March 10, 1995
Communism, like any other revealed religion, is largely made up of prophesies.
H.L. Mencken (1880-1956)
When Germany was split up, one half became the Federated Republic of Germany and the other half became the German Democratic Republic. Which one was the democratic one? It was East Germany, one of the more repressive governments in Europe.
Democracy is a word that now has almost no definable meaning. Our country, which has been called "the citadel of democracy," is not now a democracy, nor has it ever been one; it is a republic. For a large nation, it is somewhat responsive to the will of the majority of people, but it is far from being a "government of the people, by the people and for the people." I know of no nation that has ever fit that description, although some governments have been more responsive to public needs than others. Usually governments are much less responsive to public need than they are to public opinion, which is easily manipulated.
The equation that we have heard for more than fifty years is communism vs. democracy. It is comparing apples and oranges because communism and socialism are economic systems, and the opposing system is not democracy, but capitalism.
The former USSR has been pointed to as an example of how communism results in a stifling bureaucracy and tyranny. Nonsense! Russia had as much or more tyranny and bureaucracy under the Czar. If you think that a change to free elections and a free market system is going to eliminate bureaucracy and tyranny from either Russia or China, think again. Both countries have traditions that go back many centuries.
Many countries in the industrial world, including ours, have some form of socialism. If Social Security and Medicare aren't socialism, what would you call them? England had a Labor(socialist) government for a while. Israel has a socialist economy. Both have democratically elected governments.
Our country's foreign policy to date has been a cold war policy, where communist countries were the enemy and other systems, including fascism, were okay. As a consequence, we have supported some of the most tyrannical regimes in the world.
Communist Cuba was considered a threat to our country. It was never a real physical threat, as long as there were no missiles. It was a threat to other South and Central American countries, because it provided both education and social security for its people -all of its people; in contrast to most so-called banana republics.
An embargo was placed on Cuba. Its main product, sugar, could not be exported to the United States nor could there be any exchange of money. Cuba was politically and economically isolated from the countries in the western hemisphere.
Fidel Castro is a hard-line communist. He is also a dictator. His predecessor Fulgencio Battista was also a killer. Under Battista, organized crime owned Havana. I can't blame the Mafiosi for hating Castro since he confiscated everything that they owned in Cuba --except for the large amounts of cash that they escaped with. The wealthy former landowners also have good reason for hating Castro. But the majority of people in Cuba like Castro. Under his regime, the literacy rate has gone from scraping bottom, to one where just about everyone is literate. Schooling and health care are provided to everyone and, in many ways, most working people have it better than ever. Life expectancy is high.
The major problem in Cuba, and the reason that people are trying to leave, is economic. To support a small socialist country, they need trade. They had that with the USSR, but their trading partner is in almost as much economic trouble as they are. The logical place for them to export their sugar is the USA, but the USA is not about to help a communist country except for China.
Lots of people would like to visit Cuba and they would bring badly needed dollars to that impoverished country. Cubans living in the U.S. would send money and goods to their relatives in Cuba, which they can't do now.
The assumption underlying the embargo was that the economic collapse of Cuba would lead to the collapse of communism and its replacement by capitalism, or something else. The economic system in Cuba is collapsing, but instead of Castro being deposed, many people are trying to emigrate to the USA, causing big problems for the US.
Many Cuban emigres are maniacal about Castro: Castro must be deposed at any price, even if that price is starvation for the people in Cuba. Every administration since Kennedy has gone along with this.
I would like to see trade and diplomatic relations re-established with Cuba. As a consequence, Cuba will evolve, as will China. It is impossible to say how it will evolve, but change is inevitable. Our country has diplomatic relations and trade with a number of countries which have governments ranging from fascist dictatorships, tyrannical monarchies and communist dictatorships. We have relations with Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, China, Russia and many others. It would be nice to put the final touch to the end of the cold war.
Castro is an old man and whomever replaces him -maybe his kid brother Raul- will modify the system to bring Cuba more in line with the direction that the rest of the world is going.
What has kept our government from establishing relationships with Cuba is the political pressure and money from the wealthy Cubans in Florida, many of whom would like a return to Battista days. As a consequence, we have painted ourselves into a corner. It's about time that the situation was rectified. However, this is not likely to happen as long as we have a Republican or a Democrat in the White House.
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