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International Socialism, Spring 1980


Peter Binns & Mike Gonzalez

Cuba, Castro and Socialism


First published in International Socialism 2:8, Spring 1980, pp. 1–36.
Reprinted as a pamphlet June 1983 (and several times later) by the Socialist Workers Party.
Copied with thanks from REDS – Die Roten.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Twenty one years have passed since the time Castro’s rebel army, backed by a loose coalition of intellectuals – the 26th July Movement – destroyed the US-backed Batista regime and began to effect fundamental changes in Cuban society. What exactly did it achieve? Does it provide the Third World with an alternative and viable road to socialism to that of Moscow’s stultifying bureaucrats? Can its methods be repeated elsewhere? These questions have been posed even more sharply by recent events in China – China for so long the brightest star on the eastern horizon, but which now participates in joint foreign policy initiatives with the USA in Afghanistan, and encourages the entry of western capital and a more sharply differentiated society at home. The limelight is therefore inevitably on Cuba; has it remained faithful to its socialist principles? Did it indeed ever have any? Or, like China, when one probes beneath the surface at all seriously do they disappear into thin air?

Many indeed have had no doubts at all about the socialist nature of Cuba’s revolution. Thus C. Wright Mills for instance concluded that it was “a revolutionary dictatorship of the peasants and workers of Cuba” in which one man possessed “virtually absolute power”. This somewhat bizarre view was the more remarkable for representing a wide consensus on the question; from Paul Johnson in the New Statesman who waxed lyrically on Cuba’s “genuine dictatorship of the proletariat” even if it was expressed through the “arbitrary” rule of one man, to Joseph Hansen and the Fourth International who claimed – somewhat less lyrically – that “in the final analysis, the overturn in property relations in Cuba is an echo of the October 1917 revolution in Russia”, and therefore “Cuba entered the transitional phase of a workers’ state, although one lacking as yet the forms of democratic proletarian rule”. [1]

On what were these very widespread claims based? And how have they stood the test of time? Finally, how can we now characterise the direction in which Cuba is heading? These are questions we shall examine in this article.

The background to the 1959 Revolution

Cuba was the last remnant of Spain’s Latin American Empire mid when, in 1898, it finally freed itself from Spanish rule the USA was to step in. The USA entered Cuba to protect its citizens and the new government of independent Cuba was appointed by them. The 1901 Constitution was actually written in the office of the US Governor of the island.

Cuba was one of the biggest prizes in the drive of US imperialism into the Caribbean and Central America. During the 19th Century more and more sugar-growing and fell into American hands and the process continued rapidly under the new regime. The wild fluctuations of sugar prices on the world market aided the process of concentration and, by 1924, American capital owned 63% of Cuban sugar production.

The Cuban economy was completely subordinated to the US sugar barons. In 1902 they had gained preferential terms fur sugar purchase. The entire economy was structured around sugar and, as early as 1912, 70% of all imports were consumer goods. In the 1940s the Batista regime, then in a radical nationalist phase, had begun a process of ‘cubanisation’ in the sugar industry and direct US control of the sugar industry receded, but their control of the world sugar market meant that they could continue to control the overall direction of the Cuban economy.

By the 1950s, 80% of all Cuban imports came from the USA. $1 billion of US capital was invested there. The USA had a virtual monopoly of foreign trade via the 1934 Reciprocal Trade Agreement. Agriculture, with 41.5% of the labour force, dominated the economy and sugar dominated agriculture. 83% of available land was under sugar and it made up at least 80% of exports (another 10% being tobacco). Sugar constituted 36% of the GNP. The rest of the economy was little developed. Utilities remained in foreign hands. Mineral resources were little developed. ‘Services’, including a large sector of the economy devoted to catering for US tourism. employed 20.1% of the labour force. A vast state machine, riddled with graft and gangsterism, took an estimated 25% of the GNP. By 1959, Cuba was a model of an underdeveloped economy; its real centre was not Havana but Washington.

This society was run by a series of brutal and parasitic figures. Between 1924 and 1933 an ex-director of General Electric in Cuba, Gerardo Machado, ran things with repression and tenor. In 1933 he was overthrown by a workers’ rising and replaced for a few months by the ‘progressive’ nationalist Grau San Martin. He was then toppled by an ex-sergeant-clerk Fulgencio Batista, who was to dominate Cuban politics from 1934 to 1959.

There were two traditions of opposition to this state of affairs. The first was represented by the working class. It was they who toppled Machado in 1933. What began as a strike of bus drivers in Havana escalated rapidly into a general rising of workers and students against the government. The Cuban Communist Party (CCP) had initially played no role in this rising, but quickly moved to take control. They declared the establishment of soviets’ and of workers’ control. By 1934, after massive recruitment of members, they were the effective leadership of the working class. But their aim was not the overthrow of the Cuban state; instead they used their mass support as a bargaining counter with the Grau San Martin government. Thus, when he was toppled by Batista and the army, the movement was greatly weakened. After a failed General Strike in 1935, Batista murdered hundreds of leading working class militants and declared virtual war on the CCP.

By 1938, in pursuance with the Comintern line of unity with ‘progressive’ forces, the CCP was ready to do a deal with Batista. It was an alliance which was consummated in the 1940 Constitution. Along with his policy of giving the local capitalists a larger share of the sugar industry. Batista sought to enlarge the slate machine and to incorporate the trade unions into it. The Cuban Workers’ Federation (CTC), founded in 1940, was part of that strategy. Two Communists entered Batista’s Cabinet and another took control of the CTC. The CCP had abandoned independent working class politics for a nationalist populism which focussed on the national interest. Thus, despite the fact that the party had grown, the government was able to take control of the CTC in 1947 and ban the CCP.

The new union leaders were gangsters. The unions limited membership was relatively privileged economically but any political opposition was violently crushed. The rural workers, on the other hand, remained poor and badly organised. the majority of plantation workers were unemployed for 5 or 6 months every year. 31% of the population had no education at all, 29.4% had three years or less, 3.5% had been to high school, and only 1% to university.

The other current of opposition was petit bourgeois in origin. So long as the whole economy remained dependent on the USA, the less powerful sectors of the urban middle class could not develop. They together with middle farmers, small peasants and university students, formed the backbone of the nationalist opposition. After the semi-incorporation of the organised working class, they formed the only political opposition to Batista. The Partido Ortodoxo, under Eduardo Chibas, grouped various dissidents including the revolutionary student group, the Directorio Revolutionario. which had played a significant role in 1933 and was, in 1953, to organise the assault on the Moncada barracks.

It was out of this, fundamentally non-working class, tradition, that Castro and the other leaders of the 1959 revolution came. Their background was in an ideology of independent national development which had been betrayed time and again by corrupt politicians who had failed to reform Cuban society. But, at the same time, socialism was entirely discredited and the potential mass base for a revolutionary organisation – the working class – was effectively insulated from political action.

Castro’s most complete political manifesto was delivered at his trial after the failure of the attack on the Moncada barracks on 26 July 1953. This speech, History will absolve me is a fine fighting speech, but its politics are radical reformism. Castro was to have been an Ortodoxo candidate in the 1952 elections which had been forestalled by a military coup led by Batista, and the speech is cast in that mould. It calls for agrarian reform, for proper social services and lower rents, and for controls on US capital.

Castro was released in a 1954 amnesty and went to Mexico, where he began to organise a guerrilla group that landed in Cuba from the motor-boat Granma in late 1956. In the course of the guerrilla struggle in the Sierra Maestra mountains, he delivered another speech which, once again, stresses his distance from the Communists:

What right does Senor Batista have to speak of Communism? After all, in the elections of 1940 he was the candidate of the Communist Party ... his portrait hung next to Blas Roca’s and Lazaro Pena’s; and half a dozen ministers and confidants of his are leading members of the CP. [2]

The nature of the 1959 Revolution illustrates the divergence between these two currents. The 12 members of the 26 July Movement who survived the Granma landing established a guerrilla front in the Sierra Maestra mountains and, by late 1957, a second one in Escambray. Both of these were distant from the working-class centres, and the working class had no place in the guerrilla’s central strategy.

In marked contrast to the general strike and other workers’ activities that destroyed the earlier dictatorship of General Machado in 1933, the workers in the 1958/9 revolution played no central role at all. They did however participate in two general strikes against the Batista regime: in 1957 and again in April 1958. The former was spontaneous and successful, and as a result of this Castro’s 26th July Movement attempted to build the struggle in the cities by organising another on the same lines. The Communist Party refused to support the second strike, and it was terribly mismanaged by the Fidelistas. Outside Havana working class support for it was almost complete, but the overall effect was disastrous all the same. Instead of leading to increased opposition to dissipated it. From then on Castro ignored the working class, concentrating exclusively on the guerrilla struggle.

Like almost every other section of Cuban society, the workers hated Batista and his boot boys. But they did not do so as workers, and so in general they did not connect this with any specific social goals beyond toppling the dictator. Batista emasculated the trade unions by declaring strikes illegal, but the workers failed to create organs of their own to fight back – either clandestine or legal. It might be thought that this was contradicted by the fact that general strikes took place. In fact it is not, it is entirely consistent with it. For the general strikes were not organised in and through the workplace. In fact they were not organised by workers at all. In the first case the spontaneous walk-outs were generalised through the bourgeois and petit-bourgeois organisations of the Instituciones Civicas, the students’ organisations, even religious and professional organisations. In the second case the same groupings, but this time under the hegemony of the 26th July Movement, organised the strike from the beginning, coordinated (or rather miscoordinated) through clandestine radios and so on. In other words in both general strikes workers were helping to build (to a greater or lesser degree) institutions of collaboration between all classes, and ones which were under the hegemony of bourgeois and petit-bourgeois elements. Instead of building their own organisations and their own independent strength, and only then under their own leadership collaborating with other social strata for the specific purpose of bringing down Batista exactly the reverse happened to the Cuban working class in 1957–59. [3]

By 1958, it was clear that Batista enjoyed no support outside of the state machine itself. The fall of Batista was the result of the work of the guerrillas, but there was no class who wanted him to continue in power. Thus, when Castro entered Havana in January 1959, the 26 July movement – a group of radical students, professionals and some peasants – walked into a vacuum of power.

For the Cuban Communist Party, the victory of Castro was a problem. They had denounced the organisers of the attack on the Moncada barracks as ‘bourgeois putschists’. In 1956 and 1957 they had ignored the guerrillas. Some claimed that they had a ‘working arrangement’ with the Batista regime. It was only in 1958 that they even opened negotiations with Castro.

The victory of the revolution faced Castro with the task of building a new order. But he had neither the organisation nor a clear class base to work on. In the first few months bourgeois politicians held government posts while Communists moved into local administration. There was no doubt that the 26 July Movement had mass support. The question was: what was the nature of the support?

Unlike in 1933, the masses had no organs of workers defence and power. Power lay with the barbudos, the bearded guerrillas who had fought the war The command structure of the revolutionary army would be reproduced in government. The new, honest, administrators would be revolutionaries and that would be sufficient guarantee – that, at least, was how Castro saw it. For the people, however, despite their enthusiastic support for the barbudos, the task was to be limited to that of spectators and recipients of the revolutionary process. The process itself was to be carried through by the real, proven revolutionaries in the olive-green uniforms.

1959–60: “Our revolution is neither capitalist nor communist”

“We are a small country situated only a very short distance away from the United States. The deformation of our economy through imperialist influence has made us very dependent on imports, even for the most basic of foodstuffs of the people. In view of this, any leftist extremist tendency, any exaggerated measures ... to be applied or implemented by the revolution, and any attempt to disregard the realities and the concrete difficulties confronting the Cuban revolution must be rejected”. (CP Central Committee, May 25th. 1959)

“Our revolution is neither capitalist nor communist! ... Capitalism sacrifices the human being, communism with its totalitarian conceptions sacrifices human rights. We agree neither with the one nor with the other ... Our revolution is not red but olive green. It bears the colour of the rebel army from the Sierra Maestra”. (Fidel Castro, May 21st. 1959)

Very few people deny that the 1959 revolution was supported by virtually every section of Cuban society, and was (and still largely remains) incredibly popular. Again it is generally admitted that it was the collapse of the Batista regime – and above all the army – that led to the victory of the rebels, rather than a bitter struggle between social classes. The rebels found themselves the inheritors of an economy with a great deal of slack in it, but with no ready-made state apparatus to run or administer it. For a period of a few months they tried to rebuild a liberal constitutional state, though on foundations that were not much stronger than the fragile ones of 1933–34. All this was completely consistent with the radical – but petit-bourgeois – programme that Castro had continued to put forward from 1953 onwards. Why then did it all change?

It was certainly not due to a secret plan worked out between Castro and the Communist Party beforehand – even the US state department admitted as much. [4] Nor is there the least evidence that Castro was pushed from below by the workers or peasants. Quite the reverse is the case. After the January 1959 coup there was a widespread strike wave, but the demands were purely economic, for reivindicaciones – more goods – not for any changes in the structure. And after they had been met, with large wage increases and a rapid decline of 36% in the rate of unemployment, they led not to further demands but to a complete dying away of the strike wave by the summer of 1959. [5] And unlike in 1933, there was hardly any looting or any other more obvious signs of class struggle in the cities; it was necessary to sentence only a few hundred of Batista’s murderers to death, and apart from that there was almost complete social peace. In the countryside too, the 1959 land reform was not at all the result of spontaneous squatting by peasants that the government was only later forced to legitimate. On the contrary, there is virtual universal recognition that this again was instituted from above. [6]

As such Cuba in 1959–60 stands in sharp contrast to Chile in 1970–71. There the election of the Popular Unity government also led initially to large wage increases, a decline in unemployment, and a short-term boom fuelled by these measures that took up the slack in the economy in the traditional manner expounded by the liberal economist J.M. Keynes. But in Chile this led to subsequent pressure by both peasants and workers on the government. They occupied the land and many factories demanding land reform and nationalisation, going far beyond the moderate proposals put forward by the Allende government and forcing the regime to accept a good number of them. In Cuba the events of 1959–60 had the opposite effect. Instead of leading to renewed pressure from below, as one commentator put it, it left “the overwhelming majority of Cuba’s workers and peasants very satisfied with the new regime. Their consciousness was anything but one of impatience and dissatisfaction with Castro’s lack of radicalism during the first months of 1959”. [7] The facts are clear: the events of 1959–60 just did not create the conditions for a social revolution.

So why then did Castro move towards the creation of a monolithic statised economy? The major reason must be found in his long standing commitment to diversify the economy, to end its dependency on the US and the vagaries of the world sugar market, and to all-round economic development. The question that came to be posed in the summer of 1959 was this: how were the reforms of the first part of the year to be paid for? The rapid increase in wages, the fall in unemployment, the drastic reduction in rents (up to 50%), the cheapening of electricity, telephone and medicine charges; all put much more money into the workers’ pockets. This automatically increased the demand for consumption goods – all of which had to be imported – and food. The latter automatically put pressure on the land available for sugar; and since this provided Cuba with more than 80% of the exports from which the imports had to be paid, this situation could not be allowed to persist indefinitely. Only industrialisation and diversification could solve the problem. The fantastic variability in the price of sugar, and Cuba’s almost total dependency on it as a source of foreign earnings, [8] meant that the level of demand in the domestic economy was much too unpredictable for most capitalists to want to take the risk of relying on it as a source of income. And, without that, no advantage attached to investing productive capital in Cuba. With a very small and highly unpredictable home market, and with just about the highest wage levels in Latin America, there was not the least chance of the situation changing if the bourgeoisie was simply left to its own devices.

The matter was made more acute by land reform. Again this was a long standing commitment of Castro’s from the mid-1950s: antipathy to the latifundistas, the huge landowners, was the cornerstone of Castro’s radical liberal programme. The May 1959 Land Reform Act has to be seen in this light. It was in no way a socialist measure, nor one which led to collectivisation in any other form. It abolished only the very largest estates (those of more than 402 hectares; though even here there were exceptions which allowed much bigger farms – up to 1,342 hectares – that were efficient to continue), and it did not solve the problem of the indebtedness of the small peasant. Indeed one prominent agronomist sharply contrasted the 1959 reform with those in East Europe in the early 1950s; and suggested strong parallels with those in Italy in 1949–50 instead. [9] Yet for all that, something like 25% of the cultivable land was covered by the Act, and was distributed to the poorer peasants. The effect was to increase the proportion of land that was devoted to immediate consumption rather than providing the country with an exportable surplus, and this added considerably to Cuba’s problems. Although it was also true that much of the land previously owned by the latifundistas was poorly tended, the fact remained that to increase productivity significantly would have required levels of investment and skilled personnel that were just not available at the time.

The initial reforms were thus in no way reminiscent of the state-capitalist “collectivisations” of Eastern Europe in the 1950s, nor Cuba’s own 1963 reform; but what they did do was to create a situation that only a state-capitalist programme could solve. Again at this point it is important to stress the ideological or subjective factors at work too. It is impossible to underestimate the significance of the popularity of the new regime, or the widespread trust it engendered in the Cuban masses. This was based on several factors. First of all there was the ascetic revolutionary purity of the rebels which continued while they were in power They did not abandon their fatigues for pin-stripe suits, their jeeps for chauffeured limousines, and nor was this simple affectation: it was largely genuine. What is more they backed this up with laws. They enacted draconian measures such as the death penalty for the misappropriation of public funds against bureaucrats, [10] while at the same time making the biggest efforts Cuba had ever known to eradicate illiteracy, to massively extend preventive health measures and so on. The enormous confidence in the regime that these measures created made sure that a large reserve of loyalty – above all on the part of the workers and peasants – was built up when the state itself began to take on a more active role in the direction of the economy.

It was the 1959 land reform – limited though it was – which first brought a reaction from the USA. Before that America and its multinationals coexisted peaceably enough with the new regime. But after it things were quite different. A substantial amount of US-owned land was involved and Washington demanded full and immediate compensation for lands seized in the 1959 Act; it refused financial support to the Cuban regime, supported the most reactionary of the Batista followers who had now become refugees in Miami, and even began to aid their piratical attacks on Cuba itself. [11]

From the Autumn of 1959 through 1960 events moved very rapidly. Faced with the refusal of the USA to grant aid, and an economy that could not survive in its old laissez-faire form without such aid, Castro was forced to use the state in a much more activist way in the economy. In September 1959 he announced that henceforth economic development would have to take place under the auspices of the state. On the land the property gained by Batista’s followers during his regime was confiscated at the end of the year. About 400 cooperatives and 485 Peoples Stores (designed to eliminate rural profiteers) were set up by the newly established INRA (National Association of Agrarian Reform). But Castro at this point still hung back from nationalisation measures.

The next phase in Cuba’s attempt to break from the stranglehold of dependence was connected with oil. The USSR agreed to supply a limited amount of crude to Cuba in the summer of 1960 in exchange for sugar. But the multinationals – Texaco, Shell and Esso – refused to refine it in their Cuban refineries. The Cuban government reacted swiftly, seizing the installations at the end of June 1960. Within a week, Eisenhower had cancelled Cuba’s remaining quota of sugar imports to the USA. This was followed immediately by the confiscation of about $800m of US corporation property – in oil, sugar, electricity and mines. The USA responded with a total trade embargo to and from Cuba – a devastating economic blow given Cuba’s total dependence on the US connection. Finally the Cuban regime completed its hold on industry in October 1960 with the nationalisation of the banks, hotels, cinemas and most of the factories and shops. [12a]

Meanwhile the military struggle continued. The US supplied arms to counter-revolutionaries in the province of Escambray throughout the summer of 1960, and there was considerable public pressure for the US to mount a full-scale military invasion using its own troops (and even sonic suggestions hat it should remove the top six feet of Cuban soil with nuclear weapons"). Indeed in his 1960 Presidential campaign, Kennedy promised his voters that the US would send its troops in to “protect American interests” [13a] Not surprisingly therefore, the Cubans reacted by defending their territorial integrity as best they could. This took two principal forms. First of all, in September 1960, the Committees for the Defence of the Revolution (CDRs) were set up. Organised on a block-by-block basis, their purpose was to form small squads of vigilantes to observe and report on possible fifth columnists amongst the erstwhile lackeys of Batista and the US multinationals. Then in October 1960 the popular militias were introduced; mainly for guard and watch duties on strategic installations, so that the army could be freed for major military operations. [14a]

The initiative was again taken at this point by the USA, which decided to oust Castro militarily. It supported numbers of incursions and raids by extreme right-wing ex-Batista supporters and mercenaries, culminating in an invasion in April 1961 by 1,400 of them; backed, armed, and ferried there by the US authorities. The landing, in the Bay of Pigs, was to be coordinated with uprisings throughout Cuba of the extreme-right underground, and the USA was to provide the necessary air cover and fire-power. It was a complete and utter failure. Militarily the invaders were wiped out by the local militias, without them even having to call on the support of Havana. Support for the Castro regime was so complete that everywhere else in Cuba the tiny insurgent forces were immediately isolated and defeated. And the effect of the abortive invasion was to strengthen very considerably the support for Castro among the vast majority of the Cuban workers and peasants faced with the threat from the colossus a mere 80 miles to the north of them.

As it happened the militia and the CDRs were never seriously put to the test after the Bay of Pigs fiasco. The US did not have to invade (wisely – it would have been faced with two Vietnams in the 1960s) and the social basis of support for the old order within Cuba itself was being rapidly eliminated by the fundamental changes that the nationalisation and land reform measures were producing. More than 1/2 million refugees left Cuba in the first 3 years of the Castro regime, unable to make a living from The exploitation of others any more. First to go were the beneficiaries of US tourism: the US banned its citizens from travelling to Cuba, and this led to the 10,000 pimps, the 27,000 croupiers, and many other hangers-on leaving. Then followed the business men, the Batista ex-officers, the pampered state officials, the elite professions, the landowners and so on. However much the US might have wanted to put the clock back, by 1961 the layers of Cuban society that would have enabled them to “Cubanise” any return to the old order had more or less disappeared. The Castro regime had quite effectively removed opposition to its continued rule. But where was the basis of the new regime to be found in society? This was Castro’s next – and crucial – problem.

1961–1963: the first industrialisation attempt

By the end of 1960, The first key period in Castro’s Cuba – leading to the elimination of the social basis of the old regime – was largely completed, it was followed by a number of other distinct phases. From 1961–63 the emphasis was on industrialisation based on diversification, and the key agency for carrying on this task was the old CCP. From 1963–65 the emphasis switched back to sugar production, and the process was presided over by a Castroised Communist Party based on material incentives to workers. Then came the 1965–69 Chinese period; with the emphasis on sugar remaining, but presided over by a small and highly militarised CP and involving largely ‘moral’ incentives to workers. Finally there is the period from 1970 to the present day (1980 – MG). This has involved the militarisation of the economy, renewed emphasis on industrialisation and centralised planning on the basis of joint Cuban/Russian control. These are all points to which we shall return in the following sections. In particular we shall leave the question of the nature of the ruling class that emerged till towards the end of the article.

By late 1961, the revolutionary government had reached an impasse. Castro and Che Guevara’s commitment to industrialisation was unyielding; yet they had no experience of bureaucratic organisation nor any clear conception of how to bring about a change from expanding consumption to accumulating capital. The way out of dependency, according to Castro and Che, was the development of heavy industry. The key was to divert resources away from sugar. The problem was, how to effect these changes in both economic and political terms? Here the inexperience of the barbudos led them into the arms of the Cuban Communists and, hence, to a new interest in the Russian experience.

The period 1962–63, then, was a period of planning, and Che’s statements (he was then Minister for Industry) on planning [12] returned repeatedly to the Soviet experience as a precedent for Cuba. as well as the direct involvement of “friendly socialist countries” in the actual preparation of the plan. The consequences of this shift in policy were profound at both economic and political levels. The creativity and enthusiasm unleashed by the Revolution of 1959 were now mobilised in support of a central plan evolved by a rapidly expanding state bureaucracy. An increasing emphasis was laid on labour discipline, on “socialist competition” and workers’ direct management of the implementation of central plans. The role of the trade unions was sharply curtailed, and replaced by technical commissions in the workplace. [13]

In 1962, identity cards were introduced and made obligatory for workers. In addition there developed increasingly stringent laws on labour absenteeism; the independence of the political organs of the state from popular control; the growing concentration of power in the Castro brothers; and above all a form of planning whose outcome was not economic independence but Cuba’s integration as an unequal partner in a new circle of dependency.

Relying on the apparatus of the Communist Party to administer the industrialisation attempt, very ambitious targets were set for industrial development. More than a quarter of the total national income was devoted to accumulation. [14] Living standards increased slightly, though they were based on longer hours at work and an attempt at speed up. But the industrialisation attempt itself sucked in a vast number of imports of the machinery, stocks, technology etc. needed to get industry moving. These were almost entirely provided by the Eastern Bloc countries, and of course they needed to be paid for. But Cuba had only sugar as a viable export – at least until some of the newer industries had matured sufficiently – and it was precisely sugar that had been de-emphasised in the attempt to industrialise in 1961.

So just when increased sources of foreign earnings were needed to pay for capital imports, Cuba’s ability to find them sharply decreased. The extent of the problem facing Castro in 1963 is revealed by the figures:


Sugar Production
(millions of tons)

Agricultural Production
(1952–1956 = 100)



Per capita













(Sources: Hoy, 14.10.64; Monthly Bulletin of Agricultural
Economics and Statistics
, UN, Rome, January 1972)

And this underestimates the scale of the problem, for the population was expanding by 2.4% per annum and its standard of living was – even if only slightly – going up. [15] And this meant that the agricultural produce available for export was declining even faster than the above figures suggest.

1963–65: back to the machete

The disastrous 1963 sugar harvest revealed to the Cuban leaders that there could be no question of just ignoring agriculture so as to concentrate on industry. Unless the catastrophic decline in sugar production could be halted, there could be no industrialisation because there would be no money to pay for it. They were forced to re-emphasise sugar again, and to put off industrialisation until they had the foreign exchange to finance it.

This meant two things in the 1963–65 period. Firstly the 1959 land reform measures had to be reversed. Instead collectivisation needed to be extended very considerably so that the state would have much more control over what was going on. Secondly there had to be a set of devices to increase labour productivity. In both of these respects the policies of the Cuban regime failed in the years 1963–65.

The land collectivisation of 1963 was certainly very extensive. It led to 70% of all cultivable land being in the hands of the state. But productivity remained incredibly low on collective farms, with the yield of rice declining from 17 to 14 quintals per hectare, and that of tubers being three times greater on private than on state farms.

The change in emphasis in the Cuban economy is revealed in the following figures:

State Investments in tour sectors at the Cuban economy 1962–65
(Percentages of total state investment)
















Housing, Community Services &c





Education, Culture, Research





(Source: Boletin Estadistico, Havana 1966, p. 102) [16]

As far as labour productivity was concerned, material incentives – i.e. much sharper differentials, piecework and other systems of payments by result – were initiated by the authorities. Yet in spite of an increasing labour force, industrial production remained stagnant. The material incentives – in industry at least – did not seem to work. On the land things were not so bad. Helped by better weather conditions the sugar harvest improved considerably. It increased from the abysmal 1963 level of 3.88 million tons to 4.47 million in 1964 and 6.15 million in 1965. [17] Most of this was destined for the USSR, which, in the years after 1961, was increasingly called in to bale out the Cuban economy. It is to this that we now turn.

The Russian connection

Russian policy towards Cuba has been conditioned by two factors; (i) the progress of detente with The United States; (ii) Russian economic interests. It is the first that explains the cool reception in Moscow of the news of the Revolution in 1959 It was not until February 1960 that a delegation led by Mikoyan reached Cuba and declared its support for the new revolution. For Russia clearly, Cuba was a useful bargaining counter through the ups and downs of detente; further, Cuba was a market for its goods and a producer of the sugar whose consumption in Russia was rising constantly.

From then onwards, Soviet economic intervention was constant. The Cubans looked to Russia for aid, for machinery, for military assistance and for credits Soviet technicians became increasingly evident after 1961 and Cuba’s $1 million per day aid from the USSR (and at 1961 prices too) meant that it was receiving a per-capita aid equivalent to the total income of people living in he poorer parts of Africa during this period. [18]

By 1963, with the turn back to sugar, the Russians contribution did not fall hut grew due to the need for the industrialisation of sugar production. The agreement signed between Cuba and Russia in 1963 established a quota of 5 million tons per year of sugar exports to the USSR; the five year plan of 1965–70 reinforced that decision by projecting a gradual increase in sugar production culminating in a 10 million ton harvest in 1970. It is worth underlining that the payment for Cuban sugar exports to Russia was to be in the main in non-convertible currency. This meant that while the USSR guaranteed Cuba a market for its sugar, it ensured at the same time that Cuban imports would come from the USSR, given that Cuba could not use the non-convertible currencies to purchase goods outside the Russian-bloc countries. Furthermore, Russian sugar beet was for more expensive to produce than Cuban sugar; thus a considerable amount of agricultural land in Russia could be released to other more productive crops. Thus in a strictly economic sense, Russia has found in Cuba a market for its goods and a field of investment; its aid has served not so much as a support for Cuba as to reinforce and deepen the domination of sugar over the economy. The Russians themselves are aware of this – that may be why they prefer to conceal the fact that the hulk of their investment enters sugar and related industries. [19] In 1980, Cuba’s main export – to the exclusion of almost any other – continues to be sugar; the united development of its other natural resources has done nothing to alter the fundamental structure of the economy – as a department producing a single product within a global economic system of which it is a servant.

But the real benefit to Russia was geo-political, rather than economic. In much the same way that the USA was in the 1950s quite willing to sink millions of dollars into Yugoslavia to have a friend on Russia’s doorstep, so too with Russia over Cuba. In terms of inter-imperialist rivalry, the USSR could not hut be grateful for the opportunity to wield influence in the American backyard, where Cuba provided an opportunity to rejuvenate the tattered image of the Latin American Communist Parties. At a later stage, Cuba would be an important spokesperson for the global Russian interest within a non-aligned movement many of whose members were hostile to it – particularly in the Middle East. It was this strategic interest – and its limitations – which would be most clearly revealed in the Missile Crisis of 1962, Russia installed a number of intermediate range ballistic missiles on Cuban soil in the Autumn of 1962, making many American cities as vulnerable to nuclear attack as most Russian cities had been to the ring of US installations mounted in Britain. Germany, Turkey etc.

The Missile Crisis brought a large scale disillusionment with Russia; while Cuba raised the cry “Fatherland or Death we shall triumph”, Khrushchev turned back his ships and reached agreement with Kennedy without bothering to consult Castro over the missile bases. Castro’s response was angry and critical. While Cuba continued to be drawn into the Soviet camp, a cautious debate was reopened on the question of the available strategies for economic development – though this would not lead to any open criticism of Russia until 1965. In 1963, Castro went to Russia and signed a new three-year trade agreement to he renegotiated annually). In the following year, the five-year plan was published, Cuba signed the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and acknowledged the role of the Latin American Communist Parties – though their Conference in that year recognised that, in some cases, the armed road might be appropriate – a concession by the USSR in exchange for Cuban support in the Sino-Soviet split. The general political atmosphere was relaxed and a public debate of alternative strategies continued. Castro, it seemed, was guarding his back.

One, two, three Vietnams?

In 1965 Castro decided that Cuba should thrust out alone: in that year. there was a definitive change in Cuba’s relations with Russia, and with Latin America the beginning of a rapprochement with China, and a new setback for the Cuban Communist Party members who belonged to the so-called Old Guard.

It was between 1965 and 1970 that Cuba really gained its reputation as a libertarian revolution, a representative of a revolutionary purity symbolised in the figure of Che Guevara. It was in these years that European intellectuals in search of the revolution made their way to Havana, abandoning a working class in the industrialised world which seemed reluctant to make the revolution as they believed it should be made. It was now that Cuba’s flamboyant support for guerrilla movements persuaded the revolutionaries of the Third World that Cuba was the home and the haven of Revolution. Yet here, as elsewhere, theme is a reality behind the appearances which points to the tact that the break may have been less radical than it at first appeared.

For Cuba, the central question remained economic development. The basis of that development had already been laid down in the previous five years: rapid accumulation of capital by the state. This posed two kinds of problem; economic and political. In the first place, how could that surplus be achieved; where did the potential and as yet untapped capacity in the economy lie? After the years of expanding consumption, Cuba faced the problem of accumulation in this way; how could a greater surplus be extracted from the labour force? How could the exploitation of Cuban labour be increased? It was an issue that concerned the rational use of resources; but it was also a question of political mobilisation – of convincing the Cuban working class to work harder, without an increase in their buying power And that was a political issue, particularly underlined in a Cuba deprived of a wide range of consumer goods because of a lack of foreign exchange coupled with the American blockade.

The issue was debated and argued in Cuba from 1963 onwards. The trouble with the ‘material incentives’ was simply that the scarcity of consumer goods made the material incentives available to very few workers, only 1.7% at first. [20] Khrushchev had said, in 1965, that “we must make full use of the powerful level of material interest for the purpose of increasing labour productivity”. The logical corollary, at the level of the whole economy (as acknowledged in Russia), was that funding should be determined on the basis of the profitability of each plant.

Che Guevara, on the other hand, argued a different solution based fundamentally on Chinese experience. His arguments were set out in an essay written in 1965 called Man and socialism in Cuba. [21] Underdevelopment, he argued, imposed upon any society seeking to break the circle a general and collective sacrifice. There was no avoiding that. Therefore it was necessary to replace self-reliance and self-interest, with a collective, social interest.

In this respect, he clearly identified with the Great Leap Forward, in which Mao had stressed the importance of the element of consciousness, of the replacement of individual with social consciousness. Like Mao, [22] Che recognised the potential for popular mobilisation that still existed in Cuba, particularly behind the charismatic figure of Castro, and sought to harness that to the development of the productive forces. “Socialist emulation” would encourage workers to contribute their utmost in solidarity with the Revolution; voluntary labour allows man to “see himself portrayed in his own works and to understand its human magnitude ... [thus] man truly achieves his full human condition when he produces without being compelled by the physical necessity of selling himself as a commodity.” [23]

The problem, however, was that the objective conditions of scarcity did exist; that the productive forces were not developed. Accumulation was the pressing need, for without it the material base of the revolution could not exist. Che’s idealism ostensibly recognises the problem; yet in real terms the moral incentives formula, with its emphasis on the subjective conditions, on consciousness and the will of the people, represents a means of mobilising the workers and peasants in support of their own continuing exploitation by the state.

The hard reality is this: “whatever the ideological significance of incentives, they are chiefly a device for motivating labour productivity”. Moral incentives in Cuba were designed to prepare the ground for a swing of investment away from consumption and social expenditure and towards productive investment in economic development. But equal poverty is not what socialism is about, iris about freeing human beings from the slavery of want. Che’s Man and socialism contains a tell-tale paragraph:

“ What is hard to understand for anyone who has not lived the revolution is the clear dialectical unity which exists between the individual and the mass, in which both are interrelated, and the mass as a whole composed of individuals, is in turn interrelated with the leader.” [24]

The “mass”? Where then is the class, and what is its political expression? Of this Che makes no mention; the state is unquestioningly assumed to be representative of the working masses, to be its voice and incarnation. In this respect, Che’s vision of the relationship between state and people can be reintegrated into his political theory of revolution. In his “Guerrilla Warfare”, Che insists that it is the revolutionaries who make the revolution. The experience of the barbudos is generalised. and the assumption is drawn (once again) that willpower, the subjective conditions, can overcome the absence of the objective conditions for revolution. The protagonists of revolution are the guerrillas, not the workers. In the same way, the protagonist of the Cuban Revolution is the state, and not the Cuban working class. Politics, in that sense. becomes the state’s activity among the masses.

This explains why it is these same years of moral incentives that witness also tightening of labour discipline. The Law of 1964–65 enforced sanctions for breaches of Labour Discipline while the Grievance Commissions established in 1961 were abolished at the same time because they were regarded as too lenient. The 1965 Law, according to Minister of Labour Augusta Martinez Sanchez, would

“ strengthen labour discipline and increase production and productivity ... it will be applied to that kind of worker who is a residue of the exploiting society ... who is still found in working places as a residue of capitalism ... We have to admit that in the workplaces there are still undisciplined workers and for them we have to have disciplinary measures ... We still find workers who have not taken a revolutionary step and tend to discuss and protest any measure coming from the administration.” [25]

By 1969, the then Labour Minister Jorge Risquet, acknowledged that these disciplinary measures had largely failed, that absenteeism was a permanent and growing problem, and that other forms of persuasion would have to be used – yet in 1970 new and even harsher forms of persuasion even harsher rules were introduced, including the entry of merit and demerit points on a worker’s identity card.

Thus at all stages, moral incentives were combined with coercive measures of state control. The two cannot be separated.

The key to explaining Cuba’s change in foreign policy is to be found here. For 1966 also marked an important change in Cuban foreign policy, a shift away from the Russian orbit and towards Latin America again. From then until 1970, Cuba again took on before the world the image of the pure guerrilla so dear to Regis Debray and other “Third worldists” in Europe. We shall consider this foreign policy at greater length below. The question here is what role did this have on the economy?

Basically the economy had run out of steam. Too poor to provide material incentives that would work, and requiring a powerful shift away from consumption if the foreign reserves necessary for industrialisation were to be generated, the moral incentives formula – i.e. put up with increased work for no extra pay – seemed at the time to be the only viable alternative. Yet to convince the workers to do this, they had to be shown that it was part of a crusade: one aimed at the whole of Latin America and with fairly immediate prospects of success. It is difficult to assess the significance this ‘revolutionary’ line had on labour discipline and productivity, but there is no doubt that it must have helped. For the years 1965–70 were ones of stagnating or declining living standards.

Indeed the obsession with increasing sugar production to the magical figure of 10 million tons by 1970 had a catastrophic effect on the economy as a whole and on consumption in particular as is revealed in the following figures:

Economic growth in Cuba 1963–70


Absolute growth
(% p.a.)

Per capita growth
(% p.a.)






− 1.3%

(Source: C. Mesa-Lago, Cuba in the 1970s, Albuquerque, 1978, p. 57)

The true extent of the decline is hidden by the above figures because the Central Office of Statistics in Havana measured output in constant prices until 1966, but from 1967 it was measured in current prices – i.e. the decline would be sharper still if it were corrected for inflation. An exact estimate for the effect of this on the Cuban working class is a little difficult to measure. But some idea can be obtained by Cuba’s output of consumption goods during this period. In a list of 26 selected outputs of the Cuban economy, of which 20 were consumption goods, a recent study found that between 1965 and 1970 fifteen of these twenty suffered a decline in the five years: some (e.g. refrigerators, radios and cookers) by 50% or more. Two of the twenty remained more or less constant, and only the production of eggs, rice and fish actually went up. [26] When one takes into account the fact that the population grew by 10% in this period, the extent of the deprivations that the working class suffered become even more manifest.

For Russia too there were important changes in this period. After 1964 its strategic interest in Latin America – well served till then by Cuba – led to a series of new approaches to bourgeois regimes in Latin America. Frei had come to power in Chile in 1964 with a programme of industrialisation and capitalist development; in Venezuela the COPEI government promised a new version of social democracy, in Brazil the military government, while brutally repressive, had a programme of expanded trade. With all these regimes, the Soviet government sought economic contacts.

The Cuban regime reacted in a number of ways. In founding the Organisation of Latin American Solidarity, the Tricontinental organisation, the Cultural Congress of 1967, and in launching the Revolutionary Offensive in 1968, the Cuban state set out to establish an area of political independence from the Soviet Union. The identification of exploited peoples and colonised nations, however, had only an ideological significance. In terms of what Castro still saw to be the central question – development – there was an unbroken continuity from 1961 onwards. The attempts by the Cuban state to gain political legitimacy in the world were in the first place a response to political developments within Cuba. [27] Secondly, they were designed as a massive exercise in ideological mobilisation. Yet they were coupled within Cuba with a consistent fall in production, a gathering disillusionment among Cuban Workers (expressed through absenteeism, low productivity etc.), and an increasingly draconian body of laws controlling everyday life.

The 1970 crisis

1968 brought the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia: in Cuba. the sugar harvest was had. Castro’s speech on the Czechoslovakian invasion marked a meeting point between those two facts, as well as a new approach towards the USSR. It was a conciliatory speech: in defending the invasion he was, as always, responding first of all to the domestic situation within Cuba. The bad sugar harvest. it was clear, underlined the failure of the period which had culminated in the Revolutionary Offensive of 1968 – the end of the search for an alternative strategy. The Soviet Union was Cuba’s main customer for sugar. Since 1966, the Soviet Union had provided no new credits to Cuba (though it continued to service existing agreements). The only aid that Cuba did receive came from Rumania – and that was only of symbolic value. The death of Guevara had only underlined the problem. So the Czechoslovakia speech was an act of public reconciliation with Russia, and a recognition that the austerity measures of the previous years had failed. The rapprochement was to take two years, until in 1970. Russia’s full stale intervention in all levels of Cuban life put the seal on Cuba’s future. From then on. Cuba would once again be confirmed as the world’s main sugar producer, strongly dependent on Russia.

In between times, Cuba devoted itself to “La Gran Zafra” – the search for the 10 million ton sugar harvest. Cuba needed to produce a minimum of 81/2 million tons to cover its obligations to the USSR. Yet it could only earn foreign exchange on its sales of additional sugar on the open market, and only then would it be able to earn enough to begin to industrialise independently of Russian aid. In fact, that was never possible; the die was cast, and Cuba’s dependence on sugar confirmed. The Zafra, then, was above all a political event, a great mass mobilisation around sugar, and around the nation. In a real sense, though tens of thousands of people – bureaucrats, students, industrial workers and peasants – did move to the cane fields in response to Castro’s call, their contribution was more ideological than physical; in fact they were extremely inefficient. and their neglect of their own areas of work had a disastrous effect on the economy. While the zafra was big (8.5 million tons), it was nowhere near the 10 million ton target; elsewhere, the index of production had fallen considerably in the rest of the agricultural sector and in industry. [28]

Castro’s speech on Czechoslovakia was the first of a number of moves which were to culminate in 1970, in a series of agreements which confirmed Cuba’s dependency on the Soviet Union. On January 2nd, 1969 Castro’s speech on the 10th anniversary of the Revolution contained no mention of Guevara; on the other hand, it made a point of referring repeatedly to Soviet aid. [29] In June, the Central Committee of the CCP reversed an earlier decision and sent a delegate to the world Conference of Communist Parties. In the following year absenteeism and low productivity became a serious problem and Castro was only able to make real inroads into the problem with the re-introduction of material incentives and wage differentiations. The connections between this and growing Soviet involvement may not be immediately obvious; yet they were intimately interwoven. New Russian aid in mid-1970 carried quite reasonable terms of interest; but there were other, less visible strings attached whose effects would he profound. For “the Soviet assistance strengthened the government relative to the rest of the social system”. [30] Furthermore, it was effectively conditional on Cuban acceptance of a new role in the world, as a dependency of the Soviet Union and the obedient practitioner of Soviet economic planning methods – including the devolution of responsibility for the profitability of individual plants to their managers, and as a corollary, the establishment of material incentives as an instrument in achieving that profitability.

By 1972, “Prime Minister Castro emphasised that the Soviet Union had taken the initiative in selecting the projects for which aid would be used, which suggests bar Cuba had traded future economic growth for its own decision-making autonomy.” [31] It was in 1970 that the fundamental shift occurred (in the sense of an overt and public recognition of the Soviet-Cuban relationship). For the new involvement of the USSR in the Cuban economy carried a heavy price tag. From now on, all government functions would be organised through, and determined by, a Cuban-Soviet Commission for Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation. All major departments and agencies would be led by Russian technicians, and the Commission would he the final decision-making body on all matters, including the coordination of the first Cuban Five Year Plan (1976–80). Two years later, in July 1972, Cuba joined Comecon.

The period of “revolutionary idealism” had attempted to deepen the exploitation of Cuban workers by the state; it had done it in their name, while at the same time undermining the autonomy of all the mass organisations which might have given those workers some autonomous political expression of their own. In a crisis or a revolutionary confrontation the rhetoric of dramatic sacrifice and political frenzy can be sustained for a time – but only for so long. Yet the exhortations and the claims for the “new Cuban man” had been underpinned with an increasing concentration of power, a proliferation of coercive regulations and controls and the creation of mass organisations which were no more than conduits for the channelling down of state policies. The support for the guerrilla struggle was short-lived, and a failure. By 1970, Castro had formally announced the abandonment of the armed road, [32] and the shelving of the dream of rapid industrialisation propounded in the early sixties by himself and Guevara. And while there had been some initiatives aimed at developing rank and file involvement (like the experiment in local government called ‘Poder Local’, in 1967); these concerned only the implementation of decisions, never the control over them. The groundwork had been firmly laid for what came to be called the “institutionalisation” of the Cuban Revolution.

Cuba in the 70s

The second decade of the Cuban Revolution brought Cuba fully within the Soviet ambit. Not only were Cuba’s economic relations with the USSR in the mid-seventies very similar to its place in the American system before 1959, but the shape of Cuban politics increasingly took on the central features of Soviet political life. While the level of consumption may be rising in absolute terms, it is unequally shared; and the price of that privilege is loyalty and adherence to a party tine that is never open to public discussion or amendment. In the realm of foreign policy, Cuba’s internationalism of the seventies is a poor parody of the resolute and idealistic concept of revolutionary solidarity which had been claimed for it in the late 1960s. The contradictions between the rhetoric and the reality, in their turn, have promoted a bureaucracy whose control over the “general affairs of society” has required an increasingly repressive response to pressure from below, and a political independence from the mass of society.

The Zafra of 1970 had dislocated the Cuban economy and brought the Cuban state face to face with its incapacity to industrialise rapidly, as the optimistic predictions of Guevara in the early sixties bad envisaged. Russia re-entered the Cuban economy, but now as a directing force. The results of that were not long in coming. The economic projections for the coming decade placed sugar firmly back at the centre of the Cuban economy in the long term. In 1971, Fidel Castro acknowledged that “you cannot jump stages of economic growth”, and accepted that there can be no socialist relations of production without the prior development of the material forces! [33] Poor Guevara must have turned in his grave, for this was the definitive renunciation of the idealism of Man and Socialism in Cuba. If this required the intensified exploitation of the Cuban working class, then that was an unfortunate but “objective” necessity. And in the meantime the full integration of Cuba into the Russian economy would be completed. By 1973, 67.5% of all Cuban trade was with the USSR; its chief export, sugar, was exchanged for Soviet manufactures and equipment, whose prices were up to 50% higher than those of the world market. Even Cuba’s trade with the West, although much smaller, only continued with Russian support and guarantee. Joining Comecon in 1972 was the logical confirmation of this new relationship; Castro’s animated defence of Russian foreign policy at the Conference of Non-Aligned Nations at Algiers in 1973 was its political expression.

And there were other consequences too, particularly over economic policies and methods of planning. In 1973 a number of prices were decontrolled, and three years later prices on all other non-essential items were too. In 1976 a form of profit-sharing with the managers of state enterprises was introduced, together with the concept of the autonomy of individual enterprises. The implications were enormous; far from the gradual abolition of money, social relations in Cuba were increasingly expressed through the 1970s in money terms. A managerial class, economically and politically privileged and acting in terms of profit and loss, was fast being created.

In 1980, it is hard to distinguish between the dependency of the Cuban economy before 1959, and its renewed dependency in the third decade of the Revolution. Cuba continues to be the world’s major sugar supplier, the bulk of it going to the USSR which in turn provides Cuba with the industrial goods, and the oil, it does not and cannot produce itself. In 1980, Cuba is re-affirmed as a fundamentally single-product economy, incapable of diversification, but now controlled from Moscow. And the prospective is for a deepening dependence, as trade deficits grow and Cuba’s economic “takeoff” is postponed indefinitely.

The working class

During the revolution itself the working class played, as we have seen, no active role. And increasing living standards – albeit often accompanied by various shortages – retained the support of the workers for the regime by largely non-coercive means until the middle-1960s, though it did not significantly change this role. What then is the situation today? Who controls production and how do they do so? What is the role of the trade unions, the “advanced workers” movement, the experiment in “people’s power” (poder popular [33a])? What happened to the other areas of de-centralised activity: the people’s militia, the Federation of Cuban Women and the Committees for the Defence of the Revolution (CDRs)? These are all questions that have to be answered before a definitive answer can be given to the class nature of Cuban society.

Let us begin with production. There has never been anything resembling workers’ control in Cuba. The only organisation of or for workers vis-à-vis production has been the trade union; though there has also been a loose movement – the Advanced Workers movement. First proposed by Castro in 1968, it was formed as a pro-regime cadre of foremen, charge hands etc. who were entrusted with the task of speeding up production. Those aspiring to such status needed to be proposed by the workforce, though they were actually selected at the level of government. At this stage the movement was no more than an arm of the “revolutionary offensive” of the late 1960s. But with the ending of rationing and the freeing of price controls and the reintroduction of material incentives after 1970 the situation changed rapidly. Soon goods, services – even the possibility of accumulating interest on savings – were provided: but for Advanced Workers only.

Material incentives and widening differentials proceeded throughout the 1970s. The need to widen the gap between worker and worker was expressed by Castro in 1971: “Paying the same wage for the same type of work but without taking into account the productive effort required to do it is an egalitarian principle we must correct.” [34] Then in 1974 an extra 132 million pesos were allocated to raise salaries for managerial personnel. (Given that 1 peso equals $1 US at the official exchange rate, and that there are at the most one or two hundred thousand people in this position, the sum is a very large one.) And for the first time, after 1974 cars were to be imported for the bureaucrats – in Castro’s words – “in order to increase their productivity”.

So “moral incentives”, so popular in the late 1960s, were more or less abolished in the 1970s in favour of material incentives. The switch was not made out of a concern for the material well being of the workers, but because of the benefits of production, as the theses approved by the 13th congress of the CTC made clear in 1973: “In many cases unpaid overtime turned out to be more costly than regular paid hours of work, reducing real product and yield per man-hour.” [35]

In this context of widening material differentials, it is easy to see why the Advanced Worker movement began to confer such material privileges. The minimum wage ceased to play any real role of preserving equality, and soon the bonus system ensured that an Advanced Worker could earn easily twice as much as ordinary workers. By the mid-1970s the “social wage” was also being increasingly treated as a privilege. It is no coincidence that day nurseries began to charge fees in 1977, nor that access to housing became dependent on Advanced Worker status. In no way therefore can the Advanced Workers movement be seen as even remotely connected with bringing socialism into the workplace.

But what then about the role of the trade unions? After the 1959 revolution their role was defined by the regime as being: “to win workers for the Revolution, to fight counter-revolution, and push production forward”. There was no question of them defending workers against the employers, because the employer was now the state, and was therefore assumed to have the same interest as that of the workers. The leaders were not elected by the workers, but directly appointed by the regime.

All this cut away the basis for the existence of trade unions – even as collaborative bodies. Instead the unions were given managerial functions but no managerial power. Not surprisingly they went into a very rapid decline. This presented the regime with a problem – through what organs were the workers to be incorporated? For a time the regime attempted to use “Advanced Workers” who were encouraged and given facilities to coordinate worker-management cooperation on the shop floor. But by 1970 this was acknowledged to be a total failure. As the minister of labour Risquet put it in August of that year:

“ Theoretically, the administrator represents the interest of the worker and peasant state, the interest of all the people. Theory is one thing and practice another ... The worker may have a right established by the Revolution ... and there is no one to defend him. He does not know where to turn. He turns to the party and it does not know or it is busy mobilizing people for production ... the party is so involved with the management that in many instances it has ceased to play its proper role, has become somewhat insensitive to the problems of the masses ... If the party and the administration are one, then there is nowhere the worker can take his problem ... The trade union either does not exist or it has become the Advanced Workers’ bureau ...” [36]

Elections were therefore held in October 1970. However about 40% of the places were uncontested, turn-out was only about one half of that expected by the government, and most important of all no canvassing was allowed apart from that put out by the electoral commission – which was itself composed of non-elected party appointees – but which took upon itself the task of recommending the merits and demerits of the various candidates. [37] On top of that nothing whatever has been done to implement any of the proposals that came out of the CTC Congress in 1973 for greater trade union participation in the protection of workers’ rights, the discussion of proposed labour legislation, social security administration and production plans. In these crucial respects there has been no significant change from the conditions that led to the virtual disappearance of trade unions in the late 1960s.

But the unions are not dead in Cuba today. They are still alive for two reasons. Firstly because they help organise holidays, recreation and training; and secondly because the vastly tighter labour discipline of the 1970s has made them play an important role, but a role as an arm of management. In the same way that in Britain in the last 10 years there has been an increased emphasis in engineering on ‘scientific’ management, using works study engineers to optimise the output of each worker; so too has there in Cuba and it has been performed by the unions themselves. Since 1970 there has been a much tighter system of identity cards and labour records, work quotas have been adjusted and increased, absenteeism (running at 20% in 1970) has been cracked down on by an ‘anti-loafing’ law, and in general managerial powers in the enterprise have been strengthened and control over the workers tightened. The organisation of production now resembles that in Russia quite closely. And the role of the ‘unions’ is virtually the same: in both cases they are there to manage the workers and most emphatically not to represent them. [38]

These real limitations on the role of trade unions – the only organisation which embraced the mass of the working class – have to be set in their turn in the context of what is claimed by many [39] to be a significant move in the direction of popular democracy. In 1974, Matanzas province was the scene of an experiment in what was called “people’s power” (poder popular). In 1976, the experiment was extended to the whole country, and elections held for delegates to the Municipal Assemblies. Was this a new move towards proletarian democracy? Whatever the appearances, the reality is that it was not. What poder popular did represent was a further step in the devolution to the local level of the detailed implementation of government plans and strategies. Yet when the Labour government in Britain attempted the same experiment in 1976 by devolving control over house repairs etc. to council tenants, all socialists protested – because it did not involve a devolution of power, but only of the responsibility for implementation. And exactly the same is true for Cuba; for while local government was evolving in Cuba, control over organisations in the workplace, at the point of production, in the living areas and on the land was ever more restricted. Poder popular has to be matched against the constricted role of trade unions. Further, the actual structure of poder popular itself was undemocratic, as delegation to Regional and National Assemblies was not by direct suffrage, but elected from Party-approved lists from the level immediately below it. Thus Dominguez notes the almost complete unanimity on all issues at the meeting of the National Assembly, where most major decisions were taken by acclamation, including the election of the Council of Ministers. [40] It rapidly became clear that “the development of People’s Power does, not provide for self-government, but for more efficacious and responsive organs of local administration”. [41]

In general, the same conclusions can be drawn for the other mass organisations, despite their superficial resemblance to organs of power. The Committees for the Defence of the Revolution, set up to watch for “counter-revolutionary activity” after the Bay of Pigs, have been a case in point. By the late 1960s their role had developed into being one of the main organisations for tapping manpower reserves in the economy as well as promoting public health, education and general propaganda functions. At their height in 1970 they included fully 3.2 million people – a remarkable figure for a country of only 8 million. Undoubtedly then, the Committees were mass organisations. But two crucial features must be borne in mind. Firstly since 1970 they they have gone into a rapid decline, and the reason for this has been indicated already: when the regime depended on “volunteer labour” in the 1965–70 period, the CDRs were the crucial transmission belts though which this was provided. Since this whole method is now universally recognised as actually counterproductive, the regime’s need for the CDRs has diminished accordingly. Secondly, at no Point were the CDRs controlled by their mass base. On the contrary their leadership was universally appointed by the Communist Party. They were never permitted to formulate policy, only to implement the policy given to them from above.

The other mass organisation set up in the period around the Bay of Pigs invasion – the people’s militia – had a shorter history. By 1964, with the US military threat fading, they were disarmed; and in 1973 they were abolished, with the remaining personnel incorporated into the army reserve.

The Federation of Cuban Women, in many ways a parallel body to the CDRs, has shared its fate. A mass organisation of 1.3 million at its height, also charged with a principal role over public health and volunteer labour, it has had all too little effect on changing the male domination of production and society. A massive campaign to get women into the workforce in the 1969–70 period failed to retain the majority of them. And it is still the case that over 300 jobs are prohibited to women including house painter, deep sea diver and cemetery worker! More importantly the representation of women at the levels of leadership in the Communist Party or the mass organisations is extremely low. And while the Family Code of 1976 reaffirmed the equality of men and women in the home, it did nothing to socialise the functions of women nor to acknowledge the continuing exclusion of women from political life.

Since the revolution therefore, Cuba has at various times created a variety of mass organisations. But none of them at any time has been able or willing to do anything but implement the already fixed policy of the regime.

The Party the army and the construction of a new ruling class

Undoubtedly then, the workers and peasants do not control Cuban society. But it is equally true that Castro did not simply lay hold of the existing state apparatus. There is no way he could have done so – Batista’s corrupt state machine was definitively smashed in 1959. The army, the courts, the state bureaucracy etc. collapsed like a pack of cards. Into their place stepped the rebel army and the petit-bourgeois intelligentsia of the July 26th Movement.

But the social transformation that Cuba found itself pushed into by the US blockade changed the whole situation very rapidly indeed. The regime found itself in need of a stratum of reliable people who could run the nationalised industries and the collective farms. The July 26th-ers were not well placed to do this. What is more the blockade and the attack on the wealthier urban population also ate into the support for Castro in the milieu that the movement had recruited from. Half a million Cubans left the country and settled in the USA. They included not just the capitalists, the pimps and the croupiers, but also, for instance, two thirds of Cuba’s doctors.

Had Castro continued to rely solely on the 26th July Movement, he could not have survived the transformation of the society over which he was presiding. Castro’s strategy – which worked brilliantly – was as follows. First of all whenever he moved decisively against any sections of the old ruling class such as the landowners or the businessmen, he made sure that it was easy for them to leave the country. That way he eliminated the social basis for a return to the old order. Secondly he fused the 26th July Movement with the Communist Party in 1961. At the same time he retained an independent power base in the army, and used this to oust the old Stalinists who initially controlled it, so that by the time the Party was reconstituted in 1965 it was firmly in Fidel’s hands. Finally, in the late 1960s, he greatly strengthened the army and used this strength to militarise both the party and the civil administration, thus extending his control throughout Cuban society.

The reconstituted Cuban Communist Party is a completely bureaucratised monolithic party. It has held only one congress in its entire history, and that was in 1975 – ten years after it was set up. It was kept fairly small to begin with, and was allowed to expand only at the rate that ‘trusty’ members could be found for it. In 1969 for instance it had only 55,000 members. Even from its inception it was dominated by the military, its first Central Committee being more than two thirds composed of top army brass for instance. As such these members were of course under the direct military discipline of Fidel and Raul Castro, the first and second in command of the army.

The party expanded four-fold between 1969 and the 1975 Congress. The military influence continued in the party and was extended considerably in the area of civil administration; though here too the process was already well in hand by the mid-1960s, because by then the army had already taken over many non-military functions such as the organisation of production, cutting the cane, criticising dissidents etc. [42]

The 1975 Party Congress merely rubber-stamped the new “socialist” constitution, the effect of which was to formalise the power of the General Secretariat of the Political Bureau over all judicial. military, state and party bodies. Since Fidel Castro was already first secretary of the party, commander in chief of the army and also prime minister, the new constitution hardly added anything new. Although the Central Committee is supposed to be elected from below, and is in its turn supposed to elect the higher party bodies, without congresses there are in fact no means at all for this to be done. In practice the Secretariat is, as in Russia, a self-perpetuating clique. [43]

The army achieved this hegemony in Cuba in the late 1960s not only because it was Fidel’s pliant tool, but because of its efficiency. Industrial and agricultural development in Cuba in the late 1960s was quite disastrous, with the years from 1966 to 1970 showing a decline of more than 1% in per-capita GDP even according to the regime’s own figures. [44]

During these years all forms of cost accounting were eliminated, in the attempt to substitute ‘moral incentives’ for material incentives. In the event only 81/2 million tons of sugar were produced by this method and the virtual collapse of the rest of the economy forced Castro to make a sharp reversal of policy. [45]

This left the army as the only instrument that worked at all efficiently in Cuba. It was the only organ untouched by Cuba’s disastrous ‘Chinese’ experiment; its cadre of officers having been trained in Russia from the early 1960s and its command structure remained unaltered throughout this period. Its technicians and other skilled personnel were not ignored or put on to other work – as occurred elsewhere in the economy. For these reasons the militarisation of the economy and the administration seemed the obvious – indeed the only – solution to the crisis of the late 1960s.

The ruling class that has emerged in Cuba is thus a unique fusion of three main elements: the Communist Party with its roots deep in a class collaborationist labour movement, the petit bourgeois but revolutionary July 26th Movement, and finally the army. The command structure, size and efficiency of the latter – coupled with the militarisation of the economy after its collapse in the late 1960s – all ensured that it played the crucial role in cementing together and structuring the relatively stable Cuban ruling class of the past 10 years.

Today, the internal struggle within the bureauracy continues; yet, whatever the “state of the parties” the relationship between the Cuban state and the mass of the people remains unchanged. Power resides in the 18 overlapping members of the Politburo and its Secretariat, the Council of Ministers and the Council of State elected (by acclaim) by the National Assembly. Only 3 people are members of all three bodies – Fidel, his brother Raul Castro and Carlos Rafael Rodriguez. Fidel is First Secretary of the Communist Party, Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, President of the Council of Ministers, and has recently become Minister of Education, Health and Culture as well. Raul Castro is his deputy in each case. In effect, all leading posts in Cuban organisations are determined in the last analysis within this tiny circle of power, whose domination is and will for the foreseeable future be unchallenged.

The increasing differentiation within the Cuban working class (the Advanced Workers Movement) is not, then, the fruit of a differential development of political consciousness among sections of workers, but the creation of new layers of privileged individuals who are directly dependent upon the Cuban bureacuracy for their continuing prosperity.

Cuban state capitalism’s subordination to the USSR

Since 1970 sugar has not been allowed to disrupt the rest of the economy as it did before then. Skilled personnel have been re-introduced and there has been a distribution of resources throughout the economy that is much more rationally tied in with the regime’s goals of development and accumulation. The first five years of the 1970s therefore saw a much healthier growth rate in the Cuban economy. [46]

The militarisation of the economy has not, however, been a magic wand eliminating Cuba’s problems of underdevelopment. The downturn of the world economy in 1975 affected Cuba deeply, because Cuba’s diversification away from sugar required substantial imports of the capital goods that would make this possible. That in turn required foreign exchange, but with 80% of Cuba’s foreign earnings coming from sugar, and the price of sugar dropping rapidly in the 1975 crisis, a severe balance of payments crisis was the inevitable result.

The effect of this has been for Cuba to become more and more dependent on the Russian economy to bail it out – at least for the foreseeable future. It also threw planning into a sharp crisis, markedly lowering growth aims and involving a massive cut of 25% in 1977 state expenditure. It produced the delegation of executive responsibility and financial accountability to the individual enterprises themselves and the demand that they pay stricter attention to profitability in future. [47] In addition there is no doubt at all that the crisis would have been much worse if the Cuban regime had not already made major attacks on the working class, attacks which they are bound to repeat more ferociously as the present world crisis deepens. [48]

Cuba has been tranformed into a society in which the state owns and organises production in all the significant areas (though about a third of agriculture is still in the private sector). But this transformation has come about not as a result of the intentions of the revolutionaries of 1959. Certainly they wanted an independent Cuban developing economy. They were however prevented from achieving it by means of a mixed, but western-style economy through the abrupt destruction of the trade and investment link with the US.

The result has been both the transformation of the Cuban economy into a state capitalist one, and the transference of dependence from the USA to the USSR, as the huge levels of Russian aid indicate. Since the onset of the 1975 crisis these levels have increased even further.

But unlike Russia or China, Cuban state capitalism is at the present time a completely dependent formation. In addition to the massive size of Russian aid to Cuba (equal to twenty times the average per-capita aid from all sources to the rest of Latin America), Russia and the East accounted for two thirds of Cuba’s trade even before the 1975 crisis forced a still heavier concentration on these sources. [49] As industrialisation proceeds, more and more based on Russian technology, this dependence is bound to grow further.

In the medium term therefore, just when Russia’s allies in Eastern Europe have been developing greater economic – and therefore also political – independence from Russia the reverse is happening in Cuba. For all intents and purposes therefore, Cuba has become an international tentacle of Russian state capital. In the long term, of course, things could develop differently – as they have in Russia’s Eastern European allies in the past 15 years. But there is no chance of this happening in the short term

Cuba’s foreign policy

How does Cuba’s foreign policy fit this picture? It was with respect to Latin America that Cuban foreign policy has been most clearly defined. And it was Castro’s clarion call to revolution on the continent that established his revolutionary credentials during the high point of the “revolutionary” period in the late 1960s.

Castro originally (and not inaccurately) referred to the Organisation of American States (OAS) as a “putrid, revolting den of corruption”, a “disgusting, discredited cesspool”, a “ministry of colonies of the United States”, to which Cuba would only return if the “imperialists and their puppets were kicked out first”. Relations with other Latin American countries could only be restored if not only were OAS sanctions rejected, but also if these countries had a revolution and if they condemned US crimes against Cuba as well. [50]

Yet within a very short time – less than a year – this whole position was revealed as empty rhetoric. Already in 1969 Castro was praising the Peruvian regime that came to power in a military coup a year before as a “new phenomenon” with “a group of progressive military playing a revolutionary role”. Peru’s new dictator, General Velasco, and Castro became close associates, diplomatic relations being restored and Velasco proposing (unsuccessfully) in the OAS that sanctions should be dropped. Apart from nationalising US oil interests (hardly in themselves ‘revolutionary’ Frei’s Christian Democrat regime in Chile had already proposed as much in its copper industry), Velasco’s main claim to fame at the time he was receiving Castro’s accolades, was his continued persecution and imprisonment of Peruvian revolutionaries like Hugo Blanco. Those with illusions in Castro were shocked and disarmed by this volte-face, but all too few learnt any lessons from it. [51]

Nor was the Peruvian case an isolated example. In the early 1970s similar relations developed with the Panamanian military regime of General Torrijos and the Ecuadorian autocrat Velasco Ibarra, neither of whom had introduced any nationalisation or other “socialist” measures at all, but both of whom were prepared to act relatively independently of the United States. [52]

The situation has developed further since then, and now even one of the most right wing and repressive regimes in the continent, Argentina has diplomatic and commercial relations with Cuba. The OAS policy of isolating Cuba was quietly dropped in 1975, and since then there have been tentative (and as yet unsuccessful) measures to reopen some direct US/Cuba links.

Castro has therefore turned full circle. From beginning with the notion that what was needed was a revolutionary foreign policy, he has now reduced that to support of any regime that opposes American interests, however reactionary it is – a position that he himself has explicitly admitted to. [53]

We have argued, therefore, that Cuba’s ‘revolutionary’ phase as far as foreign policy is concerned, was (a) mainly rhetorical, (b) conditioned by Cuba’s isolation from the rest of Latin America, and (c) short-lived, leading to Castro supporting right-wing military dictatorships on the continent. It was also, of course and crucially – Cuba’s following the interests of Russia that explains the 1969 turn to the ‘nationalistic’ dictators.

And of course it is the Russian connection that explains the role of the Cuban armed forces in Africa. In Angola the USSR provided the military hardware and the Cubans the troops to holster the efforts of the MPLA – the legitimate national liberation movement. Coming from a 3rd world country themselves, the Cubans were much more acceptable than Russian troops would have been. (They were certainly much cheaper and probably a great deal more effective too. From what we have said already, it is clear that to attribute the Cuban action to the ‘progressive’ nature of the regime would be to fly in the face of all the evidence to the contrary provided by Castro’s friendly relations with Latin American military dictators. The reality is that Castro was acting as Brezhnev’s agent, and that the action was designed as a means of strengthening the hand of the Russians in their inter-imperialist rivalry with the Americans.

This analysis was strikingly confirmed shortly afterwards in the horn of Africa. The Russians and the Cubans initially extended aid to the Eritrean liberation movement, which was legitimately fighting against the Ethiopian occupying forces. But it only needed the Ethiopians to switch allegiance from the US to the USSR for this policy to be sharply reversed, leading to a flow of military aid from the Cubans and the Russians to the Ethiopian army of occupation instead. Nothing about the nature of the struggle in Eritrea itself had changed, but for all that the Eritreans were cynically sacrificed without the least hesitation by Cuba and Russia. Russian foreign policy, the inter-imperialist rivalry between it and the USA, was the sole criterion according to which the Cubans operated. [54]

For the self-emancipation of the working class

These consequences of the development of state capitalism in Cuba, both at home and abroad, are important. We do not debate Cuba in the abstract; it is not a matter of the “correct line”, any more than it is when we discuss Russia. To accept Cuba as a socialist country would have a series of implications for our understanding of what is meant by socialism. It should be clear that the Cuban masses did not make the Cuban revolution. But there is no iron law in that. For the political question remains – how can the working people create through their own intervention the institutions and organisations that will defend their gains and create a workers’ state, There can be no workers’ state without the working classes; socialism, to repeat it once again, is the conscious repossession of their world by the workers. That is the sole guarantee that it will be the interests of the majority that are expressed through the state; there is no guarantee whatsoever in the sincerity or commitment of a leadership which proclaims itself the representative and the substitute for the working class. Yet the history of post-revolutionary Cuba is that of a separation between state and masses through a network of organisations which mobilise the masses but do not provide forms of direct and permanent involvement in the whole process of political life. The interests of the state have been in conflict with the needs of the workers more than once – the response has been a series of increasingly draconian measures designed to maintain the continuing exploitation of the working class despite their discontent. The emphasis throughout has been on discipline, obedience. loyalty – not on the creative transformation of a society from one based on exploitation to one organised around the fulfilment of need. Accumulation has taken precedence; growth has been presented as equivalent to socialism. Yet if the task of accumulation is urgent, that is essentially the function of a bourgeoisie in capitalism; if the working class is to carry out that function because a dependent capitalism has failed to develop those resources, then it must do so in the context of a form of power that is proletarian, reconciling workers’ democracy with the demands of accumulation. If it fails to reconcile those two things, then the state is exercising to its full extent a capitalist function in a capitalist way. After all, it has been the desire of every capitalist class to encourage the working class to submit voluntarily to their own exploitation. That Cuba has succeeded in this – and there is no doubt that it has done so more successfully than any other state capitalist regime – is no evidence that it is socialist, if by socialism we understand that qualitative change in the nature and possession of political power.

Could it have been otherwise? The origins of the distortion of the Cuban economy, its subservience to another economic centre to which it was forced to sacrifice the development of its own productive forces, coincide with the moment of its “discovery” by Europe in 1492. The iron circle of dependency closed through the centuries, and the central problem in 1959 was still how to accumulate, industrialise, and thus escape from the circle. But it became clear that rapid accumulation, with all its attendant sacrifices, could only offer a “socialism” that involved the equitable division of scarcity and poverty. Yet without the full development of the productive forces, there could be no emancipation of the working classes. For a time, the “optimism of the will” – the belief that ideas were enough – sustained a politics of sacrifice. Yet in the end, Cuba entered a new dependency, and reconciled itself to an accommodation with the existing world order. Now, in a period of world crisis, Cuba is once again the victim of the unequal international distribution of the productive forces. And it is, ultimately, only at that – international – level that Cuba’s problem can be solved. It remains as true now as it was for Lenin in 1917, that only the international revolution can effect the redistribution of the world’s resources that will release Cuba. Yet the truth of the matter is that within its narrow confines, there is in Cuba today a class which dominates that society, and which has benefited in power terms from the present course of events. For that bureaucracy, ensconced in the state, the modus vivendi it has reached with the Russian metropolis and its arrival at the negotiating tables of the international order have ensured, for the moment at least, the survival of its national state, which has been and remains its only priority.

If the interests of the Cuban working class lie in the international socialist revolution, then they too will have to overthrow a national state and its bureaucracy which has, in its turn, become an obstacle to the transformation of the world.


1. T. Draper, Castro’s Revolution: Myth and Reality, London 1962, pp. 5–10; J. Hansen, Dynamics of the Cuban Revolution, New York 1978, pp. 74–75.

2. H.M. Enzenburger, Raids and Reconstructions, London 1976, p. 200. We have referred throughout to the “Cuban Communist Party” (CCP), though it has gone through a number of changes. Until 1961 it was called the PSP, from 1961–1963 as ORI, and from 1963–1965 as PURS. Only in 1965 did it revert to the “Cuban Communist Party” name. The Castro brothers secured complete control over it in 1963 with the expulsion of some of the old guard of the party.

3. See S. Farber, Revolution and Reaction in Cuba 1933–1960, Middletown 1976, pp. 156–161 for a thorough discussion of this question.

4. See the introduction of T. Draper, op. cit., for the US State Department’s position in 1961–62.

5. S. Farber, op. cit., p. 221.

6. The best discussion of Cuban agriculture by far is R. Dumont, Cuba – Socialism and Development, New York 1970. For the 1959 reform see pp. 238–33.

7. S. Farber, op. cit., p. 218

8. Since 1959 the world market price has fluctuated, sometimes quite wildly, between 5 and 65 (US) cents per pound.

9. R. Dumont, op. cit., p. 28. (A hectare is about the same as an acre. – in fact it is about 2.5 acres – MG) The 1959 reform did however resemble quite closely the initial reforms in Eastern Europe – in the late 1940s – but not the “collectivisations” of the early 1950s.

10. S. Farber, op. cit., p. 215. All this was of course, quite consistent with the puritan traditions of Chibas and the Ortodoxo Party.

11. Even such strongly pro-US sources such as B. Goldenberg, The Cuban Revolution and Latin America, p. 347, admit as much.

12a. Sorry, this note is missing.

13a. Sorry, this note is missing.

14a. Sorry, this note is missing.

12. See C. Guevara, Our industrial tasks, and On economic planning in J. Gerasi (ed.), Venceremos: speeches and writings of Che Guevara, London, 1968.

13. J. O’Connor, The Origins of Socialism in Cuba, Cornell 1970, p. 199.

14. Boletin Estadistico, Havana 1966, p. 20.

15. Ibid. indicates a rise in living standards of about 6% in 1961–63.

16. R. Dumont, op. cit., pp. 72–71.

17. Granma, 31.5.70, p. 7.

18. R. Dumont, op. cit., p. 75.

19. See Blasier & Mesa-Lago (ed.), Cuba in the World, Pittsburgh 1979, pp. 234–45.

20. See B.A. Evans, The Moral versus Material Incentives Controversy, University of Pittsburgh PhD thesis, 1973.

21. J. Gerassi (ed.), op. cit., pp. 387–400.

22. See N. Harris, The Mandate of Heaven, London 1978, pp. 48–59.

23. Quoted on p. 71 of M. Lowy’s very idealistic portrayal of Che in The Marxism of Che Guevara, London 1973.

24. J. Gerassi (ed.), op. cit., p. 389.

25. Quoted in C. Mesa-Lago (ed.), Revolutionary Change in Cuba, Pittsburgh 1971, p. 220.

26. C. Mesa-Lago, Cuba in the 1970s, Albuquerque 1978, p. 59. The expansion in rice production did not however imply an increased consumption, merely a substitution of home grown rice for Chinese imported rice.

27. For expulsion of the micra faction in 1968 and the boycott of the Bucharest meeting of the Communist Parties in the same year.

28. J.I. Dominguez, Cuba: Order and Revolution, Cambridge (Mass.) 1979, pp. 177–79.

29. K.S. Karol, Guerrillas in Power, London 1971, p. 513.

30. Quoted in J.I. Dominguez, op. cit., p. 159.

31. Ibid., pp. 159–60.

32. And was bitterly denounced by Douglas Bravo, leader of the Venezuelan guerrillas for doing so.

33. C. Mesa-Lago, Cuba in the 1970s (op. cit.), pp. 26–28.

33a. An analysis of the Poder Popular can be found in Peter Binns: “ Popular Power” in Cuba, in International Socialism Journal 2:21 (Autumn 1983), pp. 135–44.

34. C. Mesa-Lago, Cuba in the 1970s (op. cit.), pp. 45–46.

35. Ibid., pp. 45–46.

36. Ibid., p. 83.

37. Ibid., pp. 84–86.

38. Ibid., pp. 93–98.

39. For example by M. Haernecker in Cuba dictatura o democrazia?, Mexico, 1975.

40. See Dominguez, op. cit., chapter 8.

41. See E. Gonzalez, Cuban Studies, 6:2, (July 1976), p. 7.

42. See A. Suarez, Cuba: Castroism and Communism 1959–66, Cambridge, 1967, for a discussion of the origins of this phenomenon.

43. C. Mesa-Lago, Cuba in the 1970s (op. cit.), pp. 68–73.

44. See the Boletin Estadistico, Havana 1973.

45. Fidel’s candid self-criticism of the 1966–70 period can be found in Granma, 4.1.76.

46. According to official Cuban sources the growth rate in these years was nearly 15% (See Cuba 1975, Junta Central de Planificacion – Direccion Central de Estadistica), but western sources have put the figure at about 8% (See National Westminster Country Reports, Cuba, April 1975). Much of the growth reflected the boom in world commodity prices of the early 1970s, of which sugar was one of the most extreme examples.

47. See Lloyds Bank, Economic Report: Cuba, October 1978. In addition to the above, this shows how Cuba’s convertible currency earnings declined by 50% from 1975–76, and to an even lower figure in 1977.

48. See Ibid., p. 10: “many of the increases in production and productivity in recent years were the result of tough measures against absenteeism and the introduction of piecework systems”.

49. See Junta Central de Planificacion, op. cit., (1975).

50. F. Castro in Granma, 20.7.69, p. 5.

51. Hugo Blanco himself is a case in point. Instead of revealing the class nature of Cuban society to him, he merely confesses that it was “disheartening” (H. Blanco, Land or Death: The Peasant Struggle in Peru, New York, 1972, p. 74.

52. See Granma, 26.12.71 and 1.4.73.

53. In Granma, 19.12.71, p. 15.

54. Hence the sickening photograph in a recent issue of Granma in which, according to the caption underneath, “Fidel and Mengitsu (the Ethiopians’ butcher in chief – PB/MG) attentively follow the brilliant military exercises performed in the Ogaden” (Granma, 1.10.78, p. 12).

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