Fidel was an educator of the people. His long discourses were dedicated to the formation of historical, political, and social consciousness with respect to Cuba, its conflict with the United States, the meaning of socialism and revolution, and the structures and dynamics of a neocolonized world. His teachings were central to the formation of a vanguard from the people, formalized in the Communist Party of Cuba, which has the duty of educating and leading the people, and exemplifying revolutionary conduct. In addition, it has the duty of listening to the people, responding to their needs and aspirations, and to accomplish this, it must live and work among the people, never constituting itself as a separate social class.
The vanguard formed by Fidel is impressive. Its members are dedicated professionals and workers, who live and work among the people, from which they emerged and took their first steps in revolutionary consciousness. Regardless of area of specialization or work, they are broadly and well informed about the historic struggle of the nation for true sovereignty and social transformation, and they are knowledgeable with respect to global structures of imperialism and neocolonialism. They are committed to the revolution, and they have dedicated their lives to it. They comprise perhaps fifteen to twenty-five percent of the people.
The people, unlike the vanguard, have less internalized their teachers’ lessons. Many do not have mastery of the historical developments and theoretical concepts that they have been taught in school. They therefore are less likely to understand the factors that gave rise to the material hardships of the 1990s, following the collapse of the Soviet Union and Eastern European socialism. And they are less likely do understand the causes of the economic difficulties today, which exist in spite of the remarkable economic recovery of the last twenty-five years. For example, they do not always understand why Cubans cannot have material comforts on a level equal to the consumer societies of North, which are very visible to them through tourism, the emigration of family members, and the internet. The dynamics of economic crisis combined with a recovery fueled in part by tourism and family remittances create a challenging environment for the formation of revolutionary consciousness, and confusion is more likely for those who are less armed with knowledge. So there has emerged in Cuba during the past twenty-five years a more clearly visible distinction between the vanguard and the people.
But the people, in spite of their limitations, understand enough to appreciate the excellent and universally accessible systems of education, health, culture, and sport; the legitimacy of the Cuban political system of popular power and popular democracy, an alternative to the undignified spectacle of representative “democracy” in other nations; the exceptional understanding and commitment of Fidel; and the outstanding qualities of most members of the Cuban Communist Party as hardworking, committed, and responsible citizens. And they understand that the powerful forces of imperialism in the world, in spite of their claims of support for the Cuban people, do not have the slightest concern with their needs or welfare. These qualities of the people are the reason for the persistence of the Cuban socialist project, a phenomenon that has been recognized by the peoples and governments of Latin America.
Whereas Fidel was the exceptional popular educator that has formed a revolutionary vanguard and a revolutionary people, Raúl has assumed a different role. He served as second in command for many years, and when Fidel stepped down for health reasons, Raúl was named President of the Council of State. Declaring it to be his final task, Raúl has led the nation in the final steps of a transition from a revolution led by a charismatic leader to a revolution led by a vanguard party. The transition was initiated in the 1960s, with the first steps in the formation of a vanguard party through the uniting of revolutionary organizations. In the future, there possibly could emerge in Cuba another charismatic leader, who would lead the revolution to a more advanced stage, on the basis of new international and national developments, with a new direction that would nonetheless be based on the foundation established by the unfolding revolutionary process from 1868 to the present. However, at the present time, rather than expecting or anticipating another charismatic leader, Cuba is moving toward collective rule by the Party, with the support and participation of the people, institutionalized in the form of various popular mass organizations. This political system of popular democracy and popular power was established by the Cuban Constitution of 1976, and it is an alternative to representative democracy, which is increasingly falling into decadence.
His speech at the Fifteenth Summit of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA for its initials in Spanish) was vintage Rául. Reading from a prepared text, he succinctly and clearly condemned the imperialist and interventionist policies of the United States against Venezuela and progressive governments in Latin America, and he affirmed Cuba’s unequivocal support for the Bolivarian Revolution and for the government of Venezuela and its president Nicolás Maduro. The full text of his discourse can be found at Raul Castro Speech on ALBA, March 5, 2018.
Cuba is presently celebrating its 2017-18 General Elections of Popular Power. The third round of elections in the process will be held on this coming Sunday, March 11, when the delegates of the fifteen Provincial Assemblies of Popular Power and the deputies of the National Assembly of Popular Power will be elected. The National Assembly of Popular Power will convene on April 19, and it will elect the thirty-one members of the Council of State and Ministers, including its President. Raúl has publically stated that he will not continue as President of the Council of State following the completion of his current term.
Raúl can retire with the satisfaction that he has completed his final task and revolutionary duty. In leading the people in the final moments of transition to collective leadership, Raúl has completed the final steps in the fulfillment of the promise by Fidel to the people. He leaves the continued evolution of the revolutionary project in the hands of the vanguard and the people, who have been formed as a revolutionary vanguard and revolutionary people by Fidel.