When Fidel Castro died in 2016, California Congresswoman Karen Bass hailed him as “Comandante en Jefe” (a familiar phrase for Cuban refugees), and lamented his death as “a great loss to the people of Cuba.” As a possible Biden VP choice, those remarks have drawn renewed scrutiny. Bass could have pled ignorance of the extent of the regime’s tyranny and apologized. Instead, she simply said she had not realized the difference between how he was perceived in Florida as opposed to California, and that she would use different words if she could do it again.
Her lack of remorse is unsurprising, given that in 1973 she joined the Vencemeros Brigade. Named for a Castro slogan and founded to provide American support for his regime, the brigade organizes regular labor trips to Cuba, has been suspected of ties to Cuban intelligence, and remains committed to “the struggle against capitalism.” According to Bass herself, she was aware even during her many visits as part of the Brigade that Cuban citizens did not have the same rights that she did in America – yet she continued to support and praise him and his brutal regime. Bass also raised eyebrows with her decision to enter a eulogy into the Congressional record for a top member of the Communist Party USA, calling him “a mentor” without whose help “my life would have taken a very different path.” Her main response to the total controversy? A Nixonian “I am not a communist” before arguing that Floridians don’t really care about communism anyway.
Bass sadly typifies the American left’s tolerance of authoritarian regimes, so long as they espouse communist or socialist principles (see Bernie Sanders’ lifelong argument that the USSR wasn’t that bad, and current support of the Maduro regime). I believe this is a predictable result of the common practice of tracing classic liberal thought back to Jean Jacques Rousseau and to the French revolution. Rousseau famously argued that man must be “forced to be free”, and the French Revolution he helped spawn is frequently praised over the American. Never mind that the French revolution quickly turned into “The Terror” that saw a steady flow of massacres and executions that spared no class, age, gender or occupation. Or that said revolution ended with Napoleon declaring himself Emperor, or that the French has returned to authoritarianism multiple times since then, and are currently on their fifth Republic. All this is forgiven because the French revolution involved a complete social revolution and the proclamation of “equality and fraternity”, while the American revolution did not. Little surprise that those who view themselves as the heirs of Rousseau and the French Revolution habitually find common cause with those who seize dictatorial power and wield it to murderous ends, so long as they do so in the name of social revolution and equality.
Slightly off topic addendum: Bass has also attended events organized by the Nation of Islam, which is run in a dictatorial manner by its leader Louis Farrakhan. Bass has repeatedly refused to criticize him or the Nation, despite teachings that include opposition to interracial marriage, a belief that the Jews are the spawn of Satan, and that Adolph Hitler was a great man. This prompted the Nation’s spokesperson to comment in 2018 (when the Nation was under heavy scrutiny) that “I thank God for Maxine Waters and Congresswoman Karen Bass.”