The meeting was chaired by Harpal Brar. The chairperson opened the proceedings by asking the audience to stand to observe two minutes’ silence in homage to Comrade Fidel Castro.
Harpal Brar began his tribute by quoting the following words of Plekhanov:
“A great man is great not because his personal qualities give individual features to the great historical events but because he possesses qualities which make him most capable of serving the great social needs of his time, needs which arose as a result of general and particular causes.”
Fidel Castro rose to the heights that he did precisely because he became one of the most representative spokesmen of the Cuban people’s hopes, desires and interests.
Harpal went on to recite episodes from the Cuban people’s struggle for liberation under Fidel’s courageous and wise leadership, beginning with the attack on Moncada Barracks in Santiago de Cuba by 137 poorly-equipped fighters on 26 July 1953, through the naval expedition in Granma with just 89 fighters, setting up guerrilla headquarters in the Sierra Maestra with only 12 survivors, all the way to the triumphant march of the revolutionaries into Havana on 1 January 1959.
Fidel rightly maintained that “no weapon, no force, is capable of defeating a people who have decided to fight for their rights”. The success of the Cuban revolution and its achievements since then are eloquent proof of his words.
Cuban revolutionaries, under Fidel’s leadership, were successful because there was no chasm between their words and deeds. During the Bay of Pigs US-led counter-revolutionary invasion, Cubans fought with courage and ingenuity, under Fidel’s personal leadership, inflicting a humiliating defeat on the mighty and arrogant US imperialism.
A little later, during the October 1962 Cuban missile crisis, Cuban revolutionaries behaved with courage and dignity and did not flinch for a second.
Although a small and poor country, Cuba earned the unceasing hostility of US imperialism because of the contagious significance of the Cuban revolution for the whole of Latin and South America, hitherto the backyard of US imperialism. Fidel’s vision of a progressive, united, independent and integrated Latin America sent shivers down the spines of the US ruling circles and gave them endless sleepless nights.
Fidel’s ability to turn every US attempt at humiliating his country to Cuba’s advantage can be seen from just one example. In 1960, in a despicable attempt to humiliate the Cuban delegation to the UN, US president Eisenhower had the delegation thrown out of the Manhattan Sheraton Hotel. Fidel responded by moving his delegation to the Theresa Hotel in Harlem – to the rapturous applause of hundreds of Afro-Americans, and thus made the US president look petty, mean-spirited and downright stupid.
Not content with blockading Cuba, the US, through the CIA, made 630 attempts, thankfully unsuccessful, on the life of Fidel.
For the first time, thanks to the Cuban revolution, the Cuban people secured universal health, education and experienced racial and gender equality.
Cuba’s internationalism and the fraternal solidarity extended by her to other struggling people is simply legendary. Nelson Mandela once asked: “What country has ever needed help from Cuba and not received it?” He went on to answer: “Not one”.
Thanks to Cuban fraternal military assistance, Angola was able to beat the imperialist-backed South African military onslaught in 1957 and 1987, thus safeguarding Angola’s independence, making way for the Namibian liberation, and laying the ground work for the destruction of apartheid in South Africa itself.
Cuba’s services in the fields of education and health to countless countries are too well-known to need recounting
Because they were ‘real’ anti-imperialists the Cuban revolutionaries naturally gravitated towards socialism and the Soviet Union. They have always acknowledged that their revolution was an extension of October and would not have survived without Soviet support. This recognition is a sign of their greatness not of weakness. The first affirmation of the human rights of the Cuban masses was the trial and execution of the gangsters who had been exploiting them by the new revolutionary government.
The contribution of such a tiny country shows the true strength of socialism
Never once did the Cuban delegation to the UN vote the wrong way, despite the fact that their positions earned them the active enmity of the imperialists
All these achievements resulted from the daring, revolutionary and internationalist stance of the Cuban revolutionaries under Fidel’s ever-optimistic leadership.
In mourning the death, and celebrating the life, of a great revolutionary, we can proudly say: “Farewell Comrade Fidel Castro! Eternal Glory to you!”
Contribution of Katt Cremer on behalf of the CPGB-ML
Comrade Katt Cremer for the CPGB-ML said: It’s sad to be marking the passing of Comrade Fidel, but what an achievement to reach the age of 90, given the life he led and the dangers he faced every day for decades, both during the revolutionary war and after the establishment of socialism. The imperialists make no bones about their many hundreds of attempts on Fidel’s life, but they failed in every one of them.
We need to build our own revolution in Britain.
Our immediate task is to propagandise: to spread a Marxist understanding amongst the masses. We may be small but workers are beginning to wake up and realise the need for change. We have to tap into that desire and convince British workers that socialism has the answers they are looking for.
Contribution of Comrade Ranjith on behalf of the JVP London
Comrade Ranjith of the Sri Lankan JVP in London said Fidel Castro and the Cuban revolution inspired the masses of Asia, Africa and Latin America.
Fidel Castro made a great contribution to the world. He holds a special place in the hearts of JVP members, because Sri Lanka’s armed movement, the People’s Liberation movement, was inspired by Cuba and was known locally as the Che Guevara group.
Contribution of Her Excellency Comrade Teresita Vicente Sotolongo
Ella Rule read a text sent by Comrade Teresita, Cuban ambassador to the UK:
Dear Comrades, brothers and sisters:
I thank you, on behalf of the Cuban people and government, for the support we have had during these days of grieving and also for your standing support to the Cuban revolution since the very beginning.
Today we are paying tribute to the leader of the Cuban revolution, to the disciple of Jose Marti, to the victorious guerrillero, to the revolutionary, to the statesman who raised his voice always in defence of the oppressed in the world, in defence of socialism, against imperialism and for peace and a just international order.
The Cuban revolution brought our country to the highest levels of social justice, with the education and health services at top ranks, the empowerment of women, and a priority approach to the rights of childhood.
We know that in the world, there are currently 200 million children sleeping on the streets, none of them is Cuban. Millions in the world lack health care and education, lack social security, lack pensions, none of them is Cuban.
Cuba has suffered permanently attacks and blockade for almost sixty years, but remains in solidarity. Fidel taught the new generations of Cubans the significance of our history, his example showed us to preserve, at the risk of our lives, our independence and our sovereignty. We Cubans, we would rather die standing than live on our knees.
We will continue practising inter-nationalism, wherever a child is without school, there will be a Cuban educator. Wherever there is a child without medical attention, there will be a Cuban doctor.
Internationalism, as defined by Fidel, is to pay off our debt to humanity.
We will feel deeply any injustice in the world and we will struggle without tiredness for peace. Men die but not the ideals.
We will struggle until the end against the illegal, immoral and criminal blockade of the United States against our country; we will fight for the return of the illegally usurped territory in Guantanamo to the Cuban people; for the oppressed of the world and for justice, with tenacity, intelligence, and having our principles as a flag, like Fidel did.
And here I want to quote his speech of 26 July 1978. He asked how the revolution could be so victorious. And he answered: being loyal to principles, close to the people, being absolutely confident we are fighting for a just cause, having the spirit of sacrifice, heroism and virtues of the Cuban people. And he said: No to discouragement in the face of adversity, No to pessimism, No to fear, No to claudication [failure in one’s moral duty], No to opportunism, No to ideological concessions, No to narrow nationalism and chauvinism, No to abuse of power, No to corruption, No to conceit, and Yes to solidarity, Yes to Marxism-Leninism, Yes to effective anti-imperialism, Yes to proletarian internationalism, Yes to collective leadership and revolutionary democratic norms, Yes to modesty, Yes to total dedication to the people, Yes to self criticism and rectification of errors, Yes to admiration and respect for those who in the past struggled to make possible the homeland of today, Yes to eternal gratitude to those who were in solidarity with us and who with their generous and noble support helped us to overcome the aggressions of imperialism.
We will never betray this glory !!!
Hasta la victoria siempre Fidel!!!
Viva la revolución!!!
Extracts from President Raúl Castro’s speech in honour of Fidel read out
Comrade Ella also read extracts from a speech by Cuban President Raúl Castro Ruz made in Santiago de Cuba’s Plaza Mayor General Antonio Maceo Grajales on December 3, 2016, “Year 58 of the Revolution”
Dear people of Cuba: This afternoon, upon arrival to this heroic city, the funeral procession transporting Fidel’s ashes, which retraced in reverse the route of the Caravan of Liberty of 1959, and visited emblematic sites in Santiago de Cuba, birthplace of the Revolution where, just as in the rest of the country, it was met with demonstrations of love by the Cuban people.
Tomorrow, his ashes will be laid to rest in a simple ceremony in the Santa Ifigenia Cemetery, located very close to the Mausoleum of National Hero José Martí alongside his compañeros in the struggle at Moncada, from the Granma, and Rebel Army, from the clandestine campaign and internationalist missions…
Ever since the news of the passing of the historic leader of the Cuban Revolution, late on the evening of November 25, pain and sadness have overwhelmed the Cuban people who, deeply moved by his irreparable physical disappearance, have shown integrity, patriotic conviction, discipline, and maturity by attending, en masse, the tribute activities organised, and swearing to uphold the oath of loyalty to the conception of Revolution, articulated by Fidel … On November 28 and 29, millions of compatriots signed their names in support of the Revolution. Amidst the pain of these days we have once again felt pride and comfort in the outstanding reactions of children and young Cubans, who reaffirm their willingness to be committed continuators of the ideals of the leader of the Revolution. On behalf of our people, the Party, State, government, and family members, I reiterate our most heartfelt thanks for the innumerable displays of respect and affection toward Fidel, his ideas and his work, which continue to arrive from all corners of the globe… On July 26, 1989, in the city of Camagüey, the Comandante en Jefe predicted, two-and-a-half years in advance, the disappearance of the Soviet Union and socialist camp, and stated before the world that if this were the case, Cuba would continue to defend the banner of socialism
Fidel’s authority and his close relationship with the people were key to the country’s heroic resistance during the dramatic years of the Special Period, when the nation’s Gross Domestic Product fell 34.8% and the Cuban people’s food situation deteriorated significantly, we suffered blackouts lasting 16 to 20 hours a day, and a good part of our industry and public transport was paralysed. Despite this however, we were able to safeguard public health and education for the entire nation.
I recall the Party meetings in the different regions: east, in the city of Holguín; central, in the city of Santa Clara; and west in the capital of the Republic, Havana, held in July 1994 to analyse how to tackle, with greater efficiency and cohesion, the challenges of the special period, the growing imperialist blockade and media campaigns geared toward sowing despair among citizens. We all left these meetings, including the one held in the western region, presided by Fidel, convinced that with the combined strength and intelligence of the masses under the leadership of the Party, it would, and was, possible to transform the special period into a new victorious battle in the country’s history.
At that time few in the world would have bet on our ability to resist and overcome in the face of adversity and the intensification of the enemy blockade. Our people, however, under the leadership of Fidel, provided an unforgettable lesson in resolve and loyalty to the principles of the Revolution.
Recalling these difficult moments, I think it right and fitting to return to what I said about Fidel on July 26, 1994, one of the most difficult years, on the Isle of Youth, over 22 years ago, I quote: “The most illustrious son of Cuba this century, he who showed us that the attempt to capture the Moncada Garrison was possible; that we were able to turn that loss into a victory,” which we achieved five years, five months and five days later, on that glorious January 1 of 1959 – this last comment added to the words I spoke on that occasion.
He showed us, “Yes, it was possible to reach the coast of Cuba in the Granma yacht; that yes, it was possible to resist the enemy, hunger, rain and cold, and organise a revolutionary army in the Sierra Maestra following the Alegría de Pío debacle; that yes, it was possible to open new guerrilla fronts in the province of Oriente, with ours and Almeida’s columns; that yes, it was possible to defeat the great offensive of over 10,000 soldiers with only 300 rifles,” after which Che wrote in his Campaign Diary, that with this victory the backbone of the army of the tyranny had been broken: “That yes, it was possible to repeat the feats of Maceo and Gómez, extending with Che and Camilo’s columns the struggle from the east to the west of the island; that yes, it was possible to defeat, with the support of the entire people, the tyranny of Batista, backed by U.S. imperialism.
“The man that showed us that yes, it was possible to defeat in 72 hours,” or even less, “the mercenary invasion of Playa Girón and at the same time, continue the campaign to eradicate illiteracy in one year,” as happened in 1961. “That yes, it was possible to proclaim the socialist character of the Revolution 90 miles from the empire, and when its warships advanced toward Cuba, following the brigade of mercenary troops; that yes, it was possible to resolutely uphold the inalienable principles of our sovereignty, without fear of the threat of nuclear aggression by the United States in those days of the October 1962 missile crisis.
“That yes, it was possible to offer solidarity assistance to other sister peoples struggling against colonial oppression, external aggression and racism.
“That yes, it was possible to defeat the racist South Africans, saving Angola’s territorial integrity, forcing Namibia’s independence and delivering a harsh blow to the apartheid regime.
“That yes, it was possible to turn Cuba into a medical power, reduce infant mortality first, to the lowest rate in the Third World, then as compared with other rich countries; because at least on this continent our rate of infant mortality of children under one year of age is lower than Canada’s and United States, and at the same time, significantly increase the life expectancy of our population.
“That yes, it was possible to transform Cuba into a great scientific hub, advance in the modern and decisive fields of genetic engineering and biotechnology; insert ourselves within the fortress of international pharmaceuticals; develop tourism, despite the US blockade; build causeways in the sea to make Cuba increasingly more attractive, obtaining greater monetary income from our natural charms.
“That yes, it is possible to resist, survive, and develop without renouncing our principles or the achievements won by socialism in a unipolar world dominated by the transnationals which emerged after the fall of the socialist camp in Europe and the disintegration of the Soviet Union.
“Fidel’s enduring lesson is that yes it is possible, that humans are able to overcome the harshest conditions as long as their willingness to triumph does not falter, they accurately assess every situation, and do not renounce their just and noble principles”.
These are the words that I expressed more than two decades ago about a man, who, following the first disastrous battle at Alegría de Pío – which the day after tomorrow will celebrate its 60th anniversary – never lost faith in victory, and 13 days later, already in the mountains of the Sierra Maestra, on December 18 of the aforementioned year, with seven rifles and a fist full of combatants, stated: “Now we have won the war!”
This is the undefeated Fidel that brings us together through his example and demonstration that, Yes, it was possible, yes, it is possible, and yes, it will be possible! So, I repeat that he demonstrated that yes, it was possible, yes, it is possible, and yes, it will be possible to overcome any obstacle, threat or disturbance in our resolute effort to build socialism in Cuba, or in other words guarantee the independence and sovereignty of the homeland!
Before Fidel’s remains, in the Plaza de la Revolución Mayor General Antonio Maceo Grajales, in the heroic city of Santiago de Cuba, we swear to defend the homeland and socialism! And together we all reaffirm that: “Whoever attempts to conquer Cuba, will gather the dust of her blood-soaked soil, if he does not perish in fight!”
Contribution of Comrade Asari of the All-African Peoples Party
I have called myself a socialist ever since I first read about the gains of the Cuban revolution. The Cubans have given great material, practical and ideological support to peoples all over the world. The Caribbean especially has a strong connection with Cuba. The international airport in Grenada was built by the Cubans, for example.
Fidel met and supported all the great leaders of African liberation. He inspired the black workers in the USA by staying in a hotel in Harlem and meeting Malcolm X.
I was greatly inspired by my visit to Cuba during the World Festival of Youth and Students in 1997, seeing the organisation of the people and the facilities available to them.
Contribution of Comrade Kim Song Gi
In introducing the representative of the DPRK embassy, Comrade Kim, Harpal said that it’s not often reported that there has always been an extremely close relationship between Cuba and the DPRK, both of which are under constant threat from imperialism but both of which have stood firm in defence of their sovereignty and of socialism.
Comrade Kim from the Korean embassy said that Comrade Fidel’s achievements will live forever.
Comrade Ella said Che Guevara was very inspired by what he saw in the DPRK when he visited and rushed home to tell the Cubans that this is the way they should be living.
Contributions from the floor
Comrade Sammi of the CPGB-ML said the Cuban revolution was a victory for the Palestinian people also.
Comrade Paul of the CPGB-ML: the imperialists hated Fidel because he was a socialist. We need to counter the lies they tell about him, and which the Trotskyites and revisionists repeat.
The meeting ended with the singing of the Internationale