Statement of the Workers League
29-11-2016 – Fidel Castro has left this world, but his legacy will live on. Fidel was a colossus of the socialist movement, and a monumental figure of 20th century history. Arguably, the revolution which overthrew the US backed Batista regime in 1959, and the introduction of socialism which has led Cuba since, would not have succeeded without Fidel’s leadership.
Possessing an incredible intellect, and immense physical and mental application, Fidel gave himself completely to the political struggle to free his compatriots from US led domination. The formidable achievements of Cuba’s socialism are due in no small part to the efforts of Fidel. The high quality and free health care and education systems are renowned the world over. The international efforts to assist those fighting for their liberation from colonialism, in Angola, Ethiopia and Mozambique, are also part of Fidel’s legacy.
Fidel used the platform of the United Nations as a rostrum to both further the cause of socialism and to expose the anti-working class machinations of world imperialism. A consummate diplomat, Fidel worked with the Non-Aligned movement to help raise other Third World countries into a situation where at least formally, the countries of the “global south” should be seen as the equal of the powerful developed countries of the West.
While working people the world over should acknowledge the almost unmatched contribution of Fidel to the socialist movement, there were some limitations to Fidel’s politics. Fidel was a devotee of the approach of some parties which adhere to what they believe is “Marxist-Leninism”. Generally speaking this approach holds that people can be mobilised to struggle for socialism while appealing to nationalist motivations, regardless of their class position. While there certainly was an international aspect to Fidel’s socialism, there was a nationalist aspect as well. If an achieved socialism is kept within its own borders, many compromises against the interests of working people, internally and externally, have to be made. It tends to conservatise, rather than radicalise, working people in Cuba and internationally.
Cuba under Fidel always sought “friendly” relations with all countries, regardless of whether they were socialist, capitalist – or something worse. This meant friendly relations with many countries while ignoring serious incursions against working people in that country, and even sometimes supporting these incursions. For example, Cuba under Fidel generated friendly relations with the genocidal Sri Lankan government, despite its horrific repression of the Tamil people. Even when the Sri Lankan military went on to slaughter around 20 000 Tamils during the final war in 2009, the Cuban government loudly proclaimed its backing of this annihilation within the United Nations.
Another example was the welcoming of the Pope to Cuba. Both Fidel and Raul welcomed different Popes to Cuba, in the name of seeking friendly relations. However, the Vatican is a reactionary body, which has historically done more to dismantle socialism than build it. The Vatican organised and led anti-communist opposition to the socialist states of the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc. Especially in Poland, the Vatican was a key reason for the eventual overthrow of these countries where capitalism had previously been abolished. Embracing the Pope was thus a dangerous move which undermines the socialism they built.
While the internationalism of the Cuban doctors which volunteered in many countries around the world was legendary, and to be applauded, the other aspect was that these doctors would never mention politics or the international struggle for socialism. Also, Australian socialists probably noticed the dual role that Cuban government representatives played when they visited these shores. On the one hand, such representatives would meet with left parties and solidarity groups. On the other hand, they would also seek to meet and mingle with the most notorious representatives of the Australian capitalist state – senior Liberal and Labor politicians.
In Cuba internally, Fidel led a socialist state which in many ways was a thousand times more democratic than that which workers experience in the capitalist West. For example, all Cuban citizens from the age of 16 can run for election to any state body. Money plays no part in the election process, and the Cuban Communist Party endorses no candidates at these elections. At the same time, the Cuban Communist Party, despite seeking wide consultation with the populace, lacked internal democratic rights. From what can be observed, Cuban revolutionaries inside and outside the Cuban Communist Party are now dealing with the legacy of elements such as the withholding of internal criticism.
Despite limitations, the socialist movement owes a debt to Fidel Castro. Workers who desire an end to capitalism internationally, and the victory of socialism, would do well to aspire to emulate the commitment and the devotion to the cause of socialism that Fidel gave willingly. Above all, Fidel proved that no matter what the odds, no matter what the difficulties, the victory of socialism is eminently possible. It can be done. Vale Fidel Castro!
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