On December 2, 1956, Fidel Castro and 81 armed guerrillas, having trained in Mexico and having traveled by sea for seven days, disembarked from the yacht Granma in a remote area of eastern Cuba, with the intention of establishing an armed struggle in the mountains known as the Sierra Maestra. It was a total disaster. The Granma arrived two days behind schedule, thus undermining the strategy of a simultaneous uprising in Santiago de Cuba, intended to distract Batista’s army. As the rebels disembarked, they encountered swampland so difficult that they had to abandon most of their weapons. Three days later, they were surprised and routed by Batista’s army, dispersing in small groups and in different directions. When twelve of them were able to regroup under the protection of a local peasant, Fidel was jubilant. “We will win the war,” he declared. “Let us begin the struggle!” As described Universo Sanchez, one of the twelve, it was “faith that moves mountains” (Vitier 2006:195-97).
The faith of Fidel is not, observes Cintio Virtier, “a religious faith in supernatural powers, but a revolutionary faith in the potentialities of the human being.” It is an “uncontainable force” that “sees in history what is not yet visible” (2006:197).
Virtier maintains that such faith proceeds from and is fed by three sources: “a moral conviction that defends the cause of justice; profound confidence in the human being; and the highest examples in human history.” And such faith is integrally tied to a dynamic view of human history and human being: “for the revolutionary, it is not a matter of history been but of history being, where the highest examples continue acting; not of a stagnant and fixed human being but of the human being becoming, in evolution.” And this becoming is above all “oriented toward duty” (2006:198; italics in original).
The unshakable faith of Fidel, “contagious, irradiating and attracting with the moral magnetism of heroism, . . . became a live experience in the terrain of the struggle itself.” Whereas the skepticism of the theoreticians could see only the objective conditions and the correlation of forces, revolutionary faith sees the possibility of changing the objective conditions and the correlation of forces, following the highest examples in human history. And this faith would be fed by the evolving social dynamics in which it was acting: the rebel army in the mountains and the clandestine struggle in the cities were creating new objective conditions (Vitier 2006:197-98).
Vitier believes that the revolutionary faith of Fidel saved the revolution from falling once again into the abyss of the impossible, in which its fulfillment seemed impossible. Fidel was driven by a faith that was “nurtured by analysis” and that therefore could discern the reality hidden by the perception of the impossibility of things, and it could discern that what appeared to be impossible was, in reality, possible and attainable (2006:198).
After the imposition of the neoliberal project on the world, the collapse of the socialist bloc in Eastern Europe, and the advent of the “special period” in Cuba, Fidel would frequently proclaim: “No one has the right to be indifferent to the suffering of others;” and “No one has the right to lose faith in the future of humanity.” These declarations go against bourgeois democratic concepts of freedom of thought and freedom of expression. Fidel believes that people do not have the right to think and say anything they want. The freedoms of thought and expression, for Fidel, are intertwined with duty: a duty to be concerned with the well-being of others, and a duty to have faith in the possibility of constructing a better world. To live any other way is not really to live; it is a debasement of our humanity. For Fidel, conformity to duty is the essence of human life and human fulfillment, not the possession of property, material things, and consumer goods. In his view, the kind of human being that capitalism seeks to create is a degradation of the human being; socialism, in contrast, seeks to create a new kind of person, who lives in solidarity with others, a kind of person that up to now has been exemplified by a minority and has existed in the majority in the form of human potentiality.
We have seen in previous posts that revolutionary processes are characterized by the emergence of charismatic leaders (see various posts on charismatic leaders). These charismatic leaders possess gifts that are recognized by the people. In the case of Fidel, we have seen that these gifts include an extraordinary intellectual capacity and exceptional moral commitment, which enabled him to formulate, on a basis of intellectual work and political practice, a dynamic perspective that possesses both general theoretical understanding and concrete common sense understanding and that discerns the movement of the revolution through stages (see “The Moncada program for the people” 9/5/2014; “Reflections on “History will absolve me” 9/8/2014). We can now add the gift of an unshakable revolutionary faith that, based on observation of the unfolding correlation of forces, sees the possibilities for the creation of new objective conditions, on a foundation of courageous action, in the tradition of the highest examples in human history. The “highest examples in human history” are the charismatic leaders of the past, who are still present, for their teachings, their example, and their spirit of struggle are an integral part of our reality. In this sense, Fidel will be with us always.
Vitier, Cintio. 2006. Ese Sol del Mundo Moral. La Habana: Editorial Félix Varela.
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