When the Soviet Union’s communist government collapsed, chaos ensued. The government owned everything. They wrote all the paychecks, everyone from farm workers to party leaders. Without the government, no one was getting paid. It was months before they started sorting the mess out. In that time, the fastest entrepreneurs in the world stepped in – organized crime. Over time, things became so bad that the Russian people longed for stability and order, so they elected Vladimir Putin and have allowed him to reinstate much of what was familiar, like secret police and arresting political opponents. Putin brought some order to the country, but he also restored dictatorship.
The manner in which the Soviet Union fell apart ended up being a priceless lesson for the remaining communist countries. China has encouraged private ownership of businesses and is slowly educating the people on voting in multi-party elections. So far, these elections have been limited to town councils in the boondocks, but it is a beginning.
Now, Cuba has begun the process. They started by allowing foreign companies to open hotels for the tourist industry. Now, they are letting private citizens to own cafes and restaurants, cafeterias and snack shops. The experiment is being held in the provincial capital of Holguin, on the eastern end of the island.about twenty miles inland from the north coast. The city contained 211 state-owned eateries, and Osvaldo Santos Diaz, head of food services for the province, told the press that they would be moving “to other forms of management” in the next year.
The experiment is not being publicized nationally, thereby avoiding any pressure to start doing the same thing everywhere. There will be small steps like this, a controlled transition to a free market economy and private ownership. This could take a couple of decades, but it will be much better than what happened in the Soviet Union.
Among the businesses that have already transitioned are barbershops, beauty parlors and small service businesses like watch and appliance repair and carpentry shops. These have been leased to the employees. None of this has been national announced. The change-over in the food service shops will be done the same way – a lease agreement until the business can become self-sufficient. In a way, the move to privatize the cafes and restaurants is in response to thousands of home-based cafeterias that have opened around the country. The government would rather have businesses that are in the open and pay taxes instead of this underground economy that is developing.
The big incentive for the government is the idea of taking all the businesses in Cuba and convert them from something subsidized and owned by the government into something that creates tax revenue.
The Cuba before Castro was very corrupt and home to many criminals, both local and American. Fidel Castro won the support of the people by promising to end the corruption and crime. Now, his brother and heir Raul Castro will begin the process of returning the country to a free economy while controlling corruption and criminal influence. European countries are already participating in Cuba’s transition. Cuba is ready for this, and the United States should be ready to ease the embargo on the country in the near future. That means convincing our right wing that communism really is on its deathbed and their obsession with the “communist/socialist conspiracy” they claim is running the Democratic Party runs so counter to the claim that it was their Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush who killed communism.