By Osmel Ramirez Alvarez
HAVANA TIMES — A couple months ago, in a brief encounter with an intellectual friend of mine that took place in the middle of the street, we exchanged opinions, ideas and discussed all kinds of things. It was in the time leading up to Fidel’s birthday and we were swamped with celebrations and compliment everywhere. It was an inevitable topic.
We were in the middle of our discussion when somebody I know approached us suddenly to greet us, whose natural wisdom left us speechless; a real man from the countryside who at a quick glance would appear to be a simple-minded guajiro. However, he heard us talking about this and told us lightly: “Fidel is the warhorse not because he’s improved the country, but because he made us believe he would and he’s still got people fooled; it’s like convincing a man who is carrying a heavy sack on his back that it’s empty and comfortable.”
He shook our hands with great force and went on his way. We looked at each other and said: “they’re not fooling anybody anymore”- he said; “an excellent example”- I said.
Fidel, a man who is both loved as much as he is hated; who is as victorious as he is a failure; who is as intelligent as he is pig-headed. He turned 90 years old against all of our predictions, surviving serious health problems and having been exposed to countless threats on his life since his turbulent youth. He is a person who is inevitably impossible to omit if we are to analyze our country’s modern history, both by his fans as well as his detractors.
Ever since that day, I’ve been wanting to write about this subject but I’ve only felt like writing about it today; maybe it’s because the stupor that this excessive dose of Fidel euphoria that they fed us in August has finally worn away a little.
I will start off by saying that Fidel, in my opinion, is only two things: a statesperson and a military man. I’ve ruled out the possibility of him being a “ideologist of Socialism” because I don’t believe that he has contributed anything new to this theory that has been established here to death; just the normal tiny tweaks needed in any adaptation process. And what is known as “Fidelismo” isn’t really a theory in itself, but a kind of blind faith in him, a cult of his personality, a figure who is apparently invincible, extremely gifted and dedicated to the Cuban people. So I’m left with “statesperson and military man”.
As a statesperson, his great success has been managing to remain in power without the Cuban people’s vote and making the vast majority of the population feel hysteria for his persona, even without fulfilling the objectives he himself has set. However, in practice, he’s failed a great deal, almost in everything. His objectives were many; however, he’s hardly managed to achieve one truly satisfactory and sustainable result using the methods he’s used. He left the reins of power leaving Cuba in a worst financial situation than it was when he received the nation in 1959: in debt, ruined, unproductive and its population fleeing en masse.
As a military man, it’s another story; in this regard he’s been a complete success! He won his military campaign in the Sierra Maestra and in the plains, overthrowing Batista and taking power; fighting wars all over Africa and winning some important victories, moving between the threads of the world’s greatest powers in detente and waging wars from Cuba. And the most important thing of all: he fought against the US throughout almost all of the Cold War, the greatest superpower in history and he’s reached the dusk of his time without being defeated, which is nearly just as good as winning. It’s the equivalent of a football team from here in Holguin, my province, drawing nil-nil with Real Madrid, the victory would taste just as sweet.
A poor statesperson but a great military man. This is where his magic lies with the Cuban people, in the apparent success of Fidelismo running alongside the failure of socialism in Cuba. Cuba is a “military stronghold”; Fidel took it with weapons and he became strong inside; the defeated enemy’s (US) ally called for action during the dispute and besieged the military stronghold which was now occupied by the triumphant general (comandante). Fidel didn’t allow the stronghold to be taken again, resisting for over five decades and even lived to see his mighty enemy ask for a truce because of their inability to overthrow him: for him, this is a great victory, there’s no doubt about that!
And every triumphant General is loved and venerated; it’s in our DNA to follow those leaders who are capable and successful military feats provoke this kind of behavior. It’s pure instinct of the masses. However, a statesperson without positive results is equally hated, as it’s on our conscience to reject whatever doesn’t work.
It’s an ambiguous situation that is made clear within the population and it’s skillfully used by the government to simulate popular support; and unfairly by “others” who don’t understand our turbulent history and believe that we deserve this disgraceful state we find ourselves in because we react in a humane manner to the reality we’re forced to endure.
It’s an abnormal case which needs to be overcome in the next few years. The halo of authority that radiates from this “military success” still glows. However, when the “heroic lineage” dies out, this psychological and political balance that has kept us in stand-by will cease to exist: successful military men – failed statespeople; only the latter will remain and it will be the end of this political system that has been imposed by the Revolution.
The ending could have been a little more romantic, a little less turbulent and a bit more productive, however, hunger for power and ideological blindness have made this impossible. The fate of Cuba has been sealed and Fidel’s achievements (and those of Fidelismo) have been made clear: only military-speaking though. However, it’s worth remembering Marti’s prophetic words: “… (Giving the people) their public freedoms, (is the) only dignified reason for leading a country to war…”. Whoever dedicates himself to leading a people and doesn’t do this fairly, will be condemned by history.