Over the years, we Cuban-Americans have had our long chats (often heated) about communism and socialism. It’s frustrating that an ideology that has brought about so much misery still has people willing to try it out. It must be something in human nature that refuses to learn the lessons of the past.
Today marks the 100th anniversary of the October Revolution that set off the long global reign of terror of Communism. (For obscure reasons having to do with the outdated calendar used in Russia at the time, the October Revolution actually happened in November, and the Soviet Union traditionally celebrated it on November 7.)
A century of Communism achieved four main results for the people who suffered under it: poverty, oppression, war, and mass death.
Countries taken over by Communists, from China and Russia to Cuba and Venezuela, were either plunged from relative prosperity into starvation or walled off for decades from the growing prosperity of capitalist countries – often right next door, enjoying all the same benefits of geography and culture.
Think of the contrast between East and West Berlin, between Cuba and Chile, between mainland China and Hong Kong, between North and South Korea.
Ain’t that the truth?
Let’s think of Cuba, an experience close to home, as they say. It was not a perfect country by any means, but no one risked his life in a raft to leave the island. Yes, corruption was a problem, but no more than it was in other Latin American countries. In fact, pre-Castro Cuba had a lot of things going for it, as Andrew Stuttaford wrote in 2016:
In the early part of the century the country’s economy, fueled by the sale of sugar to the United States, had grown dynamically.
Cuba ranked fifth in the hemisphere in per capita income, third in life expectancy, second in per capita ownership of automobiles and telephones, first in the number of television sets per inhabitant.
The literacy rate, 76%, was the fourth highest in Latin America.
Cuba ranked 11th in the world in the number of doctors per capita.
Many private clinics and hospitals provided services for the poor.
Cuba’s income distribution compared favorably with that of other Latin American societies.
A thriving middle class held the promise of prosperity and social mobility[.]
That’s exactly the Cuba my parents told me about, and the family pictures confirm it.
Today, Cubans have to live with state food rations. The health care system is a joke unless you are a Western leftist like Michael Moore and want to believe everything about universal health care. And there is no middle class in Cuba today.
Over the years, I’ve heard a popular refrain: “You were part of the elite, the rich, the people who exploited the poor” or some nonsense like that.
In fact, nothing could be farther from the truth. My parents were part of that middle class that made Cuba so fascinating and attractive to immigrants who kept coming to the island. In other words, my parents grew up on an island where people spoke about the guy down the street who just moved in from Europe to look for a better life rather than their neighbor who was packing up and leaving for a better life in “el norte.”
As a kid in school, my friends had grandparents from Spain, Lebanon, other Latin countries, and China. I didn’t know anybody who had a family member in the U.S. and lived off the remittances that came south.
All of that changed in the 1960s, when the sons and daughters of those immigrants packed up and left to find freedom and a better life in the U.S. And we found it because the U.S. was not a communist country.
So why do so many fall for this crap called communism or socialism? Why do so many people fall for Ponzi schemes?
I can’t say for sure, but our education system may have something to do with it. Maybe we are not telling our students just how fortunate they are to live here.
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