I knew Cuban refugees when I was a little kid. Not refugees from Castro’s Cuba but refugees from Battista’s. The youngsters thought Castro was about the greatest thing ever. Understand that this was when I six, seven years old. People came to different conclusions about Fidel Castro over the next few years; my family, however, had moved to Ohio and I was no longer among the Cubans of Florida. At that age, it was an out of sight, out of mind situation.
I shall not judge Castro. He was something with which I am uncomfortable, I shall admit, a ‘true believer.’ Those sort of people do a great deal of wrong in the name of doing good. Yet, there was good in the programs of his socialist government. Castro did not rob the Cuban people as had his predecessors.
But he jailed them, silenced them, executed some (though there were not the bloodbaths we saw under other regimes). Some of that was no doubt a response to the hostility from his near neighbor, our own United States. Having a super-power committed to deposing one would make one a bit paranoid, I should think.
In all, Castro was another Latin American dictator and better than most of those. Forget the ideology — look to the results. The very fact that he held onto power so long suggests that the Cuban people largely approved of his government. Life was improved for the majority, maybe despite the imposition of socialism.
Socialism — I have mixed feelings about ‘true’ socialism (i.e. government ownership of the means of production). Not so much because of any ideas about private versus public ownership but because it will inevitably lead to abuses of power when imposed from the top. It’s the whole ‘big is bad’ thing. I do not mind common ownership on local levels, such as the greens that were once found throughout England, open to everyone to graze their animals, but were enclosed by the wealthy (especially during the Tudor reigns) as the feudal/manorial system gave way to early capitalism.
Leninist/Marxist socialism (which is way more Leninist than Marxist) is top-down socialism, controlled by the centralized state. Economic power equals political power in all societies everywhere and any time, and so the central bureaucracy wields concentrated power. It is accountable to no one.
We have already seen the socialist state of Fidel Castro move away from a stricter Marxism (and Cuba was never fertile ground for totalitarian concepts). That is undoubtedly a good thing as long as it doesn’t go too far the other way — we don’t want the corrupt crony-capitalism of an earlier day to return!
So rest in peace, Fidel Castro. You did wrong and you did right, as do all of us. We shall have to see how it plays out now.