Fidelism as Faith

Fidelism as Faith

THE CUBAN STORY by Herbert L. Matthews. George Braziller, 1961.

Herbert L. Matthews, the New York Times correspondent whose 1957 interview with Fidel Castro in the Sierra Maestra Mountains was a key step in the rise of the Cuban leader, has written a sympathetic study of the Cuban Revolution.

The pages of this book must have been written in mid-1961 and, as Matthews himself states, the rhythm of the Cuban Revolution is so contorted, events are almost obsolete before they can be interpreted. But the deliberate choice of Communism (or “MarxistLeninism,” the preferred expression today) was already foreshadowed, and Mr. Matthews judged events presuming the strong possibility that the Fidelists might opt for a Communist state.

The Cuban Story is more than a history of post-1957 Cuba. It is also an apologetics, which word in its old form is a branch of theology through which Christians logically defended their faith. The faith is different but the reasoning the same. For Mr. Matthews was struck with an extreme case of hero worship as a result of meeting Fidel Castro (by now confused with his ego satisfaction at making a great journalistic scoop) and has never been able to see the world the same.

In brief, Matthews’ thesis is that Fidel Castro was never a Communist but the United States forced him to choose the Russian system in order to continue the Cuban Revolution. As an editor of the New York Times he is careful to punctuate his remarks with disclaimers of historic inevitability, but underlying most of his attitudes is the feeling that the situation in Latin America has gone too far to be corrected by anything other than radical revolutions. Since in light of this same reasoning the United States will oppose such revolutions, the new Latin American leaders must look to Russia or China for guidance and assistance. This is not a position Mr. Matthews favors, it must be emphasized, but one which he conceives as the movement of history so long as America stubbornly condemns what he calls totalitarian democracy.

Matthews may be right. One believes and thereafter finds or recreates both facts and the logical relation among these facts to support conclusions which then seem inevitable. Every great faith is based on this psychologic process and if enough people from the intellectual elite will it strongly enough, the great 20th century redemptive faith in revolution shall indeed create a worldwide religion of Communism. For, despite all sophisticated asides, the kind of reasoning employed by Mr. Matthews does not lead to neutralist socialism but rather complete economic and political subservience to Russia or China. The people of Puerto Rico may vote independence from the United States but Cuba, the Puerto Rico of Russia, no longer has that option.