The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Saturday, November 26, 2016


Upon learning that Fidel Castro had died, I was reminded of a decade old email exchange I had with a computer science professor at the Universidad de Matanzas in Cuba. He indicated that he had been in contact with colleagues in Central and South America, and understood that the Spanish-language edition of my book, Software Engineering: A Practitioner's Approach, was widely used in those places. He asked whether it might be possible to send him a comp copy of the book.

I indicated that normally review copies of any of my books were ordered through McGraw-Hill, but he responded by telling me that that wasn't possible in Cuba, and could I still send him a copy? Fortunately, I had a an extra copy of the Espanol edition in my office, so I mailed it to him. Two months later, he received it and sent me a 'thank you' email.

He told me that his many software engineering students would use that single copy as a reference and thanked me profusely for giving them the opportunity. I asked where his students worked once they got their degrees and whether there were any new business opportunities in Cuba.

"The government," he replied, "there are very few jobs outside government here." He indicated that his students often spent time in other countries where they worked in IT. He wrote that "their salaries are returned to the Cuban people."

At the time, I didn't fully understand what that meant, but later on I learned that Cuba supplied various Central and South American countries with skilled labor, confiscated a significant percentage of the salary paid to the Cuban workers for that skilled labor, and used the monies as a source of foreign currency.

The graduated software engineers received minimal pay, and the government took the rest. That was Fidel Castro's Cuba–The socialist paradise.

For fifty years, Fidel Castro has been a man revered by many on the Left. Castro's legend, much like his contemporary Che Geuvera, was a fairy tale version of a man and an anti-imperialist "revolution" that may have had the the best of intentions at the beginning, but ultimately destroyed and/or brutally silenced his opponents. It can be argued that in many ways, Castro's revolution destroyed the economy of an entire country.

The Wall Street Journal writes:
Mr. Castro pursued egalitarian ideals of free health care, housing and education, while outlawing free speech, jailing dissidents and banning fair elections. He played world politics with the skill of a grandmaster, but embraced an ideology that ultimately failed. He overthrew one dictator in 1959 only to become Latin America’s longest-ruling one, 49 years.

He sought to free Cuba of its dependence on sugar and make it a wealthy country, only to bankrupt the island and make it dependent first on the largess of the Soviet Union, and then of Venezuela. But Venezuela’s economic crisis has curtailed aid to Cuba.
The Castro fairy tale emphasizes "free medical care and education" to the people of Cuba. What it conveniently leaves out is the economic wreckage that any socialist/communist centralized government leaves in its wake. Healthy and educated people need a vital economy to prosper, and that's something that Castro's socialist government failed to give them. Sure, the software engineering students at Universidad de Matanzas got a "free" education, but they paid for it in ways that students in free countries with vibrant economies can't even imagine.

American and European leftists suggest that Cuba was unable to build a viable economy because of the U.S. trade embargo. But Fidel had ample opportunity to moderate his anti-U.S. stance and refused to do so. He also had ample opportunity to build viable trade relationships with South America and Europe, but his insistence on a centralized economy controlled by the elites with his cadre made that impossible. In fact, he reveled in his revolutionary posture while his people suffered.

Today, Cuba remains an economic basket case. Shortages—from basic foods stuffs to car parts to aspirin and prescription drugs—abound. Cuba's infrastructure is crumbling, business initiative is suppressed, and economic growth is non-existent. A repressive government stifles free speech and threatens any opposition.

In Miami, Cuban exiles celebrated in the streets after the announcement of Castro's death. They, better than anyone, can understand the manner in which Castro's ideas of a socialist utopia turned their country into a beggar-nation.

Fidel Castro was undoubtedly an historic figure, but he was not a man who made his people's lives any better. He was, however, still another example of why socialism often leads to repression and economic collapse, rather than triumph.


And this 'remembrance' from Carlos Eire:
One of the most brutal dictators in modern history has just died. Oddly enough, some will mourn his passing, and many an obituary will praise him. Millions of Cubans who have been waiting impatiently for this moment for more than half a century will simply ponder his crimes and recall the pain and suffering he caused.

Why this discrepancy? Because deceit was one of Fidel Castro’s greatest talents, and gullibility is one of the world’s greatest frailties. A genius at myth-making, Castro relied on the human thirst for myths and heroes. His lies were beautiful, and so appealing. According to Castro and to his propagandists, the so-called revolution was not about creating a repressive totalitarian state and securing his rule as an absolute monarch, but rather about eliminating illiteracy, poverty, racism, class differences and every other ill known to humankind. This bold lie became believable, thanks largely to Castro’s incessant boasting about free schools and medical care, which made his myth of the benevolent utopian revolution irresistible to many of the world’s poor.

Many intellectuals, journalists and educated people in the First World fell for this myth, too — though they would have been among the first to be jailed or killed by Castro in his own realm — and their assumptions acquired an intensity similar to that of religious convictions. Pointing out to such believers that Castro imprisoned, tortured and murdered thousands more of his own people than any other Latin American dictator was usually futile. His well-documented cruelty made little difference, even when acknowledged, for he was judged according to some aberrant ethical code that defied logic.
It seems that some on the Left regularly adopt an "aberrant ethical code that defie[s] logic." "Revolution" and "anti-imperialism" trump any possible transgressions committed by those who are "revolutionaries." It's okay to look the other way as long as murder, imprisonment, repression, and corruption are all committed to further the socialist revolution.