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T. Stamm

Workers Oppose Mendieta Regime

(January 1934)

From The Militant, Vol. VII No. 3, 27 January 1934, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

On January 15 Grau resigned as provisional president of Cuba. He was succeeded by Hevia, formerly one of the representatives of the Nationalist party in the Revolutionary Junta in Miami, and secretary of agriculture in the Grau cabinet. Hevia occupied the seat of power for only thirty hours. He resigned and was succeeded by Colonel Carlos Mendieta, who is the present incumbent of the presidential office.

Mendieta is the leader of the Nationalist Party which does not differ essentially from the liberal Party of Machado. Inasmuch as Mendieta was selected by a conference of representatives of all the bourgeois and revolutionary petty bourgeois factions, in which the hand of Caffery can be seen, the new regime constitutes a development of the Cuban situation, to the right. As first announced Mendieta’s cabinet – four members of the Nationalist Party, two of Menocal’s party, outrightly reactionary, three members of the ABC and two without party affiliations – has the same rightist stamp.

Workers Oppose Mendieta

The workers are reported to be opposed to Mendieta and his cabinet but there is no serious struggle against him yet. Guiteras, Grau’s Secretary of the Interior, who evidently had presidential ambitious attempted to stay the swing to the right and elevate himself to power. He threatened a general strike and has actually succeeded in calling out the Railway Workers Brotherhood, affiliated to the Pan-American Federation of Labor, a creature of the American Federation of Labor.

Washington has already granted recognition to Mendieta. Apparently it is Roosevelt’s purpose to strengthen Mendieta, as he hoped to strengthen De Cespedes. But, as yet, there is no indication that Mendieta will be more successful than Grau in dealing with the extremely delicate and complicated problems of Cuban politics and economy.

In trying to, balance himself on the tight-rope of compromise between American imperialism and the Cuban proletariat Grau fell into the abyss. All his complicated maneuvers did not advance the solution of the problems of Cuban society an inch. Mendieta is setting out to accomplish what the petty bourgeoisie could not do. In our opinion he will be as little successful. Although he has made no announcement of his government’s program his task is dictated to him by the situation and his imperialist masters. It is to harvest the crop.

Cuban Sugar Problem

That is now the vital question for the American imperialists and their Cuban bourgeois subalterns. Cuba is equipped to raise and grind between five and six million tons of sugar a year. In 1924–25 the crop was five and a half million tons; in 1928 it was five and a fifth million tons and more than four million were exported. Under the Chadbourne restriction plan the crop for 1932–33 was set at two million tons with only one half destined for export. In these figures is contained the story of the frightful misery of the Cuban masses.

Cuban sugar has to compete in the United States, its chief export market, with cane sugar from Porto Rico, the Philippines, and with beet sugar from the Western states. Quotas are assigned to each external source of supply. Conferences to establish the quotas between the beet growers of the Western states and the Secretary of Agriculture are being held now.

Deadline For Harvest

The second or third week in January is the deadline for beginning the harvest if the cane is to be cut and ground in time. Delay in getting the harvest under way may mean an even smaller quota for Cuba than the 1932–33 figure with corresponding increases in the quotas of Cuba’s competitors. Failure to harvest the crop will mean no taxes for the government; an empty treasury, inability to pay the principal and interest on loans, still more drastic cuts in the public services, difficulty with the army over wages, etc., etc.

Grau’s failure to make even a beginning in establishing conditions for a harvest profitable to the American and Cuban owners explains why ho made his exit at this time. It is Mendieta’s assigned task to drive the workers off the plantations they have seized, and recover for the capitalists the ground they have lost to the workers through the strikes for higher wages and better conditions.

Before Meudieta can harvest the crop he will have to come to grips with the workers. In the period following Machado’s fall they have made some improvement in their economic position, extended their organizations and repossessed themselves of a spirit of confidence in their ability to struggle against the enemy. In fact they have reached a point where they can threaten the entire social system. And they have given ample evidence of the fact that they can and will fight. They arp not likely to surrender their hard-won gains without a struggle Such is their temper that they strike at a moment’s notice. On hearing a report that Mendieta intended to return to their American owners the property of Morgan’s Cuban Electric Company, seized by Grau’s government, the workers struck.

So far is Mendieta from being the bourgeoisie’s ideal of a strong man that he forced the company’s officials to agree to a committee to settle the differences between the company and the workers. Mendieta has proclaimed the postponing of the Constituent Assembly from April 22 to a future, undetermined date. That is likewise a sign of weakness.

High Mark of Struggle ...

The high water mark of the workers’ struggles was reached in the strike of the electrical workers of the Cuban Electric Company just before Grau fell. The company refused the workers’ demand and they struck. The Grau government seized the property. But the workers ran the plant. Here was realized on a microscopic scale the first stage of the Cuban proletarian revolution – nationalization of industry under workers control of production.

The formation of a right government means that the tide has begun to set in against the workers. But it is not yet too late to advance on the road to nationalization. No decisive battles have been fought. The workers are undefeated. But this is practically their last opportunity in the present period. The government is weak. To harvest the crop it needs class peace. Moreover it has made a public demonstration of its weakness. Now is the time to hit it hard. Preparations should be set on foot for the general strike for nationalization of industry under workers’ control of production. The demand should be raised for the immediate convocation of the Constituent Assembly. At the same time the Soviets should be organized in the towns and on the plantations.

The Cuban Revolution vitally concerns the proletariat of the whole world. The Cuban workers need support and assistance. The silence of the Communist International is nothing short of a betrayal. Moreover, the Communist parties outside of Cuba cannot mobilize the workers against American imperialism.

That is our task as revolutionists and internationalists. Together with all those workers’ organizations which are willing we must begin the organization of the movement to demand Hands Off Cuba!

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