By Servando Gonzalez
April 16, 2012
One of the greatest political and ideological mysteries of modern times is the Vatican’s love for Communist Fidel Castro.
Despite the fact that Castro’s harassment and persecution of anti-Castro Catholics in Cuba has continued uninterrupted since the very first day he grabbed power in the island, the Vatican has always shown its support for the Caribbean tyrant.
The recent visit to Cuba of pope Benedict XVI, where he refused to meet with members of Catholic anti-Castro groups, will not result in an opening of a space for Catholics in Cuba, but in the solidification of one of the oldest totalitarian regimes in the world.
This is exactly what happened after John Paul II visited Cuba in 1998, whose visit resulted in a total diplomatic triumph for Castro and meager gains for the Catholic Church and the Cuban Catholics.
On March 13th, 1998, Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston stated in a speech that, in the last years, Fidel Castro has been a promoter, rather than an obstacle to freedom of religion in Cuba.
Coming from such an important figure in the Catholic hierarchy, such a statement gives an idea of how far the process of accommodation between Castro and the Catholic Church had advanced. This attitude, however, defies an explanation.
The Vatican is known for its friendly relations with Fascist leaders. The most known have been Spain’s Franco, Italy’s Mussolini, Germany’s Hitler and Argentina’s Perón, but the list is much longer.
The participation of the CIA, the Vatican and Perón in helping Nazi war criminals escape from justice — the “rat lines” — has been extensively documented.
In contrast, the Vatican’s visceral hatred for everything that smells Communism is well known.
This hatred was formalized in 1937 by pope Pio XI in his anti-Communist enciclic Divini Redemptoris, still in force, in which he called Communism “intrinsically evil,” and added, “it is inadmissible a collaboration with Communism, in any field, by those who want to save Christian civilization from ruin.” He also called Communism a “Satanic plague.”
On the other hand, since Fidel Castro proclaimed to the world his Marxist faith in 1961, when he declared that he had always been a Marxist at heart and will be so until the last day of his life, he has never stopped calling himself a Communist. So, why the Vatican loves Castro so much?
The answer resides in the fact that Castro is not what he purports to be. Contrary to the extended opinion, Castro is not the ideological product of the meetings of the Cuban Communist Party, but of the classrooms of the Colegio de Belén, the Jesuit high school he attended in Havana.
Fidel Castro is the son of a wealthy landlord who made a fortune exploiting the poor and serving the interests of the United Fruit Company. He was born in Birán, a small village founded by the United Fruit Company near Mayarí, close to Nipe Bay, on the north coast of the province of Oriente. He spent his first years at the Manacas estate, owned by his father, Angel Castro, near Birán
When Fidel reached school age his parents sent him to Santiago de Cuba, the capital of Oriente province, to study at the LaSalle School, operated by the Christian Brothers. After a short period of time he was transferred to the Dolores School, operated by the Jesuits. In 1942, after finishing grade school, he was sent to Belén High School in Havana, also operated by the Jesuits.
At Belén High School, Fidel stood out as an athlete, an indefatigable speaker and a good student — perhaps not too brilliant, but with a photographic memory. Some of his classmates claim that it was at Belén when young Fidel fell under the influence of fathers Armando Llorente and Alberto de Castro (no relation to Fidel).
Both priests, like most of the Spanish padres in Cuba, were staunch supporters of Francisco Franco’s Falange, a Spanish brand of fascism, and harbored strong anti-American feelings. They passed on to their young disciples at Belén their enthusiasm for their anti-American cause.
Father Alberto de Castro, who taught Latin American history, expounded on some of his ideas. According to him, the independence of Latin America had been frustrated because the adoption of materialistic Anglo-Saxon values and traditions had supplanted Spanish cultural domination.
He emphasized how Franco had liberated Spain from both Anglo-Saxon materialism and Communist Marxist-Leninism. De Castro emphasized that those having the truth, which is revealed by God, had the duty to defend it against all errors. He rejected compromise and called for the purification of society.
Young Fidel seemed to have been captivated by the teachings of his Jesuit tutors, and particularly by Father de Castro’s ideas. It is known that Fidel read most of the works of José Antonio Primo de Rivera, founder of the Spanish Falange. José Pardo Llada, a radio commentator and politician who at some time was close to Castro, said that Fidel had Primo de Rivera’s complete works at his camp in the Sierra Maestra mountains when he was fighting a guerrilla warf against President Batista.
It is also known that Fidel was fascinated by Primo de Rivera’s speeches — some claim that Castro knew many of the speeches by heart — and by de Rivera’s image of a wealthy man who left everything and went to fight for what he believed in.
Fidel’s classmates at Belén testify that he was an admirer of other fascist leaders, including Hitler, Mussolini, and Perón. Among Castro’s preferred reading was an eight-volume collection of Mussolini’s speeches.
Also, Castro told a friend that he had learned many things about propaganda by studying Hitler’s Mein Kampf, which he also knew by heart. Some friends recall that young Fidel had pinned on one of his room’s walls a large map of Europe, where he happily marked the victorious advances of the Wehrmacht’s panzers.
Carlos Rafael Rodríguez, a former senior member of the original Cuban Communist Party who later became a Castro follower, seems to confirm the stories.
Talking to one of Castro’s biographers, Rodríguez told him that he recalls an article about Castro published in the conservative newspaper Diario de la Marina when Castro was at Belén. The article mentions Castro “speaking about fascism in a favorable way.”
Father de Castro had founded at Belén an elitist secret society named Convivio, through which he attracted young students with leadership qualities. It is safe to surmise that Father de Castro was actually a talent spotter for the Vatican’s intelligence services.
Like their CIA and KGB counterparts, the Jesuits know the advantages of the early recruitment of agents and agents of influence from the ranks of their highly impressionable students. Most students at the Colegio de Belén came from the Cuban upper classes, and many of them eventually would end up occupying high positions in the Cuban economy, press, armed forces and government.
Fidel Castro soon became one of Convivio’s more active members. In 1943 Father de Castro and his disciples of Convivio signed a pact in which they swore to fight for a united Hispanic America, large, united, and opposed to the treacherous Anglo-Saxons’ control over the New World.
Dr. José Ignacio Rasco, Fidel’s schoolmate at Belén, recalls that on one occasion, during an academic discussion, Fidel defended, as a thesis, the necessity of a good dictator in lieu of democracy. Fidel believed that, in the specific instance of Cuba, problems would remain unresolved unless a strong hand took hold of the Island, since democracy had proved incapable of solving its problems.
In one of his books, Theodore Draper published a letter Castro wrote his friend Luis Conte Agüero on August 14, 1954. In it Fidel tells him about his goal “to organize the men of the 26th of July Movement and to unite into an unbreakable body all the fighters.”
Though Draper uses the word body in his translation into English, the actual word used by Castro in the Spanish original is “haz.” Haces (the plural of haz), is Spanish for fasces, the very Latin word after which fascism was named.
Fidel believed that, instead of a Communist-style organized proletarian struggle, leadership alone could provide the catalyst that would mobilize the masses behind the revolution. In a letter to Conte Agüero Castro emphasizes the two conditions he considers more important for his movement to achieve.
They are “discipline” and “leadership,” especially the latter. Castro’s axiom, “La jefatura es básica,” (“Leadership is basic”) repeated several times in his articles, letters and speeches, is more closely related to the Nazi führerprinzip than to any known Marxist principle.
The leadership principle is an integral part of all fascist systems. Contrary to what we saw in most communist countries, the personality of the leaders plays a crucial role in all fascist regimes. As scholar Walter Laqueur rightly pointed out, “leadership as an institution and a symbol has been an essential part of fascism and one of its specific characteristics, in contrast with earlier forms of dictatorship, such as military rule.”
The fact was also noticed by professor A. James Gregor. In a book he wrote about fascism, he observed that, “The political commitments with which Castro came to power were all but indistinguishable in style and content from the original programmatic commitments of Mussolini in 1922.” Gregor called Castroism a tropical variety of fascism.
The colors appearing on the 26th of July Movement’s banner were red, black, and white. This is very unusual because, though red and white are colors present in the Cuban flag, black is absent from all of Cuban national symbols.
Hugh Thomas believes that Castro unconsciously got the idea from the colors of the anarchist flag. But red, black and white are also the colors of the Nazi swastika flag. This may be just the product of a coincidence, but when it is seen together with other information it takes on a very specific meaning.
The first militia units, created at Havana’s University, wore dark shirts resembling those of the Nazis. There were some early mass rallies at the University where torches were burnt. The similarities with the Nazi Storm Troopers became so blatantly evident that the University militia soon changed its uniforms to more conventional ones. But, rather than new, the University’s militia and their dark shirts was actually an old dream of Fidel Castro.
On January 27, 1953, on the eve of the centennial of Cuban patriot José Martí’s birth, a large group of Fidel’s followers showed up at the University. Then, they descended the large staircase marching shoulder to shoulder and carrying torches in an impressive Nazi-like parade.
An American journalist and author found out that Castro “reportedly read Marx, and Hitler’s Mein Kampf, during his University days and was greatly influenced by both.”
Also, Mario Llerena, a prominent member of the anti-Batista group M-26-7, claims that many people have seen in Fidel the characteristics of a Fascist dictator, and that he often heard it said that one of Fidel’s favorite books was Hitler’s Mein Kampf. Evidence shows that Castro was in fact very familiar with Hitler’s ideas.
For example, Hitler was called “the Führer” (the chief) by his close followers. Among his intimate circle Fidel is called “el jefe” (the chief). Hitler used to defile his enemies calling them vermin. Castro calls his opponents “gusanos,” literally “worms.” Castro used the term “bandidos” (bandits) for the patriots fighting guerrilla warfare against him in the Escambray mountains.
A Special Instruction of the German Oberkommado, dated August 23, 1942, ordered that, for psychological reasons, the term “partisan” should not be used. “Bandit” was the appropriate term for guerrillas fighting the Nazis. It makes sense that Fidel, an avid reader of Nazi literature, copied the use of these terms from the Nazis.
Over and over the Cuban people have been recorded chanting rhythmically “Fi-del!, Fi-del! Fi-del!,” at rallies and mass meetings. The chanting closely resembles the Nazi “Zieg-Heil!, Zieg-Heil!, Zieg-Heil!” and the “Du-ce!, Du-ce!, Du-ce!” cheers of Mussolini’s Fascist thugs. A common slogan in Hitler’s Germany was: “The Führer orders, let us obey!,” very similar to the Italian Fascist motto “Credere, Obedire, Combattere!” (“Believe, Obey, Fight!”). Its Castroist counterpart is: “Comandante en jefe: ¡Ordene!” (“Commander-in-Chief, give us your orders!”).
There are more indications of Castro’s strong fascist proclivities. For example, Castro’s last words in his own defense at the Moncada trial, “Condemn me, never mind, History will absolve me,” are very evocative of Hitler’s final words in his own defense at the trial for the frustrated 1923 beer-hall putsch, “Condemn me, never mind, the goddess of History will absolve me.”
Evidently, there are too many similarities to be just the product of coincidences.
It was in vogue among Cuban intellectuals, particularly during the pre-war and war years, to play with the totalitarian theories espoused by the then powerful members of the Rome-Berlin-Tokyo Axis.
It was only after WW II, when Fidel Castro was a student at the University of Havana, that the ideas of communism began gaining popularity in Cuba, though fascism still attracted a large number of the Cuban intelligentsia.
It was revealed that at the time Castro took power in Cuba some people at the U.S. State Department were convinced that Castro was going to follow a Fascist path. The reasons for such belief were that Castro’s leadership style was closer to that of the Spanish dictatorship than to that of Marxists.
Other reasons were the similarities between his techniques and those of the Nazis and of Mussolini. Those techniques emphasized national socialism and mass mobilization, exactly the same techniques Castro was using.
A close analysis of Castro’s strategy since the early days of the revolution shows that it resembles fascism more than Marxism, and from the very beginning the Cuban Communists noticed the similarities.
After Castro attacked the Moncada garrison in 1953 they criticized the action and labeled its participants as “putschists” and “petty bourgeois,” terms that in Communist parlance mean Fascist.
Moreover, the revolutionary movement led by Fidel was never defined by the Cuban Communists as Marxist or Marxist-Leninist, but “petty bourgeois” and “nationalist,” a common description used by Marxists to portray fascism. The Cuban Communists, who were true experts in ideological matters, always saw Castro as a Fascist, that’s why they labeled the attack on the Moncada barracks a “putschist attempt.”
In conclusion, the reason why the pope loves Fidel Castro is because he knows that the Cuban tyrant has always been a Fascist at heart, and will remain so until the last day of his life.
Or maybe not.
Castro’s true ideology is an enigma that has confused not only most of the scholars who have attempted to decipher it but Castro’s close associates and opponents as well. The fact that he has been so clever in hiding his true beliefs and ideological allegiances, planting false clues to disorient both enemies and friends, is one of the reasons why he has been so successful.
There is ample evidence pointing to the fact that, contrary to common belief, Fidel Castro never was, has never been, and will never be a Marxist, or a Communist. Moreover, it seems that he is not even a true Fascist.
The relationship Fidel Castro has established with the Cuban people and with his associates is with his person, not with ideas or with any particular ideology, so he could change his ideas without changing this relationship.
As Herbert Matthews, a New York Times journalist who initially fell under Castro’s spell, later observed, “Early in the revolution I suggested that Castro picked up movements and ideas as one would garments, putting them on, taking them off, throwing them away, placing them in the wardrobe — but that in all cases the wearer was the same Fidel Castro.”
Furthermore, given the peculiar characteristics of his mind-set, it is very difficult to believe that, during his whole life, Fidel Castro has been nothing else but a fanatic Castroist.
On the other hand, if I were forced to pigeonhole Fidel Castro ideologically, which is not easy to do, I would say that he is a sort of renegade Jesuit who attained power and is keeping it using fascist tactics.
For a detailed study of Castro’s ideology, see my book: The Secret Fidel Castro: Deconstructing the Symbol.