Comrade Luis Castro: An Internationalist for the Ages
Luis Castro, a stalwart communist, a fighter against racism and for the working class his entire adult life and the editor of CHALLENGE-DESAFIO for a quarter century, died on June 3, having battled pancreatic cancer for an astonishing three years.
Our hearts go out to his loving family, to his wife Lucia, to his six children and his five grandchildren.
Forty years ago Luis volunteered to translate for DESAFIO and eventually became the editor of the entire paper. His knowledge about everything across the globe was boundless. Before there was the World Wide Web, there was Luis. Before there was Wikipedia, there was “Luis-pedia.”
Luis had a razor-edged, penetrating political understanding. Whenever he spoke at meetings or in private conversations or at street rallies, Luis’s political line was on the mark. He was sharp and to the point.
Luis was the prototype of an Internationalist. He truly saw the working class as one international class. Whenever workers were attacked or suffering in some corner of the world, he would become enraged. He would take it personally, like an attack on his family, because his family included workers everywhere.
In whatever article he wrote, he would invariably refer to what became his trademark: “From Detroit to Oaxaca, from New Orleans to Bogota, from Johannesburg to Shanghai, workers are fighting back.” Luis constantly saw it as one grand struggle.
Before he became ill, he chaired PLP’s International Committee and continued to meet with it as his health permitted. He wrote a huge number of international articles for CHALLENGE. He would read all the bosses’ papers, both English- and Spanish-language, from New York to Europe to Latin-America and searched the world’s websites for information that would find its way into a communist analysis of global events.
Although he was now working from his apartment, he checked the politics in all the articles he was translating for DESAFIO and then offered changes to strengthen them. He was especially sharp on matters relating to racism and war. Thus, Luis’s grasp of PL’s politics found its way into the paper and helped other comrades to take the initiative to write more and raise the level of the paper’s content. This made for a smooth transition for an expanded editorial board composed of many younger comrades.
As the paper’s press deadline approached, he would help out by suggesting corrections, raising ideas and writing short articles at the last minute.
As long as we are writing articles for CHALLENGE-DESAFIO, we will be visualizing Luis, standing behind us looking over our shoulder and saying, “What about including this point?”
When his cancer was first discovered, we thought he would only have a short time left with us, weeks or months at the most. Yet slowly but surely he fought the disease, even after his doctor said that with chemotherapy he’d hardly last a year. That prognosis never seemed to get him down, at least outwardly.
Luis was a brave comrade, right through to the sudden end. He rarely complained as he endured constant changes of medications and MRI’s and a myriad of tests while he battled for hours on the phone with insurance companies and in the offices of government bureaucrats over bills charged to him and benefits due him.
Through it all, that first year came and went, and then a second year, and a third. Astounding!
His continuing to write and translate from his home seemed to keep him going. It may have been the best “chemotherapy” he could have had, and may very well have done more than any medication to prolong his life.
He was an amazing translator. While sitting at his computer, he would be reading an article in English and translating it into Spanish, as he simultaneously carried on a conversation with whomever approached him. Expert translators marveled at the nuances embedded in his work whose content would come across with such clarity to DESAFIO’S readers.
Luis was also a sports enthusiast, writing about baseball or some so-called “earthshaking” event happening in the sports world, under a pen name, “S. Port.” And he was a huge movie fan, writing reviews under the name of “Rex Red.”
He accumulated a mountain of what he called his “files” — a big pile of papers and e-mail printouts sitting next to his computer. Whenever he needed some information for something that he or someone else was writing, he would dive into the pile and just pluck it out.
Comrade Luis also was active in workers’ struggles as well as writing about them. At his memorial service, a leader of his building’s tenant’s committee described how Luis would sit at meetings, seemingly “reading” a paper, but as soon as the management tried to pull something that attacked the tenants’ well-being, Luis would immediately interject and expose their tricks. She said the committee couldn’t have succeeded without him.
But, as everyone who knew him realized, Luis was not exclusively a political being. He took great care of his kids, worrying about their welfare and progress. He spent hours in hospitals and emergency rooms trying to obtain medical attention for his wife Lucia, provoking a storm of rage about the way the medical system treated working people.
Luis’s apartment was always a bundle of excitement. His grandchildren would be over on the weekends, along with his children and their friends. Rather than being disturbed about all this tumult, he seemed to revel in it, saying it kept him on his toes.
A lot of this love came from his thorough working-class make-up, his deep understanding of what we were all fighting for, to have a world filled with this excitement.
Food was a big thing in Luis’s life, central to his working-class culture. He was always ready for lunches and dinners with whoever was prepared to join him.
He loved jokes. He would e-mail a load of them. He especially shared the ones about the foibles of old age.
Luis was always concerned about problems that had befallen others. Since he couldn’t travel, he would always ask anyone who had just visited PLP’s former chairperson Milt Rosen, out in LA, suffering from Parkinson’s disease, how he was doing. He would keep up-to-date on anyone who was sick or hospitalized.
These days the words “awesome” and “amazing” are flung around so indiscriminately that it begins to dilute their meaning. But to say Luis was “amazing” is to use the word in its most profound sense.
Luis will never be forgotten. His legacy will endure, both in the love of his family which he embraced, and in the Progressive Labor Party which he helped build and lead.
So great is comrade Luis’s contribution to the international working class’s communist movement, it is difficult to measure. Suffice it to say he will be remembered and treasured for as long as the fight for communism goes on, setting an example for all to follow in working to build a revolution to which he was so devoted his entire life. J