On 25 November 2016, Comrade Fidel Castro, the inspirer of the Cuban revolution, died, aged 90. The Cuban people marked nine days of mourning, and the whole country – young and old, black and white – was gripped by sadness and deep emotion at the passing away of their iconic leader.
In 1951, Fulgencio Batista staged a coup d’état in the small island nation of Cuba, suspending the constitution and blocking the way to all peaceful means for bringing about change on the island, which continued to be run by criminal gangs and US corporations. Most of the nation’s resources had been sold to foreigners – principally to American capitalists – and the Cuban people found themselves with no rights in their own country, being left to eke out a miserable existence as best they could.
In these circumstances, Fidel Castro and his close comrades realised that the stooge Batista regime and its powerful backer, US imperialism, could only be overcome through armed resistance. So, on 26 July 1953, 140 revolutionaries, headed by a 26-year-old Fidel, attacked the Moncada military barracks in Santiago de Cuba. The attack failed, and half the attackers were either killed or captured. The survivors were tried and given long prison sentences.
During his trial, Fidel gave a defiant speech, which was smuggled out of court to be published and circulated amongst the Cuban people. The speech became the manifesto of the 26 July movement and elevated Fidel to the status of a hero in the eyes of the masses. In it, he stated that, whatever the verdict of the court, “history will absolve me”. As a result of popular pressure, he was released after serving just two years of his 15-year term, and went into exile in Mexico.
The attack on the Moncada barracks became a source of great inspiration to the liberation movement, which never stopped its activities. In November 1956, Fidel and Raúl Castro, Che Guevara and several dozen other revolutionaries arrived on the shores of Cuba on board a boat named Granma. As they arrived on the Cuban shore, however, Batista’s soldiers were lying in wait. In the subsequent battle, many were killed. Fidel, Raúl and Che were among the survivors who headed for the mountains of the Sierra Maestra, from where they continued to organise and fight for Cuba’s liberation.
Defending Cuba’s revolution
After many battles by the guerrilla forces in the mountains, combined with the ongoing struggles of the peasantry in the countryside and of the working class in the cities, the revolutionary movement began to achieve many victories. Seeing the writing on the wall, Batista fled the country.
On 1 January 1959, Fidel and his comrades rode triumphantly into Havana, and immediately arrested, tried and executed the leading criminals of the Batista regime.
The revolutionaries were determined to bring relief to the masses, who had suffered horrendously for centuries. To this end, their government expropriated large landed estates, nationalised all foreign enterprises, and set up schools and clinics as quickly as they could across the country.
The new government’s warm feelings for the socialist USSR and unyielding hatred of Yankee imperialism, whilst being a source of great inspiration to the masses of Latin America, earned it the undying hostility of the USA.
President JF Kennedy ordered the CIA to organise an invasion of the island to overthrow Castro’s government. For this purpose, the imperialists recruited 1,400 counter-revolutionaries from amongst the bourgeois reactionaries who had fled the anger of the masses to settle in Miami. The counter-revolutionary Bay of Pigs invasion took place on 17 April 1961, but this time, it was the revolutionary forces, led by Fidel, who were waiting for the invaders, some of whom were killed and most of whom were captured. The whole enterprise was a total fiasco and lasted just three days, humiliating mighty US imperialism in the process.
The victory of the Cuban people at Playa Girón was greeted with joy by progressive people throughout the world, but it earned the Cuban revolutionary government the visceral hatred of US imperialism. Any chance of reasonable relations between the two countries vanished. Unsurprisingly, Cuba grew closer to the USSR, and, in December 1961, it declared that it was for socialism.
Although it was not invaded again, the US’s sabotage activities continued unabated. It is known to have made over 600 attempts to kill President Castro in the hope of bringing down the revolution, and its many destabilisation and sabotage attempts have been supplemented by a 55-year trade blockade that has been the cause of tremendous unnecessary suffering to the Cuban people.
The strength of socialism
Like true socialists, the Cubans have turned these difficulties to their advantage. Notwithstanding the pressures from imperialism, Cuba managed to lift its people out of dire poverty, stave off starvation and institute public health and education systems that are the envy of the world.
To the shame of US imperialism – the richest country in the world, where tens of millions have no health cover, and where millions go short of food – tiny and poor Cuba provides healthcare to every member of its society and education to all its children.
No one in Cuba is illiterate or starving. Moreover, Cuba has sent tens of thousands of teachers and doctors abroad to help other poor countries overcome illiteracy and disease.
For the first time in Cuban history, black people there gained equal rights with those of European descent. The Cuban government has always stated that Cuba’s heritage is not only Latin American but also African.
Following this principle, the Cuban government airlifted thousands of troops to Africa in 1975, turning the tide against the South African invasion of the newly-independent Republic of Angola, and paving the way for the defeat of the cruel and inhuman system of apartheid in South Africa.
Fidel Castro gave his life to the service of his people; his was indeed a life well lived. Nobody expected tiny Cuba to survive after the collapse of the USSR, and it is to the undying credit of Comrade Fidel, the Communist Party of Cuba and the Cuban masses that they held firm through all the difficulties of those days.
Despite the setbacks our movement has suffered in recent decades, Cuba and its socialist example continue to light a beacon for Latin America and the oppressed world, assuring us of the correctness of our cause and the bright future that awaits humanity when imperialism has been finally defeated.
At the passing of such a beloved leader, we say, with the rest of progressive humanity: Farewell Comrade Fidel; eternal glory to you!
In the forward march of the revolution, Comrade Fidel will live forever.
Hasta la victoria siempre!