Academic journal article Social Justice

The Socialist Transition in Cuba: Continuity and Change in the 1990s

Academic journal article Social Justice

The Socialist Transition in Cuba: Continuity and Change in the 1990s

Article excerpt


The crisis faced by European socialism in the 1990s represented the end of a model of a transitional society and abruptly altered the international arena that housed the peripheral socialist societies of the postwar era. Yet this crisis has also revealed that only a transitional noncapitalist society is capable of allowing underdeveloped and dependent nations to achieve economic and social development, establish their independence, and build societies free of exploitation.

The Cuban Revolution of 1959 demonstrated that the world's revolutionary cycle was spreading to Latin America and the Caribbean and that a new correlation of world forces would enable the creation of another transitional or socialist society. The history of this process is well known. Nevertheless, it is worthwhile to examine some aspects of that experience and to look at some of the changes that stemmed from the challenges faced by noncapitalist forms of development and from Cuba's own history.(1)

1. The Socialist Political System in Cuba

Defining the nature of the Cuban Revolution as socialist placed the country within a specific political and ideological tradition. This tradition was characterized by an endless debate regarding the conditions, stages, and objectives of the transition from a capitalist social formation to a socialist or communist one. Nevertheless, whether conceived as a social formation in its own right or in transition, there was some agreement about certain basic elements that characterized the socialist society." These included an economy regulated by a central plan, public ownership of the means of production, highly developed productive forces, suppression of the ruling classes, a new political system based on the broadest kind of participatory democracy, foreign relations that would foster a new global economic and political order, and a new culture and ideology under which new values, norms, and social relations could be expressed (Varios, 1979; 1980; Vuskovic and Aceituno, 1982).

Although the Cuban Revolution met these criteria, it began this process of transformation not simply as a capitalist society, but as an underdeveloped and dependent capitalist society. Thus, the socialist transition had to overcome a previous stage that developed capitalist societies had taken to their limit, but which marginal societies had yet to realize: gaining full national independence, achieving economic and social development, social democracy, and defining an organic cultural identity. Faced with underdevelopment, dominated by imperialist powers and a political and economic international order made up of the superpowers, the transition toward socialism in the periphery of world capitalism could lead to nothing but a peripheral kind of socialism.

Further, the Cuban revolutionary process has also had to contend with developing socialism in a country situated in a region of the Western Hemisphere dominated by the United States, only 90 miles away from this age-old enemy of the Cuban people.

1.1 The Cuban Model of Socialist Transition

To all these circumstances, which have persisted to this day, one may add the situations created internally and externally by objective and subjective factors during each stage. Overcoming these obstacles and meeting proposed goals have required finding a suitable model.(2) This model is nothing more than the synthesis of all the political, institutional, and ideological strategies that have guided the Cuban people in their pursuit of their national and socialist objectives.

The Cuban political system has evolved both as part of a global process of revolution and as a response to the conditions during each stage. Throughout this process of evolution, there have been various continuities as well as changes in the system -- in its various components, tasks, mechanisms, protagonists, etc. -- in the pursuit of a group of basic objectives that would shape the current model of Cuban socialism:

* To ensure that social change reflects the people's goals, priorities, and new social relations;

* To promote economic and social development;

* To ensure the reproduction of the new social and political system, adapting it to its changing environment, guaranteeing its defense, and securing popular support; and

* To foster the new humanist values and norms among its citizens. …

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