Fidel Castro dies, his revolution lives on

An obituary of the former President of Cuba and commander-in-chief of the Cuban Revolution



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© All Rights Reserved
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Kamal Mitra Chenoy

Fidel Castro, who lit the flame of the Cuban Revolution and made sure that it did not die out, is dead. Castro’s significance and leadership will live on for Cuba where he held off US imperialism with his comrades, including Raoul Castro and Che Guevara. The Third World, to whom he was committed, and India have lost a friend, as have all people who hold to the idea of peace, freedom, justice and equality.


Castro’s special relationship, memorialised in the famous photograph with Mrs Indira Gandhi, is etched in contemporary Indian historiography. As Vice President Hamid Ansari said in a meeting with Castro just a few months ago, Fidel was a star of the Non Aligned Movement. Castro was also a great admirer of Jawaharlal Nehru and this led to a warm friendship between the peoples of the two countries.


In April this year, an ailing Fidel Castro in a rare speech to the Communist Party Congress, said that the Communist concepts were still valid and that the Cuban people "will be victorious". He said "I'll soon be 90, something I'd never imagined," adding, "Soon I'll be like all the others, to all our turn must come." His key message like that of his brother and present Cuban President Raoul Castro, and his slain comrade Che, was that the Cuban Revolution should support the principles of peace, freedom, justice and equality not only in Cuba but everywhere else. They were committed to an internationalism which was clearly different than globalisation.

Photo courtesy; Twitter/<a href="https://twitter.com/SitaramYechury">@SitaramYechury</a>
Photo courtesy; Twitter/@SitaramYechury
Cuban President Fidel Castro with Comrade Jyoti Basu, Pramode Dasgupta and others, in Kolkata in 1973

When he first came to power, Castro and his colleagues concentrated on the security of the Cuban state and the consolidation of the Communist regime. This turned out to be extremely important. The US saw Cuba as a thorn in their flesh. Their policy was of regime change for Cuba. President John Kennedy's historian has written that Kennedy presented three options for Cuba: first preference would be for a democratic regime, but if that was not possible, the second preference would be a dictatorial Batista regime, and the last choice would be a Castro regime.


In 1961, a CIA-sponsored Bay of Pigs invasion by Cuban exiles was fought off by the Cuban Government. They were supported by the Soviet Union, that planned to deploy nuclear missiles to protect Cuba against the US Government. This sparked the Cuban missile crisis and there was the possibility of confrontation between the two super powers. After that, Cuba was virtually cordoned off and US citizens were stopped from visiting Cuba. Unilateral sanctions were imposed, most of which have been removed relatively recently. Cuba’s territory of Guantanamo Bay continued to be occupied by the US as a prison for dangerous prisoners, an occupation that persists. But Cuba survived with the assistance of the Soviet Union and their own national policies.

When Che Guevara was captured by US-backed military troops in Bolivia and executed on the spot, it was a great loss to Fidel as it was for others who held the idea of a life of dignity for all people

Despite the extreme hardships Fidel and Raoul faced in the initial period, Che advocated Cuban support to national liberation movements and de-colonisation. Che believed that a small group of committed revolutionaries could light the flame of revolution, but most Cuban revolutionary leaders did not agree. They wanted to consolidate gains of Cuba and let others make their own changes.


When Che was captured by US-backed military troops in Bolivia and executed on the spot, it was a great loss to Fidel as it was for others who held the idea of a life of dignity for all people. Cuban troops supported freedom struggles in countries as diverse as Angola and Eritrea. Cuban diplomats were active in the United Nations on the issue of anti-racism, de-colonisation and freedom. For a small country under the shadow and threat of the US, the support that the Cuban Government—led for long by Fidel and more recently by Raoul—has given to many Third World countries is simply amazing.

In India, those committed to the idea of an independent foreign policy, internal democracy and freedom will always revere the memories of Fidel Castro

Cuba under Fidel went through many changes and many debates on policies. Fidel recognised the need for flexibility of old policies of revolutions that needed to change with the times. This has been debated in Cuba and all over the world in which liberals also intervened. This led to a series of economic, political and social reforms in the latter period of Fidel's life, taken further by Raoul.


Fidel was often seen in photographs smoking the famous Cuban cigars that were the cigar smokers delight throughout the world. Fidel was firmly stopped by his doctors from smoking, and then only chewed the cigar, which also was banned later.


The international left learnt a lot from the Cubans and Indian left leaders like EMS Namboodiripad, BT Ranadive, Indrajit Gupta, Jyoti Basu and AB Bardhan, to name just a few, were strongly influenced by the Cuban revolution. But the admirers of the Cuban revolution included radicals, left liberals and liberals throughout the world. In India, those committed to the idea of an independent foreign policy, internal democracy and freedom will always revere the memories of Castro. The Cuban people will always remember Fidel Castro as will people the world over, for lighting the flame of the Cuban revolution and will never allow its heroes to fade away.


Kamal Mitra Chenoy is an academic and activist. He tweets at @KamaIChenoy

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Published: 26 Nov 2016, 4:45 PM