Path: Table of Countries --> Cuba
Kenneth Janda
Political Parties: A Cross-National Survey
New York: The Free Press, 1980: pp. 596-597
CUBA: The Party System in 1952-1958 and 1959-1962
(Text as published in 1980 citation above)

Cuba was freed from Spanish rule after the Spanish-American War in 1898 and the Treaty of Paris the same year. Cuba then entered a period of political tutelage under the United States, with the Platt Amendment, incorporated into Cuba's 1901 constitution, reserving the right of the United States to intervene to protect its interest. Although the Platt Amendment was abrogated in 1934, U.S. economic and political influence remained high in Cuba, and the United States maintained its military base at Guantánamo. By 1940, Cuba entered a phase of constitutional government based on its new and progressive constitution. Fulgencio Batista, a military man who had governed Cuba since 1933, retired from office in 1944 to be succeeded by Ramón Grau San Martín, followed by Carlos Prío Socarrás in 1948.

But Cuba's experiment with democratic government ended in March 1952, when Batista seized power in a military coup, canceled the elections scheduled that year, suspended the functions of congress, and dissolved political parties--subject to later reorganization. Elections rescheduled for 1953 were eventually held in 1954. Some parties, including the Popular Socialist Party (PSP, Communist), were not allowed to participate in the 1954 elections, which were considered by many to be rigged in favor of Batista, who won the presidency, and his newly formed Progressive Action Party (PAP), which won a large plurality of the seats in the lower chamber. Joining in a coalition government with Batista and PAP were two older Cuban parties, the Liberals and the Democrats. In opposition was the Cuban Revolutionary Party (Auténtico). Elections were held under Batista's control again in November 1958, while Batista's forces were fighting the rebellion led by Fidel Castro. Election results were never announced, and Batista fled the country on January 1, 1959.

Beginning in 1959 and lasting throughout our time period, Cuba experienced revolutionary government. Castro annulled the 1958 elections and ruled by decrees issued through his Council of Ministers. The prerevolutionary democratic parties were disbanded, some moving underground or into exile, and only three major political organizations were allowed to exist: Castro's own revolutionary coalition, the 26th of July Movement; the Student Revolutionary Directorate; and the PSP--which ironically had cooperated with the Batisa dictatorship in its early stages despite its illegal status. In 1960 Castro declared Cuba to be a socialist state, and in 1961 he declared it a part of the communist world. The three political groups allied to Castro merged into the Integrated Revolutionary Organization in 1962, with the PSP or Communist Party considered to be dominant.

Continuity and Change since 1962

As shown by the graph of party legislative representation over time, Cuba has experienced four distinct of party politics from 1950 to 1978. A democratic phase of competitive politics ended in 1952, when Batista seized power. Under Batista, parties were dissolved for a time, but then a second phase of controlled competition was allowed, and Cuba had a restricted multiparty system. Castro's revolution in 1959 wiped out the bourgeois parties in Batista's regime and ushered in a fourth phase of charismatic leadership against a backdrop of revolutionary organizations and the continued presence of the Popular Socialist Party, the forerunner of today's Communist Party. Throughout this period, government was exercised by Castro as prime minister and the Council of Ministers, which exercised legislative power in the absence of a national assembly. The adoption of a new constitution in 1976 formalizes, the fourth phase, which consists of institutionalizing political authority in official governmental organs, including a National Assembly. Only one of our original parties is represented in that assembly. No new parties formed.

Original Parties, Terminated

 411 Revolutionary Party. Its name should not be misleading; the revolution referred to was much earlier than Castro's in 1959, which effectively ended the Revolutionary Party (PR).

412 Liberal Party. The Liberals (PL) also collapsed with the 1959 revolution.

413 Democratic Party. The Democratic Party (PD) was the third party effectively terminated in 1959.

Original Parties, Continuing

 414 Communist Party. Adopting this name only in 1965, the Communist Party emerged through a tortuous route from the Popular Socialist Party of the Batista regime. It held all the seats in the Assembly elected in 1976.


For the first time since the 1959 revolution, Cuba in 1974 experimented with elections in Matanzas Province. In these elections to 63 district assemblies, 5 regional assemblies, and 1 provincial assembly, no candidate ran as a party candidate, but the PCC won 46 percent of the district seats, 60 percent of the regional, and--along with the Young Communist League--75 percent of the provincial assembly (Area Handbook for Cuba, 1976, pp. 280-281). Elections held nationwide in 1976 were said to have returned a national assembly composed of more than 70 percent Communist Party members (Yearbook of International Communist Affairs, 1978, p. 364). Although the new Cuban assembly is unlikely to function as a legislature in the Western sense, it does provide an additional means for institutional expression of the Communist Party and for the institutionalization of a one party state.

1. Our study of party politics in Cuba is based on a file of 2,196 pages from 131 documents, all of which are in English (see Table 1.3). The bibliographic search and indexing of material for the file was done by Judith Newsome Gillespie, David Keebler, and Marcelino Miyares. Kathee Henning participated in coding all the parties, assisted by Kenneth Janda. Lynn Lowery and Donald Sylvan also helped in coding the Auténtico, and Joseph Artabasy and Larry Kaagan helped with the Popular Socialist Party. George Blanksten was our consultant.