Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Choice of Words

   The ideological battle between the left and right, socialism and capitalism, is alive and well even though around two decades ago it had supposedly been settled.  Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the United States has extended its influence over the globe.  As the capitalist system has extended itself, the world has not seen less wars nor has the market provided answers to things such as hunger and housing.  In fact those problems have intensified even within the U.S. itself.

   In the country that boasts of the freedom to protest, we have seen protesters beaten and pepper sprayed and removed from the sites of the gatherings.  In the past few years people have been forced from their homes while bankers have made enormous profits after being subsidized by the people who are supposed to tighten their belts.   At the same time that people protest the unjust situation, the "free" press which is mainly corporatist, lectures the people about the wonders of entrepreneurs, as if the people are upset with entrepreneurial activity and not the fact that the largest corporations and Wall Street firms write our legislation for their sponsored politicians to make law that runs against the interests of the majority of the people. 

   In Cuba, the socialist government has been undergoing a process of implementing changes to the structure of the economy.  The economy, for the most part, was designed in a time when a socialist camp of countries existed and provided an alternative to the capitalist model.  Since this is no longer the case, Cuba has decided to proceed in a way which makes it possible to preserve the advances it has accomplished, yet at the same time become more functional in the world it lives in.

   It is no secret to the  politicians in Washington that the policy of maintaining the embargo against Cuba is useless.  There are various business groups which are clamoring to find ways to convince Washington that it is time to rethink the wrong-headed policy.  More people to people bridges are built between the two countries despite the attempts at economic isolation.

   Recently there have even been op-ed articles promoting the idea of IMF loans to Cuba. There are almost daily articles about the return of capitalism to Cuba.  The press seems to be more and more searching for ways to help  the stubborn Washington politicians to find ways to justify an about face in regards to Cuba. 

   Look, as far as viewing the changes in Cuba's economic system through the eyes of a believer in capitalism goes, it's understandable that the changes can be considered a turn towards capitalism.  But through the eyes of many believers in socialism, it should be viewed as a way of eliminating many of the bureaucratic obstacles and inconveniences that people faced on the island.  Also, it must be recognized that Cuba is intentionally maintaining the achievements it has made since its revolution in 1959.  There will not be a reappearance of homelessness, malnutrition, nor lack of medical care or an educational system which requires people to amass a debt in order to get a degree.   These are some of the things allow Cuba to be socialist.  The investments coming from abroad are all being directed towards projects that will not only grow the economy but will do so to expand and improve on the benefits that the country provides for its people. 

   Yes, there are similarities in how businesses in a capitalist society operate and how businesses in socialist Cuba do.  But that isn't what gives a country the capitalist character.  Capitalist countries allow a disproportionate amount of wealth to be accumulated in a few hands.  It does so to the detriment of many as it doesn't attempt to truly remedy the problems they face.  Minor adjustments are made because of a certain amount of pressure by the people who really do yearn for more equitable circumstances.  But always there are screams by the proponents of free markets against such measures.  They, along with their corporate sponsors spend a great deal of effort trying to convince people that the problems are actually a result of intervention in the market.  It is actually an attempt to explain why it is better for the rich to get richer while the rest get poorer. 

   Things in any type of system must be produced, sold, and bought.  That is what blurs the line between capitalism and socialism.  What differs socialism drastically from capitalism is how the society decides to make an economic system work for the benefit of the entire population.  Socialism strives for growth that is sustainable and avoids the exploitation of the workers for the profits of a few. 

   In some ways the society which Cuba aims to achieve is very similar to what the protesters all over the world are demanding for themselves.  To the dismay of the capitalist preachers, they know that the people of the world are looking for an alternative to their sermons.

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