Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. A generous donor is matching all donations of $100 or more! So please donate now to double your punch!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Fierce Debate Over Castro’s Legacy

Photo by Institute for Policy Studies | CC BY 2.0

Photo by Institute for Policy Studies | CC BY 2.0

Fidel Castro’s death, at 90, has sparked a fierce debate in the West over his legacy. I specifically mention the West as elsewhere there is no debate: Castro has rightfully been lauded as one of history’s great emancipators, a man who led a revolution that succeeded in throwing off the yoke of US imperialism.

But in the West the liberal commentariat has united as one in denouncing Castro as an evil tyrant and torturer who ruled Cuba for over five decades with an iron fist, quashing the human rights of the Cuban people, who in the wake of his death can now look forward to the future safe in the knowledge that freedom and democracy beckons.

When we talk about Castro’s critics, it is worth pointing out that we are talking people who live in societies where poverty has been unofficially criminalized and the poor demonized, despised, and abandoned to a fate of destitution and despair. We are talking, in the main, the kind of men and women who walk or drive past the ever-growing army of homeless who colonize the streets of towns and cities throughout the West, casualties of a neoliberal economic system that is the real tyrant in our world, without batting an eyelid. In other words, we are talking people whose condemnation of Fidel Castro is suffused with hypocrisy, the kind that is common among those who have imbibed the received truths of empire. The most fundamental of those truths is that the West has been divinely ordained with the task of colonizing a Third World – culturally, economically, and geopolitically – that consists of peoples of lower cultures, civilizations, and human worth.

The metric by which Castro’s legacy should be judged is the transformation of Cuba as a result of the revolution he led and inspired. And in this regard one salient fact shines forth more than any other – namely that the only place in the world where you will find homeless Cuban children today is Miami.

Let us take a moment to examine in detail the legacy of the “tyrant” Fidel Castro:

+ Cuba is today the only country in the Americas where child malnourishment does not exit (UNICEF).

+ Cuba has the lowest child mortality rate in the Americas (UNICEF).

+ 130,000 students have graduated from medical school in Cuba since 1961.

+ Cuba has eliminated homelessness (Knoema).

+ 54% of Cuba’s national budget is used for social services.

+ Cuba has the best education system in Latin America.

+ Cuba has sent hundreds of doctors and nurses on medical missions across the Third World.

+ Cuba was the first country to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV (World Health Organization).

If only the Haitian people or the people of the Dominican Republic had such a tyrant ruling their countries. If only the poor in the US and UK had such a tyrant at the head of their respective governments.

When it comes to the accusation that gays were persecuted in Cuba after the revolution, there is no doubt that LGBT rights were non-existent in Cuba in the sixties and for most of the seventies, just as they were non existent throughout much of the world. Homosexuality, for example, was decriminalized in Cuba in 1979, which compares favourably to Scotland and Northern Ireland in the UK, where it was decriminalized in 1980 and 1982 respectively. Moreover, same-sex sexual activity was only made legal across the entire United States in 2003. It is also worth bearing in mind that homosexuality today is criminalized in Saudi Arabia – a close UK and US ally and a society in which women are treated as chattel and people are routinely beheaded – where it is punishable by death.

The fact is that the existence of homophobia in Cuba predated Fidel Castro and the Cuban Revolution by around five centuries. It was entrenched as part of the cultural values of Cuban society, indeed the cultural values throughout the Americas, courtesy of the Catholic Church. Fidel Castro was a product of those values and to his credit later renounced them, awakening to the justice of LGBT rights. Today his own niece, Mariela Castro, plays an active role in the Cuban LGBT community, leading the country’s annual gay pride parade in Havana last year.

As for torture, meanwhile, the only place on the island of Cuba where this can be found is at the US military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay.

The key point to be borne in mind when it comes to Cuba and its state of development is that countries and societies do not exist on blank sheets of paper. In the Third World their development cannot be divorced from a real life struggle against the huge obstacles placed in their way by histories of colonialism, neo-colonialism, and imperialism, responsible for retarding their progress in service to the exploitation of their human and natural resources.

The legitimacy of the Cuban Revolution lies in its survival in the face of the aforementioned US blockade, designed to starve the country to its knees for daring to refuse to be slaves of global capital. To understand what that would look like all we need do is cast our eyes over to the aforementioned Haiti or Dominican Republic, countries of comparable size located in the same region. Compared to them Cuba stands as a beacon of dignity, social and economic justice, and sustainable development.

Fidel Castro was no dictator. On the contrary, he dedicated his life to resisting Washington’s dictatorship of the Third World. Moreover, as a result of the Cuban Revolution the right to be homeless, illiterate, and to go without healthcare no longer exists in Cuba. In their place have come the most fundamental human rights of all – the right to be educated, to healthcare that is free at the point of need, and the right to live with dignity and pride in being the citizen of a small island that has stood over decades as a beacon of justice in an ocean of injustice.

This, in truth, is the reason ‘they’ despise him. And this, in truth, is why millions of Cubans will come out and pay tribute to his life and legacy on the day of his funeral. For them he will forever be ‘El Comandante’.

More articles by:

John Wight is the author of a politically incorrect and irreverent Hollywood memoir – Dreams That Die – published by Zero Books. He’s also written five novels, which are available as Kindle eBooks. You can follow him on Twitter at @JohnWight1

October 23, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
The Middle East, Not Russia, Will Prove Trump’s Downfall
Ipek S. Burnett
The Assault on The New Colossus: Trump’s Threat to Close the U.S.-Mexican Border
Mary Troy Johnston
The War on Terror is the Reign of Terror
Maximilian Werner
The Rhetoric and Reality of Death by Grizzly
David Macaray
Teamsters, Hells Angels, and Self-Determination
Jeffrey Sommers
“No People, Big Problem”: Democracy and Its Discontents In Latvia
Dean Baker
Looking for the Next Crisis: the Not Very Scary World of CLOs
Binoy Kampmark
Leaking for Change: ASIO, Jakarta, and Australia’s Jerusalem Problem
Chris Wright
The Necessity of “Lesser-Evil” Voting
Muhammad Othman
Daunting Challenge for Activists: The Cook Customer “Connection”
Don Fitz
A Debate for Auditor: What the Papers Wouldn’t Say
October 22, 2018
Henry Giroux
Neoliberalism in the Age of Pedagogical Terrorism
Melvin Goodman
Washington’s Latest Cold War Maneuver: Pulling Out of the INF
David Mattson
Basket of Deplorables Revisited: Grizzly Bears at the Mercy of Wyoming
Michelle Renee Matisons
Hurricane War Zone Further Immiserates Florida Panhandle, Panama City
Tom Gill
A Storm is Brewing in Europe: Italy and Its Public Finances Are at the Center of It
Suyapa Portillo Villeda
An Illegitimate, US-Backed Regime is Fueling the Honduran Refugee Crisis
Christopher Brauchli
The Liars’ Bench
Gary Leupp
Will Trump Split the World by Endorsing a Bold-Faced Lie?
Michael Howard
The New York Times’ Animal Cruelty Fetish
Alice Slater
Time Out for Nukes!
Geoff Dutton
Yes, Virginia, There are Conspiracies—I Think
Daniel Warner
Davos in the Desert: To Attend or Not, That is Not the Question
Priti Gulati Cox – Stan Cox
Mothers of Exiles: For Many, the Child-Separation Ordeal May Never End
Manuel E. Yepe
Pence v. China: Cold War 2.0 May Have Just Begun
Raouf Halaby
Of Pith Helmets and Sartorial Colonialism
Dan Carey
Aspirational Goals  
Wim Laven
Intentional or Incompetence—Voter Suppression Where We Live
Weekend Edition
October 19, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jason Hirthler
The Pieties of the Liberal Class
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Day in My Life at CounterPunch
Paul Street
“Male Energy,” Authoritarian Whiteness and Creeping Fascism in the Age of Trump
Nick Pemberton
Reflections on Chomsky’s Voting Strategy: Why The Democratic Party Can’t Be Saved
John Davis
The Last History of the United States
Yigal Bronner
The Road to Khan al-Akhmar
Robert Hunziker
The Negan Syndrome
Andrew Levine
Democrats Ahead: Progressives Beware
Rannie Amiri
There is No “Proxy War” in Yemen
David Rosen
America’s Lost Souls: the 21st Century Lumpen-Proletariat?
Joseph Natoli
The Age of Misrepresentations
Ron Jacobs
History Is Not Kind
John Laforge
White House Radiation: Weakened Regulations Would Save Industry Billions
Ramzy Baroud
The UN ‘Sheriff’: Nikki Haley Elevated Israel, Damaged US Standing
Robert Fantina
Trump, Human Rights and the Middle East
Anthony Pahnke – Jim Goodman
NAFTA 2.0 Will Help Corporations More Than Farmers
Jill Richardson
Identity Crisis: Elizabeth Warren’s Claims Cherokee Heritage
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail