What is clear from both analysis and observation is that there is still a strong internal support for, and popular commitment to, the changes being effected by the Government of Cuba. Nevertheless, popular reports reaching the rest of the Caribbean through the traditional North Atlantic media generally suggest widespread disaffection. The most recent reports of “large-scale” emigration are used, for example, to substantiate the case. It is necessary, therefore, to consider this particular example in a proper perspective.
It may not be unreasonable to regard emigration from any country as an indicator of internal conflict, of one sort or another, within the system. Moreover, since the active model involves a process of integration and the complete erosion of the plantation system, it is natural that it carries with it the seeds of internal conflict. But the creation of internal conflict is not a special property of the active model; it is a feature of any process of economic and social change. Thus the “large-scale” emigration from Cuba since the Revolution must be regarded in the same light as the proportionately greater rates of emigration, of admittedly a different class of people, from Puerto Rico, Jamaica and other Caribbean countries operating with the passive model. It is the nature of the conflict in each case which is, therefore, relevant. In the passive case, it is the bulk of the population while in the active model, it is a relatively small proportion which, in each case, tends to be alienated by the functioning of the system. And it is mostly from the alienated groups that the migrant comes.
The argument here is not meant to imply that there has been absolutely no disillusionment of individuals and groups (inside Cuba) with the course of the Revolution. It is meant instead to establish that there are several meaningful indicators of popular support. One such indicator is the response to official public meetings. Cubans still turn out in hundreds of thousands to hear the Prime Minister wherever he speaks. In Havana, a city of about a million, average attendance is about the same number; and some 600,000 came to hear the 26th of July (1965) speech in Santa Clara, a city of under 150,000 located in the middle of the island. All this in what is a relatively large country with fairly wide radio and television coverage.
Clearly, there is much significance to Prime Minister Castro’s public challenge to a visiting American newspaperman during that speech at Santa Clara when he stated:
“Let him take pictures, let him take films and see if in Washington, New York or anywhere else they can raise the enthusiasm of more than five hundred thousand citizens. Let’s see if any of those puppet governments of Brazil, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Paraguay and other . . . . if any one, or all of them together are capable of bringing together half a million people like those who are meeting here today …. A crowd, large or small, can always be assembled by different means, but what it is not possible to create is the enthusiasm of this crowd.”
Any witness of the occasion could not possibly disagree.
The resolve of the Cuban people to meet head-on the overwhelming military might of the United States (with or without Khrushchev) in the October 1962 crisis, and their constant resistance against mercenary raids are other earlier examples. Yet another, and more recent indicator, is the fact that thousands volunteered to help harvest the 1965 sugar crop, in response to government appeal. In the light of the evidence, it is perhaps not far from the truth to say that perhaps no other government in the world today and certainly none other in the New World can claim as strong a popular support.
This kind of support with the strong national morale which it promotes is a pre-condition for the development of an internal dynamic for change. But it is clear that the permissive external relations must be such as not to create an inordinate dependence on another metropolitan power, for that would simply amount to a shift in the location of control between centres outside the society. The “Marxist-Leninist” posture of the government and its economic and military policies are suggestive of too strong a dependence on the Soviet Union; and leave many in doubt. It is necessary, therefore, to consider what factors gave rise to this dependence in order to understand the nature of it and how it affects, or is likely to affect, the operation of the active model.
The choice of model was initially contemplated mainly on the basis of a strong internal resolve to do away with the plantation system and its characteristic features. But it created external conflicts with the metropolitan power which, up to then, had provided external support and eventually led to a withdrawal of that support. What then? The active model had no ideological foundations – no complementary scheme of ideas. No body of doctrine of direct relevance to Caribbean society has yet been developed. And since the rest of the region was on the whole content to operate within the framework of the passive model, as was clear after the capitulation on Chaguaramas, Cuba stood alone without any regional support. In view of this, the uncritical adoption of any alien doctrine which could roughly conform with the perspective of the active model can be understood. Socialism or what? Even when the phase for planning and implementation was reached, Cuba was not able to draw on relevant planning models since the social scientists of the region have yet to formulate models relevant to the plantation economy. Again, Cuba had no choice in borrowing uncritically planning techniques from the Soviet Union and eastern Europe.
In the second place, it can be argued that as a relatively small primary exporting country (and in the absence of regional support), a structural external dependence is inevitable – if only in the short run. The legacy of the past dictated that Cuba must sell large quantities of sugar abroad to acquire the capital goods required for any contemplated economic transformation. As a major source of world sugar supplies, it could have developed new market outlets within the framework of a new international agreement or through bilateral arrangements with large consuming countries. The former would require support from other sugar exporting countries; but as indicated already, this was not forthcoming – least of all from those countries within the region. Under the circumstances, then, the Soviet Union became a logical partner since it provided both ideological and economic support.
Cuba’s dependence on the Soviet Union can, therefore, be reasonably attributed partly to the failure of the rest of the Caribbean to provide the kind of support which was necessary to bring about some meaningful regional independence. It is a kind of structural dependence but, in addition, the economic policies of the Cuban government are suggestive of a functional dependence as well. (See McIntyre’s discussion of the two forms of dependence elsewhere in this issue). The long-term development programme is said to be based on the existing comparative advantage among the “socialist” bloc of countries. Thus, the direction for change would seem to be still in some ways directed from outside. The essence of the active model is the achievement of functional independence, in the first instance. But it could be that a certain level of functional dependence is tolerable in the early phases of the operation of the model. It could be consistent with the active framework only if it is generally recognized as a short term operational phenomenon. Whether or not this is the case inside Cuba today is difficult to judge.
On the one hand, a case can be made that the “socialist” content of education is likely to extend the existing functional dependence into a long run feature of the system. (No consideration is given to socialist imperialism. Imperialism is naively considered to be purely a capitalist phenomenon). But, at the same time, the Cuban government has on numerous occasions impressed on the population that their destiny is to be determined by them and them alone. After the Soviet withdrawal in the October 1962 crisis, the internal decision to face the crisis alone, was an important (if only temporary) rejection by the Cubans of the doctrine of imperial responsibility and of the long-standing Soviet-American agreement on respective “spheres of influence”. Furthermore, numerous extracts from the Prime Minister’s speeches reaffirming the principle of complete independence can be drawn into evidence. Only the future will tell whether this is merely perpetuated as a pious hope or whether it will at some later stage be transformed into reality. The outcome may depend as much on what happens in the rest of Caribbean as it will on whatever happens within Cuba.