Cuba and the spirit of revolution


The Cuban revolution is the fountain of resilience and determination, writes Sihle Zikalala in this opinion piece for South Africa’s Mercury/Independent. Zikalala is the ANC’s KwaZulu-Natal provincial secretary. Our thanks to Peter Jordens for bringing this item to our attention.

Any revolution that seeks to transfer power to the people should eventually result in the betterment of the lives of those pursuing such struggle, in particular the motive forces of revolution.

Like a number of revolutions in the world, the Cuban Revolution remains an inspiration to many cadres who believe in the principle of an equal social and economic status of all people.

Like many other revolutions, the Cuban revolution has gone through many sacrifices.

The 1956 struggle against the regime of Batista saw many revolutionaries losing their lives while others ended up in prison, including the former president of Cuba, Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz.

However, the resilience they showed provided determination for the liberation of the Cuban people.

It is such determination which propelled Comrade Castro to face the tyranny without regret.

Even after he was arrested for leading the struggle against the Batista regime, he never backed off but unapologetically presented the vision of their struggle and succinctly outlined the objectives of such struggle.

Presenting his testimony, which was later produced in the book titled History Will Absolve Me, Fidel Castro had this to say: “In terms of struggle, when we talk about people we’re talking about the 600 000 Cubans without work, who want to earn their daily bread honestly without having to emigrate from their homeland in search of a livelihood; the 500 000 farm labourers who live in miserable shacks, who work four months of the year and starve the rest, sharing their misery with their children, who don’t have an inch of land to till and whose existence would move any heart not made of stone; the 400 000 industrial workers and labourers whose retirement funds have been embezzled, whose benefits are being taken away, whose homes are wretched quarters, whose salaries pass from the hands of the boss to those of the moneylender, whose future is a pay reduction and dismissal, whose life is endless work and whose only rest is the tomb; the 100 000 small farmers who live and die working land that is not theirs, looking at it with the sadness of Moses gazing at the promised land, to die without ever owning it, who like feudal serfs have to pay for the use of their parcel of land by giving up a portion of its produce, who cannot love it, improve it, beautify it nor plant a cedar or an orange tree on it because they never know when a sheriff will come with the rural guard to evict them from it …

“These are the people, the ones who know misfortune and, therefore, are capable of fighting with limitless courage!

“To these people whose desperate roads through life have been paved with the bricks of betrayal and false promises, we were not going to say: ‘We will give you …’ but rather: ‘Here it is, now fight for it with everything you have, so that liberty and happiness may be yours.’”

While knowing the brutality of the tyrant Batista regime Comrade Fidel never pleaded for the mercy of the judge but was rather prepared to suffer for the cause of the struggle hence he concluded his testimony by saying: “I know that imprisonment will be harder for me than it has ever been for anyone, filled with cowardly threats and hideous cruelty.

“But I do not fear prison, as I do not fear the fury of the miserable tyrant who took the lives of 70 of my comrades. Condemn me. It does not matter. History will absolve me.”

Such testimony was not the last to be seen in this world, it resonates with former president Nelson Mandela when he faced the apartheid judge in the famous Rivonia trial.

Mandela never apologised for ideas he stood for during the trial, not even during the 1985 efforts of the regime to release him only if he was to denounce the struggle.

The Cuban revolution is the fountain of resilience and determination.

Such determination has kept the Cubans together for many years facing the aggressive imperial onslaught of the American government right on their doorstep.

The arrest of the Cuban Five is one such vicious evil perpetrated by the Americans against the Cubans. Yet this was not the last, the illegitimate blockade imposed by America against Cuba is the last prolonged effort that seeks to break the Cuban Revolution.

While we appreciate the release of the Cuban Five, the fight against the blockade against Cuba must continue.

Equally the fight against imperialism that loots economies of many African states and other parts of the world must continue.

The Cuban Revolution is also the epitome of internationalism.

This spirit of internationalism is informed by the desire to ensure fair trade among and between different countries of the world without self-imposed domination.

This spirit is derived from an understanding that the revolution knows no boundaries but supports the struggle against injustice irrespective of where it prevails.

This is a spirit which propelled Che Guevara when he left his position of being a minister to pursue the revolution in Bolivia.

“I have always been identified with the foreign policy of our revolution, and I continue to be.

“Wherever I am, I will feel the responsibility of being a Cuban revolutionary, and I shall behave as such. I am not sorry that I leave nothing material to my wife and children; I am happy it is that way. I ask nothing for them, as the state will provide them with enough to live on and receive an education.”

Surely it is this spirit that propelled many Cuban soldiers to participate in the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale, which saw in 1987/1988 the South West African People’s Organisation (Swapo) of Nambia and Armed Forces for the Liberation of Angola (Fapla) confront the South African Defence Force (SADF) and the guerrillas of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (Unita) who supported the oppressive regime of Namibia.

Three of the Cuban Five directly participated.

It is this spirit of internationalism which continues to drive the political perspectives of Cuba in relation to other countries.

The support of the medical professionals based in South Africa is informed by such spirit.

While Cuba is not recognised among those of economic influence in the current world order it was one of the countries that sent the largest number of doctors to fight Ebola which has recent engulfed some of the northern parts of Africa.

Unlike globalisation which is underpinned by an imperial agenda, the spirit of internationalism is based on fair trade, solidarity and mutual developmental initiatives between countries to ensure we attain a world order enjoying humanity, peace and prosperity.

For the original report go to

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