A Poor Quality Product / Fernando Dámaso

Photo: Rebeca

Socialist ideas, which enjoyed a certain prestige among some sectors of the world’s population at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, failed spectacularly when put into practice in numerous countries. They resolved none of the problems they promised to solve, plunging these nation’s inhabitants into backwardness and poverty.

In the case of Cuba these ideas were summed up by the term “vernacular socialism”—a form replete with excesses and absurdities—which did not achieve even the minimal successes of its “brothers” in Eastern Europe, requiring the country to be subsidized, principally by the former Soviet Union. Unproductive Pharaonic schemes, the elimination of financial controls, the abolition of money, a foreign policy worthy of a superpower and other follies ruined the nation and wasted the time and resources of generations of Cubans, who were conned by the idea of socialism as a mythic cure for all of society’s ills.

These worn-out banners are now raised only by a few demagogues. Although they do not really believe in them, they use them to confuse the politically naive masses and certain people from the world’s foolish, ingenuous left, who adopt them more as social pose than as real, activist commitment.

In a game of words they sometimes try to equate them with social democratic ideas, which have validity and are successfully applied in some European countries, when one has nothing to do with the other. In these countries freedom of expression is respected, private property exists, and citizens are able to enjoy full rights—things which are non-existent under “real socialism”—because a great deal of attention is paid to these things and ample resources are dedicated to social problems, allowing them to enjoy magnificent health care, education and social security systems, among other benefits.

Trying to sell socialism as a development option is like offering a poor quality product, one that has demonstrated in full (and also in poverty, suffering, pain and even blood) its inefficiency. As a result, those who have experienced it do not want to hear any more about it, much less see it restored in their countries.

“Tripping over the same stone, again and again” seems to be a Cuban trait, along with “overshooting or falling short, never hitting the mark.” “Updating socialism” is simply that— continuing to trip over the same stone.

October 11 2012