Castro and the Cuban Revolution

Castro died on November 25, 2016, at the age of 90. Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz, popularly known as Fidel Castro—the legend of Cuban Revolution, stood as a globally recognised symbol of resistance to American hegemonism and free-market capitalism. He was a source of inspiration to left-wing Latin American allies whose movements against American domination and conspiracy he helped grow and develop in an unequal battle. It is no surprise that there are no statues of Fidel Castro in Cuba. No school, college, university, street, government building or city bears his name. He was against personality cult right from the beginning. Unlike the tradition in Russia, China, Vietnam and North Korea, communists in Cuba never tried to build personality cult around Castro. ‘There is no cult of personality around any living revolutionary’. So said Castro in 2003. ‘After all leaders are human beings, not gods’. That is how Castro looked at personality cult. Castro once told film-maker Oliver Stone that he, ‘never spent one second’ thinking about how he would be remembered by his countrymen and revolutionaries across the world, after his demise. But revolutionaries around the world will remember him for his correct handling of contradictions among enemies and people as well.

During Fidel Castro’s tenure as President of Cuba, he survived an estimated 638 attempts on his life—and that is just from the CIA. Over the years the propaganda machine of America and Western countries vilified him as a dictator to the absurd level and yet they failed to sabotage Cuban Revolution and reverse history in favour of the reactionaries. They mobilised all their resources against this man who established the only socialist government in the western hemisphere in the height of cold war and super power rivalry in a bi-polar world. In many ways Castro himself became a victim of Cold War because of Moscow’s betrayal at the time of crisis.

Castro led the military assault against the military dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista in 1959 and his small red brigrade armed with ordinary weapons and burning political will created history which was simply unthinkable to his adversaries. It was not a classical marxist revolution—or for that matter a proletarian revolution—but it was a world-shaking revolutionary event all the way. And Castro publicly declared himself a Marxist-Leninist only in late 1961 while the Communist Party of Cuba under his stewardship came into being in 1965. Perhaps the CIA was not aware of his Marxist credentials in the fifties. And it was quite natural for Cuba to depend on the Soviet Union for economic and military support in a hostile atmosphere and encirclement.

Castro was the undisputed leader of Cuba for nearly five decades, until handing off power to his younger brother Raul Castro in 2008. And the world knows how during that time the Havana administration under Castro succeeded in eliminating illiteracy, stamping out racism and improving public healthcare much to the dismay of his critics. In truth public health care system in Cuba today is very much at par with any advanced western country.

American counter-revolutionary plot never worked in Cuba though the antagonism right from the day one resulted in the Bay of Pig Invasion and the much talked about and yet less understood missile crisis. In October 1962, the USA suddenly discovered that nuclear missiles had been stationed there, just 90 miles from Florida, paving the way for a World War III, which, however, was finally averted after a 13-day stand-off. And Nikita Kruschehev agreed to remove nuclear war-heads against the wishes of Castro who was kept in the dark about backdoor deal between Russia and America. In return US President Kennedy publicly consented not to reinvade Cuba and privately assured Krushchev that he would take American nuclear weapons out of Turkey. In reality what happened in the filed is unknown. It was difficult for any American President to withdraw nukes from Turkey, a NATO member country.

Castro’s foes had no option but to concede the brilliance and wisdom of a man who defied 11 different administrations in Washington and braved the 5-decade-old economic blockade by America and outlived many of his bitter enemies. From 1960 to the 1980s, Castro, being an internationalist, never hesitated to send military and financial aid to various leftist guerilla movements in Latin America and Africa. Cuban fighters and doctors actively participated in liberation movement of many countries.

Cuba and America normalised diplomatic relations only last year—in July 2015, ending a trade embargo that had been in place since 1960 when Castro nationalised all US-owned businesses without any compensation.

The collapse of Soviet Union was a severe blow to the Cuban economy as all bilateral trade agreements and mutual beneficial pacts ended abruptly. What is more after the stoppage of Russian help the US expanded economic sanctions even to compound problems for Cubans further and destabilise Cuban polity. But Cubans under Castro showd the world that they could manage their own affairs without Soviet help. They offered an alternative model of socialist management for post-revolutionary societies. No other person in modern history had so dominated a country for so long.

Castro is no more but Cubans inspired by revolutionary zeal for so many years, are likely to carry forward the ‘concept of revolution’ propounded by the revolutionary legend. The ‘concept of revolution’ is actually a section of a 2000 speach in which Castro calls Cubans to believe in ‘the profound conviction that no force in the world is capable of crushing the force of truth and ideas’.

Whether the enemies of revolution like it or not, the Castro legend will grow in death. It will be difficult, if not impossible, for any anti-communist platform, to recast or replace that final image of Castro—the symbol of national self-respect and internationalism.


Vol. 49, No.23, Dec 11 - 17, 2016