Another Socialist Failure

by Bob Carr

Remember when Cuba enjoyed favoured status with the left? The Soviet Union edged towards collapse. China had no alternative but to go for markets and private ownership. But there was still some romance in a leader with a beard and a cigar who had stood up to the tyrannical, imperialist giant.

Couldn’t it be said that socialist Cuba had exemplary health services? Another extenuating factor: hadn’t the Marxist regime replaced a corrupt, mafia-bribed, oppressive tyranny led by a puppet of Uncle Sam, President Fulgencio Batista?

Now Cuba has fallen away, like all the other socialist citadels.

Fidel Castro told US journalist Jeffrey Goldberg and the Latin American scholar Julia Sweig last August, “The Cuban model doesn’t even work for us anymore.”

Where does that leave the friendship societies, the old left who were so fond of trouping over there, and the other refugees from Marxism? Jose Manuel Prieto in an article for The New York Review of Books and reprinted in the Financial Review describes returning to his homeland and observing “the dismantling of this gigantic state, visibly in retreat.” He says:

I saw the detritus left behind: the disaster of a dysfunctional economy and a deep financial crisis aggravated by a dual currency system. All amid the growing discontent of the population and surging dissidence.

I remember a visit to Cuba in 1986, seeing the state-owned stores with two choices of canned foodstuff on their otherwise empty shelves. I remember the dilapidated housing in Havana with the electric wires dangling in clusters ceilings of the corridors. I remember the gluttony of the official meals that revolutionary stalwarts would host for me and my party.

Now it’s all worse. The country is importing 80 percent of what it consumes, at a cost of almost $US2 billion a year. In 2007 the government was forced to pass out fallow land for individual farming, almost half of the county’s farmland – one of those desperate last minute efforts by Marxist regimes to delay the approaching catastrophe. Neither the Chinese or the Venezuelans are able to keep them afloat.

Prieto describes Havana’s “near-feral state of abandonment.” And here’s another new element in the description of the country: the breakdown of law and order, with hold-ups by armed men. The education system is now in decay, with parents paying private tutors for classes in mathematics and science. Under socialism.

One’s thoughts, as always with communist collapse, are of the wasted and wilted lives. The opportunities denied people who might have launched flourishing careers and businesses and scholarship had it not been for the crushed living standards and opportunities that socialism always brings. It was an experiment based on Marxism. We will be told by academics that this basis was entirely irrelevant to the collapse of the system.

Dream on.