Cuba’s revolution withstood every possible onslaught over decades and has been a triumph of the human spirit, writes
he revolution will not be televised.” An African-American poet uttered those words at the height of the struggle for US civil rights.
Revolutionaries adopt an approach to their historical reality opposed to that of an audience of a TV programme with a set timetable. Revolutionaries don’t sit by the wayside and observe history unfold as removed yet curious observers with no obligation, but rather as those who work. Revolutionaries are not merely an audience to history unfolding on a predetermined and predicted time period, but are active agents of change engaged in a conscious effort to change the world; to bring about a new society. A revolutionary lives his life no longer solely in service of his individual wants and needs but understands his existence as inextricably connected to that of his fellow men, whose social welfare cannot be dissociated from his. This genuine human solidarity does not arise out of sentiments of pity for the weak or false generosity informed by guilt; it is based on irrefutably sound principles to attain emancipation of the oppressed and build a new society.
It is this form of human solidarity that has in the present day brought into being the now unparalleled stature of the Cuban revolution and the Cuban people as an exemplar for those who seek the deeper meaning of freedom, liberty and self-determination. It is through the Cuban revolutionaries and Cuban society as a whole that the whole world and the oppressed, wherever they are to be found, have learnt the distance one must travel and the discipline and sacrifice that may be necessary for one to defend one’s God-given right to determine one’s own fate and give meaning to the idea of being free. In winning their freedom and fighting the gallant fight to defend their right to self-determination, the Cuban people have demonstrated that the revolution was a live phenomenon experienced at the point where it was prosecuted.
Talking about the Cuban Five and the ordeal they went through cannot occur in any meaningful way if one does not speak about the unparalleled achievements of the people of Cuba as a whole. For their outstanding sacrifice was in the service of Cuban society. We pay homage to the Cuban patriots as a true representation of revolutionary sacrifice and selflessness. We pay homage to their conscious resistance in the face of the injustice meted out to them in the attempt to defile what they stood for and what Cuba stands for. We celebrate the triumph of solidarity that came from all progressive humanity and all freedom-loving people worldwide.
The working class and the poor continue to draw inspiration from the example of the Cuban revolution. Their longevity and dynamism have sailed through the turbulent waters, including economic blockades, attempts at regime change and other testing conditions, to emerge as living testimony to the supreme notion that freedom is as precious as life itself. In a society such as ours, we have learnt through the example of Cuba that no man is an island and it is in the interest of the oppressed everywhere to build solidarity as an indispensible ingredient of the recipe of struggle and liberation. There is no greater example for us as the liberation movement in South Africa than the supreme sacrifice of the Cubans in the battle of Cuito Cuanavale, which was arguably the most decisive military confrontation with the apartheid military forces.
The critical role of the Cubans in that battle propelled the struggle to the point of breakthrough, prompting then Cuban president Fidel Castro to assert that “the history of Africa will be written as before and after Cuito Cuanavale”. As South Africans and revolutionary forces in our region we have a stark understanding of the sacrifices of the Cubans in the defeat of the monster of the apartheid regime, the last colonial outpost in our continent. We have a gratitude to the internationalism of the small island of Cuba that stood against giants at its own peril, for all humanity to see that no price is too high to pay for freedom, not merely for oneself but for others.
From Cuba we can never be in doubt in agreeing with the phrase that indeed the revolution will not be televised. The Cuban Five and their victory is a representation of such a spirit from the Cuban people, never only in theory but also in practice. Solidarity is the lifeblood of the revolution; let us never stop building it.
Zuma is president of the ANC and SA
Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro (left)
lights his cigar while Argentinian revolutionary Che Guevara (1928-1967) looks on in the early days of their guerrilla campaign in the Sierra Maestra mountains of Cuba, circa 1956. Castro wears a military uniform while Guevara wears fatigues and a beret