20 November, 2019

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January 1st 2019 – 60th Anniversary: The Cuban Revolution At 60

By Dayan Jayatilleka

Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

Jan 1st marks the 60th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution; 60 years of the revolutionary Cuba that we have known. The Cuban revolution was a pure revolution, the purest revolution we have seen. By pure I do not mean a revolution that was marked by purges and internal bloodletting in the name of a fanatical, fundamentalist revolutionary purity. By ‘pure’ I mean that the Cuban revolution was the most ethical revolution in the world.  

It was a revolution that triumphed through a revolutionary guerrilla war and urban armed actions, but consciously and conspicuously avoided the targeting of civilians and even hitting targets at times and places where there would be civilian casualties. 

It was a revolution that was conspicuous in its treatment of captives; of captive soldiers, who were almost always released by the Rebel Army. This went hand in hand with the execution of known torturers, murderers, and rapists. The Revolution, during its guerrilla war was both tough and scrupulous in its dispensation of justice. 

It was a revolution that unlike all other revolutions “did not devour its own children” as Fidel remarked, in an allusion to the myth of Saturn which had devoured its own children. Even in its most radical phase in the 1960s, the Cuban revolution’s process of radicalization did not entail the ‘terror’ that had marked all revolutions since the French Revolution itself.  The Cuban Revolution was Jacobin, even Bolshevik, without the Great Terror.

There were 600 attempts, mostly foreign inspired, to assassinate Fidel Castro. In any other country a mere fraction of that number of murder plots would have resulted in a savage crackdown, paranoia and self-isolation, but not so in the case of Cuba. Quite obviously none of the plots succeeded, but neither did Cuba become a sealed-off society.

For almost 60 years, since the Revolution was one year old, Cuba has been the victim of an economic embargo or blockade at the hands of the world’s sole superpower. And yet, Cuba has free healthcare and education, advanced medical research that has produced anti-cancer drugs, doctors who work in the poorest areas of the world, literacy programs that are in use even in New Zealand, vibrant art, admirable training in ballet and music and dance of all kinds, and soldiers who have volunteered to fight for just causes in many countries. Few countries have suffered the sustained economic adversity that Cuba has and almost none have been as self- sacrificial in the cause of people’s welfare, justice and liberation the world over, as has Cuba. 

Though Cuba has fought wars and battles in many countries, and had four hundred thousand troops fighting on the African continent of which over three hundred thousand served in Angola for 12 years, never has Cuba been accused of war crimes or crimes against humanity, even by its enemies, rivals and detractors. This is because the humanistic ethics that the Cuban Revolution observed from the earliest days of the revolutionary war on its own soil was applied by its Revolutionary Armed Forces whenever it fought overseas as well. 

Apart from its generosity and self-sacrifice, what is perhaps most admirable about Cuba is the excellence of its diplomacy. Since 1992, Cuba has moved a resolution against the economic embargo, in the UN General Assembly. As the Cuban Ambassador to Moscow confirmed, the late Prof Miguel Alfonso Martinez, with whom I was privileged to have had the warmest friendship, was one of the architects of the Cuban Resolution at the UN in 1992, which has always won with a huge majority that increases each year. In 2018, 189 countries voted in favor of the Cuban resolution with only two states, the USA and Israel, voting against!

The secret of Cuba’s diplomacy is a combination of an assertive foreign policy and a global diplomatic presence and participation; committed, indefatigable, knowledgeable and skillful, even masterly, diplomats; the cultivation of solidarity among the intelligentsia and the young throughout the world including in the United States; openness to the Western media and dynamic participation in and through that media; and finally, an easily defensible record of achievement and practice and the adoption of a stand on the basis of reasoned argument and values that are not culturally circumscribed and narcissistically self-referential but universally recognizable as progressive, humane and humanistic. 

Cuba is a larger island than Sri Lanka but with a smaller population. It exists 90 miles from the mightiest military and economic power ever seen in world history; a power which has been ceaselessly hostile – barring a short exception in the closing stages of the previous Presidency—to revolutionary Cuba. Cuba survives because its adversary knows that any military action will be resisted by every adult Cuban and will cost more casualties than are tolerable by public opinion. It is also known that Cuba enjoys such prestige and attracts such sentiments internationally that there would be rebellion in parts of Latin America, and that throughout the world, most people, including many in the adversary’s society itself, would oppose such aggression, as would a majority of the world’s countries. 

Perhaps the definitive evaluation summing up the quintessence of Cuba and why the whole world should stand up and applaud it should be left to Nelson Mandela: 

“We admire the sacrifices of the Cuban people in maintaining their independence and sovereignty in the face of a vicious, imperialist-orchestrated campaign,” Mandela told a rally at which he was Castro’s honored guest. “We, too, want to control our own destiny”… “The most important lesson that you have for us is that no matter what the odds, no matter what difficulties you have had to struggle under, there can be no surrender,” he added. “It is a case of freedom or death.” During his visit, Mandela…said the Cuban army’s resistance of invading South African forces in Angola during the 1970s and ’80s had strengthened the anti-apartheid cause and led indirectly to his freedom. “We are now being advised about Cuba by people who have supported the apartheid regime these last 40 years,” he declared. “No honorable man or woman could ever accept advice from people who never cared for us at the most difficult times.”  (Richard Boudreaux, LA Times) 

Michael Moore made a movie of the firemen who fought the flames on 9/11 and survived but could not afford the healthcare in the USA to treat the serious ailments they had contracted. They went over to Cuba and were treated free of charge and returned home, testifying on camera in Moore’s movie. 

90 miles from the hostile superpower, and with a 60 year economic embargo, Cuba has built an alternative society; a society that is vibrant, expressive, generous and solidaristic. Cuba has shown that there is another way of being in the world – patriotic and internationalist, organically popular and noble. 

When he arrived in triumph in Havana travelling across Cuba from the mountains 60 years ago, Fidel Castro addressed a huge crowd on January 2nd, and while he spoke, three white doves appeared in the sky, circled Fidel, and perched on his shoulder and the lectern. Then, as Prof Emeritus at the University of New Mexico, Nelson Valdes recounts, thirty years later, with socialism collapsing the Eastern Europe and about to do so in the USSR, while Fidel addressed another huge crowd in the same place and defiantly declared that Cuba would remain socialist and its revolutionary leaders would remain Communist (the brand new Cuban Constitutional draft embeds Communism as the “aspirational ideal”) a white dove landed again where Fidel was speaking! As Prof Valdes observes, on both occasions, the deeply religious (an Afro-Catholic syncretism) Cuban people were sure that they knew what the symbolism was. Whether intended or not, the Cuban ethos is (to my mind), the product of the fusion of revolutionary communism and a Christian formation. I would even go further and say that Cuba is the best example of a society which embodies truly Christian ethics and values; it is the living example of what an authentically Christian society would be like.

*The writer is author of Fidel’s Ethics of Violence: The Moral Dimension of the Political Thought of Fidel Castro, Pluto Press London 2007, distributed by the University of Chicago Press Books.

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Latest comments

  • 12
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    CT

    The public racist types:

    “It was a revolution that unlike all other revolutions “did not devour its own children” as Fidel remarked,”

    Of course it did not because lot of the male, female, and young left the country and researched Capitalist USA.
    Cuban population in USA grew from 79,000 in 1960 to 1,272,000 in 2016.
    Arrival peaked in 1980 to 124,800 boat people, …………………… between 1995 and 2015 about 650,000 …. 24,300 in 2014, ….. 56,400 in 2016, …………………..

    If the revolution was so good why don’t the millions of Sri Lankans seek asylum in Cuba?
    Perhaps the public racist could be enlightened there.

    • 13
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      NV: Would you please just leave DJ alone so he may write more about Cuba, a country of which he knows much. That way, we can hope he will write less about Sri Lanka, our country of which he knows nothing. Happy New Year.

      • 7
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        Tee Twenty

        Happy New Year

        “Would you please just leave DJ alone so he may write more about Cuba, a country of which he knows much.”

        Where did you get the idea he knows much about Cuba?
        Alright what is the guarantee he would write more about Cuba and much less about Sri Lanka?

        • 9
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          Aiyo Vedda: he is writing about the revolution, the hospitals, the schools, art, culture, military, American interference, 600 assassination attempts, helping out with the military in far away places (without raping young women there)… he does know much. True, several Cubans also ran away, but that is no different from Gota getting dual / American citizenship, no — exercising patriotism from the land of freedom, opportunity and dreams! Also, there is no guarantee of anything in this world, Vedda, but those of us drowning can clutch onto straws, can’t we?

    • 8
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      Native Vedda,
      For this terrorist racist,
      The 500 million bribe Paid by former President and 50 days illegal fake PM to some UNP MPs and some TNA MPs is a revolution. The illegal political coup by Sirisena & Mahinda was revolution. White Van abduction and murders including his best friend Lasantha was a revolution. The $20 billion commission from China is a revolution. The murder of the Rugby Playaer was a revolution.
      I don’t know how much bribe deal between him and Sirisena?

    • 6
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      Dayan my man,

      Why do you waste valuable web-space writing about all these supposedly “great men” when you have let yourself turn into a insignificant pipsqueak? Haven’t you learned anything from your “greats?”

      Here’s your new year resolution! Turn yourself into a great; your time starts now.

      If ye do ……. when your time is up I’ll write your epitaph ……… one like yours for good ol’ comrade Fidel.

      See …….. in this new year we are all trying to be nice to ya!


      Right now I can only write ………… Dayan was ……………………………………………………………..

      • 6
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        nimal fernando

        Be warned, the public racist too have one person fanclub. Please read what Tee Twenty has typed above.

        Wish you a happy peaceful, non violent, secular, …………………………. productive, prosperous, new year.

        • 1
          2

          NAtive Vedda: Is a Tamil. It looks the former Eastern provincual council memer did not treat NAtive SEN VEDDA”s caste properly.

        • 4
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          Wish you the same; Native!

          “non violent”

          I’m as non violent as they come …………..but understand violence and write about it!

        • 0
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          Fanclub, you say? Read again. Slowly!
          (OK, next time I will write in more explicit Vedda language.)

  • 1
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    From a facebook status in Nov 2016:
    “When Fidel Castro visited Sri Lanka sometime in the 70’s, an imaginative Jaffna farmer sent him a 24” cigar as a gift, which made sense because Jaffna produced some of the finest tobacco then, and some Jaffna men had a sense of humor and wide awareness of the world. [“OMG, mercifully that wasn’t Bill,” remarked a young lady from a mischief-making neighbouring country which so much wanted to get rid of him, using all possible dirty tricks in the book which it practised all over the world, Latin America in particular. ]
    Despite some of your harsh methods, you were a teenage inspiration. Adios comrade!”

    • 0
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      ST
      Comparing tobaccos is like comparing mangoes.
      Jaffna mangoes are good, but one dare not make that claim on the other side of the waters.
      *
      “Despite some of your harsh methods…”
      If not for the ‘harsh’ methods, the Cuban revolution would have died prematurely in the hands of MM’s “mischief-making neighbouring country “.

  • 9
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    Utter rubbish, this man too a bit mental like his boss Sirisena. Man, you were writing as if you were in action in Havana during the time of Fidel, and seen all well and live. Man, per DJ, Fidel was kind and gentle to his people and treated them with kid gloves. That’s the reason thousands of Cubans braving for their lives, took all the risks, and took the hash and dangerous sea route to the US, Canada etc. Man, Fidel was a brute dictator, and all kinds of provocations to his rule was brutally crushed, in that process thousands of them were incarcerated and perished. Man, don’t ever try to white washed these brutal dictators and their bloody revolutions. They all were the same. If he was a good leader, he should have handed over the power to someone else instead of his own brother. This says all about their damn revolution, it’s a cover to serve themselves rather than to serve their people. Also please stop your nonsense that you only know everything others are damn idiots muts.

  • 7
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    Luckily “THE DEAD” cannot hear what this “Dr. DJ” says of the 60th Anniversary of the Cuban Revolution. If not Late Fidel Castro and his comrades would rise from where they are and stage another “Revolution” against Sri Lanka for allowing a man like “Dr. DJ” to commemorate their Historic Day. Another “Hidden Agenda’ of “Dr. DJ”?

  • 3
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    Bogus Dr Dayan – Pack your bags, Ranil Sir wants you back. Avoid restricted areas in Moscow until then. BTW bring some “capsules” for lunatic President Sillysena for immediate consumption.

  • 0
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    I think their future plans are presenting SArath Fonseka s the presiential candidate. SAjith say he wants to be the one. Navin dissanayake thunk the same. Mahinda Rajapakse was intelligent than Chavez. Sri Lanka should watch what happened and how it happened in Bangladesh. The opposition is screaming. Oretega was smart. Fortunately, UN – BOSS did not come. Probably he knew what happened to their country. I hear even some western countries are fed up of NEo-Libefal economy. They may like Europea Social welfare economy.

  • 4
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    Dayan, thanks for not writing about Sri Lankan politics over the last few weeks ! What a break for the CT readers! Please maintain this .
    Jayananda

  • 2
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    A different attempt by self-professed Smart Patriotic Social Democrat, but in reality a war criminals’ campaign manager. This man follows opposite of Cuban diplomatic model and badly mishandled the War Crimes of Lankawe in May 2009 in UNHRC and now has misfired on his boss. How his boss had to for Constitutional Coup to escape out of it. After seeing being completely discarded as rotten case by almost all readers, whether left or right, Thero now appears to be trying to salvage his image. He has tried hard on sticking to his topic, instead throwing filth on standbys.

    Lankawe Rapist Army is listed as one of the army in the world use rape as a weapon. As recently as four weeks ago rapist army shot two policemen in Tamils area and creating a story of LTTE is back. Two weeks ago they broke Buddhist statues in Mawanella and using Muslims boys to framing them as extremist. A little earlier to these Rapist Army and its master published a letter saying TNA and UNP had made a deal, forging Sampanthar’s and Ranil’s signatures.

    As a cover-up to all those, the Cuban Communist is trying to publish a few of 35,000 women fame Castro’s publicity stunts to whitewash Lankawe Rapist Army’s Crimes. Maruseki Darusman and his fellow Experts have said at least 40,000 innocents Tamils were purposefully murdered by Lankawe government. Lankawe has dodged for 10 years investigating its war without witness War Crimes. In that condition, recently Lankawe voted to hold the capital punishments in UN. We know how oppressive rule the Filthy Castro imposed over its Cuban citizens and how much international fake public stunts he was doing. America and Israel opposed or not international inquiries on Israel, but they are excellent democratic models for their own citizens. Never any communist countries have ever come even near to the 1/1 millionth of them.

  • 2
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    One wonders why Dayan Jayatilleka chose to omit/ignore the brutality of the then government of Cuban President Fulgencio Batista. This man got in through a coup. To support his lavish lifestyle, he actively linked with organised criminals, allowed US companies to ‘own’ the economy.
    The then social activist Fidel Castro petitioned the Cuban courts for removal of Batista whom he accused of corruption and tyranny. When all peaceful/legal avenues failed, Fidel decided to launch an ARMED revolution.
    .
    This may remind Dayan of the days when you were in the Tamil liberation movement EPRLF.

  • 2
    1

    after the revolution many innocent people were killed on fake information
    che was disgusted at these doings and left cuba for south america
    there was nothing ethical in this like in all other revolutions
    dayans knowledge of history
    is pretty poor

    • 3
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      n,
      If you like to believe all the fake news on Cuba by the US mainstream media, please yourself.
      *
      Cuba has done very well for its people despite 50 years of US sanctions besides a string of criminal actions ranging from countless failed murder attempts on Castro to the failed Bay of Pigs attack as well as other slightly more successful forms of criminal warfare.
      People in Cuba enjoy better health, education and safety from natural disaster than those in the US (but for the wealthy few percent).
      *
      It is a pity that it is DJ who is writing on Cuba, and his lack of credibility hurts Cuba.

  • 1
    2

    Your statement Dayan ~ “………It was a revolution that was conspicuous in its treatment of captives; of captive soldiers, who were almost always released by the Rebel Army. This went hand in hand with the execution of known torturers, murderers, and rapists. The Revolution, during its guerrilla war was both tough and scrupulous in its dispensation of justice…….”.
    This is certainly not tongue-in-cheek which are made by the above average. Sounds LTTEish.

    • 0
      0

      KP,
      “LTTEish?”
      You cannot be serious.
      Please ask the victims (or next of kin) if you truly seek the truth.

  • 2
    1

    I am living in USA over 44 years and I have hundreds of Cuban friends and my relatives from Canada go Cuba because it is very cheap. I could not go because I am a US citizen. Both Sri Lankan and Cuban American complain about the powerty in Cuba. Only Sri Lankan’s think that Cuba is a patadize.

  • 1
    0

    Cuba has a lot to be desired. Are Currently and better off than Mexico or Canada? If they sold their souls they would be like Hawaii, so it’s a case of what you prefer, a well fed slave or a hungry freeman

  • 1
    0

    V,
    A vast majority of Cubans seem to be satisfied with their existence.
    Besides, the poor in Cuba are far better off the the poor in the US.
    *
    You perhaps do not know that Cuba’s poverty is mainly the result of US sanctions and other hostile acts.
    Yet Cuba has achieved great heights in education and health, and much more in social services than its richer counterparts in Latin America and the Caribbean.

    • 1
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      SJ

      “Yet Cuba has achieved great heights in education and health, and much more in social services than its richer counterparts in Latin America and the Caribbean.”

      Only true until about the early 1990s. Cuba was able to sustain its social programmes with the economic support of the USSR.

      Cambodia under Pol Pot too achieved giddying height in its development so did China. Without the support of USSR, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, … China would not have achieved what and where it is now.

      Dictators never allowed the people to unleash/realise their full potential.

      All right you can accuse me of being petit bourgeois, counter revolutionary, reactionary, neo liberal, traitor to the cause, ….. please put all their achievements in perspective and the freedom they never had.

      Here is a quote from late Tony Benn, five questions on power:

      “What power have you got?

      “Where did you get it from?

      “In whose interests do you use it?

      “To whom are you accountable?

      “How do we get rid of you?”

      “Anyone who cannot answer the last of those questions does not live in a democratic system.”

      Well keep the leaders where they belonged to, the day before they captured power.

  • 1
    0

    DJ, Be honest. Just like me you like those cigars while sipping wine with it, you pretend to revoke some memories of your Pseudo Heroes. Nothing wrong. One has to do what it takes to make a living and stay put as free lance writer???? of some importance. DJ, let me tell you some thing of great interest to you. I use to work with a lady doctor(my boss ) who escaped from Cuba with her family and settled in New York. During the four years of internship I heard enough and more about Fidel and what he did to his country and people. So Comrade (Hi Hi Hi sounds funny no ) lets face reality. Fidel, and Che are only good to be seen in wall posters, which are mostly fashion statements in student dormitories . ( I am revolutionist that makes me special ). Bro you know what I mean isn,t it. So shut the f—- UP.

  • 0
    0

    Thank You Good Lord for giving me opportunities like travelling to Venezuela and meeting real Cubans to learn about their past. Otherwise I may be one of those reading and believing in what ever crap you keep dishing in these forums.

  • 0
    0

    I guess ‘Fidel’s Ethics of Violence: The Moral Dimensions of the Political Thought of Fidel Castro’ must be one of the most useless theses, literally, ever to be written in the history of mankind. This is what could happen when a very bright person such as Dayan loses their moral compass, convictions and rationality, and indulges in ‘fashion politics’ from a very young age. Unless they regain their senses quickly, they end up wondering directionless turning in a different direction at every corner, producing crap of no use to anyone along the way. What a waste of talent.

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