In one of his articles, Vinay Aravind (a freelance writer and photographer based in Chennai, India) writes:
“It is the oppressed and subjugated in the world that need heroes the most. Those in positions of extreme privilege do not need heroes and can afford to sneer at those who do. Those who need heroes don’t have the privilege to only pick those without flaws, hence the very many imperfect heroes of the oppressed in the course of history.”
However, IMHO, in spite of looking great, every leaders is fallible and imperfect. So was the Castro. But what makes him so distinct and great is his love for the underdogs and his fearlessly long and untiring struggle (spanning over a period of more than five decades from 1959 to 2010) for the Cuban’s poor in the face of all odds, especially fierce opposition from the all mighty, cunning, and powerful Uncle Sam (sole super power armed with the most lethal neo-liberal ideology after the end of cold war).
He also loathed capitalism not only in rhetoric but also in action. In one of his speeches he had condemned the exploitative system in following words:
I find capitalism repugnant, it is filthy, it is gross, it is alienating….. because it causes war, hypocrisy and competition. Fidel Alejandro Castro (1926–2016).
He was a brave humanitarian (beyond any label of communist or socialist) who loved his people and his people loved him. Talking about the American duplicity (showing concern for human rights in other countries and treating even her own black citizens with contempt), he commented during his 1978 speech delivered to the “World Communist Youth Conference”, that with what morality can the US leaders talk of human rights in a country where there are millionaires or beggars, where black face discrimination, women are prostituted and great masses of Chicago, Puetro Ricans, and Latin Americans are deprecated, exploited, and humiliated.
How right he was while criticizing the capitalism. And how capitalism has destroyed the global values of egalitarianism and human dignity is anybody’s guess.
He was so concerned about the well being, welfare, and health of his people that he, in addition to taking other revolutionary reforms in all the socio-economic sectors of of Cuba, himself became a great metaphor of peoples’ true leader ( and an example for other leaders, especially in Asia and Latin America, to follow) and did quit smoking cigars in 1985 and thus declared: “I reached the conclusion long ago the last sacrifice I must make for (Cuban) public health is to stop smoking and I haven’t really missed it that much. He believed in action and not mere speeches as he was the man of pragmatic approach towards the solution of real life problems. Therefore, in, 2000, in reference to his famous habit of making marathon speeches, he remarked: “I have concluded — may be a little late — that speeches must be short.”
In the early years of Cuban revolution, the Castro government made a clean break with the all vestiges of world capitalist economy. But, it may be kept in mind that his revolution was not a violent or bloody revolution. His government nationalised US industries like public utilities, carried out land reforms, closed down the mafia owned casinos, and ended long standing and systematic corruption.
In delivering basic and essential social services to the Cuban people, Castor government introduced fundamental economic, social and constitutional reforms to make the revolution firmly institutionalised in the minds and hearts of the people who never had been provided with any essential needs in a way the Castro government did. The Cuban constitution emphasizes public health, preventive care, health education, programmes for periodic medical examinations, immunization and other preventive measures. Under article 43, it has been stipulated that all the citizens have same/equal right irrespective of gender, colour of skin, religious belief, national origin, and any is distinction harmful to the dignity of man.
It is also pertinent to mention that when the great Castro came to power in 1959 as a black bearded, cigar chomping 32 years old, in a revolution against former dictator Fulgencio Batista, he declared: “When this war is over, a much longer , greater war will begin; the war that I am going to wage against them, “ the United States.” He further said; I realise that will be my true destiny. And he was not just making rhetoric but he did actually fought and during, this war with imperialism, he survived more that 600 (and according to some estimates more than 700) assassination attempts, according to his aide. And he also braved (and failed) the disastrous US backed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961. God was always on his side as he, selflessly, loved his people and his people loved him in return.
In addition to other achievements, education system has also been 100% subsidized by his government meaning that Cuban students at all levels can attend the school for free. Salute to you dear departed (while you have left this world, you are still living in the hearts of people for fighting a good fight against the ruthless imperial powers of your time).
However the “silly folks” whose only role model is “Uncle Sam” can hardly be convinced of the greatness of leaders like Castro and his extra ordinary achievements in serving the people of his land.
What Castro did was to brighten the souls and minds of the people and create an environment for “inner growth” and give them direction. He did not just work for the material development of his countrymen. He didn’t just give to his people a soulless land filled with casinos and gambling dens etc. All he did was providing or rather ensuring, that people are treated equally without any class, gender, or race discrimination. He took drastic steps that genuinely “count” for people’s lives. He introduced great reforms in the field of health, education, and social welfare. And he did all this at the cost of his own life as CIA was after him like black hounds.
According to a recent UNDP report, “Cuba’s HDI value for 2019 is 0.783 — which put the country in the high human development category — positioning it at 70 out of 189 countries and territories. The rank is shared with Iran (Islamic Republic of). Between 1990 and 2019, Cuba’s HDI value increased from 0.680 to 0.783, an increase of 15.1 percent. Further Between 1990 and 2019, Cuba’s life expectancy at birth increased by 4.2 years, mean years of schooling increased by 3.3 years and expected years of schooling increased by 2.0 years. Cuba’s GNI per capita increased by about 63.5 percent between 1990 and 2019. “
Here is also an excerpt from the article “Notions of development” written by Mr. Abdul Sattar, a freelance journalist based in Pakistan that is being added to counter many arguments by Castro’s opponents:
“For the elite of the world and their stooges — the intellectual middle class — London, Paris, New York, Sydney, Tokyo etc. may be the pillars of opulence and prosperity. However, for more than 800 million people across the globe who live below the poverty line, the existence of these ultra modern centers of development is just a chimera. For the vast majority of people, an isolated Cuba which has attained phenomenal success in curbing child mortality and preventing the transmission of HIV from a mother to her newborn, is still a beacon of hope. Havana may not have been able to eliminate poverty, but it has managed to socialize poverty.
Despite the ruthless blockade of the socialist country, in the 1960s and beyond, the Castro-led government startled the world by achieving one of the best results in terms of the Human development Index, leaving advanced capitalist countries behind in some aspects of healthcare. This is a country that has not only been a victim of deleterious imperialist propaganda but has also fallen prey to the CIA’s conspiracies to dislodge the revolutionary government.
We need to consider that if the most effective intelligence agency in the world failed in its attempts to topple Castro, it could partly have been attributed to the miracles that the socialist country had demonstrated in delivering social services. While these services may not be excellent from the point of view of most advanced countries, for people who belonged to bottom layer of the social stratification, they were no less than a blessing.”
Mr. Sattar further (and rightly) points out: “ For the marginalized sections of any society, the concept of development is different from the notions held by the graduates of (so called) prestigious business schools and the champions of progress. For the former development lies in achieving free education, medical facilities, and other amenities. Whoever provides these benefits to the people becomes popular among them.”
And in my view, the presence of Casinos, night clubs, liquor houses or pubs is not the symbol of development, but of a deranged culture and bankrupt value system. As simple as that.
For further insights, one can also read my e-book on Fidel Castro which is available on Amazon:
ii)The News (an English daily from Pakistan) of June 21, 2018, page 06.