Russian and Cuban Communism
Communism is a political and social movement that aims for a classless state where the means of production is owned jointly by the society. The government is the overall owner of the means of production and ensures the masses share in the distribution of wealth. The communist movement has been prevalent in countries like the USSR. The application varies though in various countries. Russian Communism is better than Cuban Communism because limited political pluralism exists in Russia. The political pluralism though limited in Russia can lead to further reforms in the future where the people will elect the political party that they believe will best represent their interests. The presidential elections in Russia are not yet fully democratic. Political pluralism is where the citizen majority rule controls the politics of the country. There is democracy and liberty for the people to choose who to vote for and political parties have freedom to carry out campaigns. An example of a country that practices political pluralism is the United States of America.
Communism in Russia
In Russia, the ethnic Russians in the country are over 80% while the remainder is made up of the Tatars, Ukraine, Bashkir, Chechens, Chuvash and the Armenians. Migrants of other countries represent a very small population. The most popular religion is the Eastern Orthodox Christianity with over 70% of the country’s population while 6% are Muslims. The other segment of the population believes in other faiths while others are atheists. Russia was part of the USSR, a union of many countries that collapsed in 1991. The USSR was a socialist state with one-party political system which was communist. The Soviet government weakened causing disintegration to take place and many of the states declared their independence. The president is the head of state with a multi-party system. The other political parties in Russia include the Russia democratic choice, Our home is Russia, Forward Russia!, the Congress of Russian Communities, Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, Agrarian Party, Power to the People, women of Russia, Truth and Order, Yabloko Bloc, National Patriotic Bloc, Russia’s Regions, Community Party of the Russian Federation and the Russian Regions.
Political power in Russia is greatly concentrated on the government and its administration (McFaul, 2001). Voting is after every six years however the voting is not democratic. In the last elections, 2008, the opposition parties were not allowed to broadcast in the country. The media especially the print media largely favoured the presidential party as it is under the presidential control. What has been retained today by Russia from the old system of USSR governance is the aspect of concentrated government power. The president is in no way accountable to the electorate. When Russia started operating as a sovereign state there was no opposition party or a politically competitive environment.
However as the country has grown there has been no room given at all to the upcoming opposition parties to operate.The country practices communism in that the president controls all the companies in the major industries. There is a prime minister who the president appoints with the approval of the parliament. There are three branches of government which are the Judiciary, executive and Legislature. The president serves for four years and then an election is held. The country has no vice president. The cabinet is appointed by the president who is also the head of the Security Council and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. In case he falls sick or resigns the prime minister will hold the president’s office for three months then an election must held. The legislature consists of the Duma which has 450 seats and a federation council that has 178 seats. There is a council of heads of republics that represents the different 21 ethnicities in the country. The president can pass laws alone without the approval of the Duma.
He can also dissolve the Duma if they do not approve the decision to appoint a certain prime minister. The Judicial system is based on civil laws and reviews the laws of the country. The judges to the Supreme Court, Supreme Court of Arbitration and the Constitutional Court are appointed by the Federation Council with the approval of the president. After the the dissolution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in August 1991, the country went through an economic period known as the as the shock therapy. The first President, Boris Yeltsin decided to put in place radical market reforms towards a capitalist economy and the creation of a non-imperialist Russia. This proved to be difficult since this had been the world’s largest state-controlled economy (Berkowitz & DeJong, 2003).
The approaches chosen were liberalization, stabilization and privatization. He had the support of the international bodies. The state controlled price controls and legal barriers in trade and manufacture were removed. Foreign imports were allowed into the country to compete with the monopoles. The subsidies given to the state farms and industries were drastically reduced. There was inflation afterwards. The Central bank decided to print money as it was short of cash. The people were differently affected. The people on fixed income were adversely affected while the entrepreneurs gained a lot. The next step in stabilization was to apply tight monetary and fiscal policies to control the inflation. There were massive cuts in government expenditure, heavy taxes were introduced, government subsidies and interest rates were raised. Most state companies found themselves faced by lack of finances. There was depression and many companies shut down.
The government wanted companies to be efficient in use of resources. There were hurdles in the reform. First most resources were committed in the military during the Cold war in the 1980’s. The reduction in military spending and diversion of resources, personnel and capital to other industries was a huge adjustment. Re-training workers and finding markets for new goods proved to be hard. In the Soviet Union the production had been concentrated in certain big state enterprises. With the collapse of the Union production in Russia fell by over 50% as they had few large enterprises. There was also massive unemployment. Furthermore the people were skilled in ensuring output in quantity. They were not skilled in the risk and entrepreneurship needed in capitalist market economies. The economy was also affected by the 1998 financial crash. There was an increase of poverty, income inequality rates and reduction in life expectancy due to poor health. The population decreased. There was a shortage of supply in consumer goods. There arose strong political opposition and the anti-reform candidates got a lot of votes. People wanted the stability of the Soviet Union market system (Berlin, 2005).
When Vladimir Putin, the second president came to power in 1999, he reversed the free market policies and privatization of companies that Boris had introduced in his presidency. The state took over all the media stations. The journalists who dared to complain were imprisoned and even killed. The people who question the Putin government were arrested. The government then proceeded to nationalize the large enterprises that were deemed to be “strategic enterprises”. These were enterprises in the aircraft, ship, auto manufacturing and raw material extraction sectors.
The government appointed its people to manage these large enterprises. In 2004 after a terrorist attack, Putin introduced political powers that served to strengthen his powers. The regional governors that used to be elected by the people would now be presidential nominees that would be confirmed in position by the regional legislatures. Secondly the Duma deputies would be elected based on the proportion of votes their parties get in the national elections. This caused the regional governors to be totally dependent on the president. Furthermore there would be no independent Duma deputies. Dmitry Medvedev, the third president who was chosen by Putin and elected into power in 2008 has maintained the same state of affairs put in place by his predecessor. Throughout the years there have been rallies by activists demanding political reform however they never bear fruits well as the government keeps harassing and arresting the people. The NGO community reports that the number of people arrested keeps increasing.
The economic system under Putin performed well with a rise in GPD from $200 billion to $920 billion in 2006. The gold reserves in the country have also risen from $ 12.7billion to $303billion in 2007. There is a budget surplus of 7.5% of the GBP. The economy is doing well and ranks at position in 12 in the world. The standard of living has risen as the number of people that are living below the poverty line has fallen from 37% in 1999 to 25% in 2006. The government pays the salaries and pensions consistently. Per capita income for the individual in terms of national average rose from $80 in 1999 to $350 in 2006. In Russia there are more people who become billionaires every year than in the United States.
Russia’s imports industrial equipment, plastics, medicines, iron and steel, vehicles, consumer goods and meat while it exports petroleum, natural gas, metals, oil, defense equipment and timber as it is rich in natural resources.
Communism in Cuba
In Cuba, the main language spoken is Spanish while the most practiced religion is Catholicism. The country however is officially atheist and religious practices are restricted. The church is controlled in terms of written and electronic communication. There are African religions practiced by the Afro-Cubans. There has also been a steady increase of Protestantism in the region. There are also Jews, Buddhists and Muslims though a small population. In terms of ethnicity, over 60% are Whites, 30% are of African descent with a small population of the Mulattoes. The practiced culture is a mixture of diversity from the Europeans, Africans and the North Americans. The president, Raul Castro, is the Chief of State, Head of Government and the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. In 2006, Fidel Castro delegated his presidential duties to his brother Raul Castro. His brother had been the Vice President. When the president is ill or dies it is the Vice president who takes over and is elected by the Legislature. It is a one party state.
The economy is controlled by the state. The legislature of the country, the National assembly of people’s power is elected every five years. There is a Council of State and Council of Ministers. The country has the People’s Supreme Court which is the highest. There are superior courts in the provinces which handle Appeals. The other courts in the region handle the usual cases. The country is socialist country that follows the ideology by the Marx on Communism. The government party is the Communist Party of Cuba. The president has a term of 5 years and there is no limit to the number of terms. The Communist system was introduced by Fidel Castro when he started the Cuban revolution in 1953 with rebel attacks. He caused the president at that time, Fulgencio Balista, to flee the country. The Cuban people from the year 1959 to 1992 were not given the right to vote for the members of the legislature. There is no national voting for the President or the Prime Minister. Only in 1992 were other political parties allowed to exist but they cannot conduct rallies or publicize their existence. The political parties that exist in Cuba are the Cuban Liberal Union, Cuban Liberal Movement, Christian Democratic Party of Cuba, Community Party of Cuba, Democratic Social-Revolutionary Party of Cuba, Democratic Solidarity Party, Liberal Party of Cuba, Social Democratic Co-ordination of Cuba, Cuba democratic Socialist Current and the Orthodox Renovation Party.
At the time Fidel Castro came into power the country relied heavily on the sugar plantations. The market was not diversified. These plantations were mainly controlled by foreigners who were mostly Americans. The markets for the sugar were also tied to America. Fidel Castro greatly disliked the Americans seeing them as imperialistic. The power of the country was in the hands of a few rich people known as the elite. There was also a very high gap between the rich and the poor. From 1959 Fidel moved the country towards a communist regime. First of all he nationalized the American companies. Fidel was pursuing a classless, socialist and non-materialist economy so he refused to let a free market economy continue in the country. By October that year all the American companies had been taken over by the government of Cuba. These were the telephone companies, oil refineries and companies in other sectors. He arrested thousands of people who spoke against the Cuban government. The human rights groups and many Cubans had spoken out against his practices (Jorge, 2001). He also took away the freedom of the press. In 2003, there was an attempted revolution known as the Valera Project by the Christian Liberation Movement. This is a movement in Cuba formed by catholic priests advocating for political change in Cuba. The project was a proposal to the government to allow freedom to start private businesses, freedom of association, freedom of religion, freedom of association, freedom of speech, amnesty for political prisoners and democratic political reforms in Cuba. As per the Cuba Constitution, citizens can propose laws if 10,000 of them support the proposal with their signatures and identification details. The Valera project had 11,020 signatures. The government reacted by getting counter-signatures against the project and proposed to make the country permanently a socialist state. The objectives of the Valera project were defeated. The government forced citizens to retract their signatures and many of the activists were harassed, arrested and detained.
Cuban and USSR economies were intertwined such that the USSR paid very high prices for the sugar of the Cubans while Cuba paid lower prices than the prevalent world prices for oil from USSR. Due to this the government kept increasing the production of sugar and did not diversify the economy with other agricultural and manufacturing products.
After the Soviet collapse IN 1991 the country was greatly affected as the cost of producing the sugar was higher than the prevailing world prices.
This caused the GBP of the country to fall by a third. Despite the government trying to control the economic instability the growth rates continued to fall. The Soviet Union had enabled the government to provide the people with subsidized products however after its collapse the free health care system deteriorated so badly such that even basic medicine became unavailable. Unemployment increased as the State cut its jobs ratio to the public. This led to the civilians turning to the black market and other illicit trades (Paolo, 1995). The gap between the poor and the rich increased. The country of Cuba should not even have adopted communism since it especially needed a free market economy in order to encourage foreign investment and diversification in the market (Carmelo, 2000). The government in the 1990s allowed the privatization of very few companies so that it could deal with the employment and the consumer shortages. Fidel even rebuilt the tourist industry to help stabilize the economy however by the year 2002 the economy was slowing down again (Williams, 2003). There is a lot of corruption as most of the materials sold on the black market have been stolen from state corporations. Individuals have deals with the government contacts on the goods available in the black market (Daniel & Siegelbaum, 1997).
The country of Cuba imports more than 80% of the food consumed. The main sources of foreign exchange are Tourism and family remittances. The country exports its health personnel’s services. The country mainly exports sugar, tobacco, medical products, fish, Citrus and Coffee. It imports mainly petroleum, chemicals, food, machinery and equipment. Cuba’s attempt at communism has not really helped the country at all and the economy is in a terrible state (Louis, 1998).
There are several similarities in the communism of Cuba and Russia. The major common theme is the concentrated power of the government. The effort taken by the ruling individuals to consolidate power is the enormous. Those people who arise to question are arrested and even killed. There is lack of freedom of the press. The governments in communist countries hurry to take over ownership and control of the press as they do not want the people incited by journalists to take a stand or rebel. Since the journalists will rarely give up without a fight the presidents in both countries ended up arresting several of them. There has been the nationalization of private companies in both countries and the discarding of a free market economy. The major difference in the two countries is the political system. In Cuba it is a mainly a One party system with great restriction on other political parties. There is also a great difference in the area of freedom of religion. In Cuba, there is limited freedom of religion. The government supervises the religious organizations in the country. There is a lot of restrictions, interference and suppression by the government in the religious bodies. They are restricted in terms of access to the internet, media and print information. It does not allow religious education to be taught in school. The Cuban government also greatly controls the education system. There are no private schools allowed in the country. In Russia there are no such restrictions and controls in the religious and education sectors. However in Russia opposition parties are allowed to operate. The Russian political system is better as it is not dictatorial or authoritarian like the Cuban presidential system.
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Carmelo, M. (2000). Market, Socialist and Mixed Economies: Comparative Policy and Performance—Chile, Cuba, and Costa Rica, Baltimore, Md.: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
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Jorge, P.(2001). Waiting for Godot: Cuba’s Stalled Reforms and Continuing Economic Crisis. Problems of Post-Communism, pp. 44–45.
Louis A.(1998). Cuba: Between Reform and Revolution, New York: Oxford University Press
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Paolo, M.(1995). Corruption and Growth. Quarterly Journal of Economics, Vol. 110, pp. 681–712.
Williams, C. (2003). “Cubans Find Tourism Is the Best Way to Make a Buck,” Los Angeles Times p. A-3.