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Fidel, the eternal revolutionary

By Prakash Karat
November 27, 2016 18:14 IST
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'No other Communist leader after Lenin had such an internationalist vision as Fidel,' says Prakash Karat, the CPI-M leader in this eloquent tribute to Fidel Castro who passed into the ages on Friday.

With Nelson Mandela in Houghton, Johannesburg, in 2001. Photograph: Chris Kotze/Reuters

IMAGE: With Nelson Mandela in Houghton, Johannesburg, in 2001.
'Nelson Mandela, after the liberation of South Africa, publicly expressed his gratitude to Fidel Castro,' says Prakash Karat.
Photograph: Chris Kotze/Reuters


Fidel Castro was a towering revolutionary figure of the 20th century. The revolution he led in tiny Cuba had an impact over time which was magnified manifold.

The overthrow of the hated Batista regime led to the first Socialist revolution in the Western hemisphere. Under Fidel’s dynamic leadership, Cuba emerged from the shackles of semi-colonialism and of being a playground for the mafia and the wealthy from the United States.

At the age of 33, Fidel became the leader of the revolutionary government and under his leadership, Cuba made remarkable strides in creating a socially just society.

Castro and his revolutionary government was able to show what Socialism is capable of -- abolition of illiteracy, universal education, a health care system which compares with the best in the advanced countries, equal rights for women in all spheres and racial equality in a country which used to have slave plantation labour.

Ninety miles away loomed the shadow of the United States, the world's most powerful imperialist power. For five decades, Fidel Castro led Cuba in fighting off various conspiracies to destroy Socialist Cuba.

As it was later revealed, the CIA had organised hundreds of attempts to assassinate him. Fidel survived 10 American presidents who tried unsuccessfully to topple him, starting with the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 by President Kennedy.

Fidel was the David who challenged the imperialist Goliath and won.

The Cuban revolution became a beacon light for all revolutionary and progressive movements in Latin America and inspired the Left advances there.

Fidel Castro, along with his close comrade-in-arms Che Guevara, became revolutionary icons for generations of young people. No other Communist leader after Lenin had such an internationalist vision as Fidel. He dispatched the Cuban armed forces to help Angola and Mozambique from the depredations of the counter-revolutionary forces backed by the racist South African regime.

Little is known in India about the signal contribution of Fidel and the Cuban revolutionaries to the liberation of Southern Africa. It was Fidel's decision to dispatch Cuban troops to Angola which saved the national liberation struggle there.

In the decisive battle in Cuito Carnivale, the Cuban forces defeated the South African army which had intervened to back the CIA-funded UNITA forces. This defeat led to the withdrawal of the army of the South African apartheid regime from Angola.

It also had to withdraw its troops from Namibia paving the way for its liberation. Cuito Carnivale destroyed the myth of invincibility of the army of racist South Africa and hastened the end of the apartheid regime.

Nelson Mandela, after the liberation of South Africa, publicly expressed his gratitude to Fidel Castro.

Fidel was a revolutionary who used Marxism creatively. He applied Marxism to the concrete conditions of an underdeveloped country, drew on its national-cultural resources and pioneered a path to Socialism which had an enormous impact on the Third World.

For people of my generation, Fidel was the living embodiment of revolution.

I first saw him at the World Youth Festival in Havana in 1978. 20,000 young people had assembled for the international event. When he appeared unannounced at the Lenin Park where the concluding festivities were being held, there was a thrill that ran through the assembled participants and a scramble to shake his hand.

Many of those young men and women, particularly from Latin America, went on to become leaders and activists of revolutionary movement and some became government leaders.

Twenty years later, in 1998, I attended a programme to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Che Guevara's martyrdom. The speech Fidel made on this occasion at Santa Clara remains still vivid in my memory. It was a magisterial survey of the Cuban revolution and the worldwide struggle against imperialism.

Cuba has survived despite the longest economic blockade faced by any country in the world. In the face of unrelenting US hostility, it has maintained its unique social system and refused to subject itself to the depredations of neo-liberal capitalism.

This is the legacy of an eternal revolutionary.

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