Infallible gods of anti-Americanism

When you buy a Utopian belief, you run out of currency for any further intellectual transactions. This is why when another Utopian idea is pitched, its cognitive price tag seems outrageously repulsive. And when you do realise that a different Utopian thought does have its merits, you eventually reject all belief-systems that claim infallibility.

The obituaries written for Fidel Castro, an illustrious vendor of one such quixotic project, underscore this point. Those eulogising the former Cuban president as a dogged revolutionary that refused to be bogged down by a capitalist goliath, seem be absolving him of the thousands of murders he was directly responsible for, or the multiple times more that died trying to flee his ‘paradise’. Similarly those categorising Castro as an unabashed tyrant seem to be completely discounting the almost miraculous achievements in education and healthcare.

While it’s rare to find influential state leaders without blood on their hands, it’s a more striking oddball to see a dictator being celebrated as a revolutionary by sections of the society otherwise claiming to be champions of liberty. And yet this oddity is the norm for the Left’s half a century old love-in with Castro.

Castro was no lone warrior, singlehandedly taking on American ruthlessness to shield his people. He was a cog – a pivotal one at that – in the Soviet-led eastern bloc, despite not having come out as a communist ideologue at the time when he was nudging Nikita Khrushchev to press the button for mutually assured destruction in 1962. Castro perhaps didn’t quite have Cuban welfare in mind then.

At a time when two rival imperialist ideas – capitalism and communism – were at loggerheads, the only way one can tout either as ‘resistance’ is if one adheres to one of the two ideologies. And when one unwaveringly aligns oneself with one side in a bipolar world where two Utopias contest for authority to define the world order, the fine line between support for one’s ideology and antagonism towards the representatives of the other is permanently erased. This is especially true when your side is at the losing end of what in effect was a wrestling contest disguised as a courtroom drama.

This enmity has reflected in many a Castro tribute over the past few days citing the US support for Batista regime – or the hundreds of failed CIA attempts to murder Castro – or Washington's Cuba embargo – or the general volatility created by American neocolonialism – to deflect attention from El Comandante’s many crimes. It’s almost as if one can’t condemn both at the same time.

The formal collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, led to the pro-communist bloc’s metamorphosis towards unadulterated anti-Americanism. This has further created gods out of anyone aligning themselves against the US.

In recent times this particular section of the Left has simultaneously allotted the ‘white man’ and the colonialism that his race ostensibly represents as the root of all global evil. Not only are the Arab, Ottoman, Qing or Mongolian dynasties, and the likes, completely absolved of their expansionism, the ‘white’ imperialist club doesn’t normally allot membership to the likes of Tsar Alexander II or Joseph Stalin – and it’s not because of the latter’s Georgian descent. And in Vladimir Putin they seem to have found the leader to back in the decisive battle against White supremacy.

The anti-Americanism and identity politics – an offshoot of the bursting of the communist Utopia– has resulted in sections of the Left taking the white man on a guilt trip as the individual responsible for global turmoil throughout the centuries. Voting for a megalomaniac like Donald Trump was their way of acknowledging their white (male) privilege.

One would have wondered why apologia reserved for communist autocratic regimes isn’t replicated for jihadist groups like al-Qaeda and Afghan Taliban founding their terror superstructures on anti-Americanism, if that weren’t already happening. It’s almost a ritual now to see echoes of accusations against the US or the West, whenever a native jihadist kills scores of his own people somewhere in the Muslim world. Little wonder then that Taliban love to cite Noam Chomsky, or that Osama Bin Laden urged his followers to read Robert Fisk more often than he asked them to read the Quran.

Maybe the only reason why the likes of Bin Laden or Abu Bakr al-Baghadi don’t quite get revolutionary status is because they have been, at one point or the other, funded by the US, and their groups had claimed responsibility for killing people outside the Muslim world as well. If he’d stuck to suppressing and killing his own people, maybe Bin Laden would’ve enjoyed flattering obituaries outside the Muslim world as well.

This is not to suggest that Castro wasn’t involved in misadventures abroad – the 50,000 troops he sent to Angola to quell the US-supported Unita insurgency against the Soviet-backed, Marxist-Leninist, ruling MPLA in the 80s is one such example. Except that El Jefe Maximo’s interventions in support of Soviet-backed socialist groups in Africa and Latin America were deemed ‘liberation movements’ – coincidentally the same labels that the US-led West presents for its interventionism.

Castro’s curtailment of freedom of thought and expression, his firing squads or extrajudicial killings, were neither exclusive to him and his ideological brethren, nor do they suffice in completely defining his contribution to Cuba and the world during the Cold War years. Those mourning his death in Havana, or Cubans celebrating it in Miami, are equally entitled to their emotions. But neither of these groups should be used to trample upon to the other in a bid to suit an ideological narrative, be it neoliberalism or anti-Americanism.

The world would undoubtedly be a better place if it weren’t spearheaded by the US – or anyone. But the way to go about ensuring that is to embrace universal standards for everyone, not to give a clean chit to anti-American tyrants or fixating with one group of people as bearing exhaustive responsibility for volatility around the world.

Kunwar Khuldune Shahid is a former member of staffHe can be reached at Follow him on Twitter

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