On Fidel Castro:
Below is a pretty respectable presente! for Fidel, coming from a non-Lefty.
What was Fidel's lasting achievement for Cuba? Independence,
But what about this quote from below: "...of course it is true that Castro ran a dictatorship that has, since 1959, committed its fair share of crimes, repressions, and denials of democratic rights."
Dr King once said, in reference to leadership qualities in a revolutionary movement, "have a tough mind, and a tender heart".
Tough mindedness includes avoiding foolishness that costs lives and victory.
For example, if you are not willing to decisively resist scabs and strikebreakers, do NOT waste your time going on strike.
If you are George Washington or Benjamin Franklin, and wage a revolutionary struggle against a colonial or imperial power, then you must suppress and un-empower the overthrown regime. Otherwise, do not bother making the revolution: it will fail, and you will be hanged.
If your democracy is under armed and unbridgeable assaults from a counter-revolutionary force, such as the Confederacy, then you must suppress the rights, a la Lincoln and habeas corpus, and indeed, the lives, of the counter-revolutionary force, or your "democracy" will be meaningless.
The leadership of the Cuban revolution against the US and Mafia worm Batista had no privilege of "open democracy", at least in the early years if its independence. These pressures also motivated Cuba's alliance with the USSR, forcing a global confrontation over the prerogatives of overthrown Imperial regimes.
Cuba paid a serious price for its heroic independence, although no one has made a convincing case that there was any alternative: the Soviet economic model did not spur overall economic growth. Neither did the decade of strategies after the collapse of the USSR generate serious growth. The best that can be said of Cuban Socialism from an economic standpoint is that a) it preserved Cuba's independence -- that actually is an economic as well as political argument; b) it inspired global anti-imperial movements for independence; c) it made for a more equal, and healthier, population.
But it remains in the poorer third of the world's nations. All revolutionary movements share some common features. Not all socialisms, however, do. Cuban Socialism is NOT a model for US socialism. Yet like Cuba, US socialism may have features that CHOOSE US , rather than US CHOOSING them.
Castro is dead
Fidel Castro is dead at 90, so let me adapt some words I wrote when he retired back in 2008. Doubtless, there will be commentary, particularly from within the United States, that is unbalanced and hostile, and, of course it is true that Castro ran a dictatorship that has, since 1959, committed its fair share of crimes, repressions, and denials of democratic rights. Still, I'm reminded of the historian A.J.P. Taylor writing somewhere or other that what the capitalists and their lackeys really really hated about Soviet Russia was not its tyrannical nature but the fact that there was a whole chunk of the earth's surface where they were no longer able to operate. The same thing goes Cuba, for a much smaller area, and it hurt them particularly to be excluded from somewhere that plutocrats and mobsters had once enjoyed as their private playground. (Other countries, far more repressive, got a pass from successive US administrations.) So let's hear it for universal literacy and decent standards of health care. Let's hear it for the Cubans who help defeat the South Africans and their allies in Angola and thereby prepared the end of apartheid at a time when the United States favoured "constructive engagement" with white supremacy. Let's hear it for the middle-aged Cuban construction workers who bravely held off the US forces for a while when the US invaded Grenada. Let's hear it for more than half-a-century of defiance in the face of the US blockade. Hasta la victoria siempre!
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