(Updated) Happy 90th birthday Comandante Fidel Castro!
Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal joins in the global celebration of Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro's 90th birthday. To mark the occasion we are publishing solidarity messages looking at Castro's revolutionary legacy from the Network in Defense of Humanity, Isaac Saney from Canadian Network on Cuba, Dr Francisco Dominguez from Cuba Solidarity Campaign UK and US peace activist Cindy Sheehan. UPDATED: Links has added an article by Sergio Alejandro Gómez published in the Cuban Communist Party newspaper Granma.
Thanks for your example, FidelBy Network in Defense of Humanity August 10, 2016 Commander in Chief Fidel Castro Ruz Dear Comandante, On the occasion of your 90th birthday the members of the Network of Intellectuals, Artists, and Social Movements in Defense of Humanity want to extend our most sincere congratulations and above all our deepest gratitude for everything you have done for the peoples of Our America and the rest of the world. Your presence has been a permanent source of inspiration, not only when the ascending tide of the popular struggles were making firm steps towards socialism, but also in the recurrent moments when our advances have been stopped due to the ferocity of the reaction of imperialism and their local allies. In the phases of uprising your example forced us to never be satisfied and like good revolutionaries we pursued with renewed vigor our march especially when we needed to confront adversities or the counter-offensive of the enemy. The memory of your attitude after the Moncada or the attack of imperialism in Playa Giron strengthened our spirits and convinced us that the unyielding will to fight for our ideals was the sure path to victory. You showed us that path on countless occasions, and we can assure you that all that teaching reiterated to us in your meeting with intellectuals on February 10, 2012, when you said that "Even if we heard that in a few weeks the world will come to an end, our duty would be to fight, to continue fighting until the end", will never be forgotten. This thinking of yours has ingrained a very deep and indelible brand in millions of people in Latin America and the Caribbean who, like many others in other parts of the world, know that this will be our destiny; fighting to the end knowing that the dominant class and imperialism will never just give up. These convictions that our ideas and the values we hold are infinitely superior to those of the enemy and are an essential ingredient of our revolutionary militancy. From you we learned that defending our values demands from us the most absolute intransigency. We learned this again when with virtuous obstinacy you opposed the herding of the flags of socialism while the Soviet Union and the Socialist camp disappeared. Thanks to your unwavering conviction the Cuban revolution could continue on its march, and by your heroic example, you opened a path that a few years later would start growing in numerous countries of our America after the electoral victory of the presidency of Hugo Chávez in Venezuela in December of 1998. If you had been convinced by those who advised you to leave forever the Socialist project and throw Cuba into the arms of capitalism that bright period that opened from the end of the last century until now, with the defeat of the FTAA, the creation of ALBA, of UNASUR, of CELAC, of Petrocaribe, of the Bank of the South, of Telesur and of this Network in Defense of Humanity would never have taken place. The powerful light that radiated in the lighthouse of the Cuban Revolution was decisive in pushing our people to leave behind that long neoliberal night of the 1990s and return to the path of our Second and Definitive Independence. That is why our debt, the debt of our people to you, Comandante, is immeasurable and hence our deep gratitude for your revolutionary integrity, for being faithful to that wonderful definition of "revolution". You expressed it so well in your speech on May 1, 2000, when you pointed out that revolution "is to defend the values in which we believe at the cost of any sacrifice; it is modesty, selflessness, altruism, solidarity and heroism; it is fighting with audacity, intelligence and realism." Throughout your prolific life you have been faithful to these ideas, that will live eternally in the soul of all the revolutionaries around the world, in all of those who know that another world is possible and necessary, and that if we continue to struggle with constancy and consistency as you have shown for so many years, the victory is inevitable. Happy 90 years, Fidel! Thanks for your example. You can be sure that we will be faithful to you teachings until the final victory. On behalf of the Executive Secretariat of the Network in Defense of Humanity, (REDH) Carmen Bohórquez (REDH General coordinador), Alicia Jrapko (REDH United States), Ángel Guerra (REDH Cuba/México), Ariana López (REDH Cuba), Atilio Boron (REDH Argentina), David Comissiong (REDH Caribbean), Fredy Ñáñez (REDH Venezuela), Hugo Moldiz (REDH Bolivia), Juan Manuel Karg (REDH Argentina), Katu Arkonada (REDH Basque Country/Bolivia), Luciano Vasapollo (REDH Italy), Marilia Guimaraes (REDH Brazil), Nayar López Castellanos (REDH México), Omar González (REDH Cuba), Roger Landa (REDH Venezuela)
¡Fidel 90 y más! A Revolutionary LegacyBy Isaac Saney "There are men who struggle for a day and they are good. There are men who struggle for a year and they are better. There are men who struggle many years, and they are better still. But there are those who struggle all their lives: These are the indispensable ones." -- Bertolt Brecht "Fidel! Fidel! Que tiene Fidel que los americanos no pueden con él!"
(Fidel! Fidel! What is it that he has, that the U.S. imperialists can't defeat him!) -- Cuban Revolutionary chant August 9, 2016 — Canadian Network on Cuba — On August 13 Fidel Castro, the historic leader of the Cuban Revolution, turns 90. Progressive, anti-war and social justice forces across the world will join in the celebration of the life of one of the world's most influential and significant leaders. It is especially worthwhile and necessary to mark and valorize the life and times of a man whose heart, without missing a beat, has withstood more than 600 assassination attempts by U.S imperialism. 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." 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. 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). Fidel was only 26 when on July 26, 1953 he led a group of courageous young men and women in the attack on the Moncada Barracks in the city of Santiago de Cuba, and the Carlos Manuel de Cespedes Barracks in Bayamo, an unsuccessful but valiant effort to overthrow the U.S.-supported puppet dictator Fulgencio Batista. Moncada was a catalyst for the revolutionary struggle to free Cuba from U.S. tutelage and establish authentic independence. Fidel has epitomized the unbending commitment to justice, dignity and independence that has characterized Cuba since the triumph of the Cuban Revolution on January 1, 1959, leading Cuban resistance against the unjust and genocidal economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed on the island by Washington. 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! Isaac Saney is the National Spokesperson for Canadian Network on Cuba
Fidel Castro – 90 revolutionary yearsBy Dr Francisco Dominguez Cuba Solidarity Campaign — "A great man is great not because his personal qualities give individual features to great historical events, but because he possesses qualities which make him most capable of serving the great social needs of his time, needs which arose as a result of general and particular causes.” GV Plekhanov In the contemporary world nobody else symbolises the modern revolutionary spirit better than Fidel Castro. From his very first incursions into politics he seemed to have been imbued with an almost insane, verging on the irrational, faith in the victory of his undertakings, many of which were carried out against extraordinary odds. It was with this spirit that he organised and led the military attack against the Moncada Barracks on the now historic date of of 26 July 1953 when he was not yet 27 years old. The attack was a huge risk, involving 137 badly equipped, poorly trained fighters against one of the largest and best armed military garrisons in the country, housing more than 500 soldiers. Fidel’s insurgents faced far superior firepower and had a slim chance of success, but only if the surprise factor worked. It did not. Following his capture after the attack, Fidel took the gamble to defend himself at the trial in a political context dominated by the intensely repressive Batista dictatorship. In October 1960, Senator John Kennedy said: “Fulgencio Batista murdered 20,000 Cubans in 7 years - a greater proportion of the Cuban population than the proportion of Americans who died in both World Wars, and he turned democratic Cuba into a complete police state - destroying every individual liberty.” This gives a measure of Fidel’s audacity to undertake his own legal and political defence. His closing defence speech, ‘History Will Absolve Me’, would make history as perhaps one of the most impressive political statements on why Cuba not only needed a revolution, but what the revolution’s intellectual, moral, historic, social and political foundations were. In it Fidel made the dictum that has informed his politics: “No weapon, no force is capable of defeating a people who have decided to fight for their rights.” Furthermore, in it we find the post-Batista programme of structural transformations to be implemented. It was a trait that was to inform his long political career: consistency between rhetoric, principles and practical action. The Moncada adventure, and Fidel’s exceptional political performance at the trial, catapulted him to national prominence from which he drew the key political lesson of his politics: audacity, regardless of the odds. Hence, the training camp in Mexico; his apparently ill-advised naval expedition to Cuba in the Granma yacht with 89 fighters; the establishment of the guerrilla HQ in the Sierra Maestra with the 12 survivors of the disastrous Granma landing; and his unwavering conviction that Cuba was mature for Revolution. This continued all the way to the 1962 October Missile Crisis, when Fidel skilfully steered his country through one of the most dangerous moments in the twentieth century’s history. It was under his political and military leadership that Cuba inflicted the very first defeat of US imperialism in Latin America on 17 April 1961 at the Bay of Pigs. A battle he led as field commander from a tank in the theatre of war itself. Fidel’s view of revolution is based on a Third World perspective of liberation against imperialism. Thus, Fidel’s internationalism was predicated on the need to build the broadest anti-imperialist unity in action in solidarity with the struggles of the peoples of Asia, Africa and Latin America. However, solidarity for Fidel went well beyond strongly worded statements and declarations of support, since he took it to unprecedented levels, which on many occasions involved the actual participation of tens of thousands of Cuban fighters in highly complex and dangerous areas. Fidel shared Che Guevara’s dictum that to “always be capable of feeling deeply any injustice committed against anyone, anywhere in the world”, was “the most beautiful quality of a revolutionary.” The Cuban Revolution is also profoundly Latin Americanist, as espoused by Fidel in the very first pronouncements that defined the Revolution’s nature. Thus, in the ‘First Declaration of Havana’, he presents the Revolution as a continuum of the struggles of Bolivar, Hidalgo, Suarez, San Martin, O’Higgins, Sucre, Tiradentes and, of course, Cuban independence leader José Martí himself. But the people are key. Fidel poetically formulates this in the ‘Second Declaration of Havana’: “…the dark-skinned, the poor, the indigenous, peasants, workers, women, have said enough and got on the march for their rights which have been suppressed for 500 years, and its inexorable march as a Giant will not stop until total success. This coming epic will be written by the masses, by the starving indigenous communities, landless peasants, exploited workers, mestizos, mulattoes, poor whites, our peoples in Latin America, those despised by imperialism, they will be the gravediggers of imperialist monopoly capital.” US imperialism understood the highly emancipatory and contagious significance of the Cuban Revolution and thus has sought to crush it ever since 1 January 1959. This never led to any weakening of Fidel’s principles to the Cuban people, the Revolution or his internationalism. Under Fidel’s leadership Cuba not only developed the most sophisticated knowledge of Latin America as a whole, but it also strongly influenced the healthiest political currents in the region. Thus Fidel’s leadership and Cuba’s example were not just an inspiration of what a better world would be like, but also a spur to political action. Fidel’s Latin Americanist conviction led him to give political support to Salvador Allende, even when the Chilean road seemed to squarely contradict, Cuba’s strategy of Revolution. He understood the deeply revolutionary nature of Allende’s government and visited Chile in 1971 and his words still resonate as strongly as at the time. He steered the revolution to also lend support to both the Nicaraguan and Grenadan revolutions thus eliciting the wrath of the US. The aggressive Reagan administration had both unleashed a horrific war of attrition against Nicaragua and ordered the US military to invade Grenada in the 1980s. From the 1960s, consistent with the Revolution’s internationalism, Fidel gave Cuban support, usually soldiers and doctors, to revolutionary struggles in Africa including national liberation movements in Algeria, the Congo, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Angola, Ghana, Ethiopia, Central Africa, Eritrea. After the collapse of Africa’s Portuguese empire, Fidel took the momentous decision to send thousands of Cuban volunteer troops to Angola, twice. Once in 1975, which decisively tilted the three-way anti-colonial struggle in favour of the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola Party (MPLA), the left wing nationalist guerrilla movement, thus guaranteeing the country’s independence. Cuba’s 1975 intervention took place when apartheid South African troops were racing to crush the MPLA. By early 1976 Cuba’s contribution had helped both in pushing the South Africans out of Angola and in winning the war for the MPLA. One African newspaper wrote at the time “Black Africa is riding the crest of a wave generated by the Cuban success in Angola. Black Africa is tasting […] the possibility of realising the dream of total liberation.” Speaking at the United Nations, in response to US criticisms, Fidel said that Cuba was not guided by any materialistic concerns: “We are carrying out our international duty in helping the people of Angola.” Then again in 1987. Fidel, at the request of the beleaguered MPLA government of Angola who were facing an all out military assault and invasion by tens of thousands of apartheid South African elite troops, took the extraordinary decision to send 50,000 troops. They defended Angola at the invasion of Cuito Cuanavale, in the country’s southeast. Fidel himself explained the significance of the undertaking: “…the Cuban Revolution had put its own existence at stake, it risked a huge battle against one of the strongest powers located in the area of the Third World, against one of the richest powers, with significant industrial and technological development, armed to the teeth, at such a great distance from our small country and with our own resources, our own arms. We even ran the risk of weakening our defenses, and we did so. We used our ships and ours alone, and we used our equipment to change the relationship of forces, which made success possible in that battle. We put everything at stake in that action...” The geopolitical impact of South Africa’s defeat was so huge that it would substantially contribute to the end of apartheid, the liberation of Mandela, and the independence of Namibia. No other non-African political leader has contributed more to the liberation of Africa from colonialism and imperialism than Fidel Castro, using the meager resources of a small but great Caribbean island. A scholar wrote with a great deal of justice: “Cuba is the only Third World nation with the foreign policy of a world power.” The defeat of the Nicaraguan and Grenadan revolutions and the fall of the Berlin Wall, leading to the eventual disappearance of the socialist bloc and the collapse of the Soviet Union itself, left Cuba severely isolated and the Revolution faced extreme danger. The US sharply intensified the blockade seeking to strangle the island. Cuba’s Eastern bloc former allies turned nasty enemies. With the economy almost in a state of collapse, Fidel defended the socialist nature of the Revolution at whatever cost: “Cuban socialism was not constructed after the arrival of victorious Red Army divisions, our socialism was forged by Cubans in real struggles.” Fidel’s unique ability to combine hard principles with a pragmatic nimbleness led Cuba to adopt the ‘Special Period’. Although this permitted small elements of capitalist entrepreneurship and joint ventures with foreign investment, it allowed Cuba to reinsert itself into the world economy, pretty much under its own conditions. It took the country out of the economic precipice in barely five years. The same nimbleness led Fidel to invite arch-reactionary Pope John Paul II to visit Cuba in 1998. The Pope took the opportunity to castigate Cubans for engaging in pre-marital sex and uttered a few generalities about liberty and democracy, however, Fidel scored a massive coup when John Paul II condemned both savage capitalism and the US blockade, committing US Catholics to actively campaign against the latter. Fidel was the only political leader to realise Hugo Chávez’s political significance and invite the then presidential candidate to Cuba to engage in discussions and explore ways of collaborating with what at the time was a foggy thing called the Bolivarian Revolution. A young Hugo Chávez visited Havana and was warmly welcomed by the Comandante. It was there that he made one of his best formulations of the Bolivarian project. It was also the first sign that the three-decades-long neoliberal nightmare in the region was on the wane, that Cuba’s isolation was coming to an end, and that Fidel’s vision of a radical, united, independent and integrated Latin America could become a reality. This was in 1994, four years before Chávez became Venezuela’s president and well before there was any inkling it would inaugurate the ‘Pink Wave’. Fidel’s vision and Cuba’s example, after half a century of resistance and adherence to socialist principles, had not only paid off, but the emulation of Cuba’s policies by the ‘Pink Wave’ governments ensured that tens of millions of hitherto impoverished and marginalised people began to experience the fruits of a better world. In his welcome to Chávez, Fidel combined rhetoric, eloquence, eulogy and rigour: “Chávez says he does not deserve the honours we are awarding him, but somebody who spent ten years (clandestinely) educating young Venezuelan military officers and soldiers in the Bolivarian ideas deserves these and many more honours.” The United States 50-year-long aggression has been defeated by Fidel’s leadership on a large number of occasions. It began in 1960 with President Eisenhower’s attempt to humiliate the Cuban delegation to the UN by throwing them out of the Manhattan Shelburne Hotel. Fidel turned this into a sensational political victory by staying in Harlem’s Theresa Hotel and receiving a rapturous welcome by African-Americans. Ever since, Fidel has inflicted defeat after defeat to imperialism, not only by defending Cuba’s Revolution, but by also providing tangible material support to anti-imperialist struggles around the world. No wonder they hate him so much and little wonder that they have tried to assassinate him at least 638 times. US efforts to assassinate Fidel are the clearest manifestation of their utter failure to counteract, let alone defeat, the attractiveness of Cuba as a good example to imitate and emulate. A scholar commenting on Fidel in a TV documentary was asked to sum him up in one phrase. He replied: ‘It is the year 2025, the US has finally lifted the blockade against Cuba, and Fidel has finally decided to die’. Or to put it another way, in Fidel Castro’s famous words: “Patria, socialismo o muerte!” (Homeland, socialism or death). Happy Birthday Comandante! Dr Francisco Dominguez is Head of the Latin American Studies Research Group, Middlesex University, London.
Despite U.S. Policy, Fidel Castro Turns 90!By Cindy Sheehan Dear Fidel, I hope you excuse the familiarity of calling you by your given name, but even though I never met you I do feel like you are my friend, because you are a friend of all the people. I would never dream of being so familiar with politicians here in the US because they are NOT my friends, nor are they friends of humanity. I also hope you forgive me my former ignorance about you and the Cuban Revolution. I was born in 1957 at the height of the Cold War and, as you know, the propaganda reviling you was hard to escape. However, since my son Casey was killed in another U.S. war for Empire and domination, I have learned much, the hard way. One thing I did learn, was that the government of the USA lies, always — even when telling the truth would make more sense and would be easier. Learning the truth about yourself and Cuba, though, was not one of those hard lessons. It has been my pleasure to visit your beautiful country many times and I have always been treated with love, kindness, and respect. Through my trips and my affiliation with the Free the Cuban 5 movement, I have come to deeply admire your courageous and dignified life and what you have inspired in others. I feel like I owe you and the people of Cuba so much since you have collectively withstood the rogue nation of the US for so many decades and have come through so beautifully. Under your dedicated and grace-filled leadership, Cuba has been able to fulfill the precepts of human rights while here in the US most people suffer under the delusion that things like education, peace, and health care are privileges for the wealthy and not basic human rights for all. Your example of fighting for the people of Cuba against a brutal dictatorship inspire me while the capitulation of US politician Bernie Sanders to the same brutal paradigm disgusted me. When Sanders enthusiastically endorsed the Queen of the Counter-Revolution, I was even more convinced that his political "revolution" was a farce and that if you had failed against Batista and his supporters in the US, you would never have collaborated or capitulated — you would have remained in the fight until your last breath — as you have and will continue to do. The US government is terrified by the threat of the good example that you and Cuba represent and has tried (as you know) to murder you hundreds of times. Thank goodness the CIA failed in their multiple attempts as you celebrate your 90th birthday on 13 August 2016. Leftists and revolutionaries everywhere should be celebrating the success of your people's revolution and the success of your survival against such immense odds. I know I take much inspiration from your example and feel incredible gratitude that you and I occupied our Mother Earth at the same time in history. I send greetings from many of my colleagues and comrades who are also dedicated to the same principles that you are. I hope you know that even though you are still reviled and lied about here in the US, there are many of us who do appreciate you and love you. I am able to, with much enthusiasm and sincerity, proclaim to you on this day: ¡Viva Fidel
¡Viva la revolucion cubana With undying respect and comradely love, Cindy Sheehan
US Peace and Social Justice Activist