One common trait of the many Americans espousing the greatness of socialism is that none of them have ever lived in a communist country. It’s easy to say how wonderful socialism is from the comfort of a free and capitalist society. However, once you live in it, you soon learn it’s not so great.
A British communist visited Cuba to experience the glory of socialism firsthand. After just a month there, socialist Cuba killed his yearning for communism.
Cuba killed my communism
When I was a teenager, I thought I had all the answers
I grew up in an era when social democracy in Britain was (to my naive eyes at least) indistinguishable from Thatcherism. Tony Blair, for he was PM, had recently invaded Iraq along with George W. Bush. And he would boast about Britain’s draconian trade union laws.
And so, I decided to become a communist. Initially it was more of an oppositional identity than an active political affiliation, a way of thumbing my nose at the stuffy Right-wing adults who seemed ubiquitous in rural Somerset, where I grew up.
My youthful radicalism didn’t involve standing on picket lines chanting slogans, but I did have an answer to every question. As Arthur Koestler wrote in The God That Failed, with an ideology like communism, “the whole universe falls into pattern like the stray pieces of a jigsaw puzzle assembled by magic at one stroke”.
Put another way, I no longer needed to think hard about anything complicated. ‘Dialectical Materialism’ provided all the answers.
Inevitably, given these leanings, I travelled to Cuba in 2006 to learn more about the political culture. I spent a month there, travelling around, hanging out with locals, eating and drinking with them. I even got to see Fidel Castro speak one morning.
It was an eye-opening experience. Material poverty was a feature of everyday life, but the intellectual landscape was equally bleak and the system was repressive and punitive. There was only one newspaper. Official permission had to be given if you wanted to move to a different part of the country or travel overseas — and it was often denied to those who criticised the system. Independent trade unions were banned and the state acted brutally against those deemed politically suspect: according to Fidel Castro, there were around 15,000 political prisoners in Cuba in the 1970s.
Not that such grimness put off the regime’s foreign admirers. Gabriel García Márquez, a personal friend of Castro and a supporter of Cuba’s communist government, demonstrated the hypocrisy of those who praise despotic regimes from a distance when he told the New York Times that he personally could never live under the Cuban system:“I would miss too many things. I couldn’t live with the lack of information. I am a voracious reader of newspapers and magazines from around the world.”
I hated this attitude and still do. It stinks. Under this schema, Cubans were not people but props that allowed others — who usually lived in great comfort — to retain their mental model of the world. It was revulsion at this hypocrisy, which I saw everywhere in western leftist circles, that prompted me to question my own worldview.
Later on, after I had thrown out the Marxist books about Cuba I owned, I began to discover a rich tradition of exiled Cuban writers. The most fearless of these was Reinaldo Arenas, author of Before Night Falls, an autobiography of his time inside Castro’s prison system.
Continue reading HERE.
H/T Alicia E.