When capitalism entered the stage of imperialism at the beginning of the twentieth century, the foundation was being laid for the passing of the torch of leadership of the global socialist revolution from Russia and Western Europe to the colonized and semi-colonized peoples of the Third World. So writes Cuban scholar and former diplomat Jesus Arboleya (2008:3-24) in his insightful book, La Revolución del Otro Mundo (The Revolution of the Other World), which analyzes the parallel histories of the United States and Cuba.
Cuba indeed is emblematic of the revolutions of the Third World. One finds in Cuba the dynamics that everywhere are present in the Third World: colonial conquest and peripheralization, anti-colonial movement, transition to neocolonial republic, and anti-neocolonial revolution. But furthermore, it can be said that one finds these dynamics in their most advanced expression. As a result, from Cuba, one can obtain a profound grasp of the meaning of domination, revolution, and socialism.
In this section of the blog, Cuban History, are found fifty blog posts that were initially published from June 12 to September 29, 2014. They point to seven important lessons to be learned from the Cuban Revolution, understood as a project of popular social reconstruction that has been continually evolving from 1868 to the present.
(1) Third World revolutions are defined fundamentally by the colonial/neocolonial situation. They seek to transform those structures that have been imposed by colonialism and sustained by neocolonialism, particularly economic structures that ensure the super-exploitation of labor and the exploitation of natural resources by the colonial/neocolonial powers. They therefore above all seek true independence and the development of a just and democratic world-system that respects the equal sovereignty of all nations.
(2) Whereas Western historians have retreated from “great man” interpretations of history, careful observation of unfolding revolutionary processes cannot avoid recognition of the importance of charismatic leaders in revolutionary processes, leaders with an exceptional capacity to understanding structures of domination and the road to liberation, and with a gift for the art of politics. In the case of Cuba, these charismatic leaders have included José Martí, Julio Antonio Mella, Rubén Martínez Villena, Anontio Guiteras and Fidel Castro.
(3) Whereas classical Marxism emphasized the role of the proletariat in the vanguard of socialist revolutions, careful observation reveals that revolutionary leaders emerge principally from the radical wing of the petit bourgeoisie. Moreover, popular organizations central to mass action and movement include not only workers’ organizations but also those of students, women, and peasants. The socialist revolution is not exactly a workers’ revolution, but more precisely, a popular revolution.
(4) Cuba was the first US experience in neocolonial domination. The Cuban Republic of 1902 to 1959 was the model for US neocolonial domination on a world-scale following 1946. When neocolonial domination is functioning well, direct military intervention is not necessary. However, with the relative decline of the United States since 1968 and the re-emergence of Third World movements since 1995, the United States has had to increasing turn to neofascist military interventions. Neocolonialism is eroding, and the neocolonial world-system confronts a profound crisis that it cannot resolve. But an alternative world-system, more just and democratic, is emerging in the Third World.
(5) Third World revolutions are integral and comprehensive. Their charismatic leaders appropriate from different social and historical contexts, including the bourgeois and proletarian revolutions of the West. They have a tendency to incorporate new insights as they emerge, such as the principle of gender equality and the need to respect nature. Third World revolutions have accomplished the integration of issues of race, ethnicity, class, gender and ecology; and they have done so on a foundation of both theory and practice.
(6) Third World revolutions have expanded and deepened the meaning of democracy. For the Third World, political democracy is popular, and not merely representative. And democracy includes social and economic rights as well as the rights of nations to sovereignty and development. Western “democratic” governments accuse Third World revolutionary governments of being undemocratic and violating human rights, basing the claims on the fact that they have developed alternative structures. But this is mere demagogy, designed to confuse the peoples of the North, and to some extent, the South.
(7) Third World revolutions today have reached their most advanced stage. They are constructing an alternative world-system is theory and practice precisely at an historic moment in which the world-system is experiencing terminal structural crisis and is spiraling toward chaos. Therefore, Cuba and the Third World revolution is showing humanity the way. We intellectuals and activists of the North have much to learn from Cuba, Latin America and the Third World.
This category of Cuban History also includes two more recent posts. (1) The first of two posts occasioned by the proclamation by Raul Castro of the new Cuban Constitution at an Extraordinary Session of the National Assembly on April 10, 2019. The post reflects on the influence of the historic Cuban struggle for national liberation and social transformation on the remarkable generation that led the Cuban Revolution for six decades. (2) A post on the Cuban “Special Period” of the early 1990s, following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the socialist bloc. It was published on August 1, 2016, as part of a series of posts on the Third World project (found in the category Third World). These two more recent posts appear first, followed by the fifty posts of June 12 to September 29, 2014, which are in chronological order.
Arboleya, Jesús. 2008. La Revolución del Otro Mundo: Un análisis histórico de la Revolución Cubana. La Habana: Editorial de Ciencias Sociales.