Sunday, 27 November 2016

"He Lived Long Enough To See Communism Fail Everywhere"

That's about the only "good" thing I can manage to say about the death of Fidel Castro. As expected, there is the usual hagiographic bullshit flying about all over the place. My particular attention, however, was on the people running the News Lens International up in Taipei; their very brief obituary, posted by Edward White,  and which consisted largely of iconic photographs, remarks that "views on his decades in power and ongoing influence in the country remain mixed".

That asinine remark aside, what was remarkable about that "photo essay" were the textual omissions. In particular of course is the omission that Castro persecuted homosexuals and other minorities by rounding them up and having them sent to labour camps, which one might think is a rather peculiar omission for a media outlet that has so published so many articles and reports on LGBT issues and whose chief editors - Edward White himself along with J.M. Cole - were the authors of those pieces. Of course Castro also jailed journalists who dared to criticize his regime in ways he disapproved of. Quite why such crimes as these and others should be ignored or glossed over on his death is unclear, though the obvious conclusion is that it is because he was an anti-capitalist thug, and thus a darling of leftists everywhere.

There were also, of course, a good many other omissions from that photo essay; no mention was made of the people Castro had summarily executed after the 1959 revolution; no mention was made of the people Castro had "disappeared" under his regime; nor was there any mention made of the Cuban refugees who fled Cuba for Miami during his rule. Yet perhaps the most serious omission was the socio-economic strangulation of Cuban society under the socialist Castro regime. Using the Maddison database of international dollars adjusted for both geography and inflation, we can see that in 1959, Cuban GDP per capita stood at US$2,067, and yet by 1999, nearly half a century later, GDP per capita in Cuba had hardly improved and stood at US$2,307. All other Latin American nations had improved considerably during that period.

The objection to this point will always be that Cuba's economic plight was caused by the U.S. trade embargo. Yet Cuba was still free to trade with all other nations, and of course had the tremendous Socialist advantage of localizing all production rather than relying on international trade. Somehow, however, neither of these points will be remembered.

That Castro is finally dead is good, but the manner of his death is disappointing and the destruction he was able to wreak on an entire people for half a century is an especially unpleasant mountain of crimes. Perhaps the only consolation is the knowledge that he lived long enough to see Communism and Socialism fail everywhere, though I suspect he would only have regarded the collapse of their grip on power as failures, and not the human expense of that power.

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