Have you ever considered the difficulties of starting a government from scratch? This is what Fidel Castro had to undergo. For years, Cuba had been a dictatorship under control of Fulgencio Batista. Batista was hated by the people of Cuba. This lead to Castro trying to rebel with the help of many others. Castros’ rise to power was impressive, whether you agreed with his views or not. Castro wore a mask throughout his political reign. He used propaganda to a great extent and promised the return of democracy and freedom to the island of Cuba. Although an excessive amount of lives were lost, to Castro “the ends justified the means”. In Machiavelli’s literary work, he explains how one can be a “good leader” by implementing certain choices.
Between 1953-1959, Castro led the Cuban Revolution against Batista. Castro placed big emphasis on his army. Overthrowing the government was his way of getting Batista out of the government and his way to power. In “The Prince” Machiavelli discusses 4 types of armies. He writes that mercenaries will only help to a certain degree because they only want money and that auxiliaries will only be loyal to their king. Therefore, it is safer and wiser to use the states citizens (citizen army), which is what Castro did. He started off with only a few willing to help him, later with the use of propaganda, he promised the people of Cuba a world of freedom which further lead to an army of thousands. He also promised better economic equality, this is how he gained the peoples trust. Most of the people supported him and the few that didn’t fled to Miami.
Castro came to power by being kind to the people. At the time, Cuba was a disaster and the people were becoming hopeless due to Batista’s actions/choices. Castro knew the people would be easily persuaded in desperate times. He also knew it would be easier to satisfy the people than the nobles, also there was a greater amount of people than nobles. Castro destroyed the city and decided to get rid of any rules Batista had set and start a new government from scratch, which is one of the things Machiavelli says one can do when they maintain power in a state they have recently annexed, (ruin the city). Another choice Machiavelli says one can do when is to let the people live under their old laws. However, this was not ideal because the people would always hold on to the past and what benefited them.
During Castros’ political reign, he gave many “anti-USA” speeches. As I watched one, the first thing I noticed was the amount of people cheering him on and the standing ovations. Machiavelli states, “Every prince should desire to be merciful and cruel but be cruel behind the scenes.” This is exactly what Castro did, initially, to the people he portrayed himself as a man with good intentions, but behind the scenes he was cruel. He only allowed the people to see his moral acts such as the promises of health, housing, and literacy improvements. What the people later were not allowed to see was his ruthless suppression, such as the excessive use of the death penalty. Machiavelli insists that a good prince/leader must wear a mask and fool his people. This was done by Castro many times, for example, Castro lied to many people by acting as someone who had progressive goals although he opposed ethics and values.
Although it is previously stated that Castro promised many things to the island of Cuba, he did not actually go through with it all. He only promised these things for two reasons: to get the people to like him and to better his reputation. Shortly after, he became a tightwad leader. Castro knew that if he was excessively generous, the people would become greedy and ask for more. Also, the more one gives, the less resources they have. Machiavelli says, “If he is wise he won’t be afraid of being thought to be a miser, because no-one will think that about him when they see that by reining in his spending he leaves himself with the resources needed.” To maintain love, one has to keep giving constantly. To Castro, he much preferred for the people to dislike him than him having to always provide in order to maintain their satisfaction towards him.
One of the main topics Machiavelli emphasizes in “The Prince” is whether it is better to be loved than feared, or the contrary. During the time Castro was in power, he set many rules in place. Cuba was completely dominated by his single presence. The people were even scared to purchase certain things from a grocery store because they always felt as if they were being watched. Castro was feared immensely; however, he was not hated. Machiavelli says, “While not caring about whether he is loved, he should try not to be hated.” This is significant because the more people that hate the leader, the easier it is for the government to be overthrown. That is why Castro made sure he was not hated yet not loved completely.
Machiavelli also states that a good leader should always ally with others in dispute and to avoid neutrality. This is what Castro did during the Cold war, becoming an ally of the Soviet Union. Neutrality was seen as a sign of weakness. Choosing to ally meant one was not scared of having enemies. Castro exemplifies the characteristics of the ideal Prince Machiavelli describes however, whether people admire or despise Castro is unclear.