By Carlos Alberto Montaner
Why aren't people chastised by example? Communism wreaked more than 100 million dead and untold misery throughout the 20th Century but 5 million Spaniards voted for PODEMOS, a Leninist political organization financed from the start by Chavism and Iran, whose leaders support Maduro, the Castro brothers and any antidemocratic manifestation that appeals to them in the Spanish or European parliament.
Federico Jiménez Losantos tries to find the explanations to this suicidal pigheadedness in a formidable book, Memory of Communism: From Lenin to Podemos
, an irrefutable 700-page tome published with remarkable success by Esfera de los Libros and reprinted no fewer than six times even before the book was formally introduced.
Fidel Castro himself provided a sure way to understand the error of subscribing to the communist vision. It happened in the 1990s, when the Comandante repeatedly refused to rectify the pauperizing and criminal course of his government, after the Soviet subsidies vanished. At the time, he said and repeated on several occasions: “They're inviting us to change to the capitalist system, not to the capitalism of Switzerland but to that of Haiti, the one they dream of imposing on us.”
True enough, in Haiti, a country infinitely poor and badly governed, private property does exist and -- at least formally -- so does a republican structure blessed by a beautifully written (24 times, in French) Constitution. Despite this, the nation is a miserable disaster that has seen 3 million citizens out of a total of 10 million emigrate for lack of opportunities and resettle in the Dominican Republic, the United States and Canada.
The first fallacy, the origin of all the blunders, derives from the “Dependency Theory,” a conceptual stupidity rejected many years ago by one of its own creators, Fernando Henrique Cardoso.
Fidel Castro, the Paranoid in Chief, assumed that a concert of First World capitalist nations was imposing upon Cuba an economic and political model that ranked below the Third World. He didn't learn that South Korea, Ireland, Israel, Taiwan and Spain, among other nations, while inaugurating or preserving their freedoms, had become relatively prosperous societies where the middle social groups predominated.
Fidel Castro didn't even know that tiny Switzerland in 1848, chastened after the latest revolution in which it participated, had opted unequivocably for peace, neutrality and the rule of law, gradually transforming itself from a country that exported mercenaries to another that exported precision machinery and limited itself to helping the wounded and picking up the bodies of their bellicose neighbors by means of the Red Cross.
The second fallacy is assuming that a country reaches the First World through a simple economic recipe that implies the suspension of democracy to prevent the Haitian fate. Not true. Freedom is a value in itself and it makes no sense to marginalize it for the sake of development. The countries that have opted for one or the other have generally ended up poor and enslaved -- permanently.
The market economy, the unjustly vilified neoliberalism that respects private property, is a prerequisite, but we're dealing with a much more complex phenomenon. Found therein are the rule of law, the separation of powers, the absence of privileges and impunities, meritocracy, a limited government composed of public servants, not bosses, a system of stimuli that reinforces the impetus of entrepreneurs and innovators, along with the willingness of most citizens to place themselves under the rule of law.
As is known, success or failure depends on an intangible capital, values, beliefs and attitudes of the whole of the citizenry, as demonstrated by the World Bank in its 2009 study Where Is the Wealth of Nations?
We shouldn't be surprised that no Latin American country sits in the world's locomotive when not even one of them -- I include Chile, Argentina, Brazil and Mexico -- appears among the world's top 50 in the field of innovation (as Andrés Oppenheimer ceaselessly points out), even though we all admit that we live in an era of information and technology.
Then, of course, there's the time factor. A society can decide that it wants to abandon misery and do it in two or three generations, like the Japanese did in 1867 or the Israelis did shortly before they emerged as an independent state in 1948, but development, besides the aforementioned elements, implies accumulated growth, widespread education, the incorporation of women into the workforce and the knowledge that the United States has grown at the rate of about 2 percent a year -- but for approximately 230 consecutive years.
The road, then, is long and arduous, but familiar. It has been trod by two dozen nations -- none of them communist, of course. Carlos Alberto Montaner is a journalist and writer. Born in 1943 in Cuba and exiled, Montaner is known for his more than 25 books and thousands of articles. PODER magazine estimates that more than six million readers have access to his weekly columns throughout Latin America. He is also a political analyst for CNN en Espanol. In 2012, Foreign Policy magazine named Montaner as one of the fifty most influential intellectuals in the Ibero-American world. His latest book is the novel A Time for Scoundrels. His latest essay is "The President: A Handbook for Voters and the Elected."