“That was the first Fidel, the hero of my teenage years when I spent time in the dark prisons of American-backed Pakistani dictators. But then there was the Fidel who failed me. He devastated my faith in his promised revolution of the masses. Notwithstanding Castro’s success in education and healthcare, he stifled the human spirit and turned Cubans into prisoners in their own homes. Scores died and many more rot in prisons, tiny gulags copied from his Soviet sponsors.”
November 30, 2016
The Toronto Sun
Two Castros died on November 26. The first Fidel was the man who in 1959 led a popular uprising against an American-backed, mafia-sponsored, corrupt dictator in Cuba, chasing him and his cronies out of the island nation. Then, when bullied by Uncle Sam, he stood up to Washington like a man my generation of kids born in the Third World had never heard of before.
In grade four at Karachi’s St. Lawrence’s Boys school, we didn’t know anything about communism, but we heard from the senior boys and our fathers and uncles that America the mighty had just had its teeth knocked out by a revolutionary called Castro – right in their own backyard too.
We were no more than 10 years old, but we had already witnessed an American-backed military coup in Pakistan in 1958 that brought Gen. Ayub Khan to power, and had heard of the CIA coup in next door Iran in 1953 that overthrew Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh.
Neither Mossadegh nor Castro were communists then. In fact, as the veteran British leftist Tariq Ali pointed out in CounterPunch.org on Friday, even as the Cuban revolutionaries prepared for the assault on Havana, “the direction that the revolution would take was still not clear – even to Castro. Until that point, he had never been a socialist, and relations with the official Cuban Communist Party were often tense.”
How then did a non-socialist who had little to do with the Cuban communists end up as the leading communist leader of the post-World War 2 era? It wasn’t until October 1965 that Castro’s ‘26th of July Movement’ became the official Communist Party of Cuba.
The answer to that question can be found in the recent era of the Bush-Rumsfeld years and later the Obama-Clinton doctrines of foreign policy that turned entire countries into crucibles of howling anti-American maniacs.
Back in the late 1950s and 60s, as Castro consolidated, the CIA, fresh from its victories in Iran and Pakistan engineered the invasion of Cuba by Florida-based exiles in the 1961 Bay of Pigs fiasco.
Once Cuban revolutionaries defeated the US-backed invasion of their country, Castro had no choice but to seek a close military and economic alliance with the only other super power in town, the USSR.
And with the Soviets came Soviet-style mediocrity, governance, drabness and oppression which millions of Cubans suffered for decades, even after the USSR itself splintered and the hollowness of Soviet-style communism was exposed as an utter and complete failure, economically, morally and militarily.
That was the first Fidel, the hero of my teenage years when I spent time in the dark prisons of American-backed Pakistani dictators.
But then there was the Fidel who failed me.
He devastated my faith in his promised revolution of the masses. Notwithstanding Castro’s success in education and healthcare, he stifled the human spirit and turned Cubans into prisoners in their own homes. Scores died and many more rot in prisons, tiny gulags copied from his Soviet sponsors.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau may extol the virtues of Castro suggesting the Commandante had “tremendous dedication and love for the Cuban people.” Fidel may very well have love for his people. But the reality is my childhood hero was destroyed by the very system he created.
His failure was best illustrated when he made his younger brother Raoul inherit his crown in a manner that reminded me of the Rajas and Maharajas of India, today the world’s largest democracy despite two vibrant communist parties.