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News & Analysis > All
News & analysis from Proletarian Internationalist Notes—news, reviews and analysis from a global perspective
Anti-Amerikan symbol Fidel Castro passes away
November 30, 2016
Former Cuban Prime Minister and President Fidel Castro died a few days ago.(1) Together with Che Guevara and others, Fidel Castro led an armed anti-imperialist struggle that eventually overthrew a U.S. puppet. Castro supported and was an inspiration to many anti-colonial, national and anti-American movements in other countries. Under Castro, Cuba waged armed struggle against the Apartheid government in Azania at times when the United $tates supported that government. As a global figure, Castro remains even in death a strong symbol of anti-Amerikanism.
As many others did, Castro may have contributed to illusions about amerikans in the past, for example when Obama appeared likely to win the u.$. presidency in 2008. Recently, Castro criticized Obama and spoke of “the empire” even in the midst of development in relations between Cuba and the united $tates.(2) Since Obama’s visit to Cuba in March, Castro criticized Obama and the united $tates in media on other occasions. Castro thus broadcast a signal about needing to maintain an anti-amerikan orientation in the midst of diplomacy that might be complicated, difficult to understand, risky from a global point of view, or of uncertain benefit for any country. Whatever a country’s foreign ministry or diplomacy-oriented officials might be doing, there could and ought to be public anti-amerikan messages benefiting global struggles. Fidel Castro ended up playing a role not too much unlike one currently played by Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei.
Castro didn’t end up being assassinated as Guevara was in 1967. If Castro had lived another year, Castro would have lived fifty years longer than Guevara. It seems Castro lived long enough to be criticized by some outside Cuba who are fans of Guevara.
The website Salon had an article that mentioned “possibly hundreds” of assassination plots against Castro and accepted that Castro’s “commitment to socialism was unwavering.” It also mentioned executions. A “socialist” website saying some of the same things described Castro as “petty-bourgeois” while criticizing nationalism in general and minimizing Castro’s internationalism. There has to be something to say about Castro that such publications don’t say.
Fidel Castro did not die an actual mature Marxist, it is true. However, Castro initially denied being a communist in public, and few who seized power after the 1940s did so as genuine Marxists and have died as genuine Marxists. So, it may be more appropriate to compare Castro with those who seized power or started heading states in the 1950s and later. (Many were calling themselves communists, Marxists or socialists for one reason or another, before or after transitioning from colonialism to neo-colonialism; others didn’t. Some sided against the united $tates and did so independently of the Soviet Union to varying degrees; others didn’t.)
To say such a thing would be perilous if the Soviet Union still existed and Castro were contributing to confusion about what real Marxism was, at a time when Marxists were desperately struggling to hold on to gains. The Soviet Union, which had become an imperialist country, was dissolved 25 years ago. Since then, more have taken the approach of claiming superiority to Marxism without calling themselves Marxist. Others faced the difficult task of applying materialist dialectics in what was obviously a new situation. Most were revisionist or became revisionist, but the accusation of revisionism in the Marxist context is possible only if one claims to be Marxist in the first place. With no pseudo-Marxist imperialist state to stooge for, it is easy to be non-revisionist by not even claiming to be Marxist publicly or privately.
Some view Castro’s death as the end of an era. There may be more truth to WikiLeaks’ statement that 1979 – in the middle of Castro’s career in government – was “year zero” of an era(3), one that hasn’t ended. After a failed legal struggle against Batista, Castro’s life spanned three periods. Castro was alive and active as a revolutionary when the working class was in power in both China and the Soviet Union; then, a large socialist camp existed in the world. Castro was alive when the Soviet Union was an imperialist country and competing with the united $tates to be the hegemonic superpower. In 1979, China was deep in the midst of counterrevolution; by the 1980s, the united $tates arguably was already hegemonic. Although, even before the 1970s, many were saying that one of the two superpowers – the Soviet Union and the united $tates – was the number-one enemy.
In 2016, it should be obvious to everyone that one doesn’t have to be an equal imperialist rival or a Marxist to struggle against the united $tates and have a major effect. Inter-imperialist rivalry still exists, but doesn’t have the form that it had in the 1960s and 1970s. Though Castro did have some responsibility for a certain phony-Marxism problem that still exists – one that was particularly bad when the Soviet Union still existed and China was still socialist – there is no global socialist camp of states to speak of today. For additional reasons having to do with u.$. hegemony and global class structure and economic relations, the red tide of socialist revolution is low globally and will be that way for a long and tortuous period. Massive global inequality is created and sustained through international trade favoring certain rich countries, which have broadly privileged populations. Within this international exploitation of whole nations – occurring through trade mostly in ways difficult for many to discern and difficult for single countries to oppose by themselves – the united $nakes is the #1 exploiter.
In this period, anti-imperialist struggle will still take place. But internationally it will happen mainly through the economic and foreign relations of a variety of capitalist states that have contradictions with the united $tates. If the revolution in Cuba didn’t go beyond a bourgeois stage, it is hard – in a variety of ways – to mainly blame Castro for that as an individual. It’s not just that the united $tates was blockading Cuba and not treating it like other neocolonies. Many alleged Marxists who are critical of Fidel Castro, but don’t understand the situation the oppressed have been in for decades now, are themselves revisionist and end up making one mistake after another in the actions they take, in some cases collaborating with imperialists and supporting CIA- and Pentagon- backed violent destabilization efforts. Those efforts are condemned by people of various ideologies and backgrounds in poor countries.
There are thus structural reasons why any Marxist who seized power in 1959 or in the 1960s, in a country with fewer than eight or nine million people, would have had difficulty staying in power after several decades. In 2016, it is possible to be overly critical of Castro relative to Che Guevara, who died with a comparatively youthful image preserved in T-shirts etc. but lived for half a century less than Castro did. Whatever errors or mistaken ideas Guevara might have had in 1967, had they been capable of being corrected, and even had Guevara survived as a Marxist leader for decades more, Guevara might not have prioritized supporting armed revolution against Third world governments, over diplomatic and other national struggle of states. Guevara might not have done that at the turn of the century.
Castro’s alleged Marxism was debatable in 2016 and debatable in 1966. However, to focus on the details of that at the moment could give the wrong impression. Castro’s alleged Marxism had its historical context, and Castro’s critics on the so-called left have their own historical context to which many of them seem oblivious.
Unsurprisingly, Obama had diplomatic words for “Fidel Castro’s family” and “the Cuban people.”(4) The u.$. president claimed to have improved “the relationship between our two countries.” The various capitalist countries of the world need to isolate the u.$. entity in every sphere. They must seek friends and partners in other states. Cubans’ rhetoric about not needing anything from the AmeriKKKans, and Cubans’ self-reliance, are praiseworthy in this context. Stronger ties with the Dollar Empire are tempting. To some, Cuba’s government or “elite” has represented accommodation with a global capitalist system or a desire for rapprochement with the united $tates. Almost every country in the world, though, has normal or semi-normal relations with the united $tates along with almost all other countries, and still has disagreements and contradictions with the united $tates. Many countries can and need to do more to revise their relations with the united $tates and move away from the amerikkkans so other countries can be more comfortable with expanding ties with non-amerikans or maintaining a mix of economic relations that don’t favor u.$. dominance. The memory of Fidel Castro will function for some as a reminder of the importance of anti-amerikanism in the midst of shifting relations with the united $tates and non-amerikans.
Barack Obama didn’t claim to be a Marxist or a socialist on the campaign trail, but Obama supported amerikan oil exports for reasons that have nothing to do with addressing climate change. That has counterrevolutionary implications even in comparison with the behavior of other rich countries not claiming to be revolutionary. OPEC doesn’t claim to be Marxist or socialist, but an agreement between Iran and Saudi Arabia – Islamic theocracies – as members of that oil cartel could have revolutionary implications in terms of countering u.$. influence on the oil market and uniting countries in other areas. It could have revolutionary implications even if it ends up enabling increased amerikan production and contributing to the unfolding of a crisis, one involving conflict between Saudi Arabia and the united $tates over oil production and exports.
As for trade agreement alternatives, few trade blocs claim to be socialist today, but if countries can work out an agreement that is more favorable to them and less favorable to the united $tates, that could have revolutionary implications as well. With less u.$. exploitation of countries, the world will be closer to a stage of sustainable advanced revolution.
It may seem wretched to have to consider such things – neocolonial trade agreements and oil production/regulation decisions – discussed in capitalist business and financial news, but them’s the breaks.
The era of national liberation struggle is far from over, however. Nations are still struggling against neo-colonialism. Through different mechanisms involved in international interaction at this point in history, one nation can be a neo-colony for multiple countries and be faced with a choice of preferring some over others. The united $tates oppresses through its own neo-colonialism, and u.$. hegemony complicates struggle against neo-colonial oppression by other countries. Nations are still struggling for self-determination, including nations within u.$. borders whose national struggles for land and self-determination contribute to global public opinion struggle against the united $tates. And, the united $tates still occupies countries.
The Palestinian nation is engaged in an anti-colonial struggle opposed by the united $tates. In fact, it is a struggle against I$raeli/amerikan colonialism in Palestine.
Various subtypes comprise the main form of international struggle today: national struggle. People can cooperate with national struggle of amerikans – particularly those amerikans with relatively little global investment income – trying to use power to benefit themselves. Alternatively, they can support the national struggles and united fronts of those struggling against the amerikans. ◊
1. “Abbas orders Palestinian flags be flown at half-staff for Fidel Castro,” 2016 November 27. http://english.wafa.ps/page.aspx?id=dcJZ1La51734437821adcJZ1L
“Cuba’s Fidel Castro dies,” 2016 November 26. http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2016/11/26/495196/Cuba-Fidel-Castro
“Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro dies aged 90,” 2016 November 26. http://saudigazette.com.sa/world/americas/former-cuban-leader-fidel-castro-dies-aged-90/
“North Korea calls rare three-day mourning period for comrade Castro,” 2016 November 28. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/11/28/world/north-korea-calls-rare-three-day-mourning-period-comrade-castro/#.WD4dETHLcTs
2. “Fidel Castro slams “illustrious visitor” Obama’s “honeyed words”, Cuba “needs no gifts from the empire”,” 2016 May 28. http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-03-28/fidel-castro-slams-illustrious-visitor-obamas-honeyed-words-cuba-needs-no-gifts-empi
See: “On 90th birthday, Fidel Castro thanks Cuba, criticizes Obama,” 2016 August 13. http://bigstory.ap.org/article/e7b10d492dc747ecba1665e7cb863458/90th-birthday-fidel-castro-thanks-cuba-critiques-obama
3. “Wikileaks releases half a million diplomatic cables from “year zero” of the modern era,” 2016 November 28. http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-11-28/wikileaks-releases-half-million-diplomatic-cables-year-zero-modern-era
4. “US, world leaders offer condolences to Cuba, thoughts on Castro,” 2016 November 26. http://www.voanews.com/a/us-world-leaders-on-castro/3613193.html