Communism: Learning from the Past and Present

As I have put forth in my previous posts, a socialist government is the best political system to be realized today in the interests of the 99%. But if we are going to move towards having the power taken back from the rich and given to its rightful owners, the workers, we must avoid making the mistakes made by Communist countries today and in the past.

One of the most dangerous actions taken by the radical leftist governments of the past is that they tried to realize unrealistic goals too soon. E.g., China had its “Great Leap Forward,” the Soviets under Stalin always put forth these “5 Year Plans” that hurt the Russian people at the hands of Stalin’s vain attempts at greatness, and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia killed over a million of their countrymen partially due to economic reforms. And these often just occurred to catch up with capitalist countries in the areas of industry, science, military, and infrastructurevtoo fast. Foolish.

The are two reasons why this is true, namely:

  1. Revolutionaries have no idea how to run a country. This often leads to unspeakable hardships and suffering for the reasons mentioned above in the pursuit of grand ideals.
  2. The three countries outlined above, i.e., Stalin’s Soviet Union, Mao’s China, and the Khmer Rouge’s Cambodia, were ruled under brutal dictators, or very small groups of leaders, who ran authoritarian governments. They involved purges, gulags, and mass murders of so-called “enemies of the people.” And these things are still taking place in North Korea under the rule of the Kim family and their latest criminal, thug leader, Kim Jong Un.

But in terms of the socialist experiment in Cuba, we could learn a lot of positive things from them. The U.S. capitalist media would have you believe that the Castros are no different than Stalin or Un, but what they don’t report are the great strides towards equality taking place in the small island country. E.g., they have redistributed land to the peasants through land reform. Once the Cuban peasants were slaves to rich plantation owners, but as a result of the revolution, the land owned by the corporations and plantation owners has now been divided amongst the people who work the land. And that is just one example of the successful reforms. They have also gotten away from just being a sugar-dominated economy and even become a powerhouse in the research and development of new medicines that are often purchased, yes, by the U.S. government.

Yet this has succeeded by not having some grand goal of building a developing country into a society where they are immediately just as technologically advanced as  the U.S. These are examples of how ideas and policies could be learned from a socialist society to be translated instilled in a more equal America.

So in conclusion, the brutality of Stalin’s Soviet Union, Mao’s China, and Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge is due to harsh authoritarian governments, not an attempted realization of a fully socialist society. These dictatorships had vain rulers trying to advance mostly Third-World countries into global players too fast. Yet we can look to somewhere like Cuba for positive ideas to enact here in the U.S. in pursuit of a more egalitarian society.

Cuban’s Returning to Cuba for Entrepreneurship

05-CUBA-3-articleLargeWith Fidel Castro admitting Communism failed in Cuba, the relaxing of anti-business laws brings back exiles with dollar signs in their eyes.

But what about the culture of social justice there?

Read Here.

//

Exit Visas for Cubans

A good piece in the Christian Science Monitor (also with good links) on how Cuba is opening it’s borders to it’s own people. This is seen as a great accomplishment for political reformers, but will this result in a Cuban brain-drain?

Read Here.

A Look at State Department Testimony to the Senate on Cuba

The State Department gave a statement to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this week on Cuba that was a mostly vague testimony but a few interesting points were included.

The first point is the overall brashness of American foreign policy statements toward Cuba.  For example:

Our programs in Cuba provide humanitarian assistance to political prisoners and their families, support the documentation of human rights abuses, and promote the free flow of information to, from, and within the island.

Isn’t it ironic the U.S. government talks about documenting human rights abuses by an opposing government on the same island that houses the Guantanamo Bay prison?  The statement mentions activists “exercising their universal rights and fundamental freedoms” but does not make any distinction as to what these rights are.  I’m assuming the right to be held without trial indefinitely must be included as a “right” and a “freedom” considering the source.  And humanitarian assistance?  What about Cuba sending their doctors around the world to help in times of disaster?  There’s an important difference here.  Cuba’s doctors are typically sent to help after a natural disaster or to the poorest areas.  The State Department’s assistance goes to “political prisoners and their families.”  Draw your own conclusions as to which is more noble.  And finally, I’m assuming the “free flow of information” is any information that solely supports the overthrow of the Castro regime because anything else would be threatening to American political ideas. In other words, “free, but some restrictions may apply.”

Another interesting statement:

Our policy also recognizes the importance of engaging with the pro-democracy and human rights activists who have been working for years to expand the political and civil rights of all Cubans.

Well, that depends, as I mentioned previously.  If the activist is following the orders of Washington, they are fine.  If they are trying to enact change without Washington’s approval, they are not fine and, in fact, might even be seen as a threat.  So much for the enemy of my enemy being a friend.

One last point that seems even more important as time passes:

Although the Cuban government severely restricts the ability of Cubans to access the internet, cell phones were legalized in Cuba in 2008, and since then cell phone usage has more than doubled, enhancing the connectivity of Cuban civil society. Activists can now report human rights abuses by SMS and on Twitter.

After the world watched the Arab Spring unfold last year and noticed the effect the Internet had on those movements, the approach toward Cuba and the trade embargo should have been an easy decision.  Just open the flood gates for trade and better the livelihood of Cubans so they can then increase their access to information technology.  If we are acknowledging abuses are occurring and the Internet is helping expose them, why are we afraid of dropping the trade embargo?  If anything, dropping it should speed the rate of change in Cuba by our own logic and it is impossible to ignore what happened in the Middle East in early 2011.

Yet, the policy persists for reasons that no longer have logic reinforcing them.

The U.S. Electoral College and Cuba

’08 Electoral College Map (Credit: Wikipedia)

Florida continues to be a critical swing state in the race for president and the likelihood that changes anytime soon is tiny.  So it is no surprise both political parties pander to groups in that state much more than others in order to ensure they don’t alienate people in the interest of winning important Electoral College votes and the executive office.  One of the most powerful groups, of course, is the Cuban population who desperately want to see the end of the Castro regime and want to see regime change happen quickly.  This sometimes makes for odd U.S. policy and statements.

Some of that oddness was highlighted Friday in a commentary posted  on Foreign Policy.  The first was a comment by President Obama that mirrors comments of previous presidents toward Cuba:

I assure you that I and the American people will welcome the time when the Cuban people have the freedom to live their lives, choose their leaders, and fully participate in this global economy and international institutions.

Yes, if Cuba would just choose to fully participate in the global economy they would be so much better off.  Great point by the American executive office holder.  I wonder why they don’t?…Oh, yeah.  It’s because the United States continues to vote against lifting the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba when it is brought up in the United Nations.  If only the President of the United States knew someone who could talk to the President of the United States to change his position on the trade embargo then the President of the United States could say Cuba has joined the global economy.  Too bad William Shatner’s Priceline negotiator died.  Maybe he could have solved this communication problem.  And because the U.S. is the world’s light for democracy, we show it off proudly by voting with the majority on those trade embargo votes.  A worldwide majority typically of…two or three countries.  Versus roughly 185.  I wonder where dictators around the world get their ideas about authoritarianism?

But the main argument of the commentary was the fact the U.S. is at odds with a Catholic Cardinal, Jaime Ortega, and others like him who believe change will come to Cuba but it will be slowly so the church should still do whatever it can, working with the regime, to help whoever possible.  Since the Cardinal has decided to stay in Cuba and do his work there, he does not appear to be as much of an ally as the well-financed exiles throwing stones from Florida.  So the U.S. government goes after him and his kind, as stated:

When the SFRC (Senate Foreign Relations Committee) discovered that USAID and State Department contractors and government-sponsored NGOs were running operations, including websites, against church leaders in 2010-2011, USAID said that the groups were merely “exercising their First Amendment rights”…The State Department and USAID have spent about $200 million on these programs over the past 10 years.

In other words, Cardinal Ortega, stop being Catholic.  Stop doing what Jesus would do.  It makes you look bad when you are helping all those people who need help.  I mean, for God’s sake!  Giving out food and medicine to the needy?  What’s this guy trying to do?  Show up FEMA?  How arrogant!

Ultimately, this all comes back to the Electoral College and the fact only certain states and certain groups within those states have so much say over U.S. policy.  It begs asking the question: what would Cuba and American policy toward Cuba look like if the Electoral College did not exist?  It’s an interesting hypothetical that is impossible to answer.  In all likelihood, the policy would have been the same during the Cold War years.  But would it have changed in the ensuing decades.  No one knows.

But we do know one thing.  If you are a minority group or an underrepresented majority looking to heavily influence U.S. policy in the interest of your people, there is only one thing for you to do.  Move to a swing state where you would actually matter because living anywhere else in this “democracy” doesn’t seem to be as important to the decision makers in government.

New tactic, Occupy Wall Street!  Try Occupying Ohio and see what happens!

What Got Overshadowed in Colombia

As the Secret Service scandal continues to rage in the media (we can’t get enough of meaningless sex scandals, can we?), someone at Foreign Policy was apparently not distracted by the shiny object and actually reported something of value from the Summit of the Americas in Colombia.  Clearly he did not get the memo that anything involving a prostitute and high level government employees takes center stage over relevant information at all times.  He should have been spending his time finding a way to tie the Secret Service story to a Kardashian instead of being a real journalist.

But he didn’t and Mr. Traub penned a really good article giving a great general overview of the summit.  Lots of tidbits to chew on in his piece but two particular elements stuck out.

The first being: why do we continue to seemingly fear Cuba?  Everyone is aware of the failure of the trade embargo to dethrone the Castro brothers and some have even argued they have kept their grip on power because of the policy.  But the U.S. stills refuses to deal with Cuba whenever and wherever possible as stated by Traub:

The immediate (and yet seemingly ageless) provocation was the question of whether Cuba should be admitted to the next summit, in 2015, which the United States and Canada opposed and all 30 Latin American countries, both left-wing bastions like Ecuador and traditional U.S. allies like Colombia, favored, thus bringing the meeting to an end without a planned joint declaration.

So the U.S. still won’t invite Cuba to the summit and they are in a majority of approximately…2.  Versus 30.  Aren’t we supposed to be the world’s light for democracy?  Great way to be an example for the rest of the world on that one.  Two votes apparently beats all in a democracy regardless of the larger numbers against it.  Now if I can just get someone else to write in Gallagher for president with me in November we can Sledge-O-Matic the debt to oblivion.  Yay democracy!

The second interesting piece of info was kind of pleasantly surprising.  President Obama did something U.S. officials have maybe never done before in discussions with Latin American countries.  He listened.  Shocking, I know, and if Fox News got a hold of this info they would proceed to announce the weakness of the president along with the oncoming zombie apocalypse.  But this is actually a very positive sign (albeit seemingly meaningless as indicated by the Cuba stance.  On a side note, if this had been reported of Biden I’m pretty sure we would have all assumed he had just fallen asleep.)

At the very least, indicating a willingness to listen shows a sign of wanting to improve relations with these countries which is something the U.S. has not done in the past and is proven by the justified skepticism of the United States in Latin American populations.  The U.S. has a long and well documented track record of behaving badly in Latin America and many countries have suffered weaker economies and governments because of U.S. intervention.  This has led to worse and more dangerous conditions pertaining to the drug trade and a higher desire for Latin Americans to immigrate to the greener pastures of the U.S. looking for work and safety.

If the U.S. changes course and engages the countries to the south, it could mean greater improvement in their economies and stronger and more effective self-governance.  This in turn would help the U.S. stem the flow of some of the more dangerous drugs into its borders and improve the economy through increased trade with emerging markets in our region.  Obama has made a nice first step in this process by simply listening.  Let’s hope he will not be distracted by the media circus surrounding the Secret Service scandal and will take more important steps in engaging and working with the countries of Latin America to improve all of America, both North and South.