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Fidel Castro has died (bbc.com)
810 points by nerdy on Nov 26, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 767 comments

I would encourage the commenters in this thread who see Fidel's legacy as a black-and-white matter of an "evil dictator who did bad things and was wrong about economics" to step back, bear witness to the objective facts about Fidel Castro's life (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fidel_Castro), think sincerely about what could lead a highly intelligent and charismatic person to become or follow Fidel Castro (as many have), and take a moment to reflect on the complexities of global politics in the 20th century.

I am not a fan of Fidel Castro - quite the opposite - but humans are cut from a common cloth. When we see revolutions turn into dictatorships, and idealism deteriorate into a cynical fight to survive, it is foolish and dangerous to dismiss the dictators and revolutionaries as "evil" or "idiots" or some similarly otherizing term. It is dangerous because it means we are refusing to learn from history, and to apply the lessons of other lives to our own. Fidel Castro's mistakes are our mistakes to repeat, or to learn from.

If you hold yourself holier than Fidel Castro, and think that celebrating the death of someone you perceive as "evil" is prudent, take a deep long moment and try to learn something non-trivial from his life. "Fidel Castro" in the particular was not some kind of unique demon who plagued humanity. He was a charismatic revolutionary who occupied a very complex time. His life's trajectory was in many respects one of tragic failure. He may have, in reality, occupied a very dark corner of history, but that is for us to learn and judge, not to assume.

If you think you're better, then do better. Be better. Don't refuse to acknowledge the humanity of another person because you believe you can totalize their entire life under a cheap tagline.

On the contrary, it's dangerous not to call out evil for what it is. Of course it might be wise to try to analyze what genetic/family/social/economic/political factors shape people like Castro, Gaddafi, Franco etc. — but if you think you're dealing with people like you and me you fail to grasp the phenomenon.

Dictators that prosecute and murder their opponents, like Castro did, share a very predictable set of psychopathic/narcissistic/paranoid personality characteristics. They are, by definition, not normal.

This makes me wonder of what one would say of the faceless individuals that worked behind certain governments to indirectly cause death and suffering of millions of people, say in a place like Africa.

Like the well-known western government(s) that deliberately destabilized The Congo early in its independence and installed a dictator, because they did not like the ideological leanings of whoever was in power then? A conflict that still continues 56 years later?

But then it becomes hard to pick out a specific person and say how evil they are, and how they're different from me and you.

>> "On the contrary, it's dangerous not to call out evil for what it is."

Judging on the comments on this thread most people (I'm not specifically referring to you) are making statements based on what they've heard, not by what they've personally researched, and unfortunately a lot of that information is biased or propaganda.

I'm not coming down one way or the other but something I found very interesting was comparing the comments in this thread to those of world leaders. The vast majority of world leaders, including those in modern, developer, western states, are praising Castro for helping bring down apartheid, providing good health care and education to his citizens etc.

My point really is that on this issue as persons views are clearly shaped by the propaganda they are exposed to and their personal political opinions (e.g. socialism is evil, socialism is fair and good). Like most people Castro did good and bad. Some of the things he did may be construed as evil but he also did quite a lot of good things so brandishing the person as evil rather than considering all of the factors is foolish.

Fidel Castro leaves behind a nation awash with tears and blood from thousands of executions, tens of thousands of political prisoners, concentration camps for gay men, labor camps for those who thought differently, listened to jazz, or even just had long hair.

These are facts I learned only after doing more research, after listening to friends who are gay and who did years of research.

So we all need to be careful not to repeat the trope "but healthcare and education were good and free and available to all". I for many years allowed those reports, parroted so often, to soften my judgment of Castro. But now learning of the extent of the horrors of oppression, those outweigh any social welfare "results".

And now I have had cause to question even those results as I read and learn of a healthcare system where critical operations that were performed only after agonizing waits for eight months and then by doctors and nurses so starved of supplies that they sometimes operated with bare hands.

Castro should be remembered for the suffering he caused - all of it preventable. The best way to him sum up is to consider that he created an island prison where nobody was allowed to leave without his permission - and for an unbearable number of years most of the world applauded him. I hope you will remember this and hear the cynical trying to tie themselves to a "distinguished legacy" when politicians comment today.

I agree that Fidel Castro made many mistakes and is responsible for many atrocities. But the plight of Cuba is not his doing alone.

He leaves behind a Cuba that was embargoed by the US, their closest and largest trade partner after the US had staged a failed invasion to overthrow the government. This forced them into the Soviet sphere of influence for supplies and trade.

Then, when the Soviet Union collapsed at the end of the cold war, it could no longer support Cuba. The island nation was driven further into poverty and essential goods like food and medicine became scarce.

And what did the US do at that point? Did they reopen diplomatic relations and try to find some rapprochement after an era of high tensions? No. Instead they decided that now was an excellent time to extend their embargo to include food and medicine as well, which were up to that point exempt from the trade ban.

To point to a single man and his inner circle as the sole cause for the sad state Cuba is in today is just as absurd as to deny the wrongs of the Castro regime, nor did he only do bad things for the Cuban people. The "trope" of education and healthcare being available to all is not some straw man. It is a legitimate achievement, and one that many nations the world around have not been able to match, no matter their affluence.

You're forgetting some details there. In the 1920s, Cuba was a big producer of sugar, and their largest trading partner was the US. US companies owned 60% of the sugar production. But during the great depression, the US introduced tariffs on a wide range of goods (from everywhere), and the Cuban sugar industry collapsed.

Then when Fidel came to power one of the things he promised was to reduce the reliance on US trade. And he nationalized all of the private property and assets belonging to American individuals and companies.

And in response to that, the embargo was introduced. AND THEN there was the Bay of Pigs.

So lets not pretend the embargo is what destroyed US Cuban trade. Fidel did that all by himself, without the help of the embargo.

Also, the US didn't push Cuba into the Soviet sphere.. Fidel already had close tied to the Soviets before the embargo. It was one of the reasons for putting the embargo in place.

You just said the US caused the sugar trade to collapse and then said Castro destroyed trade himself. Are you referring to trade besides sugar? Why WOULDNT Cuba decide (realize) that they need to protect themselves from the US?

The Great Depression was worldwide, not US specific. Cuba was affected by it, as were many countries. And while the tariffs definitely contributed to Cuba's problems during the Great Depression, it's a little unrealistic to think Cuba would be unaffected by the Great Depression.

This was 30 years before Fidel, before the embargo. The point was, you already had this anti-US sentiment in Cuba before Fidel came to power.

US Cuban trade did not end at that point. But when Fidel came to power (30 years later), he used that anti-US sentiment to nationalize all American property in Cuba. That is what actually ended US Cuban trade.

From your description, it actually sounds like the US and its tariffs were responsible for the collapse of the Cuban economy. That happened decades before Castro came into power.

The tariffs were not Cuba specific. They were part of the US withdraw from the world during that period. Cuba was affected, as were many countries. There's a reason it's called the Great Depression.

Keep in mind the Great Depression was worldwide, not just the US. It affected many countries, including those who did not trade with the US.

And yes, this happened decades before.. but it was one of the reasons Fidel came to power. In other words, there was already a strong anti-US sentiment in Cuba because of this and the forced military leases (which date back to the 1800s).

It didn't help that the US actively supported the previous dictatorship in Cuba that Fidel was red to overthrow. And whilst the US didn't really help batista to stop Castro it is hardly surprising that Castro did not want to deal with the US.

>I agree that Fidel Castro made many mistakes and is responsible for many atrocities. But the plight of Cuba is not his doing alone.

In American English, the phrase, "He murdered thousands," can't be followed by the word "but..."

Obama didn't murder thousands? Yet I hear good things about him. FDR? Any US president basically? The people responsible for staging coups abroad to replace democratically elected leaders, install sympathetic dictators and overall fuck up life in a region for 50 years?

Yet I hear good things about them too. Why can't the same be applied to Fidel? He committed atrocities and he did good for the country. And indeed much of the suffering (the "millions" not the "thousands") was directly caused by US actions, so don't come with the holier than thou.

I'm a cuban american and I don't see how people don't understand the most obvious viewpoint. You can condemn both the evil actions by the US and by Fidel. The fact that they've both committed atrocities doesn't mean that we can't criticize either harshly, it means that we MUST criticize BOTH. I hate the whitewashing of Obama's wars. Its a BIG reason I was against Hillary (and pro Gary Johnson). The left is spineless and completely abandons the anti-war rhetoric when its their team. AND I hate the apologism I'm hearing about Castro. He was an evil, hateful, murderous, greedy, lying dictator.

Greedy? I have not really heard of him siphoning of money like other dictators but would happily read any info you have on this sort of behaviour.

Wholeheartedly agree with you. I consider myself to be on the left, in the classical sense, but the political discourse of the United States does not tolerate multi-faceted and nuanced opinions about the issues.

The groupthink is prevalent on both sides of the aisle - you're either on my team or you're on the other. What sucks is when you're ostracized from both.

Obama didn't have his fellow-citizens shot by firing squad without a trial merely because they were political opponents, like journalist Yvonne Conde's uncle [1].

Agreed the sanctions were unproductive. More than anything else, US sanctions helped Castro stay in power for half a century.

But to blame the sanctions for his atrocities - or to say the good he did outweighed the bad - is to be willfully blind: When Cuban government ships spotted a tugboat full of refugees headed for Florida on July 13, 1994, they blasted it to pieces with high-pressure fire hoses. “Our tugboat started taking on water,” recounted one of the survivors, María Victoria García. “We shouted to the crewmen on the boat, ‘Look at the children! You’re going to kill them!’ And they said, ‘Let them die! Let them die!’” Forty-one of the refugees did. [2]

While you write about the good things he did from your comfortable home with high speed internet, with the rule of law in a capitalist liberal democracy, this is how desperate his citizens were to leave this country of “good things”, and how barbarous was Castro against his own people.

[1] https://twitter.com/YvonneMConde/status/802587003057410048 [2] http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/...

Over the course of Fidel's rule, the US has committed many atrocities in the name of liberal democracy. Don't forget that we, not they, are the world's greatest incarcerators. We, not they, firebombed villages in Vietnam and Cambodia. We, not they, persecuted protesters in the civil rights movement.

Fidel was a tyrant, that's for sure. But lack of tyranny has hardly prevented American atrocity, often wrapped in layers of policy, plausible deniability, and indirection of responsibility. It's far easier for us to think of our voters and leaders as mostly good people, whereas Fidel personally owns all of the excesses of the Cuban state.

Many highly educated professionals in Cuba live in poverty while the top ranking officials live lavishly. The Castro family takes vacations abroad, aboard fancy yachts in fancy hotels while regular citizens are not allowed to leave the island and until recently not even allowed to stay in Cuban hotels (i say recently because that was the case when i lived there and i'm not 100% sure that's changed). There's no good he did that equates or overcompensates the harm to the general population.

FDR and Obama murdered thousands of their own citizens? Jeeze, I need to brush up on my history...

Which nation a person belongs to does not decide his or her worth.

> In American English, the phrase, "He murdered thousands," can't be followed by the word "but..."

Then I hope you've been holding up to the same standard almost every American leader from the latter half of the 20th century till now - whether through political interference, violent regime change to authoritarian leaders, proxy wars, drone strikes or straight up war without a cause.

The truth is that in most people and things, we're inclined to overlook the good for the bad or the bad for the good, depending on our preconceived opinions. Most leaders - especially revolutionary ones - are this, but taken to the extreme, often liberating an entire populace while oppressing another. Which is why they often are notable for both, but more notable for one than the other depending on whether the person you're talking to suffered or prospered under their rule.

We shouldn't be afraid to say in the same breath that a person increased welfare and happiness for some and yet decreased it for others, stood up to imperialism and yet also was the pawn of larger global interests, was persecuted even while he persecuted others, was demonized even while he demonized others, was the target of many assassinations even while he ordered the murder of others, was spread lies and misinformation about even while he spread lies and misinformation about others. All of this happened together.

This doesn't mean it's balanced one way or another, or that one makes up for the other at all. This isn't excusing murder and atrocity - it's giving credence to the complexity of events. It's understanding how the life you live and the limited environment you live it in is very different from the experiences of others, and that people's realities, cares and worries are shaped more by things near them and less by things that don't affect them. It's a way towards understanding why others hold they opinions they do, and also a gateway to criticizing our own leaders and idols in the same way. Leaders should not be deified or demonized, but understood as a whole, wether to understand what to repeat and look up to or understand what never to allow to happen again.

You can apply this analysis to anything. The US bills itself as the 'land of the free' while imprisoning more people than any other country, frequently in deplorable conditions by the standards of what we know about human psychology, penal theory and so on. How exactly are you weighting the good and bad factors here? How do you criticize the economic policies that led to doctors being desperately short of supplies without mentioning the bizarre asymmetry of US sanctions on a tiny island with few economic resources of its own? I was not a fan of Castro but to be honest I don't think that Americans have much standing to criticize him given the frequently atrocious nature of their own country.

I have to agree with the poster above in observing that much of the criticism here is nothing more than the regurgitation of propaganda that people have been fed since birth, and I question the ability of many posters here to distinguish between derived and received opinions on this topic.

This is why I ask how you're weighting the good and bad factors. No doubt your feelings are sincerely held, but since we're not privy to your personal moral calculus, how else can we evaluate it, or make meaningful comparisons with prior alternatives? This might seem academic, but it matters. I would likely have done quite badly as an individual in Castro's Cuba and would probably have been in a hurry to leave; on the other hand I can't but be aware of the dreadful conditions there that led to the overthrow of the Batista government in the first place, nor of the US' intransigence in refusing to tolerate a neighboring country following a path of political self-determination on purely ideological grounds, and putting it under extreme economic pressure for doing so. To use a Christian metaphor, don't be in such a hurry to point out the mote in your neighbor's eye that you miss the beam in your own.

Yes, Cuba was a shitty place for gay people before 1981. Then the government declared that homosexuality was a valid variation of human sexuality and that previous attitudes towards it were unacceptable.

Keep in mind during the same period that Cuba was repressing homosexuality, so was the United States. Cuba did not ignore the AIDS epidemic that killed literally an entire generation of gay people. The Cuban government did not laugh and call it the gay plague.

I don't like Cuba. I'm not a state socialist. But I find it disconcerting that everyone is so passionately piling up their attacks on the Cuban government but would never scrutinize the US government in such detail. There are people in this thread who are bringing up actions the US have taken that would be considered objectionable by the same standards, but they aren't being addressed; they are being brushed aside as irrelevant or incomparable.

Imagine being that drunk on propaganda. As if the United States did not forcibly dismantle political parties it deemed dangerous in the United States. As if the United States did not repress its LGBT minorities. As if the United States doesn't bully the entire world in order to get its economic benefits. As if the United States doesn't torture and murder civilians. As if the United States and capitalism are completely blameless for the extreme poverty in Detroit or Flint.

It's really sickening to watch people deny or downplay the violence inherent in the perpetuation of their favorite system of government. Ironic, I guess.

>But now learning of the extent of the horrors of oppression, those outweigh any social welfare "results".

>Castro should be remembered for the suffering he caused - all of it preventable.

>"distinguished legacy"

Isn't all the same true about Obama[0][1][2], perhaps to a lesser degree but still true? Will we eulogize him in the same way?




> Judging on the comments on this thread most people (I'm not specifically referring to you) are making statements based on what they've heard, not by what they've personally researched, and unfortunately a lot of that information is biased or propaganda.

By any objective measure - and according to experts on human rights and liberty - Cuba is one of the most repressive countries on earth.

https://freedomhouse.org/country/cuba https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2016/cuba

Edit: Additional reports from Ammesty International, Human Rights Watch and RSF below also.

Well, Freedom House, according to wikipedia:

"U.S. Government funded non-governmental organisation (NGO) that conducts research and advocacy on democracy, political freedom, and human rights

Representatives of Cuba said that the organization is a U.S. foreign policy instrument linked to the CIA and "submitted proof of the politically motivated, interventionist activities the NGO (Freedom House) carried out against their Government". They also claimed a lack of criticism of U.S. human rights violations in the annual reports. Cuba also stated that these violations are well documented by other reports, such as those of Human Rights Watch. The Russian representative inquired "why this organization, an NGO which defended human rights, was against the creation of the International Criminal Court."

There is so much propaganda regarding this little Caribbean island, that it is wise to carefully consider one's sources.

It's a little rich of the Russian representative to claim that, given that Russia has just withdrawn from the International Criminal Court.

For what it's worth, Human Rights Watch's report about Cuba is also pretty damning:

> The Cuban government continues to repress dissent and discourage public criticism. It now relies less on long-term prison sentences to punish its critics, but short-term arbitrary arrests of human rights defenders, independent journalists, and others have increased dramatically in recent years. Other repressive tactics employed by the government include beatings, public acts of shaming, and the termination of employment.

As is Amnesty International's:

> Despite increasingly open diplomatic relations, severe restrictions on freedoms of expression, association and movement continued. Thousands of cases of harassment of government critics and arbitrary arrests and detentions were reported.

And Reporters Sans Frontieres rank Cuba 171 out of 180 countries in the world for Press Freedom.

As a legal un-person in the US, I have to view this with ironic amusement. A good deal of US economic prosperity seems to depend on the maintenance of a despised underclass, at least according to certain politicians. As a member of said underclass, it's a bit hard to take the moral posturing here very seriously. I'm sure Cuban apologists for their governments' excesses also mouth pieties about their country being 'a nation of laws' and cite legislative formalities as a figleaf for their moral embarrassment.

US is not part of International Criminal Court either. So what's the point?

Do you want dozens of other sources to confirm it, if Freedom House isn't enough? It's obtuse to claim Cuba has political freedom.

I'm not sure I'd count that source as valid after reading what they wrote in /brazil. The text has the same opinion as the media they rate as "partially free". They're defending the side that won without really understanding what happened there. I wonder how better the analysis on Cuba could be.

'it's dangerous not to call out evil for what it is'

Really have to question this reification of "evil" per se. Evil is most immediately a religious construct. Or, in the words of Hannah Arendt, it is "banal." When did calling people evil ever lead to more justice in the world?

As if George W Bush having the courage to call Iran and Iraq and Libya the "Axis of Evil" led to the US promoting peace in those countries? No, there's been a proportional increase in US-led suffering (death toll in Iraq post-invasion around .5 million).

I don't honestly know too much about Fidel Castro, but take a minute to look at the US-installed Batista, who was overthrown. And, gawd, what about JFK? What about Kissinger These leaders had all the advantages of starting out in a relatively functional industrially-developed democracy, and they managed to do all kinds of evil, mainly to countries like Cuba.

Tangentially, IMHO, I don't believe Castro was nearly as "pathological" a human being as a number of US presidents.

> Evil is most immediately a religious construct.

No dude, "evil" is a social and cultural construct. We are doing this as a species, as in relying on taboos and moral rules, in order to survive. It's why we don't fuck our relatives, kill our children or eat our dead. This inherited culture is how 7 billion of us live on this earth without killing each other. And we need it because frankly many of us are too stupid to be rational all the time.

As for calling "evil" when seeing it, this is basically about communicating to other human beings a danger sign that can be universally understood. Which is in itself an act that can be used for evil, like the US propaganda for entering Irak, but then again we are flawed creatures trying to live our lives.

What I'm trying to say here is that this isn't an argument that you can win. And I'm not even sure that being more rational would be good for us. Because IMO even perfectly rational people can be easily fooled into believing flawed statistics and logical fallacies and I don't even care what Fidel's dream was for Cuba because the end never justifies the means IMO.

I'm not saying that the term "evil" should have no currency at all (I used it later in the comment). I'm questioning the usefulness/honesty of the metaphor for describing political actors. If we call Fidel Castro evil, it is either for essentially propagandistic purposes or, if used in earnest, it leads to a slippery slope. Heads of state always wield the power of life and death over some group of people--since, in the words of Weber, to be a state is to have a monopoly on violence. How many people have to unjustly die or be imprisoned as a result of a leader's choices for that leader to be evil? If we try to avoid this sorites' paradox (how many grains of sand make a pile) by psychoanalyzing the leader, then we must talk of pathology rather than morality. But psychoanalyzing a head of state leads to wild speculation/sneaking the assumptions back into the question (well, he must be a megalomaniac because he killed x people). So, we discover that neither morality nor psychology are particularly useful conceptual tools when addressing essentially political/structural actors (as Gramsci observed). In practice, calling people that the USA doesn't like evil is just lazy, and usually justification for making the population of said state even more miserable than already were under their "evil" leader.

> I don't even care what Fidel's dream was for Cuba because the end never justifies the means IMO.

Well, history is effectively written by the victors, so it will be written so that the ends will retroactively justify the means, or at the very least will be scrutinized far enough into the future that we can disengage emotionally.

If Castro's dream was to avoid Cuba from turning into a Haiti or a Honduras, it was a resounding success. If it was about turning it into a socialist utopia where people lived as if was the first world, it would probably be unrealistic in the first place but things remain to be seen.

The point is that, in fact, we do justify evil when it aligns with our policies and goals, because a lot of our well-being depends on it. The American quality of life depends a great deal on the intervention and installment of puppet regimes in countries that provide natural resources to guarantee a steady stream of supplies for manufacture; that was the basis of the Monroe Doctrine and it justifies atrocities to a level where Castro's worst was just baby play.

I actually do agree that there is evil in the repression of the country, but at the same time good is not the absence of evil either, and you can't talk about the evil without recognizing the successes of the Cuban regime. Otherwise you cannot even begin to make a single claim on the good things of the US because it has been based, to a great degree, on the control and oppression if millions of innocent people through projected global power.

> Dictators that prosecute and murder their opponents,

Sorry, this is not a discriminative feature of dictators, non-dictators also prosecute and murder their opponents. (e.g. see any government involved in a war)

The difference is that you feel like they are right to do it.

You seriously argue that there is no difference between a democracy and a dictatorship.

A trivial counter example -- if you causally dismissed your government as a Cuban in Cuba online, what happens?

(Since Cuba has a really, really strict control of the Internet last I looked, it is of course a bit of an academic question...)

Edit: This comment is really jumping up and down in votes... :-)

Well, ask people in Honduras or Nicaragua, which are "free" countries, effectively how much better they have it than Cubans. Hint: they don't, because their countries are "democratic" in theory yet they're overrun by gang violence, misery to a level that makes the worst of Cuba a paradise, and have state actors that claim democracy in theory yet will do what they need to keep their power.

If anything, the history of Cuba's attempted overruns by the US only serve to justify the regime's paranoia.

Strange, all the loops which left wing people jump through, to support murdering dictators... :-(

So, why didn't you compare with working democracies there.. instead of with cleptocracies that had coups and civil wars?

What is the real problem with doing as normal people and condemn all dictators?

Castro had options, he could have gone to Western Europe and asked for help in e.g. the 70s, as part of a democratization program.

(And when Cuba didn't have free money by being a client state, they even had problems feeding the population.)

It's important to call out evil acts, but 'evil' is also a label that categorizes people. Labels and categories can be a deterrent to critical thinking.

This is dangerous when genuinely evil people apply the label 'evil' to people they wish to persecute.

Ok, ok.

Especially for locking his people in a prison island - an act which can't remotely be defended as 'in the interest of the people or socialism' or any progressive cause ...

Fidel - borderline evil.

Somewhat nuanced.

Definitely bad.

Not as bad a Hitler.

There you go.

>Fidel - borderline evil

The point isn't to quibble about the label. It's to refrain from leaping straight to applying labels. The pleas you're seeing for a calmer and broader conversation are not attempts to exculpate Castro.

>The pleas you're seeing for a calmer and broader conversation are not attempts to exculpate Castro.

Those of us who have been directly affected by Castro's actions feel that justice was never made, his legacy is not something we want celebrated or glorified.

Yes, it was not all black but the black/white ratio of Castros's regime is more 80/20 than 50/50.

Yes. I don't disagree with a single word of that. I took jknoefpler's comment as an invitation to reflect on the fact that Castro, and even H----r, are members of the same species as us, and what that might say about the human condition. Nothing pleasant, surely, but part of the truth of what we are. And this might be a better conversation to have than comforting ourselves by distancing ourselves from these people with unthinking use of labels like "evil".

I could be wrong. There may well be people in this thread actually trying to justify or minimize Castro's actions. In any case, it doesn't look like there's much prospect for a good conversation in this thread at this point. We're still waiting for the solution for how to have good conversations about touchy topics in anonymous internet forums!

I think this is exactly the point!

This is why people often seem to say "he seemed so normal" in bewilderment when someone they knew commits mass murder.

Given that one of the changes that happened under Castro was (supposedly) to make the country have a more just distribution of wealth along racial lines, I find your "white/black" word choice amusing.

Perhaps, given the lack of slave reparations, the nationalizing of American property in Cuba is not the injustice that many in Florida would like us all to believe.

>us who have been directly affected by Castro's actions

Do you believe this puts you into a position of objective analysis?

No. And I'm not against objective analysis, however by humanizing such individuals in the name of "objectiveness" you are disregarding the suffering of a lot of people.

Only if you believe that "normal" humans can't be responsible for terrible suffering. Countering that belief is, I think, the OP's point.

"It's to refrain from leaping straight to applying labels."

No - I'm objecting to this with this comment.

Moral relativism is a problem in our era.

Castro is Bad.


For a second I though you where talking about the renditions to Guantanamo, but no, of course that is different.

The people in Guantanimo are mostly terrorists (label) and very bad (label).

This why they are treated as such.

Castro is also bad (label), which is why Cubans revile him.

The people in guantanomo are mostly terrorists, except for the ones that aren't, but they will be treated so badly that they will probably become terrorists so really guantanomo is like a minority report prison for terrorists.

> locking his people in a prison island...

Oh the irony. Gitmo is in Cuba too :)

Gitmo is a prison full of terrorists.

Cuba is a land full of regular citizens.

See the difference?

There doesn't seem to be much consistency with what gets called evil, however. You tend to find many more people who call Castro evil than call Xi Jinping evil. I remember a time when the newspapers would almost always talk about human rights when they wrote about Cuba, but never mentioned it when they talked about UAE (and talking about Dubai as if it was a wonderful resort).

The pathology you describe is nothing more than 'leadership' - a personality type that is commonly glorified - taken to an extreme degree. People are, to a large extent, reflections of each other.* Castro was in many respects the focused reflection of how the United States has historically behaved towards smaller weaker countries within its orbit.

* A tendency which is underappreciated in politics. Consider for example, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad as an instantiation of George W. Bush for the Iranian political market.

Is is dangerous to not call out evil for what it is; unfortunately, you're looking at a symptom rather than the cause. Effort wasted hating Castro, Hillary, Trump, climate change policies, or GB surveillance laws is lost from actually fixing our world.

It is easier to hate people than to accept that their behavior is emergent and afflicts us as well. The most intelligent, benevolent AI or angel will fail in our complex systems/organizations. This is an incredibly desperate understanding, particularly when you realize that those in power are disincentivized from making improvements.

Organizations DEMAND 'evil' behavior. It is not User Error.

CGP Grey has a great video that can help open your mind, if you are willing. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rStL7niR7gs

Dictators that prosecute and murder their opponents, like Castro did,...

The US govt has done that too, so US presidents are no different from people like Castro, Franco, etc. We have just been brainwashed that our leaders are the good guys and the other guys are the bad guys.

Do tell, when is the last time a sitting US president has murdered his political opponents?

I think most replying to this comment are too young to remember that the CIA made several unsuccessful attempts to kill Castro himself, and Muammar Gaddafi. And those where the unsuccessful attempts that we know.

I hadn't quite considered that. I suppose that very well might count, though I was particularly thinking in the domestic sense.

Domestically there was Anwar al-Awlaki who was a US citizen who proselytised against the USA. His 16 year old nephew who was also a citizen was killed as well, despite no known involvement.

To be fair, earlier in the year the administration promised to implement additional safeguards and oversight for these programmes, but brass tacks a progressive administration killed US citizens in non-war zones because of an executive decision with no due process.

Fred Hampton is the most recent in my mind that isn't (in my view) ambiguous.


Given the numerous trials and inquests, include one which made sure to include members of the community, it certainly seems ambiguous. I'll ignore the fact that I mentioned head of state for the purposes of discussion, but what in your mind makes the situation unambiguous? I've only know heard of Fred Hampton, outside of a Rage Against the Machine mention so I'm certainly not well informed on the matter.

The FBI reports to the head of state. Are you somehow arguing that it's /better/ if the politician relies on others to do their violence for them? (As if Castro himself was the sole person to arrest or execute his enemies...)

Suggested reading as to why it's not ambiguous: http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/4375527

The history of how the FBI suppressed Black, Native, Latino, and New Leftist organizations more generally is a bloody one. Cuba has never had a monopoly on authoritarian behavior in the Western Hemisphere.

I never once said that. In fact I asked for clarification on the incident but you seem unwilling to give that.

"but you seem unwilling to give that"

No, you seem unwilling to read the link I gave? From the article:

"That same month, on April 23, 1976, the Church Committee released its Final Staff Report on the FBI and CIA’s rampant domestic illegalities which included a chapter entitled “The FBI’s Covert Action Plan to Destroy the Black Panther Party.” The chapter concluded by highlighting the Hampton raid as a COINTELPRO operation and quoting from the bonus documents that we had obtained only weeks before."

I read the link. They were cleared several times on the given incident. Instead of taking a charitable approach you throw out your political bullshit.

Hillary expressed a wish to "drone" Assange, and Obama actually "droned" a lot of people (that the US has branded "terrorists").

Killing terrorists does not put you on the same level as Castro.

Droning doesn't kill only terrorists. There's plenty of collateral deaths (what do you think the ratio is, 1:10 intended targets to unintended when explosives are involved in civilian settings?) not to mention the labeling of who is and isn't a terrorist is hardly infallible. Of course those giving the go ahead are so far removed from the consequences that it must become easier and easier to order drone strikes when intelligence tells you it will "save American lives".

Again, Castro went about killing or jailing all those who opposed him. My original statement was that no US president has done so.

I think that considering just how much "droning" is basically inneffective in its purpose and just ends up killing thousands, it's really not any worse morally.

That's one man's opinion.

No, it doesn't. However, you seem to be fairly convinced those people are all terrorists and not just political opponents that are under our drones' crosshairs.

I guess the people massacred at that MSF hospital were terrorists, too.

> I guess the people massacred at that MSF hospital were terrorists, too.

That wasn't a drone strike. That was an accidental attack by an AC-130 gunship.

I'm sure folks in Yemen or Afghanistan are a political threat to Obama. Right.

Ah, you're right. It wasn't a drone, it was humans massacring a MSF hospital by accident. I guess the irony of it should be self explanatory.

If humans can attack during at least 30 minutes a (well-known) position by mistake, why should I believe that every single droned person was a terrorist?

I'm sure most of the Afghanis and Iraqis who've been oppressed by the US for decades would agree. /s

If everything is equally bad, would you prefer to be brainwashed in North Korea or South Korea?

If North Korea were a wealthier country because of extensive natural resources, an established industrial base, and distributed the money more reasonably, then you're making an actual dilemma.

Why, instead of taking a comically bad example, you don't pick a more controverte place like Singapore, an organized state where drug consumption leads to the death penalty and you will be suppressed it dissent is attempted, yet has one of the highest standards of living in the world?

> instead of taking a comically bad example

On the contrary, my example is probably the best you can get because the point I'm making is the equivalence between one government and another, or between US presidents and Castro is a false one. No one is saint obviously but the offenses have a different gravity hence we have as different societies as North and South Korea.

Some Western people might feel like the US or the UK are literally totalitarian states but they just didn't live under autocratic regimes.

Speaking of which, the false equivalence narrative is actively exploited by such regimes to legitimize their own miserable state of affairs. It's fascinating how it works but apparently if something is bad in, say, Russia and also bad in the US (as told by the state TV), Russian citizens are fine with their conditions not being improved.

Both parts were evil. I don't justify what he did, but we should not forget that they tried to kill him on more than 600 occasions. To plot to assassinate a person in other country just because this seems convenient for your interests is, in its own nature, 100% evil. Trials were created for some reason. I bet that even the more equilibrated mind would become extremely paranoid and ruthless in that scenery.

It seems to me that Americans have a huge blind spot that lets them focus on Fidel Castro, without reference to the many dictators that the US government installed or supported (Noriega, Pinochet, Karimov, Sadam, Shah of Iran,...) often by helping to overthrow democratically elected governments. Seriously, are you guys not aware at just how hypocritical this appears?

Bottom line, as has been posted already, and much to the chagrin of demagogues and their supporters, the world is not comprised solely of "goodies" and "baddies". Realpolitik is shades of grey. It's possible for leaders, governments, regimes, parties, to have done both good and bad things. This applies as much to "us" as "them". Sorry to rain on your[1] patriotism parade.

[1] 'you' collectively. Not erokar individually.

>Dictators that prosecute and murder their opponents, like Castro did, share a very predictable set of psychopathic/narcissistic/paranoid personality characteristics.

Do they? What facts have you go to support your thesis?

You see world in black and white only. There is no black and white, there are only shades of gray. You think that those people were psychopaths from the beginning? Then you are wrong. A lot of dictators were idealists, they would do everything for their country, sometimes too much. They were loving fathers and sons. Some of them truly believed in equality for all and wanted to make their country better, life of their citizens better. I assure you, people can change a lot in their life, who knows what would you do or anyone else if you would live those people life. Sure you can deny that you would never kill anyone or hurt anyone in your life, but it's very naive. You say they are not normal, what about all those who killed people in terrorist attacks, a lot of them were by your definition "normal" before they did that, they never ever thought they would be capable to hurt any other human. They did it because environment variables changed, they have changed. You think you know what you would do in every situation in life but the truth is that no one knows until certain situations happen.

Of course their actions should be condemned but what you wrote is just wrong, a lot of them were like us until they stopped.. Most murderers do not born as murderers, they are made murderers.

People are "programmed" by culture. It wasn't so many generations ago when people with similar genes as me (a Scandinavian) did organized clan warfare with slavery, murder, plunder and everything else we see as bad in today's Western world. But the people then were "loving fathers and sons" too, of course. Attitudes to things you/we deplore are trivially cultural.

Your argument as a whole was a bit funny...

You use personal arguments about someone else as thinking in black and white -- then define people with different backgrounds as good or bad, according to our local cultural definitions.

Your argument doesn't prove violence is cultural. Maybe Scandinavia is peaceful now because most of the people with violent genes left. You're descended from the guys who stayed, not from the ones who left to colonize Iceland, Greenland, Britain, Normandy, etc.

You really think it became peaceful ca 1100? :-)

Please read some history. It was no better, it was just not internationally infamous clan societies for a while. Then we had violent national states (check e.g. Polish deluge or the 30 year war).

Fair point :). I guess I need to learn more about Scandinavian history. Any books you can recommend?

For Scandinavian history, only in Swedish. :-)

But I think the same pattern is found everywhere. Most cultures were much more violent in the past. I think Pinker wrote a book about the phenomenon, he is good (I haven't read that but others).

(Let me note that reading about the Polish deluge was one of the shocks of my life, the Swedish school system really didn't mention much about the Polish side of it. I guess the Germans are the only ones that ever took any form of responsibility for historical atrocities.)

Good and Evil are great examples of abstractions gone wrong. They are too high level to mean anything now.

They've become a psychological comforting mechanism where we apply "good" to things we like or want to like and "evil" to things that we don't. But the words themselves connote something deeper than that--something foundational about morality.

It's convenient. Tidy. We all want to think of ourselves as "good." We don't want to think that we, individually or as a nation or whatever group identity we cling to, is capable of being "evil." Calling something evil is a way of creating cognitive distance between ourselves and what we don't like.

I think it's dangerous. Literally dangerous to engage in the world this way. The real fact of the matter is that perfectly normal, sane, rational, "good" people are capable of doing atrocious things. Even you. Even me.

Hitler wasn't fundamentally different from any of us. Any one of us could become just as bad under the right (wrong?) circumstances.

Pretending that we are different in some basic way paves the path for us to become "evil." It allows us to believe that we are immune to certain types of bad actions.

But we aren't.

Any single individual among us has the capacity to do awful things. Some people were simply able to scale awfulness effectively. That doesn't make them fundamentally different from us.

Calling some individual "evil" isn't semantically different from applying the "good" label to yourself. And when you believe that you are good, it's a lot easier to bend the rules.

There's a specific and frightening chain of logic that goes like this:

I'm good. Good people don't do evil things. So this [insert bad behavior here] is good. Because I'm good.

But the good/evil lens of the world has another drawback. It removes accountability and consequence. If I believe that I'm "good", there's no credit to be given when I choose not to do "evil" deeds. Of course I wouldn't do that. I'm not "evil".

When you apply a label like "evil" to a person, what else could you expect? Of course that person is going to do horrible things. That person is "evil."

The Good/Evil abstraction is pernicious, self-fulfilling, and circular.

We need to be better than that. We need to own up to the full spectrum of our nature and accept it so that we can guard against the worst parts of it.

Pretending that we are not capable of being "evil" is pretty much the foundational mechanism that allows truly terrible things to happen.

I'm actually a little terrified that this is not the first comment I have seen on HN today that is praising Castro.

This is NOT ok, and I'm shocked that it's even a thought to entertain here on HN.

HN is a large forum. There's no reason to expect it not to reflect the divisions of the society at large—or rather societies, since users here post from many places.

"PARIS — Cuban leader Fidel Castro asked the Soviet Union in 1962 to launch a nuclear attack on the United States if it invaded Cuba, according to letters published today by a French newspaper.

The respected daily Le Monde said the letters were exchanged between Castro and Soviet leader Nikita S. Khrushchev during the Cuban missile crisis.

In an acrimonious reply, Khrushchev suggested that Castro was irresponsible, since such a war would have killed millions of people in both East and West and destroyed Cuba."

Otherizing - great terminology. It is important to remember that all of history's "monsters" were human beings. Calling them monsters is pretending that it couldn't happen in your own culture. It could, and vigilance is required.

Indeed. It could, and it still can.

I've come to see the Cuban revolution as something different than the sole work of Castro etc. wether you regard their work as accomplishment or atrocity. Also Socialism, Communism, Marxism are just the packaging. The core of the whole movement back then was the wast income inequality combined with US-foreign-affair meddling with Cuban domestic affairs, perfectly illustrated by mafia movies depicting Cuba as the playground for America's filthiest politicians and Nouveau riche.

It was a US-caused political niche that was eagerly filled by the most opportunistic/capable people available.

The Cuban revolution was a part of the broader anti-colonial struggle in the post-war period. Many of the leaders of that movement were inspired by some components of a kind of Marxist-Leninism but it was by no means the only influence.

Nor was there universal adulation of the Castro-ites by Marxists around the world.

There is a lot of criticism of the Cuban revolution, and debate whether it was in fact a revolution or a coup, within Marxism itself.

Castro himself was not a self-described socialist until after he was spurned by the U.S. who committed a major foreign policy blunder by supporting Batista, the landowner class, and the existing regime long after they had shown themselves to be brutal and corrupt and after Castro had overthrown them.

Castro threw himself into the Stalinist bloc out of necessity. Blame for the 50 year trajectory of Cuba can be placed squarely on ineptness of U.S. foreign policy to deal with the post-colonial reality. They committed similar and in fact bloodier and worse blunders in central America throughout the 70s and 80s with Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guetemala.

A very sad incompetent and shameful history that Obama looked like he was finally willing to confront.

> A very sad incompetent and shameful history that Obama looked like he was finally willing to confront.

A historically seldom act of courage it was for a leader of a state what Obama did there. Not as thorough as the Warsaw Genuflection by Brandt, but not far away either.

Nations cannot admit their past wrongdoings although unquestionable. Creating tensions, a foreign one, often a domestic one too (ie. Turkey and the Armenians, or Turkey and the Kurds). Former "patriots" are revealed as actually hurting their nation just as breaking such a cycle of having to act stubborn becomes unquestionably patriotic, once viewed from the distance of history.

>Also Socialism, Communism, Marxism are just the packaging.

That's like saying modern terrorism as practiced by groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS has nothing to do with a particular interpretation of Islam, but is rather just a response to colonialism and foreign interference in middle eastern countries, etc.

There was an ideological basis to the Cuban revolution that tapped into a existing global Marxist ideology. 'Packaging' was critical.

Packaging wasn't critical. That's my point: without the product (the Foreign meddling + social fragility) there wouldn't have been anything around for being packaged.

If you blame the atrocities committed on the packaging alone and not on the market that was created beforehand, you're not provinding any help to make sure history doesn't repeat itself.

A lot of people would say that, actually. World leaders throughout history have always picked up religions, ideologies as a way to get additional support, not because it's something they believe in or want implemented.

I don't think this is accurate. I can't point to a source right now, but I have read a lot about the revolution in the last decade and my impression was that some of the revolutionaries were Marxists, but there was no official ideology and Cuba became Marxist perhaps a year after the revolution. This involved a power struggle and some revolutionaries emigrated or went to prison. Castro eventually sided with the communists (Che, Raúl).

Che wasn't a communist either. He was just a nasty guy who wanted to stir up trouble and enjoy some ultraviolence.

If you have never seen the movie Before Night Falls I recommend it. While I agree that 20th century politics in Latin America was complicated, it's also true that the Castro regime committed a lot of human rights violations in ways that now seem really unjustified. I am not saying the United States was innocent. I am saying that a lot of people suffered under the regime needlessly and that should be acknowledged honestly.

Right after the USA acknowledges ALL of their crimes against humanity, which are far more and spread much more wider.

No cuban children sleeps in the streets tonight. You can't say that about northamerican children.

How could you possibly assume that no children in Cuba sleep on the streets?

I know it's mindboggling, but really there aren't. This is one thing that Westerners typically don't get about the Communist-bloc countries, or don't seem to care. Whereas in average the standard of living was always much higher in Capitalist countries, if you looked at the Eastern European Communist bloc for example, there's no extreme poverty, because the state takes care of that (and it's an extremely important thing for the State to take care of, or else the population would come to believe that Socialism wasn't working). Sure, being an average American in the 70s would be a lot more comfortable than being an average Pole in the same period — but there were no people living under bridges in Poland scrapping food from trashcans. If you ask the poorest people of any Capitalist country whether they'd switch places with the poorest ones of a Communist country, they'd do it in a heartbeat.

Of course, this idea gets lost to the mind of the Western middle class because in general they just don't think about the poorest members of their society (or some just think they deserve their fate).

The Communist era had numerous well-documented flaws, but really, the things it got right aren't spoken about enough in the West. We could learn something from that. For example, the levels of education of the population in the Soviet Union were never attained in the United States. How do we fix that in the Capitalist system? Do we want a more educated population in the first place? Do we want to live in a society with no children in the streets? If we do, what do we have to change in our society to attain that? It's important not to take a whole system for granted as a full package ignoring its flaws, be it Communist or Capitalist.

But indeed, the saying _is_ correct: "Millions of children will sleep on the streets tonight. None of them is Cuban."

Communism in Cuba has at least remained true to its roots, imposing, for more than half a century, a juvenile notion of egalitarianism on the masses. Rather than uplifting them, this has reinforced the lowest common denominator: Everyone is poor.

Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/426334/cuba-working-cl...

In Argentina, Jauretche would say: "O es pa' todos la frazada, o es pa' todos el invierno" (paraphrasing, "Either the blanket covers everyone, or everyone suffers the winter")

The country itself is poor, because of the blockade. If the US would let private companies trade with them and with the cubans freely, they wouldn't be poor.

Don't let Communist propaganda blind you. The blockade did not stop Spanish hotels from settling on the island (taxed at 50% by the state), or dealings with Russia or the Chinese, or gas trades with Venezuela. Do you know where all the wealth from those dealings ended up? The top ranking officials and their families.

Yeah, it ended up feeding millions that live in the island, training thousands of doctors, and providing all that's required for all the cubans. And it's not enough to live up to the standars of the rest of the world, which could live far better with better distribution of wealth.

The Castro family can travel the world and enjoy a lavish lifestyle while most of the population lives in poverty and are not allowed to leave the country. Your naivete is cute.

This applies to literally every head of state that every country's had. It's a tired line of reasoning. I hope you start demanding humility of your own leaders too.

But no, we hold Cuba to a standard that no country on Earth has achieved. Maybe except for the Germans, since Merkel is keen on doing her own groceries.

That sounds like a valid response to the first part:

> The Castro family can travel the world and enjoy a lavish lifestyle

But not if you finish the sentence:

> while most of the population lives in poverty and are not allowed to leave the country.

Free trade between private corporations and individuals is a capitalist concept. After all, free trade is predicated on the ability for a single actor to decide how to allocate goods and services.

I was born in Romania under communism, which fell in December 1989.

We didn't have children living on the streets either. But the reason for that was that giving children up for adoption was essentially illegal, the women of our country being denied contraception, having a mandate to reproduce and raise offsprings. And also foster homes were essentially prisons, some in really poor conditions; at least those that had the children with special needs were absolutely horrible (i.e. the new men couldn't admit the existence of the handicapped).

So you know, the actual reason many of these countries haven't had children on the streets is because the police wouldn't allow it ;-)

And I feel compelled to mention this for those among you that might get romantic ideas about how communism happened to be in practice.

> And also foster homes were essentially prisons, some in really poor conditions

This is still true of most orphanages in countries like Brazil. It still beats dying of hunger and cold under a bridge any day, which is unfortunately still a common occurrence in those countries.

But this is no different than what happens in capitalist nations, which show a constellation of different policies as well. Romania was different from Yugoslavia, which was different from Cuba or Hungary.

Most Cubans live in very poor conditions with no means to improve their lives because of low wages and high cost of living (by Cuban standards, tourists will find it cheap so that should show you how little money they make). Also, government oppression against those who speak up is a great deterrent to changing the current socio/economic situation. You talk about levels of education like a grandiose achievement, it is, but to what end? there are many Cuban doctors that cannot feed their families with their state provided salaries and have to resort to illegal means. or defect to other countries where their education is not valued and have to start from near zero. homelessness in Cuba is not reported because it goes against the image the government wants to portray. so the statement "Millions of children will sleep on the streets tonight. None of them is Cuban." is only supported by the state-ran media and it's very inaccurate.

Can you be intellectually honest and say the first global superpower in the world had NOTHING to do with the poverty of the cuban people?

nothing is a big word, of course it had an impact. but totalitarianism, oppression, indoctrination, etc. were not caused by outside factors, they are direct actions by the dictatorship.

Well, now who's being naïve?

That statement is supported by people I talked to who've been there. It's not like Cuba is North Korea; it's not that hard to see what life there is really like.

Also, I do consider their levels of education to be a grandiose achievement, and "to what end?" — well, their levels of healthcare for one. I don't claim their system is perfect or even good, but one can't judge the value of education only on the salaries they bring.

you should judge them on the kind of living standards they provide.

They provide the standards of living that an economic blockade allows them to provide. Either everyone eats, or everyone rations their food. It's that simple.

I think his general point was that there are basically no homeless people. True or not, this can easily be checked by traveling there. It is possible to travel freely and I certainly got the same impression while I was there.

Castro is up there with the worst of the worst (Hitler, Pol pot, amin, mugabe, chavez, Kim Jong, Stalin, Mao, etc) these individuals resigned to their humanity the moment they decided to step all over their citizen's rights and dignity for their own benefit.

Please stop trying to humanize him.

A yes, one bucket holds all evil, and the bool is the only integer the honest man needs, that's your position I take it?

Sure, executing dissenters is one of the bools. Not sure there is any getting around that.

So if you execute one person, you may as well keep going, because you're already evil and there's no scale?

Executes dissenters

But life inprisonment is okay, right? Asking for a friend (Chelsea Manning).

Or is it just a matter of calling dissenters "traitors" and then it's fine? I'm sure Castro ticked that checkbox before the executions.

That is quiet a jump you made.

Not "all" evil but malicious intent and a complete lack of empathy for the suffering of others.

Interesting that Pinochet wasn't named still here.

I think he's included under "etc"

I wonder if you could use this same comment and apply it to Adolf Hitler, and how people would read it.

I believe we should be able to. I don't like Hitler and I'm quite on the left, but if we can start to stop demonizing political characters, it would appease many political problems.

I found this video [1] quite enlightening about the nature of power and how to hold onto it.

[1] https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=rStL7niR7gs

Somewhat depressing to combine the insight of that video with the future of AI and widespread automation. Dictatorships here we come.

No one is taking his humanity away.

He generously donated it every time he executed a dissenter.

I'm really glad that this post is at the top. This is the kind of intelligent and nuanced discourse that keeps me coming back to HN. Thank you for bringing some sanity to this discussion, good sir.

In addition to what I wrote below about the nature of the Good/Evil abstraction, I want to put this here.

I think there's a level at which this all boils down to beliefs. Not which ones you (generally you, not you as an individual) have, but rather if you believe anything at all.

Beliefs--like believing in good and evil, but there are many--are fundamentally a scary proposition. And I can't understand how people maintain them.

Belief, by definition, is accepting something as true while knowing there is insufficient evidence for that thing to be true.

This is not substantively different from a definition of insanity: a case where a person accepts something as true that isn't supported by a reasonable body of evidence.

This is kind of a bold statement, but I stand by it. People who believe things are not really different from people who are insane. There's a lack of reason common to both categories of people.

The Good/Evil dichotomy is only one projection of belief. But it may well be the most important one. Because fundamentally, assertions of good and evil are really just high-level abstractions for the beliefs.

Good vs. Evil is a shortcut to feeling good about yourself. It's a shortcut for saying, "I believe x about y and I have no reasonable proof for any of that, but it makes me feel good about myself."

We should do away with beliefs. We're smarter and better than that. And getting rid of beliefs would have the nice effect of tossing the good/evil garbage out as well.

"There's a principle of ideology that we must never look at our own crimes. We should on the other hand exult in the crimes of others and in our own nobility in opposing them."

I believe the quote is from Noam Chomsky but couldn't find any references. Some interesting debate in this thread, but as you and the OP say, there is no black and white, good vs evil, just many shades in between with many actors playing many roles simultaneously. Fidel Castro was certainly no saint and at times was the devil, but there were also those other times inbetween.

> Fidel Castro's mistakes are our mistakes to repeat, or to learn from.

i don't see how i could ever turn into a dictator who puts his political opponents in jail (as well as everyone who just wants to get out of the country) - all in the name of some higher cause. Interesting if these dictators ever took note of the discrepancy between the Cause and reality; or were they always able to self-justify their actions like in the 'grand inquisitor' by Dostoevsky, who knows...


the complexities of global politics in the 20th century

All the complexities in the world won't cover up the fact that communism was by far the worst evil of the 20th century, beating nazism by a mile, by tens of millions of people killed to no benefit. It had no redeeming qualities. Murder, slavery, and poverty is all communism gave to the world.

Now its major protagonists can burn in hell together. I hope they do.

Get to the facts and stop telling me how to think

My family and the family of just about everyone I grew up around had their whole lives destroyed by this evil man. He has executed thousands, has imprisoned thousands more, and has totally ruined a country that was once the most prosperous in Latin America. You may philosophize about the 'complexity' of the life of this evil man, but for people who actually lived under his abuse, who have seen what he has done to their homeland, or whose families suffered greatly to flee his terror, it is very simple.

It's easy to forget the cost of prosperity to those who were not prosperous. Pre-Castro Cuba was rife with racism and inequality, extreme and abject poverty, a segregated society, under violently repressive and corrupt governments.

I can't say anything about your experience, but I can share something about my childhood in Brazil. A middle-class home, private school, private health-care family under a brutal US-sponsored military dictatorship. I never even suspected people were getting arrested and murdered for criticizing the government. I enjoyed the military parades. It never occurred to me that public school was really bad, that not every kid had access to it (most didn't), that unless you had a stable job (and, once labeled a subversive, that was mostly impossible), you had absolutely no health care. The cost of my happy childhood completely eluded me until I was an adult.

I 100% agree with your post, but, did Castro regime have to kill his opponents?

> He has executed thousands, has imprisoned thousands more, and has totally ruined a country that was once the most prosperous in Latin America.

In Africa Fidel Castro also took part in one of the most murderous civil wars in the continent, the Angolan civil war, and fought to establish the continent's worse dictator and cleptocracy, José Eduardo dos Santos and his MPLA cronies.

And fighting against this communist evil were the righteous forces of Unita and apartheid South Africa.

Have you actually looked at the faction supported by Cuba? Not only are they responsible for launching global private military corporations, they are Africa's worse cleptocracy.

Then, oddly enough, MPLA also intervened in Namibia's civil war against the communists.

There are no clean hands on either side, I reject the notion that Apartheid South Africa were the good guys, after all it birthed its own own private military corporation (Executive Outcomes), supplied a lot of mercenaries throughout global hotspots and had a nuclear program they only dismantled after it became clear that black people would be allowed to vote.

The intersection of African Liberation politics and Cold war politics was very complex, but generally the west found itself on the side of the colonial authorities. In the end, colonialism and communism lost.

> I reject the notion that Apartheid South Africa

That's a blatant false dilemma.

The atrocities committed by Fidel Castro aren't whitewashed just because you can pick other nasty regimes.

Stalin isn't suddenly fabulous because he fought the Nazis.

Fidel Castro imposed a totalitarian regime on Cuba and extensively used violence and political assassinations to preserve his stranglehold on Cuba. Fidel Castro also projected his atrocities by intervening in decades-long civil wars.

You can't pretend nothing happened by playing the racist card.

Excellent strawmen you've got there: how about you address the points I stated after the half-sentence you've selectively quoted? You consider it a dilemma because you refuse to admit your 'team' were not squeaky-clean angels and the opposition were not cartoon villains.

I clearly stated that there are no clean hands: you are the one who is pretending like nothing bad was done by the west or their colonial allies/puppets by playing the communism card.

"evil" - or usually known as - not my side

I am sorry others have been dismissing your comment outright. But please understand what OP is saying does not seem to imply that we philosophize the 'complexity of life' of Fidel Castro the individual, but rather the set of people he belongs to: popular revolutionaries who became dictators hated by their own people.

What happened in Cuba after Castro came into power is similar to what happened in other countries after the revolutionaries won. We should try and understand if these sorts of people were evil to begin with or became evil as a natural transition after tasting power following a successful revolution.

Simply terming them as evil (honestly, Castro and others did many evil deeds), and not trying to understand and learn from the pattern is going to be a problem that humanity as a whole will suffer from.

This stuff didn't happen after he came to power -- he came to power because of his atrocities.

He came to power supported by people who were fed up (in part) with the atrocities combined by Batista the right wing dictator supported by the US. As is usual there is a heavy influence of the US on this site so Castries is generally reviled but he was no different to any number of dictators save that the US did not support him and the US propaganda machine worked against him. He did bad things but so did many others with the implicit or explicit support of the US. Most Americans dislike him due to the 50 years of negative US press not because of specifics actions they could detail.

At the national assembly the sad news is stated: "Fidel Castro has passed away. However, his legacy lives on!"

The old man in the back of the audience, marcoperaza, sighs and says, "Alas! If only it were the other way around..."

Beautifully put.

No Sir, nobody is denying that he was evil. Its just that we want to see the whole black and white picture he was the darkest dot of.

Neither was Rafidel Baticastro in any way special - he was just another human, using the chances that life presented him- and many of those for selfish reasons, like we all would. The Dynamics of revolution and upheaval could have swept anybody ruthless enough to the top. What the ruthless person then does, is on his account, but usually mirrors the way the opponents of the era engaged him/her and is only limited by nuclear deterrence from becoming total war as seen in Europe pre-nuke. Thus you are right in that he was evil when it came to trying to expand his power-base at any cost.

But then again, i also refuse the "single-saint-sinner" in the front row narrative. A individual like him needs followers, needs people desperate enough to throw there lives into the ring at his feet, needs a society that is prone to collapse anyway and this society is created by the every day villainy of you and me.

Its neither "tragic", nor inevitable, neither are the causes unknown. We all vote day to day with our feet for the likes of him and with the total of our life's for the circumstances to be "tragic".

We buy products assembled in sweatshops, we raise to large family's, who disguise themselves as SUVs and the ecological footprint of long commutes. And because we refuse to reduce our lifes-standard, this is "inevitable".

When the billing day arrives, we step back from the mess, throw ourselves on the floor in a tantrum, and demand the conservative equals to a economic "Safespace" aka a dictatorship of either a stabilizing Strong-Man or a Revolutionary (depending entirely on the ratio of nothing-to-loosers:small-time-croonies) .

So before writing history, i would like to hear more about the living circumstances, this all originated from. I would like to hear about your towns priest, who every Sunday preached, be fruitful and multiply, while condemning new ways of thinking, to a population consisting mostly out of hopeless-unemployed- youth.

I would like to here about the companys who held monopolys on sugar cane production, using up cheap human resources and sabotaged developments that would have reduced the availability of unskilled labor.

I would like to hear the whole story, see the whole picture. And yes, the murders are still on him. So that's it, another murderous Movement bastard, but if we dont find out what made him possible and prevent society from sliding into that direction again- your family suffered for nothing. Suffered to allow the survivors to suffer again the same fate, two or three generations down the row.

PS: My condolences to the CIA, who right at this moment must scrap the final assassination attempt - shooting him with salute guns at his funeral.

> but if we dont find out what made him possible and prevent society from sliding into that direction again- your family suffered for nothing

I think most people believe we already know. Suffering --> Revolution --> Dictatorship is a very common pattern. I think there is a lot to learn from the circumstances and based on the histories I've read of e.g. WWII germany, that feels like the general focus. I think its popular to initially focus on the person themselves, though once you begin any serious study of a particular revolution, the circumstances and cultural influences become so pronounced that the idea of the particular dictator being of importance begins to shrink.

>I think most people believe we already know. Suffering --> Revolution --> Dictatorship is a very common pattern.

Then why have people been allowing the upper classes in almost every developed and developing country to grind down the common people with suffering? How are we allowing the 1930s to happen over again if we've learned our lesson?

Franklin Roosevelt is turning in his damn grave these days. Every attempt he made to moderate the horrors of capitalism so as to avoid the worse horrors of totalitarianism is being rolled back! This must not be allowed!

Clearly the "Remember this and that"event culture is not working. Books and movies are obviously not enough to keep the horrors and fails of the past alive. Three Generations after WW2 suddenly its okay to demonize a group again.

I must admit i dont have any answer to this. And obviously more of the same doesn't work - i wish you could craft this learning experience into games. Like participating in a civil war- at the beginning you are blindly on a side- but then you play a second story, and lose some beloved character to your own murderous attitude, and you do that again and again, until it becomes clear that the enemy is you giving in to instinct.

But even that could only educate on basic humanity- you cant transport complex mistakes like economical mistakes in such game.

Prosperous for whom? You and the other exiles you surrounded yourself with? Guessing they were a fairly monochromatic bunch too, huh?

Batista was a violent, corrupt dictator. My grandmother lived in Cuba during those days in absolute poverty. It's not wise to talk in absolutes, your family was prosperous but most Cubans were not.

Fulgencio Batista was better?

We are talking about Fidel's regime and how he decided to rule. Batista was an evil man and a bad ruler, but the economic and societal destruction of communism is in its own category, as is the level of totalitarian control that the Castro regime has imposed, which includes a committee in each neighborhood responsible for suppressing dissent. Because of how backwards Cuba is today, everyone thinks it was always like that. Cuba was a country with a rapidly expanding middle class.

Consider that despite many natural disadvantages Cuba had higher standard of living, better educated public, better healthcare system, etc. than any of the countries in Latin America which started at similar level but were left under the control of US-backed right wing governments. I’d much rather live in Cuba of the 1960s–1980s than in any of Washington’s pet quasi-fascist police states or in those Latin American states undergoing active civil war with US-trained paramilitaries genocidally slaughtering peasants.

Arguably the US embargo, cut of diplomatic ties, invasion attempt, repeated assassination attempts, piles of money illicitly funneled to opposition, etc. had as much to do with Castro’s entrenchment/radicalization as anything to do with his personal ideology.

Just after the Cuban revolution, Castro was interested and open to US relations, but ideological prejudices and commitments by American elites made friendly relations impossible. Then a feedback loop ensued by which mutual trust was destroyed and both sides were increasingly radicalized.

Many things Castro did over his long career were reprehensible, but the same certainly can be said for pretty much every US president, and most other national leaders in similarly political turbulent situations.

> I’d much rather live in Cuba of the 1960s–1980s

Yes, while the Soviet Union was sending Cuba billions per year, it was much better there.

> but the economic and societal destruction of communism is in its own category

The Human Development Index puts Cuba at position 40, despite the huge economic disadvantage of the embargo.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_Development_Index#2015_H...

The urban parts of Cuba started out in a pretty good position.

> "One might best summarize the complex situation by saying that urban Cuba had come to resemble a Southern European country (with a living standard as high or surpassing that of France, Spain, Portugal and Greece) while rural Cuba replicated the conditions of other plantation societies in Latin America and the Caribbean," according to analyst Mark Falcoff. [0]

I've left off the bit about racism as that's already been much discussed in this thread.

[0] http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/castro/peopleevents/e_precastro...

The fixation people have with expanding middle classes is odd. I'd say progress where the poorest are included in social gains is more valuable than any other kind. Otherwise we end up with societies like the US where some parts of the population live in ghettoes worthy of the worst of the third world.

With all due respect, that's a crazy exaggeration. There is nowhere in America where the entire neighborhood has no electricity, no running water, no sewage, and no paved roads. Such places are common in Africa and India.


Whenever someone quotes poverty and hardships in India, I feel the urge to defend - the scale at which India has to operate is completely different from any other country. Being a democracy, and hence having to deal with high viscosity in governance

There are indeed places in the US without running water right now (see Flint as an example). I also don't think comparing with in development countries is relevant.

There are places all over the world that have suffered disasters taking out normal services. That doesn't mean that the services never existed or the country as a whole isn't industrialized yet.

Flint isn’t a disaster, it’s direct mismanagement and corruption combined.

How long ago was it that people in America without insurance would go without lifesaving treatment?

I get your point, but with respect I believe you are missing the point to which you're responding. You may be too close, and again, that's totally understandable.



Commenting on the genesis of this provision, Edward Peck, former U.S. Chief of Mission in Iraq (under Jimmy Carter) and former ambassador to Mauritania said:

> In 1985, when I was the Deputy Director of the Reagan White House Task Force on Terrorism, [my working group was asked] to come up with a definition of terrorism that could be used throughout the government. We produced about six, and each and every case, they were rejected, because careful reading would indicate that our own country had been involved in some of those activities. […] After the task force concluded its work, Congress [passed] U.S. Code Title 18, Section 2331 ... the US definition of terrorism. […] one of the terms, "international terrorism," means "activities that," I quote, "appear to be intended to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination or kidnapping." […] Yes, well, certainly, you can think of a number of countries that have been involved in such activities. Ours is one of them. […] And so, the terrorist, of course, is in the eye of the beholder.[62]

Actually being an evil dictator who murdered thousands usually tops everything else a person has done in his life.

Charismatic? Yes, but so was Hitler and Osama bin Laden. Revolutionary? yes, but so was Hitler.

So, let's get it clear that that doesn't make him humane and good for society.

>>If you think you're better, then do better. Be better. Don't refuse to acknowledge the humanity of another person because you believe you can totalize their entire life under a cheap tagline.

This is a disingenuous advice.

Will you not criticize Hitler? So, do you propose to acknowledge the humanity of Hitler and don't criticize him? Castro would have happily become Hitler, if he could get power.

Criticizing him or anyone is not necessarily reducing them to a tagline. He deserves much and harsh criticism than most thugs, criminals and religious extremists in the world. He was an extremely cruel, dictator with no remorse for his cruel and inhumane actions.

But what do you expect from a follower of communism? Communism is a very vicious ideology which leaves no room for any type of dissent. You either toe the party-line or get killed/maimed/imprisoned.

Sad, this criminal didn't die a lot earlier.

The majority in the US hold an unfavorable view of Castro, but that's not the case worldwide. Even in Canada for instance, the more people think Castro was good for Cuba than not [1]. Asia generally holds him in high regard, and Europe has mixed feelings.

For some objectivity, we could look at some stats. PPP adjusted GDP per capita is much lower than the US, but way better than China. Education is excellent [2] because they spend 10% of their budget on it. Life expectancy (~79, gasp!) is higher than the United States. All of this with a near total embargo from the next-door global economic super power.

Western record on human rights is equally bad. In Castro's time, the Vietnam war resulted in 1.3 million deaths. More recently, the invasion of Iraq has resulted in 125,000 non-combatant deaths. Western allies today like Saudi have the most egregious human rights records.

I hate communism, but even with unrestrained exaggeration, Castro isn't Hitler. Such a claim is either a result of media manipulation of history or a flawed history curriculum.

[1] http://www.pewglobal.org/2008/02/19/global-views-on-castro-a...

[2] https://novakdjokovicfoundation.org/education-system-of-cuba...

Why are cubans in miami celebrating his death? Are they misguided minorities that should follow the example of armchair politicians in privledged countries?

Because they are descendants of the middle and upper classes who benefited from the previous regime and lost everything when Castro came to power.

All of them? There was no poverty in cuba after Castro? Those that spoke out were capitalist pigs and deserved their punishment?

Right after obama came to cuba there was a large influx of cubans who made the journey through the carribean to the us to gain the guarenteed citizenship [0]. Why would people risk their lives to leave? Are these individuals also upper class escaping slaughter?

[0] http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/08/05/cuban-immigr...

They are actually descendants of the people who had a good life under the dictatorship of Batista.

Cuban Revolution was not for a wimp.


Not sure your point. The claims here indicate that most plantations were american owned and that likely frustrated cubans to the point a revolution was intreresting. But immigration from cuba isnt just 1 time. There has been a consistant flood of migrants that risk their lives to escape. Back in the 90's there was the Emilio Gonzolez contreversey where the mom died to get her son to the US.

In every colonial system, the resources were owned by the foreign power, but the management of these resources were made by a privileged class of locals which constituted a local elite. This elite lives a very comfortable life, gives a "local face" to the regime for the population, but ultimately answers to the foreign power who retains the bulk of the profits sent overseas.

It's important to note that even if this elite is the "1%" of the country, this 1% amounts to a significant number of people.

I would say everyone other than those in the government of Cuba or associate with its members lost out.

Ah yes they lost everything because they supported the previous dictatorship. Then when they may have been in danger as others were when they were living the high life they fled the country.

So his exiling of over a million cubans is acceptable, then?



I have. Currently living in the UK.

>> "Why are cubans in miami celebrating his death?"

Because they didn't like him and got out. There were people who celebrated Margaret Thatcher's death. There would be people who would celebrate the death of some current world leaders. On the other hand there would be people who would mourn those deaths.

Did Magret Thatcher execute people? Did she create an air of fear and enforce isolationism at the expense of a country they ruled?

These are apples and oranges

In case you completely misunderstood my point here it is again:

"Why are cubans in miami celebrating his death?"

Because they are a group of Cubans who don't like him. There are also Cubans mourning his death. Like all politicians some people liked his policies (because they benefited from them) and will be sad he's dead and others disliked his policies (because they did not benefit from them) and will be happy he's dead. Ultimately what he did or didn't do has no relevance to your question.

Margaret Thatcher sent British troops to train the Khmer Rouge, I doubt Castro ever did anything as sick as that.

For many of them it's due to direct experience with the arbitrary and capricious nature of the Castro regime:

"... all three of us — papi, mami and me — got visas to leave. It took five years to get those visas and my folks were immediately fired from their jobs when they applied.

"On that July 1967 day when we were scheduled to go, the three of us made it to the boarding ladder of the Eastern Airlines Freedom Flight bound for America. But a Castro soldier stopped us before we boarded and demanded to see the family’s papers. I remember this as if it was yesterday. That bearded guerrilla in green and carrying a rifle confirmed all three of us were cleared to leave Cuba.

"But, he added, that only two of us could leave because that’s what he personally was deciding. He then told my father to pick who goes and who stays. What ensued next is hazy to me. I know there were tears. I know there was drama. But suffice to say only my mother and I got on that plane.

"My dad stayed behind, and for three years he was unable to reunite with us. Other family members never were able to reunite with us."

Armando Salguero, Miami Herald sportswriter, in: http://www.miamiherald.com/sports/spt-columns-blogs/armando-...

I'm as anti-communist as they come, but comparing Castro to Hitler is ridiculous. Castro never set up camps for the sole purpose of mass murder. Castro didn't create special army units to machine gun hundreds of thousands of civilians. Castro didn't deliberately starve entire cities of people to death.

You're arguing that some aspects of Hitler's National Socialism don't match Fidel Castro's Marxism-Leninism, while purposely ignoring all similarities, common to any totalitarian and repressive regime.

Castro's long list of political executions are well documented. We may agree that Nazi death camps have a scale of their own, but this is no reason to turn a blind eye to the oppressive and persecutory nature of Fidel Castro's regime.

Castro was Hitler without the industrial base.


Essentially he was a pre-revenue Hiltler.

Zero to Godwin in two posts.

Best case where Godwin becomes a non-antiargument because you are talking about a socialist totalitarian in both cases right?

"First they came for the Socialists..."

Hitler was right-wing.

It was a socialist party. It does not reflect on socialism in general, but don't equate racism, natinalism etc... to necessarily extreme right:

"Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei": National Socialist German Workers' Party

"Its precursor, the German Workers' Party"

"The party was created as a means to draw workers away from communism and into völkisch nationalism.[7] Initially, Nazi political strategy focused on anti-big business, anti-bourgeois, and anti-capitalist rhetoric, although such aspects were later downplayed in order to gain the support of industrial entities, and in the 1930s the party's focus shifted to anti-Semitic and anti-Marxist themes."

Ref: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nazi_Party

"Nazi political strategy focused on anti-big business, anti-bourgeois, and anti-capitalist rhetoric" that's the socialist rhetoric. The part where Hitler was against communism is the part where he saw communists occupying his own socialism-based plans. Stalin, total strategy genius, let the guy go destroy Europe for him and then he kept half of it for himself.

Sounds like Trump.

Hitler was NOT right-wing, please! His party was national socialist workers party. He learned from the best, his friend Stalin. Then they do what communists do best betray themselves and kill adversaries. Nobody, nobody come even close to kill even a fraction of the number of communists killed by other communists http://louderwithcrowder.com/myth-busted-actually-yes-hitler...

So no, nobody is coming for you in a free society that is not marxist

> So no, nobody is coming for you in a free society that is not marxist

Then we can tell the people disappeared in militar dictatorships in the Latin countries in the 50s-70s than they were prosecuted by marxist governments.

School of the Americas was marxist, was not?

Why was this downvoted? It is historically accurate. The US-sponsored, anti-communist Latin American dictatorships killed and tortured a huge amount of people.

Honest question: is this taught in World History classes in American schools?

Because is largely exaggerated. All killing is immoral and I don't like utilitarian arguments myself but those dictatorships killed a fraction of the people than most think. Example, in Argentina where I was born, for decades it was believed that there where 30000 missing, but now the official number turns out to be a bit less 7000. Even people coming from the left-wing that, in an exemplary way did a self revision and lived their mature days trying to recover intellectual honesty have recognised that the 30K was a fabrication to amplify marxist propaganda https://vimeo.com/95210051

> Because is largely exaggerated

Exagerated what, the lie you wrote that only on Marxists regimes you can be persecuted?

the problem is that you see Mrxists even in the extreme right.

> All killing is immoral

It seems that not for you when youi minimize and deny anmy killing frok your side

Perhaps Videla was a hero for you, or Pinochet, or Stroessner.

Someone please explain to me how the workers controlled the means of production in Nazi Germany.

And, by the way, linking to an article where it is said that social democracy is the same as national socialism means that nor the author of the article nor you knows anything about communism, Nazism or social democracy

Hitler wasn't left-wing or right-wing. He mixed elements of both.

However in this case it's appropriate. We are talking violent, oppressive world leaders. I would offer that Godwin doesn't apply here.

Exactly. Communist propaganda and cultural war was so good and effective that many will miss the part that we are talking about a socialist totalitarian in both regimes so appealing to Godwin is a non-antiargument and a fail to reason itself

It's still anecdotal evidence and distracts.

>>"Sad, this criminal didn't die a lot earlier."

Expected a higher level of discourse on HN. Wishful thinking.

Sorry, it came off too naive. But please consider that first of all I am a human, and I have very strong feelings against this tyrant and many others like him, so I expressed my feelings.

Also, I didn't just put that only statement here. I made a reasonably well argument against the tyrant.

> Communism is a very vicious ideology which leaves no room for any type of dissent.

Looks like you have no idea what communism really is.

On the contrary, he knows exactly what communism is. He's just mistakenly ascribed the realities of communism to the ideology. Even then, I suspect this is all semantics and he doesn't actually think Marx was advocating despots and totalitarian rule.

Part of the communist rhetoric is that complete free speech is not good. But before judging that aspect of communism, remember that it's other type of regime apply the same restrictions, and indeed communism was illegal in the U.S. at some point.

When I first started learning about communism (college really) I went in thinking this. But I recall eventually thinking that if the mantra of communist revolution was a forceful overthrow of existing government -- by definition not the will of the (majority) people - then a ban on the parties (public) existence was justified. Do you agree with the premise and if so does it affect the equality of your comparison at all (the free speech restrictions)?

It is different in the sense that restricting free speech is part of the communist theory/ideal, while not a requirement from capitalism. Was the restriction on communism inth U.S. in the 50s the will of the majority of the people?

My point was, restricting free speech is indeed part of communism, but be careful before judging the system in relations to other systems based on that small piece of information. It's easy to start spewing "communism = evil" because we've been told so many times, and just use any small piece of information to justify our position, rather than having a hard look, not only at communism, but all the systems in place, both their theory and applications.

>But I recall eventually thinking that if the mantra of communist revolution was a forceful overthrow of existing government -- by definition not the will of the (majority) people - then a ban on the parties (public) existence was justified. Do you agree with the premise and if so does it affect the equality of your comparison at all (the free speech restrictions)?

Depends. Is your country trying to restrict even democratic socialists, respectful of human rights, from operating openly? Does your country use infiltration and assassination to grind its Left into dust? If so, you may just have to deal with the tankie communists.

> complete free speech is not good

That's more of a general European rhetoric. We (unfortunately) don't have free speech even in democratic capitalism!

Americans in general are not capable of discussing communism without conflating interface with implementation.

Sounds like you believed the US propaganda over the Cuban propaganda.

What a pathetic piece of text!

simply replying to save this well phrased comment

If you go to your own user page you can see comments you upvoted.

When you write "evil dictator", you mean that a dictator could not be evil. This is hugely wrong. Dictatorship contains evil.

I appreciate your effort to invite people to learn from history instead of just rejecting a portion of it. But this is a black-and-white matter: he chose to be a dictator, and he was wrong. Subsequent crimes and economics theories are less important once you keep people from choosing their fate/government.

    > Dictatorship contains evil.
    > this is a black-and-white matter
No matter how much you repeat your opinion, or how strongly you state it, it doesn't mean it suddenly become consensus reality.

I guess it's pretty much black and white for most of us if for life's duration we're forced to do what someone tells us to do. If permitted, we could do a few polls and discover whether such sanctions are regarded by those affected as 'consensus reality'.

'Evil' has religious overtones but it's not a bad word to sum up such a situation.

Even in democracies, we're forced to do what our govt tells us to do, or not do. Soft drugs and alcohol are the perfect example of someone's opinion forced down our throats. the fact that some drugs are harness but illegal while others are harmful but legal.

Americans couldn't travel to Cuba. During the cold war, USSR. Americans couldn't freely express socialist ideas never mind communist ones. This in a democracy. I don't really see a big difference. The peculiarities of Cuba can be understood in its geopolitical context.

No, daylight saving is the perfect example of someone's opinion forced upon us.

There is a general case to be made for regulating toxic substances and the examples given are of people arguing over if particular substances really are toxic enough.

    > we're forced to do what someone
    > tells us to do
That is the case in almost all non-ananarchic societies.

You are confusing a lack of suffrage for effective slavery.

No, a dictator can be benevolent. What if a foreign government destroys your country, the populace is largely uneducated and you have the power to reinstitute order in to then transition to a government by and for the people? The US, under Obama, destroyed Libya, what if someone with genuine good intentions would have seized the opportunity in order to prevent what did become reality, that all the people got was a puppet government. This is partly hypothetical but my point is clear, I hope.

The 'benevolent dictator' is a nice oxymoron, but that's it. For a good and stable dictatorship you really want to control all three powers. What good is a dictator if I can sue him and his clique?

What does 'genuine good intentions' even mean? Whose intentions? His, yours? Mine, or the ones from the guy next door? Who decides what good intentions are?

So you're saying it's a logical impossibility for a dictator to act in the best interest of the people? Does some switch flip where all of a sudden they have no free will?

Don't get me wrong, I think the circumstances that lead to a dictator becoming a dictator make it very unlikely, but to call it impossible just seems crazy to me.

Can we agree, that there's no one 'best interest for the people'? That there's a multitude of different opinions and interests that may be good to some and bad for others, that can be 'good' and still mutually exclusive?

I assume the benevolent dictator would be someone, who allows different opinion, and who allows his policy to be changed by his people. And if they want to be governed by someone else, he would step down, have his own power limited or stripped. That wouldn't be a dictator then.

And you'd still have to deal with his administration which has it's own momentum. The 'benevolent dictator' could simply be replaced (killed) by his own clique with someone more in line with their interests.

Of course it is crazy. Reasonable people will disagree, but most will acknowledge that S. Korea did much, much better under Park Chung Hee than N. Korea under Kim Il Sung during the same period, starting from a worse industrial and economical base. Many Singaporeans rate LKY's legacy hugely net positive, despite dictatorial qualities.

Dictatorship is not a concept that is synonymous with evil. Fabius Maximus was not evil. Coriolanus was not evil. Abraham Lincoln or George Washington, who were effectively dictators during war time, were not particularly evil.

Lincoln had war powers in a civil war but he still remained subject to Congressional oversight, judicial review and he was re-elected. Not quite a dictator in the Roman sense.

FDR had war powers too; he placed Japanese Americans in internment camps. I'm a big FDR fan but that will always be a stain on his legacy.

You're more right with George Washington. He was a commanding general during a civil war and the Continental Congress granted him more powers as he went along. What he's justly famous for, besides winning (or really if you want to be accurate, not losing and outlasting the Brits), was refusing dictatorial powers after the Revolutionary War (like Cincinnatus).

In the sense that both Washington and Lincoln were still subject to the Congress, I can't quite agree they were dictators, certainly not in the ne res publica detrimenti capiat (the Republic suffer no harm) sense where the Congress capitulates to the dictator.

And while I prefer liberal democracies, yes, I agree that:

  Dictatorship is not a concept that is synonymous with evil.

What's your position on Singapore?

Interesting lack of response. I suspect your parent simply isn't familiar with the legacies of people like Lee Kuan Yew or Park Chung Hee, because they haven't been depicted as much in western pop culture and propaganda.

Hello, indeed I'm not familiar with those examples, but it doesn't matter. As long as a government doesn't let his people run truly free elections regularly, that's bad. Emperors were considered normal at Romans' times; slaves were, too. Luckily, we have learned better since a long time. Left- or right-wing doesn't matter: dictatorship is an act of violence.

Absolute position are dangerous things without complete knowledge. I mostly agree with your position, and was hoping you had something useful to say about Singapore.

Without it I think that the absolute position is naïve.

What should be added about LKY? He did many wonderful things for his country, but he was also a dictator. As a dictator, he was evil. He wasn't the worst kind of evil, but that was bad. I really can't imagine how intelligent people can still discuss about it. Being a dictator means forcing your decision to people with different ideas. That's violence. How can it be good? You may say that, in a case like Singapore, the man did more good than evil, but that isn't the point. The dictatorship part was wrong. By the way, if you need to force your ideas to most of your people, it means that you are not doing a good job as a governor. If you force your ideas to just a minority, than you are being evil just for the sake of being evil.

Doing more good than evil is a pretty good outcome for everyone around him...

Butchering priests in the name of revolution? Nope. Sorry. Can't appreciate the 'humanity' of someone that clearly doesn't deserve to be called such. Suggesting Castro deserves acknowledgement of his humanity is like suggesting Hitler was a sensitive art student.

Both are true though. Many humans have butchered fellow humans. Hitler wasn't uniquely evil in human history, but a part of a long-running tradition

I don't care how human anybody is, killing fellow humans, except to prevent the crime of others (police and military interventions in very specific cases) is not OK. That line cannot be crossed.

That includes death penalty and political revolutions.

I never claimed it was okay. I just said it was human.

    > is not OK
Why not? We kill plenty of other living things. Why not people?

Because you have to draw the line somewhere.

Morale/ethics do change over time, but not killing people has been shown throughout history to be the bare minimum for a decent society, and an accepted standard today. We can discuss and expand on adding more species, kingdoms and domains, but humans are not up for discussion.

    > to be the bare minimum
    > for a decent society
So if a utilitarian-leaning society could show it was improved by killing people, you'd be fine with that?

I would not be fine with that, no, but then, I'm not fine either with killing other apes and other self-reflecting animals ; my standard vs modern society's accepted standard.

However, in that hypothetical case you describe, it might be up for discussion. My point was that by modern standards, killing other humans is not ok, and not up for discussion.

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