Karl Marx believed that capitalism was a stop on the inevitable road to socialism. But recent experience shows that it’s been the other way around for many countries, including Russia and China—they took an unfortunate socialist pause on their way to capitalism.
Will it also be true of Cuba? It’s a small country that has had significance on the global stage far in excess of its actual size, thanks to its location near the southern tip of the US—and also because of its enigmatic leader.
Fidel Castro, once a youth icon, but now for many years the grand old man of international communism, has decided to retire as president of Cuba. Once the hero of cocktail socialists, Castro is still the inspiration for many in the Latin American Left. His admirers don’t seem to care that he has wrecked his country’s economy and forced thousands into exile. His retirement breaks the last link with the revolutionary movements of the 1950s and 1960s, which held thousands of young students in their thrall before they eventually slipped into mindless terrorism.
Castro is likely to be succeeded by his brother and old comrade Raul. The other name that has been mentioned in reports is that of Carlos Lage, a paediatrician who has run economic policy in the island nation. Both are expected to slowly open up Cuba’s stagnant economy, which has been in a mess ever since Soviet aid stopped after the collapse of communism there.
The communist regimes in east Europe fell in a sudden heap during the Velvet Revolution of 1989. Others such as China have gradually inched towards capitalism. It’s hard to guess which way Cuba will go. But it is likely to be the latter, since Fidel, for all his obvious faults, has far more legitimacy than the likes of Rumania’s Nicholae Ceausescu ever had. Turmoil is unlikely, unless America’s neocons and its Cuban refugees join hands and try to enforce a “regime change”. But we hope saner minds in the US will see the dangers of an Iraq a few kilometres south of Miami.
Cuba seems likely to eventually follow the Chinese combination of economic reform and political oppression. The question then is:?Who will play Cuba’s Deng to Castro’s Mao?
Can Cuba make a peaceful transition to capitalism? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org