest figures of Latin American culture such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez and of popular idols of the Latin American people such as football legend Diego Maradona – who had a tattoo of Fidel Castro on his leg.
Castro was one of the very greatest revolutionary and socialist leaders of the 20th and 21st centuries. His loss will be mourned by all those fighting for socialism, justice and human progress. His memory and achievements are an indelible monument to that fight – in the first place of course for the Cuban people but also as the contribution of that country to the entire world..
Hasta la victoria siempre!