In June 2015, South Africa had the honour to host the Cuban Five Heroes – Comrades Gerardo Hernandez, Antonio Guerrero, Ramon Labanino, Rene Gonzalez and Fernando Gonzalez. Their visit to the country coincided with our country’s celebration of the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the Freedom Charter and was a tribute to African solidarity extended to them and Cuba during their almost two decades of incarceration. Through this Special Edition of ANC Today, the Revolutionary Alliance expresses its appreciation and gratitude to the people the people of Cuba for their unwavering commitment and immeasurable contribution to the liberation of Africa.
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Foreword by President Jacob Zuma
To begin this input let me make reference to a popular modern phrase which I hope will be a successful attempt on my part to highlight the theme of solidarity, given the international situation currently. In the modern day there exists a widely used phrase in reference to the revolution: that is, “the revolution will not be televised.” An African American poet uttered those words at the height of the struggle for civil rights in his country. This saying has been given different interpretations overtime, some emptying it of its essential meaning as intended by the author. It is common cause that this poet was inspired by the changing conditions in his country and the poem truly represented a prevalent sentiment in his social circle and among his compatriots. In many ways this sentiment inspired many young revolutionaries to see their duty to rise against the social ills that confront humanity in the present as one never to be postponed, as a duty nobody else other than themselves as oppressed people had to carry to a logical conclusion.
In this manner, the revolutionaries adopt an approach to their historical reality; a manner opposed to that of an audience of a television programme with a set timetable for viewers to remember. Revolutionaries are not those who sit by the wayside and observe history unfold, merely as removed yet curious observers with absolutely no obligation, but rather are those who work the field to bring about revolutionary outcome even though they may not be alive to see the day of the reaping of the fruits of the revolution itself. Revolutionaries, although fully aware of the historical process by which their present comes into being, have the higher form of consciousness by which they harness their existing knowledge to carry out such actions as may be necessary to bring about far reaching change in society.
It is that form of consciousness the revolutionary movement must be engaged in a ceaseless struggle to cultivate and elevate as the precondition for success of our revolution.
As such, revolutionaries are not merely 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. We have thus learned that a revolutionary lives his life no longer solely in service of the their individual wants and needs but understands his existence as inextricably connected to that his fellow men, whose social welfare cannot be disassociated from his.
Therefore if man’s existence is a social one then his actions to rid society of its ills and social injustice must of necessity be built not on the individual but on the collective, on human solidarity, on mutual concern for the welfare of others. 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 an irrefutably sound principle to attain emancipation of the oppressed and to build a new society. Genuine collectivism, growing out of the solidarity of the under-classes, guarantees the oppressed the position of drivers of social change, of course, to the extent that they realise their historic role.
It is this form of human solidarity that is based on the afore mentioned form of consciousness and principles that has, in the present day, brought into being the now unparalleled stature of the Cuban revolution and the Cuban people as a whole as the exemplary practice for those who seek deeper meaning to freedom, liberty and self-determination. It is through the practice of the Cuban Revolutionaries and the 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 at time be necessary for one to defend their God-given right to determine their own fate and give meaning to the very idea of being free. In winning their own freedom and fighting a gallant fight to defend their right to self determination, the Cuban people have demonstrated that the revolution is a live phenomenon experienced at the point where it is 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 service of the 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 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 across the world.
The working class and the poor continue to draw inspiration from the example of the Cuban revolution whose longevity and dynamism has 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 as ours, we have learned 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 to 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 a point of a breakthrough, prompting 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 gratitude to the internationalism of the small island of Cuba that has stood against giants at its own peril to cement for all humanity to see that no price is too high to pay for freedom, not merely of oneself but also of 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 that Cuban people, never only in theory but also in practice. Solidarity is the lifeblood of the revolution; let us never stop building it!
Comrade Jacob Zuma is the President of the ANC