UK Politics

Corbyn, Trudeau and Juncker lead tributes to Castro

Corbyn's statement on the death of one of his heroes is worth dissecting, for it is a classic of the genre

BY Iain Martin | iainmartin1   /  26 November 2016

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has paid tribute to Fidel Castro, the finally dead brutal dictator who electrocuted opponents, imprisoned gays, banned free speech, impoverished Cuba and was so astonishingly popular he never needed to hold anything as troublesome as a free and fair election. Corbyn’s statement on the death of one of his heroes is worth dissecting, for it is a classic of the genre.

“Fidel Castro’s death marks the passing of a huge figure of modern history, national independence and 20th century socialism.”

Pretty neutral opening there. Castro was incontestably a huge figure. So were Hitler and Stalin. From there, Corbyn is quickly on to Castro’s “achievements.”

“From building a world class health and education system, to Cuba’s record of international solidarity abroad, Castro’s achievements were many.”

Hold on, Castro’s achievements were many? No they were not. The myth of the world class Cuban health system has been debunked so often it is extraordinary that anyone could even think it is credible to push the idea again. Castro developed a three tier health system, with a shiny tier for foreign health tourists, a middle tier for the party and a third tier – crumbling, woefully inadequate – for everyone else. A world class Cuban education system? Who praises an education system in which opposition to free thought and free speech are embedded?

And then, here comes Corbyn’s one mention of any problems…

“For all his flaws, Castro’s support for Angola played a crucial role in bringing an end to Apartheid in South Africa and he will be remembered both as an internationalist and a champion of social justice.”

For all his flaws… just slipped in there quickly. For all his flaws… none of which Corbyn has room to mention. For all his flaws… that’ll be the locking up opponents, torturing critics, not holding free elections, and so on.

Corbyn’s ally Ken – Hitler was a Zionist – Livingstone, was even less restrained in praising Castro on Radio 4 this morning.

Put to one side what any middle ground voter wanting a proper mainstream opposition in the UK is to make of the student political wittering of the leader of the Labour party and his friends. Forget electoral calculation, or diplomatic form, and ponder the moral implications. The Labour leader is a fan of a dictator and ignores the evidence of his brutality, in order to praise non-existent achievements which fit with his antiquated Marxist mindset.

The tributes are not restricted to the left-wing of the Labour party. Justin Trudeau, the Canadian Prime Minister, is at it too. It has long been suspected that Trudeau is not the sharpest tool in the box, but even so, his statement is quite something:

“It is with deep sorrow that I learned today of the death of Cuba’s longest serving President. Fidel Castro was a larger than life leader who served his people for almost half a century. A legendary revolutionary and orator, Mr. Castro made significant improvements to the education and healthcare of his island nation. While a controversial figure, both Mr. Castro’s supporters and detractors recognized his tremendous dedication and love for the Cuban people who had a deep and lasting affection for “el Comandante”. I know my father was very proud to call him a friend and I had the opportunity to meet Fidel when my father passed away. It was also a real honour to meet his three sons and his brother President Raúl Castro during my recent visit to Cuba. On behalf of all Canadians, Sophie and I offer our deepest condolences to the family, friends and many, many supporters of Mr. Castro. We join the people of Cuba today in mourning the loss of this remarkable leader.”

And Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the EU Commission, has joined in with condolences for the passing of the ghastly Castro:

“Fidel Castro was one of the historic figures of the past century and the embodiment of the Cuban Revolution. With the death of Fidel Castro, the world has lost a man who was a hero for many. He changed the course of his country and his influence reached far beyond. Fidel Castro remains one of the revolutionary figures of the 20th century. His legacy will be judged by history. I convey my condolences to the Cuban President Raúl Castro and his family and to the people of Cuba.”