In This Review

Paths for Cuba: Reforming Communism in Comparative Perspective
Paths for Cuba: Reforming Communism in Comparative Perspective
Edited by Scott Morgenstern, Jorge Pérez-López, and Jerome Branche
408 pp, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2019

Revolutionary Cuba is ironically among the more static political systems on earth. To imagine what a new Cuba might eventually look like, the contributors to this thoughtful collection examine the factors that have driven change in other one-party authoritarian systems. They paint a rather melancholy picture. Cuba has some advantages: an educated and low-wage workforce, a capable state, and proximity to dynamic economies, nearby democracies, and a prosperous Cuban diaspora in the United States. But Cuba seems unlikely to follow the path of China and Vietnam, communist countries that found prosperity in opening up their closed markets. The economies of China and Vietnam only blossomed once elites agreed to programs of reform; Cuban conservatives have resisted even the most modest market-oriented measures. The relative success stories of formerly communist countries in eastern Europe demonstrate the benefit of having a historical tradition of democracy, an independent civil society, and, most important, the liberalizing influence of the European Union—all conditions largely absent from Cuba. The animosity of Washington doesn’t help: subject to prolonged U.S. hostility, many Cubans view liberal democracy and free-market capitalism with deep mistrust.