Fidel Castro has died. We mourn him from the depth of our hearts; for his victories and for his failings, for the achievements of the Cuban revolution and for its weaknesses but most of all for the achievements of his generation, for our own parents and our grandparents.
Fidel Castro “invaded” Cuba, his homeland, in 1956. At the time, the country was under the control of a US-backed dictator – Batista. Castro’s strategy was flawed: to get peasant support in the back country and then invade the cities. Socialism is about working people taking power themselves, not armed guerillas freeing them. However, the Batista regime was so rotten and corrupt that Castro’s rebellion, combined with general strikes in the cities were enough to overthrow it.
Castro was not a communist at the time. He only became one when the USA made it clear to him that they would die in a ditch for Batista. In those days, there were only two superpowers in the world, the USA and the USSR (the so-called socialist Russian regime). Castro chose the backing of the Russians.
Internationalist socialists, like the ISO, have always refused to back one world power against another and always stuck stubbornly to the idea of workers power but that does not mean we are blind to the achievements of the Cuban workers and peasants following the leadership of Castro.
Cuba aced all milestones for education, health and literacy. A third world country, it left the USA in the dust.
Cuban soldiers, the African National Congress said, were the first foreigners ever to come to Africa to liberate and not to colonise. They fought and died alongside Angolans and the ANC at the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale. The decisive victory over apartheid was not won on this battlefield. It was won by the mass strikes organised by COSATU, the confederation of South African trade unions. But the Cuban soldiers, both“white” and “black” who died in Southern Africa kept alive the hope of a better world.
Now, when Trump occupies the White House, Fidel, for all his faults,represents faithfulness to the struggle, to Latin American solidarity, to the hope of a Native American renaissance, to the idea of a socialist republic.
That he has died in 2016, a year before the anniversary of the revolution in Russia is a mercy for Castro, because despite Cuba’s achievements, the audacity and honesty of the Bolsheviks is much greater than him. We mourn his death from the bottom of our hearts, we honour and we love him, the Cuban people, and our own parents and grandparents, but we want, we need, so much more.