Fidel Castro Ruz is one of the greatest political figures the world has ever seen. For us in the Caribbean, he is, indeed, the greatest political figure who gave solid meaning to the concept and practice of social justice. Taking his fellow Cubans from the squalor of colonialism and imperial domination and the human degradation they suffered as workers, peasants, women, young people and children, Fidel Castro selflessly created a social system which lifted the spirit and the being of a people who was robbed of decent living and decent livelihoods.
Cuba was a beacon of hope and Castro, the harbinger of good news and welcome tidings of joy. The liberation of Cuba had reverberated throughout the entire world, angering those who amassed their wealth through plunder and colonialism, but giving hope to those eager to throw off the yoke of colonial domination. This victory of the Cuban people gave new meaning and renewed vigour to the decolonization movements which had become characteristic of countries of the South.
February 16, 1959, then, marked a new day in Cuban and Caribbean politics. On that day when Fidel Castro Ruz became prime minister of Cuba, the process of social transformation began through the dismantling of the elitist social structure and the creation of the people’s pathway to progress. Fidel Castro showed the world that social justice was both possible and desirable.
The longest serving head of state and the only world leader worth listening to, Fidel Castro has now retired from ‘combat’ politics, but he still “fights as a soldier in the battle of ideas” as he continues to put his thoughts in his pieces Reflections by Comrade Fidel which are widely circulated. We are not surprised at this retirement activity because this outstanding leader understands very well that the struggle for a peoples redemption is also carried out on an ideological terrain which is the most important in any kind of ‘war’. For as Fidel, himself, says, ‘a trench of ideas is better than a trench of arms’. This advice comes at a crucial time in the history of the world and should be of particular guidance to young peoples to whom we will have to entrust our future.
At this point in time when most, particularly the young, have bought into and have accepted the values of the market, the globalisation project and its inherent injustice as their redemption, they must also be educated to understand that their redemption does not rest on the individualism of neo-liberalism but on the collective and social efforts of all peoples who have an interest in peace, justice and dignity. As Fidel says, “Those who hold high the idea of solidarity will never be weak”.
Fidel Castro has taught the world humility in glory, for the Cuban Revolution was a glorious moment in the history of the Cuban people and the world. For those of us who feel that we were living, when actually we are not, because we can afford to buy “cheap replicas” produced by capitalism, those of us who lack the ideological consciousness and continue to be a part of their own oppression and therefore become arrogant on their own account, must heed the words of the wise, “I never forget that all of the world’s glory fits in a kernel of corn” (Fidel Castro, 2008).
Fidel Castro has given to the world an invaluable legacy: the idea that change is possible, life is valuable and has meaning, and that we “cannot be discouraged by the knowledge that the goal we set forth then are still distant and that we live in a world increasingly full of contradictions, inequality, and irrationality” (Fidel Castro, 1996).
We all look forward to the Commandante’s reflections which we will hold dear as we press ahead, “steady in adversity” but with the full knowledge that we should be “prudent in success’.
With much gratitude and respect, we hail a stalwart and revolutionary.
Viva Fidel! Long Live Fidel!
Judith Soares, PhD is Tutor Coordinator of the UWI’s Women and Development Unit. The views expressed are her own