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Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz was born on August 16th, 1926, in Mayari, Cuba. He was educated at the University of Havana in law, where he also studied politics. His political ideas were formed throughout these years, and he joined several student political groups devoted to helping the poor workers and peasants. His ideas later matured, and he joined the Ortodoxo Party (Party of the Cuban People), of which he became the leader in 1951. As Fidel Castro was running for elections, general Fulgencio Batista staged a coup d´etat, and established a dictatorship in Cuba. In response, Fidel Castro favoured of armed revolution, and he joined underground groups attempting to overthrow the unpopular dictator. In 1953 he attacked with a group of 150 revolutionists, but failed and was captured. He was jailed until 1955 for conspiracy to overthrow the Cuban government. He used the years in jail to study political philosophy, history and literature, which strengthened his policy of change from corruption to social equality.
In 1955 he was granted amnesty and left for Mexico, where he trained a guerrilla group in Sierra Maestra aided by another well-known revolutionist; Che Guevara. They lived among the poor peasants, and were able to experience their difficulties, which again formed Fidel Castro’s socialist politics. While they were fighting in the mountains they were bombed with US planes, from which the guerrilla groups escaped unharmed from, but caused serious casualties among the poor peasants. At this time, there were many anti-Batista groups led by different leaders, but Fidel Castro’s advantage was his clear ideological position, in contrast to other groups only focused on removing the dictator. The Cuban military was aided by shiploads of arms from the United States, but as these ceased, Fidel Castro’s group caught strength. In January 1959 Batista fled the country and Fidel Castro overtook the leadership. During his initial speech, a white dove landed on his shoulder before the crowds. In the deep rooted superstition of Catholicism, this signified divine acceptance of the guerrilla leader.1 His strong personality overpowered the other revolutionist groups, and the people pledged to his promises of reforms and changes from the corrupt past of Fulgencio Batista.
The dove incident did not dupe Pope John XXIII who excommunicated Castro, an atheist, on January 3, 1962. In the 1990s, Pope John Paul II permitted Catholics to join the Cuban Communist Party which reversed the 1949 decree by Pope Pius XII forbidding Catholics from supporting communist governments.2
Throughout his first period as the Head of the Cuban Armed Forces and later the Prime Minister of Cuba, he pushed through radically changing reforms such as the redistribution of wealth among the poor. Together with Che Guevara, Fidel Castro developed a new theory; The New Man’s Theory, which was basically that Cubans should no longer work for personal benefits, but for the good outcome for everybody in the society. The literacy rate was increased remarkably, and almost all Cubans could have free quality health care. He also controlled strictly the ideological propaganda machinery of Cuba, putting out neighborhood watch groups and controlling the media, even banning such books as The Diary of Anne Frank. His ideology was basically socialistic; he wanted to redistribute wealth and gain back US controlled property in the nation, support social justice, strengthen the national identity, provide for economic independence, and clear the nation of damaging influence from powerful foreign nations in Cuba’s affairs. In 1961, Cuba was declared a socialist nation. Tens of thousands from the higher class capitalists and Jews left for the United States.
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Fidel Castro’s opposition to the US influence and socialist ideology brought forth a collision between the two nations. He seized US owned businesses in Cuba and established contacts with the USSR. Therefore, the US broke all the former relations and began planning an invasion of Cuba in 1960, after having put a partial trade embargo on the nation (prohibiting all import except food and medication). The CIA trained Cuban exiles, which landed on the Bay of Pigs April 17th, 1961, was attempting to built up a counterrevolution in an attempt to overthrow the Cuban leader. But the Bay of Pigs invasion failed as the people backed up Fidel Castro and his politics. The US now attempted a military invasion from within the nation, where agents working for the US government tried to assassinate Fidel Castro several times.
During the Cold War, Cuba invited the USSR to established military bases on the island. When John F. Kennedy discovered the missiles, it led to the Cuban Missile Crisis, in which the US and the USSR almost went to war. After negotiating, the missiles were removed with the US promise of never invading Cuba. Castro could now develop his political ideas without fear of a US invasion.
Castro’s foreign policy also included the support of revolutionary groups in other countries, like Nicaragua, Bolivia, El Salvador, and finally, the Venezuela of Hugo Chávez. As a communist, Castro’s main foreign goal was to advocate liberation from wealthier nations’ dominion over the poorer. He never submitted totally to all the communist ideologies from other strong nations, like the USSR, and he was reluctant to support revolution groups without clear ideologies. As a result of the US tactic of weakening the Cuban government with a trade barricade, other nations, some hostile to the USA, backed the Castro regime.
In October 1973, Castro broke diplomatic relations with Israel after he deployed thousands of Cuban soldiers including helicopter pilots and tank crews to fight alongside the Syrians during the Yom Kippur War. Hundreds of Palestinians have received military training in Cuba. In Havana, Castro gave Yasser Arafat his prestigious “Bay of Pigs Medal” in 1974.3, 4
The economy of Cuba continues to be very poor in comparison to the region’s other nations. The USSR provided the nation with financial aid, but when the USSR collapsed in the 90’s, and with the US still enforcing the trading barricade from the 60’s, Cuba lost their financial ally and the already poor economy collapsed. In a speech, Fidel Castro said that he knew no solution for the financial crisis, but promised the people to not surrender to a capitalist system enforced by a stronger wealthier nation, but to help the crisis, he allowed for some free trading and investments of other nations in Cuba. As a result of black market trading, inflation occurred and Castro had to allow the use of foreign currencies. This destroyed the Cuban social and economic equality as a higher social group was formed. As a result of the falling economy, desperate riots broke out in old Havana, but Fidel Castro met the crowd face to face and allowed them to exile, which re-established the peace.
On February 24, 2008, the National Assembly of People’s Power unanimously chose his brother, Raúl Castro, as Fidel’s successor as President of Cuba.
A Tribute to a Revolutionary Leader: Fidel Castro
By Freedom Road Socialist Organization
On July 26, 1953, Fidel Castro stepped onto the stage of history, as he and other revolutionaries launched an attack on the Moncada Barracks of Cuban dictator Batista. After being captured, Castro made an eloquent defense of his action, saying, “history will absolve me.” Less than six years later, Castro led the Cuban revolution to victory by overthrowing the corrupt and cruel U.S.-backed Batista dictatorship. This act alone – leading a revolutionary movement to victory on a small island just 90 miles off the coast of the U.S. – would be enough to make Fidel Castro an unforgettable hero in the struggle of oppressed people for liberation. But this was just the beginning of Fidel Castro’s 49 years of contributions to the Cuban people’s liberation and to oppressed people the world over.
Fidel Castro announced that he would not seek or accept the position of president or commander in chief in Cuba’s February elections. He said he would still devote his time to being a soldier in the “battle of ideas.”
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Freedom Road Socialist Organization would like to take this opportunity to recognize and honor Fidel Castro’s lifetime of tireless dedication to fighting for liberation and building socialism. Fidel Castro led the Cuban revolution to victory in 1959 and has done the even more challenging and complex work of building socialism in Cuba through exceptional challenges.
Cuba’s socialist revolution inspires people worldwide. In Latin America the example of Cuba has proven that it’s possible to defy the U.S. in its own backyard and win. Cuba’s internationalist solidarity with liberation struggles in Africa has earned it high respect there. And Cuba’s missions of sending doctors and providing free health care to the poorest countries and people around the world has been a shining example of internationalism in practice.
Cuba’s internationalism is built on the foundation of Cuban socialism. Cuba is a small, poor country. But Cuba is a sovereign country, so the Cuban people live with dignity. All Cubans have free health care and education. Cubans don’t starve to death like poor people do every day all over the Third World. The infant mortality rate in Cuba is lower than in the United States. Cuba survives natural disasters such as hurricanes without widespread loss of life. All of this is due to socialism and collective organization of the Cuban people, under the leadership of the Communist Party. Fidel Castro’s leadership and ability to inspire and mobilize the masses has played a great role in giving employment, health care and decent living conditions to the people of Cuba.
From the beginning, the Cuban revolution and Fidel personally came under attack by U.S. imperialism. All such attacks have been defeated. Fidel was the principal leader in defeating U.S. imperialism’s attempted invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs; he led Cuba through U.S. imperialism’s nuclear blackmail during the ‘Cuban missile crisis;’ he has survived hundreds of CIA assassination attempts. He has led Cuba through decades of the cruel U.S. embargo. And he led Cuba through the ‘special period’ in the 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union led to the sudden loss of 85% of Cuba’s foreign trade.
In that context of extreme hardship in the 1990s, Fidel Castro and the Communist Party of Cuba had little to gain and everything to lose from staying committed to socialism. But stay committed they did. They prepared and mobilized the masses of Cubans to hold on to their dignity despite extreme difficulties. Cubans survived the 1990s with their dignity and with socialism intact, emerging in the current decade with an increasingly strong and growing economy, while other Latin American countries that are dominated by U.S. imperialism are suffering. During its most difficult hour, Cuba was so committed to socialist values of putting people first that not a single school or hospital was closed.
Fidel Castro has stepped down as president and started the transition to the next stage of Cuba’s leadership. His decision is creating a stable transition of power and insures the stability of the socialist project of the Cuban people. The Cuban people, with the leadership of the Cuban Communist Party and Raul Castro will continue building socialism in the 21st century.
We stand in solidarity with the Cuban Communist Party and the Cuban people. We reject the dreams of U.S. imperialism that tries to strangle the Cuban revolution with a trade embargo and continues to imprison five Cubans for their opposition to the terrorist plans of right-wing Cuban exiles in the United States. We call on the U.S. government to end the embargo and to free the Cuba 5! We say long live Fidel Castro and socialism in Cuba!
¡Viva Fidel Castro! ¡Viva la revolución Cubana! ¡Viva el socialismo!
Freedom Road Socialist Organization is a Marxist-Leninist organization in the United States. This website contains information about our organization, our politics and some of our activities in the people’s movements.
www.frso.org | email us | PO Box 87613, Chicago, IL 60680-0613, USA
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