Saturday, November 26, 2016

Fidel Was No Hero


I have a mathematician colleague, a leftist, who, for many years, proudly displayed the collected works of Stalin on his office shelf. I am pretty sure this fellow actually admired Stalin for the way he transformed the Soviet Union from an agricultural country to an industrial power -- an admiration I find completely incomprehensible, in the same way that I find admiration of other murderous totalitarians incomprehensible. Che Guevara is another one that, to my mind, does not deserve to be revered. When I see someone wearing a Che t-shirt, I want to shake them and say, "Do you actually know what this guy did?"

Now that Fidel Castro is dead, I am sure there will be a lot of Castro hagiography on the left. Castro, we will be told, was responsible for universal health care, literacy, and improved education in Cuba. But probably few will talk about the thousands killed by Castro, killed simply because they opposed him politically. Few will talk about his mass imprisonment of dissidents, or about the hundreds of thousands that fled his illegitimate regime. Cuban refugees are celebrating today because Castro was a tyrant, a megalomaniac, a mass murderer, and a thug. I believe on judging a person on their complete record, but Castro's evil deeds far outweighed any positive effects he may have had on Cuba.

For those who want to read the stories of the murdered and imprisoned, visit the Cuba Archive.

6 comments:

Takis Konstantopoulos said...

I read an article today, published in Greek, reporting that
-- In 1960, Fidel Castro decided to arrest the “acusados ser afeminados y vagos”,that is, known homesexuals (e.g. artists).
-- In 1965, Allen Ginsberg visited Cuba; Cubans welcomed him because they thought he was an enemy of capitalism, but turned against him when they saw him as a trouble maker. He was deported from Cuba for publicly protesting the persecution of homosexuals. According to the Greek article, Ginsberg reported that there were 45 thousand imprisoned homosexuals in Cuba.
-- in 1961, Castro gathered 500 children (and babies) of Cubans he had executed and imprisoned them.
-- He built some tiny prison cells known as “tostadoras” and “gavetas” and stuffed each one of them with 44 prisoners where they stayed under horrible conditions.

I can't remember where I read that Che Guevara was a cold murderer. No feelings, no nothing. Perhaps it was in an article by Hitchens. That has to be checked.

I don't find it strange anymore that people adopt idols and never question anything. It's a religion. It's very uncomfortable for many people to question things and look for facts. People follow the crowds and the decisions they make are not based on facts or logic but on emotion and irrationality.

That said, of course, we should not say that the pre-Castro regime, that of Fulgencio Batista, was better:

Brothels flourished. A major industry grew up around them; government officials received bribes, policemen collected protection money. Prostitutes could be seen standing in doorways, strolling the streets, or leaning from windows. One report estimated that 11,500 of them worked their trade in Havana. Beyond the outskirts of the capital, beyond the slot machines, was one of the poorest, and most beautiful countries in the Western world. (David Detzer, journalist)

Joe Felsenstein said...

You are largely right. Fidel was an ultra-egomaniacal tyrant who carried out some good reforms in his early years, and defied the U.S., which earned him points with many opponents of U.S. policy. But that was followed by 50 years of failing to let the Cuban people have any democratic rights. This could always be blamed on the U.S. embargo. The number of people his regime executed was, proportional to the population size, horrific.

The Che T-shirts celebrate an icon of rebellion, ignoring his role in repression in Cuba. The ideology of guerillismo came up empty in Latin America, where there has been much more social progress from social-democratic reformers.

Cuba is now going the way of China, with the same lack of democracy. The U.S. gave up embargoing trade with China more than 40 years ago, but for some reason did not have the same policy in Cuba. The U.S. has always argued that it has some rights to say what happens in Cuba, because Cuba is only 90 miles from our shores. (Russia is only 3 miles from our shores, actually). No one ever seems to realize that by the same argument, Cuba should have some rights to say what happens in the U.S. Now let's see, Canada is actually zero miles from our shores ...

William Spearshake said...

I don't want to defend Castro, which can't be done, but the US has never learned from history. The two countries that they were in ultimate war with (Germany and Japan) may have been beaten by arms, but they were defeated by unlimited support. The best way to defeat a regime is to open it up, not embargo it. It is slower, but more lasting.

Jeffrey Shallit said...

I agree, William. The US has happily dealt with regimes worse than Castro's. The embargo accomplished nothing in 50 years.

William Spearshake said...

"The embargo accomplished nothing in 50 years."

Well, it did provide Canadians with cheap Carribean vacations where they didn't have to deal with obnoxious American tourists. :)

Harold Zotoh said...

Any truth that Forbes says his net worth was 900 million?
http://www.ibtimes.com/fidel-castro-net-worth-2016-how-cuban-leader-built-wealth-after-1959-revolution-2451623