Friday, December 12, 2014

Daily Times Editorial Dec 13, 2014

Fidel recognised While we in Pakistan are still conflicted about Malala Yousafzai’s Nobel Peace Prize, there is another world beyond Oslo. China’s version of the Nobel Peace Prize has this year been awarded to revolutionary icon and former leader of Cuba, Fidel Castro for his “important contributions” to world peace. Castro, who retired from office after a near fatal illness in 2006, enjoys enormous prestige and respect all over the world. Since his retirement, he has contributed regular articles to the press and written books, apart from campaigning with leaders and groups worldwide to eliminate nuclear weapons, still the greatest threat to the future of mankind. Fidel bested more than 20 nominees, including South Korean President Park Guen-Hye, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. He was selected by nine judges out of a group of 16 experts and scholars. China’s alternative to the Nobel is the Confucius Peace Prize, awarded since 2010 to those who have made contributions to advancing world peace. Cynics in the west are dismissive of the Confucius Prize as merely China’s response to the Nobel being awarded in the past to political dissidents in China. Such cynicism also attended the Lenin Peace Prize in the past, an award instituted by the former Soviet Union. The problem lies in one’s definition of ‘peace’ and how certain contributions have either enhanced or retarded the achievement of this desirable goal. The uninformed may be inclined to question how a revolutionary leader like Fidel Castro, who overthrew the Batista dictatorship in 1958 through leading a guerrilla struggle initially based in the Sierra Maestra Mountains of Cuba to usher in the country’s new path and journey to socialism, could be ‘elevated’ to the status of a peace campaigner. But the fact is that fighting and winning against the forces of dictatorship, repression, exploitation and imperialist interests was and still is the best way to contribute to a peaceful and progressive future for mankind as a whole. The fact that the Soviet Union imploded after 74 years of communism, taking Eastern European socialism with it and plunging its allies such as Cuba into deep economic and social turmoil, takes nothing away from oppressed humanity’s desire for freedom from exploitation of man by man, and progress towards the full flowering of the individual as the necessary condition for the full flowering and liberty of society as a whole. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union and what some label ‘actually existing socialism’ in 1991, the received wisdom from the dominant west has been, ‘There is no alternative’ to neoliberal capitalism, the free market and bourgeois democracy. Francis Fukuyama and others have sealed the fate of mankind forever by positing the triumph of capitalism as the realisation of Hegel’s ‘Idea’ in the form of the present political, economic and social dispensation. Ah, but there’s the rub. The system so beloved of the west’s rulers has proved tricky and unmanageable, much like it was even before its global triumph. The 2008 economic collapse and current recession have destroyed all the utopian claims of this being the best of all possible worlds when billions, even in the west, are jobless, hungry, and without shelter. Capitalism’s inherent contradictions, as critiqued by the founders of socialism, and as they are on display currently, promise a dark and uncertain future for the billions of people all over the world who are not part of the super wealthy one percent. Fidel Castro may have come to power through the barrel of a gun, but the Batista dictatorship left him and his comrades no choice. For years, Fidel, a lawyer by training, fought within the political system in Cuba for democracy and rights. When it became obvious that the dictatorship was unyielding, brutal and rapacious in alliance with US interests, Fidel and his comrades were forced to pick up the gun and through the twists and turns of the armed struggle (in which they faced annihilation more than once), they succeeded in freeing Cuba from local dictatorship beholden to big business interests in the US. This breach of Washington’s control of its ‘backyard’ (Latin America) changed the history of the region, and arguably the world, in ways that endure despite the difficulties faced by the Cuban people because of the embargo and sanctions imposed by the US on the tiny island nation for over 50 years. Fidel’s record in office speaks for the solidarity he and the people of Cuba exhibited in the past in coming to the aid of anti-colonial and anti-imperialist struggles in Africa, Asia and Latin America, and in their present devotion and dedication to the highest principles mankind can aspire to by being in the frontline of help to struggling and stricken people all over the world. Cuban doctors were the first to come to Pakistan after the 2005 earthquake, and are today in the forefront of the fight against Ebola in Africa and elsewhere. Cuba’s contributions under Fidel to the peace of the world, defined as opposition to domination by the big powers and their rapacious habits, shines loud and clear above the global horizon and provides inspiration still to new generations striving for a better, more peaceful world.

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