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Mainstream, VOL LIV No 36, New Delhi, August 27, 2016

Fidel Castro Turns 90

Sunday 28 August 2016

by Vivek Kumar Srivastava

Fidel Castro has turned 90 on August 13. He was born in 1926 on the same day at Biran. His life has passed through several phases which are difficult to be comprehended in a few words; still these are divisible into three parts: the first part when he participated in the revolutionary movement in Colombia (1948), Mexico (1955), overthrow of Batista regime (January 1959); the second phase when he was at the helm of the affairs till 2006 when on his 80th birthday he temporarily transferred the power baton to his brother, Raul Castro, and in 2008 permanently; since then he has silently guided the political affairs in the country.

He is a leader of the communist movement in the world and stood firmly against all odds emerging as a strong symbol of the solidarity of developing countries. In the last two-and-a-half decades the ideas of solidarity and of communism as the unifying force at the global level have been diluted much due to the organised onslaught of the neoliberal economic forces. This onslaught has produced several negative elements in the world demanding that fresh socialist-communist ideas need to be redis-covered and implemented. The implementation can be possible only with the leadership of a strong leader; Fidel Castro at 90 is still strong with his words that a new paradigm for survival for the developing states and millions of masses can be discovered and structured.

What made him such a great leader? Like Che Guevara he has become a mystical figure, a legend and a guide to all those forces which aim to change the existing order and want to establish a better world. He is a man of virtues and his virtues have made him a world leader. These virtues were identified by Felipe Perez Roque, the then Cuban Minister of Foreign Affairs (now replaced), who delivered a speech to mark Fidel Castro’s 80th birthday in 2006 at the international colloquium in Havana. He found Fidel as a man with infinite virtues in which he outlined fifteen in clear terms.

The first virtue is his concept of unity as a prerequisite for the defence and survival of a revolution, and even for the triumph of an idea. The second is ethics. With Fidel’s concept of ethics as an essential component of political and revolutionary action, the idea of the ends justifying the means has no place.

Third is Fidel’s lack of interest in receiving homage and material things. Fidel’s lack of interest in material things has become an essential quality of the Cuban revolution. Fidel’s fourth virtue is consistency. Consistency has been another feature of the government in Cuba, as has the idea of principles above interests. The Cuban revolution has made both of them part of the essence of government.

Fifth is his leadership with examples. Fidel has always been in the midst of every battle, hurricane and task that requires sacrifice and effort. Sixth is the truth. Telling the truth is absolutely necessary if you are to be respected. The revolution has never told a lie.

The seventh virtue is sensitivity. That ability to feel for others, to share in the pain and anguish of others, is one of Fidel’s virtues that has become part of the patrimony of millions in Cuba. Fidel’s eighth virtue is his lack of pretentiousness and total absence of vanity. Fidel wears the same uniforms, many of which are quite worn out. Ninth is Fidel’s belief that a revolutionary political figure is duty-bound to learn. This is seen in Fidel’s infinite curiosity, the hundreds and thousands of questions he asks about things so that he can learn all about them in detail, and his eagerness to read, which has led him to keep books and a small light in his car.

Fidel’s tenth virtue is how much he demands of himself—he aspires for perfection not as a matter of personal vanity but as part of his duty. Whatever Fidel does, he tries to do the best he can. Eleventh is Fidel’s belief that defeat is not really defeat if it is not accepted—if you don’t accept defeat, you can keep on struggling to reverse it; it will only be a temporary episode and can be turned into victory.

Twelfth is the aspiration of justice for all. Some people aspire for justice only for themselves, striving to be rich or to achieve a personal goal. Some people think of justice for their families or for others who are close to them. Some people have even aspired for justice for their nation; but for Fidel, the idea of fighting for justice has no limits. He has not only fought for justice for the Cuban people—which, in itself, would have been significant—and dedicated his life to this effort, but has also turned justice into a universal cause. Thirteenth is the power of ideas. This is why we call the Cuban struggle a battle of ideas. Fidel’s fourteenth virtue is empathy, which has also become part of the Cuban people’s patrimony.

Finally, Fidel’s fifteenth virtue is his total absence of hatred for anyone. Che said that a revolution was a great act of love. Fidel does not hate individuals, even if they have been or are his enemies. What he hates is exploitation, racial discrimination and other instances of injustice. The Cuban revolution has never acted out of hatred, except the hatred for injustice, and that hatred is not directed against those who are responsible for injustice.

His personality is therefore impregnated with everlasting ethical values which most politicians lack; for this reason he can never be defeated. He with this strength proclaims in History Will Absolve Me (October 16, 1953)—“I warn you, l am just beginning! If there is in your hearts a vestige of love for your country, love for humanity, love for justice, listen carefully. I know that I will be silenced for many years; I know that the regime will try to suppress the truth by all possible means; I know that there will be a conspiracy to bury me in oblivion. But my voice will not be stifled— it will rise from my breast even when I feel most alone, and my heart will give it all the fire that callous cowards deny it.” The truth is that such iron words can be spoken only by a person who has transcended space, time and the material world and is the ethical revolutionary of the ideal form and a leader of generations to come.

Dr Vivek Kumar Srivastava is the Vice-Chairman, CSSP, Kanpur and a Consultant, CRIEPS. He can be contacted at e-mail: vpy1000@yahoo.co.in