Category Archives: Week 10a

Week 10a-The Virtues and Vices of Fidel Castro

I found this weeks reading on the Cuban revolution especially interesting due to its cynicism surrounding all leaders around. While Dawson didn’t condemn the revolution against Batista he certainly did not praise its leaders, least of all Fidel Castro. While it is true that the revolution was never a united front, Dawson seems to propose that Castro wasn’t in fact a representative of the majority so much as the most successful at asserting himself. He presented himself as a revolutionary hero, the incident with the doves landing on his podium is one of the most iconic singular moments of this process. Dawson casts doubt upon whether the entire landing was staged.

The most interesting part of Dawson’s analysis of Castro and the Cuban revolution is his explanation of the process through which the revolution transitioned into a regime just as oppressive as the one it had sought to replace. What is interesting is that the idea of ongoing revolution and thus resistance (specifically against the US) became vital to the enforcement of the regime. It became important for Castro to maintain enmity with the USA, a fact possibly exemplified by the apparently convenient shooting down of the Miami based planes in 1996.

It cannot be denied that Castro to at least some extent fulfilled the wishes of the people, specifically in terms of being a pioneer for income equality. The Urban reform law of 1959 served to boost the lower class. However the Agrarian law of the same year, though it returned land to smaller farmers and owners was a definitive step in the direction of communism and nationalization. 

The most telling marker of Castro’s tyranny is his attitude towards dissent. The criminalization of opposition and the imprisonment of 100 000 of such criminals is clearly not in alignment with a society fully freed by revolution. It was important for Castro to be charismatic and personally powerful. He empowered the masses with assurances of his own might and intentions without giving the people much autonomy at all. This is why his visits to the US were and had to be painted as brave and defiant measures, Castro had to be seen as a man of the people who was on the ground seeking justice and freedom. This clearly served Castro well, his people did not accept this resignation. While this could have been due to a great number of his political policies that had improved the daily lives of many citizens, Dawson seems to believe that above all Cuba’s approval of Castro was of Castro the figurehead. Perhaps this theory is bolstered by the increasing cynicism that would develop in Cuba in the years to come.

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