Why does the British left still worship Fidel Castro as a hero?

Castro was an enemy of a free press and free trade unionism. So what if he made the trains run on time?

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Why do so many on the left feel so sentimental about Castro? I once attended the annual conference of the National Union of Journalists. One of the many (hundreds) of policy motions placed before we delegates was, to paraphrase, a declaration that Cuba is a socialist paradise defying American imperialism and capitalism, and a call from the NUJ to the US to drop its inhumane sanctions. Naturally, our call went unreported anywhere in the British or international media. Not so much as a news-in-brief.

Well, it seemed very odd to me, and entirely, and poignantly, symbolic of the gullible and confused attitude of the British left to dear old Fidel. For here was a man being feted, and not unusually, as a hero by a roomful of liberal, progressive journalists, but who oppressed journalists in his own one-party state. The very people who lazily raised their hands to support the annual NUJ "Hands off Cuba" motion would never be allowed to write the sort of free-wheeling, opinionated, satirical or investigative articles that are commonplace in Britain if they happened to be working in Havana.

Jeremy Corbyn talks about the social and political impact of Fidel Castro

There were a few voices of dissent at the conference, to this unthinking abasement to the dictator Castro (the BBC contingent were brave enough to oppose it), but, as usual, it got nodded through, to the great shame of all concerned. To repeat: Fidel Castro was an enemy of a free press and free trade unionism. Simple as that, and if he made the trains run on time and had a network of excellent nursery schools, well, so what?

If you believe in democratic centralism and some or other version of Marxism or "Leninism” or Trostkyism, then Castroism is, of course, fine. If you hate America so much that any regime that opposes America automatically qualifies as an ally, fine. If you're happy to have Castro's whiskery mug on your t-shirts, a face that was an ally of oppression and political murder in the Soviet Union, also fine.

If you're a journalist who believes that freedom of expression is a human right: not fine.

Nowadays the whole world has moved on from the Castroist simplicities of imperialist oppression. No-one should be bothered if their farms or factories or infrastructure are owned by firms based in America, India, China, Germany, France or anywhere else. Profit is no longer a dirty word. As we see here in Britain. Free movement of capital and goods are founding freedoms of the European Union, as well as freedom of movement of people. Castro's experiment simply did not work, even though the dental service is reputed to be excellent.

The sooner the world's capitalists move back into Cuba and lift its poor benighted people out of poverty, the better. It has worked for ex-socialist China and India, and indeed Russia. It will work in Cuba too, which has many natural advantages. Maybe then the Cuban people can use the improvements in their literacy to actually read the papers and websites of their choice, and write what they want for them; vote for the political parties they wish to; and swap the aged Buicks and Ladas for a nice new Toyota or Range Rover.

Goodbye Fidel; now we can welcome Cuba and the Cubans back into the world economy. Just North Korea to go now.

Comments