The Cuban experiment has been an unmitigated failure and disaster. It has achieved virtually nothing. The “accomplishments” often heralded by Cuba’s leftist allies, were not accomplishments of any Cuban economic centrally planned system. Rather, they were funded by external aid from Cuba’s two chief benefactors: first the Soviet Union, and then Venezuela.
Currently, Cuba is writing a new Constitution, replacing the last, which was drawn up in 1976. The major revisions and reforms therein underlie the fundamental problems with a centrally-planned economy, and a dictatorial society: they simply do not work, and people do not want to live in them. If the Cuban system worked, we would have seen hundreds of thousands seeking to land on Cuban shores, not fleeing them.
When Bernie Sanders talks about the great advances of Cuban healthcare and education (as he did in a Democratic primary debate in 2016), he illuminates precisely why he is unqualified to lead the United States, and we should be terrified that such a socialist radical received 43% of the primary vote in 2016.
The Cuban system did not improve anything in and of itself, because it had no money to pay for improvements in health and education. Cuba under Fidel was a poor, agricultural society, where productivity decreased, rather than increased, under Communism. Cuba became a ward of the Soviet Union, which funded their ideological pet project with billions in annual aid, by paying outrageous prices to buy Cuban sugar, when they could have bought the same sugar on the global market for a fraction of the cost.
Sanders either does not know this, or he just does not care; as he is eager to promote his twisted interpretation of Cuban history.
Now, under the leadership of Miguel Diaz-Canel, the new Cuban Constituion specifically envisions a role for the market, private property, and free enterprise. It also replaces the official aim of the Caribbean nation: whereas previously the goal was “to advance towards communist society”, now the aim is “the construction of socialism”.
With good reason. Communist governments have been responsible for the greatest injustices and mass murder in human history. It is unsurprising that the Cuban authorities would now seek to disassociate themselves from an ideology that left 100 million innocent people in its wake.
But, of course, the changes are largely cosmetic when it comes to this verbal gymnastics, and the large Cuban diaspora is understandably unimpressed. Cuba remains a one-party state of a Marxist-Leninist orientation: decidedly not a democracy.
However, like Nicolas Maduro a few days ago, socialist and Communist leaders have had to admit to themselves that their model of economic planning does not work.
Thus, like China, Cuba will allow more private businesses, the private ownership of real estate and automobiles, and a measured degree of personal entrepreneurship. It is to further their self-interest, and perpetuate their grip on power.
In one sense, it would be deeply cynical to appreciate these economic reforms spearheaded by a brutal dictatorship. In another sense, we who believe in free markets as the greatest invention in the history of humanity, can only hope that newfound economic freedom will hasten the fall of one party rule on the island.
Though Cuba is still far from populist and even farther from democratic, these constitutional changes do reflect the will of the people. The Cuban people do not want central planning and Communist bureaucracies running the island’s economy. They want free-markets, private property, and entrepreneurship.
The Cuban authorities are now playing a dangerous game: when people have a taste of freedom, they are bound to want more.