A few years ago, a 1959 interview with Fidel Castro was unearthed from a shoe box. It had been sitting there for about fifty years before it was discovered by the interviewer’s granddaughter. Since then, the taped interview has been transcribed from its original Spanish to English and made available on the Internet. There you can listen to the young revolutionary as he responds to the interviewer who has come from America to determine if the young rebel is a Communist: He is not, at least not yet.
Listen to the recording and hear the young rebel, radical and idealist, Fidel Castro speak not of communism, but of the “ideology of the 26th of July Movement,” a movement meant to be “a path of national affirmation, human dignity, and democratic order.” Continue listening, perhaps even read the Movement’s manifesto, and you will be left wondering, “Did America and its Red Scare/Cold War campaign help push Castro and the Cuban revolution in the direction of communism?” It seems they did.
In the early stages of the Cuban Revolution – the interview took place a few weeks after the overthrow of dictator Fulgencio Batista – Castro has some very interesting things to say about his revolutionary movement, about communism and about the United States’ military occupation of Guantanamo Bay. In response to the question about Guantanamo Bay, Castro’s objection has more to do with the American sailors stirring up trouble while out on the town in Guantanamo, than it has to do with the actual occupation of the base. The problems he describes continue in other parts of the world today as evidenced relatively recently in Okinawa, Japan.
How did a movement rooted in democratic ideals evolve into what is present day Cuba? Perhaps one has only to look at the current crisis in Egypt to begin understanding the complexities of political movements. In the case of Cuba, the shift from the ideology of the 26th of July Movement to communism is partly influenced by American interference or lack of support, or both. One of the many striking statements made by the young revolutionary during the interview is this: “If this Revolution falls, what we will have here in Cuba is a hell….Hell itself.”
If you know the history of Spanish colonialism in Cuba, followed as it was by the Spanish-American War, and leading up to America co-opting, perhaps even dominating the country, you will understand Castro’s declaration that Cuba will be a hell should the revolution fall. The real truth of the matter is that Cuba was already a hell. The majority of its citizens lived in abject poverty, ruled by the American supported dictator, Fulgencio Batista. This story is all too familiar to those of us from colonial and post-colonial spaces. It matters not which country dominates which: The result is usually , if not always, the same — most people who are subjects of colonial rulers live a kind of hell. Fidel Castro was well aware of this. Pity then, that he held power for so long. If only he had recognized, like Nelson Mandela did, that it is no good holding on to power indefinitely. Of course, in Cuba’s case, the fifty year American embargo against the country and its peoples helps not one bit. When does that end?