By Charles McKelvey – Feb 8, 2022
Fidel speaks of the crisis of imperialism and the interest of humanity in socialism
It has been said of Fidel that he gave pedagogical discourses. This was illustrated on February 4, 1962, when Fidel offered a history lesson in a speech that came to be known as the Second Declaration of Havana, delivered to more than one million people in the Plaza of the Revolution, an event that was commemorated this past week in Cuba. In the historic discourse, Fidel presented an overview of world history that is a synthesis of Marxism-Leninism, written from the perspective of the revolutions of workers and peasants in Europe; and a colonial analysis, based in the Third World perspective of revolutionary struggles for national liberation. The mass assembly was convoked by Fidel in response to the expulsion of Cuba from the Organization of American States on January 31, 1962, at a meeting of the foreign ministers in Punta de Este, Uruguay.
The Latin American revolution in world historical context
Fidel began the historic speech by noting that José Martí in 1895 had warned of U.S. “annexation of the peoples of Our America,” by which he meant Latin America and the Caribbean. Sixty-seven years later, Fidel noted, we can that Martí’s warning was on the mark in the case of Cuba.
“Cuba fell into the claws of imperialism. Its troops occupied our territory. The Platt Amendment was imposed on our first Constitution, as a humiliating clause that established the hateful right of foreign intervention. Our natural resources passed into its hands, our history was falsified, our government and our policy were molded entirely by its interventionist interests; the nation was submitted to sixty years of political, economic, and cultural asphyxiation.”1
However, with the triumph of its revolution in 1959, Fidel noted, Cuba was able to break the chains that tied its fate to the imperialist oppressor. Cuba has been able to raise the banner of sovereignty and to rescue its natural resources.
The story of Cuba, Fidel declared, is the story of Latin America. And the story of Latin America is the story of Asia, Africa, and Oceania. It is the story of the most savage and cruel exploitation of the entire world by imperialism.
“At the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth, a handful of economically developed nations had completed their division and sharing of the world, submitting two/thirds of humanity to their political and economic control, who were thus obligated to work for the dominant classes of the group of countries with a developed capitalist economy.”
Fidel noted that historic circumstances had enabled certain European countries and the United States to attain a high level of industrial development, which placed them in a position to be able to impose their domination and exploitation on the rest of the world. They did not undertake this global project of domination, Fidel insists, with moral or civilizing motives, as they claim; they were driven by economic motives.
The European domination of the world was tied to social and economic transformations. A new class of merchants and manufacturers, Fidel explained, had emerged from the breast of the feudal society, a new class characterized by a thirst for gold and eagerness for profit. The emerging bourgeois class increasingly clashed with the institutions and ideology of feudalism, giving rise to new ideas that were proclaimed by intellectual representatives of the bourgeois class, who envisioned a new society based in private property and free competition. The masses of peasants, artisans, and workers employed by the new manufacturers participated in a revolutionary process of economic and social change led by the bourgeoisie.
Fidel notes that, with the obstacles of feudalism broken, there was an extraordinary development of the productive forces. Large factories emerged, each accumulating an increasing number of workers.
In the free competition of capitalist society, some enterprises were more efficient than others. They displaced the less efficient competitors from the market, giving rise to the concentration of production. Thus, capitalism entered a new phase, that of the monopolies.
The resulting accumulation of thousands of millions of dollars was based on the exploitation of human work, as millions of workers were obligated to work for subsistence wages. Banks were needed to dispose of the high levels of capital, and thus the fusion of banking and industry occurred, and finance capital was born.
What, Fidel asks, did they do with the accumulated capital? His answer: they invaded the world. They looked toward the natural resources of economically weak countries and their low-waged labor. They initiated the territorial and economic division of the world.
But, Fidel notes, the world was limited in extension. A conflictive competition emerged among the imperialist powers that had divided the territory and resources of the world, as some imperialist powers sought to redesign the original divisions. Fidel maintains that imperialist wars would cost humanity fifty million deaths, tens of millions of persons with disabilities, and immeasurable material and cultural wealth destroyed.
Fidel maintains that the capitalist system of production, once it had given all of itself of which it was capable, became an obstacle to the progress of humanity. Thenceforward human progress would be advanced by a new and vigorous social force that capitalism had created, namely, the proletariat. The proletariat is called to change the outdated social system of capitalism into an economically superior form, replacing private property with property of all the society, and substituting private ownership of the means of production with ownership by the society.
Accordingly, humanity now has an interest in putting an end to anarchy in production and to economic crises and wars, inherent to capitalism in its final phase of imperialism. Humanity now has an interest in satisfying human needs through the planned development of the economy and the rational use of the means of production and natural resources, fundamental to socialism.
It was inevitable, Fidel maintains, that imperialism would enter profound and insurmountable crises, given that current objective conditions create inter-imperialist wars and a universal human interest in a socialist political-economic system. These two objective conditions expressed themselves in an interrelated form: the First World War was the root of the worker and peasant revolution in Russia that established the first socialist state; and the Second World War made possible the formation of the socialist camp of nations.
At the same time, the two world wars stimulated the struggle for sovereignty by the colonial peoples. Fidel notes that “between 1945 and 1957 more than one billion, two hundred million human beings attained their independence in Asia and in Africa. The movement of the dependent and colonized peoples is a phenomenon of universal character that agitates the world and that marks the final crisis of imperialism.”
Cuba and Latin America, Fidel stresses, form a part of this world defined by crises of imperialism and colonialism. “The hateful and brutal campaign unleashed against our country expresses a desperate . . . effort by the imperialists to prevent the liberation of the peoples.”
The Cuban revolution arouses the fear of the imperialists, but it is not really the Cuban Revolution that they fear, but a Latin American revolution. They have a
“fear that power will be taken, through revolution, by the workers, peasants, students, intellectuals, and the progressive sectors of the middle strata of the oppressed and hungry peoples, exploited by the Yankee monopolies and the reactionary oligarchy of America; a fear that the plundered peoples of the continent will seize the guns of their oppressors and declare themselves, like Cuba, free peoples of America.”
But the imperialist effort to prevent the Latin American revolution is useless. “In many countries of Latin America, the revolution is today inevitable,” because of the objective conditions of exploitation in which the people live.
Cuba is accused of wanting to export its revolution. But “revolutions are not exported; they are made by the peoples.” The Cuban Revolution is teaching, through its example, “that the revolution is possible, that the peoples can do it, that there is no force in the contemporary world capable of impeding the movement of liberation of the peoples.”
OAS meeting in Punta del Este
Fidel declared that in the recent Punta del Este meeting of the Organization of American States, U.S. representatives pressured and blackmailed Latin American foreign ministers, seeking to attain their complicity in renouncing the sovereignty of their peoples and submitting to the will of the USA. Entire days, Fidel reported, were dedicated to overcoming the resistance and the scruples of some foreign ministers, placing in the game millions of dollars from the U.S. Department of Treasury, in an undisguised buying of votes. It was, Fidel declared, “equivalent to the formal suppression of the right of self-determination of our peoples.”
In the Punta del Este conclave, the dignified voice of Cuba was lifted to defend not only the right of Cuba but also the abandoned right of all the sister nations of the American continent. The word of Cuba did not have response, Fidel observed; in the face of the power of its arguments and the clarity and courage of its words, the Cuban discourse was greeted with impotent silence.
Fidel declared that in Punta del Este, a “great ideological battle between the Cuban Revolution and Yankee imperialism” broke out, in which the ideological battle lines are entirely clear.
“Cuba represented the peoples; the United States represented the monopolies. Cuba spoke for the exploited masses of America; the United States, for the interests of the exploiting oligarchies and imperialists. Cuba, for sovereignty; the United States, for intervention. Cuba, for the nationalization of foreign companies; the United States, for new investments of foreign capital. Cuba, for culture; the United States, for ignorance. Cuba, for agrarian reform; the United States, for the large estate. Cuba, for the industrialization of America; the United States, for underdevelopment. . .. Cuba, for bread; the United States, for hunger. Cuba, for equality; the United States, for privilege and discrimination. Cuba, for the truth; the United States, for the lie. Cuba, for liberation; the United States, for oppression. Cuba, for the bright future of humanity; the United States, for the past without hope. . .. Cuba, for peace among the peoples; the United States, for aggression and war; Cuba, for socialism; the United States, for capitalism.”
Fidel declared that in Punte del Este, the Organization of American States was unmasked for what it is: a ministry for U.S. colonies and “an apparatus of repression against the liberation movement of the Latin American peoples.”
On February 4, 1962, Fidel Castro demonstrated exceptional leadership capacities. Having convoked the people to mass assembly for the expulsion of Cuba from the Organization of American States, he explained the rejection of the Cuban Revolution in the historic context of the struggle of the Latin American people for sovereignty, and the persistence of U.S. imperialism, not only with respect to Latin America but also in Africa and Asia. Seeing that the objective conditions of imperialist crisis and economic exploitation fuel the liberation movements of the people, he was hopeful for the prospects of revolutions by and for the people.
Fidel lived to see the triumph of socialist revolutions in other Latin American nations, including Chile, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador; and the arrival to political power of progressive movements in Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay. He embraced and allied himself with all of them, even though, with the exception of Nicaragua, they had arrived to political power through the formation of alternative political parties, rather than through guerrilla war. He of course recognized that the conditions in Latin America after 1980 were different from the conditions of the late 1950s and early 1960s. The military dictatorships had fallen in disgrace, delegitimated by the force of the people’s movements, giving rise to limited forms of representative democracy. At the same time, imperialism, in full decadence, imposed the neoliberal project on the peoples, demonstrating with complete clarity its indifference to human need; and demonstrating the complicity of the Latin American estate bourgeoisie and the traditional political parties in the betrayal of the sovereignty and wellbeing of their nations. Thus, Hugo Chávez, a great friend of Cuba and Fidel, would be elected president of Venezuela declaring of the traditional political parties, “They are on their knees before the imperial power.”2
Fidel believed that every challenge provided an opportunity. And he repeatedly declared that “no one has the right to lose faith in the future of humanity.”
Charles McKelvey writes a Substack column, “Knowledge, ideology, and real socialism in our times” (https://charlesmckelvey.substack.com/). He is Professor Emeritus, Presbyterian College, Clinton, South Carolina, USA. Follow him on Twitter: @CharlesMcKelv14.
Featured image: More than one million people, of a total population seven million, responded to Fidel’s call for mass assembly in the Plaza of the Revolution