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Romancing a revolutionary

  • Published at 12:01 am September 19th, 2016
Romancing a revolutionary

I am not at all surprised when the modern-day youth look a bit puzzled hearing the name Castro. Lost in the virtual bliss of game consoles and mobile applications, there is little time to romanticise a revolutionary whom the world in general has forgotten.

Well, almost.

For us in their mid-40s, who grew up as the first generation post-1971, Castro is inextricably linked to the fiery days of youthful idealism.

Won’t be wrong to say that those periods of the mid to late 80s, when the anti-autocracy movement in Bangladesh reached a crescendo, countless young men, who made the asphalt their canvas for protest, looked to Castro and his late deputy Che Guevara, for inspiration.

I admit, the dreams of the almost perfect social system where equality would be guaranteed, never materialised, but the fervent belief in the power of rising against injustice did not have a whimpering end either.

The autocratic regime in Bangladesh eventually came crumbling down.

Castro, his revolution in the 50s, the overthrow of Batista in 1959 plus the endless defiance shown to the mighty United States of America, seemed, in 1990, too real, especially on the streets of Dhaka.

Fidel Castro is now a frail man who turned 90 on August 13, while Cuba is eyeing a new era of thawing relations with her eternal nemesis the US -- but the romantic zeal and the revolutionary fervour, in my opinion, are still there.

Perhaps the flame has dwindled to just a flicker, but it’s there alright.

On his 90th birthday, the greatest tribute paid to the man and what he stood for can be through remembering how profoundly he touched millions of young, enlightened people all through the 70s and 80s.

Of course, more than 25 years after the fall of the Soviet Union, the lustre of the socialist dream now appears frayed. Whatever braggadocio capitalists resort to now, for certain sections of society around the globe, Castro’s Cuba will always remain a symbol of rebellion.

Yes, we all love rebels and, in case we denounce them in public, inherently, there is always a place where we worship them. Castro has very little say in modern-day Cuban geo-politics not playing the role of a major socialist adversary.

Practically speaking, with rapprochement in the air, soon, this island nation may become the biggest spot for capitalist investment. Will the hammer and sickle finally fall then? Well, I don’t think so.

What may happen is a massive reform process within the economy, allowing the razzmatazz of consumerism to enter but with the communist tag firmly in place.

Sort of emulating the Chinese formula. Get all the capitalist pleasures, wear the best designer items, pursue individual comfort, but do not question the authority.

To many, this might sound slightly undemocratic, though it’s rational to say that if such an approach brought prosperity for China then Cuba cannot be an exception.

The thing is, the rigid format of the socialist system which the world saw in the decades post-WWII has undergone some phenomenal transformations.

Fidel Castro is now a frail man who turned 90 on August 13, while Cuba is eyeing a new era of thawing relations with her eternal nemesis the US -- but the romantic zeal and the revolutionary fervour, in my opinion, are still there

At the heart of this metamorphosis is the realisation that, as long as society exists, the doctrine of ownership will dominate everyday life.

That socialist Utopia is just that -- an embellished illusion.

Hang on, hang on, that does not mean we must cease to romanticise. Life will become too prosaic once expectations become black and white. Castro made Cuba carry on with the ideals which triggered the revolution. This has remained firm despite the fall of his greatest benefactor, the USSR.

Therein lies the success. Okay, Cuba did not become a major economic hub but the definition of success is a matter of perspective. What Cuba remains till today is the last place on the planet which has not been robbed of romance by the onslaught of ferocious bourgeois market culture.

Cuba’s face may soon begin to change. However, the role that Castro and Cuba played in standing up to a mighty opponent will go on to provide rich reading on the history of 20th century socio-politics.

One would like to recall all those bizarre plots the CIA reportedly conjured up to get rid of him: One plan involved taking advantage of Castro’s love of scuba-diving by planting mollusk shells, containing explosives in the ocean when he was underwater, and painting them bright colours so that he would be attracted to them.

Another idea was reportedly planting a diving suit for him infected with fungus that would cause a lethal skin disease later on.

But the one which beats all plans is the one where a former lover was hired to murder him.

How riveting.

Once Castro was alone with her, he sensed her ulterior motive, casually handing her the gun to go ahead with the mission. What happened? Well, we are celebrating his 90th birthday. A honeypot who could not pull the trigger … he must have been very good.

Other attempts included using poisonous pens, exploding cigars, and bacterial poison to be dissolved in his morning beverage.

Reportedly, before the US imposed the trade embargo on Cuba, stashes of Cuban cigars were bought to the White House at the behest of JFK.

True or false, it doesn’t matter.

For a man who dreamed and carried out a revolution, stood up to his opponents with poise, had the gall to tell an assassin to go ahead and kill him, Castro is an extraordinary example of a role model. He may not have wielded immense military power but he had something more appealing: The charisma of a revolutionary.

Castro’s Cuba is still a time capsule, many say, but let’s buck the trend and put it this way: Castro’s Cuba is where God still favours the romantic.

Towheed Feroze is a journalist currently working in the development sector.