COMMUNISM VERSUS SOCIALISMIn Cuba, the reforms consists of trying to get the definitions right:

A draft of Cuba’s new constitution keeps the Communist Party as its leading political force but states as its aim the construction of socialism rather than communism, reflecting changing times, top officials told lawmakers this weekend.

Cuba is replacing its Soviet-era constitution with a new constitution to reflect and implement political and economic changes designed to make its one-party socialist system – one of the last in the world – sustainable.

The constitution will for example recognize private property, something long stigmatized by the Communist Party as a vestige of capitalism, the secretary of the council of state, Homero Acosta, told lawmakers on Saturday.

This should give greater legal recognition to the micro businesses that have flourished in the wake of market reforms. Cuba’s current 1976 constitution only recognizes state, cooperative, farmer, personal and joint venture property.

What’s in the name? Not much. According to Marx, communism was supposed to be the end state of the evolution of society; “the workers’ paradise” where the state has withered away, private property has been abolished, and human affairs are ordered according to the dictum “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” (apologies for Marx’s sexist and non-inclusive language). Communism has never been achieved despite dozens and dozens of attempts over the past century or so, and it’s a pretty safe bet that it never can, due to its unrealistic and utopian nature that goes against the grain of human nature. Arguably for the same reasons, all the previously mentioned attempts have resulted in the opposite of a paradise, workers’ or anyone else’s.

Not surprisingly then, the word “communism” has not been consistently used by the “communists” themselves. With “communism” more of a label, more often used by its critics than proponents, communist countries have rarely ever described themselves as such, just as communist parties in communist countries usually had called themselves “socialist” or “workers’ ” parties. In part this reflected the recognition that while communism properly speaking was the end destination, socialism described the set of beliefs and methods used to get there, as well as the penultimate stage of the Marxian evolution.

There is also another, more mundane and self-serving aspect to opting for socialism and not communism, and this, I suspect, is where Cuba’s also getting at. Quite simply, the theory and the image of communism is now (rightly) tarred with the historical reality of the misery its proponents have caused time and time again while ostensibly trying to implement it, not least the 100 million Chinese, Russians and other nationalities murdered, starved or worked to death under the red banner. Socialism, on the other hand, still sound modestly reasonable, partly because of its many incarnations as “democratic socialism” and “social democracy” in the developed Western countries, where instead of mass casualties it has led to a massive debt, and far from the state withering it created sprawling welfare states with governments on steroids. In other words, whether efficient and effective or not, socialism maintains a degree of respectability and popular support – “We care about common people, and we even promise we won’t kill them”. It’s all of the left-wing goodness without gulags and genocide. In short, Cuba’s communist rulers (who, by the way, have no intention of relinquishing their dictatorial control) want to be more like Bernie Sanders, or more precisely to appear more like Bernie Sanders without the trouble of trying to get elected by people who wouldn’t.