How far is it true to say that a successful foreign policy is the most important factor for a single party ruler to remain in power? Examples should be given from two countries each chosen from a different region.

The role of foreign policy in shaping the trajectory of single-party states is a significant area of historical analysis. Foreign policy can indeed serve as a mechanism for such regimes to consolidate power, legitimise their rule, and achieve strategic national objectives. However, it is crucial to critically evaluate the statement that successful foreign policy is the most important factor in maintaining the power of a single-party ruler. To investigate this proposition, the cases of Fidel Castro's Cuba (1959-2008) in Latin America and Kim Il-Sung's North Korea (1948-1994) in East Asia will be examined. 

Fidel Castro's Cuba offers a compelling case study of an authoritarian leader for whom foreign policy played a critical role in remaining in power. Castro's revolutionary government was defined by its opposition to the United States, punctuated by events such as the nationalisation of American assets, the US embargo, the Bay of Pigs invasion and the Cuban Missile Crisis. Despite the David vs Goliath dynamic, Cuba managed to resist American influence, gaining Castro significant prestige both domestically and internationally. However, Castro's successful defiance of the US was not the sole factor that ensured his lengthy tenure. Domestically, the Cuban government made notable advances in social sectors, particularly in health care and education, earning Castro support among the Cuban populace. He also exercised tight control over the media and suppressed political opposition, ensuring limited avenues for dissent. Moreover, the collapse of the Soviet Union presented a significant challenge to Castro's rule, plunging Cuba into the 'Special Period' of economic crisis. Castro's survival during this time highlights the importance of domestic policies and political control in his ability to remain in power, despite a severe foreign policy setback. Historian Richard Gott, in 'Cuba: A New History,' emphasises the importance of both domestic reforms and Castro's foreign policy manoeuvres in maintaining his rule. Gott argues that it was the interplay between Castro's foreign and domestic policies that enabled him to remain in power for such a lengthy period. 

Kim Il-Sung, the founder of North Korea and its leader from 1948 until his death in 1994, provides a contrasting case study. Under Kim, North Korea pursued a self-reliant, or 'Juche,' foreign policy, minimising dependence on external powers and consistently opposing perceived imperialism. Kim's aggressive foreign policy led to the Korean War, an unsuccessful attempt to unify the Korean peninsula under communism. The war devastated the country but also consolidated Kim's rule by fostering a siege mentality. The continued state of war with South Korea further legitimised his militarised, authoritarian governance. However, like Castro, Kim's ability to remain in power cannot be attributed solely to his foreign policy. Domestically, Kim established an all-encompassing personality cult, enforced rigid control over the country's political and social life, and utilised pervasive propaganda to maintain a tight grip on power. The persistence of the North Korean regime after the end of the Cold War and the death of Kim Il-Sung illustrates the resilience of its domestic control mechanisms. Historian Bruce Cumings, in 'North Korea: Another Country,' suggests that while Kim Il-Sung's confrontational foreign policy was essential in defining North Korea's national identity and political structure, it was the state's rigid internal controls that were critical to Kim's long rule.

In both the cases of Fidel Castro's Cuba and Kim Il-Sung's North Korea, foreign policy played a significant role in shaping their regimes and contributing to their longevity. Their defiant stance against perceived imperialism helped consolidate their rule and bolster their domestic legitimacy. However, an analysis of their reigns suggests that it would be an oversimplification to state that a successful foreign policy was the most important factor in their ability to stay in power. Their rule was characterised by strict domestic control, personality cults, political repression, and significant social policies. These domestic factors were equally, if not more, crucial in their ability to maintain power. It is thus essential to recognise the complex interplay of foreign and domestic factors in the endurance of single-party rule. The respective historical contexts of each regime further underline the importance of a nuanced, multifaceted analysis.