Fidel Castro: The last of the messianic zealots
“A revolution is a struggle to death between the future and the past. We will win this battle for life; not only for you but also for the lives of all the children in the world…. A man should not live beyond the age when he begins to deteriorate, when the flame that lighted the brightest moment of his life has weakened.”
Fidel Alejandra Castro Ruz, 1926-2016
Twentieth Century political history is dominated by the extraordinary footprints of four global seminal figures. American John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the French Charles De Gaulle, the Cuban El Commandante, Fidel Castro, and Moa Tse Tung, the avatar who pushed the yellow race to lead the world.
As the leader whose presidency was the centre of action, J.F. Kennedy is best remembered for his deeds that depended, most of the time, on those inputs made by his Cabinet and his aides. That prevalent instinct to locate and direct those talents as the Chief Executive summed his legacies. At home, he contained a divisive America of his generation; the South against the big Federal Government, the Black lack of status, the Catholic versus the Protestant/Baptist Evangelical alliances.
In the end, JFK’s domestic variables earned for American citizens increased job opportunities and America’s prosperity and comfort of her citizens were on a scale never seen anywhere in any civilisation. Abroad, in the face of the Soviet Union’s expansionist Communist onslaught in Indochina and her overbearing thrusts into Cuba and Southern America, JFK promptly restored the U.S. superpower military capability. His finest hours kept humanity on her toes as he dared the Russians in the historic cold war climax of the Cuban missile crisis. JFK had stood his ground and with moments to go, the Soviet Union wisely withdrew their nuclear missiles targeting American cities from Cuba. Mankind breathed a sigh of relief and postponed Armageddon.
Cuba’s hostility and ever-suspicious reactions to America are products of its historic, economic and military experiences with the U.S. Cuba is some 90 miles off the coast of Florida. Cuba dominates the entrances to the Gulf of Mexico and the passage between the Atlantic and the Caribbean sea, en route to the Panama canal.
Hence, the subsequent American policy emanating from her experiences of the Second World War to the Cold War encouraged the building of very friendly and mostly satellite entities with the many poor countries that make up the Latin American region.
As noted, Cuba’s historical experiences with the U.S. were to impede those smooth relations enjoyed by other neighbors in the Southern American region. In the first place, Cuba’s sugar, which was the mainstay of its economy, was being bought at a price above the world market. America, by that gesture dominated the economy of Cuba and with that trade policy essentially prevented the diversification of the economy and perpetuated a client relationship with the U.S.
From 1865 to 1929, the socio-economic pattern of colonial Cuba was disrupted by a combination of factors: destruction of properties and loss of lives, leading to the overthrow of Spanish rule. On the introduction of industrial technology into the sugar economy, many Cubans, including the father of Fidel Castro were reduced to landless and dependent status. There were dehumanising relations between the whites and the blacks. The latter lost their plantations jobs after the abolition of slavery in 1850.
As long as the sugar industry was expanding and prospering, tension remained below boiling point, but when the industry began to stagnate after the 1920s, Cuba was exposed as an invertebrate and insular society. Even though that nation witnessed the deaths of more than 3,000 blacks in 1912 and more in 1933, the revolutionary myth had been rolled into process.
Revolutions are sustained by utopian visions; without these they are but rebellions. Critically, the visions, if they have to sustain their followership, would do well to be followed by actions and battle victories, whether field or diplomatic. The visions may be those of nationalistic, mythologies or socialist ideologies. It was the unusual inter-weaving of such threads that gave Castro’s revolution its unique texture.
Understandably, after several failures, the Cuban dictator Batista could not be overthrown by moderates. The task fell to men of violence, with a young bearded lawyer at the head, brandishing a light machine gun to crystalise a revolution process that reconstructured the Cuban Revolution for the benefit of the Cuban people.
A revolution that offered Castro the audacity to participate in the superpower game of intervening effectively across the Pacific and the Atlantic continents, confronting and making mincemeat of South Africa’s hitherto military invincibility.
Next week, Fidel Castro and the release of Nelson Mandela
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