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

  • 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.)

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