Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

Castro, Churchill, Manolo

Second day of thick frost; we have pretty much lost this entire month to illness. A shame, I enjoy November.

Friends on FB are still arguing  over Castro. I'm going to pick at the bones one more time, in lieu of finding Manolo's work. Not whether Castro was good or bad, because he seems to have been both, and I don't think one can excuse the other. But why is the fight over his virtue or lack of it so vicious?

It can't be because of all the people he has had killed, because from Obama to Churchill, there's blood on all hands. Is Churchill a hero? Ask anyone whose family recalls the Bengal famine. Genocide, murder, war-mongering... shall we total up the corpses? And we call him a hero because he was good for us,necessary for us at an  all-important point in our nation's history.  Our terms for victory were different to Castro's but they were still damned expensive for anyone Churchill deemed expendable.  Ah, we might argue, but at least Winnie didn't kill his own.  But of course, some commentators say he did just that, that Churchill let the city of Coventry being bombed flat so that the Germans wouldn't guess their code had been cracked (this argument has been strongly challenged: links to the debunking argument in comments). According to these, he sacrificed some for the good of the many, for the security of the country.  I know Coventrians who would accept that sacrifice, but I know just as many who resent the destruction of their city, and think that had the same equation demanded the fall of London, Winnie would have cast the rest of the country into the sea. Scottish history recalls Churchill sending tanks into Glasgow for the suppression of workers. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_George_Square
Winnie was a clever man, a witty man, the man of the hour, the needed man.  But he was not a good man.

Why then, are we so reluctant to apply the same judgement to Castro?

Is it because our government was on the side of Castro's enemies? Is it because the idea of a working communist government was such a threat to all these old oligarchies?  And yes, Manolo, I do hear, I do remember some of what you said. He did terrible things. He was a tyrant, and I understand why you hated him. But that's not why the West hates him, because the West buddies up with tyrants all the time. The West hates him because on his own terms, he won. They could not defeat him and they could not own him.

It doesn't mean he was undeserving of hatred.  But it does mean that the rich man with the megaphone may be no judge.


( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 30th, 2016 08:45 pm (UTC)
Not to defend Churchill, as I agree he did more than his share of shitty things, but he didn't let Coventry be bombed. That's been debunked: https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Coventry_Blitz#Coventry_and_Ultra
Dec. 1st, 2016 08:43 am (UTC)
Thanks for the link, Clive, it brings defense to the debate, which is always a good thing. I would say though that the defense of Churchill in this matter is at least as suspect as the assertion. Why would William Stephenson lie?

I will, however, add a caveat to the entry above, in the spirit of fair play.
Dec. 1st, 2016 09:54 am (UTC)
I don't know, although there's a world of difference between being mistaken and lying, obviously. The fuss did help sell his book though.

The conversations I've had with people at Bletchley Park are significantly less nuanced than that article. They're adamant Churchill didn't know, but they're hardly reference material ...

War is largely about the balance of harm. It's horrible, but (particularly at the time) a large part of it is choosing between which sets of your own people die. I also think there's a difference between choosing to let one group of people take the hit and being fine with it.

All of which are the sort of arguments I'd use to defend a number of people, Castro included, that people might attack. Other people might well use these arguments to defend people I wouldn't, such as Stalin. At the end of the day, I agree with one of the points of your post: nobody is pure goodness, all the people we consider "great" have made questionable decisions. Most? Many? All of? the people we consider "evil" have done good. It's not as black and white as we'd like to believe.
Dec. 1st, 2016 10:30 am (UTC)
That is very true. One of my personal heroines is Queen Elizabeth I; I always believed that the Babington plot might have been a stitch up by Walsingham to finally get her to sign Mary's death warrant. What I did not know is that having signed it, she then attempted to get Mary's jailor to 'shorten her life,' so that the execution didn't happen, it being a precedent she hardly wished to set. The telling of it is here:


What is important to my mind, is that the jailor could refuse, according to 'God and the law.' That, to me, is a sign of a political landscape developing in health and conscience. There's humanity in the self-protecting abuse of power, but also in the ability to stand and say, 'I cannot and will not do that.' As you say, no black and white.

I hear what you say about the difference between choosing to let a group of people take the hit and being fine with it, and will amend my post accordingly.
Dec. 1st, 2016 10:31 am (UTC)
We don't know, he might have been fine with it. You don't need to keep editing your post :-)
Dec. 1st, 2016 12:33 pm (UTC)
I like to be as even -handed as is possible. I wouldn't do it if I didn't think the changes were appropriate!
Dec. 1st, 2016 10:38 am (UTC)
I think it is all about the aspects of humanity we choose to develop. Humans are not heroes. But they can be if they want.

The trouble comes when heroism defaults to meaning 'What I want to do.'
Dec. 1st, 2016 01:46 am (UTC)
You'd have to dig deeply into the American political psyche and the US's sense of ownership re: Cuba to find a proper answer to that. I don't know how the average Canadian (uninfluenced by US corporate media) feels about Castro but Canada has always had a normal relationship with Cuba. As a country we've disapproved of American policy. Trudeau shouldn't have allowed himself to be shamed into not going to the funeral.
Dec. 1st, 2016 08:45 am (UTC)
Yes, I am surprised at that. But I don't know the extent to which US-Canada trade relations could be affected by a perceived snub from him?
Dec. 1st, 2016 08:56 am (UTC)
Perhaps Justin could have expressed himself differently but as Castro was a pallbearer at Pierre's funeral, going to Cuba would have been the decent thing to do. As for our trade relations - they're fraught anyway.
Dec. 1st, 2016 09:47 am (UTC)
Ah well, decency... now there's an old idea.
Dec. 1st, 2016 10:11 am (UTC)
I was brought up that way. I know no other.
Dec. 1st, 2016 10:38 am (UTC)
Me too. Feeling like a fish out of water now.
Dec. 1st, 2016 10:43 am (UTC)
I've always been a fish out of water. What amuses me is that it hasn't always been for the same reasons. Whichever way the tide turns I find myself swimming against it. Heigh ho.
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )



Latest Month

April 2017


Powered by LiveJournal.com