Did Castro hold back Cuba?

Cuban sign reading: 'To fight against the impossible and win.'

Alongside his depiction as a “brutal dictator”, negative reflections on Fidel Castro since his death on November 25 have focused on his “mismanagement” of the Cuban economy and the consequent “extremes of poverty” suffered by ordinary Cubans. This caricature is problematic – not only because it ignores the devastating economic impact of the United States embargo over 55 years, but also because it is premised on neoclassical economic assumptions. This means that by stressing economic policy over economic restraints, critics can shift responsibility for Cuba’s alleged poverty on to Castro without implicating successive US administrations that have imposed the suffocating … Continue reading

Spoiler Warning: Jill Stein owes Hillary Clinton nothing

Jill Stein at Occupy Wall Street in 2011.

Many people are looking for someone to blame after Donald Trump won. The Clintons and the Democrats have little time for self-criticism or responsibility. The establishment is still licking its wounds, even as it swallows the Trump victory. The perfect image of this is the now famous photo of Mitt Romney grimacing at a dinner with the President-elect. It looks like a nightmarish scene right out of Twin Peaks. The Republicans have no room for a scapegoat, as they threw everything at Trump and he still won. Now they have to accept it. Meanwhile a lot of liberals are blaming Jill Stein for 2016, … Continue reading

How Fidel Castro helped end Apartheid

Fidel Castro addressing a crowd in Havana, circa 1978.

Many people see the death of Fidel Castro as the end of an era. Yet the Castroite legacy is alive in one form. Cuba has played a key role lending support to national liberation movements around the world. One major site of struggle during this period was Southern Africa. There the Cuban leader backed the ANC to the hilt when Nelson Mandela was widely regarded as a ‘terrorist’. Castro opposed European colonialism and fostered ties with independence leaders. This was not simply tactical, it was a part of an emancipatory process. Contrary to popular misconceptions, the Cuban revolution was really … Continue reading

Fidel the Saviour, Castro the Monster

Fidel Castro visits Washington, DC shortly after seizing power in 1959.

As a historical figure, Fidel Castro presents some juicy conundrums: justice and injustice, revolution and state power, citizens’ rights and state authority, artistic freedom and restriction, high literacy rates and censorship, communist economics and private enterprise, socialism and tourism. The news of his death at the age of 90 brings many of these thorny questions to mind. And there are many anecdotes to illustrate them. I would like to draw on one in particular – the case of Jean-Paul Sartre and his observations of the Cuban leader as they toured Cuba in the back of Castro’s car in the spring … Continue reading

The Populist Zeitgeist

duterte-the-punisher

Across the Atlantic, Donald Trump is about to stomp into the White House and slap his surname onto the front of the place. Trump has been elected on a platform to end free trade, seal the border with Mexico and get tough on Muslims at home. Far from fascism, Trump stands for the same all-American nativism going back to the Know Nothing movement. Trump is the Platonic form of the sinister buffoon. He is Silvio Berlusconi, Nigel Farage and Louis Bonaparte, fused into one and timesed by several billion dollars. The Donald is the idol of all populist charlatans. A … Continue reading

Worried About lies and Fake News? Start with the Mainstream Media

A week on from the earthquake of Donald Trump’s election victory attention is being drawn to the influence of “fake news” on social media amid speculation that stories such as Pope Francis endorsing the Republican candidate or opponent Hillary Clinton murdering an FBI agent might have influenced the result. Both Google and Facebook  bosses have had to make public statements on how they are tackling the phenomena and play down the influence such stories might have had on the outcome of the election. Meanwhile Trump himself has been reining in on some of his pre-election pledges, notably the building of … Continue reading