In these middle chapters, PÃ©rez-Stable veers back and forth between
pinpointing the hard facts of Cuban political sociology and
attempting to soften their ideological implications. Perhaps the best
example is her account of "proletarian power" in socialist Cuba:
"The working class bore the burden of legitimating socialism, but
workers did not have the power to make national policies. Their
charge was to work hard. The Communist party exercised power on their
behalf, and Fidel Castro was the premier expositor of their welfare.
The correct proletarian conciencia was to abide by party directives
and charismatic authority. In that sense, Cuban socialism was like
the other contemporary socialist experiences: the working class
wielded power vicariously."
What is perhaps most remarkable about this and other similar passages
is the peculiar tone in which they are written--as if the revolution
were still a promise yet to be tested, rather than something about
which there is now a wealth of data based on actual performance. When
it comes time to face the bottom line, she has no choice, then, but
to let the readers down without much advance warning. After a
dizzying ride through thickets of utopian rhetoric and S-curves of
socialist triumphalism, PÃ©rez Stable suddenly announces:
"Two decades after the revolution there was still no room for
dissent: Con Cuba o contra Cuba continued to define Cuban politics.
Ninety miles away from the United States and the prosperous
Cuban-American communities, the Cuban government surely had to
contend with unreasonable comparisons and inordinate expectations.
Still, the challenge for Cuban leaders lay in satisfying basic
needs--especially in the supply,