I will not deny that there is something emotional in my reaction to Fidel Castro (referred to as Fidel by Cubans and others who admired him) and now his death. For me and many others he represented something more than what we have come to expect from leaders. I do not pretend to have made a full study of the strengths and weaknesses of the Cuban revolution and the uneven recognition of sexual diversity, the machoism that goes with military emphases, the unresolved issues with black Cubans, the limits of debate and other issues. I never had proper discussions with Cubans on these questions and have not made a full study. So, I am willing to accept that not everything done under the aegis of Fidel was perfect and there may have been some inadequacies of the Cuban revolution
Fidel was a voice that the dispossessed of the world needed because vulnerability tends to lead people to lose their agency. Fidel advanced the power of defiance and inspired others to defy
But Fidel was not simply bold and defiant in the face of an enemy located a very short distance from the island of Cuba. He was a powerful intellectual. No one who reads his speeches can fail to be impressed by this. When one reads of his relationship with people like Hugo Chavez their conversations are filled with discussion of what books they were reading.
Fidel was not a dogmatist and he engaged with liberation theologians, amongst other non-Communists and this is recorded in books.
Fidel was compassionate. It was under his leadership that Cuban solidarity gave meaning to the word internationalism, whether through 400,000 Cuban soldiers volunteering (not being drafted and many more wanting to go but not able) to fight in defence of the people of Angola and ultimately defeating the apartheid defence force and turning the tide of Southern African military history.
The internationalism was manifested in Cuban educational, and health work all over the world and in providing a home for many students from Africa, acquiring skills there, something continuing to this day.
Cuban medical solidarity is legendary. As it is said, despite their limited resources, they are always the first to arrive for a medial crisis and the last to leave. When their soldiers left Africa, as one mother said they took nothing but the remains of those who had died.
Certainly, there were and are problems that remain unresolved in Cuba but I know that there are many like me who feel the passing of Fidel emotionally for we have lost someone who cared deeply about the pain that the poor and dispossessed suffered everywhere and anywhere. His life will inspire others to fight on and ensure that they enjoy the liberties and opportunities and resources for which Fidel devoted his life.