There are numerous references by those who frequently had contact with Fidel, or spent time with him, either alone or in groups, about his constant concern to address the most diverse issues affecting them or any other relating to him or his work. Such testimonies recall various examples and moments, from the preparations for the assault on the Moncada Garrison, to his final years, when he made significantly fewer public appearances.
It is admirable just how a political leader who reached global dimensions, and who systematically showed himself to be very attentive to the great contemporary problems of humanity, never ceased to focus on a multitude of issues in his own country and affecting his fellow citizens, whom he often knew on a first-name basis. Nor does his concern for the problems of the world and especially for the poorest and most deprived peoples cease to amaze and move.
It is true that as head of state he had a support apparatus and collaborators, almost always imbued with similar broad humanist concerns. It is enough to recall Celia Sánchez Manduley, who from the days of the Sierra Maestra and until her death, was his most sensitive and effective assistant, whose loyalty and insightful critical eye kept him abreast of what even the most humble and longsuffering Cubans thought and felt.
But there is no doubt that Fidel’s personality justly demanded such direct and systematic contact, from himself, and also from those who surrounded him or exercised any function in the name of the Revolution. That is why there is practically no corner of Cuba, no workplace, school, hospital, sports field, that he did not visit to talk with those who lived, studied, or worked there. As such, those who attribute the work of which they are a part, or in which they are involved in one way or another, forming part of their own careers, to his personal management, and his careful monitoring, are not exaggerating. This is why defending with arms the independence of Angola and contributing to the end of apartheid, teaching to read and write in Nicaragua, expressing all kinds of active solidarity in Venezuela, offering medical assistance in Latin America, Africa, Asia, the islands of the Pacific Ocean, all became part of the Cuban identity.
It is why Fidel’s detailed knowledge of so many matters of the country and the world, his insistent way of addressing the same question to those with the most responsibility for any task, and those with the least, marveled. An unlimited thirst for knowledge? Probably. But beyond this, he was one of those individuals to whom nothing human, including each and every person, was alien. His personality, in order to be fulfilled, required such knowledge, these contacts and shared moments, which were the basis of his action, his aspirations, his desires, his drive to fight for the betterment of human beings and societies.
That original and mature concept of Revolution that he offered us after his long experience of political leadership reveals the influence of Martí on his thought, in more than one of the elements of his definition. To consider that the conduct among human beings in the midst of a Revolution must be based on the human condition itself was the Maestro’s proposal and habitual way of practicing in all fields.
Fidel distances himself from sociological and theoretical thought to conceptualize the Revolution, and like Martí, he does not express it only as a great social movement, but also directs it toward the individual. It has sometimes been argued that in the maelstrom of revolutionary processes, as great transforming moments that drive and mobilize large masses and require profound clashes and ruptures that are felt in the most diverse senses, there is no room for the individual.
Some have said, even from positions considered Marxist, that the individual is replaced by the mass. The phrase of Fidel that I comment on is that of a true humanist: the Revolution – or more specifically the socialist Revolution – requires people to treat each other as human beings, each individual toward all others. Here lies one of the essential differences with capitalism, which is not only an economic and social system, but an entire culture, a way of seeing, feeling and living, mainly for oneself.
Therefore, for Fidel, the Revolution is obliged to change social relations even on the interpersonal level. And whoever reads and studies Martí’s thought immediately understands that he too started from that point to support his idea of the new, Antillean, Cuban Republic, which would be different from the oligarchic republics of the continent, in which the old economic and social order of the colony were maintained, as well as its culture, its way of being and of thinking, excluding the great majority. The Republic of Martí, based on the great majorities, would achieve complete, not just partial justice, as the Maestro wrote to Antonio Maceo. And that is why Martí proclaimed that the first law of that republic would be devotion to the full dignity of man.
Although implicit, the ethical sense of Fidel’s idea is evident, since reciprocal respect for the human condition is required in the Revolution. And we know that this condition was not a hollow concept for Martí, just as it wasn’t for Fidel. Being treated as a human being means having access to work, education, health, artistic culture, etc. In short, to develop and to strengthen abilities, feelings, spiritual life, and basic material requirements such as housing and food, among others. If this treatment respects that human condition, respects the integrity of each person, and thus contributes to their development and improvement, then justice and dignity are achieved.
Fidel follows Martí’s way of thinking, not establishing an opposition between the individual, society and nature, but rather considered them three elements that could be united, or recovered as related. Fidel avoids the individual/society dichotomy: the Revolution needs to understand that society is not a simple sum of individuals, but that without each one of them, one can not speak of the masses. And this is revolutionary because it is a different way of posing the issue and, at the same time, an essential requirement to reach a more just, and more dignified society. To make revolution means, therefore, to change society and within it, each person. And that change must be directed toward justice, toward dignity.
I am convinced that more than any philosophical doctrine or any ideology, this ethical sense of the idea expressed by Fidel, as in all those of this type, is a consequence of his adherence to Martí’s thought. It is known that from an early age, in line with the most advanced ideas of the time in Cuba, Fidel studied Martí’s texts, a practice that he clearly maintained throughout his life, as can be seen from his constant references to his ideas and phrases regarding the most diverse subjects and situations.
In truth, the ethical component is a unique characteristic of Fidel’s thought. In general, his proposals are based on moral criteria, either in his negative remarks regarding capitalism, or his arguments surrounding the need for the Revolution and in the defense of its work. Several times he insisted on pointing out that human beings could not be conceived like the donkey that responds to the stick and follows the carrot. His thinking reflected recognition of the significance of consciousness on human action, and in the development of the revolution. That is why he called for conscience, not for the Revolution to train robots or machines that obeyed commands, but people capable of understanding and explaining their actions, and of deciding for themselves their commitment to the tasks of the Revolution.
Consciousness and principles were themes of Fidel’s ideology and, without a doubt, pillars of his concept of Revolution, and of the human beings that this process should be forming.
The interesting aspect about such pronouncements is that, in addition to being rooted in words denoting values (honor, decorum, dignity, good), they usually refer in affirmative terms to attitudes, to conduct – both social and individual – that become examples to follow. Such is the case of the present idea to which I refer, whose ethical sense is expressed as the statement of a must within the Revolution, based on the use of verbs in the infinitive: to be treated and to treat others as human beings. This is both an aspiration and an imperative for the work of the Revolution. To distance ourselves from both would , for Fidel, a means of distancing ourselves from the Revolution.
Fidel’s concept of Revolution must be understood as what should be, as a permanent aspiration. The idea of Fidel that we comment on, inseparable for a true understanding of the concept of Revolution he expressed, is based precisely on the need for recognition of the importance of each individual and the demand for respect for each and to each. This, of course, presupposes a society in which hegemonies do not prevail, and which remains alert so that they do not resurface in any way, since this would open gaps in this path of human relations.
It is crucial that the Cuban people continue to consider themselves revolutionary and act as such. And for this it is essential to always apply the principle included by Fidel in his concept of Revolution: to be treated and treat others as human beings.