Alex Massie

Cuba: The Last Refuge of Excuse-Making Scoundrels

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I suppose one ought not to be surprised that there remain some folk for whom the Cuban revolutionaries remain unblemished heroes. Equally, there is, alas, no great reason to be too astonished that the Guardian still publishes panegyrics saluting the brilliance and ineffable wisdom of Castro and Guevara. Nevertheless, Simon Reid-Henry's* article today may take the biscuit in terms of recent contributions to the genre:

After the war, what had begun as little more than an association of convenience developed into one of the most intriguing of all political partnerships. Their different working styles and approaches to revolution helped the Cuban leadership negotiate the hazardous switch from American to Soviet patronage. But from around 1963 they found themselves drawn along different lines by the fratricidal split within the socialist camp between the Soviets and the Chinese. Things came to a head in 1965. El Fifo (Castro) and el Che (Guevara) had a terrific slanging match after Che went too far in criticising the Soviet Union. Shortly thereafter Che left Cuba for good. The two could not quite bring themselves to part company, however, and the last two years of Che's life would see them working together – in defiance of the Soviets, and just about everyone else too – on their most quixotic adventure yet.

There is of course far more to the history of revolution in Latin America than the lives of these two men. But while the Cuban story resonates widely, and Castro and Che have become, as individuals, two of the most recognisable figures of the 20th century, the history of their actual relationship has always been kept obscure. More's the pity, for it casts a unique light upon the early years of the Cuban revolution, and offers fresh insight into the experience of a whole generation of young Latin Americans who felt that their often corrupt and backward-looking political systems did not offer them the means to address the pressing issues of their time. Now, 50 years later, we might do well to bear in mind the lessons of what they did and did not achieve by taking matters into their own hands.

Equally, it ought to be possible for sensible folk to decry the corruption of Latin American regimes without also celebrating the ghastly record of the ghastly thugs who have subsequently destroyed Cuba. This too is not a tricky or complex point...

*Mr Reid-Henry is, according to the Guardian, "a lecturer in the department of Georgraphy [sic], Queen Mary, University of London."

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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