In the aftermath of his death, there appear to be rather a lot of people labouring under the assumption that Cuban dictator Fidel Castro was a communist revolutionary. In fact he was nothing of the kind, as John Lewis Gaddis explains in his book We Now Know: Rethinking Cold War History (pages 179-181). Following his overthrow of the Batista regime in 1959, Castro visited the US in order to drum up support for his new rule, even going so far as to give nervous assurances that he had no communists in his government on NBC’s Meet the Press. As Gaddis writes:
Castro began his career as a revolutionary with no ideology at all: he was a student politician turned street fighter turned guerrilla, a voracious reader, an interminable speaker, and a pretty good baseball player. The only ideas that appear to have driven him were a lust for power, a willingness to use violent means to get it, and an unwillingness to share it once he had it. If he followed any example, it was that of Napolean, not Marx.
[It] seems more likely that Marxism-Leninism appealed to Castro for domestic and personal reasons. As an authoritarian and historically determined ideology, it provided the best possible excuse for not holding elections, which might allow future rivals to emerge. And if taking this path should attract support from the Soviet Union, then so much the better.
Having failed to win the support of the Eisenhower administration, who knew exactly what sort of man they were dealing with, Castro adopted communism purely for opportunistic and practical reasons. He was about as much a socialist revolutionary as he was a democrat. Naturally, the Soviets fell over themselves to shower any third-world thug who paid lip-service to communism with money, weapons, and other support and they did just that with Castro – even though his adoption of their ideology came to them as a complete surprise.
Many people think the USA is responsible for Castro’s rise and continuation in power, but most of the blame lies squarely on Moscow’s doorstep: without their cynical support in those early stages, Castro’s brutal dictatorship would likely have been over much more quickly.