Cuban Socialism: Fact or Fiction?

Erasmo Calzadilla

Havana scene by Caridad

Forty-nine years ago, on April 16, 1961, a few hours after a CIA-planned air attack on several Cuban airfields took place as a prelude to the Bay of Pigs invasion, Fidel Castro declared the socialist character of the Cuban Revolution in a mass rally.

I’ve always been intrigued by the way this course toward socialism was decided.

Only three years prior, we were a capitalist colony when a popular revolution occurred that was nationalist and anti-imperialist – but non-socialist.  We were not socialist because the US media was able to implant a horrendous image communism in our minds, but also because our way of life and work had little to do with socialism.

I’ve often wondered whether there was any type of mass discussion before deciding on the path we would take, or if it was one of the ideas of our great leader and his adjuncts.  I don’t know how these questions were dealt with back in ‘61, but from what I’ve experienced personally, I can easily believe that such radical changes in the life of an entire nation truly unfolded from the mind of a social architect with enough power to direct the destiny of a whole people.

Revolution seemed an extremely interesting process; entailing all power to the people.  If it had really worked out like this —even if we had ended up being worse off economically today, which I doubt— the balance would have remained positive.  We would have been itching closer to becoming the first modern nation that achieved a genuinely popular government.

However, the charisma of one man, the political immaturity of our people and US aggression conspired against the victory of true socialism.

I believe the Cuban experience has its merits —which can be confirmed when we look at the lives of our neighbors in the region, even those of the richest— but I’m convinced that being satisfied with the crumbs of tranquility that emanate from extreme paternalism is an unworthy goal.

Note: As bad as this system might be, nothing justifies the economic blockade of Cuba or the interference by the United States in its internal matters.

Erasmo Calzadilla

Erasmo Calzadilla: I find it difficult to introduce myself in public. I've tried many times but it doesn’t flow. I’m more less how I appear in my posts, add some unpresentable qualities and stir; that should do for a first approach. If you want to dig a little deeper, ask me for an appointment and wait for a reply.

84 thoughts on “Cuban Socialism: Fact or Fiction?

  • November 16, 2013 at 6:01 pm

    only cubans peaples must decide-i wish them the best

  • April 7, 2012 at 2:20 am


    Dear Dr. Matulovic,

    Your eloquent, erudite and impassioned (hence – often unedited) writings on different sites keep raising issues close to my heart (with consequent preferential treatment in my idle mind) yet rarely they provoke a response they deserve, much less open up a discourse of matters that should be a concern of us all. Perhaps, if I add my two pence worth, others with two pence to spare will do the same…

    1. “…it was never the system that was at fault. It was always the people, the leaders to be precise, that had failed to make the most of the system at hand, and live up to their promises…”
    a. … to deliver ‘government of the people, by the people, for the people’ – if I may add a useful and crafty sound-bite from the otherwise nauseating war-mongering harangue. Nice to pinpoint a distinction between the people, the people and the people in the above jingle. And then, you went for the jugular:
    2. It is in human nature to be stupid and to be willing to be led. It is also in human nature to take advantage of that stupidity and desire to be led, and to take the lead and rule.

    a. Yes, we are all cocktails made of many potions, the above two being ubiquitous, but in differing proportions. The major benefit of those two potions is that it provides ligature for the framework of social structures. The overwhelming majority (sometimes called the silent one, but usually claimed by the noisy ones, e.g. The Occupying “99%”) has the first potion as a base, and just a dash of the second for taste. The select (or chosen) minority (The “1%”) has the reverse proportion. Similar division exists across the board regarding another potion – ‘love of Me & Mine’ versus ‘love (of) thy neighbor’ (and his neighbors). The real draw-back is that the second group (the one about neighbors) is an endangered species across the board, and practically extinct amongst the “select” ones. For some further musing on the subject, please see my comment:

    3. “Which “system” is the best is a wrong question. Which people are the best to do the job of governing our common resources is the question we should ask ourselves. The answer is simple: the people who understand that managing common resources is just a job.”

    a. It would appear that this is the right answer to the ‘wrong question’ but a wrong answer to the right question – surely, ‘the best to do the job of governing our common resources’ are the people that have:
    i. The right motivation, (e.g. like the above mentioned endangered species)
    ii. Relevant competence, including experience with provable positive results (and no negative ones), and
    iii. Unhindered opportunity to serve their country, if they wished to do so.
    (Motive, Means and Opportunity – elementary, my dear Dr. Watson…)
    The above applies to any job (mutatis mutandis), certainly for the CXO level, so it should certainly apply to the most important job: “the job of governing our common resources”

    Only then comes ‘condicio sine qua non’ – people that are motivated (interested, willing), capable (educated, informed, experienced) and unhindered (by the existing social structures and mechanisms) to perform the selection of the above defined individuals. Once again – Motive, means, opportunity…

    4. “ we are all brothers, equal and free.” = Liberté, égalité, fraternité!
    a. There are major issues with the above notions – their meanings, interpretations, applications, implementations and malignantly fraudulent misuse. But that is another story, perhaps next time…

    Best regards,

  • February 19, 2011 at 11:26 pm

    Dear John Goodrich I have posted the same answer that appears fragmented here at havanatimes in one post at my blog so it is easier to read.

  • February 19, 2011 at 11:07 pm

    So you see John your theory of equal distribution does not really work for everyone on earth since some will be left with nothing. Do you know what they do in Cuba in such cases?
    They have priority grouping. The elite of the country gets first pick. That means they get the best doctors and medical care possible. They get the best food available in the country and so on. They have access to all the information and full access to internet etc. I could go on. They have their own cars even their children may enjoy much better status compare to normal cubans. Hey that does not look to me like the equality you were talking about. It looks to me like they replace money for power. So those in power are the new bourgeoisie with all kinds of privileges. To belong to this special class you need to be a supporter of their ideology. You need to be a supporter of those that hold the power and this have to be unconditional support. You will be ordered and you can not be critical. So you see John things are not so beautiful any more. This people are even worst that the bourgeoisie that you detest. Because they do not want people even dissenting. You could end up in prison when that happens.

    So I hope that my words reach you John. I hope they could touch you and help you understand in some way that socialism and communism are not the solution. Capitalism maybe bad but it is infinitely better as economical system than socialism ever was.
    Socialism have also being by design invariably link to totalitarian and authoritarian systems. Some say that it is imposible to have socialism without a totalitarian system in place. I guess we will never know.

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