Why Cuba’s Political System Must Change

By Repatriado

Photo: Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES — I’ve just got in from shopping. A cabbage cost 20 pesos, 4 mangoes 32, 2 bunches of lettuce 14, 5 pounds of pork steak 250. I bought 4 wall screws, 100 pesos, a quarter of a gallon of oil-based paint, 200. I bought fish from a neighbor who is entitled to it because she is diabetic, 12 pounds of skinny mackerels with head and guts, 288 pesos. I’ve spent 904 pesos in half a morning, more than double the 415 pesos my son’s teacher earns in a month.

It’s hard for me to understand how a large part of the Cuban population don’t want a political change on the island, they prefer changes in economic management which improve their material conditions instead. That’s a fact, just like them being wrong is a fact, a fact which greatly saddens me.

Why do I believe they want what they want?:

  • Widespread ignorance of any other system that isn’t Castrismo. Changing it doesn’t just mean changing the government, it means changing everything they have become accustomed to and that is frightening.
  • Eliminating private enterprise in the economy and limiting creativity to strict ideological restraints in civil society has led to a passive society which waits to be told what they should do, when and how.
  • The system’s media monopoly, including education and culture, have insisted on the apparent and not-so-apparent horrors of capitalism for decades, comparing them to Castrismo’s apparent and not-so-apparent achievements.
  • The false idea that universal education and healthcare systems will disappear along with Castrismo, as if they don’t exist anywhere else in the world.
  • Tribal nationalism. Any small opposition group which manages to say something is immediately linked to alleged evil interests abroad, thereby legitimizing their repression.
  • A conceptual mish-mash of national, state, patriotic affairs and Communist ideology which the government has taken on.
  • No freedom of association, speech, access to the media, or residency in and outside the island, thereby preventing ideas from being born and developed.
  • The ironic effect of dissident movements which don’t manage to win over popular support when they want to tell their truth to a population educated in ideological intolerance.
  • The displacement of rational thought, closure to analyses which would lead to them inevitably recognizing themselves to be powerless and helpless in the face of a totalitarian state.
  • No private property. In reality, whoever owns the law, repressive forces and media, owns everything else. It would be painful, but if nobody bats an eyelid or protests if tomorrow the economy returns to 100% State and the purchase and sale of homes or cars was forbidden again.

Why I think they are wrong:

  • Centralized planning of the economy has failed. They depend on an external benefactor and whenever they disappear, this leads to crisis.
  • Any economic improvement is sporadic without a market economy, improvements will depend on political circumstances and not on the rational distribution of resources. Any progress can soon enough be a setback.
  • As the government doesn’t have an opposition or public scrutiny, the ruling elite doesn’t have the incentive it needs to do anything more than what it needs to at that moment in time. Occasionally, their needs coincide with the people’s needs and results are positive, but this is rare, hence many government actions are unexplainable and unpredictable for Cuban citizens.
  • The need for democracy isn’t an aesthetic matter, it’s the only way that institutional counterweights can be made to ensure freedom.
  • In Castrismo, only the helpless without an opinion survive, the truth is that this is what the ruling class want to see, sustained by an army of obliging bureaucrats.
  • Differences in class are mainly expressed by differences in power and influence, and these are becoming the financial differences of a class linked to political or military figures, who own profitable private businesses in Cuba or invest capital from “unknown” sources abroad.

Its suicide to continue on at the expense of this caste’s interests, something inherently wrong must be taking place within this “socialism” if the daughter of a ruling general and ex-minister runs  a daycare center for the “jet set” which costs 1920 pesos per month, while my son’s teacher only earns 415 pesos.

Them leaving is the first step, even though this might be extreme, then we will try to organize ourselves together and for the wellbeing of everyone.

31 thoughts on “Why Cuba’s Political System Must Change

  • Repatriado just one little part of your second reason of “Why do I believe they want what they want?” demonstrates the success of sixty years of censorship and indoctrination, for you write:

    “has led to a passive society which waits to be told what they should do, when and how.”

    An accurate description of a proleteriat or Dr. Ernesto “Che” Guevara de Serna Lynch’s “new man” a concept which originally developed in the mind of that monster Josef Stalin. To quote “Che’s” own description of his objective:

    “Selfless and cooperative, obedient and hard-working, gender blind, incorruptible, non-materialistic
    and anti-imperialist,”

    Inflation of the costs you describe is inevitable. For if prices are set by the regime are at levels which are below the cost of production, production inevitably falls and eventually ends. But there is no equivalent improvement in earnings to meet those increasing costs, driving ever-reducing standards of living.

    You Repatriado are in Biblical terms, “kicking against the pricks”. I again recall how I summarized the requirements for Cubans seeking a quiet life:

    “Don’t challenge the system, accept it, stay mute and exist.”

    In short, be part of the mass and blindly accept the awful reality of communist dictatorship.

    Many years ago, one of Fidel Castro’s own officers Faustino Perez enquired of Fidel Castro:

    “Is this Bastistiano terror?”

    Castro’s response was:

    “No this is revolutionary terror.”

    As both Elio Legon and the Priopaganda Department of the Communist Party of Cuba would exclaim:”Long live the revolution.”

    Reply
  • yesterday the news was that Diaz-Canel had a reunion to know the state of Cuban economic.

    Cubadebate was full of comments of people full of hope, saying that now yes, this is the guy, we are in the good way

    I cry, 60 years seems not enought to understand centralized economic just don´t works

    Reply
    • A popular song was: “Don’t cry for me Argentina”. But those of us who understand the reality of the communist regime in Cuba, do like you Repatriado have to cry for Cuba and its people.

      Reply
  • Repatriado,
    It is always interesting to read your viewpoints. I agree with much of what you say but would question you on other matters.
    You appear to say that it is a fact that many people in Cuba do no not want sudden wholesale change to the country’s system.
    Then you state that it is a fact that they are wrong.
    This body of people are not unequivocally right or wrong. They just have their opinion.
    If someone has this opinion, then who are you (or who am I) to state that they are wrong? Or that their opinions should be overruled??

    Reply
    • The difficulty Nick is that in Cuba expressing publicly an opinion that is critical of the regime is illegal and can result in imprisonment. Note what has been done to Ariel Ruiz! Passivity by the population at large -or to use the communist term, the proletariat, is exactly the objective of the regime. Don’t be for or against anything, just accept and exist.
      Some people by pretending that they are neither for or against communism for others are actually supporting retention of the system of repression. Opinions in Cuba are only over-ruled if they are contrary to communism. Hence parents being jailed for teaching their own children anything that is contrary to communism.
      With communism sitting on the fence isn’t actually possible. Like all forms of dictatorship, one is for or against.

      Reply
      • Carlyle

        You insist that the Cubans think like they think because they are afraid of repression, I believe that you are mistaken, the Cubans think like they think because they have being induced to think this way and it is what I have tried to argue in this article, they are mistaken, that means that they maintain an erroneous idea, but they maintain it honestly because the frame of references that they have doesn’t allow them to think further on.

        I believe that to point out coarse repression like main cause of the paralysis of the Cuban society is not certain, and it is a political error, because that put the blames in the society, other societies have fought much more sanguinary dictatorships that the Cuban.

        Bloody repression didn´t stop Cubans when they fought Machado or Batista

        Reply
    • I can respect many opinions different to mine (not all opinions) and to make an effort to value them with independence to the source of the opinion, in general I try to be very rational, but for to be rational it is necessary to accept that the opinions can be incorrect even when they are majority.

      I do not consider I have the right, in this particular case, to impose my opinion, but I am entitle to criticize other opinions.

      In the case of this article my critic doesn’t go against the opinion in Cuba, but against those that have created an artificial frame from which can manipulate at will the people´s opinion, spreading false ideas, remaining silent any type of idea contrary to their interest and creating a repressive atmosphere that disables the creation of independent ideas to those of the government, because the ideas are social constructions, not isolated entities.

      It is a dangerous area because I can sin of arrogance believing that I have the truth, that is possible, exactly for that reason, even believing that they are mistaken, I don’t consider myself with right for imposing, that is why I don´t support any violent revolution, past, present or future, except the self-defence when the power is being directly violent with the people, once a government infringe that boundary repeatedly, then I can consider violence as the smaller bad.

      Reply
    • Sepulveda defends the idea that the Catholic faith can be imposed, at this time it would be democracy, to those that don’t enjoy it for ignorance and even they repel it, imposing you would be making a well to those people.

      Las Casas defend that no idea should be imposed, We have to seduce to the other, doing this he relativizes the right of the Spaniards to the conquest and relativizes the fact that there are better and worse ideas, that is to say that there aren’t absolute universal values.

      Immanuel wallenstein has a very good essay about this respect but I don’t remember the name of the book.

      I believe that yes there are superior truths, universal values that cannot be relativized, and yes, I consider that the democracy is one of those values, but I don’t believe that it should be imposed.

      I also believe that never a Civilization, call it is USA, England or Spain has made a true effort to impose a better idea to other people, but rather they have always used that idea like excuse to justify unhealthy interests.

      The most horrible sample of that is the it USA of George W. Bush

      Reply
  • You’re either with us or against us……
    Is that how it is Mr MacD?
    I find that to be a disappointingly lame and negative viewpoint.
    You know that’s exactly what George W Bush said before launching a withering and murderous attack on a largely defenceless country and population.

    I am familiar with Cuba and it’s difficulties thanks.
    And if someone in Cuba tells me that they are in favour of communism then I ain’t going to tell them that they shouldn’t be. I just accept that they have an opinion which may differ from mine.

    My own personal opinion is that the Cuban Govenment likes to manipulate the facts in order to convince people that their way is the only way.
    And that Mr MacD, is exactly what you are so fond of doing yourself.

    Reply
    • I Nick respect the rights of others – a view that is contrary to communism. But one either favours communism or is against it. I repeat that so-called fence sitters on that issue are actually favoring communism by acquiescing to its beliefs practices and repressive behaviour.
      I accept that you like to sit on the fence as demonstrated repeatedly and whereas I note your criticisms of those who are anti-communist, have yet to note any similar criticism of the pro-communist contributors.
      I note with a degree of amusement your comment:
      “My own personal opinion is that the Cuban Government likes to manipulate the facts in order to convince people that their way is the only way.”
      The Propaganda Department of the Communist Party of Cuba does not endeavor to “convince” it addresses instruction, enforced by repressive laws. But you I note, fail to criticize that activity, purpose or repression.
      As you suggest that my antagonism to communism and to the totalitarian regime in Cuba is “lame and negative” I can only respond that in pretending to present your “balanced” view you are in reality quietly supporting the status quo in Cuba. Yes, you can visit and enjoy how your depreciating pound, can allow you to feel that Cuba is a great place to spend time, but you evidently fail to understand what it is like being a Cuban who seeks liberty of expression and freedom of choice.
      You fell off the fence Nick1

      Reply
      • So Mr MacD, your (non) logic is as follows:
        Someone who is anti-communist is an anti-communist.
        Someone who supports communism is a communist.
        And…………
        Wait for it………………….
        Someone who has some degree of neutrality on the matter is also a communist??
        This idea is clearly absurd Mr MacD.
        As absurd as your fantastical and failed attempts to re-write history. It would seem that your mind is so completely fenced in, you are actually finding it difficult to be rational.

        And by the way. Last time I looked the British Pound was strengthening.

        Reply
        • No Repatriado, repression is but one factor, another is fifty nine years of indoctrination. As i have emphasized previously, the defined purpose given in the constitution, of education is the teaching of communism. But it is repression that prevents free open discussion, the CDR has ears, and on many occasions Cubans have said to me to be careful because I may be reported – that’s reflecting repression. I keep my conversations unless within our own home with family and close friends, to one on one.

          Reply
        • Your so-called “degree of neutrality” is disingenuous Nick. Why not just be open and admit that you favor retention of the communist dictatorship in Cuba? That is not necessarily being a communist per se, nor did I say it was.
          What I said and which you endeavor to avoid addressing, is that the fence sitters – and you are a fence sitter par excellence – are actually favoring communism by acquiescing to its beliefs, practices and repressive behaviour.
          When did you last criticize communism in these pages Nick?
          As for the pound strengthening, was that against Bitcoin or Maduro’s new money?

          Reply
          • Nice to see that you are continuing with your ‘good vs evil’ sloganeering Mr MacD. Perhaps it would get too complicated for you if you started to look at some of the grey areas.
            I’m fine with critiques of communism, capitalism or any other ‘ism but such critiques carry more weight when they are rational and stick to the facts.
            You introduce the topic of fences. But it would seem that your mind is so fenced-in that you can do nothing other than resort to irrational argument fact-twisting.
            Once it becomes bogged down in irrationality and veers away from the factual, then I’m afraid your argument becomes a bit lost and forlorn.

            And that old Pound Sterling…..
            Up and down like a yoyo huh?
            Them ‘ol British Businessmen don’t know whether to put their money into imports or exports. They just don’t know which way to turn huh?

  • I agree with Carlyle in that one is to favour or against the communism, although I prefer to call it Castrism in Cuba, Stalinism in Russia, Maoism in China, those communism has too many likeness to the fascism and in front of that you just can stand in favour or in against

    Equally I believe that an opposition balanced to the Cuban regime, as the one I think you do Nick, is an error, the Cuban regime it is a dictatorship and therefore it is illegitimate and unhealthy, to stand out the good things of the regime relativize its wickedness and that is an error.

    Anybody stand out the good things made by Mussolini, or Hitler, however, the right-wing fanatics stand out the good things that made by Pinochet, Trujillo or Franco, that is terrible and inmoral.

    That balanced position, halfway, I believes is false and dangerous, there is not a half point between the government and the opposition, there is not half point between the totalitarianism and the democracy, or you fights for one or for the other, and I remark that I am saying “you fight”, not you are.

    It is not a fanatic position, it is an extreme position, because we are speaking of going from an end to the other, from the absolutism to the liberal and social democracy.

    Reply
  • Repatriado,
    I would not actually agree on this mythical breaking down of the world into democracy and non-democracy. I do not think the reality is quite so clear cut. Many would suggest that the kind of overt capitalism we are now witnessing and any real democracy are actually mutually incompatible.
    From my point of view I see the reality as being more of a sliding scale of democracy.
    One of the scariest things regarding ‘democratic elections’ in Europe these days is how easily people are convinced to vote for far-right or fascist parties. A Fascist party is now part of a coalition government in Austria (the country of Hitler’s birth).

    I would say that with all governments one can point to the good and the bad things they have done. Some of the countries you might like to describe as ‘democracies’ have committed numerous acts of what you call ‘wickedness’ and they continue to do so.
    Some of the so called ‘democratic’ leaders over the years have carried out some very wicked and murderous acts. For example, Winston Churchill (whom I admire to a certain extent) is regarded as having been a big fan of democracy, but he was also a big fan of using chemical weapons.

    Repatriado, I would also ask you this: If very dear friends of mine in Cuba tell me that they are in favour of communism or admirers of Fidel Castro, do you suggest that I tell them that they are wrong to have those opinions?

    Reply
    • A fence-sitter Repatriado is one who asserts to be neither for or against something and who prefers to be evasive when asked for a firm view. Rather than addressing a subject or when asked for an opinion, they hum and haw. To avoid admitting a truth which runs counter to their actual opinion, they prevaricate.

      Reply
      • I am changing my point of view in one important aspect, as you know because we argue about it, I was one of those who has always defend that socialism in Soviet Union and in Cuba is not real socialism and that is why I still stand for socialism.

        I have find out that that position is not “scientific”, it is irrational because that line of argumentation cannot be disputed and it do can be used to stand for any alternative position.

        As you also say, there is not a definition of socialism, so I cannot say if the Cuban or Soviet socialism is real or not.

        Now you can say that your participation here has had real impact in a soul.

        Reply
        • The big difference in the various views upon socialism Repatriado is the difference between the democratic socialists who believe in and support multi-party open elections where the ‘voice of the people’ is reflected and those who believe in a one-party state where ‘elections’ are merely a way of choosing between people who support the same policies.
          As I have said previously, I although not a supporter of socialism, respect the rights of others. Those who support the one-party system, do not.
          Open free elections are a treasure.
          In an ideal society, there would be equality of opportunity. That as you as a Cuban know only too well is not the position in Cuba. The only equality is that enforced by repression upon the mass of the public (the proletariat) by the privileged members of the Communist Party of Cuba who are in power.
          In a truly democratic society it is possible for people supporting different political parties to be good friends, accepting that change of a party in power is not only possible but occurs.
          I do not know anyone who believes that capitalism is a perfect system. But, the evidence that it is preferable to live in a capitalist state rather than a one-party socialist (communist) state is over-whelming.
          When writing a book addressing politics, one has to be accurate and express views that can be supported by reality. In pursuit of that, I wrote the following on the FIRST page of the introduction to ‘Cuba Lifting The Veil’:

          “Cubans are denied what is perhaps the least recognized but possibly the most important right for those who live in the free world. That is simply the right to openly disagree with the opinions of others and especially with political viewpoints.”

          Here in Havana times you witness that freedom! Examples of what I wrote abound. Nick, Dani and I disagree continuously as we are enabled by that freedom! Note that I do not suggest that you should change your viewpoint, doing so is for you to decide, but, don’t abandon your driving power for freedom from the repression, power and control exerted by the Communist Party of Cuba. Keep that evident desire and love for freedom, because for humanity to develop, freedom is essential!

          Incidentally Cuba Lifting The Veil has now been also published as Cuba Levantando El Velo.

          Reply
    • I won’t suggest you to tell them they are wrong because if they know Cuban communism, and admire and support this process and its Chief, it is obvious that they do not feel any respect for other people´s opinion, or at least that they accept that other people´s opinion can be repressed and that it is legitimate than people be imprisoned for having a different opinion.

      You cannot be a democrat and at the same time support Cuban Revolution or Fidel, either you are a very bad person or you are a very mistaken person. We can argue about if democracy is the best system or not for Cuban people, but you cannot consider yourself a democrat, based in tolerance of ideas, and support Fidel at the same time

      I have a great friend that support Cuban revolution, he is a professor of political economy in Havana University, he is brilliant, but from my point of view he is absolutely wrong.

      Yes, there are different levels of democracy, like there are different levels of hot water, but there is a point where hot water is boiling and a point when it is not, also there is a point where you are democratic and a point when are not, and that point has nothing to do with historic figures more or less important, it is about the system.

      Batista was a dictator, Machado was a dictator, democracy in pre-Revolutionary Cuba was extremely weak and many people was corrupt, but there were a democratic system in progress, improving, Cuba was absolutely better in all aspects in 1958 than in 1902, in all social, political, cultural and economic aspects.

      Fidel perverted the system, changed the system to a communist experiment that nobody asked for just to keep his power and privileges, that system is evil itself and stopped the natural evolution that Cuba was having, is Cuba 2018 better in all aspects to Cuba 1958? I am sure we are not, but, and it is a great but, even if Fidel experiment had has remarkable economical results, you would find me against it because those results without a democratic system are of the situation, depending in one man ideas and that is not sustainable, and the social cost of those results would be extremely highs.

      Fidel´s system just started to allow some social rights to Cubans when economy was in its worst moment, as soon as economy improved he restricted social rights again because he always knew that his system needed absolute control of the population, once he loose that, the system was dead as it is now

      Reply
    • I have being thinking in that you mentioned about Churchill, by the way did you see the Gary Oldman performance as Churchill?

      I don´t know the context where Churchill advocated for the use of chemical weapons, but if it was during WW2 I am with him.

      My position is against all violence at any level, I hate violence, maybe that is a contradiction because I am black bell in 3 martial arts and practice regularly, but the violence I hate the most is war, we have argue here because I even defend the point of view that Cuban liberation wars were unnecessary and absolutely against my moral, I also defend that Cuba should not have an army neither defend itself against an aggressor that is looking for annexing the island, maybe we are better being part of Mexico, it is a bad example, or part of Canada that under a Cuban government, I don´t know so I won’t kill Mexicans or Canadians if they send young people dress in green to add Cuba to their sovereignty. The root of that thought is that I am not Cuban, I am David.

      Even so, WW2, to fight the Nazi attempt to rule Europe justify the use of any force, including chemical, biological or nuclear. I don´t see the logic in to spend time setting rules for war, time should be used setting rules for peace and avoid any war what so ever.

      I see so immoral to use a handgun that to use pepper gas, so if you justify the use of regular guns I justify the use of chemical weapons.

      I never understood the hysteria about Saddam using chemical weapons, are dead people or injured people suffering less for a bullet than for anthrax? Saddam should be judged long before for being a disgusting criminal, as George W Bush should be.

      International community has accepted the use of chemical weapons as a boundary, Siria is an example of that, for me that is crazy, it is equivalent to accept that any criminal like al Assad has permission to kill his own people as long as he use lead, that is wrong.

      Can Ortega continue killing Nicaraguans as long as he used guns and not gas?

      Reply
      • The use of chemical weapons commenced with the Germans using mustard gas in the trenches of Flanders in Belgium during the First World War. It was not Winston Churchill!
        My Spanish is but indifferent, but you Repatriado write of your sport in the context of violence. In English which is my first language, violence is the intent to hurt, damage or kill someone or something. That obviously is not your purpose when you either practice your sport or enter the ring in competition.
        I think that when considering Saddam, one has to remember him selecting people from an audience he was addressing, to be taken out and shot immediately and without trial – similar to Raul Castro Ruz executing 78 people at Santiago in one day without trial. That Repatriado is extreme violence. I am unaware of any American President including both Bush’s acting in a similar manner.
        I have personally known people who were shot by the Russians as spies – the Cuban Five as spies were fortunate, and my grandfather was killed in the First World War in 1917, so I know a little about violence. War is violent, it’s justification always depends upon where one lives or where ones political loyalties lie. Was Vladamir Putin’s annexation of a legal internationally recognized part of Ukraine justified? Should the British have declared war upon Germany following the invasion of Poland – which within three weeks was followed by Russia also invading Poland – and murdering some 15,000 Poles at Katyn – a crime which they did not officially recognize until 1991?
        There has been much criticism of the British bombing Hamburg and Dresden in particular, but that was following Germany bombing London, Leeds, Southampton, Manchester, Birmingham, Coventry, Bradford, Newcastle, Glasgow, Aberdeen and on one occasion even Inverness. War is total!
        Insurrection, rebellion, revolution although not war in a legal sense are violent. ‘Che’ Guevara wrote:

        “El odio es un elemento de lucha, el odio implacable del enimigo que nos impulsa por encima y mas alla de la limitacion natural del hombre y nos transforma en eficaces, violentas y selectivas maquinas asesinas.”

        ‘Che’ demonstrated his lust by executing 357 Cubans at Cabana between January and June 1959.

        War illustrates man’s inhumanity to man.

        Reply
  • Repatriado,
    I think that Gary Oldman is one of the finest British actors of the current era.
    Winston Churchill’s use of chemical weapons was not related to WW2.
    It was connected to his white supermacist views, British Imperialism and anti-communism.
    Churchill Quote:
    “the objections of the India Office to the use of gas against natives are unreasonable”.
    Chunova, Vikhtova, Pocha, Chorga, Tavoigor and Zapolki were all Bolshevik-held villages targeted in 1919 by chemical weapons authorised by Churchill.
    The exact level of the civillian death toll has been lost and overshadowed by the better or more heroic aspects of the old burracho’s legacy (the winners get to write the history books).
    As I have stated, I admire Churchill to a certain degree, but as with many leaders, he had his good points and his bad points.
    And he had his very, very bad points.
    These bad points are not referred to in Anglo-American movies any more than Fidel Castro’s bad points are referred to in Granma.

    Reply
    • Well done Nick! I like you admitting “Fidel Castro’s bad points”. To me they are self evident and numerous, but perhaps you could adumbrate a few of those that you observed?

      Reply
  • Ha Ha………
    For once I agree with you Mr MacD !
    Fidel Castro’s bad points were self evident and numerous. Indeed.
    I shall hereby adumbrate the following two examples which spring to mind:
    Fidel Castro was prone to putting forward irrational arguments and he also regularly manipulated the facts to suit his political viewpoints.
    Sound familiar ??
    It should do – coz it’s exactly what you so frequently do yourself.

    Reply
    • That response Nick is unusually pathetic – even for you.
      You always carefully avoid criticizing communism or communist dictatorship, but can be pretty virulent when it comes to the capitalist societies – from one of which you personally benefit.
      So, opportunity knocks! Do you condemn or acquiesce to communist dictatorship for others?
      Obviously you endeavor to nit-pick rather than responding to arguments or to factual statements. So just this once, declare your view of totalitarian communist dictatorship. I’ll even say “please”!

      Reply
      • Mr MacD….
        In your rush to stick up for the corrupt capitalist system that stifles the world you get your facts all mixed up.
        In your haste to slander the complexities of the human condition by trying to bracket everything into some neat little ‘good vs evil’ package you only see the black and the white but never the grey.
        The grey areas make up the majority of this world……
        What do I think of ‘Communist Totalitarian Dictatorship’ ?
        I am not a follower of any kind of absolutism be it Communist, Capatalist, Religious or of any other persuasion.
        They can all be as good or as bad as each other.
        But you see Mr MacD…….
        in your hurry to assume some kind of moral high ground, you manage to distort a lot of facts.
        And when someone catches you out, you choose refer to that as nit picking ?
        Really ?
        If you want to put down systems of governance that you disagree with, it would better serve your purpose to stick to the facts would it not ?

        Reply
  • What do people want from their governments:

    First of all, security. Cuba is lucky in being an island, unlucky in having a hostile US 90 miles away — but that hostility no longer takes an overtly military form. Cuba is also lucky in having a low crime rate — certainly relative to, say, El Salvador or Honduras or even Mexico. That’s not an accident of geography, but a result of its social/political system — whether we like it or not. I don’t know what the Cuban Communist Party says about this, but if I were advising them on how to stay in power, I would say: give the wisest publicity to the horrible violence in the countries with multi-party democracy.

    Second of all, prosperity. Total bust there, of course. But if the Communists could ever manage — perhaps through a Chinese-style economic policy — to get a rising standard of living, their success would be guaranteed. Look at Singapore.

    Thirdly, liberty. But, as Brecht said, ‘Erst kommt das Fressen — dann kommt die Moral.’

    So, a paradox: those who urge a liberalization of the Cuban economy are actually, no doubt without wanting to, showing the ruling power the best way to retain popular support.

    Nonetheless, it’s the right thing to do: allow Cubans much more economic freedom — take advantage of the superior Cuban educational system by allowing individuals to open their own businesses, including in the high tech field. Keep Cuba’s social protections, but keep out of the way of her entrepreneurs.

    Reply
    • Doug, methinks you are a US citizen, for you speak of: “the horrible violence in the countries with multi-party democracy”.
      Rather than making that generalized statement, which countries are you referring to? Could it be Norway, or Sweden, or Canada, or Australia, or Germany.
      Doug, if you consider that incarceration rates have some relationship to crime, do explain why it is that in order of rates per 100,000 of population, the order of the top twenty (20) is:
      US., Turkmenistan. Virgin Islands (US), Cuba, El Salvador, Guam, Thailand, Russia, Rwanda, Panama, Bahamas, Bermuda, Costa Rica, Puerto Rica, Barbados, Belarus, Bahrain, Brazil, South Africa.
      I don’t know which of those countries you would select to prove your point of multi-party states having “horrible violence”. But in speaking of Cuba having a “low crime rate”, you obviously cannot be assessing that from the level of incarceration – the fourth highest in the world!
      None of the multi-party democracies listed come in the top fifty!
      The US is not representative of the crime rates in the multi-party democracies being at best a two party system with a constitution that for example enables the candidate with fewest votes to win the Presidency.
      For violence, the order is:
      Honduras, Venezuela, Virgin Islands (US), Jamaica, El Salvador, Lesotho, Guatemala, South Africa, Colombia, Trinidad & Tobago, Bahamas, Brazil, Puerto Rico Dominican Republic, Guyana, Mexico.
      Not a single European country!
      But, if you want to get something stolen, visit Belgium! It has by far the highest rate of theft in the world! Not much wonder that Simenon wrote such good novels!
      But frankly Doug, you are well away from the facts about crime and in particular violence being related to the multi-party democracies which are the safest places in the world!
      I do know Cuba well, and I can tell you that the Propaganda Department of the Communist Party of Cuba makes full use of the US crime statistics, of the shooting of over 12,000 people a year, of the lack of gun control and of the overt racism – even worse than Cuba’s own racism! They use it on TV, the radio, in Granma, and in the schools. Cuba like the rest of the world knows about US violence.
      The only way that Cubans could get “more economic freedom” would be the demise of the communist totalitarian dictatorship.

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    • Doug…..
      You make some good points.
      And unlike some other contributors you make your points without trying to separate the world off into the ‘good’ and the ‘evil’.

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  • Carlyle:

    If Cuba were culturally similar to “Norway, or Sweden, or Canada, or Australia, or Germany”, you would have a strong point.

    But my guess is that Cuba is more like its Latin neighbors. Now, whether a Cuba with the same political freedoms as Costa Rica or El Salvador would be more like Costa Rica, or more like El Salvador, I don’t know. But I can absolutely sympathyze with a Cuban who fears that a multi-party democracy, free, Cuba would be more like El Salvador than like Costa Rica. Which means the benefits of the new system would also come with severe drawbacks.

    Still, I would urge him or her to be in favor of a free, multi-party system … it’s just that I would absolutely understand if he or she didn’t want to take the chance. And I was moved to think about this by the original article, which implied that the regime still has a lot of support, but put this down entirely to police-state thought-control measures. These are no doubt important, but I believe they couldn’t have the effect they do, if they did not, to some extent, speak to certain realities.

    A more general point: there are many Russians who are nostalgic for the old Soviet Union, including young people who were born after its collapse. They aren’t yearning for a one-party state in the abstract, they are remembering a time when they had, not prosperity, but security. (I lived there for a few months in 1985. I can still recall the odd feeling of being able to walk anywhere in the city of Kharkov, even after midnight, with no worries about being mugged. There were no homeless, and the rather threadbare tower block estate where our KGB ‘minder’ lived was one of genteel poverty, not of barely-suppressed crime and disorder and menace, unlike public housing estates in some capitalist countries.)

    Another example: Singapore is far from being a liberal democracy. But the regime there has done so well in giving its population security and prosperity, that there is little significant drive among the population at the moment, for more liberty. (It’s coming, slowly, as the younger generations move into place and their elders pass on, but there will not be a ‘Singapore Spring’.)

    So, although I am an advocate of capitalism and multi-party democracy as the best the human race can do at this stage in history, it’s an ideal to be aimed at. I absolutely understand people for whom the possible tradeoff doesn’t seem worth it. (I don’t have to live in a public housing estate, and I don’t depend on a government job or benefits. But not everyone is so lucky.)

    And in the case of Cuba, there is also national pride. What a shame it is that to advocate multi-party democracy and a free economy is to appear to speaking as a mouthpiece of the Yanquis. I would argue that the best way to assert Cuban national independence against the Yankees is to become a strong and free society, while retaining the admirable social protections and educational system that has been achieved.

    Now, if Cuba is to move in the direction of more personal freedoms and more economic prosperity for its people, those of us who believe in capitalism and liberty have to take these genuine fears into account, if we want to take part in the debate about Cuba’s future. We have to acknowledge that a multi-party system and private ownership of the means of production, per se, are no guarantees of a secure, prosperous life.

    So we can’t just say, “Down with the dictatorship.” We have to propose positive, incremental changes that can be undertaken now, without a bloody insurrection, and which will benefit everyone.

    In short, we have to be classically conservative, and think about how Cuba can change, in a positive direction, via ‘piecemeal social engineering’, not a radical upheaval. We can’t just be reverse Bolsheviks. (Needless to say, if the American government would take a rational attitude towards Cuba, this process would be sped up ten fold.)

    Reply

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