What’s Going On In Cuba?
Mr. Albert Weisbord has a long interest in revolutionary movements throughout the world. He was in Spain in 1932 and in 1937, in Germany in 1932 and in Yugoslavia in 1948. He visited Trotsky in Turkey. He was in Russia at the start of the Five Year Plan and in Mexico during its revolutionary period. In 1937 Covici-Friede Company of New York published his two volume work “The Conquest of Power” on the revolutionary developments historically accredited to Liberalism, Anarchism, Syndicalism, Socialism, Fascism, and Communism. For many years he was, active in the labor movement as leader of the Passaic Strike as National Secretary of the National Textile Workers Union, and as special representative for the Upholsterers, Millinery, Machinists, Chemical workers and other unions now affiliated to the A.F.L.-C.I.O. He is a graduate of the Harvard Law School.
A PROFOUND social revolution is taking place in Cuba, a land lying very close to the United States, only 90 miles from the tip of Florida. It is not merely a political revolution, but an economic one, directly affecting all the relations’ of the six million or so people of that country. Indirectly it affects the people of all other countries, especially the poor and the humble. For the Cuban revolution is essentially a revolution of the poor, or as Fidel Castro, the leader, would put it, paraphrasing Abraham Lincoln, a revolution of the humble, by the humble, and for the humble.
In the late 19th century, while the Spanish rulers were controlling the island, there arose a great rebellion enthusiastically supported by the workers and toilers, under the political leadership of Jose Marti and the military leadership of that Negro genius, Antonio Maceo. After several years of bitter guerrilla, warfare, the rebels were well on their way to victory when the U.S. Battleship Maine was sunk by explosion in Havana Harbor. Although Spain emphatically denied having anything to do with the explosion and offered to set up an impartial committee, composed of neutral powers, to investigate the truth. of the event, the United States decided to declare war on Spain. Strong U.S. forces invaded Cuba which was soon taken with the help of the rebels. Later, divers were to show that the explosion had burst the sides of the ship from within rather than from without.
The victory over the miserable Spanish monarchy in 1898, however, did not bring very much improvement in the life of the ordinary Cuban. It was not until 1902 that Cuba was allowed to become independent. During all the years before World War I, Cuba was intermittently occupied by U.S. troops operating from strong bases in Cuba itself. Farcical elections were held placing in power over the Cuban people only those dictators who favored the closest alliance with the big businessmen of the United States.
Big U.S. interests quickly dominated the economy of the island. U.S. goods, enjoying lower duties, were dumped into Cuba displacing all other foreign products. Thus the Cuban consumer was made entirely dependent on the products of the big neighbor of the North. The rich mineral resources, especially the nickel,. iron, manganese, and copper mines, were seized by U.S. firms. Later on, U.S. Companies obtained oil concessions but failed to pump the oil discovered. Utilities, such as telephone and electric, were theirs and so were the sugar, tobacco, cattle, and other industries of importance.
Cuba was reduced, in the main, to the production of certain agricultural crops needed by the United States, principally sugar, but also tobacco. In return for the preferential import duties of U.S. goods into Cuba, for the granting of military bases, for the unhindered flood of American investment, and for the repression of the people so that they would work for less than a dollar a day with no labor or social laws for their protection, Cuba was given a guaranteed market of sugar in the United States in the form of a quota based on U.S. needs. The price of sugar was fixed unilaterally by the U.S., as was the quota itself, and could be changed without the consent of Cuba. While it is true that the price fixed for Cuban sugar imports, into the U.S. was often higher than the world market price, this was done not for the enrichment of Cuba-for the vast sugar plantations and refineries were controlled by U.S. interests-but for the protection also of domestic U.S. sugar plantations and refineries which would have been ruined were world market prices allowed to prevail in the sugar markets of the U.S.
And let us remember, too, that if Cuban sugar was often bought by the U.S. at higher than world market prices, at very critical moments in U.S. history, (e.g., the sugar scarcity during World War II, when world market prices of sugar soared to fantastic levels) Cuba did not withhold its sugar from the U.S. even though it could have made many hundreds of millions of dollars more by selling on the world market at that time. It lived up to the unilateral contract set by the U.S. even though it lost immense riches. This was, of course, because by this time the Cuban government existed entirely by the good will of the U.S. and was impotent to act for the best interests of the Cuban people itself.
The Cuban political puppets allowed the new U.S. interests practically to write their own, ticket as far as tax exemption was concerned. If a ten million dollar corporation, for-example, declared it was worth only one million dollars for taxation purposes, this would rarely be challenged, provided a sufficient bribe was given.
Thus it was that Cuba came to be run and overrun by the worst type of gangsters imaginable, killing and torturing thousands who protested. Did you want to build a house? Then you had to pay a bribe to the “inspector” sometimes equal to the entire value of the house! Did you want to use the beach? Beaches were restricted to those who could bribe heavily. Did you want to run a store? Then periodically you had to pay for “protection” so that your store could be run without too much trouble, etc., etc. Hardly a legitimate enterprise existed that was not bled by government gangsters. Havana became a most notorious international center for dope, crime, prostitution, gambling, and vice of all sorts. The gangsters ran their own lotteries and gambling casinos and, in turn, were intimately connected with the gangster syndicate in the U.S. with whom they shared the loot.
HOW THE CUBANS were ground down was dramatically revealed early in 1959 when the Castro forces took over and the gangsters fled the country (not, however, without looting the treasury of over half a billion dollars and without murdering 20,000 Cubans!).
The report showed: Of the great majority of Cubans, the agrarians, 90%. were found in a state of plain malnutrition. Their average span of life was only 40 years. Over 70% were infected with parasites of all sorts. Habitually, only 2% ate eggs, 4% ate meat, 10% drank milk. It was estimated that over 500,000 children had died of gastro-enteritis in the half century culminated with Batista. The workers, ten to a shack, lived in miserable hovels, often made of waste material, without potable water, except in some central locality, without toilets. Ninety percent had no electric lights. There were few schools and 44% could not even sign their names. For them generally there were no doctors, no hospitals, no clinics, no nurses. The agricultural laborers worked in the sugar fields only three to four months in the year for a dollar a day or less, from sun-up to sun-down. They brought their necessities in company stores that mercilessly robbed and cheated them. Their clothes were made, of gunny sacks or coarse fiber cloth. All this in a rich semitropical country filled with fruits and natural foods of all sorts.
Of the arable land under cultivation, 75% was owned by only about 1200 persons or corporations! Besides this, the same people controlled 25% more of uncultivated land held in reserve. The great mass of agrarian toilers owned or controlled nothing.
In the cities, such as Havana, conditions were not much better for the workers. Following the examples of Mussolini and Hitler, the gangster Cuban government had understood well the need of keeping the workers under control. They formed unions in order to place their own henchmen in control and blackmail employers who would not go along with them. This was not objected to by dominant American Big Business which could make money all the more. Nor did the American trade union leaders object.
I have looked through the publications of some U.S. trade unions (not all copies were available) to see what positions they took on Batista and on the new Castro regime. Soon after Batiste took power, the “progressive” Walter Reuther reported in the 1953 CIO convention: “In Cuba under the Batista dictatorship labor has remained relatively unmolested.” In the A.F.L. convention Reports of 1953 and 1954 there is not a word except some praise of. Batista’s controlled sugar works union. This seems to have been the general opinion of these “labor leaders” right up to January, 1959. Even at the very moment when Batiste was forced to flee Cuba thanks to the wrath of the working class there, and the workers were beginning to clean house, the Information Bulletin of the International Conference of Trade Unions, controlled by the United States trade unionists, dared to write: “We have been alarmed by rumors that force has been used against the CTC of Cuba (the Cuban Confederation of Labor-AW) which under the Batista dictatorship has been able to maintain itself and represent the interests of its members as well as could be done under the circumstances. We appeal to the Cuban trade unionists to maintain their unity, to resist the imposition of a self-appointed leadership and to insist upon their right to elect their officials in full freedom with democratic procedures.”
Batiste’s gangsters foisted on the unions—OK, that’s democracy; removal of these gangsters by the revolutionary workers—that’s dictatorship by self appointed leaders causing alarm and necessitating resistance!
Generally there exists an ominous silence on the part of the U.S. trade unions regarding Cuba. For example, the Auto Workers News in 1959, or Justice, the organ of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers, or the Packinghouse Worker, which is an organ dealing also with sugar workers directly. The Packinghouse Worker, indeed, has an international news column. In 1959 this column dealt with Norway, Belgium; Ireland, Ecuador, Israel, Turkey, Southern Rhodesia, India, Argentina, Germany, Great Britain, Lebanon, Ghana, Nigeria, Costa Rica, Japan, Pakistan, Austria, Peru, Union of South Africa-but nary a word on Cuba. In August, 1959, the Mexican leader in the Inter-American Regional Organization of Workers (ORIT) warmly supported the Cuban land reform but this news was buried uncommented upon.
The silence can mean but one thing—deadly enmity to the Cuban Revolution; but not to be exposed until the U.S. State Department-and the Vatican through Meany, head of the AFL-CIO gives the word!
THE STUDENTS in the Cuban Universities, however, could not look on the scene with silence or equanimity. In Cuba, as in Latin America generally, university students are not interested so much in “sports” as they are in politics. The sons and daughters of old Spanish families did not train to become doctors and lawyers merely to serve a gang of vicious slum criminals who would never grant them ,their legitimate place in government. It was here that the gangsters found their initial implacable foe, mobilized in small but solid groups and capable of talented conspiratorial activity. It is of this group that Fidel Castro, his brother Raul, and his close comrades belonged. They felt that if they could only make a real attack on the government forces, the overwhelming majority of Cubans would support them.
Their first military action came on July 26th, 1953 in Santiago de Cuba, in Oriente Province, at the very far southern and eastern end of the island. Here the ground-down peons, Guajiros and Negroes, slaving in the sugar plantations and refineries, could help them. Here there existed very high and rugged mountains with impenetrable swamps nearby. Here the distance from Havana, the Batista center, was greatest. Here support for American interests was weakest while workers, concentrated in the large mining enterprises, could best support them. The rebels chose this moment because a short while previously Fulgencia Batista, ex-President of Cuba and dictator in army circles, staging a coup d’etat only 82 days before a regular constitutional election was to be held for a new government, overthrew the previous Socarras government and became open dictator. In the course of his seizure of power Batista had to fight against student groups which he arrested, tortured, and forced into exile.
The attack on the Moncado police barracks in Santiago de Cuba by Castro and about 90 followers was repulsed. Almost all of Castro’s rebels were tortured and killed and the rest tried for rebellion. At this point the public generally began .to rebel, Goicuria barracks in Matanzas Province was also attacked but with great losses to the people. After this Batista felt compelled to make some sort of gesture of appeasement. After imprisoning Fidel Castro for two years he allowed him and the few followers who survived to go free in a general political amnesty. Castro then went to Mexico.
In Mexico Castro met the other students who had fled the Batista regime, and, even more important, perhaps, he met a group of Spaniards who had fought in the Spanish Civil War against Franco, especially “General” Alberto Bayo, who undertook to train the Cubans intensively for guerrilla warfare against Batista. On December 2, 1956, the Castro group landed again on the south-eastern shore of Oriente Province in Cuba. Again the group was defeated, the lives of the majority of revolutionists lost, only 12 men with Castro surviving to reach the Sierra Maestra mountains. Despite this defeat, events showed that the time was indeed ripe for action. In the short space of only 2 years, this small Castro force was to become an overwhelming tide sweeping Batista into the sea.
Men and women from all over the country and from all classes of people infiltrated through the Batista lines to join the new rebel army. The students at .Havana University organized a Revolutionary Directory, made a frontal attack on the Presidential Palace in Havana in March, 1957. Groups everywhere collected arms, medical supplies,. clothes, etc., for the rebellion. Castro received help from people in other Latin American countries, from Mexico and from Argentina (Dr. Ernesto “Che” Guevara, for example). The work of Raul Castro, Fidel’s younger brother, was especially important because he not only established a second battlefront in the Sierra Cristal in the northern part of Oriente Province, but actually organized a new rebel state in the territory he occupied, showing by his social reforms that he represented the interests of the poor and the humble.
And now the great mass of peons came to the side of the Castro forces. They furnished him shelter and food, protection, and soldiers. As they began to supplant the students as the real rebel force, the Castro leadership was forced to declare a program more and more of a social revolutionary character.
IN THE EARLY days the Castro program had been more of a liberal and simple political nature. It sought to oust the gangsters and to carry out the Cuban constitution theoretically in existence; it yearned for democracy and free elections. This program could be endorsed by every honest person in the population. But now with the Guajiros and Negroes in great force in his army, Castro had to decide on what kind of economic and social program he was going to establish. What should he do in the countryside? What role should the workers in the city play? What should be his relations to American Big Business? What part would Cuba play in international affairs, especially in regard to the dictatorships surrounding him in the Caribbean, in regard to Latin America generally, and in regard to the cold war struggle between two different world systems?
Had Castro not been able to work out a full program of reform for Cuba, how could he possibly have won the revolutionary fight against the well-trained, well-equipped soldiers and police of the Batista regime? He had 12 men with no equipment; Batista had 16,000 troops armed to the teeth with equipment; airplanes, tanks, heavy artillery, bombs, ammunition. of all sorts, etc., furnished. by the United States. Where has it been known in previous history that 12, practically unarmed men could overthrow a dictator and accomplish such a complete military victory in such a very short period of time?
Castro could win only because he had an agrarian program that would bring to his side the overwhelming number of agrarian toilers. He could win in the cities and industries only because he had a social and democratic program that would gain the support. of the trade unions. He could win the mass of intellectuals because he advocated a strong independent Cuba free from domination by foreign powers. As Castro advanced with his forces from the East toward Havana, he was joined by ever increasing masses of humble people. His way was made easier for him by general strikes of the workers that paralyzed the dictator, by military action by student groups, and by mass defection on the part of the dictator’s own army.
WHEN THE VICTORY by Castro was finally achieved and when, on January 1, 1959, Batista himself and his key gangsters fled the country with all the loot they could ship with them, the new regime was faced with the following critical situation:
1. Practically no government officials remained in office. Complete paralysis existed because of the mass flight of the hated Batista agents. It was necessary to build a government personnel from the ground up. But with whom? Many of the most trusted fighters with Castro could neither read nor write. The students who had been behind him, of course, could take hold, but those who had really fought were a minority, not enough to hold down all the posts necessary to meet the problems. Thus, elements of the middle classes, careerists and opportunists of all sorts, who, now that victory was won, flocked around Castro for jobs, had to be used because there was often no other choice. As Castro unveiled his real program, step by step, therefore, increasingly he found that even within his own governmental ranks there was growing a group that cared less and less for anything but its own advancement.
2. The Castro regime found a government bankrupt, with only $500,000 in the entire national treasury, with a public debt of $1.3 billion, and with a current deficit of $90 million. In a special plea Castro called on the people to help him by paying up their back taxes. The response was tremendous, the tax-paying lines were long, some people paying taxes a year in advance. In a short time over $100 million were collected, and within six months over $232 million in taxes came pouring into the treasury. The current government deficits were wiped out and instead of being in the red, the Castro regime has assets of $57 million with the currency reserve increased to $147 million.
A large part of the loot that the crooks had taken for themselves in fleeing Cuba had been in large denominational bills of $500 and $1,000. Payment was stopped in all such bills with a great effort being made to collect the money and assets all over the world wherever they show up.
3. As a result of the revolutionary struggle a great deal of destruction had been visited upon the Cuban economy and people. The indiscriminate bombing of entire cities under orders of Batista to strafe the people mercilessly, had resulted in cities, highway, railroad facilities, harbors, and airports having to be largely rebuilt. The ground fighting had resulted in even greater losses.
4. During the fighting many of the industry owners had fled the country so that enterprises were closed, with about 600,000 workers unemployed. These people had to be fed and taken care of, jobs had to be found and the plants reopened.
The Castro government acted vigorously and promptly to meet this crisis. It adopted the following program:
1. It confiscated the property of all active Batista supporters and henchmen, turning over the industrial and business enterprises to a new governmental entity for immediate reopening and operation.
2. It decreed that all business reopen at once and take back the workers previously employed. In case of any dispute, the government intervened, taking over the management itself with the aid and cooperation of the workers. Powerful and militant trade unions were now organized which purged from its ranks all the crooks and gangsters who had plundered them so long.
3. It fixed the prices for staple foods so that there would be no gouging of the public or profiteering from the emergency. It lowered telephone and electric rates. It cut in half rents for workers and those of modest income. It reduced drastically the prices of all medicines and drugs and limited doctor fees. It set the normal work week as one of 48 hours and a normal minimum pay level of about $85 a month for those covered.
4. It immediately stopped the flow of gold out of the country so as to check any inflationary tendencies arising from that source.
5. It drastically reduced imports from the U.S. while directing consumption into channels which could be handled domestically by Cubans themselves.
6. It began a great public works program to take care of the unemployed and to rehabilitate the country.
The Castro government had not only to meet the immediate critical situation, but also to determine what its long range policies should be. This examination resulted in the promulgation of a basic program having the following aspects:
1. An effective agrarian reform law that would give the land back to the people where it belonged and would utilize the land and resources properly;
2. Industrialization of the country with the widest possible diversification of the nation’s economic production;
3. An effective public works program that would increase the social capital to its highest possible level and lay the basis for raising the welfare of the people to better standards;
4. A reorganization of the educational system so that the proper cadres could be trained most effectively and quickly for the vast tasks that lay ahead;
5. A political program that would build up the power of the workers and agrarians in alliance with the students and lower middle class so that when democratic elections would be held there would be no doubt as to the social character of the government.
WE SHALL now examine each of these aspects of the Castro basic program as it is at present revealed.
On May 17 1959, there was promulgated the Land Reform Law as part of the organic law of the Republic of Cuba. The fundamental provisions of this Law are as follows:
1. Large landholding is Prohibited. The maximum area of land that a natural or juridical person may own is 30 caballerias (the caballeria is about 33 acres). Land owned in excess of that limit is expropriated for distribution among the peasants and agricultural workers who have no land. Certain types of land are exempt from this provision, but the general rule is what counts.
2. Landowners who own less that 30 caballerias of land but who have sharecroppers and tenants on their land who do not have more than five caballerias each may also be subject to expropriation.
3. It is now illegal to enter into any sharecropping agreements or any similar type of contract (except in the case of contracts for grinding sugar cane).
4. Starting May 17, 1960, corporations may not operate sugar plantations where all shares of stock are not registered, or all the shareholders are not Cuban citizens, or where the owners are persons engaged in the manufacture of sugar. Owners engaged in the manufacture of sugar cannot operate sugar plantations. Likewise the possession and ownership of rural lands intended for any other type of agricultural and stock raising activities by corporations the shares of which are not registered are prohibited.
5. Rural property may be acquired in the future only by Cuban citizens or companies formed by Cuban citizens.
6. The vital minimum for a peasant family of five persons is considered an area of two caballerias where the land is fertile and devoted to crops of medium economic yield. Such vital minimum lands can not be subject to attachment or transfer.
7. The private lands subject to appropriation are to be transferred undivided to cooperatives recognized by the Law.
8. The property received free of charge from the State can not be transferred to others or further divided through inheritance but must be kept as indivisible units of real estate except for community property rights of husband and wife and in the cases pertaining to cooperatives referred to in the Law.
9. Owners of land appropriated by the State under the law who are regularly entitled to indemnity would be indemnified by bonds payable in 20 years at 4½ % interest based on the evaluation in the municipal assessment statements dated prior to October, 1958. The persons holding these bonds, where such are invested in new industries, would be exempt from income tax payment on them for the next ten years.
10. Within two years after the Law becoming effective, the utilization of all privately owned lands, regardless of their area, must begin or the land will be taken away.
11. To implement the working of the Law and to achieve its purposes and objectives, a National Agrarian Reform Institute (INRA) is set up. INRA is not only to see to it that the land is properly taken, indemnified, distributed, and worked, but it is also to work closely with the Revolutionary Army and other institutions engaged in projects, facilitate and increase the growing of new types of crops and make use of all natural resources, increase exports, raise domestic consumption and improve agrarian social conditions, develop new products, propose new taxes and tariff laws, coordinate the campaigns for improving the housing, health, and education of the rural population and to draft the regulations of the agricultural cooperative associations set up, organizing and appointing managers thereof.
IMMEDIATELY upon the passage of the Agrarian Reform Law a great cry arose from the American capitalists entrenched in Cuba. They declared the Law confiscated their property. The fact is the land is being paid for. The evaluation set is, in the main, the very evaluation that the American companies had themselves given previously. Now these companies, having cheated on taxes all these years by giving false and very low estimates as to the value of their property, are crying because the government has said it is taking them at their own word and paying them what they themselves said the value was. Of course the Government could arrest them for fraudulent tax evasion all these years, fine them heavily and thus, perhaps, leave them nothing—and this would be nothing more than what the U.S. government sometimes does. Even though the Castro government has not taken the harshest course, still the cheaters are howling blue murder.
The creation of rural cooperatives throughout Cuba has also been attacked as a terrible example of socialism. The peasants can now organize themselves in central bodies and begin to run their own affairs. They are assured of government purchases for their crops at standard prices. They can now secure loans and credit at very low rates from the government. Their method of work is constantly being improved. They will get all modern machinery and tools needed. The crops will be more and more diversified so that the rural toiler can work at something all year round and not merely during the short season when his industrial crop is ready. Schools, hospitals, clinics, social services of all sorts are being established in his villages and his old dung heap of a home is being bulldozed away and brand new homes constructed. A vast project of sanitation and hygiene is being carried out with running water, drainage, garbage and sewage disposal, etc., part of it. “People Stores” with a well balanced stock of reasonably priced goods of good quality have replaced the Company Commissaries.
How this is working out is described in a special dispatch dated March 1, from San Juan y Martinez, Cuba, appearing in the New York Times under the byline of R. Hart Phillips. We quote:
“A new village has sprung up almost overnight in the midst of fields of tobacco grown around this small village in Pinar del Rio Province… . Seventy-five houses in the village have been completed and forty-five are in various stages of construction. The school is ready for occupancy and the Government owned tienda del pueblo (store of the people) resembling a small United States supermarket, is operating. A small clinic has been built but is still without equipment.
“When the houses are completed and the furniture being made by soldiers in the military post of Pinar del Rio is installed, the 120 members of the cooperative will burn their dirt-floor, thatched roof bohios made of the trunks of palms, and move into new houses… .
“The small concrete-block houses are palaces in the eyes of the cooperative members who have lived for years in the unsanitary bohios. Each house has a sitting-dining room, three bedrooms, a kitchen with built-in closets and a kerosene stove, a tiled bathroom and a small back terrace. All houses have electric light and running water… .
“The modern school has seven classrooms built around a central patio filled with tropical palms. It has a kitchen and the assembly hall doubles as a dining room where the children will be given their lunch. All the children of the cooperative members will go to school, most of them for the first time… .
“The streets of the little village are paved, shrubs and trees have been planted, grass is already growing on tiny lawns. Electric installations are all underground. Water comes from one of three 40,000 gallon irrigation tanks filled from deep wells."
This is the transformation that is appearing all through the countryside of Cuba today. It marks, however, only the first steps being taken in this direction.
Very early in its existence the Castro government recognized the potentialities in the island for rapid diversification of products and for widespread industrialization to give balance and solidity to the economy. Cuba is a land of tropical fruits such as mango, tamarind, papaya, mamey, and others not found to any extent in the United States. How easy it would have been to develop the fruit industry, to can the juices and to win the U.S. and foreign markets, thus pouring into Cuba a stream of gold equal to that obtained by Florida or California. But, although the iron, manganese, copper, and nickel were present in abundant quantities, under the old regime no canning industry of any importance was developed and no canning machinery manufactured, except a little controlled by foreign concerns.
Again, Cuba is a land where cotton can be grown. The fibers could be used for the development of a native textile industry that could give work to the great surplus population existing in this one-crop country. The seeds could be pressed into vegetable oils for human consumption. But this would mean that less cotton and vegetable oils would be bought from the United States and so all effort in this direction was discouraged. In 1960, however, it is planned to sow 600,000 acres of cotton.
Sugar cane itself can produce many by-products of great importance. After the sap is squeezed out of the cane, the bagasse, or residue, can make very good fodder or can be used as a base for many chemical and plastic products. The banana or plantain fruit also could be used for similar purposes. The leaf of the ramie, a plant easily and widely cultivated in Cuba, when processed can become a fodder for the cattle industry more important than alfalfa. Salt refineries, plants producing cellulose pulp, feed plants, vegetable oil refineries, cement plants, tomato canning, juice canning, plants for producing paper, plants utilizing agricultural wastes and fibers, plants making gauze and a large number of other items all could have been flourishing in Cuba. But under the dictators all these activities were not even dreamed of. Cuba was not to engage in any other industry except production of raw materials for the U.S.
There is no question that oil had been found in Cuba and could be profitably drilled. The offices of the U.S. oil companies that had oil concessions in Cuba, when searched, revealed documents that proved that oil drilling had already discovered payloads but that the oil had then been capped. This matter will be further probed by the new Cuban research office and it may be that Cuba will thus be freed from the powerful grip of the U.S. oil monopolists in not too far distant a time. Already at this moment 1600 barrels of oil are being pumped out daily.
One of the phases of industry that Cuba must pay more attention to is the creation of a real merchant marine. Cuba is now losing about $60 million annually in freight charges owing to its lack of a merchant marine. With some good vessels Cuba could also increase its services to Miami, to New Orleans and to other ports. There is no doubt that the new regime will move vigorously in this direction during the near future.
THE WHOLE situation is now rapidly being changed. Cuba has now set up a Banco de Fometo Agricola y Industrial for exactly this sort of promotion. Simultaneously INRA has organized special research task forces for the planning of rapid and diversified industrialization. Havana University is being reorientated so that as quickly as possible technicians and engineers can be turned out as well as the traditional specialists in the humanities.
Capital for industrial development is being obtained through the establishment of a proper tax structure and control of foreign commerce. The tax laws have been drastically revised so as to place taxes on capital rather than on labor, on luxury items consumed by the wealthy rather than on items desirable or necessary for the poor. The tax laws include a general income tax, a tax on labor (3%), a tax on capital investment returns, a tax on excess profits (40%), a supplementary personal income tax (on income over $4000 a year), a sales tax (3% to 30%), a liquor tax, a cigar tax, an automobile tax, a public service tax, a sugar production tax, a tax on documents, an inheritance tax, and some others of a similar nature. Especial efforts have been made to collect the back taxes so flagrantly neglected under Batista for the sake of bribes. With this a large fund of money has flooded into the treasury.
In addition to these taxes, a new and great source of income has been opened up by the loans equal to 4% of their income, that the workers lend regularly each pay period to the government in the form of purchase of government bonds (payable at 7½ interest!).
Every effort has been made to stop the drain of money away from Cuba. A big drive has been started in Cuba under the slogan that it is patriotic to buy Cuban goods. The sale of American cigarettes has become very unpopular and domestic tobacco products are consumed instead. There has been no drive on Coca Cola, so widely consumed on the Island, partly because the drink is produced in Cuba itself, and partly because Coca Cola is perhaps the largest consumer of Cuban sugar of any private enterprise in the world. But on many other import items Cuba is regulating the price, or opening up markets where the goods may be bought cheaper, or establishing reciprocal bilateral arrangements with other countries for the purchase of needed goods in exchange for Cuban sugar or copper or other items, so that by no means has the U.S. any longer any easy monopoly over the Cuban market as previously.
Strong efforts are being made to make Cuba more self-sufficient and to increase export crops. In 1959 the sugar quota set by the government was surpassed, despite a late harvest. And the same can be said for 1960 despite the thousands of tons that have been burned by foreign based planes hurling fire bombs on the crops. A million and a half quintals (a quintal weighs a hundred kilograms) of rice was produced and more than a million quintals of corn in the last year. Great attention has been given to developing the cattle growing industry.
Tourist trade has been sharply revised. Before, strange as it may appear, more Cuban money was spent in the United States than U.S. money spent in Cuba. Now Cubans may not take money abroad without special permission and U.S. firms are sharply checked in this process. At the same time special efforts are being made, especially among the Negro people of the U.S., to induce Americans to visit Cuba as a land of ideal climate and a country free of racism. “Welcome to Our Revolution” is the slogan that has been adopted. Rather naive, and we wonder when, thanks to U.S. intervention, the slogan will have to be changed to “Americans, Keep Out!”
Taking an entirely new tack from other underdeveloped countries seeking to industrialize themselves, Cuba has now announced a new policy in regard to capital investments from abroad. No more foreign investments will be allowed. The Cuban government itself will borrow the money as needed from other countries or from private individuals and will invest that money itself, so that the investments will remain mainly for the benefit of Cuba and not for the foreign investors only. All that the foreigners will do will be to lend the money and to receive stocks or bonds, or interest or dividends, and the return of their principal sums.
But if this is to be the case, then the future of Cuba economically can only be in the direction of further nationalization of industry and socialization. Large scale private property, capital, and control of Cuban resources seem now to be doomed. Whatever of these categories still exist from the past must become gradually squeezed and bought out as Cuban technicians and engineers learn to take over. In this respect Cuba must move ever more in the direction of Russia, or perhaps better, of Jugoslavia, rather than of the United States. And Cuba is now in extensive barter relations with Russia, China, and the other Soviet minded countries, with Jugoslavia, with Egypt, and with the underdeveloped countries of Asia and Africa. These relations must intensify and expand as the trends develop. Cuba is moving not only out of the U.S. sphere of influence but out of the capitalist orbit! The blundering policy of the United States is accelerating this process.
THE URGENTLY needed rapid growth of social capital in Cuba can not possibly wait for the slower industrial investment to increase. Immediately needed are funds for the building of schools, hospitals, homes, etc. These funds had to come from savings. But how could the people of Cuba be induced to save when they had so little? Here the Cuban regime hit upon a brilliant and unique plan by which, on the one hand, the leaders would destroy the vice of gambling that had infected the Cuban population for decades and even centuries, and, on the other hand, they would obtain the necessary savings for reinvestment in social capital.
On the 17th of February, 1959, there was promulgated the now famous Law No. 86, establishing a National Institute of Savings and Housing (INAV). The Preamble of the Act declares that gambling is a most vicious habit in Cuba especially as it lays its heavy weight mainly on the poor, reducing their meager resources and destroying them morally. It was necessary, by reorientation and patience, to re-educate the people away from this gambling habit and to substitute the habit of saving, using the money saved for the public good.
The law then decreed the following matters, among others:
1. The former National Lottery of Cuba was abolished.
2. In its place an autonomous entity called Instituto Nacional de Ahorro y Vivienda (INAV) was established with the objectives of saving for the public what was previously spent on gambling, and to create a fund for investment for the building of housing of all sorts.
3. INAV was to issue regularly bonds in series in substitution for the old lottery tickets. These bonds would carry a weekly prize of $100,000 for the person getting the lucky number and 1,000 other prizes of $100 each. The winners were to be carefully chosen by lot.
4. If the bond holders held their coupons for 1 year, they could get 40% of their money back; if they held them 2 years, 50%; at the end of five years, they got 110% back, etc. Thus, those engaged in this lottery could win up to $100,000, if they were lucky, and, if they were unlucky, they could simply hold on to their coupons which were also bonds and then could get interest on them as savings bonds. This provided a powerful inducement to the average Cuban who had previously played the lottery game to put his money into INAV coupons. Soon a large amount of money was pouring into the coffers of the government.
5. Under the Law the money so obtained was to be used for the construction of housing of all sorts by the government. Immediately there began a feverish and intense building activity all through the Island. The 600,000 unemployed were soon reduced to less than half, and then to about a quarter of their number.
The homes erected are paid for either by the profits made by the cooperatives, where INAV in cooperation with INRA built homes for the cooperatives, or by the tenants after a term of years at as modest rates as possible. In this respect INAV also works closely with the Banco de Formento in order to get credits immediately available.
Former soldiers’ barracks have been remodeled into schools. Perhaps as many as 1,000 schools have already been built, one of the schools under construction in the Sierra Maestra being planned for 25,000 students, a regular school city! Hospitals and clinics are being established in the countryside at the cooperatives. Even in the most rugged mountain country districts now teams of doctors can be seen riding their burros on rough roads to reach their patients.
All over the country highways and railroads are being repaired and built. The vast swamps to be found in the central and eastern parts of the Island are at last being drained, a feat that will eventually bring great additional wealth to the country. Land conservation measures including irrigation and drainage, attack against corrosion, and proper fertilization, are being undertaken on a large scale.
In a report issued at the end of 1959 the Minister of Public Works reported that the new government had started a big highway and road building program as a means of carrying civilization and progress to every corner of the island and thus rescuing many impoverished isolated zones from the misery of oblivion. Over 600 miles of country road had already been built or were in process of construction, new superhighways had been constructed, two very large bridges, some new airports, especially a new one near Havana, 65 new public beaches established, a large zoological garden, a large aquarium, and ichthyological center, a national theater, etc., etc.
To solve the immediate pressing problem of schools and to realize the determined objective of the government to eradicate completely analphabetism, it was decided to set up pre-fabricated schools as a transitional measure with parts adapted to any locality. The rural schools have two class rooms, plus living quarters for the teacher which consist of two bedrooms, a living room, a kitchen and a bathroom. The two class rooms include space for a carpenter shop, a printing room, seating for 48 pupils, toilet facilities, a water filter, and a playroom. In every case space is provided for a kitchen, garden for poultry raising and for animals, as a means of giving practical instruction in cultivation, since the pupils are peasants’ children who must be taught to love the land and to be conscious of the social function of agriculture.
This great problem of educating the Cuban people, both children and adults, has naturally created tremendous problems for the newly organized department of education. Teachers must be found for the new 1000 schools. Curricula must be reorganized to develop the technicians and specialists needed. Here Cuba finds herself in the same predicament as other underdeveloped countries such as those of Asia and Africa who have the same problem. No doubt they will learn from one another.
But this is only part of the plan. According to Castro, 10,000 country schools will be built as well as several hundred secondary schools. Each secondary school will be given 660 acres of land so that eventually the students will be self-supporting. Meanwhile the students will receive free instruction, books, food, clothing, and care.
As a special project the Cuban Revolutionary Army will build 25 student cities each one like the one now being built in the Sierra Maestra. Each will be given 17,000 acres for its support. each will have approximately 35 units housing 500 pupils each ranging from 8 to 18 years of age. The student city will have 210 sports fields of all kinds as well as stadia, a museum, a zoological garden, hospital laboratories, etc. Study will be combined with work. Intelligent children will go from there to the secondary school centers and to the universities.
A special point should be made about the building of public beaches. Believe it or not. this great island with its countless fine beaches had none open to the public free of charge. Under the Batista regime the beaches were monopolized by wealthy estates or by individuals who barred the public from their use unless they paid. Thus the masses of people could not even get to swim in their own waters. Now at least they can get to know their own parts of the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean.
WHAT CHANGES have occurred in the political and social fields since the arrival of Castro to power can be highlighted as follows;
1. No political parties are allowed to exist except the party of Castro, called the Party of July 26, and the Communist Party. When asked about the Communist Party’s existence, Castro has replied that it is impossible to outlaw the Communist Party since so many Communist Party members fought so well and bravely in his army helping him to win power. Castro’s party it not well organized. In numbers it has less than the Communist Party which is estimated to have 50,000 members. In discipline generally it is more lax than the Communist Party. Here then is a dualism that it would pay to watch in the future.
2. No meetings are allowed without permission of the regime except those of trade unions and cooperatives since these are organized and controlled by people in support of the present regime.
3. There is no voting for officers since there are no elections. Castro himself has declared that there ‘may, not be elections for four years since he wants to make sure that the people axe enjoying the fruits of the revolution before casting their ballots for other parties. There is still considerable unemployment to be reduced; illiteracy has not yet been conquered; the large U.S. corporations have not yet been entirely subdued; foreign connections have not yet been solidly made, etc. He wants to wait with elections and see what the country does.
4. While the enemies of Castro still have .the press in “Avance” and “El Diario de la Marina” etc., these opposition papers are now subject to control by workers organized in the editorial rooms. If there is a wrong story the workers have the right to add a note to the effect that this story is a 1ie. These papers will gradually be squeezed out. The Communist Party has a daily paper of its own, “Hoy”, ` which has a considerable circulation but which takes no stand against anything approved by the government.
5. More and more power is being given to the organization of workers and peasants. Repeatedly Castro has stated he bases his regime on their support in alliance- with the progressive intellectuals and lower middle classes. The workers in one year have gained more than 20% increase in pay and vastly improved their lot. They now have labor contracts in practically all establishments of importance and can cause government intervention and operation of the plants if they really so desire. There is now the beginnings of workers control over industry, where that industry is private. The workers have much to do with the government itself, many of their leaders playing a prominent part in the government apparatus. On the countryside a similar role is being played by the agricultural workers’ organizations and cooperatives. A whole series of social measures for the protection and advantage of the workers is now being prepared. They include the establishment of comprehensive medical care, social security and old age pensions, workmen’s compensation, etc.
6. Racism has been given a mortal blow in Cuba. Negros everywhere occupy an important position. They make up about 50% of the army. They are 10%—20% of the officialdom; Cuba’s national hero is the Negro, General Maceo; the composer of their new national hymn of the 26th of July is a Negro, Cartaya; the head of the Cuban army is a Negro, Juan Almeida, etc. Intermarriage is common and any segregation or discrimination is severely attacked.
7. The army has been entirely reorganized. Gone forever are the former “Generals” drawing sinecure pay and controlling a Professional army used against the people. The army is now a people’s army used to help in construction projects and supported by a mass of armed workers and peasants, organized either by factories or by districts and steadily trained. There is now absolutely no Possibility of re- reactionary coup d’etat to bring back anything like the old regime.
8. The intellectuals have been given full place in governmental work. Everywhere in the education and rebuilding of Cuba the scientist, doctor, and scholar is needed- He is welcomed and given an honored place. In this way the intellectuals’ desire for a place in the sun is recognized and realized, although this may not be enough for some of them. These least may be thinking of the good old days in Latin American countries where students on graduation could get cushy jobs in the government and look down on the masses. They may have originally for Castro for precisely the reason that Batista denied them this right by filling the posts with plain filthy gangsters instead of refined aristocratic doctors from the University. It, is no accident, that this student element is not entirely now for Castro, that about half of the Habana University students may be said to be opposed or looking askance at the new regime which holds no elections and allows no opportunists or careerists to form new demagogic parties for their own interests. Here, again, the situation must be watched.
9. Among the intellectual elements especially have the ,women made great progress. They now occupy’ very important positions in the government. Dr. Melba Hernandez is head of the Women’s Prison. In the Ministry of Welfare there is Raquel Perez and in INAV, Pastorita Nunez. Mrs. Armando Hart plays a leading role with her husband the Minister of Education Armando Hart, in the field of education. These women intellectuals have an important function in awakening the women of the people so that they will march side by side with the men. From the start women were taken directly into the Rebel Army and played an important and heroic part there.
WHAT ARE THE perspectives of the Castro regime? Can the Revolution continue to go forward or will it be crushed by its enemies? It is to such questions that we devote the final part of our study.
First of all it is clear that the doctrine of permanent resolution will apply to Cuba as it must to the rest of the world. The workers and peasants, once tasting power and understanding what it means to work for their own benefit, can and will not be limited in eventually taking full control unless they are compelled to. The revolution begun by students with a bourgeois democratic program must run its course. to the final ends of proletarian control and democracy or be stopped in its tracks by counter revolution. The Girondists will give way to the Jacobins; the Jacobins to Baboeuf, the liberals will give way to the social democrats, the social democrats to the Communists. There is no force in Cuba capable of stopping the revolution from moving steadily leftward: Not the Batista forces, since they are hated by all and have been forced to hide like a hunted pack of dogs. Not the old Spanish families, since they have long ago been replaced by modern big business. Not the U.S. corporations since their superintendents and foremen and specialists brought in with them are aliens who are very vulnerable. Not the lower middle class, because they have become non-existent in large parts of the Island. Not the students or youth of these aforementioned elements, since they have no influence over the mass of people. These last are in the government, however, and they are in the July 26th Party. They can form factions within this Party at the proper moment, and split it, as the July 26th Party and Castro himself steadily swing to the Left under pressure.
The opposing intellectuals and those whom they can infect, given certain circumstances, can control, however, a considerable minority, say 25% of the population. This is not enough to do the job, but if they can combine with outside forces for a joint attack at the right moment then the revolution can be defeated. But before it can be defeated it must move still further to the Left and as it does so it can generate the reactionary opposition that has the chance to defeat it.
The principal force within Cuba that can defeat the Revolution is the Catholic Church. Up to now it has taken a benevolently neutral stand. It has not permitted even the beginnings of the formation of an authorized Christian Democratic or Christian Socialist Party as it has in other countries. This would only expose its hand prematurely. The Catholic Church, claiming adherents from the entire population which is Catholic, is biding its time not to push Castro farther to the Left and also waiting for Castro to Compromise himself. It waits for Castro to ally himself plainly and definitively with the Soviets. Then it will act.
But it is clear that the Vatican cannot permit the Cuban regime to go much more towards the Soviet Union than Castro has already gone without direct interference. We already have been given a hint of this when Mikoyan came to Cuba and the Catholics organized some students to demonstrate under the slogan “Castro, Yes; Mikoyan, No!”
The narrow, arrogant policy of our State Department, bowing to the pressure of Big Business, adopts such measures as to force Castro to turn to the Soviet Union and similar sources. Cuba needs cooperation from the United States to obtain loans, to get arms to arrest the Batia crooks and recover the loot stolen, to get better commercial deals, to help the start of native industries, to secure airplanes and helicopters, etc., etc. Instead, the United States stands rigidly opposed, actually hinders Cuban development and allows planes to leave Florida to bomb and burn Cuban crops and people at will.
Cuba naturally can and will retaliate to the full. The form of retaliation can take the following aspects:
1. Break of diplomatic relations with the U.S.;
2. Demand for the return of Guantanamo Bay now occupied by U.S. marines;
3. Stringent restriction on U.S. imports into Cuba;
4. Confiscation of U.S. citizens property or sequestration with minimum payment;
5. Allowing planes to bomb Florida as Florida allows planes to bomb Cuba;
6. Establishing a submarine, air and army base in Cuba for the Soviet Union;
7. Stimulating the people of Panama to demand the return of the Panama Canal to Panama;
8. Stimulating the people of Puerto Rico to call for the independence of that country from the U.S;
9. Stimulating the people of the small Central American dictatorships to fight against the rule of United Fruit and other U.S. monopolists;
10. Stimulating the people of the Dominican Republic to overthrow their hated dictator, Trujillo;
11. Organizing the countries of Africa and Asia in an underdeveloped nations bloc for mutual protection, and aiding and joining forces with them in the United Nations against the U.S. and for the Soviet Union;
12. Help organize the Negro people in the United States to stand in solidarity with the Cuban Revolution; Offering the Negro people of the United States free instruction in the art of insurrection and guerrila fighting;
13. Close alliance with the Soviet Union and similar countries, e.g., economic pacts, military alliances, close interconnections in international affairs, etc. We need not go on.
WE CAN SEE how Castro supporters are changing as the Revolution moves to the Left. Since the beginning of the new government there has, for example, bean much reshuffling of Cabinet posts with moderates, in the main, giving way to leftists. In 1959 alone the President of the Republic, the Premier, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of the Interior, the Minister of Social Welfare, the Minister of Health, the Minister of I.abor, the Minister of Public Works, the Minister for the Recovery of Misappropriated Funds, and the President of the National Bank of Cuba. all have been replaced by others.
On July 1, 1959 Major Pedro Diaz Lanz, chief of the air force resigned and fled to Florida: on October 21, 1959, Major Hubert Matos, chief of forces in Camaguey Province, was arrested on charges of conspiracy after presenting a letter of resignation. Both of these two leaders were with Castro after the start of the Revolution. More defections are bound to fallow as Castro moves sill farther to the Left.
Castro can not stop the Revolution even if he wants to, but not because the communist Party stands ready to push him if he falters. The Communist Party of Cuba is Stalinist party. It may be quite ready to sacrifice the interests of Cuba to those of the Soviet Union and stop the forward march of the Revolution. We say “may be” rather than “is” quite ready because the Cuban Communist Party is infiltrated with other elements than Russian Stalinists and their satellites. There are present also Jugoslav Titoists, some Spanish Trotzkysts, and Chinese Communists. They do not all think alike. It is not beyond speculation that given certain concessions by the Unitd States, Krushchev might be willing to stifle the Cuban Revolution and not let it proceed to its logical end, just as Stalinists have done elsewhere (everywhere). But in order to do this Castro’s Party of Juty 26th would have to give way to the Stalinist Party and there is no chance of this in the immediate future, short of civil war and armed intervention. And even if Krushchev were willing and able to stop the onward rush of the Cuban Revolution the United States (and the Vatican) might not be willing to make the concessions demanded but instead launch their own counter-attack from the right in order to sweep the Communist Party and Krushchrv out of the picture. Then could come the split in the July 26th Party organized by Catholic Church faction around whom would gather about half of the students and most of the middle class operating in conjunction with extreme economic and even military pressure from without. At this time, given the signal, the AFL-CIO leaders would also join the fray to overthrow the revolutionary regime.
No, Castro can not turn back simply because the internal class forces aroused are such that the Revolution is inevitably impelled to go forward toward proletarian dictatorship despite the also inevitable civil war and intervention.
We can not emphasize the fact too much. that in Cuba the weakest link in the revolutionary chain is the lack of a real party of the workers. The July 26th Party is not a homogenous party. It contains all kinds of elements. It has a leader with a small general staff. Around them is a group of fighters who have stuck closely to Castro from the beginning. But they have little knowledge of Marxism. Within the party there is no real discussion of program, strategy and tactics by a membership trained for revolutionary leadership. And without a revolutionary party there can be no successful working class revolution.
The Julyp26th Party can, at best, be considered a party for the workers rather than of them. The Party program is determined for the members and then is “revealed” to them entirely from the top in true. Jacobin style. Those on top will soon become “tired.” They will tend to form a leadership of managers and bureaucrats perhaps more like that in Tito’s Party than that in Russia where as a revolutionary force, the party is “exhausted.” Remove Fidel and Raul Castro, and perhaps “Che” Guevara., and then what is left of any intransigent leadership in Cuba? Here, within the July 26th Party, is the Achilles Heel of the Revolution in Cuba, a weakness that the workers there cannot permit to continue for any length of time and yet one which they may not be able to overcome.
On the other hand, if the July 26th Party leadership might want to stop and rest, the workers of Cuba will not be able to do so. A Cuban working class moving towards power must try to extend the Revolution. It must arouse all the oppressed and exploited masses in Central and South America, if only for its own protection. It must raise as its principal cry: “Workers of Latin America, Unite!” It must attempt a genuine workers international grouping in the Caribbean and in the Western Hemisphere that will expand the Revolution or it will perish!
It is possible that both the July 26th Party and the Communist Party will split, the first to drop its faction that wants to stays the revolution, the second to drop its Russian national subservience. These parties can, then, fuse together and become one, an internationalist one, if the stress and strain becomes great enough.
There is one final variation, namely that the United States and. Russia might reach a secret agreement, with the blessings of the Vatican, to stop the Cuban Revolution half-way. This could be accompanied by the Communist Party liquidating and joining the July 26th Party, the Communist Party leadership reinforcing that wing of the July 26th Party that would like to halt the revolution and do “constructive work” so as to lead the Cuban Revolution along the same paths already traveled by the exhausted Mexican Revolution of earlier days. Such a combination of Castro, Krushchev, Tito, Vatican, and the U.S. State Department supported by AFL-CIO labor forces and their allies would prove too much for the Cuban workers for the time being. Despite convulsions, the Cuban workers would be stopped in their tracks in striving for a brand new Latin American world. They would have to wait for new world events disturbing the established equilibrium before moving forward again.