Thursday, September 23, 2010

What did Castro Really Say?

Jeffrey Goldberg has caused something of a stir by chatting to Fidel Castro* and reporting a few things he said which are rather at odds with the his professed reasons for destroying his country over the last fifty years. Whether Castro is now just a senile old man, he is trying to cause trouble for his brother, he has always believed this and no longer cares about telling the truth, or Goldberg has misinterpreted him, is hard to say, but there have been echoes in the world of Spanish-speaking communism which have not reached the ears of the English language press, and it is these that I wish to comment on.

His statement that Israel has a right to exist is surprising enough, but the most remarkable thing in the articles is his statement that 'the Cuban model doesn't even work for us any more'. Well, of course, the Cuban model never did work, we all knew that, even, I suspect, Castro himself, but he was not going to give up power and his beloved revolution just because it was a failure, so he spent decades pretended that it worked.

After the article was published, Castro backtracked and tried to claim that he had not meant that at all, but rather that the US model no longer worked for America. Not very convincingly, it must be said. The communist press in Cuba (I've lost the link to the article in Granma) and leading communists in Spain (this unpleasant character**, for example) have tried to present this as an invention of Goldberg and his colleague (he is a practising Jew, after all). Goldberg responds that he is interpreting nothing, and that Castro used that exact phrase.

To me the interesting question is why he said it. Was it just a reflection that the world is changing, and for once Cuba is changing with it? Did he mean that it had always been wrong, or only now? There are signs that things are changing. Some political prisoners may be released. Some private enterprise will be encouraged to employ the hundreds of thousands to be removed from the state payroll. It's a very long way from freedom and prosperity, but it's start.

*Goldberg defends his fairly relaxed view of Castro by, among other things comparing him with what he replaced. It's a good point, and I have often argued with leftwingers in Spain that the alternative to Franco was not some nice cosy democracy, but Stalin, and it is in that light that that period of history- though not necessarily the man himself- must be judged. But firstly, were the early years of Castro's dictatorship really better than the last years of Batista's? And secondly, if true it might, in hindsight, justify the uprising. It doesn't justify the fifty years of continued tyranny, just as the the very real danger of communists in Spain did not justify Franco's decades of oppresion.

**Pascual Serrano is a communist journalist who appears to hate all Jews who don't hate themselves, and who manages, like most of his brethren, to see a small and temporary reduction of the great overall wealth in America as the definitive failure of capitalism, whereas 50 years of grinding poverty in Cuba do not reflect the failings of communism at all. And he doesn't know what America means in English, either. One of his stupidest criticisms of Goldberg is that he 'confuses America with the United States'. Serrano is also responsible for this organ, from which the image above, clearly a constructive and measured critique of Goldberg's articles, and not at all a venomous piece of juvenile anti-semitism, is taken.

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