With the death of Cuban dissident Wilman Villar Mendoza, Cuba has lost one of its precious remaining brave souls. While a sputtering dissident movement shows occasional signs of life, reminding us of the hell the Cuban people endure, it casts a pale shadow compared to the fury of the Arab Spring. How is it possible that the Castro brothers have been able to run one of the world’s most repressive and dysfunctional gulags for so long without their meeting the fate of the Ceausescus by now?
Their technique of how to introduce communism on an island scale is worth studying.
First, take a geographic area and build a firewall around it. Allow an elite group of monomaniacal thugs to subject the people trapped inside to five decades of brutal repression, privation, confiscation, and humiliation, all bolstered by relentless propaganda designed to convince victims and observers alike that this is necessary for the greater glory of the revolution.
Second, enlist an army of global intellectuals to manufacture a smokescreen of respectability for a governing philosophy that extols the virtues of equality and sacrifice, despite the fact that it delivers the equality of poverty and the sacrifice of self respect. Build a few Potemkin village medical facilities to fool the gullible into believing some noble purpose or higher achievement motivates the endeavor.
Third, make it is risky, but not impossible, for anyone who possesses the ambition and courage to rebel to escape instead.
Finally, marinate for two generations as you chase off the best and the brightest and observe what happens to the character of the people that survive.
Welcome to Cuba, where the human spirit has been so thoroughly crushed that a nation of sheep passively waits for their predatory wolves to die of old age, safely in their beds, not a hand raised against them.
Given the Cuban people’s apparent resignation to their own fate, is it any surprise that the rest of us just shake our heads in wonder and go about our business, our political leaders impotently decrying the occasional human rights outrage that escapes the censors and makes it into the news?
When the nightmare runs its course and the complete story is finally told, there will be no redeeming chapters.
But what about the lower-than-average infant mortality and longer life expectancy touted by the Castro regime’s boosters, if such statistics can be believed? Isn’t living longer an end that justifies the means? Think about what living longer implies if you’re forced to live under tyranny. America’s founders—and indeed, the leaders of the Central and South American independence movements—preferred death to that sort of life, and said so with their words and deeds.
What about the famously low crime rate, where a midnight stroller is safer in Havana than in Washington, DC? Yes, violent crime is a government monopoly in a police state. Plus, in a country that has so little, there is nothing much to steal. After all, how many iPhones can get ripped off when nobody can afford one and posting the wrong thing on Twitter can earn you a visit from state security?
It’ll be interesting to see what happens to a demoralized people after Castroism breathes its final breath. A new pack of wolves might try to keep the workers’ paradise going, but at this point even the most devoted cadres may well be weary of the experiment. Look for them to enrich themselves by “privatizing” the economy Russian oligarch-style, as they carve up the island to remodel it into the Caribbean resort destination it has every right to be—so long as the “right” people profit.
A brief vintage car export market will likely open up as the world’s largest living auto museum sells off its collection. Prostitution will return, or more precisely come out of the shadows, perhaps along with the revival of what once was a thriving pornography industry. It’s hard to imagine a manufacturing base springing up to take advantage of the cheap labor as this needs to be coupled with a work ethic, something the Castro regime has made every effort to destroy. Surely, some unique comparative advantage will come to the fore. But having tolerated the intolerable for so long, will the Cuban people know what to do with their newfound freedom once liberated from their chains?
That is the experiment that awaits the return of capitalism.
One can imagine a scenario in which an influx of returning expats, rich in both human and financial capital, blow past the locals as they reintroduce the courage, entrepreneurship, and work ethic they took with them when they escaped. A two-tier society could easily emerge, with returnees and their children lording their success over the bewildered and resentful locals. Petty theft likely will make a comeback, so expect a vigorous market for alarm and security services.
Cubans who have managed to get an advanced education under Castro, like the many doctors staffing its medical system, will probably do fine, though many might move to the U.S. seeking better pay, filling our looming doctor shortage. Cigar exports will spike, although once Cuban cigars lose their naughty cachet they will have to compete with many excellent products produced by Cuba’s neighbors. And the music industry will thrive once it is coupled with international distribution—some talents just cannot be stamped out.
But what will happen to the rest of the populace? Many might go to work as the cooks, dishwashers, waiters, and hotel maids that will surely be in demand when Club Med comes to town. They’ll be much better off than they are now. But don’t expect that to stop the mainstream media from running nostalgic stories about the equality that should have, would have, and could have been had Marxism only been implemented properly.