Fidel Castro and the FARC: Eight Mistaken Thesis of Fidel Castro


I have been a supporter of the Cuban Revolution for exactly fifty years and recognize Fidel Castro as one of the great revolutionary leaders of our time. But I have never been an uncritical apologist: On several crucial occasions I have expressed my disagreements in print, in public and in discussions with Cuban leaders, writers and militants. Fidel Castro’s articles and commentaries on the recent events in Colombia, namely his discussion of the Colombian regime’s freeing of several FARC prisoners (including three CIA operatives and Ingrid Betancourt) and his critical comments on the politics, structure, practices, tactics and strategy of the FARC and its world-renowned leader, Manuel Marulanda, merit serious consideration.

Castro’s remarks demand analysis and refutation, not only because his opinions are widely read and influence millions of militants and admirers in the world, especially in Cuba and Latin America, but because he purports to provide a ‘moral’ basis for opposition to imperialism today. Equally important Castro’s unfortunate diatribe and critique against the FARC, Marulanda and the entire peasant-based guerrilla movement, has been welcomed, published and broadcast by the entire pro-imperialist mass media on five continents. Fidel Castro, with few caveats, has uncritically joined the chorus condemning the FARC and, as I will demonstrate, without reason or logic.

Eight Erroneous Theses of Fidel Castro

1. Castro claims that the ‘liberation’ of the FARC political prisoners “opens a chapter for peace in Colombia, a process which Cuba has been supporting for 20 years as the most appropriate for the unity and liberation of the peoples of our America, utilizing new approaches in the complex and special present day circumstances after the collapse of the USSR . . . .” (Reflections of Fidel Castro, July 4, 2008).

What is astonishing about this thesis (and the entire essay) is Castro’s total omission of any discussion of the mass terror unleashed by Colombia’s President Uribe against trade unionists, political critics, peasant communities and documented by every human rights group in and out of Colombia in both of his recent essays. In fact, Castro exculpates the current Uribe regime, the most murderous regime, and puts the entire blame on ‘US Imperialism’. Since the “collapse of the Soviet Union”, and under the US-led military offensive, a multitude of armed revolutionary movements have emerged in Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Nepal, and other pre-existing armed groups in Colombia and the Philippines, have continued to engage in struggle. In Latin America, the “new approaches” to revolution were anything but peaceful – massive popular uprisings overthrowing corrupt electoral politicians in Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Venezuela…costing many hundreds of lives.

The “liberation” of Betancourt has strengthened the iron fist of the Uribe regime, increased the militarization of the countryside, and covered up the on-going death squad murders of trade unionists and peasants. Contrary to Fidel Castro, the US and Colombia’s death squad president have used their ‘success’ to buttress their arguments in favor of joint US-Colombian military action. Fidel’s celebration of the Colombian regime’s action as an “opening for peace” serves to deflect attention from the Colombian Supreme Court decision claiming that the re-election of Uribe was illegal because of the tyrant’s bribing Congress people to amend the constitutional provision allowing the president a second term.

2. Fidel Castro denigrates the recently deceased leader of the FARC, Manuel Marulanda, as a “peasant, communist militant, principle leader of the guerrilla” (Reflections). In his text of July 5, 2008 (Reflections II), Castro condescendingly refers to “Marulanda of notable natural intelligence and leadership qualities, on the other hand never had opportunities to study when he was an adolescent. It is said he only finished the fifth grade. He conceived (of the revolution) as a long and prolonged struggle, a point of view which I never shared.” Castro was the son of a plantation owner and educated in private Jesuit colleges and trained as a lawyer. He implies that education credentials and higher status prepares the revolutionary leadership to lead the peasants lacking formal education, but with ‘natural leadership qualities’ apparently sufficient to allow them to follow the intellectuals and professionals better suited to lead the revolution.

The test of history however refutes Castro’s claims. Marulanda built, over a period of 40 years, a bigger guerrilla army with a wider mass base than any Castro-inspired guerrilla force from the 1960’s to 2000.

Castro promoted a theory of ‘guerrilla focos’ between 1963-1980, in which small groups of intellectuals would organize an armed nucleus in the countryside, engage in combat and attract mass peasant support. Every Castro-ite guerrilla foco was quickly defeated — wiped out — in Peru, Venezuela, Brazil, Uruguay (urban focos), Bolivia and Argentina. In contrast, Marulanda’s prolonged guerrilla war strategy relied on mass grassroots organizing based on close peasant ties with guerrillas, based on community, family and class solidarity, building slowly and methodically a national political-military people’s army. In fact, a serious re-examination of the Cuban revolution reveals that Castro’s guerrillas were recruited from the mass of urban mass organizations, methodically organized prior to and during the formation of the guerrilla foco in 1956-1958.

Although reliable figures on the FARC are available, Castro underestimated by half the number of FARC guerrillas, relying on the propaganda of Uribe’s publicists.

3. Castro condemns the ‘cruelty’ of the FARC tactics “of capturing and holding prisoners in the jungle.” With this logic, Castro should condemn every revolutionary movement in the 20th century beginning with the Russian, Chinese and Vietnamese revolutions. Revolutions are cruel but Fidel forgets that counter-revolutions are even crueler. Uribe established local spy networks involving local officials, as was done in Vietnam during that war. And the Vietnamese revolutionaries eliminated the collaborators because they were responsible for the execution of tens of thousands of village militants. Castro fails to comment on the fact that Ms. Betancourt, upon her celebrated ‘liberation’ embraced and thanked General Mario Montoya. According to a declassified US embassy document, Montoya organized a clandestine terrorist unit (‘American Anti-Communist Alliance’), which murdered thousands of Colombian dissidents, almost all of them ferociously tortured beforehand. The ‘cruelty’ of FARC captivity did not show up in Betancourt’s medical exam: She was in good health!

4. Fidel claims “Cuba is for peace in Colombia but not US military intervention”. It is the Colombian oligarchy and Uribe regime, which has invited and collaborated with the US military intervention in Colombia. Castro implies that US military intervention is imposed from the outside, rather than seeing it as part of the class struggle within Colombia, in which Colombia’s rulers, landowners and narco-traffickers play a major role in financing and training the death squads. In the first 6 months of 2008, 24 trade union leaders have been murdered by the Uribe regime, over 2,562 killed over the past twenty years since what Castro describes as the “new roads of complex and special circumstances.” Fidel totally ignores the continuities of death squad murders of unarmed social movement activists, the lack of solidarity from Cuba toward all the Colombian movements since Havana developed diplomatic and commercial ties with the Uribe regime.

Is balancing between Cuba’s state interest in diplomatic and economic ties with Colombia and claiming revolutionary credentials part of the “complexities” of Cuban foreign policy?

5. Castro calls for the immediate release of all FARC-held prisoners, without the minimum consideration of the 500 guerrillas tortured and dehumanized in Uribe’s and Bush’s horrendous high security ‘special prisons’. Castro boasts that Cuba released its prisoners captured during the anti-Batista struggle and calls for the FARC to follow Cuba’s example, rather than the Vietnamese and Chinese revolutionary approach. Castro’s attempt to impose and universalize his tactics, based on Cuban experience, on Colombia lacks the minimum effort to understand, let alone analyze, the specificities of Colombia, its military, the political context of the class struggle and the social and political context of humanitarian negotiations in Colombia.

6. Castro claims the FARC should end the guerrilla struggle but not give up their arms because in the past guerrillas who disarmed were slaughtered by the regime. Instead, he suggests they should accept France’s offer to abandon their country or accept Chavez’ (Uribe’s ‘brother’ and ‘friend’) proposal to negotiate and secure a commission made up Latin American notables to oversee their integration into Colombian politics.

What are ‘armed’ guerillas going to do when thousands of Uribe’s soldiers and death squads ravage the countryside? Flee to the mountains and shoot wild pigs? Going to France means abandoning millions of starving vulnerable peasant supporters and the class struggle.

7. Fidel Castro totally omits from his discussion the manner in which every political leader involved in the ‘humanitarian mission’ used the celebration of Betancourt’s ‘liberation’ to cover up and distract from their serious political difficulties. First and foremost, Uribe’s re-election was ruled illegal by the Colombian Supreme Court because he was accused and convicted of bribing members of Congress to vote for the constitutional amendment allowing his running for a second term. Uribe’s presidency is de facto illegal. Betancourt’s release and delirious embrace of Uribe undermines the judicial verdict and eliminates the court injunction for a new Congressional vote or national election. Sarkozy’s popularity in France was in a vertical free fall, his highly publicized intervention in the negotiations with the FARC were a total failure, his militarist policies in the Middle East and virulent anti-immigrant policies alienated substantial sectors of the French public (as did rising prices and economic stagnation).

The release of Betancourt and her effusive praise and embrace of Sarkozy revived his tarnished image and gave him a temporary respite from the burgeoning political and economic discontent with his domestic and foreign policies.

Chavez used the release of Betancourt to embrace his ‘enemy’, Uribe, and to put further distance from the FARC, in particular, and the popular movements in Colombia, as well as to build bridges with a post-Bush US President. Chavez also returned to the good graces of the entire pro-imperialist mass media and favorable comments from the right-wing US Presidential candidate, John McCain, who “hoped the FARC would follow Chavez demands to disarm.”

Cuba, or at least Fidel Castro, used the ‘liberation’ of Betancourt to display his long-term hostility to the FARC (dating at least from 1990) for embarrassing his policy of reconciliation with the Colombian regime.

8. Striking a humanitarian and quasi-electoral posture in celebrating Betancourt’s release, Castro lambasted the FARC for its ‘cruelty’ and armed resistance to the terrorist Uribe regime. Castro attacked the FARC’s “authoritarian structure and dogmatic leadership,” ignoring FARC’s endorsement of electoral politics between 1984-90 (when over 5,000 disarmed activists and political candidates were slaughtered), and the free and open debate over policy alternative in the demilitarized zone (1999-2002) with all sectors of Colombian society. In contrast, Castro never permitted free and open debate and elections, even among communist candidates in any legislative process — at least until he was replaced by Raul Castro.

The above mentioned political leaders were serving their own personal political interests by bashing the FARC and celebrating Betancourt at the expense of the people of Colombia.


Has Castro clearly thought through the disastrous consequences for millions of impoverished Colombians or is he thinking only of Cuba’s possible improvement of relations with Colombia once the FARC is liquidated? The effect of Castro’s anti-FARC articles has been to provide ammunition for the imperial mass media to discredit the FARC and armed resistance to tyranny and to bolster the image of death squad President Uribe. When the world’s premier revolutionary leader denies the revolutionary history and practice of an ongoing popular movement and its brilliant leader who built that movement, he is denying the movements of the future a rich heritage of successful resistance and construction. History will not absolve him.

30 comments on this article so far ...

Comments RSS feed

  1. evie said on July 8th, 2008 at 10:36am #


    The sound of another revolutionary icon falling from his pedestal.

  2. Lloyd Rowsey said on July 8th, 2008 at 11:29am #

    No, Evie. The sound of James Petras.

    The author of the above article is a past-master at pulling the strings of puppets of his own creation, made up to look like real persons about whom readers have only vague and prejudiced opinions.

    Mr. Petras. Do you really presume to know more about Colombian history than Fidel Castro? And since you’re such a wonderful book reviewer, why not review “Fidel Castro: My Life: A Spoken Autobiography” for Dissident Voice?

  3. Lloyd Rowsey said on July 8th, 2008 at 12:21pm #

    “The test of history however refutes Castro’s claims.” (Poster’s note: I simply can not make sense out of the paragraph preceding this sentence.) Marulanda built, over a period of 40 years, a bigger guerrilla army with a wider mass base than any Castro-inspired guerrilla force from the 1960’s to 2000.”

    Even a sociologist with limited training in history should recognize the nonsense in this sentence. Assuming Castro had no direct hand in them, mightn’t Castro’s suceess in Cuba have contributed to Marulanda’s sucesses in Colombia?

  4. evie said on July 8th, 2008 at 1:11pm #

    The FSLN was much bigger than FARC as nearly the entire population was behind the Sandinistas for many years. And although Castro “befriended” the Sandinistas – it was only after the US turned its back on what the people of Nicaragua wanted – freedom from Somoza dictatorship via US.

    The Sandinista/Nicaraguans used the US constitution as a model to write their own. They were not particularly looking to imitate Che and the beret until circumstances afforded them no choice than to turn to Russia, Cuba, Marxism, etc.

    Geez though, the first time I posted here back in April or May and disagreeing with Petras I was called a troll and worse. What a difference a couple of months make.

    FARC stopped being a people’s movement 20+ years ago. The gringo “left” just doesn’t want to admit when “freedom fighters” cross the line into criminal thuggery.

    BTW, I have nothing against Castro – I just don’t like the fact that Cuba, with 50 years of Fidel and billions of dollars, still has so much poverty for such a tiny population. Blaming the “embargo” only takes reason so far.

  5. Lloyd Rowsey said on July 8th, 2008 at 1:35pm #

    And, what is your idea, Mr. Petras, of the width of the “mass base” of Cuba’s guerrilla army, ever? And the greatest size of any Castro-inspired guerrilla force, in Cuba or elsewhere presumably, between the 1960’s and 2000 (which force did not exceed the size of the guerrilla force which Marulanda built)?

    I know you’ve visited Cuba many(?) times. I visited Cuba in 1998 and 2002. Did Fidel permit you to visit Cuba’s military forces, and do you consider them to be “guerillas” (as in, surprise forces in the event of an American invasion) presently, or just ordinary military forces?

    The thing here is not that I doubt your credentials or your respect for Fidel and the Cuban Revolution, Mr. Petras. What I doubt is your judgement vis-a-vis the Cuban people and their Revolution. And your writing ability.

  6. Lloyd Rowsey said on July 8th, 2008 at 1:46pm #

    Thanks for your persistence and consistency, Evie. I too thought that blaming the embargo was a bit much, until I saw the heroism and pride in the eyes of Cubans at having survived it after the Soviets crashed. And thought about the fact that the Cuban Embargo is the longest and most inhumane, at-arms-length treatment of one country by another since countries came about. And about the fact that Cuba, like Japan, is an island and the United States, especially since 1991 or so, has been ignoring the UN and convincing more and more wealthy and other blackmailable countries to step up the embargo.

    I could go on. But the point is, from Cuba’s point of view, the Embargo is murder. (Literally, of course, it IS murder.) And with regard to America, it’s only the tip of the iceberg. Although the example par excellance of murder in plain sight, of Americans’ blanking out a very easily corrected atrocity committed every day in their names.

  7. Coldtype said on July 8th, 2008 at 1:50pm #

    Lloyd, you seem to miss entirely the thrust of Petras’ argument here. Castro, whom I too greatly admire, has given unnecessary support to the narco-terrorist and completely illegitimate regime of Uribe with his comments. FARC attempted once to lay down their arms and engage in the Colombian “political system” and 5000 thousand of their members were slaughtered for their troubles. What other way would you propose that FARC proceed given that it hardly deals with an honest broker?

  8. Dave said on July 8th, 2008 at 1:56pm #

    FARC’s remaining ties to Marxism are negligible. Their continued guerilla war with the Colombian government has exited the realm of being a popular struggle and descended into a ruthless power play. The FARC would do well to heed the words of Castro and Chavez because the only legitimacy the United States is able to claim for pouring money continually into Uribe’s government is to combat terrorism. As Chavez aptly noted, the FARC “have become an excuse for the empire to threaten all of us.” He goes on to note that “The day that peace arrives in Colombia, the empire will have no excuses.” Though I have little doubt the United States would continue finding a way to give money to Uribe, such would come under greater international scrutiny.

    The FARC lack any kind of meaningful revolutionary programme and are divorced from the general sentiments of the Colombian working class. With so many revolutionary governments coming to power from the radical, democratic action of the masses, Chavez is correct when he tells FARC that “The guerrilla war is history.”

  9. Lloyd Rowsey said on July 8th, 2008 at 2:01pm #

    Thank you also, Evie, for destroying the portion of Petras’ argument which I initially addressed, by your references to the FSLN. I was drunk during most of the 1980’s; voted for the only time ever in a presidential election in 1984 — when for some reason RR scared the shit out of me; and I still can’t focus for very long on Nicarauga and El Salvador.

    I don’t think I was one of those who trolled you (not bad, but you get the credit) back when; since I was already a (fledgling) non-believer in James Petras at the time. But authors write variously, and posters should not be held to standards of consistency required of authors, paid or unpaid. Such consistency is often more than foolish, since times DO change.

  10. Sunil Sharma said on July 8th, 2008 at 4:06pm #

    Frankly, I fail to understand the cult of personality around Fidel. Sure Cuba has achieved some remarkable things — like free education and a great medical care system — despite nearly 50 years of embargo and bullying by the US, but the guy is like a virtual monarch sitting at the throne for that long. Are the Cuban revolutionary cadres so incapable of coming up with younger, fresher faces to lead the way that all they can offer is a mausoleum piece and his brother?

    On another note, I still think the late and brilliant anarchist Sam Dolgoff’s book, The Cuban Revolution: A Critical Perspective (1976), remains relevant reading.

    — Sunil

  11. Giorgio said on July 8th, 2008 at 5:58pm #

    So US Presidential candidate, John McCain, “hoped the FARC would follow Chavez demands to disarm.” How kind of McCain to even mention Chavez in a positive way. It reminded me of Donald Rumsfeld’s gracious handshake with Saddam Hussein just before he fell out of favour. So much for blatant political hypocrisy!
    As for Fidel, the only thing I admire in him is his vigorous ‘UP YOURS, SIR’ finger gesture and having stood up to the US for all these years, despite all the relentless blockade and cowardly persecution of his tiny island of Cuba…just for this he deserves a huge name in history.
    As for the rest, I prefer to side with Ron Paul’s statement that:
    90% of all History has been run by Tyrants, 90% of the World is run by Tyrants !!!

  12. Lloyd Rowsey said on July 8th, 2008 at 6:29pm #

    What does your very unusual statement as Publisher and Editor imply Sunil? (Not that I don’t appreciate some communication from you, after you’ve ignored several emails from me over the last two months.) That certain “takes” on Fidel are not consistent with DV’s orientation?

    Frankly, I fail to understand how enormous numbers of Americans can place the onus of the Embargo, and all of American-Cuban relations since the Revolution, on Fidel Castro. Often remarking as you do, that sure, Cuba has achieved good stuff (internally, right, but nothing about it’s support for revolutionary Africa, or now, revolutionary South America). Do you read a lot of the posts to Dissident Voice, where an attitude similar to yours toward Cuba’s relations with the United States would be strongly dissented from, to say the least, vis-a-vis any other country in the world?

    Further in this regard, Sunil, I cannot believe you are ignorant of the fact that I had a considerable falling-out with one of your writers, last August or September, about my assertion that DV and other publications, and she in fact, ignored me because I’m an admitted (Castro) Communist. If you are ignorant of this history, I can find the materials to which I refer in Dissident Voice’s archives.

    Coldtype. Your comment was not up when I replied to Evie, and I read it as both challenging and interesting. I will try to answer it as soon as possible, but I must confess that my knowledge of FARC and the entire Colombian situation is rudimentary at this point. So, I responded to the general issue of US-Cuban relations – the matter of importance to me second only to the Iraq War. Someone, Einstein I think, advised a young physicist to choose a very simple problem (Cuba) and a very difficult one (Iraq). Apparently the two I’ve chosen are virtually interchangeable in terms of difficulty. Which I find is, itself, considerable food for thought.

  13. Lloyd Rowsey said on July 8th, 2008 at 6:32pm #

    *or rather, the two problems that chose me.

  14. Lloyd Rowsey said on July 8th, 2008 at 6:57pm #

    Well. I’m sorry Coldtype. Not only Evie, but virtually everyone who’s posted to this article has disputed the validity or relevance of Petras’ characterization of FARC. Which considering my attitudes about James Petras makes it highly unlikely I’ll be able to read the man’s article in its entirety. Most likely, I’ll also be unable to continue posting tonite should further posts be submitted, but will check back tomorrow morning when my head is rested.

  15. hp said on July 8th, 2008 at 8:34pm #

    One of the very first things to be done concerning Cuba, should be to dispel those dirty rumors that Cubans aren’t allowed to leave Cuba, pursue their interests and dreams elsewhere.
    allat the rumors and lies that Cubans are not literally prisoners living on a very large island prison…

  16. hp said on July 8th, 2008 at 8:36pm #

    Allay, that is.

  17. evie said on July 8th, 2008 at 9:37pm #

    Back in Feb the WaPo had a story of 38 Cuban doctors defecting from a “medical mission” in Venezuela – helping Hugo’s revolution – and applying for political asylum in the US.

    What keeps many Cubans in Cuba is not having the money to leave.

    It’s a shame the good doctors want to leave the socialist revolution for the capitalist imperialism of the US. Don’t they know how good they have it? Michael Moore told us so.

    Cubans are fined if caught living in Havana without “authorization.” Supposedly to keep the poor from migrating in huge numbers to the city, a burden to Havana’s housing, water, electric, etc. And guess what color these poor folks are.

  18. Rogelio Paz said on July 8th, 2008 at 9:45pm #

    The tide is changing so, it’s Castro. Ideals are not carve on stone. They are product of a time and it seems to be that the North American Left had not realized that yet. It will be a very rude awakening for all of those who one believed in Castro, whose main purpose has been to keep his control over Cuba with a completed disregard of the people. In few years North American companies will be again in Cuba doing the same as they did before 1959. Remember, revolution also means a complete circle around something.

  19. alberto emsor said on July 9th, 2008 at 4:13am #

    Mr Petras : As a “sociologist” have you ever heard the term “sociocide” ? This term was introduced by sociologists in Europe- It is defined as the “destruction of a society “. The communists and alike movements, destroy societies to replace them for another- The price people pay in death and destruction is unspeakable- Throughtout the history of the world there has been many attempted”sociocides”. The Holocaust is an example of one- The Cuban Revolution another- The failed Russian Revolution is a typical one- The Roman Empire used it constantly to conquer the world-…… The F.A.R.C. is doing exactly the same, the Colombian government is defending their democratic government against “sociopaths” Thank You for listening Mr “Sociologist”.

  20. Peter LaVenia said on July 9th, 2008 at 8:03am #

    So wait, Marxists are supposed to support guerrilla warfare, even though it has proven disastrous in almost every instance where it was tried, and its links to proletarian class struggle are negligible at best? I am extraordinarily dubious that we can consider the FARC a revolutionary army at this point, but they are rather one branch of a drug-running empire in Colombia (mind you I’m for legalization of drugs, but still).

    Also, you tacitly condone their taking of hostages. How does hostage-taking advance the class struggle? Aside from Ingrid Betancourt’s delirious embrace of the Uribe regime – which is sad, but after years in captivity you’d probably embrace whatever regime freed you, too – why is the release of hostages bad? I could understand if the hostages were soldiers or paramilitaries, but civilians? Even Hamas and the PLO never took civilian hostages.

  21. Manuel A. Tellechea said on July 9th, 2008 at 8:12am #

    Mr. Petras:

    I am sorry that the longest-ruling and most sanguinary dictator in the history of Latin America has not lived up to your expectations in his dotage.

  22. Val Prieto said on July 9th, 2008 at 8:22am #

    Mr. Petras,

    Just one question to clears things up a bit, vis-a-vis that paradise called Cuba:

    Which way are the rafts heading?

  23. Giorgio said on July 9th, 2008 at 12:55pm #

    Hey Mr Alberto,

    After this longish diatribe of yours,…

    ” The communists and alike movements, destroy societies to replace them for another- The price people pay in death and destruction is unspeakable- Throughtout the history of the world there has been many attempted”sociocides”. The Holocaust is an example of one- The Cuban Revolution another- The failed Russian Revolution is a typical one- The Roman Empire used it constantly to conquer the world-…… The F.A.R.C. is doing exactly the same, the Colombian government is defending their democratic government against “sociopaths” Thank You for listening Mr “Sociologist”.”

    …you needn’t have gone as far back as the Roman Empire. You missed out badly two very recent, much alive and ongoing ” sociocides ” : the IRAQI and PALESTINIAN sociocides !
    Was it unintentional or deliberate omission and do you think these are just the unavoidable birth pangs of freedom and democracy brought on the region by benevolent, well intentioned powers?

  24. alberto emsor said on July 9th, 2008 at 1:48pm #

    It is intersting that my comments triggered a reply- Wonder why ?
    So… you agree with the term “sociocide”- Well then if you qualify with the Iraqui and Palestinian situations as “societies destructions”,then you must also agree that the FARC’s ultimate goal is to destry the Colombian society.
    Oh, by the way, I mentioned the Holocaust, that is not that far back-
    I suggest for you to be calm and read all replies careffully-
    Thank You

  25. Giorgio said on July 9th, 2008 at 5:56pm #

    You still haven’t answered my question.
    Where the hell did you get the idea that I’m not calm?
    I’m as cool as a cucumber….and please don’t put words into my mouth!
    I didn’t agree or say anything about FARC.
    As for the holocaust, I wasn’t even born when it happened.
    So, as far as I’m concerned, it is as far back in history as the Roman Empire! PERIOD.

  26. alberto emsor said on July 10th, 2008 at 5:30am #

    I am confused, regarding your article and subsequent reaction- You call my first response a “waste of your time”, meaning you see no merit in the fact that there is an analogy between FARC and other revolutions and society destruction. On the other hand, you agree that there have been sociocides in the history of the world- In your second response you state that you were not even born during the Holocaust- Does that mean that the Holocaust did not happenned because you were not born ? My position is clear, wheter from the right or left society destruction is a crime against humanity- Therefore FARC must free the hostages and stop destroying families-
    Thank You for your attention- God bless and Adios-

  27. Max Shields said on July 11th, 2008 at 4:48am #

    Wasn’t it Castro who recently “endorsed” Barrrrraaaaack Ooooooobama? I think Castro has perhaps overstayed his welcome. The beast to the north is starting to look a little fuzzy.

    In any case, a read of some US /Latino Amercian history would do some good right about now.

    And to the remark that guerilla war fails, ahhhh Cuba si/no? Vietnam si/no? Congo si/no? Algiers si/no? US “revolution” si/no? I’m sure you can think of many others.

    On the other hand, there is always the question of whether guerilla war gets you what you really want when you “win”?

    Ah well….

  28. Lloyd Rowsey said on July 11th, 2008 at 5:21am #

    Giorgio. Before deleting this article’s address from my Favorites, I want to express my appreciation for your appreciation of Alexander Pope. Poetry is a wondrous thing, and Pope was a genius in the first degree. Thank you for providing me with the opportunity to experience his writings.

  29. dan e said on July 11th, 2008 at 3:21pm #

    Wonder what happened to my comment posted on this thread yesterday? Oh well. Probly was too polite?

    SUNIL: you sound like you aren’t aware that Fidel is no longer the head honcho in Cuba? That Granma has stopped the once-automatic practice of putting his speeches/statements on the front page? Which most observers see as an indication that his views are shared less and less by those now making the decisions in Cuba?

    Is the important question one of the freshness of “faces”, or that of the freshness of ideas? What is it about Raoul Castro’s policy direction that so offends you, other than that he fails to appreciate your Anarchist dogmas?

    I’m sorry, you seemed okay to me at first, & DV turns out to be a solid contribution in itself — but IMHO you’re sounding pretty square these days. As the late President L. Willis Young usta say,


  30. dayan jayatilleka said on July 27th, 2008 at 8:46am #



    “The wellspring of our revolutionary ethics is inexhaustible”- Fidel Castro (19.07.08)

    Let’s commence with what would seem a contradiction or a paradox. Fidel Castro recently welcomed the release in a daring operation by the armed forces of Colombia, of hostages kept by FARC, the oldest guerrilla movement in Latin America, which calls itself Marxist-Leninist. Quoting the official Cuban news source, an AFP report from Havana, dated July 4, reads as follows:
    ‘Civilians should never have been abducted, nor soldiers held as prisoners under jungle conditions,’ the veteran Communist leader said, describing the detention as ‘cruel’ and that ‘no revolutionary purpose could justify it.’
    ‘For basic humanitarian reasons, we welcome the news that Ingrid Betancourt, three US citizens and other hostages were freed,’ he said in a statement on the official Cubadebate website.’
    On July 5th, Fidel engaged in a dual demarcation of his position, distancing himself from a call for the FARC to unilaterally disarm, and criticising externally driven militarisation of the situation:
    “…I have honestly and strongly criticized the objectively cruel methods of kidnapping and retaining prisoners under the conditions of the jungle. But I am not suggesting that anyone laid down their arms, when everyone who did so in the last 50 years did not survive to see peace. If I dared suggest anything to the FARC guerrillas that would simply be that they declare, by any means possible to the International Red Cross, their willingness to release the hostages and prisoners they are still holding, without any precondition…”
    Fidel’s double demarcation and dialectical stand can seem puzzling only to those who have not followed his trajectory, understood his philosophy and his contribution to revolutionary and radical political thought.
    Moral Victory
    Fifty five ago, a brilliant, passionate, Jesuit-educated young lawyer-politician led a group of rebels on an attack on the Moncada army garrison in the Oriente province in Cuba. The aim was to seize the weapons, distribute them, and trigger an uprising in the province, which would then become generalized throughout the country. The goal was to topple the military junta of Batista, which was supported by the United States.
    The attack failed, the rebels were arrested, tortured, murdered. Thanks to luck, the integrity of a military officer, and the intervention of an Archbishop, a few survived. That should have been the end of the story, like that of so many rebellions in Latin America. Yet it was not. Brought to trial in what was presumed to be an open-and-shut case, the young rebel leader conducted his own defence and made an oration that ranks in the annals of the finest emancipation literature in human history.
    Itemizing and denouncing the unjust structures of his society, drawing on the literature of human freedom and injustice (including the Bible), and unfailingly dignified and fair to his judges, he concluded with a phrase that has become part of the consciousness of modern humankind: “Condemn me if you must. History will absolve me!”
    It is by his deportment in defeat and by turning a material defeat and disaster into a moral victory, that Fidel Castro entered History. Revolutionary Cuba was born six years later.
    The Speech
    Fidel Castro’s 1953 speech before his judges (“History will Absolve Me”), conducted in the prison infirmary, is replete with references to the moral-ethical dimension. He makes a moral indictment of the regime, posits a moral superiority on the part of his fighters and cause, and perhaps most significantly, makes explicit reference to morality in armed combat, contrasting the behaviour of his fighters with that of the Batista forces and going on to make a general statement of principles about ethical and humane behaviour in warfare.
    “Everyone had instructions, first of all to be humane in the struggle. Never was a group of armed men more generous to the adversary. From the beginning we took numerous prisoners – nearly twenty – and here was one moment when three of our men – Ramiro Valdes, Jose Suarez, and Jesus Montane – managed to enter the barracks and hold nearly fifty soldiers prisoners for a short time. Those soldiers testified before the court, and without exception they all acknowledged that we treated them with absolute respect, that we didn’t subject them to one scoffing remark. In line with this, I want to give my heartfelt thanks to the prosecutor for one thing in the trial of my comrades: when he made his report he was fair enough to acknowledge as an incontrovertible fact that we maintained a high spirit of chivalry throughout the struggle.”
    Writing in Bohemia magazine in 1955, Castro quotes the words of the Prosecutor at his trial, with regard to the Moncada rebels’ conduct during their attack:
    “…On the part of the revolutionaries, it is not difficult to say that they acted with honesty. They were sincere, courageous and patriotic in their confessions. They also behaved with generosity and honour. One example is right here in the Palace of Justice where they respected the lives of a group of armed forces members whom they could have killed…”
    The acknowledgement by the prosecution, i.e. the enemy, of the comportment of insurrectionists and their humanitarian conduct in the heat of armed insurrection is both a historical rarity and proof of Castro’s achievement of moral-ethical hegemony even in military defeat.
    The moral dimension of his speech resides not only in the explicit references to morality but in the argument of the right to overthrow a regime that had seized power in violation of the constitution, and in his indictment of a social system which heaps injustice and misery upon the mass of its citizenry – an indictment of what we might term structural or systemic immorality.
    “Society is moved to compassion when it hears of the kidnapping or murder of one child, but it is criminally indifferent to the mass murder of so many thousands of children who die every year from lack of facilities, agonizing with pain…and when the head of the family works only four months a year, with what can he purchase clothing and medicine for his children? They will grow up with rickets with not a single good tooth in their mouths by the time they are thirty; they will have heard ten million speeches and will finally die of misery and deception.”
    Fidel Castro as Military Leader
    Fidel Castro as commander distinguished himself from many other leaders of rebellions and revolutions, as well as leaders of States and conventional armed forces, not only by his unorthodox military brilliance but by permanent adherence to high moral and ethical standards in the exercise of violence. This did not make him any less of a military commander or any less successful a military commander. Indeed it was at the very core of his success, survival and greatness. Brain Latell, who handled the CIA’s Cuba Desk for long years, rates the Cuban armed forces under Castro as even more impressive than the Israeli Defence Forces, because the Israelis never fought and won battles against a foe as sophisticated as the South African conventional forces at a distance across an ocean and on another continent, as did the Cubans.
    Fidel Castro always strove to maintain a moral asymmetry between himself and his foes. The moral asymmetry of the Fidelista revolutionaries and the Batista regime is striking. The extreme brutality of the Batista forces is amply documented. In the aftermath of the defeat of the Moncada uprising, 61 captured militants were tortured, mutilated with genitals and other body parts ripped out, and murdered. These included Abel Santamaria, Castro’s deputy, whose eye was plucked out and shown to his sister Haydee, also a captured revolutionary militant. Secret photographs of the corpses were published in the respected magazine Bohemia, generating a wave of revulsion at the repression. During the civil war the government forces engaged in what one independent writer calls “State terror and corruption, bestial torture and murder of political opponents as well as non-participants …”
    A serious competitor to Fidel Castro’s guerrilla project arose from among militant university students, calling itself the Revolutionary Directorate (DR). Its strategy was that of assassination and urban terrorism, redolent of the Russian Narodniks and their successors the Socialist Revolutionaries (S-Rs),. Castro’s response avoided three options which are the most widely practised in such contexts. He avoided a coercive or imitative competition, or endorsement of such tactics.
    Code of Conduct
    Castro implicitly sets out a code of conduct in revolutionary warfare, indeed warfare in general:
    “Let me mention two important facts that facilitate an objective judgement of our attitude. First: we could have taken over the ranking officers in their homes. This possibility was rejected for the very humane reason that we wished to avoid scenes of tragedy and struggle in the presence of their families.”
    “… Neither a real soldier nor a true man can degrade his code of honour with lies and crime.
    In wartime armies that murder prisoners have always earned the contempt and abomination of the entire world. Such cowardice has no justification, even in a case where national territory is invaded by foreign troops. In the words of a South American liberator: ‘not even the strictest military obedience may turn a soldier’s sword into that of an executioner’. The honourable soldier does not kill the helpless prisoner after the fight, but rather, respects him. He does not finish off a wounded man, but rather, helps him. He stands in the way of crime and, if he cannot prevent it he acts as that Spanish captain who, upon hearing the shots of the firing squad that murdered Cuban students, indignantly broke his sword in two and refused to continue serving in that army.
    The soldiers who murdered their prisoners were not worthy of the soldiers who died…. when Cuba is freed, we should respect, shelter, and aid the wives and children of those courageous soldiers who perished fighting against us.”
    Here, when he speaks of the decisions and choices including those of location of operations made by his rebel force, it is apparent that Castro’s code is imbued with a spirit of chivalric honour.
    Code of Honour
    Fidel Castro brings in categories, such as ‘fair’ and ‘honourable’, rejected by Realism as ‘romantic’ and condemned by Marxism as ‘idealistic’, into his most serious and intimate political reflections. In his conversations with fellow senior revolutionary Tomas Borge, Fidel Castro looks back at his famous speech ‘History Will Absolve Me’, delivered at his trial after the Moncada attack, and explains his choices as well as his understanding of the historical process in heterodox terms, quite foreign to ‘the materialist conception of history’:
    “…When I said ‘History will absolve me’… that was an expression of confidence in the ideas I was defending as the fairest ones, and of the cause I was defending as the most honourable one. I meant that the future would recognise this because, in the future, those ideas would be made realities; in the future, people would know everything about what happened: what we did and what our adversaries did, what goals we sought and what goals our adversaries sought, and who was right – we or the judges who were trying us, who had acted dishonestly in discharging a public trust who had abandoned their oath of loyalty to the Constitution and were serving a tyrannical regime. I was challenging them, absolutely convinced that the ideas we were defending would triumph in our homeland someday – a conviction I still have, that humanity’s legitimate causes will always advance and triumph…”

    That this is no artifice for the benefit of a sympathetic foreign audience is best evidenced by its presence as a theme in his speeches to domestic audiences. In 1978 on the 25th anniversary of the Moncada uprising, an event of cardinal significance in the revolutionary calendar as it were, Castro made the same point to his Cuban audience as he was to make in Riverside church New York, almost a quarter of a century later:
    “Our strength is not in lies or demagoguery but in sincerity, truth and consciousness. In addition the weapons are in the hands of the people and they use them to defend the revolution without torture, crime, death squads, missing persons, illegalities, or arbitrary acts such as occur every day in the countries in which imperialism keeps unjust oppressive, reactionary regimes in power. Even our most bitter enemies have begun to acknowledge this now – the fruits of our having planted seeds of principle and revolutionary ethics at the time of Moncada, seeds that flourished during the war of liberation and the subsequent development of the revolution. Rising above the mountains of imperialist slander, our historical reality stands firm and invincible.”
    The concluding sentence of the short speech he made to the rebels who were about to attack the Moncada barracks under his leadership (remarks which Haydee Santamaria refers to in her reminiscences) is utterly telling and is indicative of Castro’s criteria for the use of lethal violence: “Those who are determined should go forward. The watchword is not to kill except as the last resort.”
    Had organised armed formations and entities in Sri Lanka, be they radical/revolutionary, ‘national liberationist’ or State, followed his example, the country would have not been living through a tragedy.
    Had the world followed his example, human history would have evolved very differently.
    [Dayan Jayatilleka is the author of Fidel’s Ethics of Violence: The Moral Dimension of the Political Thought of Fidel Castro, University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor and Pluto Press, London, 2007]