Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR)

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Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR)

Organization formed in Cuba on 28 September 1960 to combat counterrevolutionary activity through collective vigilance of the populace. One of many Cuban mass organizations, CDRs arose as a response to perceived internal and external threats to the Cuban Revolution. Early goals of the CDR included mobilization and unification of the people, and advancement of revolutionary ideals. Organized by neighborhood blocks, factories, labor unions, and state farms, their primary responsibilities involved community patrols and watchfulness against subversive activities.

With a membership of more than one-half million people by 1961, the function and scope of the CDRs gradually expanded to address other societal issues, such as public health, education, food distribution, conservation, the need for voluntary work, and community improvement. Throughout the 1960s, the CDRs acquired both legitimacy and permanent institutional status vis-à-vis the Cuban government and became an integral part of Cuban society. The organization was structured on three levels, with the block level being the most basic unit, followed by the district and national levels. Political autonomy, particularly on the local level, has been extremely limited, with policy and decision making instituted from the top echelons of the government and the Communist Party of Cuba. Leadership in the upper ranks of the CDR traditionally has been the domain of persons with strong party affiliations.

Membership in the CDR has fluctuated considerably, with the percentage of the adult population in its ranks rising from around 38 percent in 1963 to near 80 percent by the early 1970s. An easing of restrictions on membership led to the sharp increase in numbers, as did general changes in the association. While vigilance remained a priority, by the early 1970s the focus had shifted from counterrevolutionary to more common criminal activities. Criticized by its enemies as a totalitarian spy organization, the CDR nevertheless contributed to societal improvement in Cuba through participation in public-health programs, literacy campaigns, agricultural works, and construction.

See alsoCuba: Cuba Since 1959; Labor Movements.


Buch, Luis. Gobierno revolucionario cubano: Génesis y primeros pasos. Havana: Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, 1999.

Domínguez, Jorge I. Cuba: Order and Revolution (1978), pp. 208-209, 261-267.

Eckstein, Susan. Back from the Future: Cuba under Castro. New York: Routledge, 2003.

Harnecker, Marta, ed. Cuba: Dictatorship or Democracy? translated by Patrick Greanville (1979), pp. 56-70.

Rabkin, Rhonda Pearl. "The Cuban Political Structure," in Cuba: Twenty-Five Years of Revolution, 1959–1984, edited by Sandor Halebsky and John M. Kirk (1985), pp. 261-264.

                                 D. M. Spears

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Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR)

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