The Moribund Counter-Revolution
By Jesús Arboleya Cervera
The polling firm of Bendixen and Associates recently published a very revealing survey about the current demographic composition of Miamis Cuban-American community and its positions regarding topics related to the Cuban problem.
Although the survey was limited to Cuban-Americans born in Cuba, and therefore does not include those born in the United States, a category especially important for studies of this nature, it can be assumed that its results reflect the predominant tendencies, inasmuch as they cover about 65 percent of the Cuban-Americans who live in that area.
According to the survey, 32 percent of the Cuban immigrants arrived in the United States in the 1960s or earlier; 19 percent arrived in the 1970s; 15 percent in the 1980s; and 34 percent after 1990. This indicates an almost exact correspondence between the earliest and the latest immigrants, and a similar equivalence between those who arrived before and after 1980, a year I consider vital for the study of the class composition and references to Cuba by both groups.
Research establishes that 66 percent of the earliest immigrants (in the 1960s) support the policy of economic blockade against the island, a position supported by barely 38 percent of the most recent immigrants (after 1990.) That difference also is reflected in the overall attitudes regarding the more belligerent attitudes of the far-right groups: 55 percent oppose the policy of confrontation and only 16 percent support violent methods to promote changes in the country. If on the basis of these data we calculate the average age of the warriors, we can conclude that Cuba would have to be invaded by an army of ghosts or would-be phantoms.
These differences have deep classist roots and are manifested in many other aspects of the life of the community that are not directly linked to Cuba, which demonstrates the divisions within a social environment that propaganda presents as homogeneous, as well as the discrimination directed at the new immigrants by those who control the economic and political life of the community.
Among the earliest immigrants were those who could fairly be called political exiles, because in many cases they were officials of the Batista regime who fled to the United States after the triumph of the revolution. Later, they were joined by almost the totality of the national oligarchy and the rest of the more privileged sectors. Thirty-one percent of them were businessmen, professionals and technicians; 33 percent were merchants and functionaries. Thirty-six percent of these immigrants enjoyed a mid-to-upper level of education, while barely 4 percent of the rest of the Cuban population reached that level at the time. By the 1970s, only 2.6 percent of the Cuban immigrants were black.
Complete families emigrated in the early period, notably weakening the direct affective ties with the homeland. The interest in maintaining contact with the homeland was less than that noticed in later groups of emigrants, who left their relatives and closest friends in Cuba. Perhaps this explains why when asked about the elimination of travel restrictions to Cuba, 46 percent of the respondents were in favor and 47 percent were opposed (an equal split), although 65 percent supported the right to send remittances to their relatives.
This split does not reflect substantial differences in respondents preference for the revolutionary regime in Cuba. In reality, although with varying degrees of aversion and intransigence, most of those émigrés were opponents of the Cuban government. The question is to what degree this opposition prevents any kind of relationship with the country, as advocated by the far right, and to what degree this sector reflects the majority positions of the community regarding U.S. policy toward Cuba.
While to the far right the elimination of the revolutionary government is a precondition to any relationship and contacts with the country, an ever-growing sector of the émigré population welcomes an improvement of relations, even under the present conditions. This is not a superficial difference; it draws a line between the militant counter-revolutionary and the realistic oppositionist.
For the militant counter-revolutionary, the lack of contacts is a key element of his strategy, because when relations grow tensions decrease and the climate of belligerence that sustains his militancy becomes weaker. A context where the links between émigrés and Cuba are increased opens the road to negotiation between the two countries, cracks the policy of economic blockade and reduces the possibility of a crisis that might lead to U.S. military intervention. An absence of contacts is the option the counter-revolution has bet on since its earliest days.
One might ask why these differences are not expressed in a more forceful manner in the political life of the Cuban-American community, and why the image of purported counter-revolutionary monolithism persists. The survey itself gives us a clue to understand this phenomenon. While 86 percent of the earliest émigrés exercise the right to vote, only 22 percent of those who arrived after 1990 do so. The most recent émigrés dont count, because either theyre not yet American citizens or have not completed their adjustment into the new society or their specific weight in public opinion is insignificant.
It is a question of time. The trend is for the émigré community to continuously move away from the traditional counter-revolutionary positions and toward the growing consensus of the need for a change in the U.S. policy toward Cuba. The current stance of the Cuban-American far right has no future, not even in the social base that was created to give it sustenance. The counter-revolution is on its deathbed.
Jesús Arboleya, who holds a doctorate in Historical Science, is a professor at the University of Havana in Cuba. He has written numerous articles and books about the Cuban community in the United States and on the political relations between that country and Cuba.
Progreso Weekly, December17, 2003