There’s been a lot of talk about Fidel Castro over the last few days, after he announced he would no longer be continuing as president of Cuba. Most of what I have heard, has been in general negative towards Cuba, Castro, and Communism.
An american friend told me today that he thought the US should lift the embargo on Cuba (so do I actually, I think its an act of war) – his reason was that it was the best way to defeat communism, by allowing Cubans to catch the capitalist bug.
This in part sums up my reason for respecting Castro. He’s anathema to today’s capitalist world. Cuba stands alone as a place where a form of socialism is actually working (not without problems – some of them big ones). I would suggest that all of our capitalist societies are just as flawed though as the socialist Cuban society.
Fidel with his fatigues, his work ethic, his unflinching attitude of revolutionary defiance, his eschewing of personal glory through conventional means, his resistance to the temptations of personal wealth (ignore what Forbes say about him – its propaganda) and his general ballsiness in taking on the world’s biggest superpower (and greatest oppressor) and surviving, is admirable.
Not so admirable are the human rights violations, the murders, internments, vilification and imprisonment of gays and jehovah’s witnesses amongst others, all of which have occurred since the revolution – over the last nearly 50 years.
But it must be said in his defence that the majority of these crimes were carried out long ago. Castro is not the same man he was back then. The days of Fidel, Raul and Che overthrowing the Batista dictatorship are long gone. Now Castro is better understood as the man who led Cuba to become a country of extraordinary achievement.
A literacy rate of 98%, a very low infant mortality rate, a strong emphasis on environmentaly friendly technology, an organic farming revolution, he even reintroduced Christmas…
And on that note I would say that the idea of banning Christmas as a national holiday is one that I actually rather like, its a lot better than the commercialised hell that we suffer each year in the name of the homeless rabbi who died a squalid death after being abandoned by his followers… anyway… it got reinstated in the end, rather like Jesus.
I know that my perspective is vastly different from that of the many cuban emigres who fled the country in boats, to get to America where they could be happy capitalists, its certainly different to those who were imprisoned for ‘counter revolutionary thoughts’. Again, I dont claim Castro, Cuba, or communism are perfect.
But I do respect Castro, I respect the way he has kept going, I resepct the fact that in those early days he and the others lived the lives they told others to live, they spent their time off doing manual labour with the ordinary people, and Fidel’s children today work in factories, where they arent afforded the luxury and privelige that the presidential children of any other nation would be.
I truly deplore killing, I am a pacifist and a believer in freedom. But the freedoms we have in the democratic countries are often much less real than we like to think. There are plenty of ways this country will punish those who step out of line, albeit somewhat more subtle! I dont agree with the human rights abuses that have taken place in Cuba, nor do I support, excuse or condone the killings or imprisonment of many innocent souls.
So there it is, despite his and his regimes manifold failings, I still say that I respect Fidel, and all that he has acheived. And if any other leaders are as ready to put their life on the line, and walk the talk like Fidel has over the last fifty odd years, then I would probably offer them respect too. Trouble is, very few have.