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Labor Action, 5 May 1947


Gaston Bruyere

A Story of Lost Independence

How American Imperialism Dominates
the Island of Cuba


From Labor Action, Vol. 11 No. 18, 5 May 1947, p. 6.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Once the fierce, war of independence, heroically waged by the Cubans, was over, and the Spaniards had been forced to leave the island in agreement with the Treaty of Paris (drawn up between America and Spain), a transitory interventionist government was set up by the United States. This came after the natives had won their war of independence in 1895. Outwardly, this intervention was meant to clean up the island and prepare the Cubans politically for managing their own affairs. The true purpose of the U.S.A. in intervening in the Cuban war against Spain was to obtain real possession of the island. This they achieved through the same Treaty of Paris that gave them Puerto Rico and the Philippines following the Spanish-American war.

Having already undertaken an armed struggle for its independence, Cuba could not submit to the status of protectorate, like the other two, but added an infamous clause to its democratic constitution, thus diminishing its sovereignty. This amendment to the Cuban constitution was called the Platt Amendment. It gave the U.S.A. the right to intervene in the country’s internal affairs whenever they considered it necessary. Thus, in 1902, a republic without sovereign powers was. born.

From the time it purchased Florida, the United States had been trying to obtain through money or by other means the Island of Cuba. Considering its geographical position as strategically important from both a military and a commercial point of view, they offered Spain millions of dollars for it. For the same reasons that the U.S. coveted Cuba, Spain wished to retain it. Since the middle of the last century, the U.S.’s efforts to get their hands on Cuba had been increasing. Beginning then and running parallel with the natives’ anxiety to obtain their independence, American inversionist capital had penetrated the island.

With its incredibly fertile lands, with its privileged geographical position making the island a safe harbor and store-house for American manufactured goods on their way to South American and Caribbean countries, and because of its unequalled strategic base for troop movements toward the Pacific or the defense of the Panama Canal, Cuba has been one of the objects of imperialist greed.

It was after the republic was set up, which found the Cubans impoverished by their war for national independence, that the penetration of American finance capital became really enormous.

For pitiful sums U.S. capital bought stretches of land which they devoted exclusively to planting sugar-cane. In this way, they changed nearly all small rural holdings into enormous latifundios and forced great masses of small farmers to toil for inferior wages as sugar workers. Large portions of the island’s territory were turned into productive one-crop plantations, where the Cubans were unable to produce even a third of their basic means of sustenance. The Cuban people were submitted to a regime of low salaries and forced to become buyers of U.S. manufactured goods at a price too high for Cuban economy. Thus imperialism, while selling dear and buying cheap, set up a monstrously deformed economy over the Cuban people, and in doing so twisted their historical destiny and forced them to accept the semi-feudal conditions of a plantation colony. But this economic crime itself brought imperialism its own historical punishment.

Social Classes

The Island of Cuba, ruled before its independence by a nation as capitalistically backward as Spain, had to survive in an even more backward regime than the metropolis. The latter sustained the colony, as well as itself, two centuries behind the times. The industrial revolution did not take place either in Spain or its colonies. Its production methods remained on the periphery of this transformation and it survived in semi-feudal conditions of production.

Cuba, thanks to its particular situation, had railroads before Spain did; an incipient semi-industrial production system began developing there before it appeared in Spain. Also an anti-feudal, republican and democratic mentality began to form in Cuba before it did in the metropolis. The wish for national independence affected all Cubans alike. Poor and rich embraced the national independence idea, with the avowed purpose of making a historical jump and bringing the Cuban production process system into harmony with a capitalist world. At this crossroads of their destiny, they were surprised by the American intervention in their way of independence. The intervention lasted from 1898 until 1902, at which date the Americans left the island fully prepared for the penetration of the island’s economy with their finance capital. Puerto Rico and the Philippines remained militarily and politically in their hands; Cuba economically.

The Native Bourgeoisie

Impoverished by a long war, the native ruling class became an easy mark for voracious imperialism. With no resources of their own for starting production again and with nearly all their property destroyed by war, they found themselves forced to sell their possessions en masse to American capital. Then they flung themselves into public life in order to obtain, through control of the newly-born state, the advantages of an official bureaucracy which they meant to keep for themselves. Thus with the birth of the republic in 1902, the ruined Cuban bourgeoisie surrendered its sovereignty to imperialism and became a parasitic, anti-national class.

Parallel with the decline of the Cuban bourgeoisie as an independent ruling class, imperialist penetration became more acute, until it reached the point of controlling the sugar production, the backbone of Cuban economy. Just as imperialism monopolized the most important sources of wealth (sugar, tobacco, bananas, concessions in the ports, etc.) it also controlled commerce, the means of communication and transportation, railroads, shipping companies, airlines, etc. Today, forty years after the republic was set up, the native bourgeoisie, which has ceded all its class privileges to American imperialism, no longer exists as such, languid since its birth to the life of the republic, it has finally lost its natural class physiognomy and in the process turned into a mere agent of American inversionist capital.

Placed between the producing classes which work for wages and have definite conceptions of their national and social needs, and the fierce penetration of imperialism, whose only mission in Cuba is to extract raw material at low cost for its big industry, this parasitic ruling class has lost hegemony over its economic interests and consequently its social and political independence. Systematically betraying the national interests in its death-struggle to survive as a ruling class, becoming a parasite class with no further social function than that of representing) as badly paid agents, the basic interests of Yankee imperialism, this Cuban capitalist class is naturally the most negative, anti-national and reactionary ally of imperialism.

Producing Majorities

The intervention of foreign capital in the Cuban economy has created a very broad base of salaried workers. When the small rural properties were in most cases liquidated, their former owners became proletarians, socially and .economically speaking. Another mass of temporary and migratory workers go lamentably from a period of work in the sugar industry (three months) to another period of. work in .the tobacco and coffee plantations. This moving mass constitutes, from the point of view of the Cuban revolution, the motor element of any social transformation, while at the same, time they are the only ones who can fully carry out the democratic and national process. It is these agricultural. workers, together with the remains of a peasantry having no property rights over the land they farm, who make up the heavy contingent of agricultural wage-earners.

The Working Class

The formation of the working class has been paralleled by the liquidation of the bourgeoisie and small properties, American imperialism, through its own organs, plays the role of ruling class in Cuba. But the dramatic contradiction of imperialism’s leading role resides in the fact that in strangling the native bourgeoisie and pauperizing the middle classes, it has created a proletarian mass which will be its undoing. In Cuba, the struggle for national economic liberation implies the socialist transformation of the means of production, for- there is only the working class to lead the national movement to its proper conclusion. Only the working class, through its organizations and with a clear vision of its destiny, can complete the national and democratic stage of Cuban development. Drawing along behind it the producing majority, it will transform democratic objectives into socialist and revolutionary ones in this very process.

American imperialism and its national agents have lost political power in the present state of things in Cuba. This was due to a powerful democratic revolutionary movement in which, up till now, the working class has played a passive and secondary role. With no clear objective, without a definite line and with no concrete plans, the liberal democratic movement which came to power in 1944 is becoming diluted in the void without daring to wage decisive battles against imperialism. Meanwhile, the latter goes in for every kind of intrigue, shuffles and reshuffles the politically dispersed cadres of its native lackeys, threatens, and coerces; it brutally raises the prices of products which are vital to the population’s sustenance; it buys Cuban export products at wretchedly low prices, leaving a tragic balance in Cuban economy, with the deliberate intention of making the national-democratic revolution submit through hunger.

While the power of the democratic and petty bourgeois revolutionaries is being drained in secondary battles, while American imperialism is trying to crush this incipient nationalist movement, .what is the. Cuban working class doing? How is it organized? What are its present aims? Who are its leaders? The reader will find replies to these questions in the next article, which will treat of the Stalinists’ historic betrayal of”e Cuban people and their role as. the American advance-post of Soviet bureaucracy.

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