Cuba and the whole of progressive humanity was plunged into grief in September when Comrade Juan Almeida Bosque, one of the greatest and earliest leaders of the Cuban revolution, died of a heart attack at the age of 82.
One of three surviving commanders of the revolution, Comrade Almeida was also the only Afro-Cuban in Cuba’s top leadership. He was born into a poverty-stricken working-class family in Havana on 17 February 1927 and left school aged 11 to begin work as a bricklayer.
Comrade Almeida began working with Fidel Castro in 1952. At that time, Fidel was a law student and had formed a revolutionary organisation to fight the dictatorship of US puppet Fulgencio Batista. Almeida participated in the 1953 attack on the Moncada Barracks, which is considered the start of the contemporary Cuban revolution.
Following two years in prison, together with Fidel and other revolutionary comrades, Comrade Almeida was one of the group who set sail from Mexico on the vessel, the Granma , to set up a revolutionary base in the Sierra Maestra mountains. The majority were killed by Batista’s forces shortly after landing, but Almeida was one of just 16 survivors.
However, in less than three years, that small band of survivors had been swelled with recruits from among Cuba’s young workers, peasants and students, groaning under the tyranny of Batista’s oppression and the crushing exploitation of mafioso US imperialist capital.
Together with Fidel and Raul Castro, and Che Guevara, Almeida trained these youths into a formidable revolutionary army. He became known for his motto: “Nobody here is going to surrender!” In 1958, he became commander of the Santiago Column, which liberated the eastern part of the island.
Comrade Almeida’s leading role continued after liberation, through every stage of the revolutionary process, and in every area of the work of the party, state and army, where he held such posts as vice chairman, vice president and chief of staff, up until his demise on 11 September.
Besides all these onerous responsibilities, he somehow found time to write over 300 songs and several books on Cuba’s musical traditions.
The deep mourning for Comrade Almeida that swept the whole of Cuba testified to his well-known qualities of being modest, unassuming and scrupulously fair in his dealings with every person and every situation. Above all, it was testimony to his integrity and steadfastness as a revolutionary, and to the determination of every generation of Cuban people to defend to the death the same revolutionary ideals to which Comrade Almeida dedicated his life.
As Comrade Fidel Castro wrote on 13 September: “ Let’s not say that Almeida is dead! Almeida lives today more than ever! ”
CPGB-ML expresses condolence
The CPGB-ML sent the following message of condolence to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba:
“ We have heard with great sorrow that Comrade Juan Almeida Bosque, outstanding, long-tested and much loved veteran leader of your party and state, freedom fighter, early and loyal comrade-in-arms of Fidel, Che and Raul, and staunch communist, patriot and internationalist, passed away due to illness. Please accept our heartfelt condolences.
“ Comrade Almeida, from a humble, black working-class family, embodied the highest qualities of the Cuban and international proletariat. Commander of the Revolution, through all stages of the struggle, be it the attack on the Moncada Barracks, the landing of the Granma, the missile crisis, internationalist missions, fighting the blockade, and building socialism, whether as a fighter or a political prisoner, or in the high posts of Vice President of the Council of State and Vice Chairman of the Communist Party, he was always where a communist should be, standing in his place and fighting for the liberation of mankind.
“ We have been moved to note the deep mourning in which millions of Cuban people have participated in recent days. We recognise in this not only your people’s love and respect for their departed comrade but also their unshakeable determination to defend, at any cost, the revolution and the socialist homeland to which Comrade Almeida devoted his life.
“ Please accept our sincere and militant condolences and the assurances of our friendship and solidarity at all times. ”
A delegation of three members of the central committee of the party, headed by the chairman, Comrade Harpal Brar, visited the Cuban Embassy to sign the book of condolences and convey the party’s sympathies to Cuban diplomats.