Learn, but Carefully, from History
Today I am supposed to get a chance to say a few words at a memorial for Fidel Castro.
I probably won’t say a lot about his great courage, his internationalism, or his fine intellect, because there are other speakers and I’m sure they will cover that. Instead, I will try to stress what we should have learned from Fidel’s victories and defeats.
At the same time, I might mention a number of other victories and defeats we are aware of, such as the Obama election victory, the Bernie Sanders election defeat, America’s Equal Rights Amendment, the People’s Party of Texas in 1896, or the 8-hour day movement.
What Makes a Victory Instead of a Defeat?
The main thing that separates the victories from the defeats is not intellect, and it’s not courage. It’s the approach to strategic decisions.
In Fidel’s victories, and in every victory, strategy began with a correct assessment of the situation at hand. The Fidelistas correctly decided that Cubans were ready to get rid of the Batista dictatorship and that they would support armed struggle. He figured out that the international community would generally favor his effort and that the Eisenhower Administration would not immediately intervene. I’m sure they had a much more detailed and thought-out assessment. If their assessments had been wrong, most of us would have never heard of Fidel Castro or socialism in Cuba.
What’s Our Situation?
If we’re trying to figure out the best way forward in the United States in December, 2016, and I hope we are all working on that, we need to start with a correct assessment. Trying to copy Castro in 1959 would be a disastrous mistake. Trying to copy any strategic decisions in any other situations would likewise be disastrous.
We have to do what the Cubans did. We have to figure out our situation and then determine the way forward.
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