Fidel turned to Communism for strategic not ideological reasons, but his bitterness toward the United States also shaped his decision. He has been less committed to Marxism than to anti-imperialism, in which he is unwavering. He has cast himself in the role of David versus Goliath, in the tradition of José Martí. Fidel sees himself as Martí’s heir, representing the same combination of New World nationalism, Spanish romanticism, and philosophical radicalism. His trump card is Cuban nationalist sentiment.
His boyhood impressions of destitution in Holguín Province under the thumb of the United Fruit Company and, later, the 1954 overthrow of the reformist Arbenz government in Guatemala by a military force organized by the CIA and underwritten by “Big Fruit” had a profound impact on Fidel’s thinking. Ever since, Fidel has viewed world politics through the prism of anti-Americanism. During the war in the Sierra Maestra, Fidel stated, “When this war is over, it will be the beginning, for me, of a much wider and bigger war; the war I’m going to wage against [the Americans]. I realize that that’s going to be my true destiny.”
He brilliantly used the Cold War to enlist the Soviet Union to move Cuba out of the U.S. orbit, and was thus able—with Soviet funds—to bolster his stature as a nationalist redeemer by guaranteeing the Cuban masses substantial social and economic gains while exerting constant energy and creativity to keep the United States at a distance.