A Eulogy for Fidel
Fidel Castro’s physical form passed away on November 25th, 2016. However, what he embodied will never be forgotten. Castro dedicated most of his life to the construction of socialism and the destruction of imperialism. His leadership in the successful Cuban Revolution has left a permanent mark on the world stage. For imperialism, Fidel is forever an enemy of the U.S. state for his refusal to follow the empire’s dictates for over half-a-century. But for much of the world’s proletariat and people, Fidel is viewed as a true working class hero whose legacy remains in motion.
U.S. imperialism hates Fidel because he committed the greatest crime one could ever commit. Fidel was not a dictator that repressed his own people as CNN would have us believe. U.S. imperialism does not hate the former Cuban head of state because he stripped liberties from the Cuban people. The system of profit and empire hates Fidel because he fought for the exact opposite of what he has been accused of all these years. Fidel’s leading role in the Cuban Revolution helped build a new society and a new people rooted in the principles of Marxism. The Cuban revolution provided a glimpse into a future free from the exploitation and oppression inherent in the old imperialist order.
Although Fidel wasn’t the only leader of the Cuban Revolution, he was perhaps the most important. Fidel was a masterful orator and a revolutionary intellectual who studied theory vigorously. He applied Marxist theory to the struggle to free Cuba from the grips of imperialist and neo-colonial domination. As a military strategist, Fidel was matched by few. Under his guidance, the socialist Cuban government achieved what few thought was possible.
Cuba’s achievements cannot be understated. Prior to 1959, Cuba was ruled by a dictatorship of neo-colonialism and imperialism. The military state of Fulgencio Batista siphoned Cuba’s wealth to a few U.S. corporations. Cuba’s majority peasant and worker population was mired with illiteracy, extreme poverty, and racism. The Cuban Revolution turned the world upside down. Fidel led an organized band of guerilla forces that propelled the people into power. The wealth of the ruling class was expropriated and a socialist democracy was established. Every person in Cuba now has the opportunity to be elected and participate in the governing of socialism, whether indirectly through popular organizations such as the trade unions or directly through the National Assembly of People’s Power.
Equally impressive are the material gains the Cuban people have won from the redistribution of wealth. Illiteracy has been swept into the dustbin of history. The Cuban healthcare system offers free, quality medical care to all Cubans and deploys tens-of-thousands of doctors around the world to do the same. Cuba’s investment in healthcare has led to achievements such as the development of a lung cancer vaccine and a lower infant mortality rate than the U.S. The socialist republic’s education system has also been heralded one of the best in the region. Education is provided free of cost in Cuba from elementary to higher education.
In Cuba, homelessness doesn’t exist. Unemployment remains low and mostly accounted for by Cuba’s robust social welfare system. Cuba has zero percent malnutrition. The nation has taken pride in the fact that while child homelessness is rampant around the world, no child sleeps without a home in Cuba. Cuba has greatly reduced the institutional racism and sexism that characterized life prior to the revolution. Women play a prominent role in Cuban society within institutions such as the Federation of Cuban Women, while Afro Cubans have benefited the most from the gains of the revolution. LGBTQ rights and living standards have also improved with the creation of CENESEX. Transgender individuals can go to Cuba for gender reassignment surgery free of cost.
Fidel’s role in the Cuban Revolution cannot be confined to domestic achievement. From day one of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel and the Cuban people committed themselves to fighting with the oppressed for national liberation and socialist revolution in every corner of the globe. The Cuban Revolution gave direct aid to the Vietnamese people in their struggle against U.S. and Western imperialism in the 1960s and 1970s. In addition, Cuba played a leading part in ending the apartheid regime in South Africa. From 1975 to 1988, Cuba sent about 400,000 medical and military personnel to assist the Angolan people in the struggle against Portuguese and South African colonialism. Cuba’s assistance not only led to the liberation of Angola, but also the independence of Namibia and the eventual fall of the Apartheid South African government.
It is difficult for people in the United States to appreciate Fidel’s contribution to the worldwide struggle for freedom for the sheer fact that Washington remains the top purveyor of imperialist violence around the planet. Decades of corporate media slander and the continuation of the U.S. embargo has solidified the anti-Castro, anti-Cuba narrative in U.S. political discourse. The world sees Fidel in a completely different light. Not only does the UN reject the U.S. embargo, but Fidel’s commemoration ceremony in Havana also included the participation of numerous global leaders such as the Presidents of Ecuador, South Africa, and Nicaragua, to name a few. Cuba’s willingness to assist the struggle of oppressed people and resist imperialism is intimately connected to Fidel Castro’s life work and leadership.
Fidel may be gone, but the struggle he helped lead is alive and well. Cuba remains in the cross hairs of U.S. imperialism. The socialist republic’s achievements are in constant danger as long as U.S. imperialism continues to wield its wrecking ball all over the world. The left owes a debt of gratitude to Fidel, and not only because he and the Cuban people have protected Black revolutionaries such as Assata Shakur, Robert Williams, and Huey Newton from U.S. government persecution. Fidel has left a body of work that must be studied and applied to the current situation of the oppressed. His legacy is immortal because the struggle for liberation cannot be confined to a body or a moment. The struggle for a new humanity, a socialist humanity, is eternal.
Danny Haiphong is an Asian activist and political analyst in the Boston area.
—Black Agenda Report, December 6, 2016