Opinion | Morgan Liddick: Castro and the bloody failure of Communism
So Fidel Castro has finally shuffled off to his well-deserved reward. If the ten of thousands of Cubans his government murdered and the millions whose lives his policies made a living hell have anything to say about it, His rest will not be peaceful.
Castro was a dictator in the Stalinist, jackboot-in-your-face-forever sense of the term. A revolutionist from his early days at the University of Havana, he led a failed uprising in 1953, was jailed, released, fled the country to Mexico and returned to lead a successful revolution against Cuban president Fulgencio Batista in 1959. What followed was the predictable tragedy of virtually all Marxist-Leninist revolutions: having deposed Batista, Castro became him – and retained an iron grip on power for the subsequent 47 years.
During that time Cuba became a one-party state where political dissent was crushed by state organs and dissidents were jailed indefinitely by the thousands. Others were simply “disappeared.” As Castro put it during one particularly vicious wave of show trials, “revolutionary justice is not based on legal precepts, but on moral conviction.” During the Castro dictatorship, the rule of law took a half-century holiday; time will tell if it returns.
In the immediate aftermath of the revolution, the new Cuban government implemented a series of wide-ranging reforms, opening clinics and schools, building infrastructure and in general stressing social over economic development. As a result, the Cuban treasury was drained within two years. Following secret discussions with his allies in the Cuban Popular Socialist Party and the USSR, Castro nationalized almost all foreign holdings in Cuba; this led to the first US economic sanctions against the new regime. Later actions by Castro at the UN General Assembly and elsewhere led to an escalation of confrontations, ending with the Cuban Missile Crisis in late 1962.
The latter was the apotheosis of Cuba’s relationship with the USSR, which saw military aid and massive subsidies from the increasingly cash-strapped workers’ paradise to its Caribbean cat’s-paw and revolutionary proxy. They were necessary: although the increasingly tight central economic planning and controls in Cuba created the illusion of a functioning economy the reality was that, as elsewhere, Marxism did nothing to develop new products, increase productivity, spur innovation, open new markets or do any of the thousand other things necessary for economic success. Businesses with 100 employees were told to hire 100 more, regardless of cost: there were people to employ, so expenses were irrelevant. Businesses failed in droves. Cronyism and corruption flourished. As even Fidel’s brother Raul has now admitted, “We must either change course or we will sink.”
While we’re at it, no. The “US Embargo” on Cuba didn’t cause this economic misery. Cuba can, and does, trade with a variety of countries around the world. It just doesn’t have much others want. Which is another fault of its leaders, not the United States.
Will Cuba’s situation change following the death of Fidel? Not likely in the short run. Raul Castro is just as bloody-minded as his elder brother, although he is less charismatic and more calculating. But improvement in Cuba will depend largely on serious and comprehensive internal reforms; the rest of the Castros and their minions will have to surrender a substantial amount of control. But they doubtless have an eye on the results of such a surrender in Libya; in Romania; and elsewhere, so… Cuba’s suffering is likely to go on for a long while yet. Or to increase, which is sometimes the result of conditions improving, but too slowly. Think of the bloodletting of the French or Russian revolutions.
In the meantime, let us be thankful to Fidel Castro for all the lessons he has provided us in the creation of human sorrow and failure. He has shown us how to crush the life out of a people. How to damage the human soul, sometimes beyond recovery. How to destroy a national economy, quickly and effectively. How to sow anger over imagined slights, and to use that anger to tear societies apart. And how to enchant the American left by providing them a model of authoritarian government based on a smiling paternalistic lie about a utopia forever on the edge of becoming, forever prevented from doing so by this or that enemy. It’s a model with which they can identify. The anti-American edge is just icing on the cake.
So farewell, Fidel. In whatever afterlife awaits you, may you get everything that’s coming to you. Without relief.
Morgan Liddick writes a weekly column for the Summit Daily.
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