Making Cuba’s Revolution Important (part 2)

By Rogelio Manuel Diaz Moreno

Fidel Castro during a visit to the Isle of Youth. Photo: islavision.icrt.cuc

HAVANA TIMES — The persona of Fidel Castro has created and will continue to create polarity. Powerful interests were affected in some way or another in the areas which were touched by his life. Objective assessments and analyses about his legacy will be unfeasible for a long time.

However, the process known as the “Cuban Revolution”, which is different to the “normality” of third world capitalism, has to have its key points, important messages. It’s a necessary strategy, both for today’s pressing matters and life tomorrow, looking for these key points; understanding what was truly “revolutionary” that took place here.

Defending real democracies, equality and respect for all human life, the supremacy of communities of people over and above Capital, are all claims today to which Cuba has very special aspects. On top of that, whether we like it or not, it keeps many of the world’s progressive and reactionary forces in check. Our future is inextricably linked to the evolution of events playing on a greater stage, which also means success or failure for a countless number of human beings.

The government’s own premise about the Great Leader’s exceptionality is running a disastrous risk itself. Any strain of cult of personality is, as its reverse, reactionary and fatalist in its nature, unable to evolve and move forward in new, dialectic and challenging times. If there were such a divine and unique being, the project would lose its strength and light, and would come crashing down after this being leaves.

However, we defend a reality which is worthy of importance. We have to then first understand that the Revolution in Cuba wasn’t just born out of one person’s fancy. It wasn’t just the dream of a charismatic leader or the work of a social engineer who was either loved or hated. The best and most valuable thing about the Cuban Revolution has always been its poorer social class, since Spanish colonial times when the first and feeble ideas of freedom, sovereignty and own national identity began to take form and mature.

Billboard. Only one party, an inalienable principle.  Photo: Juan Suarez

If you go back and look at the emancipation wars in the 19th century, you’ll find that it was white countrymen who led the first armed uprisings. Now let’s get this straight, if they hadn’t recognized the worth and demands of the great rural community, black, creole, then they wouldn’t have lasted three weeks in the mountains, under the attack of the powerful Spanish army. Successive attempts after their initial efforts wouldn’t have been possible without the enthusiasm of the vast working class, in and outside the country.

The traditional summarizing technique used when telling stories always give prominence to and emphasizes the role of individuals, detracting from collective efforts. Here in Cuba, just like anywhere else, the daily throbbing of its poorest classes has been what has created the need, demand and chance for progress. They might have been embodied in a few figures, but the legitimacy and momentum of this struggle derives from these classes.

Revolutionary movements could have been led, incidentally, by Guiteras, by Chibas [1]. Other names would appear later, and then many more of the bravest who fell victim and lost their lives to repressive forces. If the Revolution’s leader didn’t go out of fashion, it was thanks to the people’s continuing support.

The great masses probably lacked the intellectual skills to speak in public and write such beautiful manifestos. We shouldn’t forget that advanced education was the dream of a significant part of the population. Even without this sophistication, that leader knew what he wanted and the sacrifice he was willing to make.

People from the poor and working class often embody outstanding roles in the organization of progressive struggles, supported by popular enthusiasm. The goal was always to fight for freedom, the right to live a dignified life with your own hard work, without being exploited or dominated.

Fidel’s charismatic personality which we know so well was extremely favored in the dialectics of the leader-follower relationship. However, it took a great number of fighters and collaborators to defeat the dictator Fulgencio Batista’s army [2]. After 1959, the Revolution began to build a society using a completely different foundation to others in the past. And every ounce of achievement was the result of many people’s hard work. It implied huge sacrifices by workers, families and partners completely wrapped up at work.

Photo: Elio Delgado Valdes

It wasn’t an extraordinary teacher who managed to make all of the illiterate people in Cuba literate, alone, in 1961. It wasn’t one cane-cutter who cut, all by himself, all of the sugar cane in our sugar harvests, which was the main source of revenue for our economy for many years. It wasn’t a single person who built schools, hospitals, dams, modern biotechnology plants, modern hotels or sports facilities, all on their own.

Sometimes, we hear these kinds of statements coming from important specialists, professionals, athletes, etc, claiming that they owe everything to our Great Leader. We can understand their urge to pay tribute, but we can also understand the complexity of the situation. Families support the development of the country’s youth; and a healthcare and education system, society with all of its intricacies and conditions, allow and encourage people to develop, collectively.

Furthermore, the greatest problem with an autocratic government lies in its potential to be authoritarian and then alienate itself from the popular classes. It undermines its democratic potential; it separates and limits itself, when it would ideally work as a tool for lower classes who are empowered. There’s no need for statues of the deceased leader or his name on streets, if every ideological, news-related and cultural space is saturated with his presence.

The future of the Cuban Revolution is very tricky, and it can only be saved if the population is involved at a national level. In order for this to happen, they have to feel like they are a part of it, that they are valued and to value others. As a result, people will be able to develop in the most free and fullest manner, through interaction, integration within the collective.

In other words, a socialist democracy has to be called for in order to save the Revolution created in Cuba. The democracy of equal citizens, who have real education, health and dignified work opportunities. These rights will only come about when people work consciously, when everybody is involved in defining and implementing policies.


[1] Antonio Guiteras, Eduardo Chibas. Revolutionary Cuban leaders in the 1930s and 1940s.

[2] Fulgencio Batista, a military general who led the coup d’etat in 1952; his dictatorship was overthrown in 1959 by the armed movement led by Fidel Castro.

See Part One of this post.