An Unperfect Society: Socialist Cuba

This writing seeks to serve as a brief overview of the power structure of socialist Cuba, one of the 20th century's premier "unperfect societies."  Even a cursory look at this ossified structure will dispel many of the egalitarian myths surrounding revolutionary Cuba and serve as empirical confirmation for conservatives of the dismal effects revolutionary socialism can have (even upon even a petit nation of only a dozen million souls).

El Regimen (the Cuban regime) since its inception has been composed of more than those whose last name is Castro.  The process began with the immediate post-revolutionary corporate merger between Fidel's militants and the PSP or Partido Socialista Popular (an already pre-existing communist party).

This clique gradually expanded its membership and consolidated its strength over the next decade or so under the tutelage and patronage of Fidel Castro, carving out their own private fiefdoms within El Sistema (the Politico-Economic System In Cuba) as they did so.  This "new class" came to occupy all of the commanding heights of Cuban society vacated by the bourgeoisie and to enjoy its attendant privileges (power, money, status, prestige, et cetera).

Fidel Castro for the longest time sat alone at the apex of this system as Cuba's "Big Brother" until illness forced him to hand power to his younger brother, Raúl Castro, who (due to his complete inability to fill this historic role) assumed a "first among equals" position among the Party elite.

Immediately below this apex at the top of the structure sit two intertwined groups: the nomenklatura or "Inner Party" elite who direct the national affairs of the Cuban proletariat (including that of their house servants and chauffeurs) and the high-ranking army officers who serve as their enforcement arm.

The army (directly or indirectly) owns more than 60% of Cuba's economy, and its brass at one time even came to rival the Party elite, but after "Hero of the Revolution" General Arnaldo Ochoa and his co-conspirators were broken on the wheel (i.e., scapegoated by the Cuban regime to cover narco-trafficking by the Castro brothers), they were defanged and brought fully under administrative control of the Party.

The higher part of the middle strata of Cuban society is composed of two types of distinct creatures.  The first are the boorish administrators of state-run shops who make a prosperous living diverting large amounts of precious foodstuff and material for sale on the black market (not to mention what is personally hoarded for their families, friends, and confidants).

The second sort are the "Outer Party" slimy regime apparatchiks who spend their entire existence struggling to climb the greasy pole of the Partido Communista de Cuba (Cuban Communist Party).  It is a relatively comfortable struggle that takes place in spacious air-conditioned offices in a humid sub-developed tropical country where blackouts are common and simple A.C. units are considered unattainable luxuries.

On the lower part of this middle stratum are the countless street cops, inspectors, and low-level bureaucrats who boost their income by collecting bribes from and outright extorting the proles who have the counter-revolutionary audacity to run clandestine private enterprises por la izquierda (untaxed and unaccounted for) just to be able to keep their heads above water.

The bottom and mass of Cuban society is composed of the proletariat, who engage in the one thousand and one garden-variety jobs needed to maintain even a semi-functional society (factory workers, agricultural workers, nurses, teachers, secretaries, garbage men, et cetera).  The average salary of these jobs is a paltry 25 American dollars per month and so necessitates supplementation via exhaustive side hustles.

Paradoxically, these proles enjoy full technical literacy (as the Euro-American left never fails to mention) but are by and by culturally illiterate.  This cultural illiteracy is the result of three things: (1) the revolutionary elimination of the bourgeoisie, (2) mind-numbing media censorship, (3) crushing daily drudgery that blots any and all thoughts of the higher objects of life.

This is an inevitable by-product of a Marxist system that obliterates the higher appetites of men (i.e., the refined appetites for intricate music, fine dining, classical literature, religious transcendence, philosophical conversation, and other "bourgeois frivolities"), leaving only the urge to fulfill the basest desires (none more pressing, as in most socialist systems, than want of some barely edible foodstuff to quiet a grumbling stomach).

It is thereby to be noted that without a bourgeoisie, the cultural and spiritual life of a people disintegrates until only a barbarized "anti-culture" remains.  (A similar situation can be seen in America among the black population, whose sub-culture since the tumultuous '60s has gone through a similar process of deterioration.)

The absolute floor of this dismal power structure is composed of the so-called underclass.  This lumpenproletariat consists of the professional thieves and racketeers who form Cuba's underworld and the core population of its appalling prisons.  Selected members of this class (as in the Soviet gulags) are deputized as the unofficial watchdogs of the numerous political prisoners who bear the brunt of the Party's machinery of repression.

The revolutionary Party that has supervised this entire pyramid of iniquity for the last half-century or so is currently in the slow process of transforming itself into a politically muted corrupt oligarchy that practices a Sino-inspired market socialism.  What this means on a practical level is Party elites and apparatchiks as well as army officers shedding their Marxist dogmas while working hand in hand to protect their current positions within the power structure, by serving as gatekeepers for a heavily taxed and heavily controlled private sector.

This arrangement is calculated to provide enough economic growth to power Cuba forward during the next few decades while minimizing any disturbance to the current power structure.  It is yet to be seen if this will be possible or if the entire structure will suffer a major discombobulation without a Castro at the head (or behind the scenes).

Ernesto J. Antunez is a conservative columnist residing in Miami.  He can be reached at or via Twitter at @ejantunez.

Image: Marcelo Montecino via Flickr.

If you experience technical problems, please write to