Castro’s Revolution

Castroism: Theory and Practice

by Theodore Draper
Praeger, 238 pp., $1.95 (paper)

Fidel Castro
Fidel Castro; drawing by David Levine

Theodore Draper’s position among writers on the Cuban revolution is unique. These writers are usually either old Cuba hands or students of Marxist theory. Draper has a sound knowledge of Cuban political and economic developments in the pre-Castro and Castro eras and is at the same time familiar with all the intricacies of Marxist doctrine and communist theory and practice. This enables him to destroy the myths created by others in their vain attempts to interpret the Cuban phenomenon. In a previous book, Castroism, Myth and Realities, he destroyed both the rightist legend that the Cuban revolution was the product of a plot engineered by the agents of international communism, and the leftist one that it was a revolt of the peasantry and agrarian proletariat against the big landowners. In his new book, Castroism, Theory and Practice, besides giving his own convincingly argued interpretation of Castro, he disproves a further myth, namely that Castro is a naive idealist who unfortunately allowed the revolution to be taken out of his hands by the skilled political technicians of the Cuban communist party.

Mr. Draper demonstrates that the power of the Cuban communists, or Partido Socialista Popular (P.S.P.) as they officially called themselves, and their role in Castro’s revolution, have been consistently overestimated by outside observers. Throughout the early phases of the two-year guerrilla war which began with Castro’s landing in Oriente Province in December 1956, the communists were openly critical of the Castroites’ “erroneous tactics.” According to Draper, the alliance between the two groups was only realized “sometime in 1958.” Here I would go even further and venture the opinion that “alliance” is too strong a word for the halfhearted collaboration and contacts which Communists and Castroites established in the last phase of the civil war. The only formal agreement that they ever reached during the war appears to have been a minor one concerning the inclusion of the communists in the trade union united opposition front; and even this, according to Draper, apparently “amounted to little more than a gesture.” If there had been any other, more ambitious pact or agreement, however secret, it would surely have been revealed at a later stage, when Castro was wooing the Russians, and it would have been in both his and the communists’ interests to make its existence known.

After Castro’s advent to power, the communists frequently failed to anticipate the regime’s policies, and had to improvise a belated adjustment. Thus in February 1959, communist leaders declared that “It would be an error to impose agricultural cooperatives right now,” but less than three months later, Castro made “cooperatives” the cornerstone of his agrarian reform. Again in August, 1960, the Communist Party leaders came out against large scale nationalization of private enterprises, and stated that there would be “few more” nationalizations of U.S. properties. Two months later the regime announced sweeping nationalization measures against both U.S. and…

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