When discussing Castro's rise to power it occurred to me that he, Castro, was the one who initiated the dual power from January 1959 to November 1959, I have been struggling to find sources as to why he would do this? Why wouldn't he take on full power from the beginning, furthermore as he initiated it himself what was the apparent advantages? - as I only can see disadvantages.

  • What do you mean by "dual power"?
    – MCW
    Nov 13, 2013 at 13:39
  • When searching for "dual power" and the mentioned ORPC and INRA I found this good source on the topic, btw: books.google.pl/… Seems a very good source for these kinds of topics, but leaves one question unanswered, which I will post shortly. Nov 14, 2013 at 8:31

2 Answers 2


Summary: Because you can't just march into a capital city with the support of a couple of hundred guys with machine guns and declare yourself supreme ruler for life, tell them all that they from now on will have no money or freedom, and expect everyone to just accept that.

I'm not sure what you mean with "dual power". I will assume that you mean that Cuba had both a Prime Minister and a President. This however was in no way initiated by Castro, but was a part of the Cuban constitution of 1940, a constitution Castro claimed to want to reinstate.

Castro took power as the prime minister of Cuba on February 16, 1959. Castro had already before pushed for Manuel Urrutia Lleó to be president. Perhaps because he thought Urrutia would be easy to control or because Urrutia had the trust of the non-socialist revolutionaries. You'd have to ask Castro about the exact reason. ;-)

Urrutia wanted to restore democracy and elections and restore the 1940 constituation, but Castro blocked this despite his earlier claims to want exactly this. Urrutia was then the victim of a smear campaign, leading to his resignation. Fidel then instead put in fellow communist Osvaldo Dorticós Torrado instead, and it remained like that until 1976, when the office of Prime Minister was abolished and Castro became president.

This shows that there was never any actual "dual power". Castro was in practical control, and Urrutia had no real power.

Perhaps your question then can be worded as why Castro didn't put in a communist President from the start, or why he bothered having a President at all. And the reason is that he simply did not have the complete control and power as he needed to do that. He still needed to appease both the Cuban anti-communist revolutionaries, get the popular support of the Cuban people and appease foreign governments (especially the US) by pretending to not be a communist and pretending to be a democrat.

And since he claimed that he wanted to restore the democratic 1940 constitution, if he had simply put himself into solitary dictatorial power directly after the revolution he would have been quickly ousted. Not only was not the aim of the few revolutionary forces directly to set up a dictatorship, the forces was very small, less than 500 people. They had popular support in ousting Batista and creating a democracy, they did not have popular support in replacing one murderous dictator with one that was even worse. He had to consolidate his power first, and get complete military and police control over Cuba, so that he could resist any opposition.

  • 2
    This answer seems heavily biased to me.
    – o0'.
    Nov 13, 2013 at 13:51
  • 1
    History should try to be unbiased regardless, otherwise it's not history anymore.
    – o0'.
    Nov 13, 2013 at 14:11
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    Actually I have no personal view on this matter, I just noticed that this post was completely out of tone, and your comments here confirm that. You're right when you say you can't be unbiased, but I think you should at least try to minimize it, and anyway keep a neutral tone.
    – o0'.
    Nov 13, 2013 at 15:00
  • What I am referring to is the fact that Castro formed the Office of the Revolutionary Plans and Co-ordination, which consisted of his closest allies. I believe notably contemporaries have highlighted that this created a situation of dual power between ORPC and the cabinet. As you rightly states Castro became, in February, the Prime Minister taking on further powers, he then went on in May 1959 to create the INRA, which effectively absorbed the ORPC and then soon became the government. However, the cabinet was still there until he he forced Urrutia out, there's your dual power.
    – mikkeljuhl
    Nov 13, 2013 at 15:47
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    I notice that no explanation has been forthcoming from @Lohoris Jan 26, 2014 at 7:44

For a number of reasons Bolshevik inspired revolutionaries perceive that two "revolutions" were necessary in 20th century society: a "democratic" revolution to fulfill the bourgeois revolution's political aims, and then a socialist revolution to place "the working class" into power.

From the ideological perspective, Castro's actions look informed by this "two-stage"-ism still present in Bolshevism's attitude towards backwards bourgeois, colonial or semi-feudal states. Installing a "bourgeois-democratic" president prior to moving forward was seen by bolsheviks (cf: Central Europe's integration into the soviet system) as fulfilling the democratic revolution.

There was a strong desire to meet these ideological formalisms by bolshevik inspired revolutionaries, partly because of the strength of ideological binding that bolshevik type parties endured. Partly because these parties were often isolated from working class experience and fixated on ideology instead of practice.

There are a whole set of major problems with these conceptions. Chief, in my mind, is formalism in that bolshevik inspired revolutionaries read apparent signs about state formations as if they represented substantive economic relationships. Putting some chap in power and calling them Prime Minister doesn't mean that the working class has now started developing a solid critique of an ideally functioning bourgeois state. Revolutions aren't made by parties (even if parties are essential to making revolutions); and they're not over in a nice neat package after 9 months. Ask the Mountain or the Gironde if changing a formal element of government resolved a revolution.

From a raw power perspective it looks like sensible consolidation by a Prince.

Sources: The Spartacist's theoretical paper on Constituent Assemblies. Two-stage / permanent revolution debates. Popular & United front debates.

  • "a bourgeois clique claiming to be a working class party" - sorry but what is "bourgeois" with Communists say in the USSR?
    – Anixx
    Nov 14, 2013 at 8:35
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    Do you have any source that Castro and the other revolutionaries had this perception or aim? And how does that it in with the "dual power" concept? If they were of this opinion, should they then not first created the "democratic" revolution? Also, you seem to in the answer hop back and forth between the Bolshevik standpoint and your standpoint (which seems anti-bolshevik) and this makes the answer hard to understand, at least unless I make assumptions about your political position, and I don't think you should have to make those assumptions to make sense of an answer. Nov 14, 2013 at 16:39
  • But kudos for "From a raw power perspective it looks like sensible consolidation by a Prince". Good description of what happened. Nov 14, 2013 at 16:39
  • @Anixx One man management and the crippling and then destruction of workplace soviets? Geographic soviets elected from a substitutionalist party with the base of its membership recruited from the aristocracy and bourgeoisie prior to 1918? The NEP and the continued circulation of value form? Lenin's articulation of proletarian dictatorship as a dictatorship over the proletariat—compare and contrast to workers assemblies in Spain or Hungary 56 where Bolshevik influence was absent. Nov 14, 2013 at 20:37
  • @Samuel Russell NEP was demolished in the 1930s and it never involved Communists. Social origin of early Communists also was not involving any sufficient percent of "former bourgeoisie", there was some intelligentsia, but also in small proportion. Other points seem not to have any connection with bourgeoiusness whatsoever.
    – Anixx
    Nov 14, 2013 at 20:49

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