Fidel Castro turns 90 – decades of revolutionary commitment and resiliencyFidel Alejandro Castro Ruz, commonly known as Fidel Castro, turns 90 on the 13th August 2016. We will join the progressive world in celebrating the life of this legendary revolutionary. It is also an opportune time to reflect on the invaluable lessons and insights his life offers.

Fidel and the Cuban revolution are inspirational in our search for a better, equitable Zambian society. Despite decades of a ruinous economic blockade imposed on the island by Washington, the Cuban social indicators are very impressive; in many respects even superior to those of leading imperialist countries with higher per capita GDP levels. Fidel and his comrades give us hope that the health status and education levels of the masses of our people can significantly and equitably be transformed within decades.

Zambia, which became independent only 5 years after the Cuban revolution, is today a sad reflection of the failures of a parasitic petty-bourgeois state and the futility of social and economic development at the periphery of capitalism. Out of the 54 African countries today, none comes closer to attaining the social development Cuba has demonstrated; not even South Africa with all its natural resources and total embodiment in the global capitalist order! The Cuban achievements would not have been possible without a firm revolutionary and socialist orientation.

Fidel has lived a life that is true to the spirit of José Martí’s famous words: “Homeland is Humanity. Humanity is Homeland.” In Zambia, we continue to befit from Cuban support in various developmental areas, more especially in education and health. A good number of our medical doctors were and are still being trained in Cuba. Cuban medical doctors were a common sight in our health facilities. The same is true for many other countries; be it in the fight against Ebola in West Africa, in the training of public health professionals for the USA cities and countless other examples.

During the turbulent years of the armed liberation struggle in Southern Africa, Fidel and the Cuban people firmly stood by our side. They helped us to think through and reposition our intelligence network and defense systems against the colonial fascist states that were on our boarders. When the Angolan territory was invaded and occupied by apartheid South Africa, it was Cuba under Fidel’s leadership that came to its rescue. More than 2,000 Cuban lives were lost in defending the Angolan dignity and sovereignty.

As we celebrate Fidel’s 90-year life achievements, the word “resilience” comes out prominently. Here is a human being who survived more than 600 assassination attempts by the USA imperialists. He stood firm to his socialist principles even when the Soviet Union and many other countries went under. He has continued to be an excellent thinker, philosopher and critical commentator against capitalism despite the intellectual hegemony neo-liberal capitalism has imposed globally. Even in the face of a debilitating illness, his revolutionary spirit remains young, fresh and principled.  In Lozi, we would say kikota ye tiile! (he is made of hardwood). This is revolutionary resilience par excellence! Zambia would do better with a dose of this revolutionary resilience.

Fidel once said that “Condemn me, it does not matter, history will absolve me.” This was at his trial following the failed Moncada attack in 1953. Indeed, history has absolved this revolutionary hero. We salute him.