The Cuban Government and its Fight against Prosperity

Central Park, Havana. Photo: Juan Suarez


“The inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries” -Winston Churchill


By Repatriado

HAVANA TIMES — It’s taken us almost a year to discover what the Government was doing when it suddenly stopped issuing self-employment licenses, without any warning.

New regulations have just been published and the government has also announced that it will take another six months before licenses are granted again… six more months without new licenses, business ventures, investments or jobs.

It’s hard to understand how they can possibly think to stand in the way of the economy’s most dynamic sector from developing, which also employs 13% of workers. This would lead to mass protests anywhere else, but here, we just limit ourselves to complaining, under our breath and measuring our words.

Officially-speaking, licenses were suspended because the Government needed to reorganize the sector. Nothing was ever said about what this reorganization meant, why licenses had to be suspended in order to reorganize, how long this impasse would last (which many people thought was a definitive measure) and, of course, business owners still had to pay back loan repayments to the State (many of whom were left in debt and with businesses ready to launch but no license to open them).

I know of one family who were getting their house ready to rent to foreigners, but because they couldn’t get a license, they had to sell the family car to pay back the loan the State itself had given them and was now not letting them work.

From what we are hearing, restaurant owners will no longer be able to have a space dedicated to selling sweets or use a space as a bar and leisure area. They would need to get a specific license for every one of these activities as these will now be incompatible.

The self-employed will also not be able to practice more than one profession. However, the odd thing about this is that moonlighting is allowed in the public sector of the economy, and not only that, you can work for the State and have a self-employment license at the same time. This is how they are trying to stop Cuban social classes from polarizing so quickly, and like always, they are trying to make us all equal in our poverty.

The country’s sensitive food issue is only moving backwards. No more licenses will be handed out to people who want to sell agricultural produce and we will return to the absurd centralized system, popularly known as Acopio (Cuba’s State purchasing entity), which worked for decades and is one of the reasons why Cuban agriculture only produces enough marabou bush and other weeds.

At first sight, taxes don’t seem to really change, but we will have to wait for these new regulations to come into force for us to see how little they really change. For starters, tax exemption for the first five employees has been lifted, and business owners who do manage to prosper and hire more workers, will have to pay more taxes. If you hire over 20 workers, you will have to pay 6 times more for every employee; unlike the rest of the world, and as this is a country where young people dream of emigrating, business owners are encouraged not to hire them.

Marx spoke about the “reserved army” of the unemployed that capitalism created, and I find myself asking what the name would be of the army created by this communism.

Other governments at least put on a facade of wanting to facilitate their citizens’ path to prosperity, because they vote for them, but because we don’t vote for our government, we have to put up with whatever laws they pass, seeking to stop anyone from prospering privately and they boast about it. Let me cite the deputy minister of Labor and Social Security: “There are workers who own a cafe and have a manicure, car washing, or shoe maker/seller license at the same time. That can’t be. It’s one owner who has many businesses and this isn’t the nature and spirit of the self-employed persons, which consist of people working their professions every day.”

It’s been confirmed that they only want to slightly loosen the shackles that tie us, just enough so we can survive outside of the State’s inefficient economy, but not enough so we can aspire to leave our poverty behind, which is something we seem to deserve apparently.

It seems that our leader, (Raul? Diaz-Canel?) is bothered or terrified by the fact that some citizens can live outside of State control, even just a tiny bit, and they only allow this because the Cuban government doesn’t have a foreign sponsor like it’s always needed.

There is not the slightest hint that this form of labor implies a less authoritarian attitude. Holding onto power continues to be their priority, so they can continue to share out misery among those of us at the bottom, while they will take care of the wealth.   

41 thoughts on “The Cuban Government and its Fight against Prosperity

  • It has been an interesting discussion. But a footnote for Repatriado. Churchill like Jose Marti, became a professional journalist and writer (but unlike Marti, was not a poet). Interestingly it can be claimed that the journalistic career commenced on his 21st birthday at Arroyo Blanco in Sancti Spiritus, when as a British cavalry officer he was on loan from the British Army to observe Spain’s defense against the Cuban independence fighters led by Antonio Maceo and Maximo Gomez. On his 21st birthday he came under fire for the first time in his life. His powers of observation led him to write in his first despatch:

    “The insurgents gain adherence continually. There is no doubt that they possess the sympathy of the entire population.”

    The following year, in their determination to repress Cuba and its people, Spain replaced General Suarez Valdes with General Weyler.

    Churchill’s second visit to Cuba was forty years later in 1946 immediately prior to going to Fulton Missouri to give his famous speech about “an iron curtain descending across Europe”. As he smoked on average nine Cuban cigars per day, Churchill certainly merited being used even today as a promotion for them.

  • For me Nick the “real world” is the comparison I described. I shop in both. I realize that to you, the grass in Cuba is just as green as that in the Green Park in London. But Nick if you visit the latter, you will find ducks and other wildfowl wandering around and being fed bread crumbs by park visitors. In Cuba they would be grabbed, taken home, plucked and eaten! The grass may be of similar colour, but don’t try to pretend that the conditions are similar.

  • Repatriado,
    I have come across pure kindness on various occasions (including occasions in Cuba – occasions when decent and honest Cuban people have helped me out without knowing me or anything about me but out of a basic instinct to assist someone who is in need of assistance).
    Pure evil?
    There are some nasty MFs out there in the world.
    But I have a tendency to put that down to circumstances.
    Cause and effect.

  • In order to write a post I am preparing to HT, I have read again a book written by Erik Fromm, Anatomía de la destructividad, it has the best study I know about Hitler’s personality.

    A better understanding many times point to a conclusion of pure evil or pure kindness, or you don´t believe there are things that really are black or white?

  • Mr MacD…….
    Are you aware of how many capitalist countries there are in the world?
    And you are actually suggesting that everyone in those countries just trots down to the store and buys whatever they want whenever they want it ??
    Now I would agree that some kind of change is needed in Cuba, but when you start suggesting such wildly inaccurate ‘grass is greener on the other side’ nonsense you really are peddling a totally false reality……
    Jump back to the real world.

  • Thanks for the psychological profile.
    But I don’t find it difficult to not come to a conclusion on certain topics. I’m very happy to be agnostic. When I was younger I had a lot of conclusions but not so much experience or knowledge to base those conclusions on.
    As I get older I am less inclined toward seeking to reach conclusions but am more interested in a better understanding of the bigger picture.
    I don’t see this as a ‘difficulty’.
    I like to understand cause and effect.
    You mentioned Hitler in a previous comment of yours.
    Unfortunately there are a lot of potential Hitlers.
    But there was a specific set of circumstances which allowed that individual to rise up and achieve so much power. It is all too easy to tap on keyboards and talk in terms of good and evil.
    If there is any real conclusion at all to be drawn from that man’s influence on the world around him, it would be to perhaps be try and avoid a repetition of those circumstances.

  • I agree with your last sentence Repatriado. It was only by living life as if a Cuban, surrounded by my Cuban family and friends and without any contact with tourists, that I fully appreciated how Cubans are expected to live by the dictatorship. Those continuous questions:
    “Wonder if Romeo will have any pork today.”
    “I heard that El Rapido got some yoghurt, but it was all gone when I got there.”
    “Do you know if anybody is selling eggs on the avenue today?”
    “It’s little Yelena’s birthday tomorrow, what can I get her?”
    “Can we afford to go to the little fiesta at the Casa de Musica tomorrow night?”
    “The only beer available is imported from Belgium, Germany, Dominican, Holland and the USA at over 1.20 CUC I wonder when they will have Buchanero available at 1 CUC?”
    Those who live in capitalist countries don’t have to ask such questions – they just go to the store and buy anything they want.
    But for Cubans? “Es Cuba!”

  • Vienna is a city that I used to know well. If one goes back to the fifties, one could sit at the table of a side-walk cafe on Kartnerstrasse order a coffee from the “Herr Ober” which would then be brought along with a glass of iced water. It was possible to sit there for hours without ordering anything else, but the glass of iced water would be replenished regularly.
    No Reptariado, I would not say that Vienna is full of idiots, but would say that the Viennese are “sehr gemutlich”. How does one know that they are Viennese? Because they say “aberjo” not the German “aberja”.
    Vienna has justified claim to be the best city in the world. Wien Wein mein lieberlein.
    However Repatriado, there is no doubt about the anti-SemItism of the Austrians encouraged by the almost medieval Catholic Church view that: “The Jews killed Christ.” Adolf Hitler learned that from childhood in Linz his native town.

  • Once I was having dinner with some friends in Vienna, that was my first time there, when I introduced myself I said my full name, they were happy to show their tolerance with my Jew name, delightful with my French first name, and looked at me as a bug for having an Spanish second name and half in joke half seriously they advise me do not say that part of my name, that was the first time I felt discrimination, it is nothing compare to what black people has being suffering everywhere, including black nations of Africa, but it was for me the beginning of a human transformation that completely changed my point of view about black people in Cuba.

    Who would say that Vienna is full of idiots?? jejeje

  • Please allow me a professional approximation to you, I have mentioned that I studied psychology. By the way, I did the career in Spain, I had the right to the Spanish nationality because I was married there for 6 years, but I refused to take it, today I am Cuban and only Cuban, I hate all nationalism as a very stupid and retrograde thinking, but I had a very stupid nationalistic behaviour in that moment, the one I only regret for my children.

    We all are ambiguous my friend.

    I know you have ambiguous feelings about Fidel, I think you find yourself in difficulties when it comes to a conclusion and you release that psychological compression calling that conclusion “being extremist”.

    I don´t hate the people than have ambiguous feeling about Fidel, myself have those feelings about many historic figures, starting in Cuban violent freedom fighters, I hate the people that comes to Cuba, very often in a trip paid with Cuban money, to talk very bad about the US and to declare eternal love and admiration for Cuban revolution and its leaders, for those people I only have bad feelings and I always wonder if they would be so Fidel lovers if they have to live like a real Cuban has.

  • If you discount all those who have expressed some admiration for Fidel Castro, then that’s a lot of people you need to discount.
    My own views regarding Fidel are ambiguous as are my views regarding Winston Churchill.

    I find that suggesting those 20th Century you mention were worse than the Spanish colonialists is also a bit tricky. Very different eras and therefore difficult to draw comparisons.

    I think we may have to agree to disagree on these issues.

    Where I do fully understand your point is when you state that Latin America cannot always blame others for their situation. I think that outside powers do deserve some significant blame historically and currently, but they cannot be held to be 100% responsible for ever. I would agree with this.

  • Love the last line Repatriado!

  • Galeano was a friend and admirer of Fidel Castro, a dictator, narcissist, cruel and terrible like any other dictator, Galeano kept his support to Cuban revolution to the end, no one that supports Cuban revolution or Chavez regime deserve my respect, even less when that someone is a cultivated intellectual as Galeano, García Marquez, Chomsky, Ramonet or many other USA haters than care a shit about Cuban people.

    As I have say many times before you can stand against USA, I do, and stand against Fidel Castro at the same time, it is a personal election to stand against USA and to the same time to stand with Fidel Castro.

    Las venas… is an absolutely sided book, beautifully written by a great writer, but it is a book conceived to prove a point using only the data than prove that point, with Galeano´s method and some time anyone can “prove” that Latin America has failed because of what the Danish or the Belgians did to us.

    USA has done many bad things against the world in general and Latin America in particular, of course they are part of the WHY Latin America has failed, but I think they are not the WHY, to focus responsibility in USA and not in us is a bad service to us self, and false.

    About long time ago deceased empire we are in the antipodes, we can keep the cultural discussion if you want in private, I am always open to learn and I know little about English empire.

    Just one thing, the only empires I consider as bad as humankind is capable of are the totalitarian empires of XX century, Hitler, Stalin and Mao in front.

    About that people that believe in natural superiority, little to say, there are idiots everywhere.

  • Sadly Repatriado the Castro regime and the Communist Party of Cuba are never going to introduce a change to the democratic system you so understandably seek. They will not accept change, for any change would mean a reduction in their power and control.

  • Repatriado,
    I have many disagreements with those who post comments here.
    I don’t dismiss points of view which are different to mine. I just throw my piece in to try to put across some kind of balance.
    This latest comment of yours opens up a whole new avenue of disagreement.
    In fact it opens up a huge and wide boulevard of potential disagreement !!
    There is no real equivalence between the imperial activities of the British and the Spanish in the ‘New World’. One was pretty bad; the other was as bad as humankind is capable of.
    ‘Las Venas Abiertas… ‘ is a marvel.
    You do put forward some interesting points and as you imply, this work is one sided. But it is a great and lyrical classic of its genre.
    There are still a great many people of pure Hispanic blood in Latin America who regard themselves as inherently superior to those of indigenous or African heritage (this sadly still applies in Cuba). They think, often subconsciously, that this supposed natural superiority pardons all historical sins.
    Unfortunately, this is the acrid smoke that still rises from the embers of the uber cruel Spanish Empire.
    I do not suggest that this this applies in your own case.
    I can say with certainty that it did not apply in the case of the late, great Snr. Galeano.

  • you are right, british used the camps during the secong Boer war, that was after the crimes of Weyler and Spain in Cuba.

  • I feel myself like a new Pepe Antonio, a criollo fighting with two citizens of the English Crown jejeje

    Did you know than the first masonic lodge that worked in Cuba did it in the actual convent of San Francisco de Asís, it was a lodge annex to the English Army?

    I wasn’t neither defending the imperialism of Spain, what I am defending is that Spain wasn’t worst that some other empire.

    I don´t agree in that view about the Spaniards as wealth extractors, the very very architectural rich colonial cities there are today in south America, no existing anything like that in north America, speaks against that idea, Spain had a very defined empire model, a town, a hospital, an university and a cathedral. Cities in South America were richer than cities in North America in 1810, the year than mark a before and an after in the American Spanish empire.

    The conquest of the Catholics against the Islam says nothing to me, the Islam have being the most aggressive religion from its foundation, they conquered by force and forced the conversion to many other peoples.

    It also a myth that the Catholic Kings treated the Jews worse than others, there is not a single place in the Cristian or Islamic world where Jews were well treated all the time. There are moments where Jews moved in mass from the Christian world to the Islamic world because in that moment there was more tolerance under a Califa, in other occasion the movement was in the opposite direction.

    The religious intolerance was absolutely normal in that time, starting with the Jews that were very intolerant themselves, but like they are a minority they were always the losers. Any way the decision to expel Jews from Spain is not a religious decision, it was a political one that must be analysed in that period when a war of 700 years was finishing.

    By the way, Spaniards were by far more tolerant with Jews than others, Italians started the common pejorative expression of marrano to call a Spaniard with Jew blood, something very common.

    I absolutely denied that Spaniards did a mass-slaughtered in America bigger that the one that any other empire have done before, including the Incas and the Aztecs, both absolutely cruel cultures.

    It is an exiting topic.

    Sure I have read Galeano, a great poet, El Libro de los Abrazos is one of my favourites books, but a lazy historian, his famous book Las venas abiertas… , for me is only propaganda, I hate that point of view that place all responsibilities of the failure of us as Hispanic Americans in the hands of others, Spain, England, France and of course and mainly USA.

    In the interview I have published here in HT to Uva de Aragon there is a question where I say “Were we a part of the hemophiliac metaphor of the Yankee vampire drinking from our open veins?” It is a reference precisely to that iconic book from Galeano.

  • I’m content to leave Nick’s answer. Just one correction, Weyler’s concentration camps preceded the British ones in South Africa.

  • Repatriado,
    Unusually, I must say that I agree with Mr MacD.
    I don’t care for boasting that British Empire was morally superior to that of the Spanish. The British committed some terrible atrocities and to this day our noble leaders are still having to apologise for this or that massacre.
    But when you weigh things up the Spanish were probably far worse.
    Under the British, colonies were allowed to become entities unto themselves with internal infrastructure and investment.
    As Mr MacD correctly states every focus of the Spanish was on the extraction of wealth. This wealth would always go back to Spain.
    The Spanish Christians conquered Islamic Spain, knocked down the mosques and built Cathedrals on the foundations. They did the same with Inca temples.
    To this day you can see the Moorish foundations in Andalucia and the Inca foundations in Peru that prop up the ostentatious Catholic Palaces of worship.
    Jews were killed in Spain or forced to leave. Muslims were forced to convert and then leave. Jews and Muslims were forced to eat pork in public or face immediate death.
    These same types of atrocities and worse were committed in Latin America. Yes some died of European Illnesses that they had no antibodies against but indigenous populations were also mass-slaughtered or enslaved and worked to death in gold or silver mines.
    You mention some interesting sources which have influenced your point of view.
    Surely you must have also read Eduardo Galeano?

  • As you know the introduction of democracy in the UK was a gradual process. These concessions had to be dragged out of the greedy clutches of the aristocracy.
    The biggest step forward was immediately after WW1.
    This was done in reaction to the advent of the Russian Revolution. There were mutinies in many sections of the British armed forces as the authorities kept combatants in uniform for a ridiculous amount of time after the war had ended (due to the fear of a Workers Revolution). Allowing the vote for all men over the age 21 and for land owning women was seen as a concession which would head off any attempt at an uprising. This was in 1918. This move tripled the size of the electorate. It was due to this concession that Britain moved to resemble what we would recognise as something like a modern democracy. This process was completed around a decade later when the right to vote in parliamentary elections was extended to all women, not just wealthy women.
    The British Establishment did not bestow democracy on the populace as some kind and generous gift. Why on earth would they ??
    You think the likes of the Churchill family wanted to simply hand over power to be nice to the poor ??
    Any such suggestion would be completely absurd.
    Their total power was wrestled away from them piece by piece.
    So Mr MacD, as the world awaits in keen anticipation for this moment of revelation:
    The answer to your question is………..
    Take your pick – 1918 or 1928.

    And thank you for answering my question. Most interesting.
    They say that folks typically get more right wing as they get older.
    Would you say there is any truth in that or do you think is it just a cliche ??

  • I will refute first the topic of the inquisition because it is a topic in which I have deepened:

    I leave you clear that I am an anticlerical racionalist and I don’t have the most minimum interest in defending the Catholic neither the Spanish imperialism

    According to Henningsen in the modern Europe were burnt 50.000 witches: the half in Germany; 4.000 in Switzerland; 1.500 in England; 4.000 in France. ¿in Spain? 27.

    According to Kamen in the XVI century were executed between 40 and 50 people in all the Spanish territory, included territories of America, just the persecutions of Catholic heretics in the England of Isabel caused 1.000 deads. In France, in the only five year in that century executed more than 300 people.

    Haliczer affirms that the torture was used in less than 2 percent of the cases taken by the Spanish Inquisition. The Spanish Inquisition was the first tribunal of the world that prohibited the torture, a hundred years before this prohibition were generalized

    Henningsen and Contreras on the 44.674 causes opened by the Inquisition between 1540 and 1700 give a figure of 1.346 condemned to death, Henry Kamen elevates the figure to approximately 3.000 victims in all its history and territories.

    James Stephen calculated that the number of convicts to death in England in three centuries reached 264.000

    The inquisition is a myth that begins in Italy, from there it passes to the Swiss and German Lutheranism and the Dutch and English Protestantism, all these regions affected by the Spanish imperialism.

    The French anticlerical philosophers during the illustration are those that universalize the myth.

    so the history of the Catholic Church with the Inquisition in the countries colonized is completely disputable.

    About the Spanish imperialism it was less brutal than the Briton or French, in fact the Spaniards didn’t develop the slavery to great scale until they made it the English and French colonies.

    The racism and the cultural intolerance was bigger in the Anglo-Saxon territories and that in the Spaniards, even when the Spaniards found big centralized civilizations, Incas, Aztecs, in their territories.

    It is well known that the aboriginal death toll was due to deaths for illnesses, not for wars or pro-slavery exploitation, that doesn’t exclude that both horrors have been made.

    Spain was the only metropolises with a government worried by the well-being of all its citizens, the Spaniards recognized immediately as citizens to the natives and they legislated in that sense recognizing them rights and equalling them to the rest of Spaniards.

    The disastrous development of the Hispanic territory in did is conditioned by the pattern of Spanish empire, the one is conditioned by the pattern of Roman empire of reproduction of cities, the Spaniards took their civilization there where they went, the Englishmen, French and Dutchmen took factories.

    The behavioural line, antidemocrat and violent of the history of America it is in great measure responsibility of Spain, yes, but it is not something that Spain “made to us”, but it is something that we inherit and that I believe that we have had time of correcting, as the own Spain has made.

    About Weyler and Spain it is as you say, alone with a fact, From who Weyler learned his methods? the English in South Africa.

    To remark an individual that made brutal crimes during less than 2 years don’t characterize the history of 400 years of Spain in America.

    I don’t know the names of the equivalent of Weyler in the United Kingdom or in France, but for sure there are some and neither there was a lot of regret for what those monsters did.

  • A lot of years ago Repatriado, about the time of Churchill’s death, a book was published bearing the title of: “The Wit of Winston Churchill” It contained a lot of quotes as made by him. For example, you may have noted in these pages someone erroneously quoting him saying: “and tomorrow Miss I shall be sober”. Actually it was the Labour Member of Parliament a prodigiously large buxom lady named Bessie Braddock and a Methodist who habitually wore black suits, who passing the Members Bar in the House of Commons, bumped into Churchill emerging somewhat the worse from drink, from the bar. Being a none drinker, Bessie drew herself up and said as an accusation: “Your’e drunk.” To which Churchill replied: “Yes Madam and your’e ugly, and tomorrow Madam i shall be sober.” The quote I gave was in that same book.

  • Thanks for the compliments Repatriado, I am not certain that I merit them as my interest in contributing to HT is that 99% of Cubans are unable to access, and I try to present their views – as expressed to me by them, those including the desire for the various freedoms that I mention.
    With regard to Spain, the history of the Catholic Church with the Inquisition in the countries they colonized is indisputable. Secondly, if you examine the economies of the countries they colonized and compare them with those of other major colonizing powers, you will find that virtually without exception, they are in poor economic condition, with strife all too commonplace. Spain only ever extracted and never invested. In Cuba in particular the cruelty of allowing General Valerio Weyler to run rampant and the introduction in 1897 of the first concentration camps with over 300,000 Cubans (a high proportion being of Spanish descent) of whom some 30% died of disease and starvation, demonstrates Spain’s policies. Was Spain ashamed of Weyler? no indeed Spain was so pleased with his actions that they made him Minister of War in 1907 and then in 1920 Duke of Rubi and a Grandee of Spain.

  • As you claim that Churchill opposed the introduction of democracy into Britain, do please tell us the date upon which democracy was introduced? The world awaits!
    To answer your question, I have voted both Liberal (not unusual for a northern Scot), and Conservative, but never Socialist. Again for your interest, it was Shirley Williams when Labour MInister of Education, who learning that I had been approached, urged me to accept becoming a political candidate in the UK, an approach which I declined, but I was not actually a member of any political party.

  • I do not being disparaging, antagonistic or derogatory Mr MacD.
    I merely like to see some kind of balance.
    Let me give you an example:
    If someone tells me about how wonderful Fidel Castro is; how he liberated his country; how he stood up to the brutality of the USA; how he helped liberate Africa; how he was loved by Nelson Mandela etc etc etc. Then I will nod sagely and put forward the other side of the story in the interest of a full and balanced debate which weighs up all aspects of the man and all opinions.
    And I always do the same regarding Winston Churchill.
    A lot of re-examination has occurred in the UK since the recent ‘Hollywoodization’ that attempted a whitewash.
    The fact that he originally opposed the introduction of democracy to my country might actually be a new fact for some people.
    If that’s the case, then I am very pleased to have added some degree of balance to their knowledge of the man.

    After years of resistance, the British ruling classes gradually allowed the onset of democracy as a necessary compromise to avoid a Worker’s Revolution. This is a matter of straightforward historical fact.

    A question for you Mr MacD…..
    Are you stating that you are not a conservative?

  • I don’t want a sudden change, I want a slow transition to democracy and liberal economy, but not lead for the communist party.

  • Despite that Carlyle and Nick centred their discussion in a topic not central in my post, I enjoy very much to read them both, it is a pleasure to see a real fight of cultivated parsons that argue with reasons, even when sometime there is a lot of passion.

    I always follow their disputes, a classic in HT, and I feel very happy when one of my post induce that situation.

    I only want to say something to Carlyle and Nick, it is not correct the comparison amount empires, what Spanish, British and French let behind is not a reflection of how “good” were their empires, the system or the people, in fact I defend that the Spanish empire were very human compare with the others.

    It is far from truth to say than Spanish empire were crueller than the others, or more exploiter, the conditions where Spain became the bigger empire of its time were completely different to the conditions where the other became empires a long time after.

    There is a big difference in the moment of the creation of the empires and the previous experience, a big difference in the area where they did it, a big difference in the native cultures they found, a big difference in how every country faced this process.

    About Churchill, thanks for the lessons.

  • Hi Repatriado,
    Dan Segal makes a very valid point.
    I guess an article can sometimes provoke a debate which has little to do with the actual article itself. Perhaps it was inevitable that your reference to Churchill would provoke the usual display of differences between myself and Mr MacD.
    You began your article with a Churchill quote. Churchill always provokes debate. In my country Churchill was a very controversial figure. He was both loved and hated. Perhaps that would sound familiar to you?
    These days he is held up as a defender of democracy due to WW2. But the reality is that decades prior to WW2 the aristocratic ruling class (including Churchill) were against the introduction of any real democracy as they feared it would dilute their control. Perhaps that also sounds familiar to you??
    My thoughts toward Churchill’s legacy are ambiguous as are those of a many British people.

    Regarding entrepreneurs in Cuba, I would mostly agree with you.
    The government insists that Cuban businesses buy their necessary products from CUC stores and at regular CUC prices.
    A Simple Example:
    If a business wants to buy one Bucanero – the price is X.
    If they want 24 Bucaneros – price: 24 x X.
    It they want 1000 Bucaneros – price: 1000 x X.
    This is clearly a mess and can only possibly result in an expansion of the black market. The private businesses who purchase on the black market are then accused of corruption etc and the issuing of licenses is stopped.
    So what is the answer?
    I know that you think that the answer is a sudden switch to being like Sweden (or Estonia?) and I’m certainly not being patronising when I say this.
    But I think you would agree with me if I say that this scenario is unlikely to come about tomorrow or next week.
    Cuba will change. Of that I have no doubt. It will take time and not all of the changes will be good ones. I just hope that most of the changes are good ones.

    In the meantime, using my above example, perhaps the Government could pass the following law:

    1000 Bucaneros – price 650 x X

    And then start issuing licences again.
    Coz that would help the struggling economy and cut out the black market middle man. To me this simple example is a fairly obvious and practical solution.
    But the Cuban Government is often adverse to the obvious and the practical.

    If I made several comments here without actually referring to the substance of your article……..
    Disculpame… was not meant to offend.

    But as I say, Churchill is a controversial figure in my country.

  • Firstly Dan, I understand your comment about the difference of view regarding Churchill between Nick and I. But if you review the above, you will note that I responded to Repatriado’s question directed at me. Nick however decided to seize upon the opportunity to disparage Churchill (he will protest that he called him a “great man”, but the overall tone of his comments is clearly antagonistic and derogatory).
    Nick reasons that because as one who lives in Cuba I am opposed to communism with its repression and have repeatedly stated my detestation of dictatorship of the left or right, preferring capitalist societies -with all their faults – to repressive dictatorship, I must be labelled as “right-wing conservative”.
    That merely exposes where his support lies!
    Might I finally note that democracy has a long history especially in the UK where Magna Carta was signed at Runnymede very many centuries prior to the birth of Winston Churchill or indeed the construction of Blenheim Palace.

  • Dan, thank you for your kind words, I have to say that my original article was written in Spanish and it was improved in translation, it is not the first time that happens with my publications in HT, so I want to recognize the very fine and remarkable work the HT translator does.

  • Too bad such a well-written article and such an important current topic in real time is now diluted by a tiff between readers about what exactly Winston Churchill said. Back to the topic at hand and Repatriado’s clear, insightful article–I’ve read so many pieces about the why, how, and when of Cuba’s emerging private sector economy, but this one gives a much more ominous feeling than anything else I’ve read. Not only because of the specifics–if they are enforced–but because it’s such a sharp turn, coming early in the tenure of a new leader trying to set a tone. Black markets will persist of course, and in theory Cuba’s leadership knows it needs some tourism and private sector revenue to keep people going, but clearly the leadership is not loving the emergent and open feeling that so many travelers are surprised to find in the nascent free market that has been growing up thru Cuba’s cracks.

  • You’re latest comment is yet another example of ideological rhetoric, twisted facts, facts devoid of context and ‘historical simplism’.
    As usual you manage to misquote me. I did not say Churchill fought against democracy. Once reasonable levels of representation were fought for and won, this level of representation became the norm. A norm that Churchill led the defence of in the face of an enemy that was even more right wing and white supremacist than himself.
    What I actually said was that long before he became a legend, Winston Churchill fought against the introduction of democracy.
    He and others of his cadre and social rank fought every step of the way against the people of the UK having representation. Concessions such as being allowed to form unions, political gatherings and having the right to a vote had to be painstakingly dragged out of the ruling classes. These rights were fought for over a period of many years.
    To suggest that Churchill was in favour of democracy all along is simply a blatant twisting of historical fact.
    But that’s what you do Mr MacD. And you do it in order to try to back up your right-wing, conservative viewpoints.
    As I say, thankfully the wonderful nation of Scotland has largely rid itself of such viewpoints.

  • To suggest that Churchill “fought long and hard against democracy” is nonsensical in the extreme. But then of course Nick you endeavor to paint people like me who are opposed to totalitarian dictatorship of left or right as extreme and conservative. To you obviously a belief by people like me that capitalism – with its faults – is preferable to dictatorship by the left or the right indicates that you prefer the latter rather than any freedom of expression or individual thought and action. To add to your nonsense you now describe me as “neo-liberalist – a supposed smear phrase so commonly used in the “progressive” countries like Venezula, North Korea and Cuba and parroted by communists and communist supporters in general.
    I note with a degree of amusement, that you don’t deny what I wrote.
    If you care to look at post-Second World War politics in the UK, you will find that the socialists achieving power in may 1945, messed up the economy (a normal practice by socialists who always spend more on so-called “programmes” than government revenues can sustain) and that by 1951 the economy of the UK was in a parlous state with citizens being required to use ration books for food, “points” for clothing and footwear and to carry identity cards to be produced upon demand by the Police. Within one month of Churchill being elected Prime Minister, ration books, points and identity cards were scrapped. The economy took off and Britain had an economic surge. Just look at the UK economy from 1951 to 1958. Remember also that it was during that period that so many of the UK colonies gained their independence and chose to be members of the Commonwealth. Which countries became independent under the socialists?
    A similar mess was created by initially Harold Wilson and them by James Callaghan which ended in 1979 with the country being again in a financial mess. You Nick may not recall the banners of the UK Conservative Party (of which I have never been a member) in 1979. Those messages were of freedom, opportunity, family, enterprise and individual ownership.
    The Labour Party (socialist) message was:
    “You want to keep the money you earn? That’s very selfish. We shall tax that away. You want to own shares in a business, we can’t have that. The State has to own your business. You want to choose where you send your children to school? That’s divisive, you’ll send your children and have them educated the way that we tell you.”
    The problem for socialism is that they just don’t like freedom. Socialism doesn’t like ordinary people – the so-called mass or proletariat choosing, because they might not choose socialism.
    Socialism is about the State taking more and ever more of the decisions that affect normal peoples lives! Cuba is an illustration of socialism which seeks power at any price – or hadn’t you noticed? The people of Cuba have noticed as recorded by numerous articles here in Havana Times.
    The reality is Nick that socialists have willful blindness when examining the results of socialist rule in practice – which somehow never manages to meet the theoretical concepts of its followers.

  • As I have said various times and will say again, Churhill was a brilliant but very flawed Politician. We had a class system in the UK which lingers on. Churchill represented one specific minority but all-powerful angle within this system.
    Churchill is rightly regarded as a hero due to his efforts in WW2. When faced with potential invasion by a country led by someone even more right wing and white supremacist than himself, he had the sense to recognise that this foe was beyond the pale. Of course there were Commonwealth allies, US allies and most crucially, Russian allies in the bloody struggle that ensued. But that does not refute the fact that way before the WW2 era he and others of his stripe fought long and hard against the introduction of democracy in the UK. Neither does it contradict the fact that he and others of his stripe fought long and hard against the struggle of everyday Irish and British folks to achieve a basic level of human dignity.
    And he was certainly dead against the independence struggles of those very nations who fought alongside us in our time of gravest threat.
    Despite all his myriad flaws, he will always remain a legend.
    Certainly in my eyes.
    In retrospect he most definitely does not fit easily into any neat little ‘good vs evil’ scenario.
    Regarding your referrals to your Scottish roots, I must remind you that your support for conservative right wing capitalism and advocacy of neo-liberalist economics is a viewpoint almost entirely redundant in the wonderful and progressive nation that is modern 21st century Scotland.
    Where I think we may would possibly agree is perhaps this:
    I spend an good deal of my time in Spain. I have a deep regard for the country and all it’s various regions and cultures.
    Like Scotland it is also a modern and fairly progressive nation these days.
    But looking back at the former colonial powers of Europe from an objective point of view….
    Spain was the worst of the worst.
    The great Hatuey would testify to this.
    When they asked him if he wished to convert to Christianity so he would get to heaven after they killed him, he said that ‘if there are Spanish in heaven then I don’t wanna go there’

  • Methinks Nick that your desire to promote the merits of socialism at times overcomes knowledge. Churchill’s second constituency as a Liberal was Dundee – scarcely a bastion of right wing thought with jute workers being a significant part of the electorate and which he represented from 1908 until 1922. During that time he was a Minister – President of the Board of Trade – in the government of Prime Minister Asquith.
    In 1940, the British Labour Party at their annual conference voted to support Winston S. Churchill as Prime Minister by 2, 450,000 to 170,000 – a 93% majority. A vote was then held in the House of Commons, the result being 380 to 0 in favour of Churchill who thus became Prime Minister at the age of 65.
    Churchill then addressed the House of Commons:

    “I would say to the House as I have said to those who have joined this Government: I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat. You ask what is our policy? I will say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air with all our might and with all the strength God can give us. That is our policy, You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word; it is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory however long and long the road may be, for without victory, there is no survival.”

    Few politicians in history world wide, can claim to have so fully declared and subsequently fulfilled their policy and their aim. Churchill did and could. He was fifteen years older than Hitler, nine years older than Mussolini, eight years older than Franklin D, Roosevelt and outlived them all, eventually retiring as Prime Minister at the age of eighty in 1955.

    Your contribution reeks of that awful class system that so bedevils England. I – and I carry a British passport – have frequently commented to none British folks that if one gets a couple of English together in a pub, that by behavioural pattern and speech, each will define to which “class” the other belongs – from upper- upper class down through the various other upper classes, the middle classes and different levels of working class. One feeling inferior may then address the other as: “Sir”. It’s awful.

    It was not socialism that introduced education for all in Scotland in 1697, or in England in 1875. It is correct that it was the British Labour Party that introduced the world’s first national health service in 1948 with Aneurin Bevan as Minister of Health, based upon the Beveridge Report produced during the Second World War when Churchill was Prime Minister.

    You should also know that it was not the aristocracy that owned or controlled the “Daily Worker” the communist national daily newspaper – but there certainly was funding from Russia!

    Of course Nick, you will doubtless dismiss what I have written as irrelevant as it all refers to matters which occurred over sixty years ago. But as I previously observed that applies to Raul Castro and the support given by the KGB to organization and enactment of the Cuban revolution.

    One final point, you refer to “former colonies managed to achieve liberation from British imperialism”.
    Who Nick wrote more Constitutions than any other man in history and which political party was in power in the UK? The answer is Iain MacLeod and the Conservative party.

    Repatriado and others should note that I am not defending colonialism, which was in many ways a competition between European nations to decide who could be most tyrannical on the one hand and who most likely to invest on the other. It is obvious in examining today the countries subjected to Spanish rule, that Spain was worst. The Commonwealth reflects British rule, the Francofonia French rule and Spain left what?

  • It is my opinion Repatriado that the quote is correct. But, Churchill had a long career in the UK House of Commons and gave countless speeches, repetition with various additions at various times are highly probable. See my response also to Nick!

  • will you stick with what you said because suits better to your point of view or because you know it is the right quote?

  • Winston Churchill is a British Legend and came out with some wonderful quotes.
    He was an intelligent and articulate man. His articulacy was fuelled by his alcohol addiction. As the day went on and the expensive champagne, brandy, whisky, fine wine, port etc gradually topped up the level of alcohol in his bloodstream, he got ever more articulate up to a certain point. And then after that certain point he gradually became (according to reliable sources) more and more slurred and incomprehensible.

    Men of his political opinion, aristocratic social class and era fought against the right of non land-owning men to vote. Then against the right of women to vote.
    The pretext Churchill and those of his social class gave was that common, working class folks were not educated or knowledgeable enough to merit a vote. The real reason Churchill did not want these folks to vote is because (being a clever fella) he knew they would vote against him.

    On occasions Churchill turned the police loose and the armed forces loose on those in Britain and Ireland who fought for workers rights, for representation and for the right to a welfare system and decent healthcare. His views were backed up by others of his social class who owned the media.

    Despite this, British Socialism achieved much including the formation of a healthcare system, employment rights, rights to time off work, the right of education etc etc etc…

    Churchill felt himself to be inherently superior to those of non-white skin and those of a common working social class. He thought it was his natural birth-right to be above such people. He had to be dragged along by mass public opinion to back down in the face of the working class’ demands for a basic, decent standard of living.

    No. He did not like British Socialists. And they did not like him.
    But the British Socialist Movement managed to achieve great and long-lasting benefits and rights – despite his opposition.
    Likewise, the former colonies managed to achieve liberation from British Imperialism – despite his opposition.

    But he did come out with some great quotes along the way !!

  • I am aware Repatriado that there are several variations of quotes by Churchill to be found on the internet, but as one who lived in the UK during both Churchill’s periods as Prime Minister, I will stick with what I said.

  • My dear friend, Churchill said: The inherent VICE of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent VIRTUE of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.

    I guess he was saying that the only virtue of socialism was still a defect.

  • Just a correction Repatriado.
    Winston Churchill actually said “The inherent VICE of socialism is the equal sharing of misery.”
    Churchill was unable to see any virtues in socialism.
    The Castro communist regime (Raul is still in charge), is determined to maintain “the mass” or proletariat. Prosperity for “the mass” or proletariat runs counter to their philosophy of equality of poverty. If people are allowed to think for themselves and to openly express their views, then communism is doomed. Anything which encourages individuality is stamped upon. It is essential to enforce laws and regulations which enable total control. Don’t expect any change as long as the Communist Party of Cuba is in power.

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