After Cuba implemented the Soviet-directed System for Economic Planning and Management (SDPE) in 1975, Cuban scholars and Cold War ideologues began talking about the Sovietization of Cuba. Many interpreted the adoption of SDPE as a signal that Havana’s fate would now be dependent on the imperatives of Soviet central planning.
In its most ideal form, the idea of Sovietization implies that, in the decade of the 1970s, revolutionary Cuba’s political and economic relationship with the Soviet bloc had become the equivalent to prerevolutionary Cuba’s dependence on the United States.
Some scholars asserted that, because of this dependency,
revolutionary Cuba has been forced to institute a Soviet-style system domestically and to serve as a Soviet proxy internationally.
Many Cubans disagreed, however, describing the relationship with the Soviet Union as a mutually beneficial partneship from which both states gained value. As Fidel Castro has argued:
How can the Soviet Union be labeled imperialist? Where are its monopoly corporations? Where is its participation in the multinational companies? What factories, what mines, what oil fields does it own in the underdeveloped world? What worker is exploited in any country of Asia, Africa, or Latin America by Soviet capital?
It is a certainty, however, that after the early 1970s, Cuba’s trade was increasingly concentrated with the Soviet economies.
One Cubanologist pessimistically noted the implications of the close Soviet-Cuban relationship as early as 1981, stating that:
The USSR has the capacity to cut the supply to the island of virtually all oil, most capital and intermediate goods, and probably all weaponry. Additionally, loss of Soviet markets would mean an end to their buying about half of Cuban sugar at three times the price of the market as well as purchase of substantial amounts of nickel also at a subsidized price. The USSR could also exert powerful influence over such COMECON countries as the GDR, Czechoslovakia, and Bulgaria, which are particularly the key ones in trade with Cuba, to stop economic relations with Cuba.
This once inconceivable scenario became a reality in 1990. Consequently, the impact on Havana of the absence of Soviet assistance provides the most persuasive argument for the extent to which the patron-client relationship had penetrated all facets of the urban environment.