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This is an inquest into the demise of the Cuban bourgeoisie. How is it that, within the space of twenty-eight months, Castro's revolution was able to destroy this once powerful, talented and rapidly growing class?
It is the thesis of this dissertation that the Cuban bourgeoisie was destroyed not only by pressure from without, by events beyond its control, but also that it disintegrated in considerable part from within. To an important exten, the bourgeoisie died of its own follies, its own failures.
This dissertation focuses on the process of internal disintegration. Separate chapters consider the impact of Castro's revolution on the sugar mill owners, the sugar planters, the cattlemen, the industrialists, the banks, the public utilities, the Catholic church and the professional organizations. Other chapters discuss the nature of the pre-revolutionary bourgeoisie, and their financing of Castro's rebellion. Each chapter provides sufficient historical background to make evident the strengths and vulnerabilities of the sector in question. And each chapter is developed around one or more leading personalities of that sector.
The outstanding characteristic of the pre-revolutionary bourgeoisie was its ambiguity. The Cuban bourgeoisie was torn between Madrid and Miami, between an aristocratic and egalitarian tradition. It lacked widely respected leaders, and widely admired goals. Most members of the bourgeoisie were wrapped in an intense individualism and devotion to their families. They were only rarely able to conceive of and support broader national interests. Safe in their comfortable economic and military dependence on the United States, the bourgeoisie sought the pleasures, but not the responsibilities, of affluence.
Castro brilliantly exploited the weakness of the old bourgeoisie. He played on their opportunism to help finance his rebellion. Once in power, he cultivated and won their support, giving his revolution a powerful initial momentum. Thereafter he began to turn against his benefactors, encouraging the ambitions of the less successful ranks of the bourgeoisie for the jobs, the lands, and the honors of their upper-class confreres. For every organization of the old bourgeoisie, a new revolutionary counter-organization sprang up to contest its authority. The bourgeoisie, betrayed by its own rebellious clerks, began to crack along the lines of age, of class ranking, of economic interest.
The speed and audacity of Castro's revolution left the bourgeoisie stunned; paralyzed. A bourgeoisie accustomed to manipulating government by financial lures found the revolutionary government was disinterested in money. The bourgeoisie was unnerved by Castro's sway over the masses, and fearful of penalties that might accrue owing to their misbehavior during the Batista era. The leaders of the bourgeoisie vacillated, temporized, and then went into exile. Other burgueses remained behind, attracted by Castro's appeal to idealism, nationalism and heroic tradition. In 1959 some were ready to substantially modify their traditional dependence on the United States. And in an orgy of self-criticism, others concluded that Castro was right: Cuba could no longer afford a bourgeoisie.
By 1960, a bourgeoisie weakened by the increasing socialization of the economy, and demoralized by its own impotence and loss of status, fled increasingly to Miami. Even in exile the bourgeoisie found itself disunited, able to agree only that the United States must save them. When the U.S. failed to do so, they were lost.
The University of New Mexico
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Cuba, bourgeoisie, social revolution
Padula, Alfred L. PhD, "The Fall of the Bourgeoisie: Cuba, 1959-1961" (1974). Faculty and Staff Books. 556.