Flatiron Hot! Pundit: Unqualified Praise of Castro Undermines the Credibility of the Progressive Left
- Eric Shapiro
- On November 27, 2016
The unqualified praise of Fidel Castro from some on the left risks undermining our moral authority (not to mention ideological consistency) at the worst possible moment. Fidel Castro, a repressive totalitarian dictator, habitually violated basic liberal and democratic principles to stay in power, at tremendous cost to the Cuban people in blood, treasure and freedom. It is one thing to recognize Castro’s place in history as a revolutionary icon who inspired many on the left to oppose imperialism; it is quite another to overlook the man’s atrocities and glorify him as a hero. Yet, a vocal minority on the left, including high-profile public figures like Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein, have had some kind words for Fidel.
It is especially ironic for leftists to praise Castro, a blatantly anti-democratic demagogue, even as they condemn Trump for his anti-democratic, demagogic behavior. Are Fidel Castro’s abuses forgivable just because he is a left-wing figure? Are Trump’s reprehensible words–it remains to be seen whether he will translate them into action – worse than the affronts against human rights and dignity that Castro actually perpetrated?
To be sure, Fidel Castro articulated a revolutionary message and enacted some policies favored by leftists, notably providing universal healthcare for the Cuban people. He also caused immeasurable human suffering through repressive governance that no progressive could support. He imprisoned countless Cubans without trial for speaking out against him and executed dissenters via firing squad. And for what? Castro did not even achieve ends that any honest person could claim justified the means, leaving Cuba mired in poverty all so he could say he stood up to America.
The left’s praise for a Castro, a man that embodies everything we claim to stand against, represents the worst kind of moral relativism, the misguided thinking that led some to praise Joseph Stalin even as he murdered millions of innocent people. On the subject of Russia, how can the left criticize Trump and the alt-right for praising the authoritarian Vladimir Putin, like Castro an authoritarian leader with no regard for human rights?
The answer is we can’t, at least not with any credibility. As leftists, democratic socialists, liberals, progressives – whatever we choose to call ourselves – we should live up to our own best principles. We should hold leaders and governments accountable for their actions regardless of whether we agree with their ideology. We should apply the same moral standards to all regimes, be they of the left or of the right. If anything, we should hold those claiming to act in accordance with our ideology to an even higher standard. Otherwise, we are as amoral as the conservatives who praise Putin and voted for Trump.
Reprinted by Special Arrangement and with the permission of Just Off Kilter Blog.
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