50 Years Fidel
He has put his mark on the history of Cuba, Latin America, the whole world. He has survived politically 10 US presidents
50 YEARS FIDEL
Johan Galtung, dr hc mult, Professor of Peace Studies;
Founder TRANSCEND: A Peace and Development Network
February 20th, 2008
Late 1958, 50 years ago, the revolution won, Batista fled, Fidel and his brother Raúl entered Habana early 1959. The rest is history. Castro's resignation as President is a mini-event.
He has put his mark on the history of
 Eisenhower 1957-1960
 Kennedy 1961-1963 - killed
 Johnson 1963-1964; 1964-1968
 Nixon 1969-1972; 1973-1974 - resigned
 Ford 1974-1976
 Carter 1977-1980
 Reagan 1981-1984; 1985-1988
 Bush Senior 1989-1992 (father-son, not brother-brother)
 Bush Junior 2001-2004; 2005-2008 (?, the end is not known)
I met Fidel three times, mainly for interviews. He did the talking: intense charisma, rock-bottom knowledge, faith; knowing his enemy better than vice versa. He did not have Che Guevara's charm, another, but failed, giant. What makes Castro so great?
Not only that he stood up, for 50 years, against the formidable US Empire, one of the worst in terms of exploitation, killing, arms-twisting and brain-washing in human history. He practiced an alternative, imperfect, but then nothing is.
The alternative was primacy to basic needs, the bienes fundamentales of food, clothing, housing, health, education, at a basic level, starting with the most needy, liberating them from misery. Of freedom to choose ruling party and goods, also a basic need, there was little. Of identity, another basic need, there was more when it became easier to be Catholic. Of the need to survive there was much:
US-led mafias had come far in the process of converting
And so it stayed. The underlying conflict is not only over what the
I remember an early morning during one of my numerous visits, in 1998, when it suddenly struck me that I was the only white around. That day a Cuban black had another narrative:
Yes, Fidel and his revolution are an important episode in the history of Cuban liberation. But this has lasted centuries, basically as anti-slavery and black against white, first against
He paused. The whites are in
Fidel sacrificed some needs for others, and was punished. It would have been better had he not. I remember proposing in 1973 to members of the Politburo a two-party system, like up North, not one right and one extreme right, but two left wing, say, socialist and communist. And then debate, space, voice!
Fidel also sacrificed normal Western standard of living for the well-to-do, for today's Millennium Goals for the masses. I suggested more freedom for small enterprises for daily comfort. The argument against both was the proven "bourgeois spirit" of elections and small business. Maybe, but then prove, do not impose, the superiority of a socialist spirit of solidarity.
The West will be harping on free elections and markets, unaware of other goals. The
What happened, except sharing poverty? Four major things.
Sanctions hit economy, stifle politics, encourage military, but the culture is free to blossom, unimpeded by consumerism.
First, the arts cost little and have been blossoming for artists, performers and consumers alike, to unknown heights.
Second, if you cannot process matter, process human beings instead, make education at ever higher level available for all; graduate, post-graduate, post-doctoral. The sky is the limit.
Third, a major change in foreign policy from Che's one-two-three
Fourth, a new basic needs oriented economy, bypassing World Bank/IMF, in front of the closed eyes of the
Who will win? The faithful one, Fidel; also because he is more capable of change than the West. And there is more to come.