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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
In American English, the phrase, "He murdered thousands," can't be followed by the word "but..."
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.
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.
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. 
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
>Castro should be remembered for the suffering he caused - all of it preventable.
Isn't all the same true about Obama, perhaps to a lesser degree but still true? Will we eulogize him in the same way?
By any objective measure - and according to experts on human rights and liberty - Cuba is one of the most repressive countries on earth.
Edit: Additional reports from Ammesty International, Human Rights Watch and RSF below also.
"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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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... :-)
If anything, the history of Cuba's attempted overruns by the US only serve to justify the regime's paranoia.
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.)
This is dangerous when genuinely evil people apply the label 'evil' to people they wish to persecute.
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.
Not as bad a Hitler.
There you go.
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.
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.
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!
This is why people often seem to say "he seemed so normal" in bewilderment when someone they knew commits mass murder.
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.
Do you believe this puts you into a position of objective analysis?
No - I'm objecting to this with this comment.
Moral relativism is a problem in our era.
Castro is Bad.
This why they are treated as such.
Castro is also bad (label), which is why Cubans revile him.
Oh the irony. Gitmo is in Cuba too :)
Cuba is a land full of regular citizens.
See the difference?
* A tendency which is underappreciated in politics. Consider for example, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad as an instantiation of George W. Bush for the Iranian political market.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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?
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?
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.
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 patriotism parade.
 'you' collectively. Not erokar individually.
Do they? What facts have you go to support your thesis?
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.
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.
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).
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.)
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.
This is NOT ok, and I'm shocked that it's even a thought to entertain here on HN.
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."
It was a US-caused political niche that was eagerly filled by the most opportunistic/capable people available.
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 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.
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.
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.
No cuban children sleeps in the streets tonight. You can't say that about northamerican children.
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."
Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/426334/cuba-working-cl...
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.
> 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.
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.
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.
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.
Please stop trying to humanize him.
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.
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.
He generously donated it every time he executed a dissenter.
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.
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.
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...
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.
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.
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.
Then, oddly enough, MPLA also intervened in Namibia's civil war against the communists.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The old man in the back of the audience, marcoperaza, sighs and says, "Alas! If only it were the other way around..."
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Yes, while the Soviet Union was sending Cuba billions per year, it was much better there.
The Human Development Index puts Cuba at position 40, despite the huge economic disadvantage of the embargo.
> "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. 
I've left off the bit about racism as that's already been much discussed in this thread.
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.
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.
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  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.
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 . Why would people risk their lives to leave? Are these individuals also upper class escaping slaughter?
Cuban Revolution was not for a wimp.
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.
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.
These are apples and oranges
"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.
"... 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:
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.
Essentially he was a pre-revenue Hiltler.
Hitler was right-wing.
"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. 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."
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?
Honest question: is this taught in World History classes in American schools?
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.
Expected a higher level of discourse on HN. Wishful thinking.
Also, I didn't just put that only statement here. I made a reasonably well argument against the tyrant.
Looks like you have no idea what communism really is.
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.
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.
That's more of a general European rhetoric. We (unfortunately) don't have free speech even in democratic capitalism!
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
'Evil' has religious overtones but it's not a bad word to sum up such a situation.
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.
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
You are confusing a lack of suffrage for effective slavery.
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?
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.
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.
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.
Without it I think that the absolute position is naïve.
That includes death penalty and political revolutions.
> is not OK
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
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.