Thursday, February 28, 2008

Paul Holmes praises Castro

Tim Worstall reprints the text of a Commons Early Day Motion in praise of Fidel Castro and the list of its signatories. I had a glance at the list to see which Labour dinosaurs had signed it, only to find an unexpected name among them: Paul Holmes, the Lib Dem MP for Chesterfield.

To be as fair as possible, the second half of the motion is unexceptionable. It welcomes the EU statement that constructive engagement with Cuba is the most responsible course of action. In fact, it was probably the US blockade that kept Castrol in power for so long. And an orderly transition to democracy must be preferable to a US-backed coup.

But it's the first half:
That this House commends the achievements of Fidel Castro in securing first-class free healthcare and education provision for the people of Cuba despite the 44 year illegal US embargo of the Cuban economy; notes the great strides Cuba has taken during this period in many fields such as biotechnology and sport in both of which Cuba is a world leader; acknowledges the esteem in which Castro is held by the people and leaders of Africa, Asia and Latin America for leading the calls for emancipation of the world’s poorest people from slavery, hunger and the denial of human rights such as the right to life, the right to shelter, the right to healthcare and basic medicines and the right to education.
How can a Liberal put his name to something that makes no mention of Castro's repression of his people or of Cuba's lack of democracy? It's like a Liberal in the 1930s signing a motion praising Mussolini for his management of the Italian railways.

The people who sign motions like this one believe that a lack of democracy can be compensated for by prosperity (not that Cuba is all that prosperous) or good public services.

Paul should read the words of Bryan Mageee, writing about Karl Popper in his Confessions of a Philosopher:
Before Popper it was believed by almost everyone that democracy was bound to be inefficient and slow, even if to be preferred in spite of that because of the advantages of freedom and the other moral benefits; and the most efficient government in theory would be some form of enlightened dictatorship.
Popper showed that this is not so; and he provides us with an altogether new and deeper understanding of how it comes about that most of the materially successful societies in the world are liberal democracies.
It is not - as, again, had been believed by most people before - because their prosperity has enabled them to afford that costly luxury called democracy; it is because democracy has played a crucial role in raising them out of a situation in which most of their members were poor, which had been the case in almost all of them when democracy began.
Now read Danny Finkelstein's Top ten reasons why Castro isn't a hero of the left.


Bernard Salmon said...

I agree - Paul Holmes's judgement is normally pretty sound, but on this occasion I think he has got it wrong. The early day motion was mentioned in passing on tonight's Question Time and Dimblebore said that 1 Lib Dem had signed it. I wondered who could have been stupid enough and I'm quite surprised to find it was Paul.

Kay Abella said...

The Commons motion says that Castro championed human rights, right to life, shelter, education, etc. But it doesn't mention that Castro has denied Cubans the most fundamental right - the right to Freedom. The Cuabans have no freedom to decide where to work, where to live, what to read or hear, no right to travel, and most important, no right to criticize their government or say what they think. Kay Abella, author of Fighting Castro: A Love Story.