The Crumbling of Cuba's Grand Socialist Experiment
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.
A disarmingly polite young photojournalist at the time, Alpert was one of the few Americans granted face-to-face meetings with Castro. With the U.S. media curious about the grand socialist experiment unfolding in Cuba, Alpert was invited to appear on TV programming to discuss his conversations with Cuba's communist dictator. Alpert was quite impressed when Castro said he was taking concrete measures to make life better for the Cuban people, citing as evidence a free health care system, free schools, free higher education, and shiny new and rent-free housing projects. When Alpert first visited Cuba, the shelves of grocery stores and other retail establishments were filled with consumer goods of every description.
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.
The harsh and unforgiving hand of single-party socialist rule
Promising to bring fairness and equality to his troubled nation, a young and charismatic Fidel Castro led a revolution that ousted Cuba's corrupt U.S.-backed dictator, Fulgencio Batista. When victory was won, Castro rode triumphantly through the streets of Havana. Based on their new leader's assurance that he was not a communist, the Cuban people embraced Castro with wild enthusiasm.
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." 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.
When Morgan spoke out against Cuba's sudden turn to communism, Castro accused him of being a counter-revolutionary. Morgan was arrested and sentenced to death. Standing in front of a bullet-pocked wall of an 18th-century fortress near Havana that had been converted to a political prison, the Americano was executed by firing squad on March 11, 1961, just two years after playing an instrumental role in bringing about the change he was led to believe would result in a free and non-communist Cuba.
By the time Morgan and the Cuban people realized what was happening, it was too late. With Castro having successfully shielded his true ideology — and with the mass-murdering Marxist Che Guevara at his side — he would go on to usher in a decades-long nightmare of communist oppression that continues to this day. In all of human history, single-party socialist rule has never produced a single free and prosperous society, but has destroyed every society where it was allowed to take root.
A video worth watching and sharing
As reported in this American Thinker article, four Millennial photojournalists affiliated with Turning Point USA recorded what they observed on a recent trip to Cuba: a police state in an advanced stage of decay. The appalling conditions they found coincide perfectly with what's reported in the Netflix documentary Cuba and the Cameraman. Their short video is worthy of being shared with high school– and college-aged students, millions of whom have received a steady diet of propaganda about the alleged virtues of socialism.
American Thinker published another John Eidson article about socialism: ""Socialism's Unbroken Trail of Failure."