2010

Authors

  • Mario Dayan Jayatilleka Mario Dayan Jayatilleka

This is a study of the moral and ethical dimension of the political thought of Fidel Castro, with an ethic of violence at its vital centre. It is not a study of the totality and evolution of Fidel Castro’s political thought. It does not purport to be his intellectual biography. As such it focuses on two ideas, the one within the other. It explores the moral and ethical aspect of Fidel Castro’s political thought and strategy and examines as a constituent component of that aspect, Castro’s idea of the correct and incorrect use of violence. More generally, it hopes to shed light on the issue of the good and bad use of violence, using as prism and principal illustrative case, the political, strategic and diplomatic thought and practice of Fidel Castro, both as revolutionary insurgent and leader of a state, as rebel and ruler. It is suggested in this thesis that Fidel Castro, a revolutionary, Marxist and Third World political figure, has made a contribution to the understanding of one of the larger questions of politics, one that properly belongs in the sphere of political theory and philosophy: the question of violence, political power and morality. The study undertaken here argues that Fidel Castro’s main contribution to revolutionary Marxism was the introduction of an explicitly moral and ethical dimension. This in turn has enabled him to occupy the moral high ground and has helped him survive the collapse of Communism with no damage to his prestige. The study also indicates that the moral and ethical dimension stems from a unique synthesis of Marxism and Christianity. This study attempts to show that the Castro doctrine of armed struggle is based upon the conscious cultivation of a moral asymmetry between the enemy and the liberation fighter, a moral superiority that is cultivated not by abstinence from violence as in the case of Gandhi, nor by the low intensity and tactical use of violence as in the case of Mandela’s ANC, but by conscious restraint in the conduct, methods and targeting. While it is on the one hand a doctrine of Absolute or Total War, in that it seeks, as did the Jacobins and Napoleon, to mobilize the whole people, it is also a doctrine of Limited War in terms of targeting. It is simultaneously governed by and seeks to achieve a moral superiority that does not rest on culturally specific and circumscribed notions (such as those that govern Islamic militants) but on universal values of humanitarian conduct in warfare.