Not alternative facts about Cuba

By: kal kommie

You're very much mistaken about the level of regimentation in Cuba. For instance people choose their own careers, much like in America (though some careers are not available there). I'm betting it's only one of many major misconceptions you hold about Cuban society. There's a powerful lobby devoted just to pumping out Anti-Cuba propaganda. The result is an image of Cuba as something like North Korea, a totalitarian state that ruthlessly dominates its population and represses its own economy in order to keep its population prostrate. Cuba is authoritarian, but they are not totalitarian and while that difference fails to impress hawks (when they want to be dim) it is the difference between China and North Norea.

Cuba's GDP per capita has risen over 12x since 1970, from $650 to $7600; Cuba's GDP PPP ranks 105 out of 198 countries, 73 out of 189 measured countries on the UN Human Development Index. Life Expectancy they are 58th at 78.9 years, just 1.2 years less than the US (though they have awful infant mortality, epidemics of malnutrition, diseases associated with poor sanitation). People are poor but the state actually works hard to see that essential services are provided. They rank 12th in the world on % of GDP spent on health care and 1st in the entire world in % of GDP spent on education. At the time of the communist revolution in 1959, 82% of Cubans were either illiterate or semi-literate. Their literacy rate is now 99.8%. Their life expectancy has increased every decade and has always been higher than the Latin American average. 

Cuba is not a fully modern economy because they have been quarantined from the US led western cultural exchange and mostly can only commerce with other politically excommunicated countries. Despite this, and despite constant direct efforts on the part of the United States to sabotage both their government and their economy, Cuba is not at all a shithole. They have problems (like most countries in the world, they are poor and the collapse of communist states across the globe shattered their commercial networks), and they undoubtedly live under an authortarian regime but they are not North Korea. They have intense political repression. No press freedom, freedom of expression, arbitrary justice, restrictions on religious practices, single party government with unfree elections. The state has been accused of torturing or executing thousands of dissidents (the exact number is disputed, anti-Castro estimates are around 5,000), but even anti-Cuba observers agree that the vast majority took place in the immediate wake of the revolution (and that most were deserving if being a strong collaborator with the murderous Batista govt is worthy of capital punishment). Perhaps most importantly to many, opportunities for entrepreneurship are strictly controlled (though some sanctioned foreign investment has been active since the late 90s). There are a few rich people in Cuba (Castro, family, cronies, criminals) but it is incredibly difficult to become rich. 

However, the state in Cuba does not tell people what they must do in life. You go to primary and secondary school and have general education (their state education system indoctrinates their young with their ideology perhaps more than ours does), then you select 3 years of college prep or vocation prep (about 60% choose college). They have free college even including grad school but entrance is merit based (like most real university systems around the world) with interviews and exams. Cuba has a broad public sector but they do have private enterprise and the state does not tell workers which to choose. Like anywhere else in the world if you want a job you have to apply for it and your qualifications can be expected to come into play. More skilled jobs pay better. If you as an adult without disability refuse to work your life isn't going to be very nice. Cuba spends huge on welfare but they do it to develop human capital not enable leisure. Their government is dedicated to their national success -- in other words, they are a nationalist state pursuing their interest pragmatically within the confines of their form of state socialism.

Cuba is not socialist utopia, nor is it my brand of socialism but there is one thing I like about it a lot: it very clearly marks the contrast between a state that practices socialism and one which merely claims its trappings. It's a wonder they aren't totalitarian considering the level of constant threat they exist under. The US brutal 6 decade embargo of the island combined with CIA assassination attempts, funding of counter-revolutionaries, and perpetual threat of American military force must have exerted massive pressure on their communist state; the negative impact of those forces on Cuba's development are hard to overestimate. The effort of their state to provide for the general welfare is far more genuine than the United States government and clearly reveals the "socialism" of the DPRK to be a total sham.

This is the simple truth about the history of socialism in actual governments on Earth: not a single one of them had the kinds of favorable conditions for success that the United States of America inherited at birth (or that Britain possessed when it evolved into a capitalist state). These "socialist" countries are all poor and underdeveloped at invariably violent birth, with the weight of the emnity of the US as a birthright. 

I'll pause to see if you have anything to interject before I continue to why I believe democratic socialism promotes freedom better than democratic state capitalism

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