The Left

Castro was a Hero to Some but he Never Meant Shit to Me

Last week, former Labour Minister, Brian Wilson, delivered a remarkable encomium to the recently abdicated King of Cuba: Fidel Castro.

Shabba was surprised and depressed to find a Labour minister applauding a dictator.

Well, he’ll be more depressed by this, from Harriet Harman MP:

Q: Fidel Castro: hero of the left, or dangerous authoritarian dictator?
A: Hero of the left – but time for Cuba to move on.


Not a hero of my Left.

Daniel Finkelstein – hardly a hero of the Left himself, but let that pass – lists the top ten reasons why the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, should be ashamed to describe Castro as a Hero of the Left:

1. Hero of the left? In the 1960s, Cuba sent homosexuals to forced labour camps. Raul Castro was particularly active in this policy, reputedly because he looked effeminate at the time and wanted to seem more macho

2. Hero of the left? In 2003, Castro oversaw the execution of three men who had hijacked a ferry in a bid to escape from the island. Sounds pretty left wing to me.

3. Hero of the left? During the Cuban missile crisis, Castro urged Khrushchev to launch a nuclear first strike on the American mainland. This is never mentioned by the anti-war campaigners who admire Castro.

4. Hero of the left? According to the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, in 2006 there were 316 political prisoners in Cuba.

5. Hero of the left? Independent labour unions are illegal in Cuba. Has Harriet told Jack Dromey?

6. Hero of the left? On January 19, 2003, an election was held for the Cuban National Assembly. There were 609 candidates —all supported by the regime— vying for 609 seats.

7. Hero of the left? The purchase of computers and access to the internet is severely restricted with many citizens using black market sources.

8. Hero of the left? In 2003, state security forces raided 22 independent libraries and sent 14 librarians to jail with terms of up to 26 years.

9. Hero of the left? Castro personally has been one of the most conservative forces in the Cuban government. Castro was fiercely opposed to economic reforms of Gorbachev. At the 4th Cuban Communist Party Congress in 1991, there was a movement for modest liberalisation of the economy – allowing limited market in agricultural products. Fidel immediately scotched any suggestion of it.

10. Hero of the left? Castro’s admirers talk about how the deployment of troops to Angola in 1975 helped defeat apartheid in South Africa. But they don’t discuss the other aspects of his Africa adventures. Notably, how he supported the despicable Mengistu in Ethiopia, which cost enormous number of lives during the war with Somalia.

Frankly, it depresses me that Harman thinks that Castro is somebody to be admired.

When Baroness Thatcher, and Norman Lamont ran to the defence of the vile Pinochet, we knew that we were seeing the last gasp of the totalitarian dictator supporting Right.

I’d hoped that – within the political mainstream at least – we’d seen the back of the totalitarian dictator supporting Left, long ago.


Please do read Neil Clark’s hilarious boohoo piece in the Speccie about his misog time on holiday in Cuba.

His big gripe seems to be that he had to pay £30 for an ear examination, after a snorkelling induced ear-ache. He expected it to be free. He refused to pay. The receptionist threatened to call the cops.

Clark’s conclusion: Cuba is a police state!

You think I’m exagerating?

The totalitarian nature of Castro’s Cuba is no right-wing myth, but a reality. And you don’t have to be a political agitator to fall foul of the authorities, as my wife and I discovered. We had been told by our holiday rep that the hotel’s resident nurse would administer free basic medical care, but if we required the call-out services of a local doctor, we’d have to pay. After a day’s snorkelling I had a touch of ear-ache, so I popped along to the nurse’s office to ask if she had any medication. The nurse was a man, who after the most cursory examination of my ear pronounced that I had an infection which required antibiotics. How much would the antibiotics cost, I asked. About £60, he replied. As we were returning home later that day, I told him that I’d leave it till I got back. ‘Yes, but you still have to pay me £30 for this consultation,’ he replied. ‘But the services of the nurse are free,’ I said. ‘I’m a doctor,’ he replied.

Furious at being taken for a ride, my wife and I refused to pay and headed back to our room. But on trying to check out of the hotel later that morning, we were astonished to be told by the receptionist that if we did not settle the medical bill, she would ‘call state security’ and we would be arrested. We would not be allowed out of the country — ‘state security’ would apprehend us at the airport. The ‘doctor’ then reappeared to say that the rate — which had been set in stone — was after all negotiable, and that he’d accept £25. Forced into the corner and threatened with a night (at least) in a Cuban jail, we reluctantly paid up. ‘It’s nothing more than theft,’ I said to the ‘doctor’ as I handed over the money. ‘It doesn’t go to me,’ was his response. ‘It goes to the state.’

If the money from such scams really did go to the state — and towards improving the lot of the Cuban people — I wouldn’t have been so upset. But I strongly suspect that a share of my £25 will go towards the next fleet of BMWs for Castro’s cronies.

Neil Clark = Pooter