On Friday the 25th of November, 7pm local time, Fidel Castro, the former leader of Cuba, passed away. Fidel Castro served as the leader of Cuba from 1959 to 2008, when he stepped down due to health issues and his advanced age. Fidel Castro was born on August 13th 1926, and experienced his youth through a period in which Cuba was a neo-colonial asset, a mafia state, and puppet regime of the United States. Although having failed a previous focoist uprising against the Batista dictatorship, with a only a handful of fighters, he led a successful guerrilla war against the Batista regime, with patriotic forces capturing the Cuban state in 1959. He led his country through the turmoil of the “Cuban Missile Crisis” period, and also during the so-called “special period” following the breakup of the social-imperialist USSR in the 1990’s.
We should not sugar coat, or have illusions about the nature of the Cuban state. Although it may share many similarities with past socialist experiments, Cuba is not a socialist society today. The socialism of the Cuban revolution stagnated following its embrace of the “international socialist [sic.] division of labor” of the then social-imperialist Soviet Union under Nikita Khrushchev. Throughout the Cold War, many nationalist and national-liberation forces claimed the “Communist” label, and used communist rhetoric in order to secure support from the Soviet Bloc. It is questionable whether Cuba was ever a socialist state, or whether it was a patriotic regime with social-democratic reforms backed by Soviet aid. Where Che Guevara embraced the Maoist emphasis on independent socialist development and moving society away from the Law of Value, Castro unfortunately embraced the development model promoted by the revisionist-led Soviet Union. It was Castro’s leadership during the so-called “special period” that partially corrected this error after the end of Soviet aid in the 1990s. While this prevented Cuba from economic collapse and maintained its independence from the United States, it did not place Cuba on a path towards communism.
Regardless of the class nature of the Cuban state, Castro’s leadership kept Cuba mostly independent despite the full weight of US imperialism bearing down on him in the form of the Bay of Pigs invasion, naval blockades, and CIA assassination plots. His role as Leader of Cuba, especially during the post-Soviet period was not easy. He led the Cuban people on an anti-imperialist, internationalist path during a time of tremendous turmoil for left wing nationalist regimes in the third world. Although not a communist, he was a brave and principled friend of oppressed people around the world, especially on the African continent. In a pointed historical rebuke to the mistaken foreign policy of Maoists in China after Lin Biao’s demise, it was Fidel Castro’s Cuba that materially defended the MPLA in Angola against the reactionary UNITA/FNLA, who were backed by the United States and China. Leading Light Communists see the socialist development model of Maoist China as superior to Cuba’s integration with the Soviet empire. Nevertheless, there were key instances where Castro and the Cuban regime had a better record of international solidarity with the masses of the Global South than with China in the 1970s.
We hope that the Cuban people will stay true to the anti-imperialist path laid out by Castro during his leadership. Leading Light Communists salute Fidel Castro, and stand with the Cuban people in mourning his loss and celebrating his legacy.