John Alpert is an American photojournalist whose work is featured in the Netflix documentary Cuba and the Cameraman. He first went to the island nation in 1972, a little more than a decade after the Cuban Revolution. Over the next 45 years, Alpert returned to Cuba, each time taking pictures of its towns and cities and people. The images he took are a timeline that chronicle how Castro’s socialist revolution played out for the Cuban people in the years that lay ahead.
SPOILER ALERT: it played out exactly the way it always does, in every place it’s tried. Shocking, I know.
To a young photojournalist who was idealistic and somewhat naïve at the time, socialism seemed to portend a bright future for Cuba. With its people happy and well taken care of by a paternalistic government, things were going well. But as time moved one, Cuba’s house-of-cards communist system fell apart. The free goods and services given to the Cuban people were funded not by the country’s top-down collectivist economy, but by a massive infusion of hard cash, gasoline, food, and other provisions from the Soviet Union. When the Soviets eventually pulled the plug as their own socialist economy was crumbling, the day-to-day lives of the Cuban people fell on hard times, a rude reminder of Margaret Thatcher’s observation the problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.
The once vibrant island nation of Cuba is but another place where socialism added to its unbroken trail of failure. The country’s capital, Havana, was once an international tourist destination. Known as the “Jewel of the Caribbean,” Havana was a glamorous city with beautiful homes and modern vehicles. After six decades of socialism, only the communist rulers and their cronies live in upscale homes, and the country’s poorly maintained roads are traveled by junker cars built in the middle of the last century.
Easy prediction: the longer they cling to socialism, the more all of these things will worsen. In some quarters, this strange phenomenon of escalating decay, collapse, and chaos is known as “bad luck.” In others, it is sometimes referred to as “getting the government you deserve—good and hard.” Not to worry, though; it’ll be diff’runt here in the US.
I find this next bit of puffed-up, self-dramatizing sanctimony hilarious:
Among the greatest heroes of the Cuban Revolution were two foreigners whose battlefield exploits were so legendary that they became the only non-Cubans to be awarded the rank of Comandante in Castro’s army. One was an idealistic 29-year-old American named William Alexander Morgan, the other a ruthless Marxist revolutionary from Argentina named Ernesto “Che” Guevara.
Hailed by Castro for acts of valor that earned him the affectionate nickname “the Americano,” Morgan said he joined the Cuban Revolution because “the most important thing for free men to do is protect the freedom of others.”
Uh huh. And then—as also always, always, ALWAYS happens under Marxism/communism/socialism/Progressivism/WTFever—EVERYBODY’S freedom was taken away—along with their hope, their health, their wealth, their dignity, and their future. One just imagine the eager naif Morgan’s surprise at yet another thing that always happens:
A fervent anti-communist, Morgan was personally assured by Castro that communism would play no part in the future of the new Cuba. But once Castro had consolidated an iron-fisted grip on power, he revealed his true stripes.
NO! That just can’t be right. I can’t believe it. I won’t believe it.
I don’t quite grasp how any halfway intelligent person can honestly claim to be both a socialist revolutionary and a “fervent anti-communist” without suffering severe neck, spine, and brain injury from the whiplash effect of extreme cognitive dissonance. But that’s what the man says, so maybe I missed something somewhere along the line. Anyhoo, at the end of this article is a link to another worthy compendium on socialism’s inevitable failure from the same author.