Even Cuba finally gets it: Capitalism works
Cuba's regime recently acknowledged the failures of its centralized system – eyeing the growing list of communist countries shifting successfully toward free-market economies. As capitalism makes inroads, will political freedoms follow?
Cuba's tacit admission that its communist economy is failing marks the end of an era.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
It follows the eclipse of similarly stultified economies in three other lands of lingering communist persuasion – China, Vietnam, and North Korea. All have either moved, or appear to be moving, to free, market-based economies while retaining a communist structure to continue harsh political control.
Cuba may be no exception. It recently announced plans to dump hundreds of thousands of government workers into a suddenly authorized private sector. That doesn’t mean democracy is right around the corner. Though the brothers Castro, Fidel and Raúl, may soon be passé, some Cuba-watchers expect their successor may be a tough, but as yet unidentified, general from the powerful military who will use the Communist Party structure to maintain authoritarian rule.
So while some international critics, like the delusional Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, continue to rant against capitalism and America, aging communist regimes seek the fruits of capitalism’s prospering systems while retaining power with communism’s political infrastructure. It is an intriguing period in history.
Signs of reform
During Fidel’s long absence for health reasons, his empowered brother Raúl has hinted at modest reforms. He has ordered the release of a number of political prisoners. He has expressed impatience with the inefficiency of the labor market and sent Cuban delegations to Russia, China, and Vietnam to study their departure from communist economic models.
In August he declared in public: “We have to erase forever the notion that Cuba is the only country in the world where one can live without working.” This was a reference to the fact that most of the population is employed by the state, and with the low wages they are paid – on average $20 a month – many people do not work very hard. There is large-scale moonlighting, dabbling in the black market, and reliance on money sent from abroad by Cuban exiles. Now Raúl is setting free about 10 percent of the state’s workforce, encouraged to launch small businesses or otherwise fend for themselves.