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Cuba: Interpreting a Half Century of Revolution and Resistance, Part 2 || Theorizing the Cuban Revolution

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36
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رسالہ:
Latin American Perspectives
DOI:
10.2307/27648177
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Cuba: Interpreting a Half Century of Revolution and Resistance, Part 1 || The Castro-Chávez Alliance

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2009
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english
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PDF, 1.24 MB
Theorizing the Cuban Revolution
Author(s): John Foran
Source: Latin American Perspectives, Vol. 36, No. 2, Cuba: Interpreting a Half Century of
Revolution and Resistance, Part 2 (Mar., 2009), pp. 16-30
Published by: Sage Publications, Inc.
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Theorizing

the Cuban Revolution
by

John F oran

An assessment of theoutcomes of theCuban Revolution in termsof theoriesof both
the causes and outcomes of revolutions in general reveals that that the revolution has
been spectacularly successful in termsof ensuring thewell-being of thevast majority of
Cubans, while at the same timefailing to deliver fully democratic institutions and
freedoms. The success of the revolution inmaintaining itselfagainst U.S. hostility and
thedeepening of neoliberal global capitalism is attributed to the strengthof thepolitical
culture that the revolution has forged and carriedforward across thegenerations. The
future of the revolution looks bright,especially if theCuban people find a way to secure
deeper

democratic

Keywords:

tomatch

gains

their social

and

economic

ones.

Cuban Revolution, Causes, Outcomes, Political culture,Future

At the start of the twenty-first century, Cuba remains the on; e indisputably
survived
the hostility of the
society on the planet. Having
revolutionary
United States at the height of the cold war and the harsh impact of the demise
in the 1990s, the country now faces the imminent passing
of the Soviet Union
of its only head of state in a world
characterized
by reckless U.S. militarism
and savage

global capitalism.
the future of this longest-lived
of all Third World
is
revolutions
Knowing
one can imagine various
as more or less
but
futures
To
impossible,
probable.
do so requires some understanding
of Cuba's
past as well as its present, and
can come in
theories about revolution, as well as sociological
imagination,
on
I
In
draw
I have done
this
work
essay,
handy
freely (and very immodestly)
over the years on how to theorize Third World
in an effort to sig
revolutions
nal what thismight mean
for understanding
the Cuban Revolution.

THE CAUSES OF THE REVOLUTION:
A MODEL

OF HOW THIRD WORLD

REVOLUTIONS

1953-1959

COME ABOUT

to a search for patterns in the
of my scholarly life has been devoted
that
of
the
revolutions
have
the Third World,
from
great
origins
shaped
and China in 1911 to Iran and Nicaragua
in 1979. Most
Mexico
tellingly, only
Cuba remains a revolutionary
society today.
own
My
particular
synthesis (see Foran, 2005: 18-24; 1993; 1997b) insists
on
attention to such perennial
(and all too often reified) dichoto
balancing
mies as structure and agency, political economy and culture, state and social
Much

is Professor
John Foran
author of several books

at the
of Sociology
of California,
University
on revolutions.
edited collections

Santa

and

LATIN AMERICAN PERSPECTIVES,
DOI: 10.1177/0094582X09331938
? 2009 Latin American Perspectives

Issue 165, Vol. 36 No. 2,March 2009 16-30

16

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Barbara,

and

the

Foran/THEORIZING THE CUBAN REVOLUTION

17

structure, internal and external factors. I have argued that five interrelated
a social revo
to produce
causal factors must combine in a given conjuncture
lution (see Figure 1):
1. Dependent development (Cardoso
and Faletto, 1979; Evans,
1979), essen
a process of
a
set
within
limits
insertion
into the
by
growth
country's
tially

creates social and economic
economy, which
capitalist world
grievances
sectors
of
the
diverse
among
population.
2. A repressive, exclusionary, personalist state, led by a dictator or colonial
a solid target for social movements
from below, often
power who provides
even the middle
and
classes.
upper
alienating

3. The elaboration of effectiveand powerful political cultures of resistance1 among
a broad array of actors,
drawing upon formal ideologies such as socialism, folk
of past struggles (so salient in Cuba), and popular
traditions such as memories
social justice, or an end to dictatorship.
idioms such as nationalism,
4. A revolutionary
crisis produced
of an economic down
by the combination
even
in
be created by revolutionaries
the course of the strug
turn,which may
as Castro's
to do by
the 1958
managed
gle,
July 26th Movement
disrupting
sugar harvest.
5. A world-systemic opening or let-up of external controls, originating
in dis
war or
core
economies
world
of
the
rivalries
between
ruption
by
depression,
core powers, mixed messages
sent to Third World dictators, or a divided
for

faced with an insurrection.
eign policy when
The coming together in a single place of all five factors has led to the forma
in gaining power in
tion of the broad revolutionary
coalitions that succeeded
Iran, and Nicaragua.
Mexico, China, Cuba,
What are some of the lessons we might cull from the revolutionary
record
in light of this theory of causes? Let me try stating a few in propositional
terms
Foran,
(see
2003):
have
Revolutions
typically been directed against two types of states at

dictators
spectrum: exclusionary, personalist
opposite ends of the democratic
or colonial
in
societies
which
the left
open
regimes and?paradoxically?truly
had a fair chance in elections, as in Chile in 1970.
They have usually been driven by economic
by both the short-term and the medium-run
development"?a

and social

caused
inequalities
of
consequences
"dependent
a handful
of the
process of aggregate
growth by which
the
to
of
the
suffer
majority
prospered,
leaving
population

have
privileged
innumerable hardships.
a
sense that no revolution
They have had
significant cultural component in the
a
vibrant
set
made
sustained
without
has been
and
of political cultures of resist
ance and opposition that found significant common ground, at least for a time.
scene?
themoment was favorable on theworld
They have occurred when
that would
that is, when powers
revolution
have
been
distracted,
oppose
them.
confused, or ineffective in preventing

Finally, they have always involved broad, cross-class alliances of subaltern
as well as
classes, and elites, to an increasing extent women
groups, middle
a
or
as
as
to
racial
ethnic
and
lesser
minorities
well
men,
degree
majorities.
Such broad coalitions will have the best chances for success
in terms of
attaining

state power.

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LATIN AMERICAN PERSPECTIVES

18

Economic
downturn
Dependent
development

Exclusionary
personalist
state or

Political
cultures
of

Open polity

opposition

Revolutionary
outbreak/
Multi-class,
-race,
-genderalliance

World
systemic
opening

Figure 1. A Model of Third World Social Revolutions

CUBA AMIDST
The

THE FIVE FACTORS

the appearance
Revolution
of an almost wholly
presents
a
over
small band of idealistic young revolutionaries
revolution:

Cuban

"willed"

a
turning military dictatorship
through determination,
bravery, and luck. And
an aspect
in good measure
this is true, but it is not thewhole
story, even if it is

we

not lose sight of (see Foran, 2005: 57-65).
the revolution was an almost textbook case of dependent
devel
Underlying
as
in
It
not
that
is
Cuba
the
1950s
ranked
"one
of
opment.
always recognized
nations in Latin America, and themost devel
the four or fivemost developed
should

1992: 166). The
(Wickham-Crowley,
tropical nation in the entire world"
was sugar: Cuba had been the world's
to
of
this
course,
growth,
largest
key
since the early 1900s and provided more than half theworld market
producer
oped

to 80 percent of Cuba's
in sugar, amounting
exports (Benjamin, Collins, and
Scott, 1986: 9). At the same time ithoused a society marked by enormous dis
parities ofwealth and power, forbehind the positive statistics lay the dependent
aspects

of Cuban

development.

The United

States had US$1

billion

invested

inCuba in 1958 (up fromUS$657 million in 1952), second only to its invest

oil industry and representing one-eighth of all U.S.
investments in Latin America.2 The internal impact of this dependent develop
ment was dramatic. Estimates of income inequality suggest that the poorest 20

ments

in the Venezuelan

percent got between 2 and 6 percent of income, the richest 20 percent taking
55 percent. In terms of land tenure, the largest 9 percent of landowners had 62
the bottom two-thirds had only 7 percent.3 While
percent of the land, while
than any other country of Latin
had more millionaires
Cuba
per capita
and "more Cadillacs

were

inHavana

than any other city in the
in 1954" (Benjamin, Collins, and Scott, 1986: 5), during the "dead sea
world
son" in the countryside, which could stretch to eight or nine months, "families
in caves"
ate roots and bark to stay alive, hunted
locusts, lived in woods,
a
In
between
middle
class?one-fifth
work
of
the
(Cannon, 1981:41).
lay
large
of
servants
and
civil
and
merchants, professionals,
ing population?consisting
a somewhat
class that was better-off (and more politi
smaller urban working
in the rural sector (see Foran,
cized) than its more numerous
counterpart
and Rivera, 1997).
Klouzal,
this political economy
the
together through various means was
Holding
state of Fulgencio Batista, who seized power on March
10,1952, after lagging
America

sold

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Foran/THEORIZING THE CUBAN REVOLUTION

19

in the polls during that year's presidential
campaign. Propped up by the vast
and
networks
open to him and severe repression of
patronage
corruption
Batista's
control had weakened
his
opponents,
exclusionary,
personalized

civil society, undermining
the bases of his rule.
military and alienated
culture at work in the Cuban Revolution
The deep currents of oppositional
included a long history of rebellions, a tradition of nationalism,
and the loose,
radical amalgam ultimately fashioned by Fidel Castro's
July 26th Movement.

influence and the seeming inability of Cuban politicians
to
and democracy
both nationalism
to
diverse
appealing
social strata. Unity of purpose was provided by the message
of the July 26th
in
but
down
clear
its
toned
of
Movement,
enough
promises
elementary social
an end to
and
domination.4
justice
imperialist
that facilitated
The world-systemic
the success
of the Cuban
opening
came
before the internal economic downturn.
Revolution
Batista, never par
The growth of U.S.
itmade
withstand

was still
ticularly popular with theU.S. State Department,
supported well into
his reign as the only force that could hold Cuba together, thereby safeguarding
a
interests there. By mid-1957,
U.S.
that
however,
perception was growing
Batista was losing legitimacy in Cuba and might have to be abandoned.
In the
to Batista and Castro, U.S. policy floundered:
absence of a third alternative
as an
to see free elections under Batista (increasingly viewed
Some wanted
a renewal of arms to him,
Ambassador
Earl
Smith
U.S.
sought
impossibility);
while others favored a military junta and still others felt he could not be sup
and the United
States. Smith
ported without
losing all credibility in Cuba

1958: "At this time itwould
cabled home in late March
appear tome that we
a
are in the
a Greek
act
of
the
third
of
spectator watching
position
tragedy."5
1956 had been the
The internal economic downturn came suddenly. While
best year for the economy since 1952, the progress of the guerrilla war in 1958
new fronts;
threw it into an irreversible free fall as the rebels opened
by
a
come
Havana
economic
outside
had
to
virtual standstill
December,
activity
in serious jeopardy.
and the coming sugar harvest was
Auspiciously
enough,
on New Year's
forces swept triumphantly into Havana
the revolutionary
Day
in the annals of revolutions, the rebels had created the
1959. Almost uniquely
to destabilize
the government and enlist the population
downturn needed
in a
as
Further
would
for
the
Cuban
Revolution
follow,
change.
surprises
struggle
has proven uniquely deep and durable in any comparative
perspective.

THE OUTCOME

TO DATE

A THEORY OF OUTCOMES
In a 1993 study of Iran and Nicaragua,
and I concluded
that
JeffGoodwin
. . .
outcomes
the
actual
of
of
social
revolutions
study
comparative
to bet, Jeff)believe that
remains in its infancy" (1993: 209). I (and, I am willing
this remains true today. Once in power, revolutionaries
have typically run into
a series of related difficulties
resulting from the continued
significance of the
same patterns for revolutionary
transformation (see Foran, 2005: 268-269):
structures have been difficult to construct following
Truly democratic
"the

against dictators, while democratically
to nondemocratic
been vulnerable
opponents,

revolutions

elected

have

internal and external

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revolutionaries

(it

20

LATINAMERICAN PERSPECTIVES

can have a range of meanings,
from
that "democracy"
to
to
and
freedoms
of
dissent
elections
expression
competitive multiparty
are
all of which
valuable
in decision making,
goals).
participation
are recalcitrant to
that
roots
historical
has
deep
development
Dependent
situation of themajority can be
sustained reversal, however much thematerial
to note

is important

run.
improved in the short and medium
The challenge of forging a revolutionary political culture to construct a new
that
foundered rapidly on the diversity of subcurrents
society has generally
all
the
structural
obstacles
to
initial
the
contributed
by
victory, compounded
revolutions

have

faced.

the renewed counterrevolu
have been able to withstand
and their regional allies.
outside
dominant
attention
of
powers
tionary
that have been so effective inmaking
Given the above, the broad coalitions
are notoriously
of divergent
difficult to keep together because
revolutions
to
those visions
make
visions of how to remake society and unequal
capacities
Few

revolutions

seen at
women
have consistently
and ethnic minorities
prevail; meanwhile
racism
and
after
revolutions.
of
limited
reversal
best
patriarchy
In addition to these linked causal and outcome issues, there seem to be recur
in the revolutionary record. For example, the
rent trade-offs or contradictions

runs up
against the leadership's need to take
participation ofmassive numbers
to deal with all kinds of problems once in power; this in part
decisive measures
of substantively democratic spaces even as
explains the often bloody narrowing
of society are gaining new rights and
members
disenfranchised
many previously
as in France in
movements
been
have
When
radically democratic,
opportunities.
a program
had
have
in
trouble
the
and
Chile
1968
articulating
early 1970s, they
that
made
them
and
forces
to all the progressive
up
withstanding
acceptable
a series of economic
trade-offs is
the
from
subversion
Similarly,
right.
illegal
in the Third World:
associated with many revolutions, particularly
impressive
and education have after short
gains in employment, wages, health, housing,
infla
economic contradictions (demand-driven
periods been eroded by internal
and
labor
human
and
material
limited
resources,
tion,
imbalances)
powerful
on trade, equipment,
counterthrusts
(boycotts and embargoes
were not daunting
economic
and
contradictions
these
if
loans). As
political
or
covert
external violence, whether
openly military in nature,
enough, massive
has often also been applied, further undermining prospects for democracy and
international

development.
These patterned

includ
realities have produced
outcomes,
disappointing
sense
in
real
concentrated
of
the
authoritarian
very few
(in
power being
ing
in
Vietnam
and
socialisms
and
Russia, China, Cuba,
hands)
relatively poor
a
to
much
than
last
revolutions
(the only
generation, except for Iran,
longer
has
been
where the degree of economic change
limited); violent overthrows of

slow strangling of change
Chile, and Grenada;
inMexico
Bolivia
1940),
(by
(by 1960), Michael
a
and
and
Sandinista
Jamaica,
Nicaragua;
blocking of the path to
Manley's
El
in
in 1989,
in
the
France
Salvador
in
1980s, China
1968,
power altogether
and Iraq in 1991, among many other places.
a measure
coalitions
is achieved,
of power
Once
broad, heterogeneous
as
to
constituent
elements
to
their
tend
begin
struggle among
fragment,
over the shape of the new order (in the case of a protracted
themselves
in Guatemala,
revolutionaries
to
leading
political reversals

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Foran/THEORIZING THE CUBAN REVOLUTION

21

as inMexico
from 1910 to 1920, this process begins
revolutionary
struggle,
even earlier). The
limits
of
and the probability
of
persisting
dependency
renewed external pressures and intervention put further pressure on the coa
can lead to
lition to fragment, which
coups as in Iran
counterrevolutionary
(1953), Guatemala
(1954), Chile (1973), and Grenada
(1983) or to a strong but
state as in postrevolutionary
undemocratic
Mexico, Cuba, China, and Iran to
route is the hardest
various degrees. The democratic
to follow; Sandinista

tried this, despite
the odds, and its wonderful
revolution
lasted
Nicaragua
less than a dozen years. It isworth noting that of the four poor authoritarian
socialisms on the list, all but Cuba have seen their situation reversed; Russia,
and only
China, and Vietnam are no longer socialist but remain authoritarian,
China has raised itself further out of poverty.
No revolutionary movement
of the twentieth century has come close to
on the common dreams of so many of itsmakers:
a more inclusive,
delivering
a more
form
of
humane
economic
rule,
participatory
political
egalitarian,
sys
in which
individuals
and local communities
tem, and a cultural atmosphere
may not only reach full self-creative expression but thereby contribute unex
solutions

to the dilemmas

faced by society. In this sense Walter
of
the
Benjamin's
image
angel of history being swept forward by
storm
the
into the future, its face turned to the cata
of progress willy-nilly
an apt one. Yet the
debris
of
the
appears
past,
strophic
past may hold other
we
to
if
for
future
know
the
how
read
them.
messages
pected

oft-invoked

WHAT CUBA HAS ACHIEVED
of Cuba's
Interpreting the pluses and minuses
revolutionary experience can
be controversial, because Cuba
is an inherently politicized
topic. For example,
some see food
as
a
of
Fidel
(as
says,
rationing
just
proof
society
"Everyone eats
. .
the same
is
."),while others see the need for rationing as proof that Cuba
an economic basket case. As
a
and
Scott
in
write
Collins,
(1986: xi)
Benjamin,
book on the food situation in Cuba
entitled No Free Lunch, "For some, the
on earth and its leader, Fidel Castro, a
Cuba paradise
For
of
Cuba
has become hell on earth, its leader a
others,
symbol
hope.
ruthless dictator." My own view is that Cuba's
revolution has been the most
same
in
At
world history.
the
time, it is not without
flaws,
thoroughgoing
some of them very
deep.
are very
The achievements
2000: 447-448)
(see Keen and Haynes,
impres
sive and very real: By 1990, unemployment
had been virtually wiped
out;
rate was the lowest in Latin America.
Cuba's
Income distribution
is also the
fairest in Latin America.
Rents were
limited right after the revolution
to 10
are
no
one's
income.
no
of
There
almost
slum
percent
virtually
beggars,
(with 80 percent of Cubans
housing
owning their own homes), no starvation
or chronic
care and education
are free, with the most doc
hunger. Medical
revolution

has made

heroic

tors per capita and the best health care system in all of Latin America.
Seven
to
of
the
in
the
Latin
and
education,
America,
percent
budget goes
highest
is
As
Keen
and
Keith
conclude
(2000: 448),
Benjamin
literacy
high.
Haynes

most Cubans
"Undoubtedly,
their
explains
extraordinary
midst of its deepest economic

have

support
crisis."

benefited

from the revolution, which
forty years later in the

for it, almost

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22

LATIN AMERICAN PERSPECTIVES
on

in the 1980s,
indicators. Writing
quality-of-life
more
that
Cubans
could
consumed
food on
report
colleagues
Benjamin
the average than the people of any country in Latin America except Argentina.
16.8 per thousand, compared with 126.9 in Haiti, and
Infant mortality was
in the United
States. Life
lower than the 18.1 among African-Americans
No

Free Lunch

focuses

and

from 57 years in 1958 to 73.5 years in 1983. A U.S.
report admitted that health care is "superior in the third world
Congressional
tomention
countries"?not
that it is
and rivals that of numerous
developed
expectancy

had

risen

is now the most racially
free. In the estimation of these researchers, "Cuba
ever experienced"
we
have
society
(Benjamin, Collins, and Scott,
1986: 189).6 Until quite recently, it had one of the lowest crime rates in the
world and safe streets at all hours, with rape reportedly very rare. They con
a
sense of
cluded that Cubans were characterized
"pervasive
by
dignity and
contrast
in
future?a
from
the
shame
and
the
confidence
sharp
hopelessness
harmonious

one

finds inmuch

of the third world"
(190). Johnetta Cole, then president of
over for a cabinet
was passed
in the
appointment
Spellman
College,
in December
1992 because
of her ties to an American
Clinton administration
who

has shown that the revolution
group in solidarity with the Cuban Revolution,
as well as
lives dramatically,
the limits to
has improved women's
discussing
this process, which she attributes to the overall scarcity ofmaterial goods in a
that are not easily
poor country and the continuation of attitudes of machismo
are
for
with
done away
(Cole, 1993). Men,
required by law to help
example,
a
more
often in the breach, as in the rest
with the housework,
practice honored
of the world.7

More
indicators from
economic,
recent, comparative
social, and political
that the Cuban Revolution
Latin America
has
show the degree of well-being
into the twenty-first century. The United Nations'
and sustained
delivered
Human Development
Index ranks Cuba fifty-firstamong theworld's nations,
fifth among

Latin America

and

the Caribbean's

33 nations,

behind Argentina

(38),Chile (40),Uruguay (46), and Costa Rica (UNDP, 2007), including it in the

On many measures,
Cuba
fares even
category of high human development.
better than this (Table 1).
levels of infant mortality, infants born with low birth weight, per
Cuba's
children enrolled in secondary school, adult literacy, undernourish
of
centage
on education
and health rank first in
and
ment,
degree of public expenditure
in parlia
its life expectancy and percentage
of women
Latin America, while
ment are a close third behind only Chile and Costa Rica on the firstmeasure
and Costa Rica on the second. In fact, Cuba's
and Argentina
quality-of-life
indicators are on a par with those for the United States and in terms of par

women
in the government
far surpass them.
ticipation of
these facts suggest that there have been tremendous accom
On the whole,
in 1959, and I would
in terms of where Cuba was
judge them
plishments
or
in
Latin
Third
of
the
world.
the
the
America,
World,
history
unprecedented
THE DOWNSIDE
On
the negative
side, there is criticism that the political
system is con
one equates democracy with
contested
strained, whether
fairly
multiparty

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opment

%ofin
Women
25.0 28.68.2 6.3
13.621.518.5 9.6 29.210.8 18.6
Parliament 14.69.3
9.7
12.7 38.617.1 16.7
36.811.9
23.4
16.7
25.4 36.016.3

GDP on
Health4.3 2.7 4.1 4.8 2.9 6.7 5.1 1.9 2.2 3.5 5.0
of Spent

2.3

2.9

4.0

2.8 3.0 3.9 5.2 2.6 1.9 3.6 1.4 2

*14.2

5.5 6.9 *2.5

%

onEducation
3.8 5.4 6.4
%
GDP
of Spent

%
People

4

3

23

4.4

7

3.5

4

4.8 4.9 1.8

13

5

29

1.0

6

2.8

11

5.2

7

5.3 5.4 3.1 3.8 4.3 2.4
*1.7*1.1*4.0

22 46 23

9

5

27 23 15 12

2.6

2

4.2

n.a
9.8 5.9

10 18

2

2

*4.4

10

Undernourished

%ofAdults
n.a.
n.a.
91.676.7
94.9 91.0
Literate
97.2 86.788.695.792.8 87.0 80.6 69.1 n.a.
80.079.9
91.993.587.996.898.493.099.8 n.a.89.9

on
TABLE
1 Latin
Data

America
%
Enrolled
in
School
Secondary

79717378 n.a.55

8 6 7
% with Weight
Birth
Low
Infants

53 52 53 79 34
*51

21 78 65 43 64
70
n.a.
*51

69 63 87 89 68
*71

8 6 9 7 11167 8 12 14108 109 118 23
12
21

151552318 1711262223173284311722301920231417186 6 26

Mortality
Rate Births
Live
1,000

Infant

per

Source:
Life

UNDP

(2007)

except

in
Years
Expectancy

USA
77.9

Dominican
71.5
Republic

All 72.8
Latin
America
n.a.
available
not
=

69.7
78.5
Guatemala
69.4
73.2
74.8
Salvador
El
71.3
72.3
71.9
Uruguay
75.9 Venezuela
Argentina
72.275.6
71.3
Rica 74.7 68.2
64.771.7
75.1
69.2 77.7
59.5 Jamaica
Grenada
78.3
Chile
75.9
Belize
Paraguay
Bolivia
Trinidad
Honduras
70.7
Ecuador
Haiti
Cuba
Country
Nicaragua
Costa
Colombia
MexicoPanama
Brazil
Peru

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All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

items
starred
that

com

24

LATINAMERICAN PERSPECTIVES

as freedom of
or with human
the press, or
rights such
speech,
were
assem
held
for
Until
elections
the
1992,
directly
municipal
religion.
only
turn
in
which
the
the
then
chose
which
chose
blies,
assemblies,
provincial
of
of the National
the
reforms
of
that
members
Power;
Assembly
People's
of the revolution,
year made direct election the case at all levels. Supporters
elections

are not a
elections
both inside and outside Cuba,
argue that multiparty
measure
involves people's
in grass
of deep democracy, which
participation
a certain measure
roots decision making.
this
Cubans
do
criterion,
By
enjoy

of democracy. The influence of the Communist
party, the Young Communist
Cuban
the Cuban
of
the
Confederation
Federation
of
Workers,
League,

in the political process mark
of Cuban
and the Federation
Students
Women,
both the extent and the limits of popular
participation.
in the hands
For 48 years, at the top of the system, power was concentrated
held the titles ofHead
of Fidel Castro, who simultaneously
of the Government,

First Secretary of the Communist
of State,
Party, and President of the Council
and ithas now passed only as far as his brother Ra?l. To thismay be added the
fear of and harsh sanctions against dissenters,
the lack of any
government's
a press that is controlled and rather uncritical, the limited
opposition parties,
an aversion to the too-open
practice of
degree of tolerance for gay people, and
if
it
is
tolerated
Criticism
channels; problems
goes through approved
religion.
it does not.
arise when
area of the revolution.
Foreign relations have proven another controversial
on theUnited States
its historic dependence
Critics argue that Cuba exchanged
on the Soviet Union after 1960. The fact that 80 percent
for a new dependency
of its trade was with the Soviet Union and therewas a yearly subsidy of US$3-5
billion thatwas used to keep Cuba going, they charge, required Cuba to keep in
in
for real independence
the good graces of the Soviets, proving a burden
in
its
But
African
involvements
and
Ethiopia
foreign policy, especially
Angola.
was
in the way we usually mean when we
the Soviet Union exploiting Cuba
Itwas not making a profit inCuba. One could argue that
speak of dependency?
a subsidy that entails paying a better price for a
is a "fair"
country's products
a Third World
No
Free
for
the
of
The
of
Lunch
authors
country.
goods
price
contrast the Soviet subsidy with the massive
aid the United States gives to El
Salvador,

the Philippines,
in providing

and Pakistan, which have little in theway of accom
basic needs to show for it.Again, Puerto Rico, which

plishments
gets four times the aid of Cuba

in per capita terms, is badly off economically
in
must
and
it
be
Scott, 1986: 191-193). And
many ways
(Benjamin, Collins,
enormous
out
with
that
Cuba
has
shown
Third
World
solidarity
pointed
nations by sending its doctors, teachers, and technicians abroad for little or no
compensation.

economic
the degree of Cuba's
reliance on the Soviet Union
Nevertheless,
was
when
communism
there
after 1990. In what would
exposed
collapsed
become known as the Special Period, Cuba's
gross national product plum
meted by as much as 40 percent between 1989 and 1992. In 1989 Cuba was able
to import US$8.1 billion in goods but in 1992 only US$2.4 billion and in 1993
to a US$20 billion debt to Russia
from the Soviet
US$1.7 billion. In addition
era, by 2005 Cuba's hard-currency debt was over US$13 billion (USAID, 2005;
tons in
of State, 2003). Oil imports dropped
from 13 million
U.S. Department
in 1992. All of thismeant
1989 to 6 million
less use of fertilizer and tractors in

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Foran/THEORIZING THE CUBAN REVOLUTION

25

of up
agriculture and regular electricity shortages causing planned blackouts
from the diet; the
to eight hours a day. Beef and pork all but disappeared
had fewer
chicken ration fell to 12 ounces per person per month. Hospitals
the first signs of
schools fewer books and supplies. There were
medicines,
since 1959 (although
the government
official unemployment
paid up to 60
percent of the salaries of state employees without work), and underemploy
as well.
ment deepened
its footing on a new basis
late
the
1990s, the economy had regained
By
sectors were cre
feat. Strong new economic
without Soviet aid, a remarkable
as
were
resources
and oil
toward
directed
ated
foreign tourism, biotechnology,
a
in
China and Latin America,
trend
trade partners emerged
exploration. New

reinforced of late by the "pink tide" of left-of-center governments
throughout
to revive the economy have included legalizing dol
the continent. Measures
in the United
to their
States to send money
Cubans
lars (and encouraging
a certain amount of
relatives on the island) and allowing
private enterprise
ease life for
(bicycle repair shops, beauty salons, etc.). These steps may help
now
will
that
solve
the
it
is
doubtful
but
some,
they
problems posed
by the
case
in
to
lead
increased
and
any
they
inequality
onslaught of globalization,
lack this. In the twenty
between
those with access to dollars and those who

going to
by helping out family members,
extra jobs, and in some cases engaging in crime and
(eliminated after the revolution came to power).
prostitution
the U.S. embargo drags on. The second Bush administration's
Meanwhile,
terms for lifting the embargo, interestingly, were the adoption not just of democ
in place because
the
racy but also of a free-market economy. Is the embargo
first century, people make
the black market, working

United
yard"
would

ends meet

to be its "back
and Central America
States still considers the Caribbean
an
save
I
"to
these countries from themselves"?
and feels
obligation
a fear on the part of U.S. administrations
has
been
that
there
suggest

and Reagan
ones) that the Cuban model
historically
(especially the Kennedy
in the world, which might explain U.S.
would
be found attractive elsewhere
actions tomake the country as poor as possible. The contradiction that succes
relations with
sive U.S. administrations
forged extensive trade and diplomatic

at the height of the cold war and normalized
rela
are
reasons
not
in
that
the
the
1994 suggests
for the embargo
tions with Vietnam
the
stated ones. Time will tell if the administration of Barack Obama
possesses
of
the embargo. Should this happen, thewillingness
vision and will to abandon
on
to
terms
the
United
and
the
toward
States
the Cuban
open
government
which this is agreed will tell us much about Cuba's path to the future.
the Soviet Union

and China

it is
of the revolution have long argued whether
or the aggressive
tactics
the
of
imperialist
state
and
of
the
historical
evolution
States
that
best
United
present
explain
an
But is there
inevitable trade-off between expanding
the Cuban Revolution.
the revolution against its
human rights at home and successfully defending
answer to this
the
the theory
abroad?
Whatever
enemies
question,
powerful
that the continuing
traced at the start of this section suggests
of outcomes
Defenders

the drawbacks

and detractors
of Cuban

socialism

in the context of global
effects of dependency
(now expressed
to
the refusal of the Cuban
open itself politically
leadership
or academic worlds.
of
the
the polarized
polemics
diplomatic
outcomes
traced
in the comparative
record of revolutionary

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and
capitalism)
than
farther
go
Locating Cuba
earlier, we can

LATINAMERICAN PERSPECTIVES

26

and the
say that ithas fallen prey to the closing of some democratic windows
a
but
the
world
has
broken
from
of
hostile pressures
economy
capitalist
a
in
social revolutions
limitations of all previous
strong and enduring
forging
the
thrusts of the
culture,
withstanding
counterrevolutionary
revolutionary
a
and
and
broad
diverse
coalition
world's hegemonic
power,
keeping
together
of society and to the
real gains to the poorest members
that has brought
island's women

the cup

itsAfro-Cuban
population.
to full than to empty in 2009.

and

is closer

POSSIBLE

FUTURES

in a survey of revolutions of the late twentieth century
a number of observations
about Cuba's
future in

In the mid-1990s,
(Foran,

11), I made

1997a:

perspective:

comparative

If Iran and (to a lesser extent) Egypt look reasonably secure, Cuba

sents

an

criteria,

By any comparative

more

even

site of revolution.

unlikely

in 1996 repre

. . .

Castro remains rather securely in place despite the presence of [several of the

factors

that cause

revolutions].

The

explanation

would

on the resilience of the political culture of the Cuban
legitimating
Cuba

surely

and
the
of
gains
regime
one of the most
successful

for the

vehicle

represents

seem

to rest very

heavily

revolution as a substantial
. . .

the revolution.
cases

in the

history

of revo

lutions of revolutionaries working within theirpre-existing ideological horizons,
but also going beyond and outside them, in theprocess elaborating new, re-visioned
cultures of opposition to try to keep a revolutionary coalition together through a
skillful

process

of consolidation.

. . .

The question today, and the one on which the future of theCuban revolution
seem to hinge, is how much remains of this effervescent support for
would
Castro and Cuban socialism inside the country? Somehow, Castro retains a level
of public support, though how much is difficult to say. As one grocer put it: "To
put up with things is a national custom." And as Castro himself said at the depth
of the economic downturn in 1993: "It is an epic struggle inwhich we find our
selves. We have had to give up many of the things inwhich we were involved,
but what we will never give up is hope."8
Cuba

to date,

and

for the

foreseeable

future,

of political culture for sustaining revolutions
revolution) in a globalizing world.

thus

showcases

the

advantages

(and thereby preventing counter

this 1997 article ranked Cuba, along with Iran,
table that accompanied
a
in the category of countries
least likely to experience
and China,
countries
Zaire
in
included
the
(now
Congo
regime (high-likelihood
change
soon witness
the fall of the Partido
and Mexico
(which would
again)
This assessment
of Cuba's
relative stability
Revolucionario
Institucional).
in 1996. The revolution has weathered
seems as accurate today as itwas
the
A

Peru,

crash of the Special Period, the militarized
foreign policy of the second Bush
on
its shores, and now the passing
the arrival of globalization
administration,
of the reins of power from the hands of Fidel Castro.
Will it be so a dozen years from now, say, in 2020? Since social forecasting
does not have 20/20 vision, it is hard to see the future clearly. As Zhou En-lai
"It's too early to say." The sce
said of the outcome of the French Revolution,
its
like this: Cuba maintains
nario I would most like to see runs something
on a
on education
and
and
health
embarks
visionary plan to
high spending

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Foran/THEORIZING THE CUBAN REVOLUTION

27

invest
green its economy, with less reliance on petrochemical
inputs, massive
ment in public transportation and solar and other renewable
energy sources,
turns its economy even further in the direction of providing
essential services
to other Third World
medicines
countries, including
inexpensive
generated
to expand
tourism of all kinds?
sector, and continues
by its biotechnology

and economic
ties
political, and traditional. Politically, diplomatic
reestablished with the United States during Barack Obama's
first
term, and technology, people, and ideas have flowed both ways with positive
Ra?l Castro passed
from the scene, a younger generation
of
effects. When
no
at
all
levels
of
leaders guaranteed
government,
participation
popular

ecological,
have been

in the Communist
party and allied organizations.
longer tied tomembership
A variety of parties emerged with the new legislation on political parties, and
elected coalition of left and ecological
is governed by a popularly
Cuba
par
have
which
freedoms.
ties,
religious, cultural, literary, and media
expanded
a
sense of
remain characterized
Cubans
"pervasive
by
dignity and confidence
one finds in
contrast
in the future?a
the
and
from
shame
sharp
hopelessness
much of the third world"
(Benjamin, Collins, and Scott, 1986: 190).

CONCLUSIONS
Iwant to close with an anecdote
from the one
at the height (or trough) of the Special Period.
of
scholars' gentle critique of my presentation
never
I have
this kind of
because
experienced

trip Imade
Iwill never

to Cuba,

in 1993,
the
Cuban
forget
the causes of the revolution,
critique in the United States.
to speak in Spanish, unlike most of the U.S. soci
effort
my
They appreciated
I came with. They were eager to engage our ideas
ologists in the delegation
on
and to learn from us. They also urged me to read more Cuban
scholarship
shared books and references with
the situation in the 1950s and generously
me. I came away from the encounter refreshed
by the culture of the Cuban

as embodied
in these wonderful
human beings.
If I have been
Revolution
as
as
I
and
if
well
have insisted that theory can
critical
here,
complimentary
us see some
things about the nature and future of the revolution, with
help
immodest reference to the history of my own evolving understanding
of the
in some way the conversation
started
revolution, I hope that I have continued
on that
day.

?Que viva la revoluci?n cubana!

NOTES
1.1 first coined
(1993),
Studies
in Reed

further

thesis. It is fully employed
in Fragile Resistance
this term inmy 1981 Master's
and Social
in "Discourses
Forces:
The Role
of Culture
and Cultural

theorized

in Understanding
and Foran
(2002).

Revolutions"
In formulating

(1997c), and most
it, I have drawn

extensively
on

greatly

discussed
the work

and
of A.

illustrated
Sivanandan

(1980), JamesScott (1990), Farideh Farhi (1990), StuartHall (1978a; 1978b; 1986),Ann Swidler
(1986), Raymond Williams (1960), CliffordGeertz (1973), E. P. Thompson (1966 [1963]), and

Antonio

Gramsci

2. On U.S.

(1971), among
interests in Cuba,

others.
many
see
Collins,
Benjamin,

and

Scott

(1986:

Gonzalez (1974: 18, 31); P?rez-Stable (1993: 15), andWolf (1969: 256).

10-11);

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All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

FRUS

(1987:

870),

LATINAMERICAN PERSPECTIVES

28

on

3. Data
States

are drawn

inequality
Archives

National

(hereafter

from Benjamin,

and

Foreign

to State Department
and
10,1956);
(February
to State Department
See
(July 13,1956).

Boonstra,

Havana,

Despatch
P?rez-Stable

28, Price, Havana,

(1993: 20).
views
4. On Castro's

Scott

(1986: 2-6, 12); United
Service
560,
Despatch
Service
837.00/7-1356,
Foreign

Collins,

837.00/2-1056,

USNA),

also Thomas

(1971:

746)

and

see Foran, Klouzal,
and Rivera
the July 26th Movement's
positions,
de
Service Despatch
737.00/8-458,
5, Park Wollam,
Foreign
Santiago
del Veinte y Seis de Julio/'
to State Department
Econ?mico
Cuba,
(August 4, 1958), 11; "Ideario
to State Department
Service Despatch
982, Gilmore,
Havana,
837.00/3-959,
USNA,
Foreign
see Liss
For comprehensive
and Wickham-Crowley
treatments,
(1992:176-178).
(March 9,1959);
54-57,

(1997:

and

97); USNA,

(1994) and Quirk (1993).

to Secretary
of State
613, from Smith, Havana,
(March
Telegram
see USNA,
Service Despatch
of elections,
320,
737.00/9-2658,
Foreign
support
to State Department
for arms renewal,
737.00/7
Havana,
26, 1958);
Braddock,
(September
to Secretary
of State
79, Smith, Havana,
1658, Telegram
(July 16, 1958), and 737.00/10-2158,
to Secretary
intimations
for guarded
of State (October
386, Smith, Havana,
21,1958);
Telegram
William
G.
Political
of support
for a military
Havana,
737.00/8-758,
Bowdler,
Officer,
coup,
T. L. Da Cunha,
to Cuba
with Sr. Vasco
Brazilian
ambassador
of Conversation
Memorandum
5. USNA,

30, 1958).

737.00/3-3058,

For

7, 1958); and
(August
Office Memorandum

(Confidential)
737.00/7-2458,
6. Of

this must

course,

for State Department
doubts
about
continued
support,
toMr. Snow
Stewart
(Secret)
(July 24, 1958).
and has been by many
and
scholars
of the revolution

from C. A.

be nuanced

race.
at home while women
that men worked
7. "[A] 1988 survey showed
only 4.52 hours per week
2000: 448). The contradictions
of the revolution
from a
22.28 hours"
(Keen and Haynes,
are
Randall
feminist perspective
(1993).
well-explored
by Margaret
are from the New York Times,
8. The quotes
January 11 and 12,1993.

worked

REFERENCES
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and Michael
Joseph Collins,
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Benjamin, Medea,
1986 No Free

in Cuba

Today. New

York:

Food

First

and

Grove

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Terrence

Cannon,

Cuba. New York: Thomas
1981 Revolutionary
and Enzo Faletto
Fernando
Cardoso,
Henrique
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1979 Dependency
Johnetta B.

Y. Crowell.

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Berkeley:

University

of California

Press.

Cole,

1993 "Women

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(ed.), Revolutions:
Evans, Peter

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Theoretical,

within

Comparative,

The Alliance
1979 Dependent
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Princeton:
Farhi, Farideh
Revolutions:

1990 States and Urban-Based
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and Historical

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in Jack A. Goldstone
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Belmont: Wadsworth.

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and Local

Urbana

Capital

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Press.

John

in Iran, 1501-1925."
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and social
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Boulder: Westview
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1993 Fragile Resistance:
Press.
1981

1997a

"The

1997b

"The

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at the fin-de-si?cle."

sociology
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fail," pp. 227-267
why most
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1997c

"Discourses

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Third World

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203-226

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