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Cuba: Race, inequality and revolution

Complete text of Chapter Three, excerpted from
Cuba: Revolution in Motion


FOR MANY, the Cuban Revolution is, if not a model, then an example of a society built upon social justice, equality and equity. In some ways, it was an experiment upon whose success numerous hopes for a better world rested. Indeed, it can be argued that Cuba has done more than any other country to promote equality and equity, dismantle institutionalized racism and create racial harmony. However, in the wake of the economic crisis of the 1990s and changes in the economy (specifically, the introduction of "capitalist elements"), Cuba is confronting widening social inequality. Most disquieting is the resurgence of racism and racial inequality. Thus, the Cuban revolutionary process and experience offer profound and indispensable insights into the nature and reproduction of inequality and racism. The national project of social justice illustrates the successes and limitations of an enterprise based solely on structural transformation and the prism of class. Moreover, the economic crisis that began in the early 1990s - the "Special Period" - leads to the drawing of tentative, yet significant, conclusions surrounding the relationship of capitalism and socialism to racism and inequality.

While privileged strata have emerged as part of an incipient stratification, the inequality in Cuba does not approach the levels experienced elsewhere in the South, particularly in Latin America. Nevertheless, it is, by its very nature, a potent challenge to the egalitarian paradigm that has defined the Revolution, threatening to erode the material foundations upon which stand the spirit and practices of social solidarity, collectivism and socialist consciousness. While the process of the quantitative and qualitative material transformation of Cuban society had achieved tremendous progress and success during the first three decades of the Revolution, it was perforce incomplete. Thirty years is too short a time to overcome five centuries of slavery, colonialism and neo-colonialism, not to mention the impending crisis of the 1990s. The collapse of the U.S.S.R. and the Eastern Bloc, the ensuing economic crisis, the strengthening of the U.S. economic embargo and a resurgent imperialism in the mode of neoliberal globalism exerted tremendous pressures on the island. Indeed, the economic crash was spectacular, framing Cuba's entry into the Special Period.

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