The 1978 Spring – World Festival of Youth and Students was held in Havana, the Capital city of Cuba. I was a participant in the festival, representing the All India Youth Federation and India. A large number of youth and student activists from across the globe gathered in Havana. During the inaugural rally at ‘Plaza de Revolution’, Fidel Castro addressed the gathering. That was my first glimpse of Fidel Castro. Though the speech was in Spanish, it was very inspiring and enchanting — it electrified the whole gathering.
Comrade Fidel Castro was an icon for the entire suffering humanity and peace-loving people. At a very young age along with Che Guevara and other revolutionaries he defeated the military regime of Fulgencio Batista, dictatorial and unpopular administrator and also a marionette of the US. He founded the Communist Party of Cuba and elected to carry forward the legacy of Jose Marti.
Under the leadership of Communist Party of Cuba, the Communist government banned slavery soon after assuming power. In addition the massive land reforms and housing scheme for the poor, uplifted the marginalised black population to a great extent. Likewise health and education sectors became easier to access regardless of race. Elimination of racial prejudice was the prime concern of Fidel Castro and the Cuban Communist Party launched an ideological campaign against racism.
Thus emerged Cuba as a modern socialist republic in the Western Hemisphere of the World, and it became a bulwark of Socialist Revolution and role model for the whole developing world. Cuba is a small island-nation but it has the educational, medical and other social sectors of a highly developed countries. That Cuba could continue to excel in these fields despite embargoes and the collapse of its trading partners makes its gains even more impressive.
This remarkable achievement was possible because vision and revolutionary zeal of Comrade Fidel. He was a great Marxist thinker and revolutionary. His thoughts and life have inspired millions of toiling masses across the globe. He was a great supporter of liberation movements and vocal critic against Apartheid regimes in Africa. He had special concern for post-colonial countries like India and continued his special affection towards Indian Sub Continent. As a leader of NAM Comrade Castro paid extra efforts to fortify and consolidate South-South cooperation.
Comrade Fidel Castro and founding fathers of Socialist Cuba recognised the value of Education in reshaping social change in the society. Cuba’s education system is performing so well, even under the severe resource constraints because of the continuity in its education strategies, sustained high levels of investments in education, and a comprehensive and carefully structured system. The main aspects of the Cuban primary educational system are the high quality of basic education and universal access to primary and comprehensive early childhood education and student health programs .Moreover unlike many countries Cuba has developed mechanisms to foster community participation in management of schools and has paid great attention to the quality of teachers. Higher education in Cuba does not mean University education alone. Higher education also has various alternative vocational streams like polytechnic institutes, pedagogical institutes, higher educational centres and many more are other institutes for higher education besides universities.
Since 1970s Cuba’s medical internationalism increased Cuba’s profile on world stage in the developing world. Cuba’s vast expertise in health sector is not just confined to Cuba. Today nearly 40,000 Cuban doctors and nurses are working in 81 developing countries. The Cuban government established the Comprehensive Health Programme (CHP) to provide free medical support to Latin American and Caribbean countries. Later the programme was extended to assist the toiling masses of Afro-Asian countries. Over 1,500,000 people from Caribbean region have either improved or recovered their eyesight through Operation Milagro (Operation Miracle) formulated by the Cuban health ministry in 2000.
In the event of global economic crisis Castro’s vision for alternative policies are highly relevant. Castro was a committed communist vanguard, who stood for the cause of poor and downtrodden till his last breath. It is time to recollect what Comrade Fidel spoke in the court of law declaring ‘history will absolve me’. It is not the question of absolving alone it is really the question of acknowledging the greatness and life of Comrade Castro.
The author is the national secretary of the Communist Party of India and a Rajya Sabha member