Thursday, 21 April 2011

Socialism with a Pizza Face


When it comes to sardonic humour the Cubans lack for nothing; they even make a joke about lacking for everything else. “What are the three triumphs of the Revolution? the question goes, “Education, health care and sports.” So far, so Castro. But then comes the sting –“And what are the failures of the Revolution?” “Breakfast, lunch and dinner.”

‘Let them eat parades’, the nepotistic Castro dynasty might offer in spurious consolation. The Cubans were certainly doing that recently, celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the revolution’s greatest ‘triumph’, the victory over the CIA-sponsored landing at the Bay of Pigs in April, 1961. But as man, even revolutionary man, shall not live by marches alone, the Communist Party met soon after, the first national congress in fourteen years, to review the country’s woes. There is really only one item on the agenda: the appalling state of the Cuban economy and the need for ‘reform.’

With Big Brother Fidel safely parked in death’s antechamber, Little Brother Raul has been introducing a kind of creeping capitalism. But as always in this socialist paradise in the sun it’s a case of one step forward, one step back. “The time we have left is short and the work we have is gigantic”, Raul announced recently.

Indeed, the work they have is gigantic. But the orthodoxy still holds fast that the state should, by the lights of Marxism, occupy the ‘commanding heights’ of the economy; that is to say, the state is running the ‘commanding heights’ of the economy into the ground. Economic liberalisation and free enterprises here advances by the slowest and most cautious steps. Raul laboured gigantically and brought forth…pizzas.

Yes, that’s it, capitalism in Cuba has a pizza face, something, I suppose, that might go part of the way towards addressing the three failures of the Revolution – let’s all have pizza for breakfast, lunch and dinner, assuming, of course, that they are not too outrageously expense in a country where a doctor earns no more the equivalent of twenty US dollars a month. The problem is that the doctor might blow the lot in a single night in one of Havana’s privately owned restaurants, ordering, say, pizzas.

It’s the total lack of imagination that strikes one most about Cuba and its ruling gerontocracy. There is Raul with enough wit to understand that something is wrong and too little energy to do anything about it, other than to allow free enterprise on the margins, a nation to be buoyed up by pizza bakers and plumbers, too little energy to escape from the stupid lie of socialism.

It’s amazing to think that a country as fertile as Cuba now has to import some 80% of the food consumed, which presumably includes pizza-making ingredients. The place is not being kept alive by Raul’s laughable experiments in economic liberalisation but by subsidies in oil from Chavezland. The pizza illusion is likely to be preserved for a little longer as this Wonderland slips into the final stages of ideological Alzheimer’s.

27 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. My bad! Nacho is from Spain not Cuba, disregard comment.

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  3. nice work man your blog is very informative


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  4. I've heard that there are a group of dissidents that want Cuba to become a Spanish 'autonomous community'. Is that true?

    PS: That pizza looks yummy.

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  5. Pizza may be a welcomed change from Red beans...

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  6. Duot, this is not something I'm familiar with. Actually, when it comes to pizzas the Cubans are not too bad. The rest of their cuisine is dire but the pizzas are OK. :-)

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  7. Bob, have you been? The beans are all black!

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  8. I'm not sure Castro should get so much credit for plunging Cuba into a perpetual state of stagnation post-revolution. I believe that honor goes to the US and its allies who opposed Castro for doing exactly what we in the US have been pretending to promote across the globe. The man led a people's revolution against a dictator named Batista. The only problem of course was that Batista was OUR dictator.

    It's easy to blame Castro for the revolution's failures, but I'd like to see any government overcome a trade embargo with the world's preeminent economic superpower, especially when that nation is just 90 miles north of your shore. Frankly, it's a wonder they've done as well for themselves as they have considering their checkered past with the US and the dissolution of the USSR in '91.

    -Dawsondaily :)

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  9. Richard, thanks and welcome. I'm glad you made it. :-)

    That argument will only go so far. I think the embargo was a gross strategic error on the part of successive American administrations, allowing Castro to play the patriot card time and again, a nation under siege blah, blah. If it had not been for this I'm convinced that the regime would have vanished long ago, such is it's monumental inefficiency and corruption. There were disadvantages, certainly, but the economic policy of the regime has simply served to compound them. The agricultural sector has been ruined, something which the US cannot be blamed for. Past experiments in economic liberalisation, which had promising results, were subsequently quashed by an ideological hammer. Outside North Korea, and certainly in contrast to China and Vietnam, the Castro dictatorship is one of the worst examples ever of communism in practice.

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  10. The official US posture on Cuba is a mystery. It seems to me there must be secrets there that must be kept sealed. It is odd how many former 'allies' end up on the enemies list. Without Russian protection, Castro would most certainly have ended his days differently.

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  12. "its ruling gerontocracy." What a great and creative phrase to describe the state of Cuba! Since their only partner in crime seems to be Hugo, perhaps we may see an implosion such as we have witnessed in the Middle East. The youth will not long tolerate the Geritol image and will want more, much more, than pizza! That is nothing more than a twist on the phrase, "Let them eat cake!"

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  13. Askcherlock said...

    "its ruling gerontocracy." What a great and creative phrase to describe the state of Cuba! Since their only partner in crime seems to be Hugo, perhaps we may see an implosion such as we have witnessed in the Middle East. The youth will not long tolerate the Geritol image and will want more, much more, than pizza! That is nothing more than a twist on the phrase, "Let them eat cake!"

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  14. Cher, quite!

    As you can see I had to add your comment under my own name, the original being lost in the recent Blogger fiasco!

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