Fidel and Peace

By Katiuska Blanco on August 10, 2020

Photo: Bill Hackwell

We run this article in honor of Fidel on what would have been his 94th birthday. Just how revolutionary, profound and farsighted he was looms larger and larger in this period of mass crisis in the world. -editorial

The launching of the atomic bomb over the unarmed cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, on August 6 and 9, 1945, moved Fidel dramatically and unforgettably. He recognized the accounts of the explosion and its terrible consequences as overwhelming. Only a few weeks before, he had finished his high school studies at the Belen School and, during the weeks he was returning to the endearing space of the big house of his family in Biran, he was getting ready to start his law degree at the University of Havana in September of that year. At the time the news of the bombing of Hiroshima was given, Fidel was visiting Santiago de Cuba. No one then had the slightest idea of the existence of such a weapon. Three days later they bombed Nagasaki. He experienced a feeling of repulsion and a total rejection of that criminal act, an opinion that remained unchanged throughout his life.

Since he was ten years old, Fidel had begun to worry about what was happening in the world, when he read aloud to the cook Manuel Garcia, the news of the Spanish Civil War that, with more or less fortune for the Republican side, the newspapers coming from the capital reported. From the middle of the previous year – 1935 – and during the months that it lasted, he even followed the war in Abyssinia with great interest. So even then he already had the notion that the world was a shaky and unjust place, where great battles were still being fought. Heroes and anti-heroes were not something of the past or remote antiquity. While he was studying in schools he felt a tremendous fascination for the outstanding personalities of history, such as Alexander the Great, Hannibal or Napoleon, but then, respect and deep admiration for those who were not conquerors, but liberators of the people: Miranda, Simon Bolivar, Sucre, San Martin, and almost immediately he developed admiration and pride for the closest and most endearing to the inhabitants of the Cuban archipelago: the Apostle Jose Marti, Generalissimo Maximo Gomez and the Bronze Titan Antonio Maceo.

In 1939, World War II broke out. At the age of 13 he was aware of the developments on the war front. The events of the time left a deep impression on him. He could not yet envision that in order to defend noble causes he would have to wage a guerrilla struggle in the mountains and then in the international arena as a gladiator of peace, solidarity and justice in defense of the people, the humble, all of humanity, against imperial hegemonic domination and globalized capitalism.  On that path, inexorably, would be the indelible memory of the devastation and suffering caused by the inhumane and criminal US atomic bombing of the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, a tragedy that placed before their eyes the devastating power of another kind of war.

Fidel was convinced of Martí’s principle: “Trenches of ideas are worth more than trenches of stone” and he always considered that for war of a popular nature, empires had no effective formula and for a war against a people, all the military and technological force of the world was not worthwhile. He gave a historical example, that of Napoleon, who, in his own words, “was a victorious general in all of Europe, he invaded Spain and the Spanish people defeated him. All Napoleon’s strategic capacity, all his maneuvers, fighting against peasants, workers of the people, were useless; they defeated him with another kind of struggle. He was defeated at Waterloo in a battle he had won; but an enemy troop he thought was distant suddenly appeared and defeated him. That kind of battle can be decisive and in the war against the people it’s hard.”

But what happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki posed another situation, radically different, overflowing with what he had read in the newspapers or in Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace, a novel that addresses a crucial crossroads and where the author reflects on what it means in loss and pain of a conflict. From the criminal atomic bombing of Japan by the United States, Fidel had the clear conviction that in our time, there was another type of war, a war of apocalyptic dimensions, devastating even for the existence of the human species on the planet: the nuclear war, on the verge of which Cuba was during the October Crisis in 1962. This was a threat that lasted throughout time and remained latent in his thoughts as a concern and a reason to fight for peace not just for Cuba but all people.

In Fidel’s opinion, the problems posed by nuclear war are unsolvable and that is why he always maintained that the best thing would be for all nuclear weapons to be destroyed. He tirelessly advocated total disarmament so that the Earth would not be forced to live with the perennial danger of a war of such magnitude, a true cataclysm. He warned that even by mistake, such a tragedy could be unleashed, because unfortunately, the colossal energies that scientists were able to put into the hands of man, had served, among other things, to create a self-destructive and cruel instrument like the nuclear weapon.

In March 2003, after an intense journey that took him to China, Vietnam and Malaysia, where he attended the Thirteenth Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement, during a stop in transit to Japan, the historic leader of the Cuban Revolution went to the city of Hiroshima. He denounced that, unfortunately, what happened did not serve as a lesson to the world. He recalled that after the terrible events there, the world was heading for an incredible arms race. He visited the Peace Memorial, where silence is overwhelming and every year the victims of the nuclear holocaust are remembered. In the book of homage, Fidel wrote: “May such barbarism never happen again”. It hurts in the deepest sense to think that such an act took place to intimidate the Soviet Union and all the peoples of the world, and to ensure geopolitical superiority then, and not, as some historians tell us, to win the war against the Japanese Empire, allied with fascist Germany and Italy.

On September 21, 2010, Fidel met in Havana with more than 600 passengers of the Peace Cruise, almost all of them Japanese nationals, among them was a survivor of the mass murder, Junko Watanabe, a member of the Hibakusha movement. The Commander-in-Chief of the Cuban Revolution felt it very special and important to meet with those who stood out for their accumulated experience in the struggle for peace, even from the testimonies and heartbreaking experiences of an event as brutal and unusual as that, where nuclear weapons were used on two peaceful cities. He then pointed out that the Cruise project was an example of the things that help to raise awareness, because the exhibition of everything that happened there and the human damage it caused, despite the time that had passed, once again moved international public opinion. “I don’t think,” he said, “that anything more expressive than war has happened.”

On February 14, 2016, Fidel stated in a Reflection signed 18 minutes after 10:00 p.m.: “Peace has been the golden dream of humanity and the yearning of the people in every moment of history. …] To fight for peace is the most sacred duty of all human beings, whatever their religion or country of birth, the color of their skin, their adulthood or their youth”.

On the eve of August 13, 2016, when he would turn 90 years old, he published a Reflection entitled “The Birthday”, and almost at the end of it he said: “I think that the speech of the President of the United States [referring to Barack Obama] when he visited Japan lacked height, and he lacked words to apologize for the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of people in Hiroshima, even though he knew the effects of the bomb. Equally criminal was the attack on Nagasaki, a city chosen at random by the owners of life. That is why we must hammer on the need to preserve peace, and that no power gets the right to kill millions of human beings”. Denunciation, eternal battle, an unwavering demand for solidarity and justice is what Fidel left us as a compass for these days.

Source: El Ciervo Herido, translation Resumen Latinoamericano, North America bureau