Of all the methods by which a dictator can inflict misery on his people, boring them is one of the most insidious. Fidel Castro executed political opponents and sent homosexuals off to ‘remedial’ camps, but all those who stayed silent and kept in line still had to suffer through his interminable pronouncements, in which a great deal was uttered but rarely was anything meaningful said.
All dictators love the sound of their own voice, and often compound that failing by deluding themselves into thinking other people will too. But for the luckless people of Cuba, as the drivel gushed from the ogre’s lips, trying to stay awake was the least of their worries.
Young western left-wingers of the 60s generation looked to Castro in the hope that he would build the first functioning Marxist-Leninist state, as even then it was becoming clear the failings of the Soviet regime had become insurmountable. Some relics of this era, such as the leader of the British Labour Party, for instance, still like to believe that Castro made a genuine attempt to build an anti-capitalist ‘alternative’ that did not have to resort to violence in order to implement its policies.
Those with more common sense, however, soon saw that Castro’s Cuba was no improvement on the Evil Empire, as it continued the Soviet-style terror while failing to provide the change that was needed. As usual, the people got nothing.
After the long-overdue normalisation of relations between the United States and Cuba in 2015, there were some who speculated that the island could become the fifty-first state of the union. This is still unlikely, but if it is going to happen then it can only have come many, many decades too late.
Being part of the United States would have spared Cuba from being a semi-colony of its massive neighbour for so long, a contemptible state of affairs which culminated in the regime of Fulgencio Bastita. When Bastita’s tyranny fell to Castro’s revolutionaries in 1959, the island’s status flipped from being a semi-colony of the States to a client state of the Soviets. Hardly an improvement.
And to think, it was the antics of this little island, just ninety miles of the coast of Florida, which brought the world closer than ever before or since to what is politely called a nuclear ‘exchange.’
Another key player in the 1962 crisis over the missiles, President Kennedy, harboured a well-known desperation to kill the irritating Castro, but despite the CIA’s best efforts (which included a plan involving an exploding cigar), Cuba’s most famous man outlived all his opponents, as well as the Soviet Union itself.
In this case, however, the achievement of longevity is a hollow one. Cuba is still recovering from the way in which it was frozen in time when Castro came to power, the island’s many 50s cars being the most symbolic demonstration of how the country is still waiting for change that will never arrive.
Looking back over the life of Fidel Castro, a man who feigned anti-capitalism but who sported Rolex watches and Nike tracksuits, it seems clear he never intended to deliver on the promises he made. His wish to be in power for its own sake was fulfilled, but people suffered through much more than just tedium as a result.
He was no icon. He was no hero of freedom. He was no bringer of change. He was a totemic old dullard, and anyone who thinks otherwise should try doing what he evidently could not, and take a long, hard look at themselves.
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