The revenues of Cuban state-run companies are used exclusively for the benefit of the people, to whom they belong. No thieves, no traitors, no interventionists! This time the revolution is for real. Fidel Castro (1926-2016)
There are mixed reactions to the death of Cuban leader Fidel Castro who died on 25th November in Havana, Cuba. While Cuba is mourning the death of its revolutionary leader who was once quoted saying “I think that a man should not live beyond the age when he begins to deteriorate, when the flame that lighted the brightest moment of his life has weakened.” on the other hand the Cuban expatriates in Miami are celebrating.
Born on August 13, 1926, in Biran, Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz ruled the Republic of Cuba as Prime Minister from 1959-76 after ousting Batista, and then as President from 1976-2008. Castro was politically inclined towards the Marxist Leninist ideology and was a staunch nationalist; under his dispensation Cuba became a one party socialist state, with socialist reforms carried out on large scare and nationalization of the economy made mandatory, which included nationalization of business and trade. The leftist anti imperialist tendencies in Castro inspired revolutionaries like Argentine Ernesto Che Guevara to carry out movements against capitalist domination.
In the 1950’s when Castro was the President of the University Committee for Democracy in the Dominican Republic, he joined the strategic expedition that was planned to overthrow the right-wing military junta of Rafael Trujillo, a U.S. ally, in the Dominican Republic. Castro was the brain behind the group called “The Movement” which published the underground newspaper El Acusador. The group also armed and trained anti Batista recruits. Castro kept away from joining hands with the communist PSP as this step would serve to digress the political moderates from the main movement. Interestingly he was in close touch with his brother Raul Castro who was a PSP member.
In many ways Castro’s life story is an inspiring journey in itself. Between 1953-59 Castro was actively involved in the Cuban Revolution fighting for the overthrowing of Fulgencio Batista’s military junta. In July 1953 after the failed attack on the Monacada barracks Castro was arrested and put on trial and it is during this time that his famous “History will absolve me” speech inspired millions. Castro was sentenced to fifteen years in Model Prison on the Isla De Pinos.
In a surprising move in 1953 Castro was pardoned by Batista and Castro along with Raul fled to Mexico where he met Argentine Marxist Leninist revolutionary Guevara and convinced him yet again into carrying out attacks to overthrow Batista. The tussle continued and attacked by Batista’s forces, Castro, Raul and Guevara fled to Sierra Maestra where he trained his supporters who were now close to 200 in guerrilla warfare and carried out well coordinated attacks against Batista.
Batista with his conventional style of war couldn’t match up to Castro’s relentless guerrilla tactics and his secret MR-26-7 took control of most of the areas in Sierra Maesta, Oriente and Las Villas. Briefly, Dominican Republic leader Eulogio Cantillo officially took charge of Cuba but was arrested by Castro. Guevara who fought alongside Castro, became the Minister for Industry following the victory of the Cuban revolution. In 1966 Guevara established a guerrilla base in Bolivia. Guevara was later captured and killed in 1967.(The Motorcycle Diaries)
Castro stated that the revolution was a dictatorship of the exploited against the exploiters. He said, “A revolution is a struggle to the death between the future and the past; they talk about the failure of socialism but where is the success of capitalism in Africa, Asia and Latin America? I find capitalism repugnant. It is filthy, it is gross, it is alienating… because it causes war, hypocrisy and competition.”
Castro’s death has left a void in Cuba but his legacy will live on. History will absolve him as he rightly said. What Castro’s supporters saw as a great revolution his critics labelled as dictatorship. Castro stood against the US in the cold war era. The United States had cut ties with Cuba in 1961 amid rising Cold War tensions and imposed a strict economic embargo which largely remains in place more than half a century on.
In 2015 the US relationship with Cuba improved, largely as a result of Raul’s overtures and diplomacy was restored under President Obama’s rule in 2015 strengthening cooperative convergence with Cuba on key issues. By now, Castro was seriously ill and no longer handling affairs of state; he did not meet Obama during the landmark visit by the President, the first ever since 1928. Obama has said history would “record and judge the enormous impact” of Castro.
While detractors of Castro have largely ignored his presence in the last few years with his diminishing hold over Cuban politics, he remains a giant both as a revolutionary for his country, as well as for the Marxist Leninist ideology. In his lifetime he continued to be a thorn in the side of the US, and staunchly repudiated the capitalist ideology of the US and its western allies. And even though his ideology has seemingly died its own death, it will remain a challenge to the ills of capitalism and a reminder that all is not well with it either.