Fidel Castro: Poster boy of revolution with fortune worth around $900m
The Left has been quick to eulogise Fidel Castro, a man who ruled Cuba with an iron fist for decades, writes Nelson McCausland
Fidel Castro was loved by Marxists around the world and by trendy Leftist students, who adorned their accommodation with large glossy posters of Castro and his fellow revolutionary, Che Guevara. Most other people viewed Castro as simply a brutal dictator who ruled Cuba with a rod of iron for 49 paranoid years.
Castro, Guevara and the revolutionary army took control of Cuba in January 1959 and ushered in decades of Marxist dictatorship. This was the era of the Cold War and tensions between Western democracies and Marxist dictatorships.
There was the infamous Bay of Pigs incident in April 1961 and the Cuban missile crisis in October 1962. It seemed that the world was teetering on the brink of nuclear war.
Fidel Castro died on November 25 at the age of 90, and his death has received a vast amount of coverage in the media. There has also been much analysis of the man and of his contradictions.
He was a Marxist and claimed that his main asset was a "fisherman's cottage", but the reality was very different. He was the son of a prosperous plantation owner who had a 25,000-acre estate and he was educated at a boarding school run by the Jesuits. The dictator lived in luxury. A decade ago, Forbes magazine estimated his personal net worth at $900m.
Reactions to his death have been varied, and across the British Isles the Left has been notable for its adulatory endorsements.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, a long-time supporter of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign, praised Castro's "revolutionary heroism" and described him as a "huge figure of modern history, national independence and 20th-century socialism".
Please log in or register with belfasttelegraph.co.uk for free access to this article.
Here in Northern Ireland, Sinn Fein, the Communist Party and a disparate array of Marxists and other Leftists have taken to the internet with eulogies and expressions of grief. Sinn Fein was generous in its praise, but that is hardly surprising, because Castro was a friend to, and advocate for, Irish republicanism.
The main Sinn Fein tribute came from Gerry Adams TD, who met Castro in December 1981, when he visited Havana to unveil a memorial to the IRA hunger strikers.
Earlier in the year, Castro had condemned the UK Government and compared its treatment of IRA hunger strikers to "the atrocities committed by the Inquisition during the apogee of the Middle Ages".
Cuba was also a place of sanctuary for some IRA members when they were obliged to go "on the run".
Niall Connolly, one of the notorious Colombia Three, lived for a time in Cuba, and the Cuban authorities claimed he was the Latin America representative for Sinn Fein.
After an initial denial by Sinn Fein, the party finally admitted that he had been working in Cuba as a part-time representative.
Michael D Higgins, president of the Irish Republic, said: "Fidel Castro will be remembered as a giant among global leaders, whose view was not only one of freedom for his people, but for all of the oppressed and excluded peoples on the planet."
Not surprisingly, these words were welcomed by the pro-Castro Cuba Support Group, who described him as "our guide to a better world".
The Communist Party of Ireland also eulogised Castro and praised the man who was responsible for so much brutality.
Of course, Communist Party support for Marxist dictatorships is nothing new. When the first civil rights march in Northern Ireland took place in August 1968, from Coalisland to Dungannon, it was chaired by Betty Sinclair, a veteran communist and a leader in the Civil Rights Association.
When she climbed onto the platform, some of the marchers turned on her and shouted "Czechoslovakia". The reason was that, on August 20, Russian troops had marched into Czechoslovakia to crack down on reformers. In the face of that assault on democracy, Betty Sinclair and other senior communists remained loyal to Moscow.
It said a lot about Sinclair's concern for civil rights in Czechoslovakia and it said a lot about the Communist Party. It also said something about the Civil Rights Association.