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Mainstream, VOL LV No 1 New Delhi December 24, 2016 - ANNUAL 2016

End of an Iconic Revolutionary Phase in Post-WW II

Monday 26 December 2016



by Vijay Kumar

The death of Fidel Castro has marked the end of an iconic revolutionary phase of the post-Second World War era. Fidel Castro was a hero of generations of students of history and politics, especially for students in DU and JNU. Castro and Che Guevara of Argentina were two profoundly heroic revolutionaries of the second half of the twentieth century. In fact, I have all along differed with Left intellectuals and Marxist scholars as I put Castro and Che Guevara on a pedestal higher than the Russian Communist apparatchiks and Mao except Lenin and Trotsky.

Fidel Castro was a genuine Marxist who passionately dreamt of creating an alternative... and, lo and behold! he created the alternative to capitalism..., in a country, which is literally next door to the bastion of capitalism: the United States.

No wonder, the successive Presidents of the US, of both Republican and Democratic stripes, attempted hard to liquidate him. It was an open secret that the CIA made numerous attempts to physically bump off Castro, but providence willed otherwise and, in the bargain, he became stronger and stronger epitomising the classic instance of David conquering Goliath. In the process, the Castro created a counter-hegemonic force to the hegemonic status and ambition of the sole superpower of the world. It is this counter-hegemonic force that inspired the heroic resistance in the Vientam war which went down as the most humiliating defeat for the US’ foreign policy.

When the Berlin Wall collapsed in 1989 and triggered the forces which eventually led to the dismantling of communism and accompanying disintegration of the USSR, many feared and predicted the end of the Castro era. But once again the prophecy of his skeptics proved to be myopic as he continued to take Cuba on the socialist path and stand up to the greatest military power of the world. In the event, the Cuban health system became one of the best in the world after the Scandinavian countries. In Cuba, everyone is assured of basic medical treatment to be provided by the government free of cost.

It is true that Cuba under Castro remained a dictatorship as the freedom of speech and other basic human rights and civil liberties were denied to Cuban citizens. However, the context of Cuba being encircled by the US and other NATO countries and repeated attempts to stage coups and physically eliminate Castro was always looming large on the horizon. It would be a grave fallacy to indulge in value judgment at this distance of time and criticise Castro’s regime as a totalitarian one depriving its citizens the basic liberties and fundamental freedoms. There remains a crucial distinction at conceptual and ideological levels between revolutionary and play-pen dictators that abound in Asia and Africa.

Castro was the staunchest supporter of India and, in particular, his close friendship with Indira Gandhi became an irritant point for the successive US Presidents. His consistent, steadfast and unflinching support to India at the height of the Cold War can never be forgotten and, therefore, his death, though expected due to his advanced age and frail health, is a great loss for India.

Castro achieved immortality in his lifetime itself and, thus, his final departure has formally secured his place in history.

The author is an advocate of the Supreme Court.

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