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Writer, Professor, Revolutionary.

"Praxis" by James D. Cockcroft (homage for Fidel Castro Ruz on his 90th birthday)

"Praxis" by James D. Cockcroft (homage for Fidel Castro Ruz on his 90th birthday)

I

To be cultured is the only way to be free -
Martí said it, lived it, practiced it.
Without culture, no freedom is possible -
Fidel expands it, lives it, practices it…

On his 90 birthday, I envision Fidel as a gift to humanity…
and remember my first visit, as a student tourist,
in 1956, shortly after the "Granma" landed.

Suddenly, in Oriente I was arrested by dictator Batista’s police
and kept in the hole of a local jail all night.
Several days later soldiers beat me for 3 hours in a Santiago barracks.

I had seen the news photos
mutilated corpses of murdered young people thrown in ditches
and didn’t need Spanish to realize my crime was being young.

Back in Havana, I promised to take a message to New York,
to friends of the 26th of July Movement – Fidel was alive
needed material aid – a task I did with pride and pleasure.

Years later, I returned, already a Fidelista, Spanish speaking,
to participate in the big sugarcane harvest.
In a Santiago museum, Fidel’s writings,
his quoting Martí from the Sierra Maestra, moved me.

II

Over the years I learned from Fidel, Marxist thinkers,
many Cubans and other peoples rising against oppression.
I joined activist intellectuals around the world
in defense of humanity, revolutions shaking the planet,
new Ché’s like our 5 Cuban heroes,
new Martí’s and Bolívar’s like Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez.

From Fidel I learned the keys
lay in love, in respect for oneself and the other,
in human solidarity, in the ethics of making revolution,
in the trenches of ideas, the Battle of Ideas,
recognizing the relevance of utopia.

Revolutionary culture blossoms in memory, which strengthens the ethical way
to act, give, love, struggle, in a word: praxis.
Memory gives us Marxist thought in its rich diversity,
including its internal disagreements. Not by chance did Chávez -
influenced by Bolívar, Martí, Fidel -
cite Trotsky to denounce Stalinism.

III

Fidel’s praxis includes his honesty, humility,
capacity to admit errors, open himself to others’ suggestions....
As he opened to me in February 2007 during five hours
of private conversation, full of questions, dialogue,
lessons, proposals, original ideas to pursue and investigate...
and yes, sprinkled with his almost never public
unique sense of humor
a prophet, heart and brain endlessly expanding.

And the marvel is that Fidel does all this
with unflinching dignity during Cuba’s long confrontation with imperialism,
resisting history’s biggest military power,
always respecting the northern peoples’ creativity and dignity.

Implicit in this praxis – utopian-realistic,
full of experimentation, high moral standards, internationalism,
honest humility – are pluralism and a recognition that peoples
must make their revolutions tuned to their own cultures and circumstances.

Neither a universal formula nor an absolute model,
revolutionary praxis is a process of learning as we go along,
incorporating struggles for peace, social justice, gender and ethnic equality,
respect for diverse sexual preferences, all human rights
and the defense of Pachamama.

Implicit is the necessity to think, create ideas
for new socialisms of the future,
since without ideas, without culture, no freedom is possible,
or as our long-time comrade has also said, alluding to
the reason of the heart and the power of an ideal,
those ideals are what succeed in igniting the flame of the peoples,
the rebelliousness of the peoples.

Celebrating the 90th birthday of this comrade –
who from a young age, like his people, has walked with death
and has fought for life
with all and for the good of all,
with the joy of a Martí-based humanist socialist culture,
with love and faith in what’s good in humanity,
with the wisdom of experience and the need
to make revolution, to create, struggle, listen, search for alternatives –
we all should wish him good health and feel guided by his example.

Homeland is Humanity said Martí – and already the Gran Patria is in gestation.
Unity, struggle, battle and victory!

Long live Fidel!
Long live the planet!
Humanity or Death, We Shall Overcome!