In an age of renewed western imperialism in which regime change is the de-facto manner in which countries like America, Britain and France attempt to influence the world upon which their influence continues to decline, Fidel Castro stood out as a unique figure who survived hundreds attempts on his life.
The Cuban Revolution of 1959 sent shockwaves throughout the world. Cuba was in effect, an American colony since 1898, even after putative self-government was established in 1902. The mafia state of Fulgencio Batista, who ruled the island prior to the revolution, made Havana a haven for US based gangsters whilst ordinary Cubans were left behind.
The revolution began as a genuine movement to liberate the people of Cuba, long before its ultimate ideology was assured. In the end, Castro turned to the Soviet Union and to Marxist-Leninism as a means of lifting the Cuban people out of post-imperial malaise. In doing so, Castro created a state whose independence was endlessly threatened by the United States, but in spite of economic blockade and multiple assassination attempts, both Castro and Cuba survived.
Castro’s personal influence reached beyond the maritime borders of his small land. He along with his comrade, Che Guevara, became iconic figures for third world nations who would no longer tolerate submissiveness to western powers and the economic systems they sought to impose on them.
Many in Russia, still fondly remember how the mighty Soviet Union stood by Cuba as an ally and in return, Castro never forgot this mutual loyalty, even as his political outlook became equally open to the Non-Aligned Movement which he led between 1979 and 1983 and again from 2006-2008.
President Putin expressed the feelings of many in Russia when he said the following of Fidel Castro’s death:
“I express to you and to all the Cuban people our deepest condolences over the death of the revolutionary leader, your brother Fidel Castro. The name of this outstanding statesman is considered to be a symbol of an entire era in the modern history of the world. A free and independent Cuba built by him and his colleagues became an influential member of the international community and has served as an inspiring example for many countries and peoples”.
“This strong and wise man always looked to the future with confidence. He personified the high ideals of a politician, citizen and patriot, sincerely believing in the righteousness of what he did and to which he devoted his entire life. His memory will forever remain within the hearts of Russian citizens”.
Russia’s opposition leaders also paid tribute to the life of Fidel Castro with Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov praising Castro’s eternal friendship with the Soviet people whilst lamenting Russia’s turn away from Communism and consequently from Cuba in the late 1980s and 1990s. LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky praised Castro for his indefatigable independence, emphasising the need of the peoples in every nation to choose their own destiny, free from external interference. Zhirinovsky noted that the Cuban liberation movement did not begin as a Communist revolution, but instead became one, once it became clear that Cuba would require Soviet assistance to survive the US onslaught. The LDPR leader continued, criticising the Communist ideology for its hold on both Russian and Cuban societies.
The tragic and un-constitutional demise of the Soviet Union in 1991, ushered in a dark decade, not just for Russia but also for Cuba. As it was for Russia, foreboding signs of change for the worse in respect of Moscow’s relations with Cuba, appeared under the traitorous rule of Gorbachev and Yakovlev. By 1991, the friendship was destroyed by events beyond the control and against the wishes of both Soviet and Cuban citizens.
Russia became poorer for adopting a neo-liberal system which Fidel Castro had dedicated his adult life to fighting against, whilst Cuba lost the aid and fraternal cooperation of a country that wasn’t afraid to stick up for the little guy, even at the risk of provoking further wrath from Washington.
But in the 2000s, Cuba became increasingly resilient and Vladimir Putin slowly but surely restored much of the fraternal bond which was lost in the 1990s. It represented a fitting end to what was a broadly steadfast and unshakeable Soviet relationship with Cuba.
It is one thing just to stand up to an empire and to the entire system it represents. It is one thing to speak on behalf of one’s people and maintain their independence against immeasurable odds. But it is quite another to survive both enemy and friend and die not only in peace, but as a free man in a free land.
Rest in Peace Tovarisch Fidel.