Fidel Castro: A Biography
August 2006, Polity
Castro has outlived generations of American presidents and
Soviet leaders. He has survived countless assassination attempts by
the CIA, the Mafia, and Cubans living in exile. He has become one
of the greatest politicians of the 20th Century. His biography, and
the history of his country exemplify the tensions between East and
West, North and South, rich and poor.
As Castro's life draws to a close, the question as to what will become of Cuba is more important that ever. Will Castro open Cuba to economic reform and democratization, or stick to his old slogan socialism or death?
In this remarkable, up-to-date reconstruction of Castro's life, Volker Skierka addresses these questions and provides an account of the economic, social, and political history of Cuba since Castro's childhood. He draws on a number of little-known sources, including material from the East German communist archives on Cuba, which were until recently inaccessible.
This is an exciting, painstakingly researched, and authortiative account of the life of one of the most extraordinary political figures of our time.
A Note of Thanks.
Preface to the English Edition.
1. The Heroic Myth.
2. The Young Fidel.
3. The Young Revolutionary.
Storm and stress: Moncada.
“Che”, the Argentinean.
Stormy crossing on the Granma.
A guerillero in the Sierra Maestra.
321 against 10,000.
4. The Young Victor.
Communists and “barbudos”.
1,500 revolutionary laws.
5. Old Enemies, New Friends.
The great powers at the gates.
The CIA, the Mafia and the Bay of Pigs.
“Mongoose” and “Anadyr”.
Thirteen days on the brink of a third world war.
6. The Long March with Che.
Moscow, Beijing, and Havana.
The new man.
The demise of Che.
7. Bad Times, Good Times.
War and peace with Moscow.
Ten million tons.
Into the Third World.
The revolution devours its children.
8. Alone Against All.
Exodus to Florida.
Rectificacion and perestroika.
The Soviet imperium collapses.
The brother’s power.
War economy in peacetime.
9. The Eternal Revolutionary.
Class Struggle on a dollar basis.
Cuba and the global policeman.
Castro, God and the Pope.
Freedom or “socialismo tropical”.
10. Don Quixote and History.
- an exciting, and authoritative account of the life of one of
the most iconic figures of the 20th Century;
- the most up-to-date, comprehensive biography of Fidel Castro
- the first account to cover the end of the cold war and
communism in Europe;
- draws on a number of little known sources, including material
from the East German communist archives on Cuba, which were until
- as Castro’s life draws to a close, asks what will become of Cuba: will Castro open Cuba to economic reform and democratization, or stick to his old slogan “socialism or death”?
"Volker Skierka has written the book that those wanting to
understand the present-day politics of Cuba and its ruler have been
awaiting for a long time. He has done so with a freshness,
simplicity and elegance that makes it a pleasure to read ...
accessible and fascinating to the casual reader and the specialist
BBC History Magazine
"An exceptional, evenhanded portrait of an undeniably strong
leader's strengths and weaknesses."
Midwest Book Review
"A fascinatingly good read and a treasure trove of
"Volker Skierka's study of Castro stands out for its admirable
clarity and accessibility. Synthesizing a wealth of literature, and
casting a cool eye on the official pieties of both Havana and
Washington, Skierka has drawn a critical but far from unsympathetic
portrait of this extraordinary figure of the Cold War world whose
personal tenacity ensured that Cuban Communism survived with him
into the new millennium."
James Dunkerley, Queen Mary University