Fidel Castro 

Another famous name that I know near nothing about. Castro has definitely done some bad things, but I still find it chilling that he isn’t a bigger part of required history. I am honestly not a huge fan on account of the fact that he was a dictator but when I compare the bad things he’s done to the bad things our leaders have done, and then when I compare his message of trying to build a better system to our leaders message of accepting the status quo in order to avoid difficulty it makes me want to look beyond the understood truth.

Fidel Castro was born August 13, 1926 in Biran Cuba. He was born to unmarried parents, which at the time I’m sure meant more than today. His father was a migrant worker from Spain, which was common as Cuba started out as a Spanish colony. Yes Spain had many African slaves working sugar plantations, just like we did. Father Castro however gained financial stability farming cane sugar and at about this time also took Lina Ruz Gonzalez to be his mistress, and eventually his second wife. Fidel was among their seven children.

Fidel often misbehaved as a child, and at about six years old was sent to live at a boarding school in Santiago Cuba. He was also baptized at that time. in 1945 he was transferred to a more prestigious school in Havana Cuba, there he mostly devoted his time to sports, although his academic strengths in history, geography, and debate are worth note.

Fidel too an interest in the study of law. He primarily took to activism and the violent gangserismo culture at the University of Havana. He was passionate about anti-imperialism and opposition to, you guessed it, US intervention in the Caribbean. and with that the picture becomes more clear.

In 1947 Fidel joined the party of the Cuban people. Veteran and charismatic figure, Eduardo Chibás, started the party. It advocated social justice, honest government, and political freedom, while his party exposed corruption and demanded reform. Though Chibás lost the election Castro continued to fight for social justice. Violence and most notably student violence increased but not until after Grau employed gang leaders as police officers. Castro was harassed and told to leave the school, but rather than be bullied out of an education he opted to carry a self-defense gun with him at all times. If you see some scary potential similarities here with social justice warriors being met by buffed up police forces you are not alone. This occurs over and over in “civilized” history, the gestapo has been what primarily crosses my mind. Perhaps this is why our history classes tend to gloss over it, the fewer people that are prepared for it the less likely things are to play out differently.

The Marxist rebellion  (the other gaping hole in my education) was 1947 to 1950. In June 1947 Castro learned of a plan to overthrow the militarized right-wing. Under, big shock, US pressure Grau’s government stopped the invasion. Castro, along with many others, managed to evade arrest. Returning to Havana though, Castro took a leading role in student protests against the killing of a high school pupil by government bodyguards. The protests, which were met by a crackdown on those considered communists, led to violent clashes between activists and police in February 1948. Castro was badly beaten here, which if you think about it could not have helped to pacify the protesters attacked all.

In April 1948 Castro traveled to Bogotá, Columbia, with a Cuban student group sponsored by Argentine government. There, the assassination of popular leftist leader Jorge Eliécer Gaitán Ayala led to widespread rioting and clashes between the governing Conservatives – backed by the army – and leftist Liberals. Of course Castro considered himself a comrades to the left, he joined a small group who stole guns from the police. Castro was found not to have been involved in any killings.

Upon his return home Castro became known as a protester. He met and fell in love with Mirta Diaz Balart, a wealthy student who exposed him to lifestyles of the Cuban elite. Although the family disapproved the couple was wed that year.

Castro continued to study and move to the left as inspired by writings of Karl Marx, Fredrich Engels, and Vladimir Lenin. Castro came to interpret Cuba’s problems as part of it’s capitalist society, or the “dictatorship of the bourgeoisie”, rather than the failings of corrupt politicians, and adopted the Marxist view that meaningful political change could only be brought about by proletariat revolution. Visiting Havana’s poorest neighborhoods, he became active in the student anti-racist campaign.

In September 1949 Mirta became pregnant, but this did not slow down Castro. They moved to a bigger flat in Havana whilst Castro continued to give speeches and oppose violent gangs, personally I feel as though the birth of his son is what made him want to end the injustice in his homeland. Upon returning home from his revolutionary work Castro contracted on his studies, he graduated with a doctorate in law in September 1950.

For me learning about the early life of historical figures is just as important as learning why they are loved or hated. There is a philosophy that states, intention is what makes an action right or wrong. I truly believe that Fidel Castro had the best intentions as a young man in college, but as is human nature reality compromised his idealistic values. He got some power and it went to his head. He got a wife and son, and his desire to improve their lives outranked his desire to bring equality to the people. It’s natural, and this is why it is so important to recall that it isn’t the man it’s the message.

From 1950 to 1952 Castro began his real career in law and politics. His distaste for material goods and money caused him to slack on paying his bills, and that’s where I think his problems began.

Castro co-founded a legal partnership that took care of poor Cubans, unfortunately it did not last long. His extreme distaste for money caused him to overlook bills and life/business expenses, and unfortunately this is not something that can be done responsibly. His furniture became repossessed and his electricity was cut off, not surprisingly this caused a riff in his marriage.

In 1952 Fidel Castro wanted to run for Congress but he was unable to get support from other politicians, Ortodoxo. Instead the poorest people in Havana nominated him to be on the House of Representatives.  In March of 1952, Batista seized power in a military coup, with Prío fleeing to Mexico. Declaring himself president, Fulgencio Batista (the former president) cancelled the planned presidential elections, describing his new system as “disciplined democracy.” Like many others Castro considered it a one-man dictatorship. Batista moved to the right, solidifying ties with both the wealthy elite and the United States, severing diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union, suppressing trade unions and persecuting Cuban socialist groups. In opposition to Batista, Castro brought several legal cases against the government. These all amounted to nothing more than a call for awareness, and Castro began to think differently. The Cuban people (mostly minorities) were very unhappy with Batista, they were poor and undereducated.

With the support of the lower/slave class three wars were fought,and that is history we are taught in school; ex Bay of Pigs ’61-’62, Cuban Missile Crisis ’62-’68, third world politics ’69-’74. Cuba wanted independence from Spain, the third war was won by Cuba with American intervention. Let’s be clear on this, we helped Cuba to get back at Spain for breaking trade deals with the USA, although we had previously backed Batista (establishment candidate) who used our weapons to kill 30,000 people.

During the 1960s our government had the people very afraid of communism, very afraid of the Russians and blaming them for troubles in Cuba. Interesting considering that elite Americans owned most of the farms and consumer industries (including casinos and bordellos) in Cuba. The USA also sold weapons to Batista to use against the people of Cuba (sound familliar?). In 1961 Castro declared himself a Marxist-Leninist and so we demonized that title.

Unfortunately, though many still do consider it good that Batista was taken out, Castro also had a very violent regime. Although some things improved many people were still treated terribly. Plus let’s not forget that Castro was a dictator, he wasn’t democratically elected, although god knows even those that are “democratically” elected aren’t very democratic.

In 2006 Fidel Castro started medical problems such as intestinal bleeding so he granted his brother, Raul Castro, power. Since then Fidel has been showing Raul the ropes. In 2009 Castro met with Argentinian president Cristina Fernandez, in 2010 Castro gave his first speech to the National Assembly in four years and he urged the U.S. not to take military actions against those nations and warning of a nuclear holocaust, in 2011 Castro condemned the NATO-led intervention in Libya, in 2014 Castro was granted the Confusious Peace Prize, and in 2016 he refused to meet with Barack Obama upon his visit but he did meet with the Portuguese president.

On the night of November 25 2016 Cuban television reported Castro dead, so that’s where we are now. I don’t know that I would call it good or bad, perhaps the best adjective to use here is delicate. This is a delicate situation. Like all of the world relationships/revolutions going on right now it’s hard to say what will happen next. We need to pay attention though or history will repeat itself.

Real Progressives


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