The stepping aside of Fidel Castro provides a good opportunity to recall how Western lefties have tended to idolise various tyrants, especially Communist dictators. The Left has had a love affair with such thugs, and the irrational devotion bestowed upon Castro is a good case in point.
Many commentators noted this tendency of the Left to whitewash the crimes of Marxist tyrants, and to overlook completely the human rights abuses, the political prisoners, and the death camps. In 1981 Paul Hollander wrote a bit of a classic in this regard: Political Pilgrims: Travels of Western Intellectuals to the Soviet Union, China and Cuba. In it he documented the duplicity of the Left: denigrating pluralism and democracy at home while lauding totalitarianism and tyranny abroad.
Jeane Kirkpatrick penned a great volume in 1980 entitled, Dictatorships and Double Standards which also addressed this theme. She rightly asked why Western leftist intellectuals can criticise a free and democratic West while praising the vile and oppressive Marxist regimes.
And the religious Left was also sucked into such double standards. In 1985 Lloyd Billingsley wrote The Generation That Knew Not Josef: A Critique of Marxism and the Religious Left. In that incisive volume he critiqued those of the religious left who slammed America and the West while romanticising socialist dictatorships and extolling Marxist nightmare states.
Cuba, as I say, is a good case in point. The number of sycophantic admirers of the Castro regime has been depressing to behold. Sure, the former Batista regime was corrupt, and was no paragon of virtue. But things got much worse after the 1959 revolution, with thousands of Batista supporters executed, just for starters. From then on it was 50 years of tyranny and misery for most Cubans.
That is why there are 2 million Cuban exiles in America today. They voted with their feet, preferring the freedoms of Uncle Sam to the tyranny of El Comandante. While the Left was ecstatic in its praise for Castro, actual Cubans were risking their lives to flee his hell-hole.
Two writers picked up this theme in yesterday’s press. Barry Cohan, a former federal Labor Minister, offered his thoughts in a column for the Australian. Says Cohen, “In 1981, representing Australia at the 69th Inter-Parliamentary Union conference in Havana, I had the rare good fortune to witness the benefits of a socialist-controlled economy at first hand. I took the cure.”
What he saw in the people’s paradise was not exactly inviting: “Arriving early, I made the ritual visit to Ernest Hemingway’s favourite watering hole before a stroll down the Cuban equivalent of Collins Street. I can still recall, with awe, the sumptuous display of merchandise on offer.”
“The cake shop offered a mouth-watering display of crumbling orange sponge cake. Next door, black-and-white television sets were selling for $US1000 each, thus enabling the locals to watch Castro 24/7. Moving on, we found a book shop where those thirsty for knowledge could choose between Marx, Mao, Lenin and Castro. The last’s up-to-date rantings were also available in the one and only rag, appropriately named Granma. Fortunately, the eight pages were in perforated strips. Waste not, want not, is still the Cuban national motto.”
He continues, “The piece de resistance was a clothing shop with a 200m queue. You could tell it was a clothing shop because there were clothes in the window. As the proprietor at the time of one of Sydney’s leading menswear stores, I was able to assess the clobber. St Vinnie’s would have knocked it back. Resisting the temptation to make a purchase, I returned to the conference for the opening ceremony.”
“Traditionally, the head of state of the host country makes a short welcoming speech to the conference and wishes delegates well in their deliberations. Not Castro. He broke with tradition and for two hours heaped abuse on the world’s leading democracies – Britain, the US, Japan, Thailand and, of course, Israel – blaming them for everything from outbreaks of dengue fever to dandruff. Mercifully we got the short version, otherwise we would have spent six hours listening to the hirsute creep.”
“President Castro’s harangue was one of the most nauseating, disgraceful exhibitions I have ever witnessed. What was so extraordinary was his complete omission of any of the crimes committed by his friends in the communist bloc, the Third World and the non-aligned countries.”
Cohen wrote at the time, “”If what I’ve seen in this country is an example of a socialist utopia, then I want none of it. The most impoverished workers in Australia are better off than the best I’ve seen here. I don’t agree with everything the US does. But I thank God there is a US because despite their mistakes they are the only bastion against totalitarianism that the free world can count on.”
Andrew Bolt, writing in the Herald Sun, also laments the loony left’s devotion to the thug: “No dictator will be without friends in this country – as long as they give Uncle Sam the two fingers. So when Fidel Castro this week said he’d step down, sort of, after 49 years of running Cuba into the ground, it wasn’t hard to find some weeping fans. ‘An icon,’ gushed Joan Coxsedge, who heads the Australia-Cuba Friendship Society. ‘He makes a great deal more sense . . . than anybody else’.”
Continues Bolt, “Even just 16 years ago, during Joan Kirner’s cartoonish premiership, Trades Hall was still hosting fundraisers for Castro’s Cuba. Left-wing unionists, academics, politicians, writers and students would raise cash for stirringly symbolic presents such as shiploads of powdered milk and wheat to a country that actually lacked not food but freedom. Oh, how chic it was then to go hug a Cuban, or even just smoke one. Ask another long-serving Labor MP of those days, witchcraft student and former Victoria University board member Jean McLean, who gladly introduced leading Cuban communists and regime-praising artists to Australian arts identities.”
“But few on the Left seem much fussed by Castro’s crimes – the show trials, the executions, the gagging of free speech, the ban on free elections, or even his crude handover to his even more Marxist brother Raul, the long-time army boss. Who cares? They’d rather forgive this American-hating Communist dictator what they’d never forgive in a pro-American capitalist one. “
“Proof: Leftist lawyers and activists hounded General Augusto Pinochet for years around the world, trying to make him stand trial in some human rights tribunal for the 17 years he spent as Chile’s dictator – a job he freely surrendered after holding elections, losing, resigning and leaving his country stronger than he found it. But Castro will be left free to travel unmolested around the world granting audiences and dispensing autographs, which astonishes Peru’s Nobel prize-winning author, Mario Vargas Llosa, who asks: ‘Was General Pinochet, in his 17 years in power, crueller or bloodier than Castro has been in his four decades ruling Cuba?’”
“The only knock Castro will hear on his door will almost certainly be yet another fashionably Left-wing Western celebrity looking for an audience. Last year – knock, knock! – it was supermodel Naomi Campbell, who gushed that Castro was ‘a source of inspiration to the world’. Before that – knock, knock! – it was director Oliver Stone, who hailed the billionaire dictator as ‘very selfless and moral’. And before him it was – knock, knock! – fellow director Steven Spielberg, who finally tottered from the president’s dinner table, gasping he’d just spent the ‘eight most important hours of my life’.”
Bolt goes on to cite many other examples of Western lefties falling over themselves to hero-worship the latest Marxist tyrant. His piece is well worth reading, and the telling quotes he provides are not to be missed. The truth is, many in the West hate America and the values that make the West great.
Concludes Bolt, “Tough guys who hate capitalism in general and America in particular have always inspired many in Australia. Even when those heroes do finally shuffle off to some gold-plated rest home for dictators, their worshippers will admire them still. And will studiously fail to notice how foully they stained the carpet as they passed.”
Despite the double standards of the Western intellectualoids, it is hoped that Cuba may soon be able to taste and enjoy freedom, democracy and human rights, something it has not experienced for a long time.