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Cuba’s Lessons after 55 Years of Socialism

By: Carlos Sabino - @Sabino2324 - Jan 10, 2014, 12:45 am

EspañolDuring the last days of the Soviet Union, a Russian citizen posted a sign with a short phrase that shocked me. It read “72 years going nowhere.” I can’t help but relate those words to the famous Cuban revolution and its 55-year anniversary. Cuba is a living example of how socialism hasn’t kept its promises; rather, it has achieved the exact opposite of what it previously offered. Let’s analyze this in Cuba’s case.

Initially the revolution’s purpose was to overthrow Fulgencio Batista’s dictatorial regime — who had ruled for six years — rather than fight against poverty. Even though there was a democratic euphoria at first, it only lasted a few weeks. The result was what we see today, 55 years of dictatorship, first led by Fidel Castro and then — due to his weakened health — by his brother Raúl. This regime couldn’t be further from democracy, similar to North Korea, and could even qualify as an absolute hereditary monarchy, similar to colonial times.

It isn’t even a moderate dictatorship. For half a century, Cuba’s government denied its citizens the right to leave the country, banned all political parties and groups, and denied all press freedoms. Cuba’s government also brutally harassed any kind of anti-government protest and filled prisons with political prisoners. This is the same regime that has been tolerated, defended, and even praised by supposed democrats like Dilma Roussef, Mr. and Mrs. Kirchner, and many other rulers in the region.

The Castro brothers' ideological fraud did not bring anything good for Cubans. (Roberto Chile/Cubadebate)
The Castro brothers’ ideological fraud did not bring anything good for Cubans. (Roberto Chile/Cubadebate)

Some would say these are inevitable downsides of a revolution that had to confront United States’ imperialism and maintain a small country’s dignity. This couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s easy to remind these dreamers that Cuba has lived four decades as the Soviet Union’s colonial satellite, and it has survived only through other nations’ charitable handouts, currently from the generous oil-producing Venezuela.

Without freedom, there’s no dignity. Is there at least material well-being in Cuba? Not at all: to this day Cubans still bear with using ration booklets, monthly wages of US$30.00, and until recently, they couldn’t even own cellphones or other items that the poor in other Latin American countries enjoy.

The regime, however, continues to argue that the United States’ blockade has impeded Cuba’s economic growth. But there hasn’t been any blockade, only an embargo or prohibition to trade, established by the North American country and followed by a few others. Nothing has stopped Cuba from trading with the rest of the world, and they’ve had plenty of time to adjust.

Beyond these practical considerations, do Marxist Cubans, through their opposition to the embargo, believe that commerce enriches people? If so, why do they obstruct free trade within and outside of Cuba? The contradiction is obvious and shows weakness in arguments of the regime and its supporters.

The last justification regime advocates use is that health care and education are free in Cuba, and illiteracy has been abolished. Keep in mind, most nations have already eliminated or drastically reduced illiteracy without the need for a dictatorship. Further, it’s necessary to recall that most Cubans receive very low quality health care and strong indoctrination through education. Most important, education is used as a tool for political and cultural control.

Social inequalities haven’t disappeared from the island either. On the contrary, government officials and bureaucrats have access to goods not generally available to the population through special shops for dignitaries. This double-standard has led to a system where most of the population face deprivation while high-ranking officials enjoy special privileges. For all this, Cuba has become one of the most unequal countries on earth. The regime would say there isn’t a distinction between rich or poor, but the reality is that almost the entire population lives in poverty, and those who rule are the  only ones who have access to most consumer goods.

This is the sad reality of a socialism that exemplifies the biggest ideological fraud of modern times. These are the facts, the hard facts, that those who still advocate policies that only lead to oppression, misery, and inequalities should keep in mind.

Translated by Marcela Estrada.

Carlos Sabino Carlos Sabino

Sociologist, writer, and university professor, Sabino is director of the masters and doctoral programs in history at the University of Francisco Marroquín, Guatemala. Follow him @Sabino2324