Sunday, November 27, 2016

Thoughts on Castro from Weimar Little England

Yesterday, whilst I was mostly thinking parochially, the rest of the world was marking the passing of Fidel Castro.

It is no surprise that the Western media would generally focus on denigrating a great revolutionary, nor that they would focus upon the minority of Cubans living in exile, many of whom appear to prefer Trump to Castro.

What is also not surprising, but perhaps more disappointing, is the response of many who consider themselves to be part of “the left”, at least here in the UK.

Even on the day that we learned of Castro’s death, many people had to qualify any comment by remembering the things that they (from their sofa in Islington) disagreed with Castro about.

I suppose I have been shedding illusions in “Trotskyism” ever since the fall of the wall, but petty sniping at the track record of Socialist Cuba at this time forces me to conclude that I am no part of that “left”.

That is not to say that I, or anyone, should be starry-eyed about Castro, or any leader. The last thing the left needs, as should be increasingly obvious, is fan-clubs.

However, politics is very often about choosing sides – and if we are going to defeat the forces of reaction who are now rampant in Europe and the United States we have to be as clear and straightforward as our opponents.

It is a strength which the socialist left has inherited from liberalism that we are critical and questioning – but it can be a terrible weakness when we put these valuable traits to the fore at all times, when sometimes we need to be firm in support of our side.

Yesterday, elements of the Western left exhibited also the Euro-centrism which very much gets in the way of “thinking globally” whilst “acting locally”.

Criticism of historic errors by Cuba in dealing with the rights of LGBT people should be part of a balanced and comprehensive assessment of the Cuban revolution, as should commentary upon authoritarian tendencies common to post-revolutionary regimes.

It is however, risible, for UK leftists to put such criticism front and centre of brief responses to the death of a great revolutionary leader, whilst seemingly ignoring the role of our own country in exporting official homophobia to the Caribbean (where surely other islands closer to “our” influence have more questions to answer?)

Those who consider themselves socialists, but who are so very wise that their understanding of the dangers of “campism” means that they qualify and nuance every word when asked to choose between two sides demonstrate the weakness which is likely to lead to our defeat by the coming rightwing tide.

That they also allow their great wisdom to obscure a truly global assessment of a revolutionary leader who gave so much to Africa and the Caribbean suggests that elements of the European “left” will contribute their share of responsibility for what our continent (and its transatlantic diaspora) may once more be about to unleash upon humanity.

I don’t want to contribute in any way to dividing the opponents of the rampaging resurgent right, but I don’t think we can build unity on shifting sands.


I don’t know what to do – but I am at least thinking about this without false certainty.

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