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Conservative Review FDR's Young Admirer

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                   March 7, 2008

FDR's Young Admirer
By George Will

WASHINGTON -- The letter from a 12-year-old to "my good 
friend Roosvelt" is dated Nov. 6, 1940, one day after FDR 
won a third term. Saying he is "very happy" FDR won, he 
adds: "If you like, give me a ten dollars bill green 
american." The letter, an enlarged copy of which is on 
display in the National Archives, ends: "Good by. Your 
friend, Fidel Castro."

Young Castro with his hand out prefigured his role in 
political history. Until its spell was broken, Marxism 
mesmerized millions by promising to solve mankind's 
economic problem -- abundance without the alienation 
caused by work, the French word for which is travail. 
Instead, Castro created mendicant Marxism, making Cuba 
dependent on huge subventions from the Soviet Union, 
which paid eight times the market price for sugar, and 
in the process purchased young Cuban men to fight in 
various "wars of liberation." When Russia withdrew its 
aid, Cuba's economy quickly shrank 35 percent, more 
than the U.S. economy contracted (26.5 percent) in the 
Depression. Cuba under communism had to import sugar. 
Today, Hugo Chavez's Venezuela provides $4 billion of 
oil to a Cuba with a GDP of $45 billion. 

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The departure, if such it really is, of Castro, the weird 
uncle in the island's attic, cures nothing. Cuba's 
affliction remains: It is Castroism, which is communism 
colored by Bonapartism. Communism of any stripe is 
afflicted by terminal ignorance. Having no market, which 
is an information-generating mechanism, communism cannot 
know what things should cost.

Hence communism's amazing contribution to humanity's 
economic history is "value-subtraction" -- products worth 
less than the materials that go into them. That result 
is seriously inconvenient for Marxism's labor theory of 
value -- the theory that labor adds all value to the 
world's materials.

Castro's career, although calamitous for Cubans, has 
provided entertaining farce through its effect on Western 
political pilgrims seeking leftist saviors. Joseph Goebbels 
called the Nazi regime "ennobled democracy," the Dominican 
dictator Rafael Trujillo called his "neo-democracy." In 
1960, the second of Castro's 49 years as warden of Cuba 
as prison, Jean-Paul Sartre, existentialist and Stalinist, 
published an enraptured book about Castro's democracy. 
Sartre marveled at what he called Castro's "direct 
democracy" as demonstrated when, at a roadside stand, 
Castro and Sartre were served warm lemonade. 

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Castro got hot. The tepid drink, he said, "reveals a lack 
of revolutionary consciousness." The waitress, Sartre 
reported, shrugged and said the refrigerator was broken. 
Castro "growled" (Sartre's approving description), "Tell 
your people in charge that if they don't take care of their 
problems, they will have problems with me." Sartre, deeply 
stirred, wrote:

"This was the first time I understood -- still quite 
vaguely -- what I called 'direct democracy.' Between the 
waitress and Castro, an immediate secret understanding 
was established. She let it be seen by her tone, her 
smiles, by a shrug of her shoulders, that she was without 

Norman Mailer, the novelist, and Oliver Stone, embodiment 
of Hollywood progressives in heat, had illusions galore. 
In 1960, when Castro came to Manhattan, Mailer, banal even 
when in ecstasy, wrote of white horses: "One felt life in 
one's cold overargued blood. ... It was as if the ghost of 
Cortes had appeared in our century riding Zapata's white 
horse." Just a few years ago, Stone, a slow learner, advised: 
"We should look to (Castro) as one of the Earth's wisest 

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In the wise man's prisons -- according to Armando 
Valladares' memoir of 22 years in them ("Against All Hope") 
-- some doors are welded shut and prisoners are fed watery 
soup sometimes laced with glass, or dead rats, or half a 
cow's intestine, rectum included, containing feces. In 
2003, the wise man's pulverizing police state, always 
struggling to reduce Cuba's civil society to a dust of 
individuals, sentenced 78 democracy advocates, after one-
day secret trials, to sentences of up to 28 years in those 
prisons. Pilgrims praising Cuban health care call to mind 
Pat Moynihan's acerbic observation that when travel to 
China was liberalized, many visitors seemed more impressed 
by the absence of flies than by the absence of freedom.

Castro has ruled Cuba during 10 U.S. presidencies and 
longer than the Soviet Union ruled Eastern Europe. The 
Economist has called him "a Caribbean King Lear." Raging 
on his island heath, with nothing to celebrate except his 
endurance, his creativity has come down to this: He has 
added a category to the taxonomy of world regimes -- 
government by costume party. Useful at last, the Comandante, 
dressed for success in his military fatigues, presides 
over a museum of Marxism. 

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