23 August 2012

History absolved him a long time ago

There’s an email that is periodically circulated about an English woman.  It shows the woman shaking hands with 12 US Presidents.  She was born in April 1926.  Four months later, August 13 to be exact, a man was born who is not reported to have shaken hands with 12 US Presidents.  The woman, Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor, of mainly German but mixed ethnicity, is unemployed but wealthy.  The man is Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz.

Fidel Castro led a revolution and transformed what was essentially a client state of the USA and playground for the American wealthy into a country which boasts of the best health system and the highest literacy rate in the entire Americas. He has been reviled by the Washington-controlled media.   
He is ‘dictator’ to his enemies, ‘comrade’ to friends.  He set out to overthrow a US-backed military figured called Fulgencio Batista y Zaldívar, failed, was imprisoned for a year, went into exile, assembled a group of revolutionaries, and seized power in 1959 forcing Batista to flee into exile, taking with him an amassed fortune of more than US $ 300,000,000! 

He has since then survived countless CIA-planned assassination attempts and other moves to overthrow him.  Cuba, Free Territory of the Americas, has stood up against US aggression and largely survived relentless attempts by that country to cripple her economy.  Castro can take a bow. 
‘Dictator’ is the preferred epithet reserved for those who don’t play ball with Uncle Sam, for those who do play ball, regardless of track-record of criminality, murder, crimes against humanity etc. are spared the bad words.   

No leader enjoys 100% support of the citizenry and I am sure there are Cubans who hate the man.  There are many reasons to like someone and many reasons to hate.  There are many reasons to like Fidel Castro. 

I like Fidel Castro. He is a revolutionary, a visionary, a leader and a survivor. In this world of enemies and friends and all the people who fall in between, I would be proud to stand beside that man. In my wanderings over political and ideological terrain it has often been refreshing to think of the Cuban revolution. The Cuban example has been a source of inspiration and I have on many an occasion referenced it to understand, clarify and work out strategy in all kinds of political settings, even though I’ve come to realize that the superior direction is found in the vast canon that is the Buddha Dhamma.

Speaking of dictatorship, though, reminded me of something that happened 22 years ago when Carlos Tablada, a young Cuban economist toured the United States of America. He was promoting his book "Che Guevara: Economics and Politics in the Transition to Socialism". Quoting extensively from Che’s writings and speeches on building socialism, Tablada was basically discussing the interrelationships of the market, economic planning, material incentives, and voluntary work, and why profit and other capitalist categories cannot be the yardstick for measuring progress in the transition to socialism or a return to civilisation.

Tablada was taken around the USA, visiting universities where he would talk about the book and field questions from the audience. In Southern California he was confronted by a bunch of anti-Castro Cuban expatriates who kept screaming that Cuba was a dictatorship and calling for the overthrow of the "dictator", Fidel Castro. Throughout the protest, Tablada just smiled, a twinkle gleaming in his pale blue eyes. Finally he answered:

"Fidel Castro goes into universities and factories unarmed and without security guards. Don’t forget that every Cuban is armed and trained in the use of firearms. Can you name me one President or Prime Minister in Latin America or anywhere else for that matter who would dare do anything like that? Cuba is a democracy!"

I also remember a biographer whose name I forget who was not unfriendly to Cuba and Castro but was certainly not a fan.  He mentioned that during the days of voluntarism in harvesting sugar cane, Castro would come early to the field and leave long after the media had done the interviews and taken the photographs.  He was that kind of man. 

After more than 50 years have passed since Castro’s fighting men and women, led in part by that other colorful and inspiring revolutionary figure, Ernesto Che Guevara, overthrew Batista, the man identified with that revolution in iconic terms is in retirement from office but not from ideological engagement.

At the age of 86, Castro still writes.  He offers lucid, perceptive and well-argued missives almost on a daily basis. That’s more than what any US President or any other leader in any part of the world does or is capable of doing, forget Ms. Elizabeth.  Worthy of salute.  

[first published in the UNDO Section of 'The Nation', august 19, 2012]


Shaik Ahamath said...

Thank you for recognising a great statesman. Fidel Castro could have led an affluent lifestyle with all the trimmings if he had decided to go along with the Americans and prostituted Cuba as the playground to the American wealthy. The loss of dignity and pride to the Cubans would have been unforgiveable. Most of our world appear convinced of human rights abuses by Castro, convinced by the Americans that is. Sadly USA is the self-appointed policeman to the world, when all the time it is the USA that is violating every human right ever written, and committing the most heinous of war crimes (they have had 226 wars in their 236 year history)and gets away Scot free. For example:
1)Waterboarding – a crime so heinous the USA executed a few Japanese for deploying it in their war. Yet, it is being used, albeit legally, by USA as an interrogating technique sanctioned in their re-written Army manual.
2)In Vietnam, the USA used, among others, Agent Orange, a chemical that has annihilated their agricultural fields reportedly for the next 200,000 years.
3)The US Patriot Act lets their operatives legally assassinate any American or foreigner, at home or abroad, if declared an Enemy Combatant but without a Trial, Judge, Jury or even evidence on the excuse of compromising National Security.
4)So far, USA is the only country to have used Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) in Hiroshima and Nagasaky in their war with Japan. Recently, USA accused Iraq of having WMD and invaded her on that pretext but none were found. Now, the USA is claiming Syria is poised to us WMD, probably a preamble to ouster Assad.