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Cuba: Communist Era

The Historical Roots of the Cuban Revolution: From the Emergence of Free Cuba to the Rise of Batista

In order to fully understand the forces that led to the establishment and contribute to the continuing survival of the Communist regime in Cuba, one must first comprehend the country’s earlier history.[1] On the eve of the revolution Cuba was one of the most prosperous counties of Latin America, its population enjoyed higher living-standards and better employment conditions than any other country in the region. It also had close economic and cultural ties with the Unites States. All this makes the working-class militancy, radicalism and ensuing socialist regime somewhat difficult to grasp at first.[2] However, it is clear that the catalyst for the revolution and the basis for communism as an option in Cuba must be sought for in the functioning of its politics between 1902 and 1958.

Moreover, any government is limited in its actions by the productive capacity of its ‘inherited’ economy’, its social mores and cultural traditions - all deeply rooted in the nation’s past. In Cuba, this made the establishment of a purely socialist system a complicated task (e.g. old values and sentiments hindered the evolvement of the ‘new man/woman’, monoculture trade restricted economic progress). Knowing the pre-Communist past helps to understand at least some of the difficulties that the socialist regime has faced over its half a century in power. But it also explains some of its unrelenting ideological strengths. For example, ample use is made of Cuban history, symbols, and national passions, identifying the revolution with the struggle for Cuba’s independence, its heroes and battles, and portraying it ‘less as a break with the past than as a fulfilment of the revered heroes’ mission, all the more so after the delegitimation of world Communism.’[3]

Independence and the ‘Plattist Cuba’

Following the War of Independence, Cuba gained its freedom from Spain in 10 December 1898.[4]

However, it remained administered by the United States until 20 May 1902[5] when the Republic of Cuba was formally launched and Tomás Estrada Palma assumed presidency. Palma was succeeded, after the second military occupation by the US between 1906 and 1909, by Jose Miguel Gómez (1908-1912) and then by Mario García Menocal (1913-1920) and Alfredo Zayas (1921-1925).

The ideological father of the independent Cuba was José Martí (28 Jan 1853 – 19 May 1895), a writer, political ideologists and the founder of Cuban Revolutionary Party (1892). Martí imagined Cuba as a democratic republic that would ensure the welfare and prosperity of all Cubans, regardless of their social standing and/or racial affiliations. Cuba was to be free of any colonial control by the United States; it would have an egalitarian economic base that developed all of Cuba’s productive resources and would guarantee a fair distribution of land among the population.[6]

However, Martí’s ideals were not upheld. The Platt Amendment[7] which set the conditions of the US withdrawal from Cuba, and subsequent Reciprocity Treaty of 1903 saw to it that the newly sovereign state remained under strong US political and economic influence.[8] The latter treaty, which privileged Cuban access to US sugar market, effectively turned Cuba into a monoculture economy. Although the sugar industry underwent a seventeen-fold expansion between 1900 and 1925,[9] creating a superficial economic boom, in the long run it made the country acutely vulnerable to changes in the world market. In addition, as a large part of the industry was owned by the US companies, this expansion did not translate into the accumulation of national capital (i.e. much of the profits from the sugar industry went to America and were not used to facilitate the growth of other areas of the local economy).[10]

However, as is to be expected in the state of overproduction, the world market sugar prices were bound to drop and with the 1920s sugar price crises, Cuba was practically bankrupt. US finally offered financial help but much of the money went straight into the pockets of president Zayas and his supporters. With opportunities for economic advancement fundamentally blocked, Cuban politicians quickly learned to use the state only for their own financial advancement, giving way to widespread corruption and violence.[11] This irresponsibility of the political class, or ‘politics of disappointment’ as it came to be known, reduced Cubans’ faith in liberal democratic politics and eventually facilitated Batista’s coup d’état in 1952.

Moreover, Palma’s rule was followed by another short interlude of direct US control, which saw the creation of the standing army.[12]

From early on, the military became an important pawn in the Cuban political landscape. Staten has noted that the ‘practice of politicising the military came to be a permanent feature of Cuban politics and served to undermine its professionalism, discipline and morale.[13]

In short, the period of early republic was marked by growing economic (but not social) prosperity, political violence and increasing corruption. The 1920's sugar crises and continued American interference finally translated into mounting nationalism and public demand for greater social justice. Various interest groups started calling for more progressive policies, university students flirted with the ideas of Mexican and Russian revolutions.[14]

Machado and the Great Depression

In 1925 Liberal Party candidate Gerardo Machado was elected president. Although relatively popular and progressive at first – the 1927 Customs-Tariff Law actively attempted to diversify the monoculture economy[15] his administration became increasingly dictatorial in its later stages. He ‘unrelentingly’ repressed popular unrest by strengthening the military, creating a fearsome secret police (porra) that jailed, tortured and murdered people not only in Cuba but also in several neighbouring countries, exiling political opponents and finally banning opposition parties altogether. And unlike his predecessors, he refused to step down when his constitutional term of power was over, securing a second term of presidency through fraudulent elections in 1928.[16]

The ensuing dictatorship coincided with the worldwide economic crisis. This led to an increasing opposition against his repressive regime, especially among the students[17] and labour. Between 1931 and 1933, the wages of the rural workers had dropped to an unprecedentedly low level.[18] Coupled with the severe reduction in the number of operational mills, shortening of the zafra,[19] the proportionally increasing length of the dead season,[20] and the disappearance of factors that helped to counterbalance seasonal unemployment (e.g. public works), the situation become unbearable for many workers.[21] The labour force became increasingly mobilised under the National Confederation of Cuban Workers (Confederacion Nacional Obrera Cubana or CNOC in short), formed in 1925. The Communist Party (Union Revolucionaria Comunist or URC, at first), founded by Agustín Martín Velos and Francisco (Paquito) Rosales in the same year, had managed to gain control over CNOC by 1931.

Upsurges against Machado’s oligarchic government[22] remained unsuccessful until a general strike paralysed Havana in August 1933 and the revolution saw to the accession of the so-called Grau regime, named after its leader Professor Ramón Grau San Martín.[23] The new government quickly started nationalist pro-labour reforms.[24] Nevertheless, in January 1934 Grau was overthrown by an anti-government coalition of right-wing civilian and military elements, led by Fulgencio Batista y Zaldivar and supported by the US who could not agree with Grau’s leftist policies. Although Carlos Mendieta, a member of the right wing National Union, was installed as provisional president, the control was in the hands of the now chief of the armed forces colonel Batista.

Between August and October 1933, field and mill workers organised occupations of several dozen sugar mills. In few exceptional cases, these were transformed into soviets.[25] The URC played an important, although not the leading role in these developments (although the latter has often been postulated in post-1959 Cuban treatments of the topic).[26] Even though it did for a short while enjoy a relief from previous repressions and for the first time the URC and the Young Communist League were allowed to open legal headquarters,[27] communists had managed to lose much of their credibility and popular appeal by striking a deal with Machado in their efforts to avoid a pro-US government.[28]

However, the 1933 revolution resulted in the working class becoming a factor to take into consideration; it could no longer be relegated to the side-lines and hence the post-1933 governments can in general lines be described as pro-labour.[29] In succeeding decades it continued to harbour considerable strength; by mid-1950s over half of Cuba’s work force was unionized, making it the largest organized labour movement in the world.[30]

Fulgencio Batista and the Build-Up to Revolution

With the new US-approved government in place, the Platt Amendment was finally revoked in May 1934. The new Treaty of Relations, however, though paving the way to Cuba’s economic recovery still undermined the diversification attempts.[31] With the US giving up its right of interference in Cuba, the new government became increasingly militarised, using the armed forces to suppress labour strikes.[32] This led to strong opposition especially among students and to the creation of the so called Auténtico Party (Partido Revolucionario Cubano), led by the former president Grau, who was now living in exile in Mexico.[33] Large-scale protests ended in bloodshed and the importance of military increased even more; so did the corruption within it.

From 1937, however, Batista changed course. He reached an agreement with the Communist leadership of CNOC and in 1939 a new central labour organization, the Confederación de Trabajadores de Cuba (CTC) was established.[34] After a number of short-term puppet administrations, Batista, backed by both the US and the local Communists Party (now PSP), won the 1940 free elections. Earlier the same year, a new constitution[35] had been passed and implemented. Considered one of the most progressive constitutions in Latin America, it

Re-established democracy and reflected a social equilibrium: it legitimized rights of labour, proscribed latifundia, and assigned the state a central role in the economy while proclaiming the sanctity of private property.[36]

WWII also temporarily revived Cuban economy, especially its sugar and steel industries. By 1944 Batista had also managed to restore civilian control, a move that did not sit well with the officers.[37]

With Batista being barred from the 1944 elections by the constitutional change, the power went again to Ramón Grau San Martín. Although the period saw an economic development and rise of social security that led to the emergence of growing middle class which adopted largely American consumerist values,[38] it failed to control the increasing corruption, urban violence and organized crime.[39] Ortodoxo Party was created in 1947 by Eduardo Chibas to combat the corrupt regime but despite the tarnished popular appeal of the Auténtico party, the 1948 elections were won by its candidate Carlos Prío Socarrás.

Another force opposing the corrupt Auténtico regime was the Communist Party. Dislodged from the CTC executive committee, they sought to reinforce their diminishing importance. Although never a major party,[40] the PSP had

exercised a considerable influence in Cuban politics. During the 1940s, about 7 per cent of the electorate voted for the communists. Communist deputies and senators distinguished themselves for their discipline, hard work, and honesty. They were only 5% of congress, but submitted over 15% of all bills. More important, the PSP was not the party in power… Cuban communists were also realists; in practice, they espoused militant reform, not revolution. From their CTC power base, communists operated in the political mainstream while challenging the predominant logic of corruption.[41]

Taking advantage of the complicated political situation, Batista, who was clearly unable to win the 1952 elections, seized power in a pre-emptive coup, thus ending all hopes for democratic Cuba. Nonetheless, the misgivings of the former regime meant that there was little popular opposition to it being illegally overthrown.

Batista’s regime, however, was clearly totalitarian. Constitutional changes put forward in April 1952 enabled him to deny freedom of speech, press and assembly at any time for a 45-day period. Political parties were banned, the Cuban Congress was replaced by an 8-member consultative council, newspapers were subjected to censorship and political opponents were either jailed or exiled.[42]

In economic terms, Batista’s regime was effective to a certain degree. The National Program of Economic Action, launched in 1955, led to the growth of non-sugar industry by nearly 7% a year.[43] US investments poured in, and the government organised a number of important public works. The unemployment rates, on the other hand, despite reaching their lowest point in March 1958, remained high in overall terms, the national average of 13.8% rising to 20.7% during off-season periods.[44] In addition, social inequalities between the rural and urban populations became an increasing problem with one-third of the population considered poor.[45] It was this economically unsecure part of the population, however, whose support was vital for the success of the intensifying guerrilla movement.[46]

The Cuban Revolution

The long-term crises of political authority and the tightening grip of Batista’s regime eventually led to a revolution. Small scale plots had been organised since his accession to power, most important among them was the failed attack on the Moncada barracks in Santiago de Cuba on 26 July 1953 in which more than 100 died. The 26 July rebellion was headed by Fidel Castro, a son of a well-to-do cane grower.[47] Castro had run for a position in congress before Batista’s coup cancelled the election and had unsuccessfully petitioned Cuba’s Supreme Court to declare Batista’s government unconstitutional.[48]As a trained lawyer, Castro defended himself in a trial opened to national and international media. This allowed him to legitimate his rebellion by declaring that Batista ruled dictatorially and to outline his program for social justice and national integrity in his famous five-hour closing speech ‘History Will absolve Me’.[49] Although convicted and jailed, the trial made him a house-hold name in Cuba and his impressive self-defence captured the popular imagination.[50] wo years later he was freed in an act of clemency and went to exile in Mexico, where he quickly resumed his anti-governmental struggle.

In December 1956 he landed a small guerrilla party, called the 26th of July Movement including his brother Raúl and Ernesto ‘Ché’ Guevara, an Argentinian doctor, on board of the yacht Granma on the Cuban coast. A base of operation was established in Oriente province.[51]

By 1958 social, political and economic crises besieged Cuba. By refusing to resign, Batista demoralised the moderate opposition and paved the way for Castro’s radical nationalism, his Rebel Army and the July 26th movement.[52] Armed guerrilla insurrection came to be recognised as the principle means of struggle and Castro as its uncontested leader.[53]

It has long been recognised that the Cuban revolution was Fidel’s revolution, his charisma played a central role in not only Cuba’s but the entire world’s socialist history.[54] The support he received after Batista fled the country and Castro’s forces victoriously marched into Havana on the New Year’s Day 1959 was broad-based and multiclass; his nationalism, populism, morality and opposition to long-standing US imperialism appealed to many.[55]

The Cuban Revolution, however, was not carried out by any communist precepts, neither was the July 26th Movement reformist in its 1950s Cuban context.[56] As an important part of the movement was anti-communist,[57] he guerrillas and the Communist Party collaborated only in the final stages of the revolution. That the revolution had been socialist in nature was implied only retrospectively after the victory had been achieved.[58]

Revolutionary Cuba, 1959-present

Remembering the failures of 1898 and 1933 popular movements, the revolutionaries refused to compromise; ‘instead they mobilised the working class and the clases populares and forged a new consensus based on national sovereignty and social justice.’[59] The successful guerrilla revolution which had crushed the old military system, and the voluntary exile of much of the bureaucratic stratum who could have opposed the new regime, gave it a superficial appearance of solidarity.[60]

But the fact that the revolution had been achieved by the means of armed struggle had ultimately undermined the possibilities of promised reform. Although Castro had promised a return to constitutional rule and democratic elections along with social reforms, he instead used control of the military to consolidate his power by repressing all dissent from his decisions, marginalizing other resistance figures, and imprisoning or executing thousands of opponents. An estimated 3,200 people were executed by the Cuban Government between 1959 and 1962.[61]

Socio-political transformation

Although the first post-revolution government assembled the best of liberal Cuba and was only reasonably and moderately nationalist,[62] soon the administration operated under Party guidance that over the years combined control with decentralisation and oligarchy with democratising tendencies.[63]

Executive power became vested in the Council of Ministers and its Executive Committee. The legislative power belonged to the National Assembly and its elected 31-member Council of State. Fidel and his brother Raúl also held top posts in both, as well as in the Party itself. In July 1961, two years after the 1959 Revolution, the Integrated Revolutionary Organizations (ORI) was formed by the merger of Fidel Castro's 26th of July Movement, the Popular Socialist Party led by Blas Roca and the Revolutionary Directory led by Faure Chomón. On March 26, 1962 the ORI became the United Party of the Cuban Socialist Revolution (PURSC) which, in turn, became the Communist Party of Cuba on October 3, 1965. However, major policy decisions were made by Castro in consultation with a very small circle of trusted comrades; first PCC congress did not convene until 1975.[64]

The Communist party remains the only recognized political party in Cuba. Membership of the party was initially highly selective - in 1969 only 0.6%, in 1975 2.2% about 6% of the entire population in mid-1980s.[65] In 1990s the PCC was restructured and membership expanded further.[66]

Previously existing and newly created mass organisations were subjugating to Castro's political control. These included the Committees for the Defence of the Revolution (CDR) the creation which had been aided by the Bay of Bigs invasion (below). Together with the rebel army it had suppressed contra-revolutionary movements but the complicated international situation (US hostility) supported continued militarisation.[67] The military came to play a central role in the administration; it was used as the basic mechanism for economic construction and production.[68] By 1963 there were more than 90,000 separate CDR units that together formed a paramilitary factor in their own right.[69] During 1967-72 they managed to absorb the July 26th Movement and various dissident socialist sectors. Renewed militarisation took place in 1973.

Other mass organization included the National Small Peasants Association (ANAP), Cuban Women's Federation (FMC), Cuban Labor Confederation (CTC). Youth were members of the Cuban Pioneers' Union, the Federation of Secondary School Students, or the University Students Federation (FEU), all closely tied to the UJC, the youth division of the Party. In sum, the civilian sector increasingly came under the domination of the Communist party apparatus.[70]

Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crises

The Cold War politics that put pressure on all countries to align themselves to either the US or the Soviet Union, had a profuse impact on the development of socialism in Cuba. In their respective spheres of influence, both the US and the USSR felt that their financial and humanitarian aid allowed them to intervene in the internal affairs of the affiliated countries. The overthrow of US-friendly Batista and the emergence of a socialist regime practically on its doorstep did not sit well with the administration of the States. It imposed an embargo on Cuba in October 1960, broke diplomatic relations on 3 January 1961 and finally resorted to armed intrusion. In April 1961 a paramilitary group Brigade 2506 landed on the Cuban shore, an event now known as the Bay of Pigs Invasion.[71] Although the US-sponsored troops were quickly overwhelmed by the Cuban army, America’s offensive led to Cuba to turn to the USSR for military aid and the consequent Missile Crisis.

The latter erupted when the USSR attempted to place its nuclear missiles on Cuba in 1962. US strongly opposed and put a military blockade on the island that the Soviet ships attempted to run through; for 13 days the world was on the brink of a nuclear war. A settlement agreed upon by Kennedy and Khrushchev (but not involving Castro) on October 28 entailed the dismantling of all Soviet weapons on Cuba for exchange of USA’s declaration never to invade Cuba again plus a secret clause to destroy their missiles in Turkey and Italy.[72] Although Castro has been reported to have been not satisfied with the way the USSR handled the situation, the two remained allies until its eventual disintegration.[73]

The US, at the same time, continued its embargo even beyond the communist bloc’s collapse. Eckstein has pointed out, however, that the US policy towards Cuba, especially in its later stages, cannot be explained merely in terms of either trade-based market considerations or superpower politics (it was not hostile to the Soviet Union or China but even to this day shuns Cuba) but with the growth of the Cuban-American voting bloc, has become more reminiscent of a domestic matter.[74]

However, Cuba’s provocative actions on the international arena did not end with the missile crisis. In its continuing support to ‘anti-imperialist wars’ it funded and facilitated violent subversive and insurrectional activities and partook in foreign interventions in a number of countries in Central America, Africa and the Middle East throughout the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.[75] Perhaps most importantly, in 1975 (and again in 1988) it staged a sudden armed intervention in Angola.[76]

Push for Communism

During the first few post-revolutionary years Cuban economy feared well and was in a steady road to recovery.[77] The state nationalized 70% of the land and 90 to 100% of industry, commerce, banking, and foreign trade.[78]All this allowed the government to halve rents, increase wages and employment, and offer free education, medical care, social security, and day care.[79] Nevertheless, Cuba failed to meet the expectations of raising living standards. Previously optimistic economic predictions of the 1950s had not foreseen the restrictions the adoption of socialism would impose on the country.

In addition, the industrialization strategy of 1961-3, which aimed at agricultural diversification, increase of sugar production and import-substitution, involved a number of miscalculations. Poorly suited to Cuba’s resource and skills base (or know-how) it failed very quickly. The US encouraged mass exodus of specialist labour (especially technicians, managers, legal and educational professionals) aided the county’s already poor skills profile. Further, Cuban government made things worse by discriminating against those who stayed.[80] During the 1960s the vacant positions of intermediary administration thus came to be filled by non-skilled personnel. Scarcity of the administrative know-how also led to the ‘anti-bureaucratic revolution, which aimed to minimise the administrative apparatus. Together with the creation of the ‘new man/woman’, one who needs moral rather than material incentives,[81] this was to compensate for scarce skills. Although advances were made in education (below), they failed to eradicate the skills shortage and the issue persisted throughout the 1960s; only from 1970s onwards did the ‘new professionals’ gradually start replacing the so-called ‘political cadres’ that had achieved their intermediate and higher level positions though political allegiance rather than educational credentials.[82]

As a result of all this, the production of sugar decreased and the agricultural diversification could not satisfy the demands for food. In addition, US imposed an embargo on Cuba in 1962. In 1964 an alternative (fidelista)[83] strategy was adopted that again centred on sugar and agriculture.[84] The government set a target of producing 10 million tons of sugar in 1970.[85] Soviet Union agreed to buy half the amount, the other half was going to be sold in the world market. The acquired funds would then have been used to modernize other sectors of Cuban industry.

However, the 10-million-ton quota was not achieved. Instead of expected 14% annual growth rate, sugar production increased only about 4% per year.[86] Total sugar production in 1970, although in their record high, did not exceed 8.5 tons. In addition, focus on sugar deprived other sectors of resources. In Fitzgerald’s opinion ‘the record gains in sugar production were probably outpaced by losses in the rest of the economy.’[87]

These (so-called ‘Turnpike’ policies) failed because they were ideologically driven and economically irrational, did not take into account the unfavourable changes in the world market, external factors like cutbacks of Soviet assistance and overestimated the chance of remaking Cuban society.[88] Despite the governments control of the mass media and the school system, and regardless of the ideological work done by the mass organizations and the newly consolidated ruling party, workers resented and resisted working more for less material gain.[89]

The power of volunteer labour brigades had been recklessly wasted, productivity remained low.[90]Excess consumer liquidity, lack of reasonable system of material sanctions and satisfactory bonus resulted in widespread absenteeism which in turn meant that collective consciousness developed unevenly.[91] The Communist Party administered everything and was unable to correct its mistakes. The number of national unions had been halved, provincial and municipal branches eliminated altogether. Hence, by 1970 ‘the relationship between the revolutionary leadership and its popular political base showed definite signs of strain.’[92]People, exhausted by hard work and low personal consumption, became ‘disillusioned when effort and sacrifice did not result in promised economic growth.’[93]

Mass immigration

As the revolution became more radical, hundreds of thousands of Cubans fled the island. It has been estimated that about 2 million Cubans have left their homeland since 1959.[94] About 125 000 people. among them many dissidents and other ‘unwanted’ element, left during the 6-month Mariel Harbour exodus (or Mariel boatlift) in 1980.[95]

Society and Culture

Apart from economic considerations the mass exodus was and still is aided by the fact that though Revolutionary Cuba has over time achieved outstanding standards in education (below), health and social guarantees, it lacks political, artistic, religious and sexual freedoms. The state permeation of civil society became extensive under Castro. Art and literature, like much else, was subjected to ideological control, guided by Castro's maxim 'within the Revolution everything, against the Revolution nothing';[96]i.e. although criticism of socialist system within certain limits and an intent of support would be allowed, no dissent or opposition to the government was to be tolerated. This became especially clear during the so called 'Padilla affair'. Poet Herberto Padilla (20 Jan 1932 – 24 Sept 2000), had rather openly criticized the regime in his book Fuera del Juego ('Out of the Game') and consequently dubbed 'counter-revolutionary'. Imprisoned in 1971 he was forced to stand a show trial at the Writers Union and publicly express his 'regret' for having voiced grievances that showed his lack of understanding of the 'historical moment that the country was living through.' His predicament became an international scandal and the missive against his prosecution was signed by world-renown authors like Sartre, Paz, Borges, Fuentes and Sontag. The affair not only resulted in the withdrawal of support from initially supportive foreign intellectuals but also in bringing the island's artists under a strong state control.[97] The issue remains acute even today.[98]

Similarly, religious freedoms were curbed but never entirely outlawed although in line with the Marxist tradition Cuba was declared atheist and the church fell into disfavour.[99]The state-church relations only started improving again in the 1980s; Pope John Paul II visited the island in 1998[100] and Benedict XVI in 2012.[101]

Between 1965 and 1967 the notorious Military Units to Aid Production (UMAP) camps retained those deemed deviant but redeemable (active homosexuals, devoutly religious people, intellectuals, or indeed anyone considered ‘counter-revolutionary’) through ‘re-education through labour’. Especially the homosexuals suffered heavily under a severe campaign of harassment in 1960s and 1970s.[102] Homosexuality was deemed illegal and punishable by four years imprisonment until it was finally decriminalised in 1979 (although ambiguous laws are still used to prosecute people based on their sexual preferences).

Educational Reforms[103]

Grounded in José Marti’s values of cubanía, the belief in education as a key to Cuba’s future was inherent to the Revolution’s self-image as means to reform and empowerment.[104]Also in order to combat the skills shortage, the new government almost immediately expanded and reformed all levels of the education system.[105] Within the first decade of revolutionary Cuba, the number of students enrolled in both primary and secondary schools had more or less doubled.[106]

During 1961 - the ‘Year of Education’ – a successful campaign of community-run education reduced the illiteracy rate from 23.6 to 3.9%.[107] Inspired by its unprecedented success the government built up a full-scale adult education system, which in its peak (1964/5) engaged 842,024 mature students.[108]

Public universities in Havana, Las Villas, and Santiago were also reopened. The higher education reform in 1962 encouraged the subjects related to economic development - enrolments in agricultural sciences increased almost six times between 1959 and 1970. At the same time the number of students reading for degrees in humanities, social sciences, and art fell 42%.[109] Even greater drop occurred in educational sciences (68.6%); this in turn aggravated problems in primary and secondary education.[110]

The education system underwent further reforms in the 1970s.[111] The First National Congress of Education and Culture gathered in 1971. A plan for improving and developing the National Education System was approved in 1975. The ‘schools in the countryside’ project was designed to model the students into the ‘new persons’ who would be well educated but also able and willing to engage in manual labour.[112] Efficiency improved in all levels of education, secondary and higher education enrolment expanded considerably.[113] Enrolment in the adult education system also started to rise again; adult illiteracy dropped to 1.9% by 1981.[114]

A special Ministry of Higher Education was created in 1977. Within ten years (1974/5 to 1985/5) the number of higher education centres rose from 5 to 46 and these began to offer graduate (i.e. Masters and doctoral) degrees.[115] As a direct result of the emphasis put on improving state education and the increased need for ‘new professionals’, the number of students in teacher training courses increased by a staggering 4,725.6%.[116]


After 1970, the fidelista system was revised – a new less ambitious development plan favouring once again the industry, more balanced incentives, and new organizational structures and operating procedures were introduced. Cuba integrated economically into the Soviet bloc and made efforts to mechanise production.[117]

A democratic centralist process which aimed to redistribute the decision-making power was also set in motion. 13th Congress of the Central Organization of Cuban Trade Unions (CTC) took place in 1973 and saw to the reorganisation of the union system. The unions became subsequently separated from the party but this separation was functional rather than political. But at least in theory, the workers once again had institutionalized means for making suggestions and registering complaints. The 1976 constitution granted more participatory practices than the inspiring Soviet formula, creating the Organs of People’s Power (OPP). The new constitution also improved women’s rights.[118]

Expansion of trade with the Western bloc, including with the US based multinational companies (which in 1974 accounted for 41% of Cuba’s overall trade)[119] and the improving conditions in the world market allowed Cuba to undergo a quick and impressive economic recovery. The annual growth rate averaged around 14%.[120] High sugar prices and low interest rates also permitted Castro to contract large foreign loans. The debt owed to the Western countries increased from $660 million in 1974 to $2,100 million in 1977. Meanwhile, however, the sugar production rates dropped once again (from $719,9 million high in 1975 to a mere $157 million in 1978). In 1977, Cuba’s Western debt, relative to its hard currency export earnings, was 268%. Although cooperation with the Eastern bloc slightly cushioned the impact of the debt crises,[121] Cuba nevertheless entered another period of austerity.[122]

In 1972 Cuba had become the member of Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (CMEA, or Comecon[123]), that offered favourable trade agreements and increasing amount of development assistance. From 1976 onwards, Cuban economic plans were tied to those of other CMEA countries.[124] Following the Soviet example, an Economic Management and Planning System (SDPE) was announced in 1975; by 1980 94.8% of Cuban enterprises were under the SDPE control.[125]

The 1970s reforms finally paid off in early 1980s, when the country once more experienced (limited) economic recuperation. Engineering, capital goods and pharmaceutical sectors, among others, saw improvement and agricultural output increase.[126] Small scale private enterprises were allowed once more.

From 1970 to 1984 average daily calories intake rose from 2,565 to 2,963; from 1970 to 1984, infant mortality dropped from thirty-nine to fifteen deaths per thousand live births; between 1970 and 1980, although agricultural production grew a moderate 27 per cent, industrial production grew a dramatic 80 per cent; between 1972 and 1981, according to the estimates of Swedish economist Claes Brundenius, the annual growth rate in gross domestic product averaged 7.8%, while the per capita averaged a substantial 6.5%.[127]

Yet there were continuing problems: salaries, prices, credit, employment practices, administrative procedures, ‘and many other aspects of the economy could be characterised as ‘chaotic’, largely due to the ‘bureaucratic centralist’ tendencies of the administration on all levels.’[128] Lack of sufficient norms allowed the managers and workers to abuse the ‘to each according to his work’ system and had a detrimental effect on production. Corruption also reached endemic proportions.[129] A new rectification campaign was undertaken in 1986. Free farmer’s markets were abolished because they provided competition for scarce state resources and the farmers manipulated the market reforms to their own personal advantage at the government’s expense.[130]

Although the reforms were somewhat successful, the country was shortly plunged into a severe economic chaos brought about by the disintegration of the Soviet Union.[131]

Collapse of the Soviet Union

With the collapse of the Soviet-bloc communism, Cuba entered, in Castro’s words, a Special Period in Time of Peace, revolutionary Cuba’s worst crisis so far. As of early 1987, CMEA’s aid to Cuba was almost 4 billion US dollars,[132] in 1988 socialist economies accounted for about 87% of the foreign trade.[133] Between 1989 and 1992, the total trade with CMEA countries dropped a staggering 93%; Cuba was suffering from falling imports of grains, foodstuffs, spare parts, fuels, fertilisers, and other vital materials which it had become heavily dependent on with the modernisation process. In 1992 total trade with CMEA members had dropped to only 7% of its 1989 level.[134]

Hence, Cuba had to find alternative markets. Its trade with the US had never been completely non-existent despite the on-going embargo; in 1988 its total value was $246 million. By 1991 this had increased to $718 million, a large amount of which was import of foodstuff subsidiaries.[135] However, in October 1992, Georg Bush signed the Cuban Democracy Act (CDA) that tightened the blockade by threatening any country that offered other than the basic humanitarian aid to Cuba with economic sanctions and prohibiting any vessel that carried Cuban goods or passengers from entering the US waters.[136]

So, Cuba found itself in a situation of ‘double-blockade’. Its difficult situation was further aggravated by extreme weather conditions. The sugar production dropped to an extreme 4.2 million tons. Hence, by 1993 the revolution was in crisis. Fuel and energy cutbacks were so severe that at one point ‘Cuba even opened a new post office for deliveries between Havana and the provinces by carrier pigeon.’[137] Unprecedented street disturbances took place in August 1994 and about 34,000 more rafters escaped to the US.

Economic adaptions undertaken to remedy the situation include the reintroduction of the free farmers markets, privatisation of agriculture, the legalisation of self-employment, the reduction of subsidies to state enterprises and the legalisation of dollars.[138] However, these were not accompanied by political liberalisation – PCC remains the only legal party, any opposition is decisively shunned, all movements including human rights groups, civil and professional unions that exist outside the state system are considered illegal and barred and freedom of assembly is severely restricted.[139] To enforce political conformity Castro continues to use criminal prosecutions, long- and short-term detentions, mob harassment, police warnings, surveillance, house arrests, travel restrictions, and politically-motivated dismissals from employment.[140]

Yet, Castro's government (against the expectations of many) managed to survive the economic free-fall despite only limited economic reforms. Although by the end of 2000 the economy had revered to about 88% of 1989 GDP,[141] in 2001 the exports still totalled to less than half of what they had been in 1986, the living standards and quality of public services declined and full control of the economy remained in the hands of the government.[142]

Modern Cuba

In the beginning of the 21st century the demand for greater economic liberalisation became obvious, illegal black-market economy was thriving and covered (and still covers)[143] practically all areas of life. Hence, the market was opened more widely to foreign investors and self-employment opportunities were further expanded.

Due to deteriorating health, Fidel Castro stepped down as president in February 2008 in favour of his younger brother Raúl. Since then, Cuba has launched a series of unprecedented reforms. In 2011 private home sales were allowed for the first time in 50 years.[144] In late 2012 the government introduced a new tax scheme, meaning that the largely tax-free life of the Cuban citizens will soon be over.[145] In addition, the state payroll has been significantly reduced and the number of private workers rose an impressive 23% in 2012 alone.[146] And in late 2012-early 2013 the government finally, after more than half a century, lifted the restrictions on its citizens, the Cubans can now freely leave the country without the exit visas and letters of invitation.[147]

Nevertheless, the Cuban government still refuses to renounce socialism, retaining universal services and collective control of the economy as much as possible.[148] With China, Laos, Vietnam and North Korea, it remains one of the last strongholds of communism in the world.


The priority put on learning (public spending on education has been traditionally about twice as high as in the neighbouring countries)[149] has paid off; the country has demonstrated high educational achievement for decades, especially in primary and secondary levels.[150] For instance, in 1998 UNESCO reported that Cuban students ranked first in international math and reading tests in Latin America, scoring 100 points above the regional average.[151]

To further develop the higher and adult education sectors, new reforms were initiated in August 2001. These involved the creation of emergency training schools in social work, primary teaching, nursing, cultural education and IT instruction, the establishment of the Universidad para Todos (i.e. the broadcasting of degree-level classes in selected subjects), the spread of university provision though outreach courses and the creation of special schools for newly unemployed sugar workers.[152] Kapcia has shown that this new revolution, tapping deep into the political myths of Marti and Guevara, served as an ideological policy as much as an educational reform.[153]

Continuing breach of human rights

Between 1963 and 2003, the number of official capital punishments totalled around 800.[154] However, to this 800 must be added extrajudicial killings, missing persons, deaths in prison and a large number of people who have perished trying to flee the country. Especially the number of the latter is difficult to determine, hence the estimations of the grand total of the regime’s victims vary from 35 000 to well over 141 000.[155]

And illicit migration, these days mostly economically motivated, continues to be a problem. It is often connected with human trafficking (forced labour and sex, allegedly also child prostitution) although information on the issue is meagre and Cuba evidently refuses to acknowledge the problem.[156] The outstanding issues are outlined in Human Rights Watch’s reports.


[1] As S.E. Eckstein (Back from the Future: Cuba under Castro (New York: Routledge, 2003), 14) has observed, ‘prerevolutionary conditions help explain revolutionary dynamics.’

[2] J. O’Connor, The Origins of Socialism in Cuba (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1970) 1-2.

[3] Eckstein, Back from the Future, 3-4, 16.

[4] Also known as Cuban-Spanish-American war of 1898, the last of armed struggles for independence. For extensive treatment see J.L. Tone, War and Genocide in Cuba, 1895-1898 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006), for a shorter overview A. Helg, Our Rightful Share: The Afro-Cuban Struggle for Equality, 1886-1912 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995), 55-90). For preceding wars J.Casanovas, Bread or Bullets: Urban Labor and Spanish Colonialism in Cuba, 1850-1898 (Pittsburgh, PA.: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1998) (especially chapter 4 on Ten Year's War) and L.A.Pérez, Cuba Between Empires: 1878-1902 (Pittsburgh, PA.: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1983).

[5] For a very concise overview on American intervention see D.M. Coerver and L.B. Hall, Tangled Destinies: Latin America and the United States (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1999, 49-51); for a longer treatment on the Spanish-American War e.g. D.F. Trask, The War with Spain in 1898 (New York; London: Macmillan; Collier Macmillan, 1981), P.S. Foner, The Spanish-Cuban-American War and the Birth of American Imperialism, 1985-1902 (New York; London: Monthly Review Press, 1972) or L.A. Pérez, The War of 1898: The United States and Cuba in History and Historiography (Chapel Hill; London: University of North Carolina Press, 1998).

[6] Martí’s books are available online through Digital Library of the Caribbean (in spanish). Bibliography on Martí is enormous, consult for example J.M. Kirk, José Martí: Mentor of the Cuban Nation (Tampa: University Presses of Florida, 1982), O. Montero, José Martí: An Introduction (Gordonsville, VA: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003) or a collection of essays on his role as a national symbol in M.A. Font & A.W. Quiroz (eds), The Cuban Republic and José Martí: Reception and Use of a National Symbol (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2006).

[7] Passed by both houses of the US Congress and signed by President McKinley in March 1901, written into the Cuban Constitution in 1902. See pages 147-149 in Chomsky et al (eds), The Cuba Reader: History, Culture, Politics (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2003).

[8] Staten has voiced an opinion that 'the Platt Amendment and the growing political and economic power of the United States made a mockery of Cuban independence.' in C.L. Staten, The History of Cuba (Westport, Conn. & London: Greenwood Press, 2003), 45-49. For exhaustive treatment of the period see L.A. Peréz Jr. Cuba under the Platt Amendment, 1902-1934 (Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1986); for a historiographical overview J.H. Hitchman, ‘The Platt Amendment Revisited: A Bibliographical Survey’, The Americas 23 (1967), 343-369.

[9] H. Thomas, Cuba: The Pursuit of Freedom (New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1971), 1563.

[10] M. Pérez-Stable, The Cuban Revolution: Origins, Course, and Legacy (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999 (2nd ed.), 15. By 1925 US capital totalled $750 million, owned 41% of all mills, and controlled 60% of the harvest.

[11] According to Staten (History of Cuba, 50-1), votes cast for Menocal and his puppet Zayas in 1916 and 1920 elections respectively exceeded the numbers on the electoral roll. ‘Menocal’s corruption knew no boundaries as imaginary roads and bridges were built over rivers that did not exist.’ About 50 people died in the pre-election violence of 1916 when the ruling president Menocal had candidates and election officials shot.

[12] See A.R. Millett, The Politics of Intervention: The Military Occupation of Cuba, 1906-1909 (Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Press, 1968) and J.M. Hernández, Cuba and the United States: Intervention and Militarism, 1868-1933 (Austin, TX: University of Austin Press, 1993).

[13] Staten, History of Cuba, 48.

[14] Staten, History of Cuba, 51-3. Cf. more positivist view on economy M. Speck, ‘Prosperity, Progress, and Wealth: Cuban Enterprise during the Early Republic, 1902-1927’, Cuban Studies 36 (2005), 50-86.

[15] It established unprecedented protection of existing Cuban industries and encouraged the creation of new ones. For more see Pérez-Stable, The Cuban Revolution, 18-9.

[16] Staten, History of Cuba, 56.

[17] See J. Suchlicki, University Students and Revolution in Cuba, 1920-1968 (Coral Gables, FL: University of Miami Press, 1969).

[18] B. Carr. ‘Mill Occupations and Soviets: The Mobilisation of Sugar Workers in Cuba 1917-1933’, Journal of Latin American Studies 28 (1996), 131.

[19] I.e. the (length of) sugar harvest. Drop from 145.1 days in 1925 to 66.6 in 1933 (Carr, ‘Mill Occupations’, 132).

[20] Tiempo Muerto, i.e. the off-season in sugar industry, usually lasts from April to September.

[21] Carr, ‘Mill Occupations’, 131-133. Especially non-Cuban workers who mostly originated from Haiti and Jamaica.

[22] E.g. the strike of March 1930.

[23] Student rebellion was centred around the University Student Directorate (DEU) and came to be known as the Generation of 1930 (see n. 17 above).

[24] The 1901 treaty was abrogated; Grau insisted that the US do the same with the Platt Amendment. Grau’s pro-labour policies consisted of the creation of a department of labour, an 8-hour workday and restriction on the importation of cheap labour. Native Cubans now had to form at least half of the workforce in industries and commercial enterprises. In addition, rights of female workers were greatly improved and women were given the right to vote (Staten, History of Cuba, 61).

[25] By the end of September 36 mills were occupied. Soviets were created at Mabay, Tacajó, Santa Lucía, Nazábal, Parque Alto, Hormiguero, Jaronú and Senado. ‘Workers seized and sold crude and refined sugar stocks, using the funds to pay the workforce and buy food for strikers and their families. Over two hundred caballerías of land were distributed to peasants and agricultural workers. Tools and machinery were also handed over to workers. The mill continued functioning; schools were opened; a Tribunal de Justicia was formed and sales of sugar enabled workers to purchase a modest stock of rifles and set up armed self-defence groups.’ (Carr, ‘Mill Occupations’, 140, 155).

[26] Carr, ‘Mill Occupations’, 141-6, 156-7.

[27] Ibid, 142-3.

[28] Staten, History of Cuba, 58-9; Pérez-Stable, The Cuban Revolution, 40.

[29] For a more comprehensive overview of the period see J.I. Domínguez, Cuba: Order and Revolution (London and Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1978), 11-53.

[30] In 1954 CNOC had over 1 million members out of a total labour force of less than 2 million (McEwan, Revolution and Economic Development in Cuba, 25).

[31] Pérez-Stable, The Cuban Revolution, 20. Compare with the Reciprocity Treaty of 1903 above.

[32] E.g. The general strike in March 1935.

[33] Staten, History of Cuba, 63.

[34] R.J. Alexander, A History of Organized Labor in Cuba (Westport, CT: Praeger, 2002), 5.

[35] Text in Spanish and in English.

[36] Pérez-Stable, The Cuban Revolution, 43.

[37] Staten, History of Cuba, 65.

[38] Staten, History of Cuba, 46. The Americanisation was by no means a new phenomenon, close political and economic relations between the two countries and the strong American presence on the island (Bahia Honda and Guantánamo Bay had been leased to the US in 1903) had facilitated intercultural exchange from the times of the early republic onwards (ibid, 54-5).

[39] Staten (History of Cuba, 66) calls it ‘one of the most corrupt governments in the history of Cuba,’ Alexander (History of Organized Labor, 5) agrees, saying 'it evidenced a degree of corruption, hitherto unmatched in Cuban history.'

[40] In 1940 Communist Party membership stood at 43,000, by the end of WWII it had grown to 150,000. Repression of late 1940s and early 1950s diminished it considerably, the number of members dropped to 55,000 in 1952 and to a mere 12,000 in 1958 (A. MacEwan, Revolution and Economic Development in Cuba (London: MacMillan, 1981), 25).

[41] Pérez-Stable, The Cuban Revolution, 49.

[42] For more on Batista, his rise to power and his regime see for example F. Argote-Freyre, Fulgencio Batista: From Revolutionary to Strongman (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2006).

[43] Pérez-Stable, The Cuban Revolution, 22.

[44] Ibid, 27. Domínguez, Cuba, 121.

[45] Staten, History of Cuba, 71. This accounted for the irregular education levels and access to healthcare. Rural workers had c. 1,000 calorie daily deficit and were 16% under average height and weight. 60% of physicians, 62% of dentists and 80% of hospital beds were in Havana - to illustrate the disproportionality, only 26% of the population lived in Havana province. Just one hospital was in rural Cuba (Pérez-Stable, The Cuban Revolution, 27-9).

[46] Eckstein, Back from the Future, 18-9.

[47] Castro’s autobiography: F. Castro, My Life (trans. By A. Hurley; London: Penguin, 2008).

[48] Eckstein, Back from the Future, 14.

[49]History Will Absolve Me’, written down during his imprisonment in the Isle of Pines following the 1953 trial.

[50] Eckstein, Back from the Future, 15.

[51] Literature on the Revolution is vast, see for example C. Franqui, Diary of the Cuban Revolution (trans. G. Felix et al.; New York: Viking Press, 1980).

[52] Pérez-Stable, The Cuban Revolution, 57.

[53] Ibid, 58.

[54] E.g. Eckstein, Back from the Future, 3.

[55] Ibid, 17.

[56] The view that he articulated in his 1953 defence speech (n. 49 above). It shows little clear-cut ideology. Castro, identifying himself as a ‘humanist’, promised the return to 1940 constitution (which protected private property), free elections, land reform and a rather vaguely defined ‘agricultural cooperatives’; fidelistas’ economic program favoured active state intervention and protection of domestic capital over foreign investments (I.L.Horowitz, ‘Military Origins of the Cuban Revolution’, Armed Forces and Society 1 (1975), 403-4)).

[57] Horowitz, ‘Cuban Revolution’, 404.

[58] See Castro’s 1961 speeches and interviews available in Castro Speech Database. For analyses Horowitz, ‘Cuban Revolution’, 402-10.

[59] Pérez-Stable, The Cuban Revolution, 60-2.

[60] Horowitz, ‘Cuban Revolution’, 412.

[61] US Dept. Of State (2011). Background Notes on Cuba, retrieved on January 25, 2011.

[62] Pérez-Stable, The Cuban Revolution, 62.

[63] Eckstein, Back from the Future, 26.

[64] W.M. LeoGrande, ‘The Cuban Communist Party and Electoral Politics: Adaptation, Succession, and Transition’ (Prepared for the Cuba Transition Project (CTP), Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies, University of Miami, 2002), 3.

[65] Eckstein, Back from the Future, 20, 33; LeoGrande, ‘Electoral Politics’, 3-4. Additional members of the Youth division (UJC) and the membership numbers increased later. Compare: in 1953 The Communist Party of the Soviet Union had about 7 million members (M.Heller & A.M. Nekrich, Utopia in Power: The History of the Soviet Union from 1917 to the Present (New York: Simon& Schuster, 1986), 509), in 1986 over 19 million (c. 10% of the USSR’s population) (Encyclopaedia Britannica, s.v. ‘Communist Party of the Soviet Union’).

[66] See M. Azicri, Cuba Today and Tomorrow: Reinventing Socialism (Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida, 2000).

[67] Eckstein, Back from the Future, 28-9.

[68] See Horowitz, ‘Cuban Revolution’, 410-7 for the military outcomes of the revolution.

[69] Horowitz, ‘Cuban Revolution’, 411.

[70] Ibid, 410.

[71] See for example P. Kornbluh, Bay of Pigs Declassified: The Secret CIA Report on the Invasion of Cuba (New York: New Press, 1998) or T.Higgins, The Perfect Failure: Kennedy, Eisenhower and the C.I.A. at the Bay of Pigs (New York & London: Norton, 1989).

[72] The literature on the Cuban Missile Crisis is extensive. From more recent publications, see for example J.A. Nathan, Anatomy of the Cuban Missile Crisis (Westport, CN: Greenwood Press, 2001); D.R. Gibson, Talk at the Brink: Deliberation and Decision During the Cuban Missile Crisis (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2012); or P. Roberts (ed.), Cuban Missile Crisis: The Essential Reference Guide (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, LLC, 2012).

[73] For more on Cuba’s foreign relations with the USSR and the US see J.G. Blight and P. Brenner, Sad and Luminous Days: Cuba’s Struggle with the Superpowers after the Missile Crisis (Landham, MD & Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield, 2002).

[74] Eckstein, Back from the Future, 6.

[75] These included Ethiopia, Mozambique, Algeria and Yemen.

[76] For a debate on possible reasons see A.F. Lowenthal, ‘Why Cuba is in Angola (and What’s Next)?’, in M. Weinstein (ed.), Revolutionary Cuba in the World Arena (Philadelphia: Institute for the Study of Human Issues, 1979), 99-107.

[77] Pérez-Stable, The Cuban Revolution, 85.

[78] F.T. Fitzgerald, The Cuban Revolution in Crisis: From Managing Socialism to Managing Survival (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1994), 21. Small private businesses were allowed until the Revolutionary Offensive of 1968 when the state nationalized 58,012 private concerns.

[79] Eckstein, Back from the Future, 34.

[80] Initially the problem was caused by the inadequate educational system. Although these intermediate-level specialists made up of about 10% of the Cuban labour force in 1959, they accounted for almost 40% of the refugees between 1959 and 1962. That means a loss of almost 17% of skilled labour. Majority of the leavers were those unable to integrate themselves into the new revolutionary order or unable to accept its ideology: judges, lawyers, and school and university teachers. For a thorough discussion on this issue see Fitzgerald, The Cuban Revolution in Crisis, 21-37. For discrimination see ibid, 55 (in short, the pre-revolutionary social level was held to be politically unreliable).

[81] Modelled on the new Soviet man, an idea(l) advanced especially by Ernesto ‘Ché’ Guevara (see for example his ‘Man and Socialism in Cuba’, 1965) denoting a population with new values and loyalties, characterised by egalitarianism, selflessness, cooperation, nonmaterialist world-view, and moral purity.

[82] Their importance as a socio-political force has been emphasised by Fitzgerald, The Cuban Revolution in Crisis, 69ff.

[83] The Great Debate of 1962-5 between those supporting the ‘auto-finance’ system (autonomy of enterprises) and those in favour of the ‘centralized budgetary’ system. Castro refused to pick a side and in the end a third, so-called fidelista model, a kind of hybrid with some new unique features, was implemented instead.

[84] It was realised that ‘industrialisation and diversification depended on foreign exchange earning that only the sugar sector could realistically command’ (Pérez-Stable, The Cuban Revolution, 86).

[85] In theory at least, such an increase in production was conceivable; during the 1950s the low productivity was severe, only about one fifth of the farmland was cultivated, Cuba ranked 17th of the 18 sugar-producing nations in sugarcane yield per hectare (MacEwan, Revolution and Economic Development in Cuba, 17).

[86] According to Castro. For even lower estimates see Fitzgerald, The Cuban Revolution in Crisis, 56.

[87] Fitzgerald, The Cuban Revolution in Crisis, 56.

[88] Eckstein, Back from the Future, 39.

[89] Ibid,41.

[90] See n. 85 above.

[91] See Eckstein, Back from the Future, 40-41 for a discussion on absenteeism and the failure of the government’s moral campaign.

[92] Fitzgerald, The Cuban Revolution in Crisis, 63.

[93] Ibid, 57.

[94] I. Jeffries, Economies in Transition: A Guide to China, Cuba, Mongolia, North Korea and Vietnam at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century (London and New York: Routledge, 2001), 237.

[95] Mariel Passanger Database.

[96] Stated during a meeting of leading writers and intellectuals at Havana’s Biblioteca Nacional in June 1961.

[97] See Alfredo Fernandez's article 'Cuba's 'Padilla Affair' 40-Years On', 2011; and Padilla’s obituary in Guardian by Nick Caistor.

[98] See Nick Miroff’s article ‘Cuba: Noting against the Revolution’ (30/04/2010) in

[99] For a longer discussion see M.E. Crahan, ‘Salvation through Christ or Marx: Religion in Revolutionary Cuba’, Journal of Interamerican Studies and World Affairs 21 (1979), 156-184; or L.Dewart, Cuba, Church and Crisis: Christianity and Politics in the Cuban Revolution (London: Sheed & Ward, 1964).

[100] BBC World Service radio report.

[101] BBC: ‘Pope Benedict Meets Raul Castro at Start of Cuba Visit’ (27/03/2012).

[102] See for example L. Guerra, ‘Gender Policing, Homosexuality and the New Patriarchy of the Cuban Revolution, 1965-1970’, Social History 35 (2010), 268-289.

[103] For more on this topic see S.L. Lutjens, ‘Education and the Cuban Revolution: A Selected Bibliography’, Comparative Education Review 42 (1998), 197-224.

[104] A. Kapcia, ‘Educational Revolution and Revolutionary Morality in Cuba: The ‘New Man’, Youth and the New ‘Battle of Ideas’’, Journal of Moral Education 34 (2006), 404-5.

[105] Fitzgerald, The Cuban Revolution in Crisis, 41-48.

[106] See A. Gillette, Cuba’s Educational Revolution (London: Fabian Society, 1972); or a short essay by L. Nailer, 'Education under Castro’, CLIO (2009).

[107] For more see for example J. Kozol, ‘A New Look at the Literacy Campaign in Cuba’, Harvard Educational Review 48 (1978), 341-377; M. Leiner, ‘The 1961 National Cuban Literacy Campaign’, in R.F. Arnove & H.J. Graff (eds), National Literacy Campaigns: Historical and Comparative Perspectives (New York: Plenum Press, 1987), 173-196; and Nina Lakhani’s report ‘Latin Lessons: What Can We Learn from the World’s Most Ambitious Literacy Campaing?’ in the Independent (07/11/2011) dedicated to its 50th anniversary.

[108] However, by the end of the decade this number had dropped considerably, largely due to the adoption of the ‘turnpike’ strategy and its 10 million tons sugar harvest which draw many adults away from the classroom (Fitzgerald, The Cuban Revolution in Crisis, 42).

[109] Fitzgerald, The Cuban Revolution in Crisis, 45-6.

[110] Ibid, 46-8.

[111] For a more in depth discussion M.Leiner, ‘Two Decades of Educational Change in Cuba’, Journal of Reading 25 (1981), 202-214.

[112] See J.J. Cogan, ‘Cuba’s Schools in the Countryside: A Model for the Developing World?’, Phi Delta Kappan 60 (1978) and n. 104 above.

[113] Fitzgerald, The Cuban Revolution in Crisis, 85-91.

[114] Ibid, 85.

[115] Ibid, 89-90.

[116] Ibid, 89.

[117] In 1971 only 2% of cane was cut by combine harvesters, by 1984 this had risen to 62% (Eckstein, Back from the Future, 42-3).

[118] For improvements of women’s rights and working mothers’ social conditions see Eckstein, Back from the Future, 43-4, for the economic considerations behind these 48-9.

[119] Eckstein, Back from the Future, 47.

[120] Ibid, 51.

[121] The debt problem remains outstanding although Russia has recently agreed to write off part of the $30 billion debt that Cuba still owes it for Soviet Era loans.

[122] Eckstein, Back from the Future, 52.

[123] For more information on the CMEA and its activities see for example W.V. Wallace & R. Clarce, Comecon, Trade and the West (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1986); A. Zwass, The Council for Mutual Economic Assistance : The Thorny Path from Political to Economic Integration (Armonk, N.Y and London: Sharpe, 1989); Z.M. Klepacki, Council for Mutual Economic Assistance: Aims, Practice, Prospects, 1949-1989 (Warsaw: Polish Academy of Sciences, 1989); or J.J. Brine, Comecon: The Rise and Fall of an International Socialist Organization (Oxford: Clio Press, 1992).

[124] Fitzgerald, The Cuban Revolution in Crisis, 2.

[125] Ibid, 77.

[126] Eckstein, Back from the Future, 53.

[127] Fitzgerald, The Cuban Revolution in Crisis, 125.

[128] Ibid, 125-7. In 1980 11 ministers were ousted and functionaries associated with policies that fell from favour were removed from office (Eckstein, Back from the Future, 58).

[129] See Eckstein, Back from the Future, 53-6 for problems.

[130] Ibid, 53-4.

[131] The campaign of Rectification ‘of Past Errors and Negative Tendencies’ was formalised in the 1986 Party Congress. It reconsidered the ‘essence’ of the revolutionary system, initiating changes in Party personnel and ethos. Che Guevara’s ideas and writings regained prominence, old Cuban traditions came to renewed focus (Kapcia, ‘Educational Revolution’, 403).


[133] Fitzgerald, The Cuban Revolution in Crisis, 2.

[134] Ibid, 2, 172-4.

[135] Ibid, 5.

[136] The CDA aimed at seeking ‘a peaceful transition to democracy and a resumption of economic growth in Cuba through the careful application of sanctions directed at the Castro government and support for the Cuban people.

[137] Fitzgerald, The Cuban Revolution in Crisis, 179.

[138] LeoGrande, ‘Electoral Politics’, i, 5-6.

[139] Ibid, 5. Human Rights Watch Report 2006.

[140] Human Rights Watch Report 2006.

[141] LeoGrande, ‘Electoral Politics’, 6.

[142] D.P. Erikson & P. Wolf, ‘Cuba: What Next?’ (The Inter-Americal Dialogue Conference Report, 2002), 1-4.

[143] 'Cuba's Black Market Thrives Despite Raul Castro's New Market Reforms' (Huffington Post, 07/05/2011).

[144] ‘Cuba allows private home sales first time in 50 years’ (06/11/2011).

[145]Time to pay Taxes in Communist Cuba’ (28/11/2012).

[146]Cuba cuts state payroll, private sector jobs grow 23% in 2012’ (28/12/2012).

[147]Cuba opens the door for travelling’ (18-10-2012), ‘Cubans line up for passports as travel reform deadline nears’ (Reuters, 10/01/2013); for more recent developments see’s list of news.

[148] Fitzgerald, The Cuban Revolution in Crisis, 175.

[149] See Trading Economics charts; and L. Gasperini, The Cuban Education system: Lessons and Dilemmas (Country Studies. Education Reform and Management Publication Series 1, 2000), 7.

[150] For a short personal report see B.C. Hunt, ‘A Look at Cuban Scholls: What is Cuba Doing Right?’ Phi Delta Kappan 85 (2003), 246-9.

[151] UNESCO, Primer Estudio Internacional Comparativo sobre Lenguaje, Matemática y Factores Asociados en Tercero y Cuarto Grado (Santiago: Laboratorio Latinoamericano de Evaluación de la Calidad de la Educación, 1998).

[152] Kapcia, ‘Educational Revolution’, 401-2.

[153] See Kapcia, ‘Educational Revolution’, 404-11.

[154] The Issue of Genocide and Cuba. One of the most famous was General Arnaldo Ochoa, executed for cocaine trafficking and treason. His and subsequent series of corruption trials struck a heavy blow to regime’s legitimacy (LeoGrande, ‘Electoral Politics’, 4).

[155] Ibid for a list of different estimations.

[156] K. Kempadoo, ‘The War on Human Trafficking in the Caribbean’, Race Class 49 (2007), 80. Also J.O. Finckenauer & J. Schrock, ‘Human Trafficking: A Growing Criminal Market in the US’, Human Trafficking: Data and Documents. Paper 14 (2000).