Capitalism After Communism: A Cuban Immigrant’s Experience

Emily Herrera/Summer School Morning/Mrs. Hansson

Economic and social systems of countries affect how people live their lives and the choices they make. Some choose to remain in their home countries and accept the systems in place while others choose to leave and make a new start in another country. My grandparents lived in Cuba before Castro came into power and lived there prior to deciding to leave Cuba for the United States. When Castro came to power he installed a communist government where they controlled salaries, jobs, housing, and medical services. Basically the government was to provide for all of the needs of the people. My grandparents have lived under both a communist and capitalist system. The difference in systems has forced them and many other people to make choices that changed their lives and families forever.  They chose to leave everything they had known to move to a country where they did not even speak the language and arrived with little to no money.

In a communist country, the dictator or central committees in charge control the economic systems. They decide what to produce, how much to produce, and what to charge for the goods. The centralized power of a communist country controls what supply is, regardless of demand, and whether the producing company makes a profit. If the cost of the item produced is greater than the sales price, the government makes up the difference[1]. In communist countries, the ruling party believes that in all of history, societies have had class struggles[2]. They believe that the worker has always been taken advantage of by the wealthy owners of the companies. They think that the worker is no more than a slave controlled by the wealthy because the worker must continue to work to eat and live[3]. The worker is not free to quit and must accept the conditions placed on him by the wealthy. Marx called these two classes of people the bourgeoisie and the proletariat[4]. He predicted that these two classes of people were always going to be in a struggle for survival. The bourgeoisie want to keep their position of privilege and wealth, and the proletariat want to get sufficient money to live. Marx also believed that communism would save the proletariat from the bourgeoisie because in a communist state the people would be truly equal. The government would make sure that everyone would have an equal share of food, housing, medicine, and jobs. Furthermore, the government would provide for all the needs of the people equally.

Cuba, prior to Castro, was not a communist country, but ruled by a Dictator named Batista. He allowed the Cuban people to work and earn salaries based on their skill and effort. Some people earned more than others and there were distinct social classes.  Doctors earned more than taxi drivers.  After Castro took over, the government controlled the entire economy. Castro installed a communist government. He created a system where people earned the same amount no matter what job they held[5]. He controlled the housing, jobs, food, fuel, and medicine. He controlled everything. Castro believed that he was creating a country where everyone was equal. He controlled what companies produced and what they paid their workers. What he did not count on is human nature. A person who has greater skill than another person and works harder and longer expects to earn more.

In a capitalist country, the system is designed to pay for merit. That is to pay an individual more for increased productivity and effectiveness. In capitalist countries, people work to produce goods for purchase within their own country, and to export to others.  In this sense, the companies in a capitalist country work to meet the demand for products and goods[6]. They work for pay and in turn spend this pay on the goods and products they need to live a more comfortable life.  Companies in a capitalist country work to make a profit which is to minimize the cost to make the item and sell it for more than it costs to make. If they cannot make a profit, the company goes out of business. The government will not help cover the difference between the cost to make an item and what it can sell for.

In America for example, we try to educate ourselves, go to good universities, get professional careers to provide a happy and good life for our families. Not all people can do this, but the goal and opportunity is still the same for all people in America. This principle is so ingrained in America that it is included in our Constitution and Declaration of Independence. We are granted the right to “pursue life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.[7]” The United States, a capitalist country, was formed to protect a person’s rights to become the best person he or she could be and to allow commerce to flourish without too many limits or government control.

My grandparents decided that they did not want to live under a communist system and left Cuba for good. When my grandparents came to America, they couldn’t speak English. My grandfather had a business degree focusing on export and import, but it did not help him here. No one would hire him. He ended up working as a dish washer in a hotel in Miami, Florida until he could learn and improve his English. After several years, my grandfather was able to get a job producing photographic murals. Through his work he was able to earn enough money to buy a home, a car, and provide for his family. Although my grandfather was not able to work in business in America, he was provided other opportunities to work. In America, if you work hard and apply yourself, there are no limits to what you can achieve. You must understand that there are many paths to your goal. You must find the one that is best for you.

In talking with my grandparents, it became clear to me that capitalism is a much better system for countries and their people. Even in capitalism, there is poverty and crime. As not all people succeed or earn enough to make their lives happy.  But what is true for all types of people in capitalist system is opportunity[8]. In communism, if you are a member of the proletariat that is what you are going to be your entire life.  You will not have a chance to grow up and be the dictator. In America’s capitalist system, I can grow up to be president.  In a communist system, ineffective companies who produce inferior items will continue to operate.  In a capitalist system, that same company will not be in business for long. In a communist system, there is no incentive to work harder, longer, or smarter.  The government will cover any costs to produce that are not covered by the sales price.  There is no incentive to be innovative with new products or to figure out how to better produce an item[9].  No matter how hard you work, you will continue to be part of the proletariat.  In a capitalist system like America, you will move up in your company if you work harder, smarter, and longer.  If you are innovative and come up with a new item to make or figure out a better way to make the item, you will be rewarded.

When investigating the differences between capitalism and communism, and taking into account my grandparents experiences, you learn rather quickly that capitalism makes the most sense.  It provides opportunity to all who have the desire, will, and smarts to work for what they want.  It rewards innovation and hard work.  No one is guaranteed riches in a capitalist system.  But in a system like America that was formed “to make a more perfect union[10]” (US Constitution, Preamble) that guaranteed the rights “to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness, you have the greatest chance of success as a country and a person. I should be grateful to the clash between communism and capitalism because if Castro had not installed a communist government, I may never have been born.


“Declaration of Independence,” The History Channel website, (accessed Jun 23, 2013)

Ludiwig von Mises, Liberty and Property 

Marx, Karl, and Engles, Friederich, Manifesto of the Communist Party

Preamble U.S. Const.

Rodriguez, Isaura R. Interview with Emily Herrera. Personal interview. Dallas, February 13, 2013.

Smith, Adam, Selection from the Wealth of Nations

[1]  Ludwig von Mises, Liberty and Property 

[2]  Marx, Karl, and Engles, Friederich, Manifesto of the Communist Party,

[3] Ibid

[4] Ibid

[5] Rodriguez, Isaura R. Interview with Emily Herrera. Personal interview. Dallas, February 13, 2013.

[6] Smith, Adam, Selection from the Wealth of Nations 

[7] “Declaration of Independence,” The History Channel website, (accessed Jun 23, 2013).

[8] Ludwig von Mises, Liberty and Property

[9] Ibid

[10] Preamble U.S. Const.

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