Fidel Castro and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Holding Hands, January 12, 2012:
By Arch Ritter
I almost feel sorry for Fidel – but not quite.
His own brother Raul, the National Assembly, and the last Party Congress have repudiated the various economic programs, policies and institutional structures that he implanted in Cuba for almost half a century. The Communist Party Conference on January 28 will implicitly reiterate what the Congress has already approved. Raul Castro’s economic reform agenda is steadily, inexorably and permanently reversing Fidel’s economic heritage – though not his political institutions.
If Fidel Castro understands what is going on, he can’t be too happy that a major part of his life’s work is being cancelled. On the other hand, he likely is pleased that the political system that he imposed on Cuba remains pretty much intact. There is virtually no sign that political reform may be forthcoming.
Fidel Rejected; Critics Vindicated
For almost half a century, Fidel constructed dysfunctional institutions and pursued counterproductive economic policies. (See Fidel’s Phenomenal Economic Fiascoes: the Top Ten) Worse still, he implanted and maintained an authoritarian regime that denies authentic participatory democracy and fundamental human rights to Cuban citizens. One result has been poverty for most Cubans by any international standard, though obscured by creative statistics. Moreover, two million Cubans have left Cuba and many have made fine contributions to their new countries.
While Fidel’s economic visions, strategies and policies are being continuously repudiated by the current economic reform process, many of his critics have been vindicated. In the past, Fidel responded to criticism by incarcerating the critics (e.g. Oscar Chepe.) Others were demoted, fired, shunned, ostracized and pushed into exile. But the ongoing reform process is an official Cuban certification that many of the critics were on the right track while Fidel was taking Cuba down a blind alley. Silencing criticism and commentary damaged economic policy and the Cuban economy, because errors could not be “nipped in the bud” or reversed quickly.
If only Fidel had taken and understood an “Economics 100” explanation of how markets operate and can serve as a mechanism for the social control of economic activity, Cuba’s economic experience surely would have been much better.
“Henny Penny” the Blogger
At this time, fortunately for Cuba, Fidel seems to have been pushed aside into a role where the real economic damage he can do is minimized. His principal activity now is to write “op-eds” or “Blog entries” or as he calls them, “Reflections”. (See Reflections of Fidel Castro) Fidel seems to be trying to reinvent himself as a seer or clairvoyant pronouncing sagely on the future of the human species and the significance of the events of the day. Though excluded from domestic governance and policy making, his ego perhaps may be assuaged by having his “Reflecciones” widely distributed through all the media which are still monopolized by the Communist Party. Following 50 years precedence, no-one else has access to the media in order to contradict or criticize his assertions or to make alternate arguments and analyses.
Fidel has made himself a prophet of doom – or perhaps an re-incarnation of “Chicken Little” or “Henny Penny”, running to tell the world “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” Why is the world headed for disaster and the human race bound for extinction? Well, financial crisis, nuclear war, global warming, NATO, the G20 and now, Fidel’s latest concern, “fracking” (or hydraulic fracturing for natural gas and oil.) Who is responsible for all of this? Why of course the United States.
Fidel also comments on issues of the day such as the high quality of Hugo Chavez speeches and the perversions practiced especially by the United States but also the G20. While his commentaries have been “over the top” for a long time, they now seem to be increasingly incomprehensible. His latest Reflection for example (See The Best President for the United States) argues that a robot would do a better job than Obama as President. It includes the following sentence:
“I imagined Obama, very articulate with words, for whom, in his desperate attempt to be reelected, the dreams of [Martin] Luther King are more light years away than the closest inhabitable planet.”
This is not a mistranslation. At least Fidel could be provided with better editors. Otherwise, it will seem to readers that he may be losing out to Father Time rather quickly.