Fifty years ago this month the world held its breath as it contemplated nuclear armageddon over the stationing of Soviet nuclear missiles on Cuban soil within reach of the mainland US.
Soviet Russia and the US were on the brink of starting world war III.
Fidel Castro had succeeded in liberating Cuba three years earlier and the revolution was in its infancy, while the Bay of Pigs fiasco in 1961 had demonstrated US determination to undermine the new communist leadership which had seized US assets and nationalised the commanding heights of the economy.
The US had, prior to the Cuban missile crisis, stationed nuclear missiles in Turkey, western Europe and in the Pacific, so the Soviet Union felt surrounded and threatened.
The communist leadership under Kruschov responded by the audacious plan to station Soviet nuclear missiles on Cuba with whom comradely relations were being fostered and economic support provided to sustain the revolution.
Castro and the Cuban politburo needed support and having rooted out the US-backed corrupt Batista dictatorship in 1959 were happy to accept Soviet solidarity and show the Yankees they were not going to be bullied.
But underneath this breathtaking situation which held the possibility of unimaginable destruction, lay a personal story about what turned Castro into the man who succeeded in his long-held ambition to free the Cuban working class, liberate Haitian slaves and kick out the US stooge governments who had replaced the Spanish colonial elite.
Castro was born into quite a wealthy family and his own self-professed influences which stemmed from his Jesuit education at private Catholic schools and his admiration for the Cuban nationalist Jose Marti, who died fighting against the Spanish colonial occupation army.
Castro's influences focus strongly on his Catholic upbringing and in particular the strict Jesuit college tutors, whom he cites as the source of his own personal self-sacrifice, absolute dedication to his ambitions and relentless perseverance in the face of adversity.
At university in the early 1940s he aligned himself with the communists whom he rightly perceived as among the best organised of the many disparate political groups emerging at the time as popular sentiment moved against the corrupt government.
This capacity for acute political insight and strategic awareness was to serve him well in the forthcoming struggle for independence.
The other important influence on his character came as with all of us, from within his family.
His father was a hard, tough and dominating personality who expected others to work as he had done as a poor, economic migrant from Spain - relentlessly, compulsively, while enduring physical and emotional hardship.
His temper was notorious and he often expressed a violent, almost pathological, hatred towards the the US controllers of the sugar cane industry.
He raged about their monopoly power and accused them of ripping him off in trading contracts.
His was not a political ideological repugnance towards the US, simply that of a businessman who felt betrayed, cheated and perhaps humiliated and powerless.
Castro was the middle child of three brothers and the eldest child was a sister. He struggled through his early years with emotionally distant parents.
Sibling rivalry and the "invisibility" of being a middle boy meant he had to work hard to be noticed.
What he did was to become aggressive, argumentative and physically combative with authority figures, especially teachers.
Like many adolescents he also had problems with his father, manifested most notably in a threat to burn down the house and soon after leading a strike by the estate workers for better wages.
At school Castro was bullied - ironically because, to the wealthy Spanish colonial elite, while he was rich enough to be there, he was nevertheless from peasant stock, prone to crude language, swearing and culturally lacking in manners and etiquette.
They would also have been aware that he was born illegitimate, a hugely stigmatising and shameful position in the conservative social culture of high society.
His parents eventually married, but too late for him to have suffered daily humiliation in his formative years.
So Castro developed a thick skin - to an ordinary outsider he seemed a hard, angry teenager with a temper and easily provoked into fist fights.
He was clearly most comfortable in the macho world of sport, politics and later on among his cadre of guerillas who risked capture, torture and death on a daily basis in their war against the puppet Cuban dictator Batista.
The 50th anniversary of the Cuban missile crisis when many communists will recall those momentous events offers the chance to reflect on what influences were at work as Castro negotiated a volatile and dangerous political crisis.
Few will be aware of his early background, his Catholic faith and his admiration for the nationalist Marti.
When these were combined with his alignment with the Cuban communists and Marxist theory, a process began which was to bring Cuba to worldwide attention in more ways than one and which still stands as a beacon of hope for those nations struggling against capitalism and imperialism.
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