No More Cigars

Shortly after taking power in 1959, Cuban dictator Fidel Castro took up Vladimir Lenin’s old strategy of gaining the support of “progressive” intellectuals in Europe and the United States. Lenin called them “useful idiots.” French writers Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir became Castro’s first marks.

The couple embodied the intelligentsia in its purity and perfection: they led a bourgeois life in Paris, they posed as revolutionaries, and they had a woeful record of predicting the future. During World War II, they never publicly denounced the Nazis and continued to publish undisturbed in France. After the war, they supported Stalin, then the Communists of North Vietnam, then China’s Mao Tse Tung. In 1960, they accepted Castro’s invitation to Havana, where they were received like royalty. They responded by publishing celebrations of the Cuban revolution. They never seemed to grasp that the Castro regime was a typical Latin American caudillist dictatorship, wrapped up in Marxist language to secure Soviet protection.

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