I write this post to you, dearest motherfuckers, with a heavy heart. I write this post early because another one of my heroes has died. On November 25 in this year of the devil twenty-hundred and sixteen, Fidel Castro- revolutionary, lawyer, freedom fighter, dictator and all around contrarian bad-ass motherfucker shuffled off this mortal coil into the pantheon of oblivion at the age of 90. I know what some of you must be thinking. That I'm fucking nuts or, even worse, a hypocrite. An outspoken genderfuck anarcho-transfeminist defending a crusty old Leninist strongman. And you're right to judge me this way. Castro has done some horrible things that I wont even attempt to defend. He locked up his critics and followed the homophobic Soviet company line of sending queer people to the sanatoriums. I wont pretend like he was an angel. He wasn't. He could be a real cunt. He was an undeniably flawed human being. But these facts don't change the other facts. The fact that Fidel devoted his life to his people and to poor and maligned people across the globe. The fact that his lifetime of service to these people far overshadows the heinous mistakes he made in their name. And, perhaps most importantly, the fact that this simple son of a school-teacher went toe to toe with the most ferocious empire the world has ever known for over half a century and won. History may or may not absolve the good Comandante Castro but this is one queer anarchist who will be caught trying.
Fidel began his life pretty square. The son of middle-class landowners, he excelled at sports and academics. After a failed attempt at a pro-baseball career, he became a lawyer and then a moderately reformist politician before Yankee backed strongman, Fulgencio Batista liquidated what was left of Cuba's banana democracy and pushed young Fidel into a lifetime career as a revolutionary agitator. In 1953, Fidel led a failed revolt at the Moncada Barracks. After his arrest, the former lawyer chose to represent himself and electrified a nation with his unbowed and unapologetic defense of his crimes against the state and his thunderous condemnation of the very system that he had found himself at the mercy of. He was fearless. The Batista regime and their American handlers didn't know it then but Castro had already one the revolution before it even began. Fidel served two years in prison before being released as part of an amnesty. He fled to self-exile with his brother Raul and a handful of comrades in Mexico City where he plotted his next move.
The Castro Brothers returned to Cuba in 1956 with Argentine revolutionary Che Guevara and 79 others on a rickety old fishing boat known as the Granma. After a crash landing the tiny army found themselves the victims of an ambush. Only 12 of the original members of the 26 July Movement survived the onslaught. Fidel led them limping into the Sierra Maestra Mountains where for the next two years they led a popular rebellion that somehow snowballed into one of the centuries greatest and unlikeliest triumphs against tyranny. By 1958, Fidel and his movement road into the capital of Havana to a heroes welcome. But these brave sons of the Southern Hemisphere had pissed on a wasps nest. Their whole country would have to pay a heavy price for their courageous stand.
The moment that it became clear to the Mandarins in Washington that Castro would not allow himself to be perverted like Batista it was decided that the new Cuban Revolution would have to be strangled in it's cradle before it could gain the strength to take its first step. As Castro ordered that the wage-slave-plantations be returned to their rightful owners, the peasant farmers who toiled in them, and that the nations oil wells should belong to its citizens rather than the American conglomerates who stole them. As he shuttered the Mafia's Casinos and whorehouses and returned dignity to the streets of Havana, the United States gathered the Batista's disgruntled thugs along with a melange of fascist mercenaries and together they launched a reign of terror upon the tiny island nation that would last for more than half a century.
Fidel wasn't always a communist. Far from it. His original intention for Cuba was to hold popular elections once the last remnants of the Batista dictatorship had been thoroughly decimated. But before he could make this happen, Fidel found his nascent revolutionary government under siege by foreign funded terrorists and saboteurs. Trains were derailed. Harbors were mined. Crops were torched and scores of innocent civilians were slaughtered in cold blood. Once it had become abundantly clear that Uncle Sam was the source of this wave of madness, Castro was left with nowhere else to turn to but East towards the Soviet Union. The Bay of Pigs Invasion was the final straw. Castro had selflessly joined his own soldiers in personally thwarting off that American siege. He returned to Havana a very shaken and changed man. He came to the hard conclusion that democracy would have to wait until the threat of American Imperialism subsided. Sadly this day never came. Cuba joined their allies in the USSR in becoming a stifling state capitalist bureaucracy. The once bright and vivacious Cuban Revolution had been rendered to a permanent warfare state.
This was America's aim all along. The boys in the Beltway decided that if Castro couldn't be bought off or overthrown, he would be pushed by the threat of violence into suffocating his own revolution under a wartime dictatorship of the proletariat, Just as the Bolsheviks had. You see, the Americans didn't fear Castro for his nationalism or his flirtations with socialism or even his close friendships with Marxists like Che. They feared Castro's dream of a a successful anti-capitalist, post-colonial democracy. They were scared shitless of the prospect of Cuba becoming an example of hope to Uncle Sam's other banana republics in the Western Hemisphere and beyond. So they goaded Fidel into sabotaging his own revolution in order to defend his people from a greater tyranny. Tragically, it worked. Sort of.
Cuba's revolutionary democracy may have never came to fruition and the nations savior may have been pushed into the unwanted position of dictator, but Castro refused to let all of the revolutions promises die the same death. In spite of being shackled by the most brutal international blockade in world history, Cuba managed to develop healthcare and education systems that rivaled that of the First World. As illiteracy and infant mortality went the way of the Dodo, Fidel sought to export his nations hard gained bounties. Sending doctors to the poorest parts of the globe and trained revolutionaries to the most oppressed. Castro supported Nelson Mandela's fight for freedom while Washington still backed apartheid. He sent troops to aid Angola in fighting off a South African invasion. He gave a helping hand to the Sandinista's Nicaragua and Maurice Bishop's Grenada when the Soviet Union couldn't be bothered to give a damn. He even offered to send a thousand Cuban doctors to New Orleans after Katrina. Bush said no thanks. He preferred to let poor people drown as long as their floating bodies were black.
Most importantly, though the US succeeded in turning Cuba into a dictatorship, albeit a decidedly benevolent one, they ironically failed to prevent Fidel Castro's greatest threat of a good example. The children of the South, who watched in awe as this bearded mestizo defied the greatest empire on earth, dodging assassination attempts in the hundreds, grew up to lead the kind of revolutionary democracies Castro had failed to create in his own country. Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil. One after another, nearly fifty years after the Cuban Revolution, a Pink Tide of Latin American nations declared their independence peacefully and Democratically from their Northern overlords. In a strange way, Fidel Castro had to sacrifice his own revolution in order to save Latin America from greater American imperial tyranny.
Perhaps inspired by its radical progeny, Cuba didn't turn out so bad either under the circumstances. Decades after the Soviet Union fell, they stand proud. Poor but free, at least from foreign domination. Most countries in the Third World can't say the same. And they've even come a long way in the formerly dismal department of queer rights. Several years back, Cuba made history by becoming one of the first nations in the Global South to offer free sexual reorientation surgeries for their trans community and has also repealed their deplorable anti-gay laws. Speech is becoming more free, small business is thriving and the dreaded embargo fell before Castro did. Proof positive that it's never to late to change the world and good things can still come to those who go down swinging.
Was Castro a perfect man? No. But he was a courageous leader in the global fight against imperialism until his dying breath. He continues to stand tall as a hero to the poor and oppressed and ignored across the globe, from Columbia to Palestine and even right here in Happy Valley. At a time in my own life when mental illness and gender dysphoria made me a prisoner of my own home, heroes like Che Guevara and Fidel Castro gave me the courage to persevere over the oppression of my own demons. I read volumes about the guerrillas of the Sierra Mastra and it gave me hope, not just for myself but for my own seemingly hopeless country. I may not consider myself to be the hard line Marxist-Leninist that I considered myself to be back then but I will always be a Castroite at heart.
Godspeed Comandante. This is one queer anarchist who salutes you.
Peace, Love and Solidarity- CH