10269360_10154927389390118_5539080808494383588_nKenneth Fleming praises our democracy which allows a Scottish Parliament motion to lionise Fidel Castro, but condemns the fact that the motion fails even to acknowledge, let alone admonish, any of his wrongdoings.

 

There is a notion that filters through parts of the left, and sadly parts of our party, that if a government provides jobs, education and healthcare then all bets are off. This is what is important. This is what really matters.

‘Freedom of expression is the preserve of an effete and elitist middle class who have never known hardship’ seems to be the argument, and variations of this have been on garish display during the week since the death of Fidel Castro.

What a small view that is. What a diminished idea of what it is to be a human being. Indeed, ironically, what a patronising view this is of working people. Free expression isn’t the preserve of the privileged; it is the right of all people. Working people like to read books, enjoy films and travel abroad. Working people like to read information from a wide and free range of sources. Working people like to live in free and open societies as well.

The compassion and empathy for other human beings that is the bedrock of all decent left wing political projects does not mean that we get to decide what is best for other human beings. Everyone gets to decide for themselves. Everyone. They are called universal human rights for a reason. The clue is in the name. The provision of basic socio-economic needs is not a get out of jail free card for left leaning dictators.

There is, sadly, no recognition of this in a motion submitted by Elaine Smith MSP to the Scottish Parliament this week.

I have no interest in historical assessments of Castro that are crudely etched in black and white. His actions should be viewed through a prism appropriate to his time, and with recognition of the geopolitics at play. I can understand why there are those in our party who would wish to celebrate aspects of his leadership. I can understand up to a point.

Yet the motion submitted by Elaine Smith MSP contains no caveats, no reservations, no limitations. This I cannot understand, and I cannot accept.

Fidel Castro suppressed a free media. He suppressed trade unions and he suppressed democracy. He treated the LGBT community with a brutality that would make Gov Mike Pence wince. This is who he was. The caveats and the reservations are written into history.

I hope Elaine Smith, and those who signed this motion, can look into the eyes of our LGBT brothers and sisters in the Labour movement, and say why they were happy to lionise him this way. If you want to celebrate Castro, do so properly and fairly, do it in nuanced shades of grey, not with an absurdly contrived eulogy. At least extend them the courtesy of the briefest acknowledgement of all his flaws.

In the end, Elaine Smith MSP is free to put down this motion and communicate her views however she sees fit. She is after all, an elected Labour parliamentarian in a free and open society. If only everyone, everywhere, was able to do the same. Another world is possible, indeed.