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Cuba: Mass Organizations and Socialization
Country Study > Chapter 2 > The Society and Its Environment > Mass Organizations and Socialization


Mass organizations have served important social functions in Cuba since the early 1960s. As in former communist states such as the Soviet Union, mass organizations have been used to inculcate socialist values and to mobilize the population in support of the state. Mass organizations have also been entrusted with security, educational, and public health functions. Although in principle voluntary in nature-except for military service-mass organization membership since the 1960s has been a prerequisite for full participation in the country's political, economic, and social life. Nonmembership is viewed as deviant and leads to ostracism by signifying either a refusal to accept or actual opposition to the prevailing political and social order. Those refusing to join mass organizations pay a dear price by being prevented from pursuing higher education or engaging in certain occupations, as well as by forfeiting material rewards. Given their enormous membership (in some instances in the millions), it is far from simple to determine what motivates individuals to join mass organizations. Social, political, and educational pressures are a major factor. Membership may be motivated as much by conviction as by the desire to avoid the penalties inherent in failing to join.

Article 7 of the 1976 constitution recognizes, protects, and promotes the establishment of mass organizations. In practice, however, Article 61 severely curtails the actions of the various mass organizations by stating explicitly that "none of the freedoms that are recognized for citizens may be exercised contrary to what is established in the constitution and the law, or contrary to the decision of the Cuban people to build socialism and communism. Violation of this principle is punishable by law."

Among the better known and largest Cuban mass organizations are the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution (Comite de Defensa de la Revolucion-CDR), Federation of Cuban Women (Federacion de Mujeres Cubanas-FMC), Cuban Workers Federation (Central de Trabajadores de Cuba-CTC), National Association of Small Farmers (Asociacion Nacional de Agricultores Pequenos-ANAP), Youth Labor Army (Ejercito Juvenil de Trabajo-EJT), and Union of Young Communists (Union de Jovenes Comunistas-UJC). There are also several student organizations, such as the Federation of University Students (Federacion Estudiantil Universitaria-FEU) and the Federation of Secondary School Students (Federacion de Estudiantes de la Ensenanza Media-FEEM).

Some of these organizations, however, were actually established before the Revolution. For example, the CTC and the FEU were autonomous trade and student organizations, with their own political agendas. Although the FEU actively opposed the Fulgencio Batista y Zaldivar dictatorship (194044, 1952-59), the CTC leadership connived with it. Under socialist rule, these historical organizations were transformed and became agents of social and political control.

During the 1990s, some of the mass organizations were redefined in name by being labeled as nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), despite their official origins and orientation. This redefinition arose from the government's desire to replace some former Soviet subsidies with Western financing in order to conduct activities, such as self-employment training, generally sponsored by NGOs in other countries. Among the mass organizations currently labeled as NGOs are the FMC and ANAP.

Last Updated: April 2001

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Cuba was first published in 2001. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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