Saturday, 26 November 2016

Fidel Castro has finally died


Fidel Castro has finally died. Many (most?) in Cuba are rejoicing secretly. But many are mourning, I imagine.

I used to think it interesting that Mao, Franco and Tito were still alive. That's a while back. "Eheu fugaces!' (I was very precociously interested in history as a very young boy.)

Donne said "Any man's death diminishes me" but Castro's not so much. Yet, oddly, there is always a slight sadness at the end of any era, even an evil one, though his era does not die with him. A number of people I met in Cuba liked him. Of course people were in tears when Stalin died.

In Miami, they are celebrating wildly in the streets.

Castro reminds me of the Communist turned Catholic Dorothy Day's remark
"Becoming a saint is the revolution." 
In 1960, she praised Fidel Castro's "promise of social justice" and that year she travelled to Cuba and reported her experiences in a four-part series in the Catholic Worker. In the first of these, she wrote: 
"I am most of all interested in the religious life of the people and so must not be on the side of a regime that favors the extirpation of religion. On the other hand, when that regime is bending all its efforts to make a good life for the people, a naturally good life (on which grace can build) one cannot help but be in favor of the measures taken." 
A number of other Catholics, like Graham Greene, admired Castro. But his ideas, predictably, failed Cuba, except for the poorest 10%. They were better off than they would have been in a free country.

There were signs that in his last years Castro took an interest in the Catholicism that he rejected in his youth. When he met Pope Francis the Cuban asked him to send him some books to answer questions that he had. I hope that, like Gustav Husak the Czech dictator, he made a deathbed conversion. He had become friendly with a Bolivian friar before his death.

Praising Castro never went out of fashion in the West (or in the Third World). I remember Arthur Scargill being asked by Michael Parkinson where socialism had worked and his reply 'Cuba'. But things changed when Michael Frayn reported that Cuba was throwing homosexuals into gaol. This was much worse in they eyes of the left than having political dissidents put in gaol. 

Later supposedly racist remarks by Che about Africans 
"The black is indolent and a dreamer; spending his meagre wage on frivolity or drink"
were quoted by conservatives as the best way of blackening his name with people who were not nonplussed by the numbers of political prisoners Che had killed. 

In reply, left-wingers pointed out that Che was young when he made that wicked remark.

Cuba retains its socialist allure with people over 60. Jeremy Corbyn, British Labour leader, skipped a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party, immediately following the Brexit referendum result and Theresa May's appointment as Prime Minister, to attend a meeting of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign.

Disappointingly, Mr Corbyn has not yet tweeted about the death of Fidel Castro. I treasure the Labour leader's tweet mourning Hugo Chavez's death.


Fidel came to Bucharest once. Someone in the Cuban Embassy in Bucharest told me he said 'This isn't real socialism'. 

But then they always say that. It's never real socialism or real Communism.


  1. I too know little about Cuba. Amid the quasi- hagiographic coverage on the BBC this morning was a clip where Castro initially denied being a communist. Was he a liar or an opportunist that yankee opposition pushed to look east? Andrew Fear

    1. The latter. Is the BBC praising him? OMG

    2. There's the odd grudging concession he was a thug but it is mainly as I expected. I particularly enjoyed the comment that he lasted longer than 10 US presidents without pointing out that an absence of elections may have had something to do with that.....

  2. Fidel was a smart man...
    Born in a rich Cuban family he wanted Cuba for Cubans ("Nationalist?!?).
    Clearly, he was steering away from "Communism" while being a "Socialist".

    1. Eisenhower drove him into the USSR's arms. He was much more of a Chavez than a Leninist, to start with.

    2. Surely he could have sought support from the Soviets without turning Cuba into a full-fledged Communist state.