28 July 2010

On the Che Guevara Information Super-Highway* with a Castroist Councillor

I really do try not to get too drawn in to circular debates in the comments sections of other people's blogs. No. Really. I do. But the peculiar obsession with Cuba held by the more Jurassic elements of What We Used To Call The Left (WWUTCTL) holds a particular curiosity for me as it led to one of the livelier Labour Party branch meetings I've ever been to.

The problem began when the Secretary tearfully described the joy he had felt at seeing the expression of wonder and gratitude on a Cuban child's face at being handed a state-funded textbook that was going to help her learn to read - an occurrence that was apparently unique to Cuban communism. When I asked if, once she had learnt to read, whether she would be allowed to read whatever she wanted, I was told that I was a sucker for American propaganda. As I was for pointing out the inconvenient truth about the island's human rights record.

One of my older comrades, for reasons that remained unclear, was especially proud that drugs traffikers got executed in Cuba. She then said that she wished she lived in Cuba. I said I was glad that I did not. At which point I was told that I had no right to comment at all, as I had never been to Cuba. Of course, this hastily introduced Rule Of Not Self-Righteously Ponitificating On Countries For Which We've Not Got The Passport Stamp did not apply to them and their international bogeymen in the Middle East and other parts of the world whose timezones remained as familiar as the moon's.

So a couple of weeks ago, I was grateful for the opportunity afforded by Councillor Terry Kelly to revisit the debate when he excitedly posted on his blog about how Fidel Castro isn't dead yet.

In response to which, I posted in the comments section, challenging the view of Cuba as a collective, progressive paradise. I was being awkward, true. Just because Cuba ranks 179 out of 194 in the UN Human Development Index for hosting an immigrant population doesn't necessarily mean that nobody really wants to live there. And maybe the 2.5 million tourists in 2009 really did go for the immersive revolutionary experience, rather than the sun, salsa, ropa vieja and mojitos before getting on the plane home.

Councillor Kelly then explained that any imperfections in Cuba's economy, society and legal system are due to the over-arching need to "defend the revolution".

Which, if you view the world through a Marxist-Leninist prism, is internally logical. But for the rest of us, it's just more of the moral relativism that infects WWUTCTL. You can roll out the "defence of the revolution defence", if you like. But you can't then claim to be universalist, internationalist or really all that socialist.

*#1 in a series of ongoing attempts to get a title, lyric or reference thereof from every Billy Bragg song into the post titles.

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