Cuba – break with forms of dependency



The maintenance of a national project defined by autonomy and the construction of a social perspective in opposition to capitalism and imperialism

This brief article discusses and reflects on recent Cuban and Brazilian episodes. In a time of counterrevolution and continued social struggle in Latin America, especially at a time when the historical setback that imposed itself as an irrational shadow in Brazil is now being credibly questioned by street disputes, critically returning to the Cuban revolutionary experience seems to us a formidable invitation to discuss the future of our continent. However, the Cuban experience becomes more formidable beyond its origins and the rebelliousness of its leaders, it becomes a peculiar case study in enduring a stupid continental blockade that would have broken any other nation and that has lasted more than 60 years. .

We can say that, in a way, the Cuban Revolution fulfilled and in the current context it still fulfills, even with several problems, a historical dazzle of one of the first Latin American Marxists, who, due to his astuteness and enormous sense of reality, conceived that the construction of a a properly Latin American socialist project would be a “heroic creation”, I am referring to José Mariátegui, who in a text still from the 1930s exhorts that socialism in Latin America “could not be a copy of any other historical experiment”, being, very probably the result of an unusual social and “heroic” organizational capacity due to the degree of resistance to US imperialism.[1]

What made Cuba and its Revolution something so different, as well as what made the Cuban people so resilient to the gigantic pressure of the “Leviathan” of the North, supporting the economic logic of imperialist capitalism, very strongly in the current neoliberal moment and, as even in the face of to the end of real Soviet socialism, it maintained the perspective of sovereign autonomy and the construction of socialism. After 63 years, the Cuban revolution retains much of its attraction, and the interaction and social and economic changes that took place are covered by many elements that are worth analyzing, as well as the new pressures of international capitalism and the imperialist executioner, as well as the difficulties imposed by an economic blockade that would have already imploded any society.

In order to carry out the analysis and exposition, we make use of the Marxist theory of dependency, something that we have already done in other articles published on this site, but the perception that guides us gives rise to concatenating the historical forms of dependency that were imposed in Latin America and how the Cuban Revolution represents a unique moment for Latin American societies in breaking with these forms of dependence.

In recent decades, the characteristics of dependence of Latin American societies on central capitalism have intensified, deepening the contradictions between high technology production centers and this periphery, increasingly focused on the production of natural resources, a pattern of productive reprimarization, a new level of classic contradiction of “unequal exchange”, in which dependent countries export basic products that do not require the introduction of technologies developed internally to expand accumulation, where production is based on mechanisms of overexploitation of the workforce or the intensive extraction of natural resources , or in more recent terms a growing “accumulation by dispossession”.[2]

The super-exploitation of the worker is an essential feature of production in dependent countries. Given the conditions to subject the worker to this situation, three fundamental mechanisms of labor exploitation can be observed - the increase in the intensity of work, the increase in the working hours and the reduction in the consumption of the worker, beyond its normal limit, denying the worker the necessary conditions to replace the wear and tear of its workforce, something expressed in the deplorable living conditions of most of the Latin American population, especially in realities such as Brazil.

As discussed in another article (, it is possible to distinguish four historical forms of dependence conditioned, firstly, by the very laws of development of the world economy; by the type of dominant economic relationship in the capitalist centers and by the ways in which they expand and, finally, by the types of economic relationships existing in peripheral countries that are incorporated into the situation of dependency within the network of international economic relationships generated by capitalist expansion.

Latin American nations fall into the historical forms of dependence, with some experiences of partial rupture and establishment of greater degrees of national sovereignty, but cyclically, to a large extent, they return to the structural peripheral condition. The case of Cuba is fundamental due to the radical rupture that took place and how the development of the revolutionary process led to a model to be carefully analyzed, mainly due to the isolation and cruel economic blockade imposed during such a long period of time and its resistance.

The conditions imposed by the initial forms of dependence (colonial and financial-industrial) led to the existence of internal markets restricted by four factors: (i) most of the national income derived from exports, controlled by the export sector. Since in the Cuban case it was largely American; (ii) the workforce was subjected to various forms of super-exploitation, which limited its consumption capacity; (iii) a portion of these workers' consumption took place through the subsistence economy, which functioned as a complement to their income and as a refuge in periods of economic depression; and (iv) a large part of the accumulated surplus was remitted abroad in the form of profits and interest, limiting not only domestic consumption, but possibilities for reinvestment.

The third form of dependence, the technological-industrial one, was consolidated based on two limitations that defined the continuity of underdevelopment: the preservation of the traditional export sector that generates foreign exchange and the coupling to a secondary market of machinery produced in a highly concentrated international market and centralized, basically preventing the expansion of the department producing machines and new technologies in peripheral countries.

The fourth form of dependence is established from the 1990s onwards, returning to a pattern of dependence on productive specialization. Latin America entered the XNUMXst century marked by signs of the resurgence of the classic forms of dependence, but constituted a new pattern of capital reproduction established in almost every region centered on the productive specialization of agricultural and mineral commodities and a growing loss of national sovereign capacity.

The ability to maintain a national project defined by autonomy and the construction of a social perspective in opposition to capitalism and US imperialism itself, made the Cuban Revolution a landmark for the analysis of post-revolutionary societies, whether due to its permanence (60 years), either because of the adverse conditions it was subjected to, because of the proximity of the Empire, especially after the crisis and the end of the former USSR, with the imposition of the new world capitalist neoliberal dynamics in recent decades.

The way Cuba developed in the period prior to the Revolution is very similar to what happened in countries like Brazil and Argentina. Including the weight that the Cuban economy had at the time in relation to other Latin American countries, with its economy in 1950 being the fifth largest on the continent, only surpassed by Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and Venezuela. The establishment of the machinery production department never took place on the island, and as in the rest of the continent, the import substitution process was restricted to consumer goods, maintaining the condition of sugar production and supply to the US market.

Cuba was tied to the first two historical forms of dependence, it is worth noting that the conditions of subordination were given both to England and mainly to the USA. The slave-colonial regime of sugar production was similar to the one that developed in northeastern Brazil,[3] either because of the productive way, based on black slavery, or because of the condition of being an export enclave.

The extensive sugar regime absorbed all the work and all the land, sucking up the wealth of the island and transforming everything into that exportable “white gold”, leaving a trail of infertility in the soil and poverty for its population, even if it constituted, at its side, a “ saccharocracy” that “brought a polish to its deceitful fortune while enshrining Cuba’s dependence”.[4]

This colonial dependency, centered on the production and export of a single product and established on the basis of slavery, was cosmetically altered throughout the XNUMXth century with increasing influence and control by US capital. Like other dependent economies, the economic form “outside” of the pre-revolution Cuban social and economic formation, based on sugar monoculture, existed according to two central conditions: the cyclical rhythm of the world economy and its capacity to acquire sugar and the capacity for productive expansion through the extension of arable land, this due to that labor was never a problem in these primary-export economies.

In the case of Cuba, there was still a third problem, its umbilical subordination to the US market and to US control of the sugar production system. US meddling in Cuban internal affairs goes back a long way, it is worth remembering that shortly after the Cuban war of independence, in 1902 a Constitutional Amendment (Platt Amendment) was approved allowing the United States to exercise the right of intervention in the sense of “preserving Cuban independence”.[5] With that, Cuba became, in reality, a US protectorate, like Puerto Rico. Thus, on the eve of the revolution “Cuba sold almost all of its sugar to the United States” and “thirteen North American mills had more than 47% of the total sugar area”.[6]

The second and third forms of dependence rooted in Cuba its agrarian-export condition, and the circuits of industrial production, centered on sugar mills and financial control by US banks, developed a dynamic in which the logic of productive specialization became the main basis of relations between Cuba and the United States. The revolutionary rupture that took place in 1959 found Cuba under this third condition of dependence.

It is worth emphasizing that the dependent character of Latin American societies is related to a restricted sovereignty, this because the presence of the US imperialist force of attraction limits the capacity for action and geopolitical autonomy of our nations. It should be noted that the Cuban revolution was driven by the national struggle for independence, an incessant search for the establishment of a certain capacity for national sovereignty, with geopolitical, productive, technological aspects and the improvement of the living conditions of its population as central axes. Thus, sovereignty, considering the aspects mentioned above, emerges as the center of the revolutionary dispute, which will only become a dispute over a model of socialist economic reproduction when it becomes clear to the revolutionaries that US tutelage and the maintenance of underdevelopment were not autonomous issues, but combined. .

The debate in relation to the Cuban revolution, considering its continuity and the idea of ​​a permanent revolution, mainly in the new conjuncture posed by the intensification of US geopolitical power, on the one hand, there is the degree of rupture with the dependence and expansion of aspects of sovereignty placed in the previous period (still of the existence of the USSR). The degree of cultural maturation of the Cuban revolution, glimpsed in the autonomous organizations of society and its levels of intervention and self-organization made it possible for that society to develop a pattern that moved Cuba away from the restricted sovereignty placed on the rest of Latin America.

Despite the ideological appeal of the continental neighbor and its shameless opulence, the island's society has endured until now and developed a counterculture, a vision in opposition to commercialism and the culture of “everything can be bought” of Mephistopheles San. However, it also established a way of life based on a certain type of association, preservation of the environment and the quality of life of its population, factors that are so necessary to be thought about in this irrational turn of world capitalism.

Cuba holds the best Human Development Index (HDI) in Latin America, far ahead of most of the large continental countries (Mexico, Brazil, Argentina), and according to the UNDP (United Nations Development Program), the country Caribbean occupies the 67th position in the world among 188 countries, with a life expectancy at birth of 79 years and an average schooling of the population over 25 years of 11,5 years, which places Cuba in 30th place in this regard among the 188 countries evaluated by the UN (United Nations).[7]

The maintenance of the revolutionary process made it possible that, regardless of the end of real Soviet socialism and in the face of the criminal condition of US imperial power and its continental blockade that has lasted for more than 60 years, Cuba would maintain an unrestricted sovereign capacity and humanist reach both for its people but also for other peoples, as demonstrated by the actions of Cuban doctors in the recent Covid-19 epidemic.

Em History will absolve me, Fidel Castro's historic self-defence on the occasion of his arrest, after the frustrated attempt to take over the Moncada barracks, the future leader of the revolution stated that José Martí's books were prevented from reaching his hands, because he considered the 26th-century revolutionary and mastermind behind the XNUMXth of July Movement.[8] It is clear, therefore, that before becoming socialist, the Cuban Revolution was a movement to assert national sovereignty. Something similar was thought by Florestan Fernandes who alluded to aspects of “nationalism” and the “peculiarities of the national revolution in Cuba”.[9]

The debate on the determinations, limitations and peculiarities of this revolutionary experience will continue, but it is undeniable that even in the face of the tightening of the international embargo and the criminal US policy of continental blockade, Cuba obstinately re-enters the international geopolitical and economic game by offering extremely qualified medical services. and with biotechnology that curiously places it in this third decade of the XNUMXst century as a sovereign and inventively innovative People's Republic.

The future seems to establish the continuity of the saga of the Cuban people even in the face of the growing and stupid US imperial power of command. It is up to democrats and socialists of all nations to defend the Cuban experience and demand an end to the criminal US economic blockade.

*Jose Raimundo Trinidad He is a professor at the Institute of Applied Social Sciences at UFPA. Author, among other books, of Criticism of the Political Economy of the Public Debt and the Capitalist Credit System: a Marxist approach (CRV).


[1] José Carlos Mariátegui. For an Indo-American socialism. Selection and introduction: Michael Lowy. Rio de Janeiro: Editora UFRJ, 2011.

[2] David Harvey. The New Imperialism. São Paulo: Loyola, 2004.

[3] FURTADO, Celso. The Latin American economy: historical formation and contemporary problems. São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 2007 [1969].

[4] GALEANO, Eduardo. The open veins of Latin America. Porto Alegre: L&PM, 2010 [1970].

[5] AYERBE, Luis Fernando. The Cuban Revolution. São Paulo: Editora UNESP, 2004.

[6] GALEANO, Eduardo. The open veins of Latin America. Porto Alegre: L&PM, 2010 [1970].

[7] See

[8] CASTRO, Fidel. History will absolve me. São Paulo: Alfa – Omega, 1979.

[9] FERNANDES, F.. From guerrilla warfare to socialism: the Cuban Revolution. 3.ed. São Paulo: Popular Expression, 2012.

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