Originally published on the Leftist Critic blog on Nov 30, 2016.
I’ve written about Cuba on this blog before, but I find it necessary to talk about the legacy of Fidel Castro (called Fidel in the rest of this post) and its relation to the machinations of US imperialism. There is no doubt that Cuba, like a small band of other countries (mainly Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Syria, Belarus, and the DPRK) are part of an anti-imperialist front, as I’ve called it. As for socialist island nation, Cuba has a deep revolutionary history, which informs its anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist struggle, which must be protected so that an “imagined scenario,” like one I envisoned, which involves capitalist destruction and exploitation of the island, does not come to pass. Most of the content in this post comes from two storifies I put together specifically on Fidel, and another which is just a collection of recent tweets.
World leaders and revolutionaries have rightly praised Fidel, who was 90 years old, surviving hundreds upon hundreds of CIA attempts to kill him. Bashar Al-Assad, the president of the secular and socially democratic Syrian Arab Republic, calling Cuba an example of struggle for liberation, will continue to be a model of resisting imperialism, and praised Fidel for fighting US-imposed sanctions on the island. The foreign minister of the revolutionary Islamic Republic of Iran, Javad Zarif, described Fidel as “a prominent figure in fighting against colonialism and exploitation (of oppressed people); he was a symbol of independence seeking struggles of the oppressed” (also see here). Nicholas Maduro, the President of the embattled socialist Venezuela, honored Fidel, recalled the close relationship between Cuba and Venezuela from 1999-2013 (when Chavez died) and beyond. Robert Mugabe, president of the revolutionary state of Zimbabwe, declared that “your loss is our loss…farewell revolutionary…We shall always remember you as our own in the same way as Cubans will do so and that is the spirit that brings me and my delegation here…our hearts are full of courage, and his life that he has bequeathed us, a lot of revolutionary goodness.” The Government of Eritrea sent its condolences on Fidel’s death, just like Kim Jong Un of the DPRK on the front page of one of the country’s major newspapers. Gloria La Riva of the Party of Socialism and Liberation (PSL) wrote on twitter that “I can’t begin to express the sorrow I feel about one of the greatest Revolutionaries who ever lived.” Monica Moorhead of the Worker’s Worker Party also honored Fidel and remembered when she met him in the past. The National Black United Front declared that “we salute a true Soldier in the liberation movement, #FidelCastro. He’s provided us with the resources that we need to accomplish our goals.” Other groups that praised Castro included the Revolutionary Communist Group, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Even the UN General Assembly observed a moment of silence.
The newspaper of the Cuban Communist Party, Granma, named after the ship that Fidel, Che Guevara and others came on, in the “invasion” of Cuba which started the revolution, described Fidel as a revolutionary leader, who led Cuba to support the struggle of Angolan independence, said that Cuba was “no one’s satellite,” and “carried out a socialist revolution only 90 miles from the United States.” The obituary went on to say that “the Cuban Revolution and Fidel’s [humanist] ideas have inspired all those searching for a different world…Cuban weapons and resources supported guerillas fighting against dictatorships across our continent” and noted the praise from figures such as Hugo Chavez, in 2005, before his death. In contrast, Trotskyists like WSWS (World Socialist Web Site) and “human rights” advocate Ken Roth served the interest of US imperialism by condemning Fidel, with the latter calling him a “dictator” and the former decrying supposed “bourgeois nationalism.” Clearly, neither one of these sources should be listened to, as should others on the right-wing, like Darrell Issa, Vice-President-elect Mike Pence, the woman-hater, or President-elect Donald
While some misinformed people will say Fidel was disliked in Cuba, this clearly isn’t true. On November 28, nine days of mourning began on the island, with numerous residents calling the death a “sad moment” and were distressed by the news, including those at the University of Havana, where Fidel went to school, and young Cubans. A few days ago there was a mass tribute at the Jose Marti Memorial in Havana for Fidel. This was coupled by mourning outside the Cuban embassy in Argentina, with all celebrating his achievements. The Iranian government also said that a delegation from Iran will take part in the funeral ceremony for Fidel. The Venezuelan government declared three days of mourning. The government of the DPRK did the same. He was, to put it simply, eulogized in memorial services in Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Vietnam, and South Africa, as noted by PressTV.
Out of the news about Fidel’s death came some interesting stories. Louis Allday, currently a PhD candidate at SOAS, shared that Cuba sent troops to support Algeria, then ruled by socialist soldier and President Ben Bella, in the “Sand War” against a US-backed Morocco, in 1963. He also wrote about how BBC, an imperial news outlet, praised Cuba’s healthcare but refused to use the word communist and Fidel noting how black and Latino people were used as cannon fodder by the US military. Other twitter users noted how Fidel took responsibility (and blame) for the gay persecution in the country in the 1960s (also see here) even as the country decriminalized homosexuality before the US by over twenty years. In 1973 Fidel sent an armored brigade to Syria, which fought in the war against Israel that year. Elsewhere on twitter it was noted that Cuba sent aid during Hurricane Katrina, that Cuba supported the Socialist Republic in “South Yemen” (before its sad demise), pictures of Fidel with Yasser Arafat, along with Kim II Sung, Gaddafi, Thomas Sankara, Malcolm X and Kwame Nkrumah, Amilcar Cabral, Gamal Abdel Nasser, and Nelson Mandela. One South African publication wrote that Fidel and Cuba engaged in interventions in Africa without consulting Soviet leadership, disproving they were a “satellite” of the Soviet Union, relying on Piero Gleijeses‘s works on Cuba, an academic who likely is not radical. The publication also said that Fidel had a “revolutionary zeal that played a critical role in assisting African liberation movements…from Angola to Namibia, Algeria to Guinea Bissau” and a commitment to fight US influence in Africa after Cuba’s numerous forays to the US in 196os were rejected. This post is almost like a stream of consciousness, so a more substantive one is coming shortly.