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February 28, 2008

Comments

kinglear

Yes - the uber-lefties are much more sanctimonious and arrogant about what is good for us. I would much prefer to be left to mess up my own life rather than be told, with a withering smile, what I am doing wrong

Scratch

Yo! Primo postage.

Spot on in every particular.

reason

Is Castro really a hero of the left? I can't help but feel that this is yet another straw man argument. There are plenty who question whether Castro is worse than say Bush. But surely, that is a question worth asking?

Tom P

If I read this right Harman was asked whether Castro was a dictator OR hero of the Left. I still think she very obviously gave the worst answer, but it's a pretty rubbish question.

You could answer that question to agree that Castro is a hero of the Left in general (unfortunately) even if you don't agree personally. So we could be misreading the answer as support for El Presidente when it might actually be a grudging acknowledgement that the Left loses its marbles when thinking about Cuba.

Who know...

Dan | thesamovar

I think the left is (perhaps too slowly) moving away from the idea of the centralised state version of socialism.

For my part, as someone firmly in the anarchist part of the left, I think there's a sympathy for Castro because there's a feeling that he's the least worst communist, and that without his revolution Cuba would have been in a much worse state now than otherwise (by comparison with other countries that were in a similar situation before the Cuban revolution). Very difficult to say whether that's true or not, but that's the feeling.

Personally, I really don't know at all. My inclination is to be somewhat sympathetic to Castro overall (while critical in many specifics), but to be very glad that he's going and hopeful that maybe now Cuba can really become democratic whilst retaining its socialism (such as it is). I could be convinced that this is just lefty romanticism about Cuba though.

Cleanthes

"If I read this right Harman was asked whether Castro was a dictator OR hero of the Left. I still think she very obviously gave the worst answer, but it's a pretty rubbish question."

Quite: being a dictator and a hero of the left are very distinctly not mutually exclusive.

ChrisA

The reason that leftists like totalitarism rather than freedom is that they proritise financial equality over freedom. A free society naturally is more inequal as equality can only be achieved through forced transfers of wealth from richer people to poorer ones.

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An unfree society is usually even less egalitarian than a free one, except in a highly specialised sense.

There may be more income equality, but it does not matter much. The powerful do not need money to get what they want.

Bur "egalitarians" concentrate on the least important form of inquality - money incomes - and ignore the inequality between the powerful and the powerless.

I suppose this is because, if they ruled the world, they would be the powerful.

Planeshift

"Quite: being a dictator and a hero of the left are very distinctly not mutually exclusive."

Being a dictator and a hero of the right are also not mutually exclusive. Pinochet anyone?

Terms like 'Left' and 'right' tell us nothing about attitudes to dictatorships as people on both wings are quite capable of supporting dictators.

Bishop Hill

Are there any dictators still supported by the right?

Planeshift

Well dictatorships in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia etc get substantial support. They'd probably argue that this isn't a matter of principle, but pragmatic realpolitic. But then Castro's supporters would also argue the same thing ("well it would be nice if Fidel was a democrat, but you have to understand the circumstances..." etc).

Paulie

"Are there any dictators still supported by the right?"

A very substantial slice of the right (significantly bigger than the left) are committed to 'realist' foregn policies - at odds with the more interventionist positions taken by sections of both the mainstream left and right. When the left do this, they call it 'anti-imperialism'.

Also, the libertarian right have such an objection to any application of 'the general will' that they would be incapable of consistancy if they decided to advocate any form of interventionism.

So the answer is, very clearly, 'yes'.

Bishop Hill

Paulie

Could you repeat that in English? I was after a name.

Jim

Thatcher.

*ducks*

Cleanthes

Ummm...

There's a lot of mud being flung and a number of things being conflated.

Most importantly there is "support for a dictator" as in realpolitic as discussed above and "treating said dictator as a hero"

Pinochet was a bastard. There are two things that we should note about that:
1. He was LESS of a bastard than the alternative.
2. That does not make him a hero.

Paulie, you want to duck the fact that, when asked to describe Castro either as a Dictator or a "Hero of the Left", a minister of the Crown chose the latter.

A hero, Paulie. Cuba can barely feed itself. That's heroic is it Paulie?


Planeshift,

"Well dictatorships in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia etc get substantial support. They'd probably argue that this isn't a matter of principle, but pragmatic realpolitic. But then Castro's supporters would also argue the same thing ("well it would be nice if Fidel was a democrat, but you have to understand the circumstances..." etc). "

If they'd argue that this isn't a matter of principle, but mere pragmatism, they wouldn't be describing the objects of their support as "heroes". They would be using the Kissingerian formula of "he may be a bastard, but he's our bastard".

Harman did not do so: she said "Hero of the Left". The Kissingerian approach would have yielded the answer "Dictator".

That is the crucial difference.

Scott Hughes

I would definitely say I support decentralization. As I see it, the problem with democracy and dictatorships is that they both aim to centralize power. The focus needs to be self-governance by decentralizing power and getting it down to the people and local communities as much as possible.

I think your distinction between the two lefts is a very important one.

Paulie

Cleanthes, nothing I've said here could lead you to the concluson that I'd agree with Harriet Harman on this. Chris linked to a post on my blog in this post that puts me on the opposite side of the argument to the one that you think I'm on.

Bishop Hill, there are plenty of dictators that 'realist' foreign policy advocates would leave alone, but that left-wing advocates of humanitarian intervention would seek to pressurise. I didn't list them, because it's the fastest way of getting into a pointless mud-slinging argument with other lefties.

A Mr Cohen has written a book about this, you may recall?

Scott, I'd suggest that there are ways that there are ways that liberal democracy *can* decentralise power without ceasing to be a liberal democracy. But you are left with the question of how democracy asserts itself in a world that has powerful players that are hostile to democracy.

If a decentralised democracy is unable to form coherent alliances with similar democracies, they are likely to be stuffed fairly quickly, aren't they?

The point I made earlier about The General Will - the reluctance of many libertarians to concede the notion of a Social Contract - makes the libertarian right an objective ally of anti-democratic forces everywhere.

Oddly enough, in years of reading a proliferation of self-styled 'libertarian' weblogs, I've never seen this point acknowledged or addressed.

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