Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz (born 13 August 1926) was the leader of Cuba from 1959, when, leading the 26th of July Movement, he helped overthrow the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista turning Cuba into the first socialist state in the Western Hemisphere until his resignation in February of 2008. He held the title of premier until 1976, when he became president of the Council of State and the Council of Ministers. He has been the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba since its inception in 1965.
The man has been vilified by many people, most notably in the United States. The following are his views on a variety of issues, in his own words. While his record of promoting education and health worldwide speaks for itself, it is perhaps best to judge the man also by his words and beliefs.
Luis Conte Aguero
Aguero “is, without a doubt, the most prestigious and intellectually capable young leader in the republican cause… He is mature beyond his years, with a solid understanding of culture… he is one of the most honest young politicians we have nowadays and his popularity is undeniable… (and he) has been one of the most forceful advocates of our freedom.” (February 17, 1955)
“All of Africa deeply hates aparthied. All of Africa sees in apartheid its biggest enemy, an enemy that scorns Africa, that insults Africa, that humiliates it! It’s incredible how hurt the African people are concerning
apartheid. This has made African feelings, the African soul an ally of Cuba… The African people have seen in the United States an ally and a friend of apartheid! The African people see in the United States Government the principal responsibility for the existence of apartheid! South Africa has become an embarrassing friend for the United States.” (December 5, 1988)
“Capitalism was invented by history with spontaneous laws, while socialism must be the product of planned work.” (January 4, 1989)
“Capitalist society is based on material incentives and it does not pay any attention to moral factors.” (January 8, 1989)
“Under capitalism, it is the large national and international companies that actually govern, even in the most highly industrialized nations. They are making the decision on investment and development. They are responsible for material production, essential economic services, and a large part of social services.” Castro believes, along with Lenin, that the “developed capitalist system… later gave rise to modern imperialism” and it is “unsustainable.” (January 28, 2000)
By the mid-1990s, “Capitalism had created the mechanisms it needed to advance and grow unimpeded. The creation of purely imaginary wealth reached such an extent that there were examples of stocks whose value increased 800 times in a period of only eight years. It was like an enormous balloon that supposedly could inflate toward infinity.” (November 2, 2001)
“We did not take sides in the Cold War, nor was the Cold War our creation… We did not involve ourselves in the Cold War but it was the Cold War that became involved in the Cuban Revolution. It was the United States or the U.S. Administration that brought the Cold War to Cuba.” (March 19, 1998)
“The blockade… is a painful burden for each and every Cuban. The Third World nations, and most other UN member countries, have repeatedly demanded the lifting of the blockade” which is “by far the longest lasting in history.” (January 28, 2000)
“God is the supreme idea of goodness and justice. Those who fall for these causes on the soil of the motherland will go to God.” (December 16, 1954)
“What happened in Guatemala did not really come as a surprise to me, but it did very much anger us and it proved to us the impossibility of making profound social changes in the absence of a deep revolution. President Arbenz and his group in the country’s leadership were a team of progressive people who wanted to work for the Guatemalan people — for the most part very poor, indigenous people — and, actually, the basic measure they had taken was land reform.” (March 19, 1998)
“Despite experiences such as that of Arbenz in Guatemala, we believed that the age of direct intervention was definitely over.” (March 19, 1998)
Ernesto “Che” Guevara
“Che believed in man. And if we don’t believe in man, if we think that man is an incorrigible little animal, capable of advancing only if you feed him grass or tempt him with a carrot or whip him with a stick — anybody who believes this, anybody convinced of this will never be a revolutionary.” (October 8, 1987)
“Imperialism developed its armed forces for world domination; it has military bases in every corner of the earth, powerful naval and air fleets, millions of soldiers. Imperialism’s military conception was designed to impose its order on the world, to impose its peace, like the one called Pax Romana in ancient times; its military conception was designed to maintain its domination of the world. That is a reality and we must be realists.” (December 5, 1988)
“Imperialism practically tries to show socialism as something that has failed. They try to show it as a
system without a future; and they highlight to the utmost the so-called advantages of its selfish and repugnant capitalist system.” (December 5, 1988)
Latin America “is behind almost 200 years in its social development and political integration.” He laments that “in many of these countries a third of the population cannot read or write” and “millions” of people “lack even a roof to shelter them”, but “these countries are so highly indebted, their development is practically impossible.” Latin America “is a victim of the imposed international economic order”, which is “unsustainable.” Latin American countries “are seduced by the siren song of a hemispheric free trade agreement that emanates deceptive illusions of progress and development.” (January 28, 2000)
“Latin America will continue, under ever more intolerable conditions, to play the sad role of a supplier of raw materials and increasingly cheap labor… The Latin American nations will be compelled to become large free trade areas with low taxes or no taxes at all. These countries have already begun to compete with each other, seeking foreign investment at any cost.” (May 1, 2001)
Physical life is ephemeral, it passes inexorably. As have passed so many generations of men, soon each of us will pass as well. This truth should be taught to every human being, that the immortal values of the spirit are above physical life. What sense does life have without these values? What then is it to live? Those who understand this and generously sacrifice their physical life for the sake of good and justice — how can they die?” (December 16, 1954)
“The question of humanity’s survival is a problem that concerns us all; peace is a problem that concerns us all. But even survival and peace have different meanings for different countries. There are two types of survival and two types of peace: survival for the rich and survival for the poor, peace for the rich and peace for the poor.” (December 5, 1988)
“From a moral standpoint, his arrest and punishment are acts of justice. Fro ma legal standpoint, this action is questionable. Fro ma political standpoint, I think it is going to create a complicated situation in Chile, given the way in which the political process has developed there… Pinochet did not act alone. The president of the United States, his government, and the highest state authorities, made the decision to overthrow Allende the day he was elected. They allocated abundant funds for this purpose, and gave instructions to use any means possible, first, to prevent him from taking power, and second, to attempt to overthrow him throughout his term in office.” (April 28, 2001)
Castro believes “privatization should be carried out with a great deal of common sense and wisdom, avoiding irrational actions… one should not be simplistic.” In Cuba, “if something is possible and advisable to preserve as the property of the people or a collective of workers, it will not be privatized.” (January 28, 2000)
Propaganda “is the soul of every struggle. Ours must have its own style and adjust itself to the circumstances.” (April 17, 1954)
“One of my first activities at university was as a member of a committee for Puerto Rican independence. I had not yet studied Marxism, but an essentially nationalist and Latin American sentiment led me to support Albizu Campos in his struggle for the independence of Puerto Rico.” (March 19, 1998)
“The fact that our country — blocked by the empire for 30 years — has reached the social and material achievements it has reached, we owe that to Marxism-Leninism and Socialism… Socialism is, and will be, the hope, the only hope, path of the nations, the oppressed, and the exploited. Socialism is the only alternative.
Today, when the enemies question socialism, we must defend it more than ever–this is important… Socialism is a new system. It is only a few decades old. Mistakes have been made, yes, many mistakes,
all kinds of mistakes throughout its history. This was logical and unavoidable. We must learn our lessons from all these mistakes in order to avoid them.” (December 5, 1988)
“Socialism has not yet found the formula for preventing teenage marriages. It tries to promote sexual education, it teaches, educates the young.” (January 4, 1989)
“Capitalism was invented by history with spontaneous laws, while socialism must be the product of planned work.” (January 4, 1989)
“When the people were asked if they wanted agrarian reform, they said yes. They also agreed on the need to lower rents and carry out urban reform. Similarly, the people agreed on the need to establish agrarian reform, to release peasants from the payment of rent, and to rid them of exploiting intermediaries. When asked if public services, such as telephone, energy, and transportation, should be owned by the people, they
agreed. But when some citizens were asked if they would accept socialism, they said no, because they did not know the nature of either communism of socialism. Our people’s minds were saturated with this propaganda. A large number of the people rejected socialism and communism without even knowing what they were.” (January 8, 1989)
“I am more convinced than ever that it makes a great deal of sense.” The socialism of 1990 “needed to be improved, but not destroyed.” (January 28, 2000)
“No one can deny that terrorism constitutes today a dangerous and ethically indefensible phenomenon that should be eradicated, in the face of its deep origins and the economic and political factors that brought it and those responsible for it to life… All of us have been ordered to ally either with the U.S. Government, or with terrorism. Cuba, with the moral right that comes from being the country that has suffered the most and the longest from terrorist actions, the one whose people are not afraid of anything, because there is no threat or power in the world that can intimidate it, proclaims that it is opposed to terrorism, and opposed to war… Whatever happens, the territory of Cuba will never be used for terrorist actions against the U.S. people and we will do everything within our reach to prevent such actions against that people.” (September 22, 2001)
“This is not a war against terrorism… it is a war in favor of terrorism, since the military operations will make it more complicated and difficult to eradicate terrorism. War is like pouring oil on the flames.” (October 8, 2001)
“I consider its structure an anachronism… it is essential to reestablish the organization.” Castro believes “the members should be truly united by genuinely humane and far-reaching objectives. All of the member countries, big and small, developed and underdeveloped, should have the real possibility of making their voices heard. The United Nations should constitute a great meeting place, where all views can be expressed and discussed. It should operate on truly democratic bases.” (January 28, 2000)
Castro believes “the basic role of the United Nations in the pressing new century is to save the world not only from war but also from underdevelopment, hunger, disease, poverty and the destruction of natural resources indispensable to human life.” Of course, it is failing in this role. (September 6, 2000)
The United Nations, as it is today, “is a system of domination over almost every country in the world by a small number of powerful nations, which under the aegis of the United States — the most powerful nation of all — decide everything on our planet.” (September 7, 2000)
“They are the only ones in the world who are entitled to have troops everywhere, weapons eveywhere, bases everywhere.” (December 5, 1988)
“The United States, such a vocal advocate of multiparty systems, has two parties that are so perfectly similar in their methods, objectives and goals that they have practically created the most perfect one-party system in the world. Over 50 percent of the people in that ‘democratic country’ do not even cast a vote, and the team that manages to raise the most funds often wins, with the votes of only 25 percent of the electorate. The political system is undermined by disputes, vanity and personal ambition or by interest groups operating within the established economic and social model, and there is no real alternative for a change in the system.” (January 28, 2000)
Castro, Fidel. In Defense of Socialism: Four Speeches on the 30th Anniversary of the Cuban Revolution (Fidel Castro Speeches, Vol. 4, 1988-89) Pathfinder Press, 1989.
Castro, Fidel. The Prison Letters of Fidel Castro Nation Books, 2007.
Castro, Fidel. War, Racism and Economic Justice: The Global Ravages of Capitalism. Ocean Press, 2002.