“Socialism or Death”â€â€Is There a Difference?

“Socialismo o muerte” (“socialism or death”) may be the choice that Fidel Castro has imposed upon Cuba’s population for decades, but many Cubans are responding, “Neither.” As The Washington Post reports, Cubans all over the island are resorting to thriving “black market” enterprise—a lot of which would be legal just about anywhere else, with the exception of, say, North Korea. Post reporter Manuel Roig-Franzia notes:

The thriving underground economy functions as a pocket of capitalism, prescribed by supply and demand, within the Western Hemisphere’s only communist state. Observers say it may be the precursor of a push for a market economy, one that could accelerate after President Fidel Castro dies; on the other hand, they say, the black market may simply be the byproduct of a system that rewards the wily and well-connected.

Authorities often look the other way, probably painfully aware that such circumvention keeps the otherwise brittle system from cracking up. A delicious irony is the name that Cubans have given to this type of transaction: “por la izquierda”—on the left. (Thanks to Juan Carlos Hidalgo for the news story link.)