the sphere of concrete achievement

From a story in the London Telegraph about some recently released Cuban political prisoners:

Mr Castillo, 50, a journalist who wrote articles critical of the regime, told The Sunday Telegraph: "It was terrible. It was like being in a desert in which sometimes there is no water, there is no food, you are tortured and you are abused.

"This was not torture in the textbook way with electric prods, but it was cruel and degrading. They would beat you for no reason even when you were in hospital.

"At other times they would search you for no reason, stripping you bare and humiliating you. There was one particular commander at a jail in Santa Clara who seemed to take delight in handing out beatings to the prisoners."

Mr Castillo, who claims he was denied proper medical aid for diabetes and heart problems, added: "We are nothing more than a reflection of the human cost of the fight being waged by the Cuban people."

But, as Chris Bertram has helpfully pointed out, Cuba has universal health care — that universe not including, of course, political prisoners, and being a universe of rather varying quality depending on whether you’re a Party member or not. But still! Those “middle-aged Cuban construction workers who held off the US forces for a while on Grenada”! Elian Gonzalez! “49 years of defiance in the face of the US blockade”! When you add it all up, the balance sheet is pretty darn clear. (Plus, the story about the political prisoners was in the Telegraph, after all.)

Mr. Bertram went on to summarize his position: “While freely conceding that the Cuban regime exhibits certain features which the humanitarian may be inclined to deplore, we must, I think, agree that a certain curtailment of the right to political opposition is an unavoidable concomitant of transitional periods, and that the rigors which the Cuban people have been called upon to undergo have been amply justified in the sphere of concrete achievement.” Oh, wait . . . Sorry, that was someone else.