Castro: An imperfect hero

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Who was Fidel Castro? Was he a vicious killer and dictator that aimed missiles at the United States and neighboring islands? No. Was he a living god, the greatest Marxist-Leninist known to humankind, the equal of Vladimir Lenin, Mao Tse-Tung or Joseph Stalin? No.

Castro contributed little in the way of theory or universal practice for those who study and struggle for liberation. The military theory of focoísmo, which was based on the experiences of the Cuban Revolution, had its day in the U.S. from the 1960s to the 1970s. It quickly played itself out as not suited for our conditions, not reliant on the masses and generally not a universal or suitable method for waging revolutionary struggle.

In terms of managing the economy of the island, Castro and his Party also fell short. “Burn Down the Cane Field!: Notes on the Political Economy of Cuba” and “Evaporation of a Myth” provide thorough analyses of the fatal and treacherous errors that Cuba made under Castro, leading to its development being stifled and its people continuing to labor in the sugarcane fields for a new Soviet master. Both are accessible online.

As a Marxist-Leninist-Maoist, my line on Castro and the Cuba that he led are that they were not actually socialist and that Cuba has never been a socialist country. Castro toyed with Marxist-Leninist rhetoric, of course, but he was no communist.

That being said, it is objectively better for the Cuban people that the Cuban Revolution succeeded. Countless Cubans have paid tribute to the individual they see as their liberator from the clutches of Yankee imperialism. Despite all of the attempts by the United States and other enemies to kill him, he lived, his people lived and those who struggled for national liberation in the United States and elsewhere knew that they had comrades just 90 miles from the belly of the beast itself. The morale that Castro gave to millions of oppressed black and brown people in Latin America — the image of someone that looked like them jamming his boot into the rotten face of the Yankee devil, into the face of the enemy, daring to call the United States to task — inspired revolutionary activity up and down the Americas.

As a black person, it is objectively better for my people that the Cuban Revolution succeeded than if it had not. He argued his case and the case of all who groaned under mountains of imperialism before the United Nations. Before his revolution, black and brown Cubans spent day and night bent over in cane fields making money for the white elite that colonized and exploited the island. First, it was the Spanish, and then the Americans took the island by force and installed a series of puppet dictators. The Mafia then came and set up a series of casinos, hotels and brothels, turning the island into a gangster’s paradise.

The revolution led by Castro and others swept the island of this filth, and the education and health care system established under the leadership of Castro were the best in the region. Cuban doctors are loved and respected from Haiti to Guatemala, and in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Castro attempted to deliver needed relief to the masses of people of the Gulf Coast region, the people that the U.S. government left to drown and starve.

What can we learn from Fidel Castro? What relevance has this old Cuban to our struggles?

For one, the Revolution shows us that Yankee imperialism is not invincible. Secondly, his experience shows us that when one fails to become self-reliant, one commits a deadly error and harms the people they claim to struggle for. Thirdly, his support for national liberation movements in Puerto Rico, the United States mainland and the rest of the world show us the importance of international solidarity.

As the fascist Operation Green Hunt kills hundreds of comrades in Indian jungles every year and the Filipino people heroically struggle for new democracy and for socialism, as the people of the Standing Rock reservation endure water cannons in sub-freezing temperatures and rubber-coated steel bullets and President-elect Donald Trump and his clique prepare fresh hell for us, the voice of Fidel Castro is with us. And it says: Continue to struggle, to rebel, to fight for a better world! Don’t just sit at home and tune out the world around you. Don’t just complain. Organize and fight.

Hasta la victoria siempre!