Dear Fidel Castro…

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Posted Dec 8 2016 by Dave Darby of
Dear Fidel Castro... remembering a great man who had the wrong plan

I believe that you were a great man – whatever you did, you did because of passion and integrity, not because of a thirst for money or power. But you had the wrong plan.

In 1959, you liberated Cubans from US-imposed dictatorship that had existed since the beginning of the century. You delivered a health service so good that people in your poor little island had a longer life expectancy and lower infant mortality than the US. You sent your brave troops to fight fascism in Africa.

When I read Che Guevara’s biography by John Lee Anderson, I was enthralled by your band of 24 revolutionaries who landed on Cuba’s southern coast in a rickety little boat and fought your way to the capital to eventually defeat the US-supported government. It was an adventure, and I was willing you on – the alternative was much worse. If there’s one thing you definitely were, it was brave. Even your enemies must admit that.

But you had the wrong plan – the same wrong plan that has failed everywhere it’s been tried.

I understand that you were constantly harassed, blockaded, invaded and slandered by your giant neighbour, and that under those circumstances, a tight grip on the reins of power may be needed. But if that pressure had been removed, would you have given the Cuban people the right to choose a different leader? It’s never happened anywhere after a violent revolution, and I don’t think you would have been the exception.


Americans might have expected you to adopt ‘liberal democracy’ with opposing parties, but I wouldn’t – that system is too easily bought. I would have expected you to hand power to neighbourhood committees, to soviets. But you didn’t do that either. No-one who has ever seized power under the influence of Karl Marx has ever actually done what he suggested. The first part, the seizing of power, you achieved with aplomb, but the second part, the distribution of power, you conveniently forgot, like all the rest.

I have friends who believe that your plan is still the best one – fight, win, then impose your will. But you can’t have real socialism when you are ruled, however benignly, by someone who gives you no chance to remove them from power. It’s frustrating that so many good people are still advocating this plan. I don’t want to see history repeat itself – we don’t have much time, in terms of ecology.

But then I have other friends who don’t think we should have a plan at all, which is equally frustrating. More so, in fact.

I wish I could have worked with you, and helped find people to build a better economy and society – a way to hand it over to a self-supporting system rather than control it and steer it in a direction you decided was best. I would have had more chance of persuading you than persuading capitalists, that’s for sure. Capitalists are doing it for money and power, so wouldn’t even be interested in the discussion.

Goodbye, and thanks for trying. I’m not sure whether you made the world a better place, but I do believe that that’s what you were genuinely trying to do. And I’m being genuine too when I say, let’s not go down that path again. We can come up with a better plan. In Rojava, the plan didn’t involve the centralisation of power in the first place, and this is key I think. There, a more anarchistic approach has involved a network of local democratic and economic units that I would love to see applied on a bigger scale (how about it, Brazil?). This is something that we can start to build immediately, and some are indeed doing that, without going through a period of centralised control – that never ends well.