A longtime editor found a historic treasure in the 1980s: two brothers who had lived through the Cuban Revolution but on opposite sides. One had joined the U.S. effort, resisted Fidel Castro’s dictatorship, and become a political prisoner. The other had been a devoted Communist Party insider and ideologue.
Landau's work, some of it written in the first person like a diary, is the most illuminating, up-close-and-personal account of the Cuban Revolution you will find. The elder brother Emi boarded in Landau's Washington, D.C., home, where they collected family letters and put the memories on paper. By conveying both sides of the story with editorial eloquence, "Brothers" is an even-handed examination of what happened and the zeitgeist in Cuba of the 1960s and 1970s.
A Revolution for Fidel Castro’s EgoPerhaps the most striking insights from "Brothers" stem from its close encounters with Castro, since Adolfo interacted with him personally. The reader sees how the revolution served Castro's ego and lust for power more than Marxist ideology—although that was the bait and switch he used to hoodwink his victims and allies. As opposed to an ideologically driven communist, "[Castro was] nothing but an opportunist," Landau explained. "Castro would have used anything to come to power."
Castro's motives became clear when true believers were purged from the Communist Party, which might as well have been the Fidelista Party. That's where members’ loyalty had to be, at least publicly. A hint of skepticism towards Castro's tactics was enough for a man to find himself a political prisoner as a so-called counterrevolutionary.
Such was the fate of Adolfo, who had been a faithful student of and advocate for socialism from the pre-Castro days under the Fulgencio Batista dictatorship in the 1950s. However, the revolution had a penchant for eating its own, and apparently he was a conspirator in a traitorous “microfaction.”
The Central Planner's ArroganceNot only did Castro want all loyalty to him, more than to any ideology, he also wanted the economy to serve his whims, going as far as forced relocations of campesinos and topsoil. Although hard to believe, the firsthand accounts in "Brothers" share how Castro was often commenting on the need for products that would supposedly fetch a handsome premium on the world market. He wanted crocodile hides, for example, and thought he knew better than farmers and entrepreneurs what would generate the best returns.
How the Regime Achieves ContinuityThe one product that Castro and his ilk were experts in was regime continuity. Castro died without ever seeing justice, and he had a knack for turning thorny situations to his advantage. Survival for the rulers was the goal, while the concerns of common Cubans were secondary.
Chipping Away at Popular MythsThe challenge with history is that appealing myths circulate more widely than unappealing facts. There is little one can do to help the unteachable Marxists who keep their heads in the sand and revere Castro as an anti-imperialist hero. Further, those with a grudge against the United States are willing recipients of the regime’s scapegoating.
However, by offering a concise, accessible, entertaining account—with plenty of tearjerker moments—Landau’s "Brothers" chips away at the myths. Adolfo’s and Emi’s story is available for anyone who desires to know the truth about what became Castro's revolution, as are the lessons that apply beyond Cuba. With that knowledge, one need not repeat the mistakes that have cursed Cuba to more than 60 years as an island of misery.