THE death of Fidel Castro, the leader of the 1959 Cuban revolution sees millions of Cubans mourning their leader who secured the independence of their country from US imperialism and allowed the Cuban people to advance and make great gains, among them the construction of first class health and education services that are the envy of much richer countries, not least the USA.
The question that immediately arises is whither Cuba? – Whether forward to socialism as part of the struggle of the workers of the Americas, or back to being a playground for US imperialism via a violent counter-revolution.
While Cubans mourn, in Miami the Cuban counter revolution gathers, and cheers the death of Castro, egged on by their political representative, president-elect Trump. He said on Saturday: ‘Fidel Castro’s legacy is one of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights. While Cuba remains a totalitarian island, it is my hope that today marks a move away from the horrors endured for too long, and towards a future in which the wonderful Cuban people finally live in the freedom they so richly deserve.’
In fact, the Cuban people have a very rich revolutionary tradition, and capital at their disposal, amassed since the days in November 1956 when Castro and 81 revolutionaries sailed from Mexico, and under attack by the Batista forces, the 19 survivors retreated to the Serra Maestra mountains where a peasant revolt was taking place.
They then led this revolt and marched on Havana where the corrupt Batista regime was already rotten ripe to be overthrown. They were greeted as liberators and took the power after Batista fled to the Dominican Republic in 1959.
Castro was a bourgeois liberator of the poor and not a revolutionary socialist. When he visited the UN in April 1959 he arrived keen to make an agreement with the USA but President Eisenhower was not even willing to see him.
He was rebuffed and returned home to face the unremitting hostility of the US ruling class. American imperialist hostility forced him to turn to the USSR, which was willing to buy Cuban sugar in return for oil, and to take a large number of other measures to assist Cuba.
The USA acted with extreme hostility, threatening a nuclear war if Russia put missiles into Cuba, and then organised the Bay of Pigs invasion by Cuban counter-revolutionaries.
Castro’s response to intense US hostility was to make a bloc with the Cuban Communist Party (which played no part in the anti-Batista revolution) at home and to support national liberation movements abroad such as in Angola.
Castro embraced the USSR and through it the Stalinist bureaucracy. When Trotsky’s assassin Mercader was freed from a Mexican jail on May 6 1960, Castro went to the extent of welcoming him personally to Cuba, awarding him with a medal to go along with his ‘Hero of the Soviet Union’ medal, and allowing him to reside in Cuba whenever he wished. Mercader died in Havana in 1978.
However, all good things must come to an end. In 1991 the Russian Stalinists’ Perestroika policy produced a right wing under Yeltsin that was determined to make a deal with the USA, put an end to the USSR, and restore capitalism to Russia through ‘shock therapy’.
They made a deal with Reagan and Thatcher to withdraw from eastern Europe, and then at the Malta Summit sold out the Palestinians and then the Cubans. There was to be no more oil for Cuba and no more trade! The Russian Stalinist bureaucracy left the Cuban people to their fate.
It is to Castro’s great credit that he stood fast against this Stalinist treachery and announced to massive meetings that a new and special period had opened up, when there would be great privations but that the Cuban people must never give up their revolution. The fact that Cuba weathered this very difficult and trying period when the whole of eastern Europe went under, as NATO broke all pledges and advanced eastwards, is an expression of the revolutionary determination of the Cuban people.
The Cuban workers and rural workers have now a considerable body of revolutionary experience and capital with which to wage their struggle in this new situation. They must now advance to secure their revolution through forming workers councils to run the country and be the basis of their revolutionary government. They must demand the US ends its occupation of Guantanamo Bay and return it to Cuba. They must form an alliance with US workers that want to break with both Democrats and Republicans and advance to a socialist USA and a socialist Americas.