Thank You Fidel for Many Great Lessons

Ten important lessons of what shouldn’t be done in the name of socialism: Fidel Castro’s great legacy.

Pedro Campos  

Fidel Castro and Vladimir Putin in Havana in July 2014.

HAVANA TIMES — Many believe that everything Fidel Castro did in the name of socialism was a huge mess. But shouldn’t we consider the acknowledgment and study of the many mistakes made in the name of socialism a great lesson, a great inheritance for all socialists?

Fidel Castro is regarded as one of the great political figures of the 20th century. So are Stalin and Mao, and we socialists have learned much from them, particularly what shouldn’t be done if one’s aim is to contribute to the development of a new society that is free and democratic and whose means of production have been socialized for the benefit of all citizens.

I insist, assuming full responsibility for my statements and any repercussions thereof, that the work of Fidel Castro as the leader of the Cuban Communist Party and the Cuban government and State for more than fifty years has taught us what shouldn’t be done if our intention is to bring about a socialist future in this or any other country.

Unless and until we Cubans are able to distance ourselves from all of the aberrations of Fidelismo done in the name of socialism, we will not be able to impel any type of socialist society here.

Some will say that, with the collapse of the socialist bloc and the popular unrest that shook Havana’s ocean drive at the time, Fidel Castro essayed a number of policy changes. This is true. But we should also recall he referred to these changes as a “necessary evil” and that he began to rescind these after he felt he had secured Venezuelan oil through Chavez, and that, in 2005, he stated the revolution could only be reverted by the mistakes of revolutionaries themselves. In practice, the absurd pillars of the revolutionary process still stand.

The Party with its double standards will surely accuse me of many things – but I know many from within will quietly acknowledge the truth of what I’m saying to themselves. Raul Castro, who has had to fix many of his brother’s blunders without laying the blame for these on him and without distancing himself from the Party line, will likely agree with many of the things I will expound on.

It is not my intention to address all of the lessons to be drawn from Fidel Castro’s actions in this brief article. Identifying and elucidating these in detail would require a thick volume that a group of analysts could perhaps write some day. I will limit myself to some I know many will agree with, because, in one way or another, a number of colleagues and I have been addressing these in our critiques of Cuban “State socialism” for some time now.

Below are ten of the lessons of what not to do that I believe we can walk away with:

1) The concentration of absolute power in a single person and the elimination of autonomous State powers, the rule of law and a democratic political system that ought to have been steered directly by the people. This is perhaps the most important lesson to be drawn here.

In Cuba, everything was done and undone in accordance with Fidel Castro’s informed opinions – everything from the establishment of a political-military leadership, the Agrarian Reform, the country’s laws and the building of roads and towns to the form and content of measures aimed at developing the economy, agriculture, industry, fish farming and fishing in general and all levels of education, the structuring of the party and grassroots organizations, foreign policy, “proletarian internationalism” and the fostering of violent revolts in the style of the Cuban revolution.

Fidel Castro in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.

The list can be lengthened with concrete examples in which Fidel Castro’s personal decision was key, from the Cuban Missile Crisis (which placed the world on the brink of nuclear apocalypse), through the color of school uniforms, the 10-million-ton sugar harvest, the massive planting of coffee trees around Havana, Cuba’s gigantic cattle-raising and milk production plans (all steered by a misguided voluntaristic policy), to day care centers for newborns, a system of boarding schools in the countryside applicable to all possible junior and senior high school students, the sending of thousands of troops and armaments to distant conflicts, the homophobic Military Units for Aid in Production (UMAP), the Gray Five Years, the repression of religious activities, providing the enemy with information that served to detect a network of Cuban secret agents operating in the United States, the Black Spring of 2003 and many etcetera’s.

2) The forceful expropriation and placing under State control – not the socialization – of all large, mid-scale and small properties and their concentration in State hands, to a degree never achieved under capitalism.

3) Maintaining the salaried exploitation in the State companies, which kept alive the very essence of the capitalist system, in its State-command form. Hence the turn towards State monopoly capitalism.

4) Eliminating and violently repressing any and all opposition (no matter what its skin color), maintaining a single-party system and eliminating the freedom to associate freely.

5) Control of all means of information and communication by the State-Party-government and thwarting freedom of expression.

6) Dismissing the human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the conventions on economic, social, civil and political rights as “bourgeois”, even though these rights are the result of social struggles by different revolutionary movements, spanning centuries.

7) Eliminating all forms of self-managed individual or associated labor, particularly cooperative, mutualist and self-employed forms of labor that do not involve wage exploitation.

8) Regarding the market as a capitalist abomination that must be subordinated to the interests of the State, instead of allowing for its development and restricting all forms of private or State monopoly that try to confine it to narrow interests.

9) Seeking to export Cuba’s “socialist revolution” and believing oneself with full impunity before the international community to act in defiance of the conventions and legal frameworks agreed upon by the community of nations.

10) Ignoring the general laws of economic and social development and believing that capitalism and imperialism can be wiped from the face of the earth through the violent action of revolutionaries.

We must thank Fidel Castro for having taught us what we should never do as socialists.

So, with all due respect, sincerely and without any kind of sarcasm, I openly say: thank you, Fidel.


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19 thoughts on “Thank You Fidel for Many Great Lessons


  • Griffin, your reference to Khruschev as a pig farmer brought to my mind one of his comments made I think to Richard Nixon:
    “The dumbest farmer knows the horse best.”
    We have to give him credit for his peasant humour!

  • The choice for Cuba in the future will not be between Batista and Castro, both of which lined their own pockets and exerted power and control over the people. It will be between authoritarian rule and freedom!

  • Pedro, you repeats the false narrative that the Soviet Union was on the way toward building true socialism before that ol’ meanie Stalin came along and spoiled it all.

    Lenin himself reversed the NEP. Lenin established state ownership of all means of production. Lenin began the Red Terror, carried out by his faithful henchmen, Trotsky and others.

    Stalin was no deviation from Marxism: he was the logical conclusion of that ideology. That is why every Marxist revolution has gone down that same murderous totalitarian path. It’s baked into the bread. And that is why no sane or rational person will ever trust anybody who goes about today preaching “true socialism”. A few years ago, such people were the slavish followers of Stalin, Mao, Lenin, Castro and so on. Their cynical & hypocritical attempts to re-label the failed and inhuman ideology must be called out for what it is.

  • Fidel was a kind of ‘ego-nationalist’-considering himself the representation of all the Cuban people. He was anti-American in the sense that he resented American control of Cuba and once his revolution got to power, he became the only and true voice of Cuba. So in his view the American government should have got along with him and not the other way around.

  • Stalin was the son of a shoemaker, Mao was a school teacher, Che a failed med-school student, Khrushchev was a pig farmer.

    Fidel was noted as bright, and is said to have had a photographic memory. That he was born the son of a small plantain owner does not mean he was not smart.

    As I stated, the chronology of events and his own statements make it clear that Fidel realized that for his revolution to succeed he needed to keep the US in the dark as long as possible about his Marxist ideology (credit to Herbert Matthews for that) and then to balance off the Americans against the Russians once the Communist Cat was out of the bag.

    As for his infamous failures, clearly Fidel was no economist. His genius lay in how to exploit people and in the exercise of power. Brian Latell wrote that Fidel was the most brilliant spy-master of the 20th century.

  • J. Goodrich. Indeed, establishing a form of state capitalism (property in the state, wage exploitation, gain control of the bureaucracy) is one of the things not to do if it is to socialism. This is not new. Decades ago, many socialists definierion clearly that in the USSR there was such socialism, but a state monopoly capitalism. Lenin himself defined it so when the NEP, but after his death, Stalin sanctified state capitalism .. But an “international left” with strong Stalinist dye, which borrowed from Marxism took some isolated phrases, never wanted to see that reality in Cuba by opposition between Cuba and USA and that old pragmatic line that the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

  • That last sentence is a relief! Thanks!

  • Me thinks you give the narcissist Fidel too much credit. Although plausible that Fidel realized early on that a pro-Communist image would repel the US and draw the Soviets, I can’t help but believe that the same guy who came up with the supercow or the ten million ton harvest or the UMAP camps later on had the presence of mind in his early thirties to be that prescient. At the end of the day, he is a ‘guajiro’ with a law degree. Nothing more.

  • Well Mr. Patterson I never thought I would see this day, but I agree completely.

  • The Cuban writer Norberto Fuentes was a close friend and confident of Fidel’s for many years, until Fidel grew weary of Norberto and chucked him into jail.

    According to Fuentes, Fidel told him, “I have always been a Marxist. But I was never a “Communist” in the sense that I would never be willing to submit myself to the control of the Communist Party in Moscow.” Fuentes concluded that ultimately, Fidel was a “Fidelist”. Fidel saw in the Communist Party, the propaganda and police state methods necessary to cement his grip on power.

    You repeat the official Cuban myth that Fidel only turned to Moscow after Washington rejected him. That analysis does not fit the facts or chronology. Through Raul, Fidel had contacts with the USSR going back to his days in exile in Mexico.

    In January 1959, a few weeks after seizing power, contact was made again with the Soviets. The US had recognized the new revolutionary government within days of the take-over. Liberal sections of the US media (ir the New York Times) hailed Fidel as a democrat and a liberator.

    Although the Cuban Communist party, the PSP, did not support the 26th of July Movement nor join in the fighting against Batista, shortly after gaining power, Fidel moved senior members of the Communist party into key positions. Fidel began to provoke the US in carefully incremented acts of defiance and incitement. The US responded with suspicion and eventually plots and covert actions against Fidel & his Revolution, ultimately leading to the Bay of Pigs fiasco.

    This was Fidel’s plan: to drive the US away, and as a counter-balance, draw the USSR in. As a geopolitical strategist, Fidel was brilliant and he played the US like a fiddle. The Soviets couldn’t believe their luck having the jewel of the Caribbean fall into their lap. Domestically, Fidel used the growing threat of US intervention as an excuse to eliminate all enemies and rivals to his power, and to polarize & divide Cuban society.

    It was Fidel’s goal all along to turn Cuba into a Marxist Socialist state, as he admitted in a speech in 1963.

  • No , I am not rejoining discussions but just presenting a part of a Paul Street article which is pertinent to both this article on Fidel’s “socialism” and to the great many discussions as to what constitutes socialism .
    This is certainly one of the best explanations of what Soviet, Chinese , Korean, Cuban etc ( all Soviet model economies ) are .
    The most accurate definition is ” state capitalist ” and the following clearly explains why .
    ” Does the misery and collapse of the Soviet Union bloc really discredit Marxism or other forms of anti-capitalism ?
    “One can debate the meaning of the term socialism” Chomsky noted in the wake of the collapse of the S.U. , “but if it means anything , it means control of production by the workers themselves, not owners and managers who rule them and control all decisions, WHETHER IN CAPITALIST ENTERPRISES OR AN ABSOLUTIST STATE (emphasis mine JG)
    Bearing that consideration (true to Marx) in mind and adding in the question of who controls the economic surplus , the U.S. Marxist economist , Richard Wolff reasonably describes the Soviet experiment as a form of “state capitalism”.
    Under the Soviet model , hired workers produced surpluses that were appropriated and distributed by the state officials who functioned as employers.
    Thus Soviet industry was actually an example of state capitalism in its class structure .
    By calling itself socialist -a description of “Marxist Russia” that U.S. Cold Warriors and business propagandists eagerly embraced for obvious reasons -the Soviet Union prompted the redefinition of socialism to mean state capitalism.”
    I will not respond to replies on this excerpt JG.

  • Fidel is neither communist nor capitalist. Fidel is an opportunist. Had the US made a handful of different decisions at the onset of the revolution, I believe Fidel would not have aligned himself with the Soviet Bloc which ultimately led to his declaring the socialist nature of the revolution. Rejected by the US, Fidel accepted the invitation from the Soviets as a matter of self-defense more so than ideology.

  • Moses, Fidel Castro, in my opinion, was a communist before the
    revolution and remained one throughout the following forty plus years. There is little debating that Castro is revered and his hold
    on a good potion of the Cuban population borders on cult status.
    I’ve seen this in various religions, one in particular has billions of
    its members monies (tithing) and holds an allegiance that’s frightening and potent. Castro is an icon south of the border and that will never change. The goal is to educate the Cuban population simply by lifting the embargo and most of all allow all US citizens to travel to Cuba without restrictions. No need for the insane US Aid programs ala Alan Gross et. al. If you support
    that, again in my opinion, we would speed up the process for
    the change that is needed for all Cubans. Always enjoy
    your brilliant and most times infallible posts.

  • Perhaps you would like name one politician other than Fidel who has never been held accountable after 50 years of failure?

    And please, it is long past time to retire that lame false dichotomy: it’s either Fidel or Batista. The Cuban people fought against Batista to restore democracy, not to install another dictator for 5 decades.

  • Politicians are human beings and therefore prone to mistakes. They problem with Fidel is that he denied his own humanity. Humans make mistakes. He refused to accept his fallibility and therefore forced upon the Cuban people more than 50 years of his failed ideology. George Bush made mistakes but thankfully, because of term limits, the American people only had to endure 8 years of his governance. Because our system recognizes human frailty, we limit to the extent practical the amount of damage one man can do. Fidel’s tyrannical rule has all but destroyed Cuba and nearly three generations of Cubans.

  • Why the Cubas have to choice between Batista And Castro in Oder to have basically human right?

  • Perhaps you would like to name a politician who hasn’t made mistakes. Your waffle makes you sound like a ‘hanging judge’ though whilst living in your dream world you lack reality or basic insight. What you really need rather than Socialism is a few years of a Batista regime. I’m sure you would relish in bottom feeding to the likes of good old Fulgencio.

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