This issue follows a previous special issue on “Cuba in the 1990s: Economy, Politics, and Society” (S&D no. 29, 2001), which featured mainly Cuban authors discussing the situation on the island during the economic crisis called the “special period in time of peace.” That period, beginning in the early 1990s with the collapse of the Soviet Union and other European socialist countries and the loss of their trade and aid, caused severe economic and social hardships. We presented a variety of Cuban views regarding desired reforms.

Here we continue this discussion, presenting the views of Cuban intellectuals who discuss the challenges facing the Revolution today and possible solutions from a perspective broadly supportive of continuation of the revolutionary project.

The Cuban Revolution has passed through a number of stages, the most recent of which is the special period. Cuba is currently addressing issues arising from these previous stages while confronting new domestic and external challenges. However, unlike many abroad who believe that calling for change amounts to demanding the restoration of capitalism, the authors in this issue – all of them Cubans living and working in Cuba – debate ways to strengthen and deepen socialism.

These authors discuss the direction Cuban socialism should take, what can be learned from past mistakes, and how change can best be achieved. For instance, how should growing inequality, social class distinctions and poverty that emerged during the special period be addressed? How should excessive political and economic centralization and insufficient political participation be tackled? How can inefficient agricultural production be improved? Should food rationing be replaced by other methods to assure broad access to food for those most in need?

In marking new paths for Cuba, the role of the Cuban Communist Party is crucial. However, a party congress scheduled for Fall 2009 was postponed and, as of this writing, not yet rescheduled.

With one exception the articles here have not been previously published outside of Cuba, and more than half are published here for the first time. We chose to concentrate on the internal realities in Cuba, and thus excluded foreign policy, emigration and the Cuban community abroad, and United States aggression against Cuba. We had hoped to include articles addressing the decline in agricultural production, young people’s perceptions of the Revolution, and ecological challenges such as offshore oil drilling and deficiencies in urban infrastructure, but we did not obtain them by our publication deadline.

We start with an introductory article that provides a broad overview of Cuba in the last two decades and then discusses the highlights of each article within that context.

This issue provides a unique collection in English of views on the present and possible futures for Cuba, based on the assumption that despite all the problems the country faces due to external aggression, restructuring of global power, and missteps in social and economic policy, Cuban socialism is solidly institutionalized and will survive strengthened by debate over its future course.

Editors of the Cuba Issue

The editors of this special issue are Jill Hamberg, John Hammond, Alfredo Prieto, Peter Roman and Hobart Spalding.

Translations: Dawn Gable translated all articles except for the one submitted in English by Marta Núñez and the Introduction, which was translated by Jill Hamberg. All articles were then reviewed and edited by the special-issue editors and by Victor Wallis.

Acknowledgments: The editors would like to acknowledge assistance offered by Michel Hernández and Rainer Schultz.