Arthur Miller in Havana

Excellent essay by Arthur Miller in The Nation, "A Visit With Castro." It offers a vivid portrait of everyone's favorite dictator, that obscene dinosaur who, like Strom Thurmond, seems to have no end.


"Watching him at lunch--he ate two leaves of lettuce--one saw a lonely old man hungry for some fresh human contact, which could only get more and more rare as he ages. He might very well live actively for ten years, perhaps even longer as his parents reportedly had done, and I found myself wondering what could possibly be keeping him from a graceful exit that might even earn him his countrymen's gratitude?

The quasi-sexual enchantment of power? Perhaps. More likely, given his history, was his commitment to the poetic image of world revolution, the uprising of the wretched of the earth with himself at its head. And in plain fact, as the chief of a mere island, he had managed to elevate himself to that transcendent state in millions of minds. The more so now, after all other contestants had fallen away and conditions in Latin America and Africa gone from bad to worse, the possibility needed only its right time to erupt again. After all, he had thrown Cuban forces into action in many countries around the world despite his country's poverty and the obstinate resistance of his main sponsor, the now-abominated Soviet leadership.

It would have been too much to expect that after half a century in power he would not become to some important degree an anachronism, a handsome old clock that no longer tells the time correctly and bongs haphazardly in the middle of the night, disturbing the house. Notwithstanding all his efforts, the only semblance of a revolt of the poor is the antimodern Islamic tide, which from the Marxist point of view floats in a medieval dream. With us he seemed pathetically hungry for some kind of human contact. Brilliant as he is, spirited and resourceful as his people are, his endless rule seemed like some powerful vine wrapping its roots around the country and while defending it from the elements choking its natural growth. And his own as well. Ideology aside, he apparently maintains the illusions that structured his political successes even if they never had very much truth in them; to this day, as one example, he speaks of Gorbachev's dissolution of the Soviet Union as unnecessary, "a mistake."

In short, there was no fatal contradiction inherent in the Soviet system that brought it down, and so there is nothing in the Castro system or in his take on reality that is creating the painful poverty of the island. The US embargo created this island's poverty out of hand, along with the Russians by their deserting him. It is Don Quixote tilting at windmills which, worse yet, have collapsed into dust."

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