Fidel Castro vs. Karl Marx

Jennifer Horlick – Honorbound

When I used to hear the word “communism,” I would picture a horrible dictator that oppresses a country to its breaking point with strict laws, making that country’s citizens dirt poor. This dictator may mean well, but since they tyrannize their people, their country fails. I knew the dictionary definition of communism, “a system in which goods are owned in common and are available to all as needed,”[1] which does not sound like the evil dictatorship I would imagine. It was not until I read Karl Marx’s Manifesto of the Communist Party that I understood communism for what it is intended to be rather than my perception of it.

According to Karl Marx, communists’ main focuses are “formation of the proletariat into a class, overthrow of the bourgeois supremacy, [and] conquest of political power by the proletariat.”[2] Communists like Marx believe that the bourgeois, owners of production and employers, only care about personal gain and overlook the well-being of society as a whole and should, therefore, be overthrown by the proletarians, also known as the working class. Once the bourgeois is removed from all positions of power and the working class takes over, communists believe that the class system will eventually disappear. Private property will be abolished, which is the main goal of communism, and the state will equally distribute property to all people. In Marx’s ideal world, everything and everyone are equal.

Recently the president of Cuba, Fidel Castro, died. When he became president in 1959, he claimed that he wanted to “impose Communist rule”[3] in Cuba. Did Castro create a communist society using the strategies that Marx describes? His first actions as the president of Cuba were nationalizing private industry and getting rid of American business4, both of which align with Marx’s theory of communism. He also made educational, health, and social services free and available to all Cubans, supporting Marx’s idea of widespread equality.[4] Despite following Marxism in some of his actions, Castro made radical, dictatorial moves, and many Cubans left the country as a result. The Cuban economy suffered from his poor decisions and radical actions as well, and it became dependent on Soviet trade4.

While Fidel Castro followed the basics of Marx’s ideas by abolishing private property and enforcing equality, he did not achieve the Communist society that Marx illustrates. He did not get rid of Cuba’s class system, an integral part of communism. Marx states that “the first step in the revolution by the working class is to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class,”2 but instead of rising to power, a majority of the Cuban working class fled the country. In addition, Cuba’s dependency on Soviet trade contradicts Marx words: “the exploitation of one nation by another will also be put an end to.”2 Did Fidel Castro successfully create a Marxist-Communist society? No, but he created one in line with my original perception of communism.

[1] Merriam-Webster, s.v. “communism,” accessed November 29, 2016,

[2] Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels. “Chapter II. Proletarians and Communists.” In Manifesto of the Communist Party. New York City, NY: International Publishers, 1948.

[3] “Fidel Castro’s Communist Utopia.” The Wall Street Journal. November 27, 2016. Accessed December 05, 2016. (Photo source)

[4] The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. “Fidel Castro.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. November 26, 2016. Accessed December 05, 2016.


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