Fidel by Néstor Kohan and Nahuel Sherma

Fidel distills the life of Fidel Castro into less than two hundred pages.  Written by Néstor Kohan and illustrated by Nahuel Sherma, the book functions as a short biography and a primer on such topics as Latin American politics, South American fascism, and anti-globalism.  (The hyperventilating political discourse of today has reduced the term “fascism” to an empty meaningless term.  For an academic investigation, one should consult Stanley Payne’s A History of Fascism: 1914 – 1945.  For a more literary examination, one should read Robert Bolaño’s Borges-esque Nazi Literature in the Americas.)  Kohan writes about Leftist topics and Seven Stories Press, the publisher of Fidel, provides readers with works by Leftist authors.

The book does tend to become a Leftist hagiography of Fidel Castro, but this interpretation cannot overshadow Castro’s monumental influence on the foreign policy of the United States and his effect on world events.  Castro inspired a revolution that toppled the Batista regime, a dictatorship that turned Cuba into a casino and a brothel.  The reader also discovers that Batista was not the first pro-US dictator, but the last in a long line that stretched as far back as the Twenties.  Since this is a Leftist interpretation, the authors seek to link Castro with the independence movements inspired by Simón Bolivar.  One finds similar things happen, since both the forces of the Right and the Left want to claim descent from the Founding Fathers.  Hagiography tends to simplify things, usually to the point of obscuring the humanity and fallibility of the human beings involved with the historical events.

Unfortunately, the Leftist perspective leaves itself open to an ideological blindspot.  While the contentious bloody interrelationship between Cuba and the United States creates hard feelings on both sides, Castro remains the inescapable element.  Castro may have helped topple Batista and end Cuba’s role as a United States colony, but like Batista, he became a long-ruling dictator.  He ran the country from 1959 to 2008, eventually turning over control to his brother Raúl.  Regardless of the regime, hereditary monarchy seems inevitable whether it is the United Kingdom, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, or the United States (Adams, Harrison, Kennedy, Bush, and Gore).  Despite all his successes, Castro ran Cuba for over fifty years.  Despite all its failures, democracy at least gives one an illusion of choice and the leaders are in office for a mercifully shorter time.

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