Black Radicals Owe a Great Deal to Fidel Castro

The Cuban leader, who died Friday, could be considered a founding father of the black radical movements of the 1960s. He is remembered not only for his in-your-face defiance of the United States but for creating a third-world Marxist nation that stood as a beacon for the oppressed during the 20th century.

The Harlem audience was determined to cheer everything Nelson Mandela said, which meant that ABC Nightline anchor Ted Koppel had to accept that he was at a disadvantage—what he called “a hometown crowd.”

It was 1990, and black America had been in the throes of Republican leadership for a decade. The Cold War had not begun to cool. Mandela—viewed then as a revolutionary leader of the African National Congress trying to destroy the white-minority racist apartheid regime of South Africa, not the cuddly teddy bear of reconciliation of a democratic one-party state that would define him later—had been recently freed thanks to a worldwide movement on his behalf. A critic in the crowd asked tough questions about Mandela’s support of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

I remember Mandela’s words as if it was yesterday: “One of the mistakes that some political analysts make is to think that their enemies should be our enemies. That we can’t and will never do.” The crowd exploded in applause for almost a minute after the first sentence. When was the last time a black leader sounded that intellectually decolonized on national television? Since Stokely Carmichael in the late 1960s?

“We have our own struggle, which we are conducting,” Mandela patiently explained, “… and our attitude toward any country is determined by the attitude of that country to our struggle.” More thunder from the crowd.

And then to the point: “Yasser Arafat, Col. Gaddafi, Fidel Castro support our struggle to the hilt,” not just in rhetoric. “That is the position.”

Fidel Castro, who died on Friday at the age of 90, believed in and actively supported liberation struggles that freed oppressed people, from the Motown era to this morning. Because of that belief, he had a special relationship with African people, including African Americans.

Don Rojas, a longtime activist who was a former press secretary for Grenadian Prime Minister Maurice Bishop, a Marxist revolutionary politically inspired by Castro, remembers this era well in an email comment this afternoon: “His concrete support to the liberation struggles in Southern Africa will go down in the annals of history as one of the most amazing demonstrations of solidarity in modern history.”

And “solidarity” was the operative word. Castro’s revolution sparked leftist mobilizations around the world, including in America. The Black Panther Party’s experiment with radical social and political democracy in America, for example, comes from both African liberation movements and Castro’s Cuban revolution. Read more

Source: The Root