8.17.2016 An In Depth Look



In the aftermath of the passing of Fidel Castro’s ninetieth birthday, a mere handful of the more or less millions of au courant recollections about this revolutionary giant, a portion of which criticized or detested him and all that he stood for, but the overwhelming majority of which either praised or at least begrudgingly acknowledged his powerful contributions to humanity and history, here, in any event, a reprint in Counterpunch from Fidel himself, which originally appeared as the emeritus leader’s weekly column in Granma, a briefing that provides an interesting comparison with other overviews of the facts and meaning of this aged strategist’s lengthy life, such as an article in TeleSur that speaks of Cuba’s preparations for the fete, as well as a more analytical essay from Global Research that delves the political impact of Fidel’s life’s work; an introductory triptych that is almost infinitely expandable, in our case with an op-ed piece from TeleSur that examines ‘what Castro has to teach about an age of terror,’ with another piece of reportage from TeleSur about Cuba’s completely and overwhelmingly outsized Olympics posture and stature since the revolution has transpired, and with an interview  from TruthOut about the Cuban artist and feminist Haydee Santamaria Cuadrado, whose life and labors represent critically important counterpoint and context to a socially real and politically useful understanding of Cuba and ourselves, all of which, as usual, is nourishing fodder for any scrappy scribe or stalwart citizen who makes the effort to imbibe what is on display: “On one occasion I accompanied my father to Pinares de Mayarí.  I was eight or nine years old.  How he enjoyed talking when he left the house in Birán!  There he was the proprietor of the land where sugar cane, pasture and other agricultural crops were planted.  But in Pinares de Mayarí he was not a proprietor, but a leaseholder, like many Spaniards, who were the owners of a continent under the rights granted by a papal bull, of whose existence none of the peoples and human beings of this continent were aware.  The transmitted knowledge was already largely treasures of humanity. …

CC BY-NC-ND by izahorsky
CC BY-NC-ND by izahorsky

Note that I have not mentioned the gold, platinum, palladium, diamonds, copper, tin, and others (there) that at the same time have become symbols of the economic values that human society, in its present stage of development, requires.  (My suffering father died in time).  Of his three sons, the second and third were absent and distant.  In revolutionary activities both fulfilled their duty.  I had said that I knew who could replace me if the adversary was successful in its elimination plans.  I almost laughed about the Machiavellian plans of the presidents of the United States. …
(My childhood, my student days, my transformation into a revolutionary, and now the consolidation of the revolution with me at its head have now passed; Batista is no more; Cuba’s real contributions are indisputable.  However), (h)umankind today faces the greatest risk of its history.  Specialists in these areas can do the most for the inhabitants of this planet, whose number rose, from one billion at the end of 1800, to seven billion at the beginning of 2016.  How many will our planet have within a few years?  The brightest scientists, who now number several thousand, are those who can answer this question and many others of great consequence.

Modern technical means have allowed for scrutiny of the universe.  Great powers such as China and Russia can not be subject to threats to impose the use of nuclear weapons.  They are peoples of great courage and intelligence.  I believe that the speech by the President of the United States when he visited Japan lacked stature, and it lacked an apology for the killing of hundreds of thousands of people in Hiroshima, in spite of the fact that they knew the effects of the bomb.  The attack on Nagasaki was equally criminal, a city that the masters of life and death chose at random.  It is for that reason that we must hammer on about the necessity of preserving peace, and that no power has the right to kill millions of human beings.”—CounterPunch

“Fidel’s life and legacy loom large in world history and development.  Fidel is part and parcel of the wave of the anti-colonial, national liberation and social emancipation struggles that swept Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean in the second half of the 20th century.  Fidel is integral to the Cuban-born and international revolutionary and anti-imperialist tradition, theory and practice, stretching through the Taino cacique, Hatuey, Toussaint L’Overture, Simon Bolivar, José Martí, Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, Mao Zedong and Ho Chi Minh, among others.

Fidel does not transcend Cuba and history, as some have opined, but, instead, is ineluctably and organically bound to the deepest aspirations of the Cuban people and the demands of the times.  Fidel belongs to the world.  He does not stand above or outside life.  Flesh and blood, brain and bone, he exemplifies the finest traditions of humanity.  His life encapsulates the struggle of the exploited and oppressed, epitomizing, as articulated by U.S. political prisoner Mumia Abu Jamal, ‘their historic power to transform our dull realities.’

CC BY by pete_weis
CC BY by pete_weis

The significance of Fidel extends beyond the geographical boundaries of Cuba.  Since its inception, the Cuban Revolution has made an invaluable contribution to the global struggle for justice, social development and human dignity.  Under Fidel’s leadership Cuba has established an unparalleled legacy of internationalism and humanitarianism, embodying the immortal words of José Martí: ‘Homeland is Humanity.  Humanity is Homeland.’  In southern Africa, for example, more than 2,000 Cubans gave their lives to defeat the racist apartheid regime in South Africa.  Mandela never forgot.  After he was released from prison, one of the first countries outside of Africa and the first country in Latin America that he chose to visit was Cuba.cuba havana
Today this commitment to humanity is mirrored in the tens of thousands of Cuban medical personnel and educators who have served and continue to serve around the world.  This service sees them battling in the trenches against disease and illiteracy, running the gamut from combating the Ebola outbreaks in west Africa to beating back other challenges to public health in southern Africa.  No less important is the training inside Cuba of medical cadres from Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean as well as North America (including African-American communities from the largest U.S. cities)

. …
No words can adequately convey the singular meaning of Fidel.  By holding aloft the banners of Socialism, Justice, Peace, Internationalism and Human Dignity, the Cuban Revolution, led by Fidel, demonstrates that a better world is possible.  On October 16, 1953 at his trial following the Moncada attack, Fidel laid out his vision of national independence and social justice, declaring, ‘Condemn me, it does not matter, history will absolve me.’  Since those historic words and the subsequent unfolding of events, in a world fraught with intense challenges and dangers, history has not only absolved Fidel but also vindicated the meaning and legacy of his life.
¡Viva Fidel!

¡Fidel 90 y más!
—Global Research

“The war on terror, at least in terms of the way it’s been framed, leaves no room for heroes.  On one side are the imperial powers, fighting to preserve their self-proclaimed ‘modern’ order.  On the opposite side of the spectrum are ‘bloodthirsty’ jihadists, anti-modern and against ‘our essential values.’  In this false and violent dichotomy, liberation fighters wanting to maintain their integrity cannot afford to be positioned on this lose-lose spectrum. …
Only by cultivating an ethical superiority, says (Sri Lankan scholar and radical thinker Dayan) Jayatilleka, can liberation fighters overcome their material disadvantage.  Even with an hegemonic mainstream media against them, they will eventually win over hearts—or even, in the case of Vietnam, the ‘children of (the) bourgeoisie’ that sent U.S. soldiers overseas.  Should they compromise their values, liberation fighters, movement’s and states play into the hands of Empire, which swiftly demonizes its enemies as soon as they target civilians—however hypocritical the logic.

‘Imperialism which does not target civilians would not be imperialism,’ says Jayatilleka.  ‘A system that imposes exploitation, extraction of natural resources, of oil, and the destinies of people in all parts of the world’ cannot possibly be one of peace.  Because imperial powers operate based on what lies within their self-interest, they are blind to such alternatives as Fidel’s Third Zone.  Cuba was, after all, listed as a state sponsor of terrorism until last year.’

By Jialiang Gao www.peace-on-earth.org
By Jialiang Gao www.peace-on-earth.org

But just because they have a monopoly over terms like ‘terrorism,’ however, doesn’t mean the definition of the term is absolute.  States like the U.S. and Israel are ‘very selective’ with their use of the term, says Jayatilleka. T hose that oppose terrorism are not friends if they insist on asserting their autonomy—such as Libya—while ‘even fascism is not fascism if it is not threatening the U.S. or is somehow manipulable against Russia or China.’ …

(In such a context), (a)s much as anti-imperialists may want to challenge their opponent on every front, they shouldn’t do so blindly, says Jayatilleka.  If they resist all systems of accountability, they are a step behind the ‘make-believe mechanisms of accountability’ within, for example, the U.S. military.  If they refuse to interact with the mainstream media, frowning at Fidel’s interview with Playboy—what Jayatilleka calls a ‘full-spectrum engagement with Western culture,’ —they also miss an opportunity to reach people who do not share the politics of their country or movement.

‘Imperialism always, always coordinates,’ says Jayatilleka, ‘not only at the military level—at the political level, at the level of policy, at the level of education, cultural exchanges.  At every possible level.’ …(Recognizing and mirroring this) was Fidel’s strength, says Jayatilleka: he seamlessly transferred his rigorous ethics in his country into his foreign policy. …The liberation fighter loyal to Fidel’s teachings can ultimately overcome and vanquish imperialism through ‘an asymmetric war that is total, fought with weapons of ethics and morality’—nothing more and nothing less.  ‘It’s not only a way of fighting, but a larger way of being.'”—TeleSur

che guevara socialist communist cuba“(The author of Haydee Santamaria, Cuban Revolutionary: She Led by Transgression, Margaret Randall is herself deserving of close attention as a thinker and writer about, and participant in, transformational change and radical politics.  She speaks to Santamaria’s complexity and import).  Haydée Santamaría was such a brilliant and complex figure it is difficult to capture her in just a few paragraphs.  I can only surmise that a non-Cuban readership has not previously heard more about her because she was a woman, because she was always self-effacing and, to some extent, because her suicide made her difficult for biographers to deal with, at least early on.  With my book, I hope to bring her story to a much wider audience.  The distance of time may also have made a deeper consideration possible.  Not being afraid to look at the whole human being, I hope to have presented a more nuanced picture of her life.  She was as important to the Cuban revolution and what it has given the world after the military phase of struggle as she was during that phase.  The issues she had to grapple with as director of Casa de las Americas  [a legendary organization known for cultivating sociocultural relations with countries from Latin America, the Caribbean and the rest of the world] are ones that continue to challenge us — inside Cuba and out — and I hope readers will learn from the innovative and honorable ways in which she dealt with those challenges.  Most of all, though, I hope my book will allow more people insight into a beautifully relevant human being. …

For Haydée, changing society, making it more just and equitable, was always paramount.  No one who left the country or abandoned the revolutionary project could have shaken her faith.  Some of those departures were disappointments to her, because loyalty was something she favored above all else.  But she was always clear in terms of the project and those working in it.  She was one of those people who believed in working for change from the inside.  And the way she herself exercised power, the model she created at Casa de las Americas, was something we would do well to emulate today. …

Haydée’s feminism was one of her most interesting qualities.  Bear in mind that she was born in the early years of the 20th century and died in 1980, when feminism as a philosophy had not yet taken hold in Cuba.  She was also not someone who got her politics from books…. She simply believed in justice — for everyone.  Without putting labels on her ideas or actions, she just naturally saw people and situations, saw what was needed.  My book is filled with anecdotes and stories about the ways in which she lived these convictions. …

(Since living in Cuba, I had wanted to write comprehensively about this magnificent woman.  I hoped to find and audience, and thankfull), (t)he reception to my book has been very positive — overwhelming, in fact.  Along with Sandino’s Daughters, my early book about the Sandinista women of Nicaragua, it may well turn out to be among my most successful.  Readers and listeners seem to respond to the combination of history and personal story.  Usually, a year or two after a book comes out, interest in it subsides.  But with Haydée, I continue to receive invitations to read and discuss it, continue to get letters commenting on it, even inquiries about translating and publishing it in other languages. …

(I am certain that Santamaria would have welcomed the challenges and struggles of the current, complex, and contradictory phase of Cuba’s revolutionary evolution.  As to myself), I don’t think of my life as having been courageous so much as my having been at the right place at the right time.  I sought out the front lines in both art and social change, and was fortunate to find myself on those front lines from time to time, and to have survived.  I am closing in on 80 now, so I am not as physically active as I once was.  But I am still writing a great deal, and have a number of new books just out or appearing soon.  The most recent collection of my own poems, She Becomes Time, appeared from Wings Press in June.  Around the same time, Talking Stick was published by Igneo in Miami.  The latter is a collection of interviews and conversations with me done by a variety of people over a 30-year period.  In October, Duke University Press — the same publisher that brought out my book about Haydée — will release Only the Road/Solo el Camino, a large bilingual anthology of eight decades of Cuban poetry.  I selected the 56 poets, from those living in the diaspora as well as on the island, did all the translations, and wrote the lengthy introduction and notes.  At this time, when Cuba is so much in the news but not always in the most realistic way, I hope that book will give a sense of the country through the sensibilities of its poets.  Working on that project also led to my translating four books by individual Cuban poets; these will appear from different US publishers in the coming months.   And finally, I recently finished a book about Cuban internationalism, Exporting Revolution: Cuba’s Global Solidarity, which Duke will bring out in the spring of 2017.  So I haven’t slowed down.  Not yet.”—TruthOut