Two, Three, or Twenty Fidels and Hugos

By Guillermo Fernandez Ampie

Fidel and Chavez reading Granma newspaper. Photo: Estudios Revolución

HAVANA TIMES, August 23 — Few Latin American leaders have ever stirred up as much hatred and fear among our continent’s wealthy sectors and their principal partners as has the leader of the Cuban revolution.

What’s more, it can be affirmed that no other leader of the region has received such scorn, though currently President Hugo Chavez is not far behind in being the elite’s favorite target of rage against anything that smells, breathes, speaks, defends or acts in the interests of the masses of the historically impoverished peoples of Latin America.

Their spokespeople — the transnational corporations that market the news, along with their national disseminators — do everything possible so that those people who share those progressive sentiments are always excluded.  They waste not a single opportunity to tag a photo of Fidel or of the Venezuelan president with some slanderous epithet, just as they do to anyone else who chooses to pursue a similar path, anyone who wants to raise the consciousness of the peoples of the continent.

Nor do they spare any effort to get working people and the impoverished masses to admire and assume as their own leaders those politicians or “statesmen” who in practice — despite how much and how eloquently they speak in support of the poor — have done nothing truly significant to support them.

In this way, even on the most banal television series, it’s possible to hear some reference to “Churchill as a brilliant international statesman” or “Kennedy (from his mythicized Camelot) as a pristine politician.”  We hear about the genius, good humor and popularity of Reagan, regardless of him having promoted death squads in Central America, in addition to him having provided protection and facilitated the expansion of drug trafficking cartels.

All this goes without mentioning George Washington and the “founding fathers” of what is today the USA, though it’s generally not mentioned that they had as property — as if heads of cattle — other human beings from whose slave labor they profited.

The same tone is perceived in the “information” provided by the news manufacturing industry and the manipulators of opinion every time a soldier dies after having taken part in the invasion of Afghanistan or Iraq.  “Remembered as Heroes” was what I read recently as a headline repeated in diverse media.  One report emphasized how affectionate the soldiers are toward their families and how kind they are to their neighbors; that paper then discussed the dreams and aspirations of these troops and how much they loved their children and siblings.

I won’t say that any of that is false, but nor do I doubt that the hundreds of thousands of people slaughtered by bombings in those countries — as is now the case in Libya, and previously in Vietnam and Nicaragua — also loved their children and siblings.  They too were probably kind toward their neighbors, and they must have also held onto dreams and hopes.

However, the feelings of the victims of “intelligent” bombs are never reported on or covered.  They don’t matter and they’re not mentioned because the “informational” strategy of this media is to create the image of the kind and heroic American soldier so that they are seen as heroes around the world.

Those behind the media don’t seem to realize that their heroes are not nor can they ever be the heroes of the people of “Our America.”  Nor are they the heroes of other peoples of the world who are oppressed and slaughtered by them.  They are not nor can they be ours.  On the contrary, their leaders and heroes are in large part responsible for much of the betrayal, death, destruction and misery in our countries.

So much blood has been spilt and there have been so many the deaths, so much effort, struggles and cumulative defeats, but it’s such a disappointment that oppressed Latin Americans are on occasion unable to identify who truly defends and struggles in their interests.  They often fail to see who promotes and leads the movements for change that seek to improve their situations of misery and oppression inherited for centuries.  Instead they look to those who deliver only flowery but vain speeches.

There are many leaders and heroes of the new Latin America, of “Our America,” and Fidel Castro belongs among them.  It’s not surprising that so much ink and paper has been wasted to revile him, as is also being done against Venezuela’s current president.

The same thing happened with other popular leaders of the past.  The Mexican hero Hidalgo was damned by the elites and the high new-Hispanic hierarchy.  The indigenous leaders who died in defense of their people — Tupac Amaru, Thasunke Witko (“Crazy Horse”), Thathanka Iyotake (“Sitting Bull”), among others — were considered no more than wild Indians by their murderers.  In the 1920s, the American military that occupied Nicaragua described the revolutionary Augusto Sandino as a bandit.  The commanders of American troops that occupied Haiti ten years earlier referred to Charlemagne Peralte the same way.  The list of examples is extensive.

One shouldn’t think that with what has been said I’m trying to suggest that Fidel Castro or Hugo Chavez are saints or that they don’t commit errors or have weaknesses.  In no way am I proposing this.  But it is indeed evident that they have done more for the “wretched of the earth” who are suffering from hunger and thirst, those who desire an education and needed medicine, while many other politicians who never tire of merely talking about loving their neighbor.

In his message to the peoples of the world, in 1966 Che wrote: “How could we look at the luminous future, if two, three many Vietnams flourished in the surface of the globe.” In our current circumstances, we could paraphrase him by saying: How luminous and noble would be the destiny of Latin American people if it had two, three or more, many leaders of the stature of Fidel or Chavez.

Surely; and I’ll repeat words that on more than one occasion I’ve heard in Central America: “Another rooster would sing in Latin America if each country had a Fidel” – or a Chavez and another Evo, and two Jose Mujicas and an additional Cristina Kirchner.  We can now start adding them.

Everything indicates that to achieve true independence, to live with dignity, to cease being a subordinate peon, and to speak face to face with the government of the United States and the European countries, to put a limit on the pillaging by the transnationals, to defend the rights of the peoples of the region and to develop all of their potential, Latin America needs two, three, many leaders like the one from Cuba or the popular leader from Venezuela.



8 thoughts on “Two, Three, or Twenty Fidels and Hugos

  • Hubert,

    The elephant in the room is the U.S war against Cuba’s revolution.

    It is an existential struggle that you seem to minimize.

    Unless and until that ends there can be no normalcy and the United States will do whatever it can whenever it can to keep the Cubans from making the reforms that would make life better.

  • Grady,
    the Internet is one of the best ways to miscommunicate.
    I am an active trade unionist and have been fighting Trotskyite groups in my union for a number of years. Ironically British Trotskyites are so spineless, they now seek electoral alliances with Stalinists. Unfortunately the apathy of most members and a usual turn-out at national elections of just around 10% means they usually win. I remember with horror one closing speech at national conference where Trotsky was quoted. He, long before Stalin, destroyed both socialism and democracy in Russia, which is not too say that Trotsky should not be mentioned in Cuba.
    I would imagine Havana Time is a website genuinely visited by people of predominantly socialist convictions who wish Cuba and its people well and despair at or rage against the lunacy of the US embargo. I have been to Cuba and I genuinely love it, its people and its quirkiness. I also despair about its red tape. I feel deeply for its people as I have personal connections.
    Whilst I am a socialist and a genuine supporter of cooperatives, I always maintain that attempts at socialism without individual liberties and the classic human rights catalogue, end up in slavery. I am an ardent supporter of Amnesty International and I am not a member of the the means justifies the end school of thought. I think many people on the left feel disgusted by the US embargo and then end up excusing everything that is done by official Cuba even its alliances with right-wing misogynists and oppressors from Tehran to dare I say it Libya and Syria, let alone the Argentine military dictatorship.
    I have only twice been to the United States, but I felt I never meant friendlier people than in New York. Having said that the US gun culture, the obsession with the death penalty (not in all states) horrifies me. I think one can genuinely enjoy a country or its people without having to agree with its government.
    Now we can go back to arguing about the issues.

  • Hubert, I apologize for mistaking you for a Trotskyist sectarian. You seemed to be giving voice to their usual political line.

  • sorry, the name is Lazaro Peña

  • Grady,
    I am not a Marxist (never have been!) and I said in a previous post that it would be better if Trotsky had never been born. I despise Karl Marx. I am a libertarian socialist.
    I have never defined cooperatives as state-owned.
    As for David and Goliath, in Cuba the ordinary Cuban is David and Fidel Castro is the Goliath.
    I am in favour of a cooperative socialist republic where I live. It is entirely up to the Cuban people if they want one, and not up to you and me. And certainly it is not for the Cuban government solidarity campaigns of the world to decide on behalf of the Cuban people as they only accept the will of the Cuban people if it coincides with their own. Their twins, the Venezuelan solidarity campaigns claiming to work for the right of the Venezuelan people to choose their own destiny never protested when Chavez took away the budget and power from the Caracas mayor the people elected but Chavez did not want.
    Fidel Castro never accepted the choice of the workers when the first congress of the CTC after Batista chose an anti-Batista leadership and he insisted on the reinstatement of the old Felix Peña colalborator. That day soclalism died in Cuba and David lost.

  • Hubert, you don’t seem to understand that there is a David versus Goliath stand-off going on between the Cuban state power and the US-led world imperialist state power. By attacking Fidel you are siding with the enemy. You don’t seem to have a clue about such things and I “despair” about you and those like you.

    You say all these things about personality cults around Fidel and such as Hugo and make a great stink about it. At the same time you and the Left sectarian political tendency you are a part of continue with personality cult worship of Marx and Trotsky. You blame all bureaucracy on Stalin and will not put the blame correctly on Marx and Engels because that would knock the legs out from under your quasi-religious personality cult. You say you’re for a “cooperative socialist Cuban republic,” but you continue to define cooperatives as state owned enterprise in which the workers have been handed the magnanimous gift of workplace democracy. If you could understand and accept that workplace democracy can only come thru legal worker enterprise ownership, not “control” handed as a gift, you might stop wasting your political life on sectarian babble.

    It’s not just you, Hubert, who needs to come up for air regarding what is going on in the world. The sun is setting on Marxism and the whole thinly-disguised statism and personality cult of which it consists. You wish HT would stop giving space to certain folks and “promote socialism instead.” What a laugh. You don’t even know what socialism is, and if you did, you wouldn’t write such sectarian nonsense.

  • The author of the article like so many people completely misses the point about socialism
    Whether the ‘continent’s wealthy sectors and their principal partners’ (minus Fidel Castro’s and Hugo Chavez’ Hollywood millionaire friends Oliver Stone, Michael Moore and Sean Penn plus frequent US visitor Naomi Campbell) detest the Cuban and Venezuelan leader is of no concern to me.
    Hugo Chavez publicly and so far the Castros privately cannot accept the fact that the bulk of the Libyan people like their butcher leader Gadhafi less than they do.
    The point the author misses completely is that the leader (in German Führer) principle is the complete opposite of the cooperative idea of socialism.

    Terms such as maximo lider, comandante in jefe or slogans like Commander give us an order and we follow have nothing to do with socialism. Step back and look again., The emperor has no clothes, Rosa Luxemburg’s criticism of Lenin still stands.

    With the image of Fidel Castro ubiquitous, how can anyone deny that there is a personality cult going on in Cuba. The absence of a few stone statues is irrelevant. They have been replaced by images on tposters, elevision and Granma. How can anyone ever write a critical article about Fidel Castro in Granma with his image on the front page day after day.

    There is no such thing as one-party-democracy, no such thing as one-party-socialism, there is only a one-party-police state. Any official one-party-state can only survive by illegalising alternative ideas and associations. That means by definition repression.

    The Roman republic for all its many faults observed the principle that except in an emergency, where one person called dictator would rule for no more than six months, it never had a single president. The top job was split between two and no immediate re-election was ever possible,

    Why does a socialist country need a president at all? Indeed. A president should be nothing more than the person presiding at a meeting. That function can be rotated.
    Only fascist countries need leaders.

    Grady, my friend – even though you completely misunderstood a previously posting by me -I despair about you. You want a cooperative socialist Cuban republic within 10 years but you keep cheerring the ones who have prevented it for half a century AND WILL CONTINUE TO PREVENT IT. Abandoning the leader principle would make them unemployed. When was the last time Fidel and Raul Castro or any of their children ever queued up to use their ration books. Any reason they should not have to?

    I wished Havantimes would stop giving space to advocates of authoritarianism! Promote socialism instead!

  • Bravo! For every word you have said in this article, Guillermo, a resounding Bravo!

    Something additional however should be added. We the US people are sequestered behind an Iron Curtain of Deception. It is the same for the peoples of Canada, Japan, Europe and other capitalist countries–although to a slightly lesser extent. What is urgently needed in this world is not merely another correct statement of the truth such as yours, presented largely to those who are already inclined to agree with you. What is needed is a visible example of “workable” socialism in Cuba.

    Your words are golden, Guillermo. Nothing you say however can penetrate through the Iron Curtain of Deception to where it is needed, and where it can be understood and accepted. And so, let us try to see that it is one thing to enunciate the truth, and another thing to penetrate the Iron Curtain.

    One fact is clear. If brave Cuba can reach out to our tiny movement for a US socialist cooperative republic, and conceptualize how to reform Cuba with an exemplary cooperative–not statist–form of socialism, this article and others like it will reach all the peoples of the world and ring true. And it would be the beginning of the end for monopoly capitalism and imperialism.

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