This is the companion piece to the preceding post “542: The religious upbringing of Fidel Castro”. What follows is my cobbling together of statements made in an interview of the Cuban leader by the Dominican priest Frei Betto over a number of days. I found the translation from Spanish into English a little stilted, so I made a couple of slight revisions to help the text ‘flow’ better. When the book “Fidel and Religion” was finally published in 1985, it sold out overnight, and a million copies were sold in Cuba alone. The two men ranged over such topics as Fidel’s religious upbringing and his view of marxism and Liberation theology.
FC: Moral elements and principles must be considered even before the political elements, and I want to talk about the accord between religious doctrine and revolution. I maintain that Christian doctrine and revolution have many things in common. It’s true we’ve been dogmatic at times, but no other institution in history has been as dogmatic as the Roman Catholic church. They burned dissidents at the stake.
FB: I think that communism has a great deal of utopia about it, and in theology we call things that have something of utopia the kingdom of God. As soon as there are no contradictions and the state no longer exists, I think we’ll reach another sphere of spiritual qualities in human life.
FC: I agree with you because it’s true that every revolutionary has hopes and dreams of great things. They may not all come true, due to the % of utopianism that every revolutionary idea may contain. I also think that Christianity has utopian elements just as socialism and communism have. During the past 26 years our realities have surpassed our dreams. Our dreams fell short of utopia yet our reality went beyond it. We can follow almost all of God’s commandments perfectly – they were so similar to our ideals. For example:-
- The church says, “Love thy neighbour as thyself”. This coincides exactly with what we preach, through feelings of human solidarity, which is the essence of socialism and communism, the spirit of fraternity which is one of our most valued goals.
- The church says, “Thou shalt not steal” and we apply that principle rigorously. One of the tenets of our revolution is to prevent theft, embezzlement and corruption.
- The church says, “Thou shalt not bear false witness.” Well, lying and deceit are among the things that we most severely criticise and censor.
- The church says, “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife.” We believe that one of the essential elements of relations among revolutionaries is precisely the principle of respect for the family and respect for a compañero‘s wife.
- When the church fosters the spirit of self-sacrifice and the spirit of austerity, and when the church urges humility, we have exactly the same thing in mind when we say that it is the revolutionary’s duty to be self-sacrificing and to live modestly and austerely.
FB: It seems to me that you also observe another important commandment:
- “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.”
FC: There is enormous hypocrisy in all these people (Reagan, and Pinochet – allegedly a decent man.) who invoke God’s name as they commit their crimes (e.g. in Cuba, Nicaragua, Chile, El Salvador).
FB: Their God isn’t the God of the bible, the God of Jesus. The biblical criteria of who really fulfils the will of God are found in Matthew 25:”For I was hungry and you gave me food. Thirsty and you gave me drink.” And today we can add “I was ignorant and you gave me schools; sick and you gave me health; homeless and you’ve me shelter.” Socialist societies that create better living conditions for the people are unconsciously carrying out what we men of faith call ‘God’s projects in history.”
- FC: I base myself on the elements commonly found in Christ’s teaching – things that I was taught when I was a child and a teenager, e.g. the church criticised gluttony: socialism – marxism-leninism – criticises gluttony almost as forcefully as the church does.
- Selfishness is one of the things we criticise the most and it is also something that is criticised by the church.
- Avarice is another thing on which we share the same criticism.
FC: If the church were to create a state in one with these principles, it would organise a state like ours. They would, for example, do everything possible to prevent gambling in such a state governed by Christian principles. We’ve eradicated gambling.
You wouldn’t have beggars. Cuba is the only country in Latin America which has no beggars.
You wouldn’t allow a little child to remain abandoned or to go hungry. Not a single child in our country is forsaken or hungry.
You wouldn’t leave the elderly without the help and assistance they need. In Cuba all old people have help and assistance.
You wouldn’t put up with a high unemployment rate. In Cuba there is no unemployment.
You wouldn’t permit drugs. In our country drug addiction has been eradicated.
You wouldn’t allow prostitution which forces women to sell their bodies to eke out a living. In our country prostitution has been eradicated and discrimination based on sex eliminated, making it possible for a woman to work, to live in better conditions and play a more prominent role in society.
All these things we’ve fought against, all those problems we’ve solved, are the same ones the church wold try to solve if it were to try to organise a civil state in keeping with its Christian principles. One of my theses is to have a strategic alliance between Christians and marxists to to carry out the social changes that the people of the third world need. Christ multiplied the fish and the loaves to feed the people. That is precisely what we want to do with the revolutionary society:
multiply the fish and loaves to feed the people;
multiply the schools, teachers, hospitals, doctors;
multiply the factories, jobs and fields under cultivation;
multiply industrial and agricultural production, and multiply the research centres and the number of scientific research projects for the same purpose.
Betto, F. “Fidel and Religion” Ocean Press, Australia second edition (2006)
[ This book was located in the reference section of Carnegie Free Library, San Fernando, Trinidad, W.I.]