In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Cuban Political Development

  • Introduction
  • Reference Works
  • Revolutionary Politics in the 1960s
  • Consolidating Bureaucratic Socialism in the 1970s and 1980s
  • Social Policies and Their Effects on Society and Culture, 1960s–1980s
  • Political and Sexual Repression
  • The Collapse of the Soviet Union and the End of Fidel Castro’s Presidency
  • Post-1990 Cuban Scholarship: Proposals for Change and New Patterns of Participation
  • Social Issues, Old and New: Demography, Abortion, Prostitution, Race, and Religion
  • The Raúl Castro Presidency, 2006–
  • Domestic Implications of Cuba’s International Activities

Political Science Cuban Political Development
Jorge I. Domínguez
  • LAST REVIEWED: 16 September 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 15 January 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756223-0145


Before dawn on 1 January 1959, President Fulgencio Batista fled Cuba. Insurgents led by Fidel Castro (one among several insurgent groups) soon established control over the national territory. Fidel Castro served as Cuba’s prime minister and then also as president of the Council of State from 1959 until 2006. His brother Raúl Castro succeeded him; in 2018, he stepped down from his government roles while remaining first secretary of the Communist Party. The ruling teams have changed only very gradually—six of the seventeen-member Political Bureau chosen at the Sixth Communist Party Congress, held in 2016, had eight members born in 1945 or earlier, the first time this older group ceded the Political Bureau majority, and nine born between 1958 and 1967. The years since 1959 encompass four periods. The first, the revolutionary decade of the 1960s, endeavored to transform many aspects of public life and private behavior, in a context of a failing economy, under Fidel Castro’s highly personalized rule. The second, during the 1970s and 1980s, featured the development of the Communist Party and state institutions akin to those prevalent in other communist countries, more orthodox central planning of the economy, with strong backing and funding from the Soviet Union, as well as the deployment of hundreds of thousands of Cuban troops and civilians overseas. The third, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, during the 1990s until 2006, exhibited a painful adjustment to greatly diminished economic circumstances and a mixed strategy to enact policy changes, some reminiscent of the 1960s and others pointing toward a market-oriented opening. The fourth, since 2006 under Raúl Castro’s leadership as Communist Party first secretary, adding since 2018 Miguel Díaz-Canel as president of the republic, has been marked by a gradual, albeit still limited, shift toward market-oriented policies and limited elements of political liberalization along with a tilt toward collective leadership and planned political succession. Across the four time periods, noteworthy changes have occurred in the economy, polity, and society, as well as in Cuba’s international circumstances.

Reference Works

The vast bibliographic output regarding the Cuban revolution, revolutionary rule, and bureaucratic socialism in Cuba has been addressed by published bibliographies and also synthesized in some overarching edited works that seek to provide general overviews of Cuban politics, economics, and society. Cuban Studies, which began publishing in the early 1970s, is the longest-standing and most comprehensive scholarly journal on Cuba, covering principally history and the social sciences before and after the revolution. International Journal of Cuban Studies, which began publishing in 2008, is a valuable, informative journal. Valdés and Lieuwin 1971, Chilcote and Lutjens 1986, and Pérez 1988 identify bibliographic sources for research across topics in the study of Cuba, with special attention to the revolutionary 1950s and 1960s. Pérez 2006 is an excellent standard textbook. Halebsky and Kirk 1985 and Horowitz and Suchlicki 1998 (and Horowitz’s prior editions of this work) compile leading articles on a wide array of topics about politics, economics, and society in revolutionary Cuba. The Anuario estadístico de Cuba is the essential reference for official Cuban statistics. Castro 2007 features Fidel Castro’s reflection on his life and work through a long interview with Ignacio Ramonet.

  • Anuario estadístico de Cuba. 1971–.

    Produced by Cuba’s official statistics publisher, Oficina Nacional de Estadísticas e Información (ONEI). This publication is its broadest compilation of annual statistical data. The ONEI also oversees the publication of selective information from Cuba’s nearly decennial population census and publishes reports on various social and economic topics. The Anuario estadístico constitutes Cuba’s longest statistical record. Its predecessor for the 1960s, called the Boletín estadístico de Cuba, was thin and incomplete.

  • Castro, Fidel. My Life: Fidel Castro. Edited by Ignacio Ramonet. London: Allen Lane, 2007.

    Wide-ranging, informative autobiography presented as a long interview. During Castro’s last year as Cuba’s president, Ignacio Ramonet interviewed him at length and in detail regarding his private and public life and edited the transcript. No question was adversarial and only a few were critical. Castro’s staff supplemented the interview with additional information and vetted the text.

  • Chilcote, Ronald H., and Sheryl Lutjens, eds. Cuba: 1953–1978: A Bibliographic Guide to the Literature. 2 vols. White Plains, NY: Kraus International, 1986.

    This two-volume bibliographic guide addresses the insurgencies of the 1950s, revolutionary rule in the 1960s, and the shift to formalize governing entities and practices in the 1970s.

  • Cuban Studies. 1975–.

    This journal has published articles, book reviews, and bibliographies. The articles cut across disciplines, tilting toward the social sciences from the 1970s to the 1990s, history to about 2014, and a broader mix of the social sciences and history since 2015. The bibliographies were wide-ranging across many topics and disciplines in the social sciences and the humanities, but their publication stopped with volume 40 (2009). Book review publication continued.

  • Halebsky, Sandor, and John M. Kirk, eds. Cuba: Twenty Five Years of Revolution, 1959 to 1984. New York: Praeger, 1985.

    Twenty-five chapters on society, culture, economy, politics, and foreign policy provide synthetic overviews of the first quarter century of Fidel Castro’s government. The economic growth spurt of the 1970s and early 1980s, with Soviet funding, fostered social-development investments and consolidated bureaucratic socialist governance. The book was published at the end of revolutionary Cuba’s best fifteen years of economic growth.

  • Horowitz, Irving Louis, and Jaime Suchlicki, eds. Cuban Communism. 9th. ed. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 1998.

    There have been nine editions of this volume, the last in 1998 was co-edited with Jaime Suchlicki. Horowitz’s focus shifted over time from an interest in revolutionary process to a focus on authoritarian rule. These very large books also cover society, economy, politics, and international relations, addressing subject matter from the 1960s through the 1990s, though each edition concentrates on the years closest to the respective publication dates.

  • International Journal of Cuban Studies. 2008–.

    This journal features scholarly articles, shorter reports by journalists, and book reviews. A valuable journal, it tilts in support of Cuban official views.

  • Pérez, Louis A., Jr. Cuba: An Annotated Bibliography. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1988.

    Pérez’s research and writing has focused on Cuba’s history in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but a large portion of his work has ranged well into the post-1959 decades. In this comprehensive bibliography, he highlights works from the entire span of his research.

  • Pérez, Louis A., Jr. Cuba: Between Reform and Revolution. 3d ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.

    Broad-ranging textbook, with a principal focus on the years before 1959 but synthetic accounts of social, economic, and political processes for the decades after 1959. It emphasizes the role of social processes, as well as structural constraints and opportunities, rather than on who does what to whom in Cuban politics.

  • Valdés, Nelson P., and Edwin Lieuwin, eds. The Cuban Revolution: A Research-Study Guide, 1959–1969. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1971.

    A comprehensive listing of publications during the revolutionary decade of the 1960s, with broad coverage of political, economic, and social changes.

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