Castro’s death not only provides communism’s coda but its perfect metaphor. The world’s governments are turning mental contortions over how to respond to the passing of Cuba’s dictator for half a century. Untroubled by protocol concerns, the rest of the world can simply recognize the obvious: Castro is taking communism to the grave with him.
Apparently, they were finally able to get Hell hot enough to properly receive Fidel Castro. On Nov. 25, after subjecting the Cuban people to decades of abuse and privation, Castro finally released it from his grip.
During his life, Castro flattered himself as embodying Cuba; instead, he embodied the communism that enslaved it. He always sported the revolutionary fatigues of his youth. His image, as an aging man in a young man’s clothes, contrasted a romanticized past with a reality that fell farther and farther from it.
Castro’s appearance also juxtaposed with Alberto Korda’s famous 1960 picture that forever froze in time his comrade Che Guevara. Castro and communism’s unhappy fate were not to be frozen in time but to fall increasingly behind it.
It seems that picture of Che has always been before us. It hangs in every counterculture venue. For the unthinking, it serves as an icon. In fact, it is a condemnation. While taken of Che, the subject is really communism’s myth. The picture captures both Che and communism in their heyday, the 1960s. Then communism was all the rage. With its brutality securely locked behind Iron and Bamboo curtains, it revealed only its myth.
Like the picture of Che, communism posed with the faraway look of a visionary. It saw the future… no, it was the future. In its eyes, capitalism saw, and was, only the past. As Khrushchev had promised: “Whether you like it or not, history is on our side. We will bury you!”
Everywhere communism was on the march. The less the economic development, the better were its prospects, making it particularly powerful in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. In contrast to its theoretician — Marx, who saw communism as the culmination of development — communism took root where development was absent. It flourished in misery.
But while the picture of Che was communism’s preferred symbol, Castro was its unavoidable substance.
Unlike Che’s picture and communism’s myth, Castro and communism’s reality aged perceptibly. Like Castro, communism lost its youthful vigor. It jailed and tortured. In its less violent manifestations, it simply trapped and abused Cuba’s citizens and warped its economy. Before long, it required the care of others. The now-defunct USSR and, more recently, the near-defunct socialist Venezuela have been its caregivers.
Formerly, only communism’s citizens sought to escape it. Now its leaders seek to. Even China’s communist leaders have jettisoned much of its trappings in search of a peace with capitalism that will allow it to supply the growth needed for them to retain control.
Like the last of a species on the way to extinction, Castro lived through it all. As dictator after dictator fell, and as country after country dropped from communism’s rolls, Castro remained and held Cuba in place.
Castro saw communism go from mainstream, to museum, and now, to mausoleum. And he had no small part in its descent.
Castro’s Cuba was, has been, and is an abject failure. Among the long list of communism’s failed attempts, it provided no respite — no counter example to make anyone pause and seek to re-evaluate the overwhelming and damning verdict. Castro’s real legacy is that he simply kept at failure longer than almost anyone else.
Granted, Cuba still stays on communism’s list. Nepotism bows to no ideology, so Fidel’s brother — Raul, who assumed the reins when Fidel relinquished official power in 2008 — continues his dismal record. However, today’s list of communist countries is paltry — Cuba, North Korea, and honorary member Venezuela. All tarnished, rusted remnants of what not to do.
It is fitting that Castro’s funeral will be as relatively long as his hold on Cuba was. Sadly, too, it will proceed as slowly as Cuba did under his rule. Although Castro died on Nov. 25, his funeral procession extended from Nov. 29 to Dec. 3, as Fidel’s remains travel 900 kilometers across the island. Not until Dec. 4 will Castro’s ashes be finally interred.
As the world bids its long farewell, there should be no more mourning for Fidel Castro than there is for communism. Only those lamenting the latter’s end should regret that of the former. Castro’s death is hopefully the first step in further shortening the already short list of communist countries – and in bringing Cuba into the 21st century. For Fidel and communism, let us then not say goodbye, just good riddance.