Fidel Castro: 1926-2016

Fidel pointing

‘I am a Marxist-Leninist and I shall be a Marxist-Leninist until the day I die.’ – Fidel Castro after the defeat of the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961.

On 25 November, Fidel Castro Ruz, Commander in Chief of the Cuban Revolution, died aged 90. The Revolutionary Communist Group pays tribute to this great revolutionary communist and sends condolences to his family, the Cuban people and those millions of people from every region of the world who claimed Fidel as their own.

The news comes three months after Fidel’s 90th birthday was celebrated in Cuba and internationally. As we said at that time: ‘His longevity is a source of comfort and pride.’ Fidel risked his life on the front line in Cuba’s revolutionary armed struggle against the Batista dictatorship in the 1950s, he faced hundreds of assassination attempts and acts of terrorism over the subsequent 50 years, and he pulled through a grave illness which took him to death’s door in 2006. And yet, he died a natural death in peace in Havana, having seen off nine hostile US Presidents. Cuba faces many challenges today, with economic changes underway and the restoration of diplomatic relations with the United States, but the revolutionary society built under Fidel’s leadership remains solid, as does the political commitment to the path of socialist development he led it down following the Revolution of 1959.

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Cuban revolutionary scientific advances continue

cim researcher holding vaccine super

Despite the US blockade and other attempts to undermine the socialist revolution, Cuba has continued its phenomenal scientific and medical progress. ELAM, Cuba’s Latin American School of Medicine, is now the world’s biggest medical school and has graduated over 25,000 doctors from low-income backgrounds, from 84 countries mainly in Latin America, Asia and Africa, to serve in disadvantaged, neglected communities. Cuba continues to develop innovative biotechnology products to improve the quality of life of Cubans and other people around the world. Cuban biotechnology products are exported to more than 50 countries and earn Cuba over $300 million annually. Charles Chinweizu reports.

Cuban biotech

By 2012, Cuba had produced 33 different vaccines, 33 anti-cancer drugs, 18 products to treat cardiovascular disease and seven to treat other diseases (Baden, Davis, Wilkinson, 2015, http://bit.ly/1OpOfLh). In December 2012 Cuba’s biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries were merged into a single 100% state-owned entity BioCubaFarma, to combine and focus efforts to improve Cuban health and generate exportable good and services. Cuba has developed a raft of innovative unique drugs. It is the first country to develop two therapeutic vaccines against lung cancer, a disease that causes 1.3 million deaths globally each year: CimavaxEGF and Racotumomab (Vaxira) were developed at the Center for Molecular Immunology (CIM) in Havana in 2008 and 2013 respectively. 5,000 patients worldwide have been treated with CimaVaxEGF which has no known side effects and costs the Cuban government $1 per shot to manufacture. It is for those in advanced stages who’ve already been treated with chemotherapy. CimaVaxEGF prolongs life for up to five years, something almost unthinkable for those in advanced stages of lung cancer, whose normal survival rate does not exceed 18 months. Heberferon for the treatment of skin cancer, is another scientific breakthrough developed by the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (CIGB) in Havana. In Cuba skin cancer is on the rise. In April 2015, the UN’s World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) awarded a Gold Medal for Cuba’s Itolizumab, a monoclonal antibody for the treatment of psoriasis, a chronic inflammatory skin disease affecting 125 million people globally. It was Cuba’s tenth WIPO Gold Medal.

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Cuba vs the US blockade

cuba blockade

In mid-September 2016, US President Obama extended the Trading With the Enemy Act, the principal law that sustains the unilateral blockade against Cuba. Almost two years since announcing the intention to re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba and ‘normalise’ relations, Obama’s fine words about ending an ‘updated and failed policy’ ring hollow. His administration has taken only small, strategic steps to dismantle the apparatus of hostility against Cuba. The objective of US policy remains regime change. A vote in the US Congress is necessary to lift the blockade, but Obama could use his executive powers decisively to virtually dismantle the blockade.

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Cuban workers in the Revolution

A Hidden History of the Cuban Revolution

A Hidden History of the Cuban Revolution: How the Working Class Shaped the Guerrillas’ Victory

Steve Cushion

Monthly Review Press, 2016, 272pp, £18.99

This important work highlights the essential role played by the Cuban working class in the insurrectionary war against the Batista dictatorship in 1950s Cuba. From shop stewards and trade union officials to clandestine networks of militants organised into revolutionary workers’ sections by the Movement of the 26th July (M-26-7), Cushion demonstrates that without the contribution of working-class forms of struggle the Cuban Revolution would not have succeeded. He shows how workers organised despite threats of unemployment and violent repression through solidarity strikes in industries including sugar, textiles, transport, banking and electricity. Sugar workers burned fields; telephone workers cut wires as they walked out on strike; and telephone operators listened in on police conversations to support the armed struggle.

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History has absolved Fidel Castro - Happy 90th birthday!

Fidel Castro

On 13 August, Cuba will celebrate Fidel Castro’s 90th birthday; his longevity is a source of comfort and pride. The Revolutionary Communist Group pays tribute to this great revolutionary communist. Fidel’s genius has been his ability to meet the need for tactical steps, responding to the day’s urgencies, without losing sight of the strategic direction – the revolutionary principles – that have driven the revolution. Equally important has been the ‘wonderful quality’ that Che Guevara noted: his capacity to establish direct contact with the masses, always communicating, explaining, motivating and responding to the Cuban people.

As a young anti-corruption lawyer, Fidel understood that the brutal military coup that returned Batista to power in Cuba in 1952 signalled the impossibility of a peaceful constitutional path to reform in Cuba. Together with his brother Raul and others, he launched the 26 July Movement, named after the day of simultaneous attacks on the Moncada Barracks in Santiago and the Bayamo Barracks in Oriente by 160 young militants.

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