This paper attempts to offer a basis for combining consideration of two sets of topics that in contemporary social science are treated separately: the political and institutional context in societies and the formulation of national economic policy. As the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy (ASCE) progresses in its excellent work, it becomes evident that in the case of Cuba such lack of integration could lead to serious distortions on the feasibility of certain economic approaches, regardless of their intrinsic merits in terms of economic theory and praxis.
This became particularly obvious to me as I heard and read the presentations of Ernesto Hernández Catá, who advocates the shock treatment approach, and Rolando Castañeda, who advocates a gradualist approach. I reached the conclusion that it was perhaps worth to make an effort to sketch, at least in broad terms, the dynamics of the present political situation and the possible outcomes it may lead to. After all, before planning the reconstruction of Cuba it is necessary for Castro to be out of power and, from all indications so far, he does not seem willing to cooperate. Since Castro’s legacy is not limited to the political context, but also includes the institutional context of the most centralized economic management system of any communist country, I felt it was also necessary to extend the sketch to cover climate for reconstruction offered by the various outcomes. Once you include both dimensions of the problem in the analysis, the magnitude of the task ahead looms into a very imposing effort and perhaps may help determine which approach is more feasible.
The analysis of the present political situation draws on a comparison between the successful revolutionary effort against Batista in 1959 and the failure of the Tupamaros in 1972, as presented in the final Chapter of my book REVOLUTIONARY STRATEGY: A Handbook for Practitioners, with an analysis of revolutionary propensity in the current Cuban situation. On the basis of that comparison, some possible outcomes of the present situation are presented with brief comments on the political climates each would offer for the formulation of economic policy.
This paper has been prepared for presentation and discussion at the Second Annual Meeting of the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy (ASCE), Florida International University, August 13-15, 1992. The approach taken makes explicit the assumptions leading to one policy analyst’s conclusions as to why Castro did not fall as was predicted in 1989, 1990, 1991, as well as how it may all end. Other analysts are free to make their own judgments and evaluations of the variables used in the model developed by the author for the analysis of revolutionary propensity and reach different conclusions. It is hoped that making assumptions and observations explicit would lead to a more fruitful basis for discussion than to merely express conclusions or opinions.
In closing, I wish to repeat one of my favorite Chinese sayings: “To forecast is very difficult, particularly about the future.”
I. Comparative Analysis of Revolutionary Propensities
In this section of the paper, a comparison will be made of the revolutionary experiences of Cuba in 1958, Uruguay in 1972 and Cuba 1992. The comparison will be based on selected factors relevant to revolutionary propensity. These factors are the independent variables in the situation, while the outcome of the process is the dependent variable. Each variable will be analyzed in terms of its impact on revolutionary propensity. Afterwards, a synthesis will be made to determine what lessons can be derived from the comparison of the three situations.
There is no one single revolutionary propensity. At times a country may seem to be on the verge of a revolution when we focus only on one factor that increases revolutionary propensity. But in the end there is no outcome of a revolutionary nature. The reason is that that individual factor was offset by other factors that reduced revolutionary propensities. In reading this paper, you will have to get used to the fact that from the perspective of revolutionary propensity, events or facts we normally consider bad have a positive impact on revolutionary propensity and, conversely, those we normally consider good have negative impacts. Such is the perverse nature of revolutions.
First, a comparison is made of factors drawn from the national context in the three situations that may have a bearing on the final outcome. The comparison starts at the broadest level, including geographic, demographic, historic and international variables relevant to the respective revolutionary situations. It also includes comparing the types of political contexts, that is whether the societies were totalitarian, authoritarian or democratic.
Comparisons are also made of the relative status of development of political organizations, intermediary organizations, mass media and armed forces. A comparison of economic and social indicators relevant to the level of prevailing relative deprivation is the final part of the context section.
Next, a very brief comparison is made of the revolutionary processes of Cuba 1958 and Uruguay 1972 only in terms of operational variables involved. Since there is no ongoing revolutionary effort inside Cuba today, there is no analysis possible of a revolutionary process there. However, a look at the factors involved as commented in those two cases illustrates why it is unlikely that such a process can be started as long as Castro’s regime maintains its extremely totalitarian system of repression. Such an approach is consistent with the methodology of the Handbook. The categories for comparison are: the events, including the trigger event, their time frame, magnitude and nature; the components of revolutionary action, including the ideologies and propaganda, the organizations and their leadership; and, finally, the strategies and policies pursued.
In the final part of this section, summary and conclusions, the profiles of the dynamics of the three situations are compared. The analysis results in a profile for Cuba (1992) which is almost the opposite of Cuba (1958), having more similarity with that for Uruguay (1972) where the revolutionary effort aborted. Since there is no ongoing revolutionary effort in Cuba today, the likelihood of a successful revolutionary process is even less than in Uruguay (1972). However, a comment is worth on this conclusion from the analysis. The regime’s repression is creating a mirage. Revolutionary propensity is potentially very high in Cuba (1992) but, it is bottled up. That is why the outcome may be an explosion a la Hungary, 1956 , rather than a revolutionary process. The longer Castro manages to delay his departure, the bloodier the aftermath is likely to be. And, the bloodier the outcome, the less likely that it would provide a favorable context for the formulation of national reconstruction policy.
A. Comparison if Cuba-Uruguay-Cuba National Contexts.
In this section of the paper, the paragraphs in italics are taken from the Handbook, while the paragraphs on the comparison with the present situation in Cuba in relation to each variable are shown in regular type.
There is a widely prevalent notion that tries to simplify revolutionary causality by linking it exclusively to economic and social relative deprivation. The comparison of Cuba’s and Uruguay’s national contexts weakens the explanatory power of that notion and reveals that more complex explanations are necessary.
Geography. The two countries are relatively small, Cuba has 41,000 square miles of territory and Uruguay 72,000. However, in the case of Cuba it has several mountain ranges suitable for rural guerrilla operations. In particular, the Sierra Maestra range in the eastern end of the island offered an ideal setting for the establishment of a guerrilla redoubt. Castro’s revolution was anchored in the vastness of the Sierra Maestra. Therefore, geography was favorable to the revolutionary outcome. Uruguay does not have any region suitable for the establishment of a guerrilla redoubt, a factor that forced the Tupamaros to resort to an urban guerrilla strategy. This was an untested strategy and turned out to be unworkable.
In summary, the geographic variable had a positive impact on revolutionary propensity in the case of Cuba and it had a negative impact in the case of Uruguay.
Geography 1992. The only relevant aspect of this variable that can change is physical integration. There has been a change in the impact of this variable due to two factors: (1) There is no remote inaccessible region in the Sierra Maestra mountains anymore. Castro has established a governmental presence there and opened access roads. (2) Cuba has massive armed forces with modern equipment and the use of helicopters would make a repetition of the Castro enclave there a military impossibility. Therefore, in 1992 this variable moves to negative.
Demography. The population of Cuba was more than twice that of Uruguay at the time of the respective revolutionary conflicts. Cuba had 6.5 million and Uruguay 3.0 million inhabitants. In terms of population location, Uruguay was more urbanized than Cuba. While 81 percent of Uruguayans were estimated to live in urban centers, in Cuba only 55 percent were city dwellers. Montevideo accounted for half the population of Uruguay, while Havana accounted only for about twenty percent of Cuba’s population.
Uruguay had a fairly homogeneous racial composition, with 90 percent of the population being white. Cuba’s 1953 population census reported 72.8 percent as white, with the rest divided between blacks and mulattoes.
However, those proportions have been seriously questioned, with much higher estimates of black and mixed race shares of the population.
Race did not emerge as a relevant issue in the revolutionary struggles in either country, despite the fact that in both cases relative deprivation on the basis of race can be documented. Urbanization was a factor in the case of Uruguay. The Tupamaro urban guerrilla strategy was developed in response to the weight of Montevideo in Uruguayan population distribution and the geographic constrain to attempt a rural guerrilla strategy. Since the urban guerrilla strategy turned out to be unworkable, the demographic variable had a negative impact on revolutionary propensity in that case. Demography had no impact on revolutionary propensity in the case of Cuba.
Demography 1992. This variable has undergone both a quantitative and a qualitative change. Despite the migration of more than one million citizens, the population of Cuba is now almost 11 million people. The age breakdown has moved towards more young people, which in overall terms may have increased revolutionary propensity. Young people have a very negative attitude towards the regime. They have attained a higher educational level and the regime only offers hardships and a nationalist appeal, while they did not enjoy the victories and increased level of living of the early period of the revolution. However, in view of the overwhelming repressive capacity of the regime, their frustration is expressed more in anomie and passive negative behavior-low productivity, defecting or rafting–than in open defiance. The increased urbanization makes it easier for the regime to control them. But, the most important change is qualitative. The emigrants are overwhelmingly from the white middle and upper class. The rapid increase in population in the early period of the revolution has led to a shift in the racial composition. As a result, a majority black population in Cuba faces a majority white population in exile. The aspiration for political leadership from Miami is a threat to all those in Cuba regardless of race. But the better educated Afro-Cubans, perhaps with hopes of a greater leadership role in post-Castro’s Cuba than they have today, may perceive this possibility as disenfranchising them. Therefore, as long as the prospect of an exile return to power prevails, in 1992 this variable moves to negative.
History. The two countries share a Spanish colonial tradition. However, their histories are very dissimilar beyond that point. Uruguay became independent in the early part of the 19th Century and, therefore, has had a century and a half to develop its own political institutions. At the beginning of the 20th century, Uruguay attained the pacification of the country and the establishment of the Batllista political system that set the basic rules for peaceful political interaction. At the time of the Tupamaro revolutionary challenge, Uruguay had a strong tradition of nonviolent political action.
Cuba did not attain independence until 1902, and then only after a long and bloody war against Spain based on guerrilla tactics. Resort to guerrilla warfare was part of a recent enough Cuban historical experience to be transmitted by grandfathers to their grandsons. In 1956, Cuba had had barely a half-century of independence and had experienced a level of political turmoil and violence equivalent to what Uruguay experienced in the 1870s.
The revolution against Machado in 1933 had planted the seeds of resorting to terrorism in Cuba. The memory of terrorist tactics was a living experience for many who were involved in the struggle against Batista, himself a product of the revolution against Machado.
The historic variable was favorable to the acceptance of violence as a legitimate political instrument in the case of Cuba. This contributed significantly to raise revolutionary propensities in Cuba. In Uruguay, however, the well established tradition of peaceful political action acted as a powerful deterrent to the acceptance of violence as a legitimate political option. Therefore, the historic variable had a very negative impact on revolutionary propensities.
History 1992. Resort to violence is now an even greater element than before in the national tradition, and most citizens have access to weapons and know how to use them. This would favor the same positive impact on revolutionary propensity it had in 1958. However, the risks involved in resorting to violence due to the ruthless repression prevailing under Castro’s Stalinist regime, make resort to violence a suicidal alternative for the disaffected. Each opposition failure, from the Bay of Pigs to the Ochoa case, reinforces the image of the effectiveness of the repressive apparatus. Therefore, recent history has made this variable unfavorable to revolutionary propensity. In fact, in 1992 it is very negative. However, the longer people’s frustration is repressed, the more likely that a violent explosion and a collapse of the regime may be the final outcome.
International. The international context for the two struggles was substantially different. In the case of Cuba, there was no international issue or power influencing the revolutionary process. The struggle against Batista was strictly a domestic issue. The United States at the time was concerned with the 1956 Hungarian Revolution and the Suez Canal crisis, both events related to the Cold War. The Hemisphere seemed secure enough from Communism after the overthrow of the Arbenz regime in 1954.
However, the international dimension became a factor due to the pervasive United States influence in Cuba. United States military assistance to the Cuban armed forces became an issue in revolutionary propaganda, even after the March 1958 arms embargo to Batista, leading to Raúl Castro’s kidnapping of American servicemen from the Guantánamo Naval Base. On the revolutionary side, Costa Rica and Venezuela provided propaganda and equipment assistance to the 26th of July Movement.
In the case of Uruguay, the international dimension was present since the beginning. First, the Cuban revolution was an issue due to its emotional impact on Uruguayan public opinion and because it provided the rationale for the call to revolution. And, second, because the United States answer to the Cuban challenge, through the Alliance for Progress and the counterinsurgency doctrine, had an impact on Uruguay. Since Cuba never took seriously the chances for a Tupamaro victory, their level of intervention was low profile; and, so was that of the United States. Brazil and Argentina also played a minor role within the international variable. In summary, the international variable was present in both cases. However, it was more relevant in Uruguay than in Cuba. The international variable did not affect revolutionary propensity in Cuba, while increasing it in the case of Uruguay.
International 1992. The last thirty years added a strongly nationalistic component to this variable. Cubans have acquired an exaggerated sense of the international importance of their country. Castro is perceived as an important international leader, even if the collapse of the Soviet Union casts serious doubts on his wisdom in taking their side in the Cold War. An erosion of that image, however, could weaken Castro’s charismatic hold over his followers. For example, the recent disastrous visit to Spain shook up Castro’s own self-confidence. Further appeals to democratize and criticism of the system by democratic leaders raise questions about legitimacy and do increase revolutionary propensity. On the other hand, the right wing organizations that dominate the exile community, convey an image of dependency on U.S. support and a return to the past. The aspirations of right wing exiles to seize power help coalesce people around Castro and decrease revolutionary propensity. In the end, this exile effort is wasted, because the United States Government seems to have no intention of making a formal military intervention, overtly or covertly in Cuba. In fact, the level of U.S. intervention is limited to ideological actions, broadcasting to Cuba, which expands access to information and economic denial, the U.S. embargo, which increases hardships but is unlikely to lead to a revolt due to the regime’s ruthless repression. Nevertheless, the perceived threat of a U.S. invasion, associated with the return of right wing exiles, helps Castro exploit nationalist feelings–that is why it is a constant theme in Cuban propaganda. Soviet support is now an irrelevant factor. In summary, there is little chance of an overt U.S. intervention, or of covert support to encourage people to rebel against Castro, while the perceived threat of an exile return to power helps him. In 1992, therefore, we are faced with a very negative impact of the international variable on revolutionary propensity. This is changing as Latin democratic leaders press Castro to open up the system.
Political system. At the time the two revolutionary efforts started the political systems were quite different. Uruguay had a democratic situation with a system of representative government that enjoyed widespread national support and offered citizens open channels for redressing grievances both through the various banners of the political parties and the political clubs. The political party system was stable, with two traditional parties
dominating the political life of the country, but several smaller parties were also able to participate in the competition for electoral support. There were constitutional reforms and changes in political alignment during the revolutionary period in an effort to make the political system more effective in coping with the economic stagnation affecting the country.
In the case of Cuba, on the other hand, the political system had been severely damaged by the Batista coup d’etat in 1952. As a result of that coup, Cuba had regressed from a democratic political situation into an authoritarian political situation. In fact, restoration of the 1940 Constitution was the essential issue around which the revolutionary effort was waged. The political party system in Cuba was not stable. The traditional parties of the early years of the Republic were no longer relevant and political life centered on the parties that emerged in the thirties as a result of the revolution against Dictator Gerardo Machado. On one side were the democratically oriented parties, the Auténticos and the Ortodoxos, and, on the other, Batista’s Unitary Action Party. There were several other personal pocket parties which shifted alliances with the main ones. Only the Communist Party had a distinct ideological, rather than personal basis.
In summary, in Uruguay the political situation variable provided an acceptable democratic framework to find a solution to the national economic problem, making resort to violence unnecessary. In Cuba, on the contrary, the political system became the central issue of the revolutionary struggle and an operational obstacle to finding a peaceful solution to the problem faced by the country. Therefore, this variable had a very positive impact on revolutionary propensity in the Cuba case, while being very negative in the Uruguayan case.
Political system 1992. At present, Cuba has a totalitarian political situation, in contrast with the authoritarian political situation under Batista. Both are equally lacking in legitimacy. While Batista tried to regain legitimacy through manipulated elections, Castro rejects them outright. The hope for an opening towards a more flexible political environment were dashed in October, 1991. This was reinforced at the recent meeting of the Popular Power Assembly session to reform the Constitution. In essence, the Constitutional reforms failed to include the reforms advocated by some elements within the Party who had the illusion Castro was going to tolerate Glasnost and Perestroika in Cuba. The apparent concession of direct elections of delegates to the Popular Power Assembly was made moot by the reiteration of the commitment to a one-party system and the introduction of Article 67 and modification of Article 91, now 93, allowing the declaration of a state of emergency during which all powers are vested on the President of the Council of State. That is, in case of emergency, all legal powers have been vested on Castro himself, including the right to declare that an emergency exists. Although there are signals of ideological options being considered within the party, nobody at the Congress dared to challenge Castro’s leadership publicly. There is no Solidarity-like movement or even subordinate parties in coalition with the Communists, as was the case in Eastern Europe. Therefore, in 1992 this variable is very negative towards revolutionary propensity.
Professional organizations. Both countries had a highly developed set of intermediary organizations. The professional associations in Cuba were more politicized than in Uruguay and played an active role as mediators during the revolutionary period. Lawyers and doctors were the most politically active professional groups in Cuba, while in Uruguay architects and doctors were very prominent in the Tupamaro organization. This involvement however, was at a personal level. As institutions, professional associations had no significant impact on revolutionary propensity in either country.
Professional organizations 1992. All professional associations are controlled by the party. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that they will reflect the real feelings of the rank and file as they did under Batista. With few exceptions, private practice of professions is not allowed. There have been symptoms of dissatisfaction such as the increased amount of defections among professionals returning from overseas. There have been also manifestations of dissidence. Prize-winning poet María Elena Cruz Varela led a group of members of the writers and artists union (UNEAC) to write to Castro demanding some reforms. She was supported by some members and attacked by others. Eventually, a Government encouraged mob attacked her at her home and she is at present serving a two year sentence for subversive activities. There is little likelihood these associations could play any role against Castro. This variable is irrelevant today in terms of revolutionary propensity.
Churches. The Church in both countries was irrelevant to the revolutionary process. Contrary to the generalized impression of the Catholic Church being a dominant institution in all of Latin America, in both countries the Church had a very narrow base of influence, restricted mostly to the upper and middle classes, and therefore was in no position to play a significant role on either side in the respective revolutionary struggles.
Churches 1992. Under Batista, the church was only a moral force with a very limited role in real terms. But today the church is even weaker. There is a very small opening for religious activity as a result of the Fourth Party Congress and the revision of the pertinent article in the Constitution. However, the churches depend so much on the state for everything that they do not dare to challenge the regime. In the Catholic Church, the hierarchy is at odds with the lay members, many of whom consider the hierarchy has been too cooperative with the regime. The hierarchy is very sensitive to this accusation of collaborationism. There are some religious fronts, mostly of protestant denominations, controlled by the regime through the Central Committee official in charge of religious matters. The most defiant church members belong to Jehovah Witnesses. They have been unyielding in the defense of their beliefs and have suffered harsh repression, but their membership is very small. The most popular religion today is “Santería,” a cult lacking a formal hierarchy that can challenge the regime. This variable continues to be irrelevant in terms of revolutionary propensity.
Labor Unions. The labor movement situation was quite different. In Cuba, the national labor federation, the CTC, was a very powerful and solidly established national institution. Batista had vested it with the monopoly of labor representation in the thirties and given its control to the Communist Party, in exchange for Communist Party support for his presidential candidacy. Labor unions had a membership of 1,100,000 out of a total labor force of 2,000,000. At the time of the revolutionary struggle, the unions were controlled by an alliance of Batista and Communist labor leaders, who had displaced the Auténtico labor leaders after Batista’s coup. Only once during the revolutionary period, in 1955, did a national sugar workers strike take place on economic issues. It was led by dissident Auténtico labor leaders and supported by the university student federation, but not by Castro’s movement. The two calls made by Castro for general strikes failed for lack of adequate penetration in the labor movement. In neither case were the general strikes related to labor issues.
In Uruguay, the labor movement was removed from the influence of the two dominant traditional parties. It was heavily influenced by the Communist Party. The labor movement was also struggling to consolidate itself as a national institution. It was only in 1966 that the National Workers Convention, the CNT, was created. It gathered around 300,000 to 400,000 workers out of a total labor force of more than one million. While during the revolutionary period the CNT fought the existing order with constant strikes related to bread and butter issues, it was reluctant to mobilize the workers in an ideological struggle for revolutionary victory. Therefore, its actions undermined Tupamaro efforts to move workers to resort to violence.
In summary, neither revolutionary movement was able to control the respective labor organizations during their revolutionary struggles. It was the Communist parties allied with Moscow that stood in the way in both countries. Therefore, in both cases the labor variable had a negative impact on revolutionary propensities.
Labor Unions 1992. Unions are controlled by the regime in present day Cuba to a greater degree than under Batista. They do not represent the demands of the rank and file to those in power. However, since unions are the only institutions in Cuba whose leadership was not totally replaced by the revolution, some leaders still perceive their role in response to the base. Castro has been forced to downplay their role, with frequent replacement of union leaders who reverted to the previous mentality. As living conditions deteriorate with the current economic collapse, labor unions may be a source of anti-regime leadership. But that requires a political opening. For the time being, unions are an effective instrument of control of people at the workplace. As such, they have a very negative impact on revolutionary propensity in present day Cuba.
Students. Students are another relevant intermediary organization in revolutionary situations. In the Cuba case, university students developed their own revolutionary organization, the Revolutionary Directorate, which fought Batista unsuccessfully through a variety of tactics, including attacking the Presidential Palace in a failed attempt to kill him, their own guerrilla front, demonstrations, strikes, clashes with the police, etc. Although they fought against Batista to the bitter end, student leaders remained rivals of Castro for leadership of the revolution all along.
In the case of Uruguay, the university students were heavily influenced by the Communist Party. Their activities included demonstrations and protests over international events related to Cuba, the United States or issues closer to home, such as bus fares, government school intervention or killings of students. Secondary school students were heavily involved in these activities. University students provided many of the cadres, along with the labor movement, for the Tupamaros. Their organizations remained under heavy Communist Party influence during the period and the Tupamaros were not able to assume control. The left leaning students were challenged in their own turf by the JUP, a right wing student organization created with police support.
In the case of students, while the Communist prevented Tupamaro control of the university federation in Uruguay, it was an eminently anti-Communist and Catholic group that prevented Castro’s control of university students in Cuba. Despite the inability to control them, the student variable had a positive impact on revolutionary propensity in both cases.
Students 1992. Aware of the role they played in the overthrow of Batista, Castro moved from the beginning of his regime to neutralize student political activities. Recently, he has started visiting Havana University, an indication that student disaffection is a matter of concern. However, at present this is an irrelevant variable in terms of revolutionary propensity.
Business Groups. Business groups were very influential in both countries. However, neither one had an encroached landowning aristocracy that constituted a ruling oligarchy. In both societies, there was open access to the upper classes and circulation of elites.
In Cuba, sugar industry domination of the country made the trade associations of that industry the most influential. Membership in Cuban business groups changed substantially, with sugar industry foreign owners becoming a minority during the period immediately before the revolution. The issue over which the revolution took place was not central to business interests, so business had no vested interest in fighting the revolution, since they were not threatened by Castro during that period. The other political parties were equally responsive to business interests, therefore they had no basic reason for supporting Batista.
In the case of Uruguay, the nature of the social conflict involved the business groups, whose interests were being threatened by the Tupamaros. Faced with a declining economy, there was inter business group rivalry, particularly between the export oriented agricultural producers and import substitution oriented industries. In addition, the interests of all business groups clashed with those of the labor unions. The main basis of the economic reform undertaken during the period was aimed at reducing labor costs, a process that unavoidably led to increasing working class frustration, providing arguments and motivations for Tupamaro revolutionary efforts.
In summary, business groups were not directly threatened by the revolutionary conflict in Cuba, at least until it was too late for them to do anything about it, but they resented Batista’s illegitimacy and repression. In Uruguay, there was a definite class conflict directly related to the issues around which the revolutionary struggle was being waged and, therefore, business groups were intensely involved because they had a great stake in the final outcome. The business group variable was very negative to revolutionary propensity in the case of Uruguay and it was mildly positive in the case of Cuba.
Business groups 1992. All industrial, agricultural and commercial activities are undertaken by government enterprises under control from above either by ministries or the party secretaries. All executives are government officials and in most cases party members. This may change a little under the revised Article 23 of the Constitution to allow mixed enterprises with foreign investors. In fact, the regime is considering extending the mixed enterprise option to exiled businessmen. Perhaps, in anticipation of a potential Trojan horse under the guise of mixed enterprises investment, Castro decided to modify Article 32 to make more categoric the inability of those who have renounced their Cuban citizenship to be involved in domestic politics by denying them the right to dual citizenship. But, in real terms, at present there is only one association of private owners left, the ANAP which gathers small agricultural producers. After the reversal of economic liberalization in 1986, the government has increased measures to control this intermediary organization of private entrepreneurs through various devices, such as the control of inputs, prices and forced-sale of their products to state enterprises. ANAP leadership is government imposed, not freely elected by members. The new President elected at the recent meeting of ANAP was nominated by Castro. Therefore, this variable is irrelevant in terms of revolutionary propensity against the present situation.
Mass media. Electronic media was more developed in Cuba than in Uruguay at the time of the respective revolutionary efforts. Television played a central role in the Cuban case. In 1958, Cuba had 400,000 sets, a larger absolute number of sets than in any other Latin American country at that time. Radio ownership was also widespread, to the point of providing universal access in urban centers. The press had limited circulation nationwide, but a heavy impact in Havana.
Media ownership was widespread, with ample representation for opposition parties and groups. The most prominent weekly and the newspaper with the highest circulation were supporters of the revolutionary cause. A similar situation prevailed in electronic media. In addition, Castro had his own underground paper, Revolución, and a clandestine radio station, Radio Rebelde. Government censorship was imposed frequently during the period, but pro-Government media lacked audience and credibility. Press corruption was used by the Batista government to attenuate opposition criticisms, but was not effective in blocking revolutionary propaganda.
In the case of Uruguay, the printed press was the dominant media, with Montevideo newspapers having national circulation. Television was at an incipient stage and ownership of sets was not as widespread as in Cuba, while radio ownership was universal for practical purposes in the capital city. The most influential newspapers were associated with the leading banners of the traditional political parties. The Communist and the Catholics also had newspapers, as did some groups supporting the revolutionaries, though their circulation was very limited. The only prominent publication supporting the revolutionaries was Marcha, a very influential intellectual weekly.
SODRE, a government owned network, had the widest distribution of radio and TV stations nationally. The Tupamaros were never able to develop their own means of mass communication, printed or electronic, to access wide sectors of the population.
Government censorship was imposed from time to time during the revolutionary period, and it was applied on a selective basis to publications sympathetic to the revolutionaries. In the final period the armed forces took direct control of the information to be provided to mass media about events related to the revolutionary conflict. The Tupamaros had their own form of censorship through attacks on radio stations and individual journalists supportive of the existing order.
Mass media is a critical factor in moving people against or towards resorting to violence. The use of mass media had a very positive impact on revolutionary propensity in Cuba and it had a negative impact in Uruguay.
Mass Media 1992. In contrast with the situation under Batista, when censorship of an independent media was on and off, today all media is in the hands of the Government. It is controlled through the Department of Ideology or Revolutionary Orientation of the Central Committee, which at present is headed by Carlos Aldana. It is through this Department that radio, TV and the printed media is given guidance as to how to treat stories. There is no local means of communication free of that control. Only Radio Martí and other international broadcasts offer independent information. This is a very negative factor in terms of revolutionary propensity.
Armed forces. As a result of the 1952 Batista coup d etat, the Cuban armed forces were split between the professional officers, who supported a return to the 1940 Constitution–in other words siding on that issue with the revolutionaries–and the promotion of improvised officers that came to power with Batista in 1933, who supported Batista’s dictatorship for the spoils of power it offered them. That split seriously affected the operational capability and competence of the Cuban armed forces during the revolutionary period. Colonel Barquin’s conspiracy and the arrest of his followers deprived the Cuban armed forces of the elite of its officers corps, either through imprisonment or dismissal. In addition, there were other conspiracies and an outright rebellion, the Cienfuegos naval uprising.
The lack of legitimacy of the Batista regime was another factor undermining morale of the armed forces. In this respect, the United States arms embargo imposed in March 1958 had a most damaging effect on armed forces morale. The paramilitary groups were significant in Cuba, in particular the so-called Masferrer Tigers, who played a central role in repressing the April 1958 general strike.
The armed forces were a stable institution within Uruguayan society and were committed to support the existing order without hesitation. There was no significant split among them in their support to the existing order. That is, no conspiracy was uncovered, no command or unit rebelled. Whatever disagreement emerged was limited to the action of individuals who bolted to the revolutionary side or resigned, the most prominent being General Liber Seregni. In fact, the most serious disagreements with the political leadership during the struggle against the Tupamaros came from officers who felt the government was dragging the armed forces into actions not fully consistent with the constitutional role assigned to them. It was after the victory over the Tupamaros that the military went beyond their normal role and eventually took over the government.
The Uruguayan armed forces stayed aloof from the conflict until the last phases of the struggle against the Tupamaros. Their professional competence, enhanced by years of training in counterinsurgency provided by U.S. military assistance programs, was excellent. This competence was evident in the swift and effective implementation of their campaign against the Tupamaros.
The police was the weak link in the repressive capacity of the state in Uruguay. It was seriously affected in its morale by the highly individualized terror campaign the Tupamaros waged against them. The police-supported paramilitary groups were not too relevant in operational terms in the case of Uruguay, except that their actions triggered the Tupamaro reprisals that played a key role in the final actions of the armed forces in the revolutionary struggle.
In summary, the armed forces in Cuba were central to the rationale for a revolutionary struggle, since they were the only basis for the existence of the illegitimate regime that was questioned by the revolutionaries. At the same time, the armed forces loss of morale and the weakening of its professional competence by divisions within them were central factors in facilitating the revolutionary victory. Therefore, in the Cuba case this variable had a very positive impact on revolutionary propensity.
In Uruguay, on the contrary, the armed forces were not in any way responsible for the issue generating the conflict. They acted with firm conviction and high morale. Since their professional competence was up to the needs of the moment, they played the decisive role in defeating the Tupamaro insurrection. Therefore, in the Uruguay case the armed forces variable had a very negative impact on revolutionary propensity.
Armed Forces in 1992. Batista’s armed forces cannot even get close enough to present ones to warrant comparison. There are three armies with independent commands under the MINFAR, each of Army Corp size with battle-tested troops, which makes it hard for any general to seize power without having to face other military forces. The MININT has intelligence (DGI), the secret police (State Security), and the regular police, plus elite units called Special Forces, which are equivalent to U.S. Green Berets, for a total force of more than 100,000.
There is rivalry between the MINFAR and the MININT. After the Ochoa trial, and the arrest and death in prison of MININT Minister Gral. Abrantes, the MININT became subordinated to MINFAR control through the transfer of Army Gral. Abelardo Colomé. There are the CDRs, neighborhood committees, and the MTT, a territorial militia controlled through the Party Secretariat, with around a million poorly trained and equipped members.
Recently, the Government established the SUVP, a so-called unified service for vigilance and protection, and goon squads, called Rapid Reaction Battalions, to nip in the bud any protest no matter how small. Resort to violence against such an array is unlikely. Therefore, in 1992 this is a very negative factor for revolutionary propensity, but not for a coup d’etat once there is a consensus among them that Castro offers no future and perceive there is a lesser danger from rebelling.
Economic and social conditions. The importance of economic and social conditions as variables in revolutionary propensity is due to the fact that they are associated with the level of relative deprivation in a society. The concept of relative deprivation is not an absolute but changes when expectations increase as a result of factors such as expanded media access–introduction of television and advertising commercials are good examples–or when there is a decrease in the ability to satisfy existing expectations, leading to what is called decremental relative deprivation. Relative deprivation is usually measured by economic and social indicators. A summary table will be used to provide the available indicators to compare the two cases.
As can be observed from the table, the comparison of Cuban and Uruguayan economic and social indicators does not reflect such sharp differences to justify attributing to them the revolutionary outcome. The table shows the two countries as being fairly close in most indicators, particularly in the ranking among Latin American countries.
The 1952 GNP per capita figure itself is questionable, since studies made at the time report there was a substantial underestimation of GNP in the case of Cuba. In fact, the same OAS study in the economic section reports another source with quite the opposite situation. According to this source, in 1952 Cuba had an estimated GNP per capita of US$406 vs US$271 for Uruguay. (Tipología, p. 45)
Cuba had twice the percentage of agricultural labor force of Uruguay, a situation resulting from the more labor intensive requirements of Cuba’s main crop, sugar cane. In education, Cuba was behind Uruguay in secondary and university attendance, but fairly close in the other indicators. In health, Cuba had more doctors per 100,000 inhabitants than Uruguay, and was close enough in hospital beds to share first place in rank. Therefore, in terms of economic and social conditions there is no clear difference between the two countries to explain the different revolutionary outcomes.
As to the dynamics of the economic and social changes in the respective revolutionary times, the comparison leads to completely opposite results from what conventional wisdom would mandate. During the years of the revolution in Cuba, the economy was expanding after a decline in l954 and 1955. Batista’s government engaged in an active investment effort with state development banks increasing their outstanding loans from US$3l millions in l953 to US$459 millions in 1958. Sugar and total exports were at their highest levels during the critical years of l957 and 1958. There was no inflationary pressure, as the Cuban peso maintained its parity with the U. S. dollar for many years. Therefore, there was no decremental relative deprivation resulting from economic decline to generate frustration leading to violence. Even though Cuba was a poor country and there were many social injustices, economic and social conditions had no impact on revolutionary propensity in Cuba.
In the case of Uruguay, however, the years of the Tupamaro revolutionary effort coincided with a period of economic decline. In fact, the deterioration in the population’s standard of living, the decline in real salaries, the runaway inflation, along with the inability of the political system to produce a turnaround, were the factors that in the eyes of the Tupamaros justified resorting to violence. Therefore, this variable had a very positive impact on revolutionary propensity in Uruguay.
Socio-Economic Conditions 1992. This final contextual variable is very positive in terms of encouraging revolutionary propensity in 1992, while under Batista economic conditions were improving in what amounted to a real boom. The World Development Report 1983 published by the World Bank reveals that, despite the claims of the Castro regime, the progress made by Cuba has not been as significant in social indicators and abysmal in economic indicators.
In GNP per capita, by 1982 Cuba’s ranking fell from third to sixteen during the revolution in comparison with the ranking quoted above for 1953. In other words, moving from the level of Argentina and Uruguay to the level of Central America. In increase of energy consumption per capita during the period, Cuba’s rank was eighteenth compared to 1960. In percentage share of exports of manufactures, Cuba had made no progress at all between 1960 and 1980, according to the World Bank report, retaining a modest 5 percent proportion. This compares with an increase from 5 to 53 percent for Jamaica, of 6 to 39 per cent for El Salvador and from 5 to 34 percent for Costa Rica for the same period.
As to social indicators, Cuba started from a high ranking in the region, therefore, in terms of progress made it ranked eleventh in percentage increase between 1960 and 1980 in population per physician, fourteenth in improvement in life expectancy, from 63 to 73; twelfth in improved infant mortality rate per 1000 births, from 32 to 19; in expansion of secondary education enrollment it ranked first and in higher education enrollment it ranked fourth. These figures reveal that, although it cannot be denied that significant progress was made up to the early eighties in social indicators, the mere comparison of absolute data is misleading since Cuba had a high standing at the beginning of the period.
The collapse of the Soviet Union and Communism affects Cuba at three levels: psychological-ideological, social and economic. The failure of ideology has led to confusion and disorientation among those who accepted the myths of Marxist dogma. Perhaps the most important setback to Castro is the weakening of his charismatic appeal as a result of the end of internationalism due to the loss of the Soviet strategic umbrella. Cubans feel proud of their acquired international importance and this helps Castro maintain the aura of a world leader. In terms of human rights violations and denial of basic freedoms, Cuba has the most negative conditions in the Hemisphere. The relative deprivation faced by Cubans in terms of human rights and basic freedoms has been heightened by events in the former Soviet Bloc and by the United Nations resolutions condemning the regime. In terms of social services, progress in health and education still evokes favorable comments, although one can question some qualitative aspects, as well as their long term feasibility under a declining economic capability.
In economic terms, the collapse of energy supplies in particular, has caused a massive decline in living standards. Cuba is heading for 19th Century living conditions. Recently, there has been a small improvement in food supply as a result of mobilizing urban residents to grow their own food. But there is little hope of any economic growth for the foreseeable future. The reason is the change in the relationship between oil consumption and sugar production and the relative prices of the two products. Under the Revolution, Cuba expanded oil consumption, while the expansion of sugar output has lagged in proportion and as shown above Cuba has failed to diversify its exports significantly. The main export product Castro developed, surrogate troops for Soviet imperial expansion, has no market anymore. In terms of prices, oil prices increased dramatically in 1973 and 1980, while sugar prices have been depressed in relative terms due to competition from artificial sweeteners and subsidized production, particularly in Europe.
As long as the oil-sugar output-price relation continues to be negative to Cuba, the country would have to use all its sugar output merely to pay its oil bill. In other words, as a result of the loss of Soviet subsidies, Cuba is doomed to a no-growth future for lack of ability to generate revenue to maintain its present energy consumption and much less to expand it. That is, unless ongoing and proposed oil exploration is successful or the Uruguay Round at GATT is finally agreed upon and subsidies for sugar in Europe and the United States are phased out, expanding the demand for Cuba’s sugar. But, both are long-term propositions. Therefore, the economic situation could erode regime support. This erosion has not been manifested more openly due to ruthless resort to repression.
As to revolutionary propensity, the impact of the socio-economic variable is relevant in terms of relative deprivation, whether incremental or decremental. It can be argued that this variable has been favorable to the regime up to the events of the late eighties, in other words it was negative to revolutionary propensity. However, when the Soviet Bloc collapsed and Cuba was set adrift in the world to fend by itself strategically and economically, the resulting massive economic decline has made this variable very positive to revolutionary propensity.
B. Cuba-Uruguay Revolutionary Dynamics.
The categories for comparison of operational variables impacting revolutionary dynamics include the events, the revolutionary actions and the strategies and policies. There is no data on which to base a comparison with Cuba (1992) because the totalitarian nature of the regime does not allow space for a revolutionary process to manifest itself. However, drawing on relevant parallels from the two previous cases will help highlight the difficulty of such a process to develop in Cuba (1992).
Events. In discussing the events, we will consider the trigger event and its relevance, the time frame, the nature of events and their magnitude to the extent that they had an impact on the revolutionary outcome.
The attack on the Moncada Barracks on July 26, 1953 is the trigger event for the Cuban Revolution. It became the symbol of the revolutionary effort against Batista and was important in Castro’s propaganda. The march of the Artigas sugar cane workers is the trigger event in the case of Uruguay. The trigger event was irrelevant to the revolutionary cause in Uruguay (1972). No such event has occurred in Cuba (1992) to start the chain of events leading to a revolutionary process, although the collapse of Communism could have been such an event, if the political system had been similar to those in Eastern Europe.
The time frame of the Cuban revolution spans over five years. This variable was favorable to the revolutionaries in the case of Cuba (1958) and had a positive impact on revolutionary propensity. In Uruguay, the time span extended over a decade. The longer time frame for events is a variable unfavorable to the revolutionaries in the case of Uruguay (1972). As to Cuba (1992), the two time frames indicate that were a revolutionary process to start, it could take years before a revolutionary leadership becomes known and asserts itself, articulates an ideology and mobilizes the opposition forces and is successful in defeating the regime, shall other factors be favorable to such an outcome.
The nature of events generated by the revolutionaries in Cuba was consistent with the strategy and the need to appeal to the population to resort to violence. Businessmen, politicians and military officers, not to mention soldiers, were reassured in subtle ways by the events selected and in their execution, that the target was Batista and his henchmen, but that all others were safe and did not have to fear for their interests. Consequently the nature of the events had a very positive impact on revolutionary propensity in Cuba (1958). In the case of Uruguay, the nature of the events produced by the revolutionaries was clearly threatening to the whole upper class, the politicians and the armed forces. They themselves were the targets, not anybody else. Such events pushed these sectors toward supporting use of violence against the revolutionaries. Therefore, in Uruguay (1972) this variable had a very negative impact on revolutionary propensity.
In Cuba (1992), the nature of events is limited to the international variable discussed above under national context. The potential revolutionaries who are trying to start a revolutionary process are in exile in the U.S. So far, they are perceived as a threat by those inside the regime similar to the threat implicit in the events generated by the Tupamaros in Uruguay (1972), without having been able to generate any internal events to mobilize a following among the disaffected inside Cuba. Therefore, the impact is equally negative to revolutionary propensity.
The magnitude of the operations in Cuba (1958) was much less than the international image created by Castro’s propaganda. The battles on the guerrilla side of the insurrection were mostly small skirmishes, until the last few months of the conflict. The civic resistance underground had around 30,000 individuals contributing regularly through the purchase of M-26 bonds. The underground action groups had some 5,000 to 6,000 members and the guerrilla columns at the most around 3,000 and quite likely less. Batista’s army had been expanded by the end of the conflict to a force of around 60,000 soldiers. Therefore, the magnitude of effort variable had attained an adequate level to bring victory to the revolutionaries. The success in Cuba (1958), however, was due to a great extent to the inadequate performance of Batista’s army, which was split and beset by problems of incompetence, lack of morale and outright corruption.
In the case of Uruguay, the magnitude of the effort was considerable, involving many small urban actions. The Uruguayan army estimated there were 4.200 Tupamaros in 1972. Total police and army strength in Uruguay at the time was estimated to be around 30,000. The number of police operations undertaken in Montevideo over the last three years of conflict went into the tens of thousands. In August 1970 alone, the police undertook more than 20,000 house searches in Montevideo. Therefore, the magnitude of effort variable was favorable to the Uruguayan revolutionaries. It was not for lack of trying that they were defeated.
The magnitude of these events in comparison with the meager resources and very limited space for actions available to internal dissidents explains more than any other factor how difficult it will be to start a revolutionary process in Cuba (1992).
Revolutionary action components. The categories for this variable include ideology and propaganda, organization, and leadership of the revolutionary movements.
The ideology and propaganda factor was essential to the success of the 26th of July in Cuba. The main thrust of the ideology was based on a simple combination of themes: the goal, restoration of the 1940 Constitution; the strategy, resort to violence mainly through guerrilla warfare. The third basic theme of the ideology emerged from the struggle: rejection of repression and torture. Economic and social reform was not an issue over which the revolutionaries appealed to the people. That came after victory. As to propaganda, the slogans were again very consistent with the goals, strategy and ideology: “Fatherland or death, we shall win!”. Words were reinforced by events and viceversa. As to means of dissemination, Castro was masterful in managing the press, both national and international–as he has up to this day–and received excellent coverage.
In the case of the Tupamaros, the ideology was too heavily influenced by the Cuban revolution and Marxist dogma. As a result, there was dissonance in the message sent to the people. Furthermore, the economic and social analysis and prognosis in the Tupamaro documents were based on an ideology that not even the working class in Uruguay considered acceptable. The call to violence was completely inconsistent with the historical tradition and cultural values of the Uruguayan people. In essence, the Tupamaros advanced an ideology with little appeal to the majority of Uruguayans. To compound the inadequacy of the message, the Tupamaros failed to develop an effective domestic media capability, despite the fact that there were many journalists and writers sympathetic to their cause. For this reason, at the critical moment they lacked access to mass media to inform, and much less, to mobilize the population.
The present situation in Cuba (1992) is worse than it was for the Tupamaros. The dominant message sent from exile reflects an ideology of restoration of the past and revenge most threatening to those inside the regime and not appealing enough to those opposing it to move them into action. The internal dissidence is clearly distancing itself from a revolutionary appeal. There are no events on which to base a revolutionary propaganda. As to media, Radio Martí, the most effective means of reaching the Cuban people, cannot play the role of a revolutionary radio station since it is an official station of the U.S. Government. Miami radio broadcasts are addressed to the exile audience. Only the CID shortwave radio broadcasts seem to have built an audience inside Cuba which could mobilize people into opposition action when other factors are favorable.
In summary, while ideology and propaganda had a very positive impact on revolutionary propensity in Cuba (1958), they had a very negative impact in Uruguay (1972) and are not relevant in Cuba (1992).
The revolutionary organization in Cuba developed along with the revolutionary process. The various columns in the guerrilla forces were created in response to military needs. The civic resistance underground in the cities provided money, supplies, people and intelligence. The revolutionary organization of the Tupamaros took years to build and managed to attain an effective capability for urban guerrilla operations. However, the Tupamaros created an excessively centralized and elaborate reporting system of their activities that was disastrous for their survival when compromised by the betrayal of key leaders. The organizations inside Cuba today have a very limited membership, are unable to make propaganda, proselytize, organize and mobilize their potential followers due to constant harassment by the repressive apparatus of the regime. In summary, the organizational variable had a very positive impact on revolutionary propensity in Cuba (1958), while it had a very negative impact in the case of Uruguay (1972) and is practically non-existent in Cuba (1992).
Leadership is the most important variable in determining the effectiveness of the revolutionary response. On this variable the results were very positive for the Cuban revolutionaries, who benefitted from the charismatic personality of Castro and his unquestionable ability as a leader. This was not the case with the Tupamaros. Raúl Sendic lacked the personality and leadership conditions required to symbolize and articulate the urban guerrilla struggle in Uruguay. In this case, the leadership variable had a very negative impact on revolutionary propensity.
Since no internal leadership has emerged in Cuba to lead a revolution–all dissidents inside Cuba wisely refuse to endorse any recourse to violence which could provide the regime with an excuse to crush them and close even the limited space they enjoy today–the only possible source of leadership has to be abroad. So far, no leader of the dominant forces abroad has emerged to offer to those inside the ideology, particularly in terms of nationalism and reassurance of no return to pre-revolutionary Cuba, required to mobilize them into action.
Strategy and policies. In the case of Cuba (1958), Batista followed the classical hesitant repression strategy of authoritarian rulers who lack legitimacy. He could not make the one concession that would have restored legitimacy to the regime–turning power over to an opposition leader in a fair election–because his goal was to stay in power by any means. His strategy, therefore, was saddled with an impossible goal to start with. In trying to attain that goal, he never developed a decisive strategy based on a clear understanding of the challenge Castro represented to his rule.
On the revolutionary side, Castro’s strategy and policies were most adequate to the situation. By taking from the outset a long-range strategy of resorting to violence, and locating himself in a redoubt from which he could outwait both the other opposition group’s unsuccessful efforts against Batista, as well as Batista’s own fumbling efforts against him, Castro ensured that time was on his side. By the time Batista fled, Castro had persuaded all political groups in the opposition, peaceful or violent, as well as the business community and the rank and file of the population, to accept his rule.
In Uruguay (1972), the status quo leadership initially ignored the existence of a revolutionary challenge. The strategy of hesitant repression used at first helped push some segments of the population toward resorting to violence, particularly among young labor leaders and student activists. As to the armed forces, once they joined the battle, their strategy was superbly conceived and executed.
As to the Tupamaros, their strategy, like their ideological constructs, was too influenced by mimicry of what was happening in other countries. The central flaw of their strategy was that it ignored the historical, geographic and political realities of Uruguay and the strength, competence and commitment of its military opponent.
In Cuba (1992), the Castro Government, is very aware of the threat implicit in any loosening of control or allowing any space for an opposition to emerge. The totalitarian nature of the regime and its repressive tactics, resembling those of the Nazis and the Stalinists, are a decisive factor in making a revolutionary process highly unlikely. The strategy and policies of the opposition are not related so far to a revolutionary process. Most of those who have emerged inside take the position of dissidents. That is, a peaceful opposition seeking marginal changes without challenging the regime through resort to violence. At least as a beginning.
The only significant opposition that has emerged is abroad. The strategy of the groups that dominate the exile community seems to be predicated on hopes for an eventual U.S. intervention, with lobbying in Washington, and more recently in Moscow, taking precedence over serious efforts to understand and mobilize the aspirations of the disaffected inside contemporary Cuba. Those, who have a different perspective constitute a small minority, which so far has been unable to gain any significant influence in exile politics. Under such conditions, it is unlikely that any internal action may be encouraged from outside the island.
In summary, the Government strategy and policies variable had a very negative impact for the interests of status quo forces in the case of Cuba (1958), therefore being very helpful to the revolutionary cause and reinforcing the extremely positive impact on revolutionary propensity of Castro’s effective strategy and policies. On the other hand, in Uruguay (1972) the opposite is the case but with a caveat. Although the policies of the political leaders were inadequate, the actual strategy and policies of the military against the Tupamaros were very effective. On balance, the variable had a negative impact on revolutionary propensity. This was reinforced by a Tupamaro strategy that was faulty and had a very negative impact on revolutionary propensity. Their inadequate strategy was a key factor in determining their defeat. In Cuba (1992), there is no strategy at present for a revolutionary process because there is none underway.
C. Summary and Conclusions
The summary comparison of revolutionary dynamics will be made on the basis of a synthesis of the impact that the contextual and operational variables analyzed in the previous section had on revolutionary propensity. This is presented in the form of a Kurt Lewin’s force-field analysis diagram in the chart Comparative Profiles of Revolutionary Propensity which is taken from a training aid for a workshop on revolutionary propensity. The chart shows for each variable whether the impact was very negative, negative, irrelevant, positive or very positive.
In reading the chart, it is necessary to keep in mind that a very positive ranking indicates the variable increased substantially revolutionary propensities, while a very negative ranking indicates that it caused a substantial decrease in revolutionary propensities. As can be observed, the two outcomes of closed revolutionary processes, revolutionary victory in the case of Cuba (1958) and revolutionary defeat in the case of Uruguay (1972), result in almost opposite profiles. As to Cuba (1992), the profile is the opposite of what it was in 1958 and has great similarity with that of Uruguay in 1972. No profile is given for Cuba (1992) operational variables because, as is explained above, there is no ongoing revolutionary process at present in Cuba.
In the case of Cuba (1958), the impact of the contextual variables was overwhelmingly favorable to revolutionary propensities. Geography and history of the country were positive factors for revolutionary propensity, as were the attitudes of students and business groups. The political system, the armed forces and the mass media were also very positive factors in determining Castro’s victory. Socio-economic conditions were irrelevant, as were demographic and international factors.
The labor movement was the only contextual variable with a negative impact on the revolutionary propensity of Cuba at that time: unions remained under Batista’s control until the end of the regime. Only after Batista fled was it possible for Castro to call a successful general strike. Quite an irony for a revolution that, after coming to power, embraced the cause of the proletariat.
In the case of Uruguay (1972), however, the behavior of the contextual variables is almost the opposite. The only positive factors in terms of revolutionary propensity were the international situation, due to the demonstration effect of the Cuban Revolution, and the students, who in turn were heavily influenced by those events. The very positive factor in generating revolutionary propensity in Uruguay was the economic crisis, which caused severe decremental relative deprivation for the Uruguayan people.
By focusing excessively on the socio-economic contextual variable, however, the Uruguayan revolutionaries ignored the extremely negative impact on revolutionary propensity of the other contextual variables. Neither the geography nor the demography of the country offered favorable conditions for imitating the Cuban revolution. The labor unions and the mass media were not favorable either. The historical tradition of non-violent solution of problems was reinforced by the existence of an effective democratic system, and both had a very negative impact on revolutionary propensity, making revolution a remote possibility. Finally, the armed forces and business groups reactions also had very negative impact on the feasibility of a revolutionary victory. In view of such a negative array of contextual variables, it was foolhardy for the Tupamaros to attempt a revolutionary effort. Both the Cubans and the Uruguayan Communist Party were more realistic than them in their assessment of the feasibility of revolutionary success in Uruguay.
The profile of Cuba (1992) reveals a situation more similar to that of Uruguay in 1972 than with the Cuba of 1958. This provides an explanation for the failure of the predictions made in 1989, 1990 and 1991 in terms that Cuba was about to follow the dramatic events of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. Unfortunately, many of those predictions were predicated on wishful thinking, more than on solid analysis of relevant factors. In other cases they were based on simplistic extrapolations from one society into another.
If a systematic analysis is made of those events, it will reveal that instead of a revolution, what took place was the abdication of Soviet power by Gorbachev. First in Eastern Europe and afterwards in the Soviet Union itself. At no time did Gorbachev made use of the overwhelming repressive capacity of the Soviet Union, either the Red Army, the KGB or KGB controlled secret police agencies in Eastern Europe. Honnecker has openly accused Gorbachev of undermining his regime and in Rumania it has been revealed that the military group that overthrew Ceaucescu had Soviet links and encouragement. In other words, the Soviet leader reassured the oppressed that no resort to violence was to take place in response to their actions. Apparently, he really believed people liked socialism and with a little tinkering it would work. Gorbachev’s passivity turned upside down the equilibrium between the Soviet regime repressive capacity and the bottled-up resentment of Communist rule.
The forces of nationalism were a lot stronger than Gorbachev anticipated, both in Eastern Europe and inside the Soviet Union. Initially, the frustrated in those societies made modest reform demands. Afterwards, emboldened by the lack of risk they faced due to the hesitation of the doomed communist leaders, they raised the ante until the whole system collapsed. But revolutions, involving resort to violence to change the system, they were not.
If you contrast the behavior of Soviet Bloc leaders with Castro’s behavior, it is clear why there was no domino effect. Due to the tremendous repressive capacity at the disposition of Castro and the ruthlessness with which he uses it, there is little likelihood that a revolutionary process can take place in Cuba in 1992. The cruel reality is evident in the fact that you cannot analyze the operational variables of a revolutionary situation in Cuba (1992) to compare them with operational variables in Cuba (1958) or Uruguay (1972). If anything, the analysis of those variables made above reveals how far the situation in Cuba today is from the beginnings of a revolutionary process. Under these conditions, for the U.S to suspend enforcement of the Neutrality Act, as was requested recently from President Bush, is likely to accomplish nothing more than produce unnecessary loss of life and another wave of embarrassing incidents for the Cuban-American community, as well as for the U.S. Government.
REVOLUTIONARY PROPENSITY WORKSHOP
Comparative Profiles of Revolutionary Propensity Training Aid No. 7 Page No. 1
The comparison of profiles of revolutionary propensity between Cuba (1958), Uruguay (1972) and Cuba (1992) only reflects one analyst’s judgments. Perhaps other analysts may differ. With this caveat, the analysis results in a profile for Cuba (1992) which is almost the opposite of Cuba (1958), having more similarity with that for Uruguay (1972) where the revolutionary effort aborted. There is no Cuba (1992) evaluation of operational variables. There is no ongoing revolutionary effort in Cuba to provide data for analysis. The regime’s repression is creating a mirage. Revolutionary propensity exists but is bottled up. That is why the outcome may be an explosion, rather than a revolutionary process. The longer Castro manages to delay his departure, the bloodier the aftermath is likely to be.
CUBA (1958) URUGUAY (1972) CUBA (1992)
VARIABLE IMPACT: VN–N—I—P–VP VN–N—I—P–VP VN–N—I—P–VP CONTEXTUAL
-Geography I—> <—I <—I Demography I <—I <—I History I—> <——I < I
-International I I—> < I
-Political System I——> <——I < I
-Labor unions <—I <—I <—– I
-Students I—> I—> I
-Business groups I—> <—— I I
-Professionals I I I
-Church I I I
-Mass Media I——> <—I <—– I
-Armed Forces I——> <——I <——I Socio-Econ.cond. I I—–> I—> OPERATIONAL
-Trigger I—> I—– I—
-Time Frame I—> <—I—— I—
-Nature I—> <—I—— I—
-Magnitude I I—>—– I—
-Ideology-propaganda I—–> <——I—— I—
-Organization I—–> <—I—– I—
-Leadership I—–> <——I—— I—
-Strategy and policies:
-Status quo I——> <—I—— I—
-Revolutionaries I——> <——I—— I—
LEGEND: (VN) Very Negative (N) Negative (I) Irrelevant (P) Positive (VP) Very Positive II Possible Outcomes and Reconstruction Political Climate
The analysis in the previous chapter reveals that the possibility of a revolutionary process leading to a change of government is a most unlikely outcome under present conditions. We must now consider other possible outcomes that have been discussed and review them in terms of their feasibility and the political climate they may create for the formulation of economic policy for the reconstruction period. They are:
a)A change of policy by Castro allowing an opening and starting a process of transition towards democracy and a market-based economy.
b)The action of one individual or Mother Nature removing Castro without any conspiracy. c)A coup d’etat by elements within the regime’s armed forces.
d)A popular explosion leading to the disintegration of the regime.
e) A U.S. intervention in response to a deliberate Castro provocation.
The feasibility of each option will be considered first. Then, for purposes of the evaluation of the impact of each outcome on the reconstruction political climate, criteria will include:
- legitimacy of the resulting regime, both in terms of acceptance by the Cuban people and the exile community;
- international acceptance by the United States, Western Europe and Latin America;
- adequate control of the repressive capacity of the state to be able to maintain order and enforce the law; and,
- political cohesion within the government to be able to make difficult decisions and follow a coherent economic polic
A. Policy Change by Castro.
This option is the one advocated by several Latin American Presidents and the Spanish Government as the most desirable outcome to avoid a bloodbath in Cuba. It would require Castro to allow the process of elections to be started, restore human rights such as freedom of expression, organization, movement, etc., free political prisoners and open domestic markets to private enterprise. For example, restoring the banished “mercados campesinos.”
Feasibility. Castro has rejected this option which was initially advocated by some leaders inside the Party, such as Carlos Aldana and Roberto Robaina, during the preparatory stage for the Fourth Party Congress that took place on October, 1991. The idea was not approved at the Party Congress. Aldana has publicly regretted his initiative and praised the wisdom of Castro in rejecting Glasnost and Perestroika. Castro’s argument was that such a weakening of socialism will be the beginning of the end of the system. Cuban propaganda hammers on what is happening in the former Soviet Bloc as examples of how disastrous the change would be: unemployment, inflation, collapse of law and order, etc. There is very little chance that such a policy change would take place. Therefore its feasibility is very low.
Political Climate. Needless to say this change is unacceptable to the Cuban opposition in exile and many inside Cuba who have endured Castro’s despotism, although it has been encouraged by several prominent dissidents.
Therefore, it is unlikely such an option will obtain legitimacy. For that reason, it is also unlikely it could lead to the normalization of relations with the United States, although the pressure to do so would increase very significantly, since the last obstacle for the U.S. ending the isolation of Cuba would have disappeared. Latin America and Western Europe would certainly welcome it. Under such circumstances, obtaining international acceptance is doubtful.
This outcome could create an orderly climate for the transition, such as has been the case in Chile and some of the Eastern European countries, and was the great accomplishment of Franco in Spain. Unpleasant as it is in terms of one’s personal feelings, it could be the less bloody of the transition outcomes, will enjoy the support of the repressive apparatus of the state and provide a coherent political leadership for the necessary economic decision making, although it is doubtful Castro will accept the dissipation of central authority unavoidable in a move towards political liberalization and a market based economy.
B. Castro’s Removal Without a Conspiracy.
This outcome could occur as the result of the actions of a lone assassin escaping Castro’s extraordinary security or due to natural death.
Feasibility. This is one of the most difficult outcomes to analyze since nobody can predict when or how they may occur, depending as they do on the will of an individual to risk his life or on Mother Nature. But, indeed it is a feasible outcome no matter its unpredictability.
Political climate. Such an event would lead initially to a transition long planned by Castro himself, since for quite some time Raúl has been the designated heir. The change in the Constitution allowing Castro to declare a state of emergency and assume even more powers than he has at present addresses such a situation. However, Raúl lacks Fidel’s charisma and would be forced to rule in some collegiate form. Once the opening starts, he will be less likely than Fidel to have enough control to provide a stable climate for the transition, although he is known to have been an advocate of liberalization and not totally antagonistic to Glasnost and Perestroika. Challenges to the new order would come from dissidents, labor unions, displaced party leaders and the many officers within MINFAR, and particularly MININT, who have contempt for Raúl. The possibility of attaining legitimacy will be very low.
Externally, the Cuban opposition in exile will be as opposed to normalization of U.S. relations as if Fidel stays in power. However, U.S. domestic public opinion and economic interests are likely to be unwilling to accompany the exile community on this position. For Latin America and Western Europe the change will be acceptable, subject perhaps to conditions on restoration of democracy and respect for human rights. In other words, obtaining international acceptance is doubtful.
Regardless of what the U.S. and the foreign community do, turbulence is a certainty under this outcome and civil war or a coup d’etat could be a possibility. The control of the repressive capacity of the state is likely to be challenged. Under such conditions, the government is likely to be unstable and therefore, the climate for economic policy formulation could be doubtful.
C. A Coup D’Etat.
Despite the measures taken by Castro to make this outcome very difficult, such as rotation of commanders, severe intelligence monitoring within the armed forces, limited distribution of ammunition to units and even separate armies leading to a dispersion of control of troops, the overall deterioration of the internal situation does not permit this outcome to be ruled out completely.
Feasibility. For this to occur, it would be necessary for a consensus to develop among military commanders, and perhaps some political leaders, that Castro’s continuation in power is a bigger threat to the interests of the armed forces than his removal from power. Perhaps an event that gets out of control and forces the army to make a hard choice, such as having to repress a popular demonstration because increased police abuses under the SUVP or a protest by farmers who are now being threatened with having their land taken away if they don’t sell their products to Government “acopio” agencies, may be the trigger event for the coup.
At present, the high profile of exile leaders projecting themselves as “protagonists” in a post-Castro government, with their image within Cuba of being intent on a policy of restoration of the past and revenge, is the greatest asset Castro has to discourage this outcome. Castro is openly playing this theme in his domestic propaganda along with the threat of a U.S. invasion. Unfortunately, that is the biggest flaw in the present U.S policy towards Cuba. The Administration has issued low profile statements to reassure those potential plotters inside the regime that, if they move, we will accept and support them. At the same time, the Bush Administration provides a high profile support for right wing elements in the exile community which undermine the credibility of the low profile statements and convey the image of an intention to try to impose on Cuba a leadership to the liking of the U.S. This is an area in which the outcome of the U.S. elections could change the situation radically. However, that will require that a Clinton Administration include among its promised changes to free U.S. foreign policy towards Cuba from the present PAC financed right wing stranglehold.
Political climate. Such an option could involve so many variations that it is hard to anticipate what climate will result. If the consensus is broad within the armed forces and the commanders of the three armies are in, it would lead to a transition similar to the ones that have taken place all over the Eastern Bloc in which the armed forces provided a factor of stability as the communist regimes were dismantled. Legitimacy would be reinforced if the Assembly of Popular Power has been elected by direct vote as is proposed and somehow emerges during the transition as a forum for the required institutional changes. If previous experiences are an indication, once the dominant figure of Castro is out of the scene, a collegiate body such as the Assembly is likely to attempt to assert its constitutional powers. More so if it is vested with the legitimacy of being elected by direct vote.
Once the coup occurs, however, it will immediately take a life of its own. The desire of the exile community rank and file to help their relatives in Cuba is likely to override the political ambitions of their more conservative leaders and support for an opening towards Cuba is likely to prevail, vesting the regime with a semblance of legitimacy. Pressure on the U.S. from all sources, in particular Latin America and Western Europe, will be such that it is hard to visualize a long delay in lifting the embargo, although normalization of relations may take a little longer. In other words, the possibility of obtaining international acceptance is high.
Control of repressive capacity would depend on how broad is popular acceptance of the emerging leadership. By definition, if they are capable of taking power, it must be assumed they will have control of substantial forces. If that situation obtains, it would be the most favorable climate for reconstruction and the formulation of economic policy. However, if there is a split between a significant number of diehard Castro loyalists and the plotters, then there could be a civil war and the conditions of turbulence and instability would make control of repressive capacity doubtful. As a consequence, the formulation of sound economic policy for reconstruction would be equally doubtful. Has anybody heard of any investments, foreign or domestic, in Yugoslavia or Armenia?
D. A Popular Explosion.
This would be the most violent of the outcomes, since it would mean that the revolutionary propensity bottled-up by Castro’s repression reached a point that it exceeded the repressive capacity of the state, with the likely outcome of a disintegration of the regime and the armed forces, as well as a total breakdown of law and order.
Feasibility. The more Castro delays his departure or setting the machinery for an orderly transfer of power, the more likely that the armed forces will become discredited as it happened to the army under Batista in Cuba 1958 or the Guardia Nacional under Somoza in Nicaragua. Particularly, if they become associated with repression.
The Cuban armed forces are the most prestigious institution of the revolutionary regime. Millions of Cubans have served in the military and the success of “internationalism” has been a source of national self importance and pride. The professionalization of the armed forces and their external projection spared them the repressive role that has so discredited the armed forces in Latin America. But, after the trial of General Ochoa they are being dragged into internal repression. First, with the takeover of the MININT by Raúl’s protege General Abelardo Colomé and them with the appointment of General Sixto Batista to oversee the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution. The increased disaffection of the population has led to the creation of the SUVP and the rapid response battalions. Sometime in the future it is not impossible to visualize a situation of significant disturbances. Government measures are clear indication that the regime so anticipates. If that happens, there are two choices for the armed forces, to repress brutally in a bloodbath or to refuse to do so and rebel instead. The future options for Cuba will be decided at that crucial moment. That is why it is so important and urgent for those who may face such a dilemma to have a clear alternative reassuring them that they will be accepted by the exile community and the U.S.
Political climate. Popular explosions usually lead to fragmentation of authority and chaos. The divisions of the exile community and the dissident movement within the island is a good indication of what will be the situation under this outcome. The more violent the transition, the less likely that there will be a central authority having legitimacy, international recognition, control of repressive capacity and enough political cohesion to take the decisions required to bring an orderly transition and create a climate conducive to whatever economic policy is more attractive for the reconstruction. It does not matter if it is the shock treatment or the gradualist approach. Either one requires a government in charge capable of discharging its functions. Under mob rule that is not possible. On the other hand, this option could trigger either a coup d’etat or a U.S. intervention.
E. A U.S. Intervention.
This outcome could result either from chaos inside Cuba or from a deliberate provocation by Castro. It would be a historical disaster for both countries. At the time of the Bay of Pigs, the wisest decision made by President Kennedy, after making the great mistake of buying the plan presented to him for the operation, was to refuse to be dragged into an intervention. There are many who do not share this viewpoint and argue that merely an air strike would have been enough. However, the death and destruction an intervention would have brought to Cuba would have been very high, since resistance would have been intense even from revolutionaries critical of Castro. And, by crushing the high Cuban nationalist expectations prevailing at the time, it would have generated a wave of resentment that would still be haunting us.
Feasibility. Fortunately, there is only a remote possibility this could happen. There are some elements within the
U.S. military who believe this option should be considered, particularly now that there is no threat of a Soviet reaction escalating to a nuclear conflict. This is reinforced by influential groups in the exile community who downplay the nationalist feelings aroused by Castro as a temporary thing that is being discredited by the failure of the regime. So far, this position has failed to elicit support, but could gain acceptance if there is chaos and bloodshed in Cuba or Castro decides to end his regime, once he becomes convinced there is no hope for him, with a final provocation against his hated enemy the U.S.
Political climate. The legitimacy of the resulting regime would be highly questionable, although there is no doubt that there will a percentage of people who, out of disillusion with the experience of self-rule in Cuba with Machado, Batista and now Castro, or out of sheer opportunism, would support it. This is a small minority, probably with more advocates among those in exile than among those inside Cuba. As to international acceptance, Latin America cannot and will not do anything, and much less Western Europe, except for a few lofty “deplore” and “encourage” resolutions at the OAS and the UN. But the resulting regime will have more difficulty in gaining international acceptance than the post-invasion government in Panama which, after all, had won an election.
Control of repressive forces would be ensured by the American presence, but a constant resistance is highly likely to be faced. Cuba has crossed thresholds in its historical evolution as an independent nation that many people, in particular among the young, are unlikely to abandon in exchange for material well being. Nationalism is the most powerful force today in the world. Current events show clearly that people are more likely to die for the right to be of their nation, region, race or culture than for the right to consume material goods, even if they like to have them. The experience of the Soviet Bloc is a dramatic reminder of the pervasiveness and intensity of nationalism. To ignore it in Cuba would be foolish and tragic.
The burden of reconstruction would be on the U.S. under this outcome and, therefore, the policy will be formulated outside Cuba as it happened under the American occupation at the beginning of the century. Under those conditions, what the Cuban government will decide or how coherent their policy is would be irrelevant.
F. Summary Evaluation of Political Climates.
The above brief review of the various alternative outcomes to the Cuban dilemma can be summarized for purposes of comparison in a table showing for each outcome considered how they would meet the criteria set for facilitating reconstruction and economic policy making. For each criterium, the various alternative are rated in terms of whether their chances of meeting them is very low, low, doubtful or high. Keep in mind that this table does not address the issue of feasibility of each outcome. However, it is revealing that none of the outcomes is totally favorable in the resulting comparison. This reflects the unfortunate reality facing us and may explain in some way why Castro is able to continue in power: no clear alternative has emerged yet capable of reconciling the diverse forces involved in the Cuban situation.
EVALUATION OF ALTERNATIVE OUTCOMES
Alternative Political International Control and Economic Outcomes Legitimacy Acceptance Law Enforcement Policies
Castro Policy change Very Low Doubtful High High Castro out Raúl in Very Low Doubtful Doubtful Doubtful
A Coup d’ Etat High-Doubtful High High-doubtful High-doubtful A popular explosion Very low Very low Very low Very low
A U.S. intervention Very low Doubtful High-Doubtful High
As far as economic policy-making, the one outcome offering the best mix of evaluations is the coup d’etat. It seems to offer the optimum combination of decision-making, control of repressive capacity, potential legitimacy for the transition and international acceptance. At the other end of the spectrum, a popular explosion leading to chaos and anarchy would provide the worse climate for everything. The continuation of Castro in power would create a favorable climate for decision-making, since Castro would control the decisions himself, were he to decide to change policy. This is unlikely to happen, however, because Castro himself has ruled it out in no uncertain terms. Besides, this outcome is unlikely to generate legitimacy or international acceptance. Raúl replacing his brother would be an unworkable outcome because his lack of charisma would drift into a doubtful control of repressive capacity and decision-making, with a very low possibility of attaining legitimacy and doubtful international acceptance. Finally, under the U.S. intervention outcome, economic decision-making is likely to have a high degree of cohesiveness, although its direction may depend on the Administration in power at the time. The evaluation of this outcome is mixed on the other factors. But legitimacy would be very low and international acceptance will be doubtful, particularly in Latin America. An apocalyptic ending seems to appeal to Castro and should not be ruled out. Were he to succeed, it would be the last sacrifice of the Cuban people for the sake of Castro’s personal ambition for glory and a place in history.
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