Fifty years ago, the forces of Fidel entered Havana and Batista left. Fifty years ago, freedom left Havana and it has never come back. There was an odd sort of celebration in many parts of America when the Batista government collapsed.
There was an even odder sort of canonization of Castro in the subsequent twenty years. Radical students from American colleges used to travel to Cuba during the 1960s to help Cuban harvest its sugar crop. Rock stars today wear tattoos of the monstrous twerp Che Guevara, something as surreally immoral as poets writing odes to Reinhard Heydrich. The Maximum Leader, Fidel, attracts the fawning adoration of every sort of American Leftist silliness.
What was the fascination with Fidel? By any measurement pleasing to the Left, Fulgencio Batista was better for Cuba than Castro. Unlike Castro, Batista was elected in 1940 took office a second time in a bloodless coup in 1952. He sponsored massive social welfare programs including the full panoply of rights that the Left has come to associate with good government: mobile health units for rural areas, compulsory industrial insurance for workers, minimum wage legislation, the eight hour work day, enormous expenditures in public education, and much more.
Fidel was not even a Leftist, in any serious meaning of the word. Castro carried around the complete set of the works of Benito Mussolini and also the Falangist Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera, whose disciples helped Franco come to power. When Castro was sentenced to prison for insurrection, he consciously modeled his speech after Hitler's "History will absolve me" speech before being sentenced to Landsberg Prison. Castro did not really change when he took power in Cuba: When Franco died, for example, Castro declared a national day of mourning in Cuba.
Batista, by contrast, was fiercely opposed by the Nazis, Fascists, and Falangists. As Allan Chase describes in his 1943 book, The Falange: The Axis Secret Army in the Americas, Raoul Meastri began his career as a Marxist, then later published a book, German National Socialism, which lauded Nazism, then returned to Cuba as a leading Falangist opponent of Batista. Chase goes on to say that Batista was the principal opponent to Nazism, Fascism, and Falangism in Latin America.
How odd, then, that Batista, so demonized by the radical Left, was the opponent of those presumably "Far Right" misologies of Nazism, Fascism, and Falangism. And the active ally of these "Far Right" movements was Castro (and his chums). In fact, it makes perfect sense when one understands that Nazism is Marxism which is Fascism, but that is another story.
Batista also was hardly an enemy of Communism, that quintessence of Leftism. As Edmund Chester observed in his 1954 book, A Sergeant Named Batista, the Cuban leader appointed Cuban Communists to his administration, he described himself as a "progressive socialist," and Sumner Welles, FDR's Under Secretary of State, advised Washington that Batista, himself, was a Communist. The Cuban Communist Party reciprocated the friendship. When Castro attacked Batista in 1953, the Cuban Communist Party accused him of "Putchism" (i.e. being like Hitler.)
Conservatives and other normal people can find little good in Batista and nothing good in Castro. Batista was the sort of quasi-democrat and quasi-dictator so sadly typically of Latin America. His social reforms worked (in the same sense that Peron's social reforms worked.) He certainly rejected market economies, opposed big corporations, and could, at times, be brutal.
But what on earth could the Left find better in Castro? The Cuba he took over was one of the most prosperous nations in the Western Hemisphere. Cubans were not boarding leaky boats to try to escape. Ideologically, Cubans lost a man thought to be a closet Communist for a man who had openly pined for Hitler, Mussolini, and Primo de Rivera. Was it because Castro was, someone considered a nationalist who would protect Cuba from exploitation by great powers?
If so, then he failed wretchedly. He did nationalize industries in Cuba and expropriate properties of rich Cubans, but Castro took a Cuba which was cosmopolitan and open to all of the world and made it a prison outpost of that most brutal of imperialist power, the Soviet Union. Under Batista, American soldiers did not tromp all over the island and protect Batista from his own people. Under Castro, Soviet troops (and other Warsaw Pact "allies" did just that.)
However much one might assay the spurious argument that Batista was somehow an American puppet, there was little doubt that Castro was always a Russian puppet. Cuban foreign policy under Castro toed the Soviet Union like a well trained lap dog. The Kremlin needed troops to fight for pro-Soviet forces in Angola -- several thousand miles from Cuba! -- no problem: Fidel would send Cubans to fight and die for Soviet interests. The fruits and sugar of Cuba may have been sold at a profit under Batista in America, but under Castro the sugar crop, and the Cuban people's economic future, were mortgaged to Russia.
Castro delighted the Far Left because he hated America. The sick, sad answer to his adulation is that simple. Hatred of America linked Castro to all the incarnations of the brutal Left -- Fascism, Communism, Nazism, Falangism, and modern liberals. During the Second World War, the Fallange constantly squawked about "Yankee Imperialism" just as it lauded the Nazis, the Fascists, and the Japanese as revolutionary allies against this imperialism.
Castro never stopped hating America: He just transferred his nominal allegiances when the Axis lost. This made him the perfect hero to the Far Left. There is no real "ideology" to the Left. It is simply a vast, noxious stew of hatreds. The meat of this hatred is hatred of America, individual liberty that works. We are honored by the enemies we make, like Fidel Castro, the man who ruined Cuba.