Washed-Up, Marginal, Authoritarian, and Unappealing Leftist Watch: "Castro Did Lots of Good and Humane Things, Despite Being a Dictator; but the Bottom Line Is U.S. Hatred of Castro Had Nothing to Do with His Being a Dictator..."
UPDATE: An awful lot of Castro love here. You know, I really would have thought that the claim that Castro's retirement should be celebrated rather than mourned would command universal assent. Silly me...
Brian Leiter emails:
Chris Bertram’s response to you was correct, and I don’t have much to add to it: Castro did lots of good and humane things, despite being a dictator; but the bottom line is U.S. hatred of Castro had nothing to do with his being a dictator, but with his being an anti-capitalist, unlike his predecessor, the fascist Batista.
This seems to me to be an elementary philosophical error.
People in the U.S. hate and hated Castro for many reasons. Surely some of them hate and hated Castro because he was an oppressive Leninist dictator? Surely their views had something to do with U.S. policy toward Castro? To say that "U.S. hatred of Castro had nothing to do with his being a dictator" and everything to do with his being an anti-capitalist seems to me to be wrong. A lot of people wound up in Miami hating Castro for a whole lot of reasons--including the reason that Castro was "anti-capitalist," but that was very far from being the only or in many cases the predominant reason.
To say that "Castro did many good and humane things, in spite of being a dictator" seems to me to whitewash his regime. Brian Leiter is not Walter Duranty, but he ought to know better.
The full context:
Sanctimonious Jackass Brad DeLong vs. Political Philosopher Chris Bertram: Here and here. Professor Bertram's response seems to me quite apt. Professor DeLong has a real complex about those to his left. Very odd.
Dear Professor Leiter:
Perhaps you don't remember what Chris Bertram I wrote on Fidel Castro's retirement? It began with a declaration that nobody on the left should welcome his retirement:
I haven’t looked yet, but I’ve no doubt that there’ll be lots of posts in the blogosphere saying “good riddance” to Fidel Castro (especially from “left” US bloggers like Brad DeLong who never miss the chance to distance themselves)."
It continued with a concession-in-advance: Castro was not perfect:
And, of course, Castro ran a dictatorship that has, since 1959, committed its fair share of crimes, repressions, denials of democratic rights etc."
And then got to his main point: that this second-to-last Leninist dictator was a shining beacon of anti-capitalist hope to the world:
Still, I’m reminded of A.J.P. Taylor writing somewhere or other (reference please, dear readers?) that what the capitalists and their lackeys really really hated about Soviet Russia was not its tyrannical nature but the fact that there was a whole chunk of the earth’s surface where they were no longer able to operate. Ditto Cuba, for a much smaller chunk. So let’s hear it for universal literacy and decent standards of health care. Let’s hear it for the Cubans who help defeat the South Africans and their allies in Angola and thereby prepared the end of apartheid. Let’s hear it for the middle-aged Cuban construction workers who held off the US forces for a while on Grenada. Let’s hear it for Elian Gonzalez. Let’s hear it for 49 years of defiance in the face of the US blockade. Hasta la victoria siempre!"
I can understand that people might approve of Chris Bertram I's claim that Castro and his tenure in office are to be celebrated rather than regretted, and that his retirement ought to be mourned rather than celebrated.
But I cannot understand how anybody who agrees with Chris Bertram II that the Leninist left is "washed up, marginal, authoritarian and unappealing" can still wish to endorse Chris Bertram I.
I urge you to reconsider...
J. Bradford DeLong
Dear Professor DeLong:
Thanks for taking the time to write. I thought Chris Bertram’s response to you was correct, and I don’t have much to add to it: Castro did lots of good and humane things, despite being a dictator; but the bottom line is U.S. hatred of Castro had nothing to do with his being a dictator, but with his being an anti-capitalist, unlike his predecessor, the fascist Batista. I understand Chris to be a democratic socialist, more or less; he is certainly no Leninist or fan of Leninists, but he is also no fan of U.S. plutocracy or fake U.S. posturing about human rights and democracy. I do genuinely think it’s odd the way you respond to some to your left.
I appreciate your good work on Paul Ryan and the other disgraceful Republicans. But no need to pillory Chris Bertram unfairly.