While it is often attributed to him, Mark Twain may not have ever actually said "history doesn't repeat, but it rhymes". Whether he uttered the words or not, it certainly needed saying.
Jarring echoes of the far left's shameful past reverberated around the Twittersphere yesterday in the wake of Fidel Castro's passing. Current Labour MP Clare Curran and former Alliance Minister Laila Harré were just two of many who took to social media to express grief over the Cuban tyrant's death. Castro, Curran gushed to her followers as if mourning a beloved guitarist, was a "legend"; Harré went further, asking, "who in our Parliament will be able to move a motion capturing the grief and gratitude of millions for the life of #FidelCasto (sic.)?". The answer, one hopes, is nobody.
But "grief and gratitude" for what exactly?
The banning of trade unions? Threatening nuclear war against his neighbours? Imprisoning and murdering thousands of journalists, dissenters and unionists? Countless, well document human rights abuses, including the systematic persecution of gays and lesbians?
Or is it the 78,000 lives lost attempting to flee the island?
Anne Applebaum, a brilliant Washington Post reporter, hardly of the right, helpfully disseminated a reminder of Castro's murderous reign in the form of a comprehensive archive that documents the people whose lives and freedoms were ripped away for attempting to bring democracy and human rights to Cuba. They number into the tens of thousands.
In terms of the magnitude of his many atrocities, Castro may not be in the league of Pol Pot, Stalin or the Hutu Power regime that perpetrated the Rwandan genocide, but it was not for a want of trying.
This affection for a certain category of tyrant among sections of far-left is nothing new.
After witnessing communism in action during his time volunteering in the Spanish Civil War, the avowedly socialist George Orwell saw clearly, and to his abject and enduring horror, the eagerness of British leftists to apologise for, or turn a blind eye to, the heinous crimes of Stalin, even Hitler.
In more recent times, the Australian author and documentarian John Pilger is one of a crackpot coterie who continue to deny the genocidal crimes in Bosnia and Rwanda on the grounds that the victims were perceived to be closely allied to the United States and NATO. It seems any atrocity is permissible as long as it is costumed in anti-imperialist rhetoric.
This amoral, selective and hypocritical application of principle to human rights abuses is by no means limited to the left. The Khmer Rouge continued to enjoy legitimacy in Washington and London years after the Killing Fields. Why? Because it was the Communist Vietnamese who marched on Phnom Penh, stopped the killings and backed the subsequent government. Better to join hands with Pol Pot and his henchmen than give credence to a Cold War adversary who handed the United States its first military defeat of the modern era.
There are enough hands, not to mention an abundance of blood, to go around.
But Harré and Curran are not known for their sophisticated geopolitical analysis, although, in the latter's case, the wholesale plagiarism from the Economist discovered in Labour's Future of Work paper suggests she reads (and copies and pastes from) magazines at least.
What they were celebrating was Castro's lifelong hatred for America. For them, this alone is enough. The fact that Castro's policies led Cuba to become one of Latin America's poorest countries, after being among its most prosperous, is neither here nor there.
The impoverishment of millions over more than five decades of iron-fisted rule is more than offset by the soaring, anti-imperialist rhetoric that infused Castro's lectern-thumping oratory. He may have been a monster towards his own people, but as long as he was David to America's Goliath, that is clearly more than enough to satisfy the cool kids of the hipster left.