NUMSA mourns the passing of Comrade Fidel Castro

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa mourns the loss of Comrade Fidel Castro, one of the greatest revolutionary socialist leaders of all time. Numsa will always draw inspiration from this leader of his country’s liberation struggle, the driver of its socialist revolution and an inspiration to the poor and oppressed throughout the world.
Numsa sends a message of condolence to the Castro family, the Cuban people and workers around the world who have been inspired by his life. May his soul rest in peace.
Under his leadership, for more than half a century, Cuba has been a shining beacon of hope for the workers and poor people of the world. His government has consistently put the interests of the people first and proved to the world that national liberation, democracy and socialism are not just words in speeches but can become a living reality. He has proved that there is an alternative to the barbarism of capitalism and imperialism and has kept the banner of socialism flying high.
Comrade Fidel’s political struggle began in 1947 when he joined an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow Dominican Republic dictator Trujillo. After studying law, he decided to run for Congress in 1952, but after the US-backed dictator Batista aborted the elections, he began planning armed rebellion, which took off in 1953, when he led a raid on army barracks in the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba. Dozens of followers died and Fidel, his brother Raul Castro and others were captured and imprisoned.
“History will absolve me,” he declared prophetically at his trial. He was pardoned in 1955 and went into exile in Mexico where he met the Argentine revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara. They trained a rebel force that returned to Cuba in 1956 aboard an overcrowded yacht called Granma.
When they landed they were ambushed by government troops, and only 12 of the 82 on board escaped to the mountains. From there, in 1959 they led an uprising and this tiny band of revolutionaries rapidly won the support of the masses and overthrew Batista’s much bigger, better-equipped army, forcing the hated dictator to flee into exile.
He forged an alliance with the then Soviet Union but unlike most of its allies, Cuba remained unscathed when the USSR collapsed in the early 1990s, for which Comrade Fidel deserves the main credit.
He survived many assassination attempts and efforts by nine U.S. presidents, from Eisenhower to George W. Bush, to bring down the revolution through threats, sanctions, blockades and propaganda, but none succeeded in removing the Cuban socialist government.
Its achievements, despite the US’s economic sabotage have been stunning.
Before 1959 the official literacy rate for Cuba was between 60% and 76%, largely because of lack of education access in rural areas and a lack of instructors. The government called 1961 the “year of education” and sent “literacy brigades” out into the countryside to construct schools, train new educators, and teach the predominantly illiterate peasants to read and write. By its completion, 707,212 adults were taught to read and write, raising the national literacy rate to 96%. Education was made free and there is a teacher for every 12 children.
The government trained thousands of doctors. Cuba’s doctor to patient ratio grew in the latter half of the 20th century, from 9.2 doctors per 10,000 inhabitants in 1958 to 58.2 per 10,000 in 1999. This means a doctor for every thousand people, the best ratio in the world, and they have exported their medial skills to help the poor of the world.
In the 1960s the government implemented a program of almost universal vaccinations, which helped eradicate contagious diseases like polio and rubella. A programme to reduce the infant mortality rate in 1970 directed at maternal and prenatal care led to infant mortality falling to 4.83 deaths per 1,000 live births compared with 6.0 for the United States.
Comrade Fidel helped Marxist guerrillas and revolutionary governments around the world to back their liberation struggles. He holds a special place in South African hearts because of his decision to deploy thousands of soldiers in the civil war in Angola which became a crucial turning point in our struggle against apartheid capitalism.
At the battle of Cuito Cuanavale in 1987, Cuban troops threw back the advance of apartheid South Africa’s forces, which both helped to win Namibia’s independence from South Africa in 1990 and started a process that led to the unravelling of the apartheid regime.
Despite his achievements, Fidel always fought any move to create a personality cult. He forbad statues of him to be erected or streets to be named after him. Most Cubans referred to him simply as “Fidel”.
Numsa will always stand in solidarity with its fellow workers in Cuba in resisting the US government’s attacks on the people’s rights to national independence and to control their own future and will keep campaigning to end the US blockade.
South African’s are languishing in poverty and unemployment while in Cuba nobody sleeps without food. Castro was consistent in his rejection of capitalism and his vision for socialism. His example must help us to pursue the class struggle for socialism.
Fidel was a Kilimanjaro of a man, a towering inspiration to the workers of the world and global working class. He championed a socialist vision to liberate humanity and taught us that the history of all existing societies is a history of class struggle and that class struggle is the only guarantee for change.
That’s why we find it very difficult to believe the claim being made by Thabo Mbeki that Fidel advised the then ANC leadership against  nationalisation, in line with the demand of the Freedom Charter, which demanded that in South Africa that mineral wealth beneath the soil, the banks and monopoly industry shall be transferred to ownership of the people.
It is very, very difficult to believe this could have been said by Fidel who championed a revolutionary agenda to overthrow and successfully fight against capitalism and who ensured that Cuba remained a socialist country and who didn’t budge against all the worst forms of attack, including the U.S. trade blockade.
Why would he recommend capitalism for South Africa, as is being reported by individuals who formed part of the leadership who imposed neo-liberal capitalist policies in the form of Gear and the NDP that are directly responsible for the mass poverty and sky-rocketing unemployment which has made South Africa to become number one in the world in terms of inequalities?
As we speak the country is facing a threat of being downgraded by rating agencies because of these capitalist wrong and failed policies; the truth  of the matter is that all the architects and neo-liberal priests of these policies are in complete stagnation and have run out of ideas.
The best way of emulating Fidel Castro will be for revolutionary forces to continue to champion revolutionary theory and mobilize the working class as a class for a struggle to overthrow capitalism which has itself proven that it has no solutions for the problems that confront humanity.
Fidel reminds us one thing – that in society what appears today is on its way to disappear; there is no sun that rises and does not set. The future is socialism!
Aluta continua!
Irvin Jim, Numsa General Secretary:  073 157 6384