Title: Class and gender in revolutionary Cuba
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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00081762/00001
 Material Information
Title: Class and gender in revolutionary Cuba
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Perez-Stable, Marifeli
Subject: Caribbean   ( lcsh )
Spatial Coverage: North America -- Cuba -- Caribbean
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Bibliographic ID: UF00081762
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.

Full Text

Perez-Stable, Marifeli

Class and Gender in Revolutionary Cuba


This study examines the relationship between political power,
development, social class, and gender in Cuba. It focuses on
the Central Organization of Cuban Trade Unions (CTC) and the Fed-
eration of Cuban Women (FMC) in view of development strategies,
state and party institutions, and social structure between 1959
and 1986. It also addresses these issues in Cuban society during
the two decades before the revolution.

From the 1930s to the 1950s, Cuba underwent rapid change.
In 1933-1934, a five-month nationalist government enacted legis-
lation to secure the rights of labor, women, and the middle
class. Successive governments in the 1930s flexed a strong stick
against social upheavals and consolidated many of the 1933-1934
gains. In 1938, Fulgencio Batista achieved an alliance with-the
Communist Party and allowed the reorganization of the labor move-
ment. Under Batista's auspices andcam st control, the CTC
was founded in 1939. In 1940, a new constitution emEiiTed a
compromise among classes. Its enactment symbolized the conclu-
sion of the 1930s social unrest and subsequent governments of
dubious legitimacy. Elections ushered in three governments
before Batista's coup d'etat in 1952. The unionized working
claa, (about 50 percent of the labor_for-ce, was a central factor
in that compromise. In the 1940s, unions succeeded in pressuring
the government to implement progressive legislation and to decide
labor-management disputes--more often than not--in favor of
labor. Social peace in Cuba conceded job security and generous
benefits to organized labor. The labor movement forged a close
relationship with the state to defend its gains.

The Cuban economy, however, could not sustain labor's gains
in the 1940s without compromising its future growth. Cuban capi-
talists clamored the state to formulate policies more attentive
to new investments and higher profit rates. World War II had
secured prosperity as markets for sugar expanded and prices rose.
After the war, Cuba was confronted by the stagnation of the sugar
industry (production levels were the same as in the 1920s, but
the population had doubled) and the prospects of contracted
markets at lower prices. In the 1940s and 1950s, economic devel-
opment programs were chartered in several quarters: the Chamber
of Commerce, the National Association of Industrialists, the
rWorld Bank, the CTC, the National Economic Council. All agreed
that the modernization of the sugar industry and the promotion of
light, processing industries were the mainstay of Cuba's future
progress. All--except the CTC--likewise agreed that a militant
labor movement and an interventionist state would deter progress.

By the 1950s, inroads had been made towards the fulfillment
of these strategies. One of the more significant was a more col-
laborationist labor movement. In 1947, the communists had been


Perez-Stable, Marifeli

.ousted from the CTC leadership. While initially more militant in
its demands than the communists, the new leadership soon moder-
ated its position on wage increases, working conditions, and
labor-saving technologies. It indeed appeared that Cuba was on
the right track.

In 1959, the revolution upstaged its direction. It estab-
lished a new social logic to development strategies. Improving
the standards of living of los humildes (the poor) constituted
the revolution's foremost objective. Its initial program of
agrarian and urban reforms, wage increases, tax reforms, utility
and telephone rate reductions, among others, raised popular
expectations and mobilized the opposition of the Cuban upper
classes and the United States. A popular momentum was enfran-
chised. Development strategies did not, however, depart radi-
cally from the visions of the 1940s and 1950s. An ill-conceived,
poorly implemented program of import-substitution industrializa-
tion and agricultural diversification which neglected the sugar
industry quickly gave way to a sugar-centered strategy of modern-.
ization, industrialization, and diversification. The socio-
political context in which these strategies were implemented was
fundamentally altered by the revolution.

The consolidation of the revolution brought the centraliza-
tion of power and the curtailment of political autonomy. A
militant and independent CTC (without precedent in prerevolution-
ary Cuba) was preempted by the revolutionary government. The
labor movement was reorganized to attend to economic development,
national defense, and all workers (not just the unionized sec-
tor). Founded in -1s5, the FMC did not build _upon-a-prerevolu-
tionary women's organization. It sought the mobilization of
women in support of the new government and their incorporation to
the labor force. Charismatic leadership and the vanguard party
formulated programs and policies intended to secure the revolu-
tion's survival and development. The organizational roles of the
CTC and the FMC and the scope of the "legitimate" demands of
workers and women in Cuban society were subordinated to national

Between 1959 and 1986, twoQvisions of socialism guided the
revolt i"n-. The _irst _predominated in the 196_s. It promoted
highly centralized economic planning, moral incentives, and
limited institutionalization. It did not accept the Soviet Union
as the model for socialism. Trade unions virtually disappeared
as vanguard workers (10 percent of the labor force) occupied cen-
ter stage. The FMC grew slowly during the decade. By 1970,
women had barely surpassed their prerevolutionary levels in the
labor force (from approximaety 1 percent to 18 percent). The
second predominated in the 1970s and early 1980s. It promoted
less centralized economic planning, material incentives, and a
process of institutionalization. It turned to the Soviet Union
for a blueprint to adapt to Cuban conditions. The labor movement

Perez-Stable, Marifeli

broadened its base. Ordinary workers became its focus. The FMC
iso expanded its membership and its presence in society as
omen's mass organization. The party-led institutionalization
partly allowed the CTC and the FMC to address the specific inter-
ests of workers and women. During 1986, the revolution underwent
Reconsideration of the second model and partially rejected its
remises. There was a resurgence of more centralized planning
end moral incentives. However, the institutions of the 1970s and
early 1980s were not challenged.

This study develops a historical perspective on social change
in Cuba. Its premise is that Cuban society provides the context
which allowed the revolutionary break. It analyzes the CTC and
the FMC in relation to party and state and in view of development
strategies and socialist models. It seeks to identify structural
determinants of social change in Cuba. The present study relates
to the literature on Cuba which identifies pre and post-
revolutionary society as the primary level of analysis and
research. It departs from a dominant theme in the literature
which focuses on elite struggles and Cuba's external dependency.


Class and Gender in Revolutionary Cuba will be a substantial
revision of my dissertation. I have started new research on
development strategies in the 1940s and 1950s and expanded upon
previous work on the CTC before the revolution. The gender ques-
tion before 1959 has yet to be investigated. Additional research
on the 1959-1961 period will also be undertaken. The book-length
manuscript will consist of six chapters: development in Cuba
before and after 1959; class and gender between the 1930s and
the 1950s; three chapters examining party and state institutions
in relation to the CTC and the FMC and in view of alternate
socialist models in the periods 1959-1961, 1961-1970, and 1970-
1986; a conclusion.

Primary sources and the secondary literature have been
extensively examined. Newspapers, periodicals, magazines, and
other primary sources for further research are available in the
New York Public Library or can be obtained through interlibrary
Loan. An ACLS Fellowship for Recent Recipients of the Ph.D.
would allow me to complete this research and enter the final
stage of writing.

In writing the dissertation and thinking about its revision,
I developed a related and equally important research interest.
In order to understand the origins and the development of the
revolution, it is crucial to learn about the strength of
reformist nationalism and the non-socialist options in Cuba
between the 1930s and 1950s. I plan to start research on this
topic in 1989.


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