Fidel Castro's revolutionary legacy

Fidel Castro in Washington in 1959.

Legendary Cuban revolutioary Fidel Castro died aged 90 on November 25, leaving behind a legacy not just as a leader of Cuba's revolution that has achieved impressive social gains but a record of profound internationalism.

The piece below is slightly abridged from a piece first published in Green Left Weekly in 2012 ahead of a conference in Sydney that discussed the role of Fidel Castro's ideas and example in the 21st century. It was written by Marce Cameron, one of the conference oganisers and editor of  Cuba's Socialist Renewal blog, which provides translations and ongoing critical commentary on the Cuban revolution. Green Left Weekly will run more on Fidel's life and legacy in the coming days.


This isn’t an obituary. When the inevitable does happen, the world, admirers and detractors alike, will pause for reflection. The corporate media will saturate our inner recesses with words and images that convey, for the most part, how the 1% appraise his life and legacy. Just imagine the gloating on Fox News.

I suspect it will be harder, and take longer, for those who admire Fidel and feel a sense of loss at his passing to be heard amid this din.

The hundreds of millions of the 99% for who Fidel has been an inspiration, and for those globally for who he has been something of a political compass, and a spiritual compass in the secular sense, will want to reflect and recommit to our shared vision of a better world.

Thus will begin a new battle of ideas, a concept promoted by Fidel. Between the extremes of hatred for the man and sycophantic adulation lies a broad field for critical, nuanced reflection in the framework of the struggle for socialism.

But why wait for the inevitable before doing this? Better to begin now, while Fidel is still here and before the corporate vultures descend on his tomb. In this necessary, timely endeavour we are joined, first and foremost, by millions of Cubans committed to the continuity of Cuba’s socialist project, the stage from which Fidel has set out to change the world and, to a degree, succeeded.

Would a pregnant woman in a remote East Timorese village be seen by a doctor today if it were not for Cuban medical personnel and medical training?

How much longer might apartheid have dragged on in South Africa if Cuban blood had not been shed in the sands and jungles of Angola and Namibia? Would Venezuela’s Bolivarian socialist revolution even exist? According to Hugo Chavez, probably not.

In this sense, “Fidel” is something more than an individual. As the leader of the Cuban Revolution, he has become associated with certain ethical values, ideas and ideals; a cause and a devotion to that cause. These include adherence to principles but rejection of sectarianism and dogmatism in the struggle for a better, socialist world.

Fidel Castro's essential message is one of hope, that we can reverse the gradual descent of global capitalism into a 21st-century barbarism, besieged by ecological collapse, if we can only unleash the power of masses of ordinary people acting together with a shared vision and strategic compass. His example is that of solidarity in a selfish world.

It is asking what we can contribute and share rather than what we can plunder and hoard. It is worrying about the infant mortality rate in Western Sahara and the waves lapping at the doorsteps of Pacific islanders, and doing something about it.

It is internationalism: the rejection of subservient seclusion behind our white-picket fences and national borders decked out in razor wire.

Australia doesn’t have a revolutionary tradition like that of Cuba. After the European invasion and dispossession of its Indigenous people the continent developed as an outgrowth of British imperialism.

Relative prosperity for most, thanks to a combination of circumstance and struggle, has blunted radical urges and channelled them into the English gentleman’s game known as parliamentary reformism.

Waves of progressive radicalisation have ebbed and flowed, but none has yet succeeded in placing the country under new management, as did the Cuban Revolution under Fidel’s leadership.

The next one may just do that, opening the way to a very different kind of Australia. Call it socialism or call it whatever, it will have to bury capitalism.

Fidel's example is one of daring to dream of such a revolutionary transformation of our own society. And working patiently towards it in ways that are meaningful to each of us, respecting each other’s contribution and seeking the path of principled unity.

[Marce Cameron edits Cuba's Socialist Renewal blog.