Original Article: Fidel Castro: Pemberani yang Membuktikan Kata-Katanya By: Asrizal Luthfi
“But man is not made for defeat,” he said. “A man can be destroyed but not defeated.”
― Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea
Fidel Castro, a revolutionary fighter, Marxist-leninist from Cuba has died. He died at a fairly old age, 90 years old. After years of struggling with his illness which also forced him to retreat from his authority 10 years ago.
His death, of course, caused sadness to many people around the world. Almost all the great leaders from around the world expressed their condolences. Media also took part in preaching his death and talked about the story of his life. However, there were also some society who were happy for his death and condemned on his authoritarian attitude during his rule in Cuba.
Success Stubborn Rebel
Initially, Fidel grew up as a very prominent young man in the field of sports. His attitude began to change as he became a law student at the University of Havana, Cuba. His involvement in the political activism and his political journey to Colombia and the Republic of Dominica made him to believe that Cuba needs a revolutionary movement.
This belief drew him into a real rebel. In 1953, he launched his first revolutionary movement against an authoritarian Cuba ruler: Fulgencio Batista. The rebellion was failed, he was arrested and imprisoned.
Nevertheless, the failure did not stop his spirits. After released from prison in 1955, he launched his second revolution in 1956. This time, in merely less than 3 years, leading his own war, Fidel managed to overthrow Fulgencia Batista.
After the success of the 1959 revolution, Fidel’s “rebellion” did not stop there. He turned Cuba into a socialist country. As a Marxist-Leninist, within Cuba he implemented agrarian reform and nationalized foreign firms. While outside of Cuba, he actively exported revolutionary ideas and directly supported the revolutionary movements around the world, especially in Latin America and Africa and he also criticized the global political policies of capitalism that harm third-world countries. The impact of these policies was leading Fidel to deal with hundreds of homicide attempts and overthrow attempts. Lastly, he also had to deal with a political economic embargo.
His ‘rebellion’ attitude was also applied in his personal life. Fidel married Mirta Diaz Balart even without the consent of both sides of the family. His marriage lasted for 7 years until they divorced in 1955, a year before he started his revolution. He then married Dalia Soto Del Valle. Fidel was known to be a flamboyant man because he had relationship affair with other women, at least he was in the affair with 5 other women. One of the children of his affair, Alina Fernandez, became one of the critics of Fidel’s political policies. Fidel’s younger sister, Juanita Castro also became a critics of Fidel. Juanita even admitted that he worked with the CIA in their effort to knock down his biological brother, Fidel Castro.
All the pressure he faced did not stop his rebellion. As a stone-hearted man, he proved that the state beyond the political economy of capitalism can still stand upright. He proved that his policies based on socialism were able to bring Cuba to the same place where the developed countries based on the capitalists were. In the middle of enemies, Fidel succesfully improved the condition of Cuban society. Under his leadership, the literacy rate in Cuba increased up to 99.7%, the life expectancy increased up to 79.1 years, and the infant mortality rate dropped to 5.8 per 1000 births (compared with the United States whose literacy rate was 99% , the life expectancy was 79.3, and the infant mortality rate was 6.2 per 1000 births). This could not be separated from his policy to reform and restructure the field of education and health through the free education and health policy campaign and literacy campaign as well. Especially in the health care field, Fidel even stated that he stopped smoking in 1985 as a form of his sacrifice for Cuba.
Marxism and Third World Nationalism
The movement of the Cuban revolution started by Fidel in the 50s certainly couldn’t be separated from the conditions of that era where third world countries struggled for their independence or had been free from the bondage of colonialism. At that time, all over the world, third world countries were also in a state of fervor with Marxism, followed by the rise of socialism-communism in various corners of the third world. Marxism became the basis of the spirit of independence to escape from imperialism. Marxist ideas were borrowed and contextualized to be a source of the spirit of resistance in third world countries. This contextualization of Marxism was recognized by Fidel as the basis of his revolution in Cuba by calling the application of Marxism was different from that applied by the Soviets / Russians. In the context of Cuba, Fidel contemplates Marxism with nationalism.
Contextualization of marxism in the third world also occured in third world countries in various variants, based on the characteristics of each country / region. In Indonesia, marxism was combined with nationalism and religion (especially Islam) by Sukarno. Soekarno himself called it nasakom (nationalism, religion and communism). Contextualization with the same variant also occurs in the Middle East and Arabian countries with different terms. Ghadafi in Libya called it Islamic Socialism, Shariati called it Islamic Marxism, Nasser called it Nasserism, Ba’ath Party called it Arab Socialism. In Africa there was also another variant called African Socialism or Pan-African.
These ‘unique’ variants of marxism were a response to the cold war that divided the world into two big blocks: the Russian-Chinese communist block and the NATO block lead by the United States. The tensions between the two blocks triggered the countries from outside the two blocks to unite themselves into a solidarity group of third world countries.
Cuba was also included to this group of third world countries. After the 1955 Asian-African Conference in Bandung, Joseph Broz Tito in Belgrade Yugoslavia initiated the establishment of a platform for the movement of these third world countries which was the Non-Aligned Movement in 1961. This platform then strength the relationships among third world countries. This is where Fidel’s relationships with third world leaders, such as Mandela, Nehru, Soekarno, Gamal Abdul Nasser, Muammar Ghaddafi and Hafez al Assad became ever more intense. From 1979 to 1983, Fidel was appointed as General Secretary of the Non-Aligned Movement.
At almost the same time,in the third world there was also the development of social theories that opposed colonialism such as dependency theory and postcolonialism.
The theory of dependency (developed by Raul Presibich and Paul Baran, popularized by Andre Gunder Frank) claimed that poor countries / third world (suburbs) were often harmed (or disadvantaged) by the growth of developed / developing countries (capitals). Even developing countries, in the name of growth, caused the third world countries left behind and relied so much on the developing countries. As the result, there was a relationship of colonialist among developed and developing countries (capitals) with third world country (subordinate). Third world countries (suburbs) at the end only became a provider of resources for the growth of developed countries (capitals). While in the postcolonial theory, Frantz Fanon through his book The Wretched of The Earth argued that colonialism could have a very devastating impact on society because the colonialist seized attributes of humanity they colonialized. Edward Said through his work Orientalism added that colonialism also had a bad effect because it divided the world into two groups, between “eastern” and “western” or between” us “and” them. ”
These social theories eventually inspired the third world countries to resist colonialism and capitalism. Frantz Fanon even specifically influenced and also admired the Cuban revolution. Che Guevara (the closest compatriot of Fidel in the Cuban revolution) was influenced by Fanon’s view who believed that the socialist revolution would erode the colonial mentality of the colonized society and develop new and more independent people in developing all of their individual potential and fully capable in the development. Fanon also believed that Fidel would bring Cuba into a successful socialist country.
Fidel was a symbol of the resistance of third world countries to the domination of developed countries. With his valiant and stubborn nature, he fought the dominance of capitalism in the world. The most interesting thing was that he not only spoke with rhetoric but he also proved it with the attitude, actions and achievements of his ‘disobedience’.
Fidel through his actions showed that guts and hard work are important. With guts and hard work, Fidel managed to silence his opponents and exalted himself as a conqueror of the giants who always feel great, strong and surely win.
Through Fidel’s cold hands, we may believe that there are alternatives outside of capitalism. We can also believe that even if we are part of a marginalized third world country, if we want to work together, we can be equal to developed countries. Fidel also proved that nothing was impossible as long as we trusted and believed in it.
To quote Fidel’s favorite writer Ernest Hemingway in his novel Old Man and the Sea, Fidel is a manifestation of the life of a man whose life is constantly tried to be destroyed but is never invincible.
Goodbye, Fidel! Of course you are now happy to meet Che and your loyal friends had died earlier in the days of struggle. Nothing is more beautiful than re-meeting the people on our side during times of struggle. Regards.