Andre Gide’s guide to the language of the Left.
In the tsunami of hagiography following the death of Fidel Castro, one of the more fatuous statements came from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, son of pro-Castro Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.
Trudeau fils described Fidel Castro as a “remarkable leader” who “made significant improvements to the education and healthcare of his island nation,” and seemed surprised that anybody could think otherwise. When later pressed whether this remarkable Cuban leader was indeed a dictator he tersely replied “yes.”
That recalls an observation from French writer Andre Gide, author of The Immoralist, and winner of the Nobel Prize for literature in 1947. The friends of the Soviet Union, Gide wrote in The God That Failed, the 1949 anti-Communist classic, refused to see anything bad there, “so it happens that truth is spoken with hatred and falsehood with love.”
That dynamic was all too evident with Fidel Castro. Apologists came out of the gate lovingly spouting praise about “social justice” and so forth. If there was a downside it was only Castro’s “flaws,” and of course he was a “controversial” figure. And Justin Trudeau’s concession that Castro was a dictator only came with great reluctance.
The God That Failed authors included Arthur Koestler, who joined the Communist Party at the age of 26. He later saw the ravages of the Ukraine famine and noticed that in the USSR people disappeared. “At no time and in no country,” Koestler wrote “have more revolutionaries been killed and reduced to slavery than in Soviet Russia.” When Koestler parted company with Communism he too was attacked, but after Stalin signed his pact with the Nazi regime, he wrote, “I no longer cared whether Hitler’s allies called me a counter-revolutionary.”
Another contributor to The God That Failed was American writer Richard Wright, author of Native Son and Black Boy. Wright discovered that in the Communist Party, dominated by whites, “a man could not have his say.” White Party bosses derided the black American writer as a “bastard intellectual” and “incipient Trotskyite” with an “anti-leadership attitude.” The Communist Party, Wright wrote, “felt it had to assassinate me morally merely because I did not want to be bound by its decisions,” adding, “I knew that if they held state power I should have been declared guilty of treason and my execution would have followed.”
The author of Dreams from My Father, now a resident of the White House, claims he read Richard Wright, but no word about his contribution to The God That Failed. As it happens Frank Marshall Davis, called only “Frank” in the Dreams book, contended that Wright remained a Communist. So Frank, the president’s mentor, also spoke falsehood with love and the truth with loathing, if he got to the truth at all. That is the style of the current President of the United States.
In his statement on Fidel Castro, the president hailed “the countless ways in which Fidel Castro altered the course of individual lives, families, and of the Cuban nation” and “the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him.”
The first African-American president might have noted that Cuba’s white dictator and white Communist Party bosses repressed and imprisoned many black Cubans. The president, the most powerful man in the world, could not manage a single negative statement about the departed dictator. The old-line establishment media, in predictable style, failed to press him on the matter.
Meanwhile, in 2014, when the American president was pursuing diplomatic relations with Cuba, reporters sought out Justin Trudeau’s mother Margaret Trudeau. Canada’s former first lady once hung out with the Rolling Stones and in 1979 had been photographed “with no panties” as the cover of High Society magazine proclaimed. She went on to write the autobiography Beyond Reason, but her recollections of Fidel Castro made good sense.
In 1976, charming Fidel gushed over her baby Michel, but Cuba “was a difficult regime that had a lot of human rights issues that were pressing and difficult for us.” In fact, Trudeau said, the Cuban regime had been “extraordinarily repressive.”
So as it turns out, Margaret Trudeau is better at exposing Fidel Castro’s Cuba than Justin Trudeau, Pierre Trudeau, the President of the United States, and countless Castro apologists in the news media and academia. They all prefer to speak the truth with loathing, and falsehood with love.