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?

Fidel Castro survived numerous assassination attempts
Fidel Castro survived numerous assassination attempts

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.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in