Fidel's Short-lived Humanism
(fom Servando Gonzalez, The Secret Fidel Castro: Deconstructing
the Symbol. Spook Books: Oakland, California, 2001. pp.
During his visit to the U.S. in April, 1959, Castro was very
careful to disassociate himself from communism, to which he opposed
a foggy doctrine he called "humanism." At a press conference
held on April 20 at the National Press Club in Washington, he
said: "We are against all kinds of dictatorships, whether
of a man, or of a country, or a class, or an oligarchy, or by
the military. That is why we are against communism." Then,
during a speech in New York on April 24, Castro, while continuing
with his anti-Communist line, suddenly came up with a totally
new idea: "Neither bread without liberty, nor liberty without
bread; neither dictatorships of man nor classes; the government
of the people without oligarchies; liberty with bread and without
terror: that is humanism."
A few days later, talking to American congressmen in the Senate
Foreign relations Committee, a relaxed, amiable and assured Castro
declared: "The 26th of July Movement is not a Communist
movement. Its members are Roman Catholics mostly." Answering
questions from newspaper reporters Castro stated that neither
he nor his brother Raúl nor Raúl's wife was a Communist
and that if there were any Communists in his government, and
he knew of none, they had no influence. When questioned on his
stand in the Cold War, he said that his heart was with the West.
Cuba, he said, would honor its membership in the Rio Treaty of
1947, by which 18 Latin American countries and the United States
pledged themselves to defend any state in the Western hemisphere
against aggression. Back at home, the Cuban Communists understandably
became quite nervous.
Just after his visit to the U.S., when Fidel was paying an official
visit to Canada, he said in a speech in Montreal, "We believe
that there should not be bread without liberty, but neither should
there be liberty without bread. We call that humanism."
Castro had never tried to give his M-26-7 a distinctive doctrine
or ideology, therefore he took even his closest associates by
surprise when he suddenly began talking about this doctrine called
humanism. Though Castro never expanded on the subject, for him,
"humanism" seemed to be a kind of third way; an alternative
to both communism and capitalism.
After Castro's speeches in the United States and Canada with
references to his new "humanist" doctrine, some members
of the M-26-7 hurriedly began parroting the new slogan, brandishing
it against the Communists. The PSP finally decided to fight back
and Aníbal Escalante, one of the party ideologues, criticized
Castro's "humanism," labelling "ideological confusion."
It was the second time Escalante criticized Fidel for his ideological
confusion. But soon after his trip to the U.S., Fidel stopped
talking about "humanism" and the term was never used
again. Fidel's "humanist" phase-apparently surged,
like most of his plans, on the spur of the moment-had a short
life-span of about three months.
Some scholars have tried to find out the source for Castro's
short-lived humanist phase, but with no success. It seems that
Fidel's humanism had nothing in common with secular humanist
philosophy, nor with the Socialist Humanism doctrine developed
by some Marxist philosophers, like Louis Althusser. Likewise,
there is no evidence that Castro's humanism was inspired by the
ideas of Jacques Maritain, a French Liberal Catholic philosopher
who, in the 1930s, wrote Integral Humanism, a very influential
book on the long history of humanism.
Some people have mentioned the possibility that when Castro mentioned
'humanism' he had in mind a so-called "humanist movement"
that appeared in Cuba in the mid-fifties founded by Rubén
Darío Rumbaut, a well-known Cuban psychiatrist and intellectual.
This movement had its origins as an offshoot of the Catholic
left apparently paving the way for a Cuban Christian Democratic
Party. But the "humanist movement" never had any political
importance, and soon disappeared from the Cuban political panorama.
Nobody knows if Castro's "humanism" was inspired by
Rumbaut's humanist movement, though Rumbaut recalls that, after
Castro left prison in May, 1955, Castro visited him to talk about
Anybody trying to find a rational connection between any of Castro's
claims of ideological commitment and any particular ideology
is bound to have a difficult time. Having been endowed with an
amazing photographic memory, Castro's mind works like a Xerox
machine gone berserk, creating instant collages of bits
and pieces which if examined separately are fully realistic,
but when seen together as a whole create a totally surrealistic