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Mainstream, VOL LIV No 50 New Delhi December 3, 2016

Castro Will Always be Remembered for Keeping Alive the Hope of Socialist Alternatives

Monday 5 December 2016, by Bharat Dogra

Fidel Castro, who died at the age of 90 on November 25, will always be remembered by history for keeping alive the hope for a socialist alternative for a very long time in very adverse circumstances. He is often admired, and rightly so, for his great courage and determination in fighting an oppressive dictatorship and finally ousting it from Cuba.

This was certainly a very impressive achievement but what followed has an even more durable place in history. Despite all sorts of opposition led by the dominant imperialist power of the times who happened to be a close neighbour, Castro not only ensured the survival of the socialist revolution but also guided the socialist revolution to achieve very significant successes in health and education and, at a much later stage, in sustainable agriculture.

It is well known that an invasion was instigated against the Castro-led Government of Cuba and other attacks including terrorist attacks were unleashed by the forces of imperialism. It is also well known that assassination attempts against Castro were made, not one but several. It is on record that an embargo was imposed on Cuba and attempts to create artificial shortages of essential commodities were made, apart from disrupting its economy and trade in other ways. The instigator in chief in all this was the USA, the biggest superpower of the era and Cuba’s immediate neighbour.

Despite all this the world soon saw that following the socialist revolution Cuba had some of the best human development indicators in the world, even surpassing or equalling some of the developed countries. This was duly acknowledged by leading development agencies including those associated with the United Nations.

This could be seen in the education data and in the equality data but, above all, this could be seen in the health and related data. For example, Cuba could reduce the infant mortality rate to a level that was lower than that achieved by several much higher income countries. The accessibility of good healthcare by all sections of people was widely acknowledged.

In addition Cuba was also able to send its doctors and health workers to many parts of the world where health care was badly needed due to war, disasters or other conditions of acute distress. This service by doctors of a small and embargoed country was also widely noted and the great contribution of brave and dedicated Cuban doctors was widely acknow-ledged.

After the break-up of the Soviet Union there were several new problems and a crisis-like situation including shortage of food. This led to increasing realisation by the socialist govern-ment that they had made serious mistakes in the form of monocultures of export crops using factory farming methods requiring a lot of chemical fertilisers and pesticides. Once this serious mistake was accepted, corrective measures were initiated with the help and advice of those who have been trying to spread sustainable agricultural practices in various parts of the world. Cuban scientists were asked to work along these lines.

The result was that Cuba soon became one of the most important places for the spread of sustainable farming practices which were also low cost and self-reliant at the same time. This helped Cuba to overcome its suddenly created food shortages to a significant extent by making available healthy staple foods at a low cost. Another part of this effort was to make good and effective use of urban spaces as well to increase the production of nutritious food such as vegetables.

Cuba under Castro successfully kept alive the alternative of socialism and showcased achieve-ments in the form of better equality, health, education and social security, achieved even in the face of never-ending hostility of imperialist powers. This living source of inspiration contributed to several Latin American and neighbouring countries following Cuba. Cuba contributed to socialist revolutions in other countries of the region and also benefited from them.

While defending Cuba’s socialist revolution from imperialist aggression, Cuba’s brave soldiers also went to many remote parts of the world to fight on the side of the forces of equality and justice. Many of them sacrificed their life in the process.

Should we admire this country which sent its soldiers to be on the side of justice and equality, or should we admire those countries or regimes which killed hundreds of thousands of innocent people in Iraq and other countries (or contributed to their untimely death in many direct and indirect ways)? Should we admire Cuba which sent its doctors to help suffering patients even in the most dangerous conditions, or should we admire those regimes which contributed to the slow death of millions of patients by denying low-cost generic drugs to them so that the companies associated with these regimes can continue to earn super-profits from their patented drugs? Castro’s legacy will continue to raise these questions before a very troubled and unjust world.

Bharat Dogra is a free-lance journalist who has been involved with several people’s movements and campaigns.