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A book Review by Regina Mutheu

The Spoken autobiography ‘My Life’ by Ignacio Ramonet was first published in Spanish in 2006, following over a hundred hours of interview with Fidel Castro, and was translated into English in 2008.

In the first Chapter, Ramonet states that the idea to write the Autobiography came to him in February 2002 when Comrade Fidel Castro engaged him and Joseph Stiglitz, an economics Nobel Laureate, on the effects of globalisation, and the need for a movement to counter it. Fidel's clarity and quickness to analysis, knowledge, and passion for emerging revolutionary ideas, coupled with knowledge accumulated from many years of the revolutionary practice led Ramonet to contemplate on how younger generations of both those who support or condemn the Cuban revolution lacked clarity on who Fidel truly is. He says, "it struck me as unfair that the newer generations knew so little about his life and career”; and therefore this book is an attempt to rectify that- to let readers in on the life of Fidel Castro.

In the twenty-eight chapters of the spoken autobiography, we see Fidel Castro’s childhood, education, his youth and entry into politics, how he embraced the revolution to free the Cuban people from bad governance, capitalism and imperialism, and his general experiences as a communist revolutionary.

Fidel discusses the Marxist literature that informed his ideology and warns of utopian communism which serves as a reminder of the revolutionary adage 'from theory to practice'. He says “… I avidly read Marxist literature, to which I was more and more attracted. … I once said somewhere that if Ulysses was captivated by the songs of the sirens, I was captivated by the irrefutable truths of the Marxist denunciations. I’d already developed utopian ideas; now I felt I was on firmer ground. Marxism taught me what society was.”

When one looks at the brutality with which the corrupt Fulgencio Batista regime reacted to the popular demands and organising of the Cuban people, we cannot fail to see the similarity and consistency with how capitalist regimes all over the world have and continue to violently supress popular demands for freedom, basic needs and prosperity for all in the society. They still employ psychology, propaganda, repression, and assassinations in their attempts to silence and stop popular uprisings and revolutions. Fidel recalls the many times that their efforts were foiled and their comrades injured or even killed, forcing them to retreat, but they were still determined to go on with the struggle.

Fidel tells us about his capture by soldiers of the Batista regime and how he survived assassination by the brainwashed soldiers who believed themselves to be the ‘heirs of the Liberation Army.’ Indeed, security personnel in most capitalist countries think of themselves as guardians of law and order, not realising that in a capitalist society, law and order is neither neutral nor for the benefit of the majority, but it is indeed for the benefit of the ruling/owning class.

Further, Fidel tells of how he met Ernesto Che Guevara in Mexico, after Che had travelled through Latin America (as a medical student) observing the struggles for progressive reforms, and how Che became involved in the Cuban revolution and in organising resistance in Africa, fuelled by International solidarity. While admitting that it gave him great pleasure to talk about Che, Fidel talks about the reason they bonded so well, revealing their shared political philosophy - a Marxist conviction, a congruence of so many ideas - was the catalyst for their bonding.

It is today evident that international solidarity was deeply ingrained in the revolution. And Fidel mentions later in the book that Cuba is focused on “development of new programmes of internationalist cooperation, such as the presence of thousands of Cuban doctors and health personnel in many places around the world.” Indeed, today as the world battles a global health crisis - the Coronavirus - Cuba has continued to send health workers to many countries whose healthcare systems are overwhelmed and underfunded by capitalist governments.

The book explains how both military and political strategy won the Cuban revolution, discusses the military tactics used, and how the guerrillas advanced or diversified their methods based on their past positive and negative experiences. The book takes us to the eventual victory of the Cuban Revolution in 1959 and gives us snippets on how the previous administrators were brought to book and how all the wealth and property hitherto stolen was reclaimed.

Imperialist United States of America has made numerous attempts at assassinating Fidel Castro, and it has also attempted to destroy socialist construction and restore capitalism in Cuba. Fidel discusses some of the attempts made during the 43 years (up to 2006 when the book was published) and he goes deeper into the counter-revolutionary Bay of Pigs Invasion of 1961 and the Cuban Missile Crisis’ of October 1962.

The book also addresses the events that led to the ‘The Ochoa Case and the Death Penalty’, and the reasons that guided the State’s decision- to avoid compromising the Country and the Revolution. Fidel discusses how those in positions of power must train their conscience to avoid the corruption made possible by being in a position of power. The uncompromising manner with which Cuba dealt with General Ochoa reminds us that no one in the Party, however senior, however popular or however much they have contributed to the past successes of the Party should be above the Party discipline.

The book further discusses the ideological confusion, climate and neoliberal globalization in the world today. Fidel points out that people are now more aware of what globalization is and how monopolies control production and consumerism. Looking inward, the book discusses Cuba’s focus on the fight against terrorism and corruption, the liberation of the Cuban Five, and the energy revolution campaign aimed at improving production, education, and health in the Country.

The book highlights the ability of Cubans to differentiate lies and propaganda from facts, and their ability to assess their Government despite the blockade imposed on them by the world superpowers. This is particularly important in that it has enabled the Communist Party of Cuba to respond to the needs, interests, and opinions of the people. In the true fashion of a Communist, Fidel recognises the errors made in the process of building socialism and how the party has learned and moved to correct these. He says “We must have the courage to recognize our errors for that very reason because that's the only way we can achieve the objective we set out to achieve.

Though lengthy, this spoken autobiography is easy to read as it was published in a conversational tone that allows the reader to ‘feel the voice’ of Fidel Castro in the pages. Some of the key lessons that revolutionaries will learn include the pointers to continuously study Marxist theory, to move from class instinct to class consciousness, to move from theory to practice, to embrace internationalism, to be alert to the social conditions and pre-existing circumstances of the people, to publish revolutionary views to inform the masses and combat imperialist propaganda, and to always remember that individual revolutionaries can be killed, but no one can kill revolutionary ideas.

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The Communist Party of Kenya (CPK) sends greetings of comradeship and solidarity to you Kenyan workers and your fellow workers of the World as you commemorate this year's historical International Labour Day! We reiterate the communist's slogan to workers of the World by the founder of scientific communism, Karl Marx: Workers of the World unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains! The Kenyan society will always be grateful to you workers for being the primary movers of the economy and culture of our nation through your labour. CPK is a workers’ political party since we champion the cla [ ... ]

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MESSAGE FROM THE COMMUNIST PARTY OF KENYA (CPK) TO COMMUNIST PARTY OF THE CHINA ...
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 This year, 2021, is hundred years since the founding of the great Communist Party of China. In the name of Socialist Internationalism, CPK takes this opportunity to extend this message of congratulations, friendship, and revolutionary solidarity to the leadership and membership of CPC as you commemorate the long and rich history of your party. CPC has led the great people of China to liberate themselves and their nation from feudalism, brutal Japanese colonialism, and imperialism led by the United States of America.  Through the CPC leadership, China has succeeded in making immense economi [ ... ]

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MY LIFE BY FIDEL CASTRO AND IGNACIO RAMONET
23 Apr 2021 09:21

A book Review by Regina Mutheu The Spoken autobiography ‘My Life’ by Ignacio Ramonet was first published in Spanish in 2006, following over a hundred hours of interview with Fidel Castro, and was translated into English in 2008. In the first Chapter, Ramonet states that the idea to write the Autobiography came to him in February 2002 when Comrade Fidel Castro engaged him and Joseph Stiglitz, an economics Nobel Laureate, on the effects of globalisation, and the need for a movement to counter it. Fidel's clarity and quickness to analysis, knowledge, and passion for emerging revolutionary i [ ... ]

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