Photo: Juvenal Balán

For some time, the idea of “political centrism” in today’s Cuba has been brewing, essentially within digital media, as part of one of the United States’ strategies to subvert the Cuban socialist model, given the resounding failures and disrepute of the so-called “Cuban counterrevolution.”[1] One of the cables revealed by Wikileaks in 2010 showed how Jonathan Farrar, at that time head of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, informed the State Department on April 15, 2009, that this “opposition” was actually out of touch with the Cuban reality, had no power or influence among youth, and was more concerned with money than promoting its platform among broader sectors of society.

From its beginnings, political centrism has been a geometric concept: representing the equidistant point between all extremes.

Supposedly it would be a political position between left and right, between socialism and capitalism, a third way that would “find a balance between the best ideas” of the extremes that define it, and where moderation is posited in opposition to any form of radicalism. Lenin referred to this position as treacherous utopianism, a product of bourgeois reformism. Indeed, so-called third ways, or centrisms, have never been a revolutionary option, but rather strategies to install, save, rebuild, modernize, or restore capitalism.

When moderation is weighed against Cuban revolutionary radicalism – which is to go to the roots, in no way associated with extremism, which is something else entirely [2] – it is inevitable that we should find certain analogies between the current attempts at articulating centrism in Cuba, and nineteenth-century autonomism.

Autonomism as a political trend which arose in the first half of the nineteenth century, but was formed as a political party in 1878, as one of the results of the revolution of 1868. It was a current that existed at the same historical moment as the independence movement, fundamentalism, and annexationism. It was the tendency par excellence of moderation, of evolution, an enemy of the radical supporters of Cuban independence.

The centrists assumed an “equidistant” position between fundamentalism – the defense of the status quo – and independence, but at defining moments they closed ranks along with the fundamentalists to curb and attack the revolution, which they considered the worst of evils. Some celebrated figures of autonomism ended up sharing annexationist ideas when the U.S. intervention-occupation of Cuba occurred. The main leaders of this movement stood out for their intellectual qualities, they were great public speakers, but their thought was elitist, essentially bourgeois, hence they could never win over the Cuban masses. The last thing the Cuban people needed at the time were experimental ideas, so when the new independence move erupted in 1895, the Autonomist Party would be completely displaced given the new national reality. Autonomism defended a moderate nationalism that excluded the great majority; its fundamental aspiration was to avoid breaking the link with the “mother country” of Spain, to modernize its domination of the island. It was no wonder that the Cuban patriotic vanguard, led by José Martí, fought so hard against these ideas.

The Cuban patriotic vanguard, led by José Martí (1853-1895), fought hard against autonomism, which it considered a retrograde idea. Photo: Juvenal Balán

On January 31, 1893, during one of his extraordinary speeches, Martí expressed: “… it was the singular case that those who proclaimed the political dogma of evolution were merely retrogrades, who maintained for a people formed in the revolution, the imagined solutions that preceded it...”

However, the idea of ​​supporting a third force in Cuba – moderate, center, or third way – gained more force in U.S. foreign policy in the late 1950s, with the aim of preventing the July 26 Movement from reaching power; something that became an obsession for the Eisenhower administration in the final months of 1958. This idea was to take an equidistant position between Batista and Fidel Castro, and its development was stimulated both militarily and politically. The local CIA station in Havana was the first to manipulate this strategy and would later be its main executor. This was confirmed by CIA officer David Atlee Phillips in his autobiography The Night Watch, when he noted that James Noel – then head of the local CIA station in the Cuban capital – had informed him at one of their infrequent meetings of his recommendation to the United States government to discreetly sponsor the action of a third political force in Cuba, “a moderate group between Castro on the left and Batista on the right.” [3]

In February 1958, William Morgan, a U.S. intelligence agent, had joined the Second National Front of the Escambray, led by Eloy Gutiérrez Menoyo. His mission was to become the second chief of that guerrilla force, something that he achieved in a brief time, as well as reaching the rank of Commander. Morgan would not be the only U.S. agent to infiltrate the area with the intention of stimulating a third guerrilla force that, at a given moment, could impose itself and fight against the forces led by Fidel Castro in the Sierra Maestra.

The United States was also involved in other plots where the names of various figures that could provide a political option that would snatch the revolutionary triumph from Fidel Castro’s grasp were considered, among them: Colonel Ramón Barquín; Justo Carrillo, head of the Montecristi Group; and former prime minister Manuel Antonio “Tony” de Varona.

Even as late as December 23, 1958, at a meeting of the National Security Council, Eisenhower expressed his hope for the growth, strength, and influence of a “third force” on the island.[4]

The creation of a “third force” was not only promoted by the United States, but also by certain politicians who advocated it internally. “The Third Force,” notes Jorge Ibarra Guitart, “was a movement of private civic institutions that, representing the feeling of important sectors of the bourgeoisie and the petty bourgeoisie, promoted peace efforts and reconciliation with the regime. The promoter, under wraps, of all these efforts was José Miró Cardona, who from the Society of Friends of the Republic had already planned the tactic of mobilizing bourgeois institutions to force the regime to reach an agreement. This was the moment to implement this tactic, as the circumstances favored it: the bourgeoisie, noting that more revolutionary organizations were gaining ground daily, was alarmed by the threat posed to its political and economic interests by the development of a civil war with active popular participation.”[5]

As it was impossible for the United States to avoid the triumph of the Cuban Revolution and the coming to power of the July 26 forces, the fundamental objective of Washington during the first months of 1959 consisted of supporting and assisting those figures within the revolutionary government who were considered “moderates,” of the center, against those they described as “extremists,” in order to prevent the Revolution from deepening its social scope through their predominance.[6].

When Fernando Martínez Heredia points out that in Cuba today there exists a right-wing nationalism with pretensions of being a center force, that has “a cultural accumulation to refer to,” he is referring to the long history of this form of nationalism which, on the political level, has its background in autonomism; the same tendency that during the years of the bourgeois neocolonial republic admitted and defended domination, and that on many occasions was used by the government of the United States itself, with the purpose of curbing, preventing, or detaining post revolutionary situations that kept safe the structures of capitalist domination in Cuba, under some kind of consensus.

Today we can see that this right wing nationalism, which is encouraged by those who oppose us under the deceptive guise of centrism, has no other purpose than the desperate attempt to restore capitalism in Cuba. Once again, it will be a frustrated attempt, since the main obstacle that this current has always faced is that it has never managed to anchor its ideas among the people. This people who for the most part have embraced throughout history the independent, patriotic, national-revolutionary and anti-imperialist tradition; never that of autonomism, annexationism, or right wing nationalism. (Originally published by Cubahora)

[1] See: Esteban Morales, “La contrarrevolución cubana nunca ha existido,” in: Esteban Morales & Elier Ramírez, Aproximaciones al conflicto Cuba-Estados Unidos, (Havana: Editora Política, 2015). Morales questions whether this counterrevolution can be considered Cuban, since from its birth it has assumed an agenda imposed by the United States government.

[2] In a speech on September 3, 1979, during the inaugural session of the NAM Summit held in Havana, Fidel expressed: “What can Cuba be challenged with? That it is a socialist country? Yes, we are a socialist country (Applause), but we do not intend to impose our ideology and our system on anyone inside or outside the Movement. (...) That we made a radical revolution in Cuba? Yes, we are radical revolutionaries, but we do not pretend to impose our radicalism on anyone, let alone on the Non-Aligned Movement.”

[3] Cited by Andrés Zaldívar Diéguez & Pedro Etcheverry Vázquez, in: Una fascinante historia. La conspiración Trujillista, (Havana: Editorial Capitán San Luis, 2009).

[4] Francisca López Civeira, El Gobierno de Eisenhower ante la Revolución Cubana: Un nuevo escenario, available at:

[5] Cited by Andrés Zaldívar Diéguez & Pedro Etcheverry Vázquez, Op.cit., p.51.

[6] Much information on this can be found in the work of Luis M. Buch & Reinaldo Suárez, Gobierno Revolucionario Cubano. Primeros Pasos, (Havana: Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, 2004).