December 2016        

Outpouring of love and grief for Fidel

Seán Joseph Clancy

The scenes of mass love and grief being expressed all around Cuba following the death of the revolutionary leader Fidel Castro Ruz should finally put to rest any doubts that may have lingered in some quarters about the legitimacy of his mandate while in power and the esteem in which he was held by his people throughout his long and charmed life.
     Of course they won’t.
     The truth about this giant of a man and the validity of the revolution he assisted his compatriots to construct is simply too inconvenient and potentially dangerous for the peddlers of lies that pass as news media and information agencies to report fairly upon.
     As I write, world leaders have gathered in front of the José Martí Memorial at Revolution Plaza in Havana to pay homage to a man more revered and respected globally than even Nelson Mandela was.
     What most people outside Cuba have not managed to fully grasp, however, is that the Cuban socialist project is not—and never was—an expression of “Fidelism” or “Castroism.” It is something that runs much deeper and is of the people of this island themselves.
     Fidel was its facilitator, Martí its primary intellectual author, and Cuba itself its ultimate creator.
     Although the immense majority of Cuban men, women and children are committed and proud Fidelistas, the political system and future of the Revolution are no less certain or secure today than they were prior to the physical departure of their beloved Comandante.
     There is a stability, serenity, sadness and stoicism in the air, and there is far less anxiety here now than, for example, there was when Fidel became ill almost a decade ago and it became clear that he could not continue in public life.
     The Cuban people as a whole—and I do not use the generalisation lightly, but those outside the fold represent less than the standard margin for error in any poll—are grieving for what each and every one perceived as a cherished parent to whom they were connected personally and to whom they owe a debt of personal gratitude and love.
     Most people not directly affected in this manner have no way to identify with or understand this.
     Although known to everybody as Fidelito, my six-year-old son is named Josef Fidel on his birth certificate. I did this in case he might in the future consider it a burden to carry such an obvious identification of his father’s political affiliations.
     My home is a political home, and the Cuban Five (both before and since their liberation) in particular and revolutionary politics in general have formed part of the atmosphere in which he has been raised. But I am careful not to overtly politicise my son. More because he is Cuban than because he is my offspring, he felt, in his own right, a deep sadness when he heard Fidel Castro had died. Without any prompting, and to my pride-tinted surprise, he stood in front of the television set that was showing a series of images of the man he considered to be benevolent, kind, caring and relevant to his very young life, he raised his right hand to his forehead in the manner in which schoolchildren here salute their national flag every morning, and he sang the Cuban national anthem as best he could.
     It was a moving moment. It emphasised for me also, despite living here for most of twenty years now, despite my revolutionary fervour and commitment, despite being integrated in life and society here in a manner few immigrants are anywhere, the fact that I am not Cuban and that there is a unique dimension that existed—and that will eternally exist—between the Cuban people and their heroic Comandante.
     They trusted him to lead them in their remarkable and noble struggle to form a worthy republic from the blood-stained ashes left by the brutal Batista dictatorship and in the thousand battles they fought against the incessant endeavours of their murderous US imperialist foe to defend their sacred right to self-determination, political sovereignty, and independence. He did so with dignity, grace, authority, courage, and also vast reserves of cunning and wisdom until his dying day.
     In his address from the dock during his trial for the prophetic assault on the Moncada Barracks in Santiago de Cuba in 1953—where he has now been laid at last to rest—Fidel famously said that the court could condemn him, because history would absolve him. History has done so one hundred times, one hundred times over. This is known to everybody here and to all truthful, reasonable, right-minded and decent men and women of good will everywhere.
     And in the days that directly follow his sad passing, the illegitimate and morally bereft kangaroo courts of neo-liberal print-rag and media can find the man they could never defeat or defy guilty if they wish on the same trumped-up charges they always cite when faced with the terrible threats posed to them by justice, love, and truth . . . because History will absolve him.
     Hasta siempre, beloved Comandante.
     —Seán

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