Some personal thoughts on an ecosocialist hero
by Ian Angus
In January 1960, the newspapers reported that Fidel Castro would be visiting Ottawa after speaking to the United Nations General Assembly in New York. I immediately tried to organize my school friends to go to the airport to greet him. Unfortunately the visit to Canada didn’t happen, so my plans were for naught.
But why did I want to see him? I was barely 14 years old, and as far as I can remember I had never had a political thought in my life before then. I certainly had no inkling of the importance of the Cuban Revolution. I think that I probably saw Fidel as a symbol of something exciting and new in the world, and somehow I wanted to identify with that. Very likely I also wanted to annoy my teachers, a motivation never far from my mind at the time.
A year or so later, I won a “book prize” donated to my school by the local Oddfellows’ Lodge. With similar mixed motives, I chose C. Wright Mill’s magnificent Listen Yankee!
I read it eagerly, and like many others in my generation, I was hooked on Cuba.
After devouring Mills, I moved on to reading as many of the Cubans’ own statements as I could find in English, learning in the process that the reality of their views and actions was very different from what appeared in the capitalist press. That hasn’t changed — as an antidote to the current outpouring of “analysis” I highly recommend two of the most recent additions to my bookshelf — Fidel Castro: My Life (Penguin) and the Fidel Castro Reader (Ocean) both published in 2007.
For many of us who became active on the left in the 20th century, the Cuban revolution was the most important, most inspiring political event of our lives, and Fidel Castro and his comrades have been the most important, most inspiring political leaders we know. They have set an example of selfless commitment and lifelong dedication to building a better world that few have come near to, let alone equalled.
This week, I was on my way home from an eight-day visit to Havana when I heard that Fidel had announced his retirement. To anyone who has followed Cuban developments even superficially (which doesn’t include most Canadian journalists) the announcement was no surprise, since Fidel’s health problems have kept him from active participation in government for more than a year.
Not a surprise, but a major event nonetheless, as passing the torch to a younger generation must always be.
His letter announcing his decision was typical of the man — simple, clear, modest, and inspiring. He does not say farewell, but promises to continue “to fight as a soldier in the battle of ideas.”
Though he has been out of active politics for some time, Fidel’s mind and pen have been constantly active in that battle of ideas. He has produced a series of “reflections” on a wide variety of topics, including some of the finest commentaries on climate change ever published by any world leader. (Socialist Voice published these as a pamphlet that is available as a free download here.) Those comments extended the powerful statement he made to the Rio Conference in 1992:
Now that the alleged threat of communism has disappeared and there are no longer any more excuses for cold wars, arms races, and military spending, what is blocking the immediate use of these resources to promote the development of the Third World and fight the threat of the ecological destruction of the planet?
Let selfishness end. Let hegemonies end. Let insensitivity, irresponsibility, and deceit end. Tomorrow it will be too late to do what we should have done a long time ago.
Fidel has earned his place in our hearts and in history. He was an ecosocialist before the word was known, and for his entire life has been devoted. in thought, word and deed, to the fight for a better world.
Climate and Capitalism has been proud to publish his reflections while he was Cuba’s President, and we are confident that he will continue his contributions as a private citizen of a heroic country.
My personal tribute to Fidel has annoyed some bloggers from the truly looney right. One of them writes:
”Some things, as I have found via Tom Nelson, simply beggar belief. For, whilst some of us were out toasting Fidel’s resignation and (hopefully) his imminent death, some total fucking arsehole was writing shit like this…
“I should like to ask you all a question, if I may, by adapting the words of the ever-wise Obi Wan Kenobi: who is the more cuntish-the cunt or the cunt who follows him?”
That witty and insightful comment comes from a site that claims to have been selected “Best Libertarian Blog” in 2007. Obviously there wasn’t much competition.
For more than a year, Fidel’s only weapons have been words and ideas. The power of those weapons is demonstrated by the incoherant rage they generate in defenders of capitalism.