Right now, I’m at a state that I would rather be slapped by a cactus than to argue with one other clueless authoritarian leftist about Fidel Castro. Look, if you think Castro was not a monster, I really don’t have anything to say to you; this was a man who jailed and killed his political opponents and journalists and human rights activists, who ruled his country with an iron fist, and was a cruel dictator. I don’t care for your defense of this man, neither I care for any “context” you want to provide.
But even when people are not defending Castro, they still portray him under a very false light, claiming he had a “light” side and a “dark” side. The good thing about Castro is how he stood up against USA and Western hegemony. The “bad” thing is that he was a bloodthirsty tyrant. But that’s wrong. Castro’s anti-imperialism cannot be separated from his tyranny, they fuel each other, they’re basically the same thing.
Of course, I’m not saying anti-imperialism is inherently tyrannical, as there have been many great liberators, like Mohammad Mossadegh, Patrice Lumumba, or Nelson Mandela. And there’s no doubt that people deserve self-rule and freedom, whether from internal tyrants or from foreign colonizers. But there is a kind of anti-imperialism that is deeply wedded with tyranny, and Castro was one of such anti-imperialists. Khomeini was another.
Tyrannical regimes need legitimacy too. They, too, need to pretend that they represent the “people” in some way. Some regimes follow a certain method: they need to have an enemy, and that enemy should be stronger than the regime, so the regime can pretend that they are still fighting the battle for independence and freedom as underdogs, that they are still a liberating force. Also, all internal dissidents are lumped in with the foreign enemy, and therefore their repression is justified.
Without anti-imperialism, Castro’s regime would lose all credibility and all justification, it would lose the enemy. The same is true about Khomeini and Khamenei, or about Kim Jung-Un. But it’s not only the anti-American regimes that do this – military juntas or kings like Mohammad Reza Pahlavi give the role of the enemy to the former Soviet Union or communism in general.
That’s why it makes no sense to defend Castro as an anti-imperialist, because his anti-imperialism was simply a tool for him to further repress his people and prolong his dictatorial regime.
And taking a step back, why should anti-imperialism be an automatic virtue for a political leader? What is the job of a political leader? To defend the interests of their people, inside the country and abroad. Should the leader bring sanctions and poverty upon their people just to make a moral stand in the world and to fight for some revolutionary virtue? No, that’s manifestly immoral.
You should care for people’s well-being more than your own ideology. You shouldn’t do irrational things and to provoke the world’s strongest superpower. You shouldn’t host nuclear weapons on your bays and bring the whole world to a standstill. Yes, US has had its share of mistakes when it comes to Cuba, Eisenhower rejecting his hand when he reached out to the US, imposing unnecessarily tough sanctions and being obstinate in removing them. But nothing changes the fact that for decades Castro chose to be the hero in his story rather than a caring leader for the people of Cuba.
Castro’s anti-imperialism was no virtue, merely an excuse for his evil tyranny.
Image credit: Agência Brasil, under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Brazil license, via wikipedia