By Pedro Campos
HAVANA TIMES — On April 16, 1961, on the corner of 23rd and 12th Streets in Vedado, Havana, Fidel Castro announced the “socialist and democratic nature of the Cuban Revolution.”
In reality, ever since the ‘60s, many Cuban socialists from different generations have been reporting the truly anti-socialist path that the Revolution has taken since its first actions in 1959. In addition to digressing from the first objective of restoring the 1940 Constitution and Cuba’s democratic institutions, the State expropriated a great amount of land and numerous companies and kept wage labor which defines capitalism as an economic system of production.
That’s why we have labeled it State monopoly capitalism; it has nothing to do with Socialism.
According to Fidel’s “History will absolve me” speech, land taken away by the Agrarian Reform Act would be handed out or converted into cooperatives, but they remained State property and only 100,000 deeds were given to tenant farmers, sharecroppers and squatters who already had leased lands, the rest were left to be managed by the State.
The most advanced socialist measure was the creation of the Cuban Sugarcane Cooperative System in 1960, controlled by the INRA (National Institute of Agrarian Reform), but with restrictions and a high level of dependency which allowed INRA’s own management, when Carlos Rafael Rodriguez took over in February 1962, to deactivate it completely and convert it into a “people’s farms” system, with salaried workers.
In line with that decision, 120,000 cooperative members who cultivated and harvested 50% of Cuba’s sugarcane, who had created self-sufficient food production systems for them and their neighboring areas and had established a militia of 70,000 men, with areas of self-defense and protection, were converted into State employees and their production and defense organizations dismantled.
General Raul Castro was afraid of this other army of laborers, who weren’t controlled by the Armed Forces (FAR) or Che, from the Ministry of Industry, who didn’t want to pay for sugarcane from the cooperatives because he opposed “monetary trade relations in socialism”. Che hoped to control the land dedicated to cultivating sugarcane and rejected the cooperatives, according to personal testimonies from the Director of the Sugarcane Cooperatives, Engineer Eduardo Santos Rios, told to the author of this article.
For these reasons and in order to involve Carlos Rafael Rodriguez in the dialogue against Anibal Escalante and “sectarianism” a month later, the Sugarcane Cooperatives were dismantled and the beginning of destroying Cuba’s sugar industry was ordered. From that moment onwards, there has been mass rural migration towards cities, farms no longer had sufficient laborers and “industrialization” plans to sow, cultivate and harvest sugarcane went full-speed, which raised costs and made managers of sugar cane plantations lose interest in sugar production.
Plus, in the Revolution’s early years, many cooperatives which existed from beforehand such as the Omnibus Aliados cooperative, the ACTIA (Cooperative Association of Aeronautical Industry Workers) for building homes and markets for laborers at the Rancho Boyeros Airport and other farmers, fishermen and manufacturers, were nationalized and the workers were converted into paid employees, or were simply laid off. Likewise mutual clinics that existed all over Cuba were converted into health centers which were administered centrally by the State.
The “Revolution” leadership’s rejection of the cooperative movement and laborers’ self-management, reached its climax in the so-called Revolutionary Offensive in 1968, where almost a quarter of a million small private, family businesses and cooperatives were nationalized in the name of “Socialism”.
In honor of historical truth, so much nationalization wasn’t found in the program of the Popular Socialist Party’s, the old Communist Party, as cooperatives and free private work were considered key aspects of socialism and many of the old-school Communists opposed the path the PCC was taking.
In subsequent years, with the coming of the 1990s crisis known as the “Special Period”, the “Revolution leadership’s” hostility towards workers’ self-management was once again evident as over half of Cuba’s sugar mills and thousands of related sub-industries industries were closed down, as the State preferred to do this rather than hand them over to workers. Instead, it preferred to share important company assets with foreign investment, under the paid labor system.
In some countries, many capitalists, before closing down their businesses, have preferred instead to share their assets, responsibility and profits with their employees. Today, joint-stock companies, cooperatives and many other forms of free associations are found across the entire world of Capitalism.
The real and main enemy of workers’ self-management has always been our leader Fidel Castro himself, as explained in a recent article by the Cuban-Brazilian Moustafa Hamze Guilart , who tells us about an exchange between the late Cuban leader and Chilean students, during his famous visit to Chile.
Here, referring to workers’ control over companies, self-management, the essence of Marxist socialism, phrases such as the following can be found:
“We don’t want to create privilege at the heart of our people. We don’t want to corrupt our working class.
Are we going to change the bourgeois framework for another framework which is just as bourgeois as the other? Are we going to work via fiscal processes, taxes, disputes? Will we substitute the historic classes with artificial classes and have rich and poor workers, and workers who won’t have anything because they don’t work with technology? Will we introduce mercantilism into schools and universities, making people pay for them?
They don’t speak of tax regimes, which is all a lie in the end.
And given the fact that I was asked a question about this, I say loud and clear that it’s Machiavellian, diabolic, irresponsible, criminal for anyone in our homeland – or in my judgement, anywhere – to dream up such madness.”
End of quote.
So, it’s perfectly clear then why the Castro brothers’ nationalization plans never mention Socialist Self-management, why they rejected independent cooperatives and free labor, whether it was private or associated, why they never gave a single company to their employees and why all existing “cooperatives” are dependent on the State and subject to a never-ending list of restrictions.
The truth is, the Cuban Revolution has never moved towards Socialism. It was never socialist in nature. In any case, what has been made evident here is the centralized State, neo-Stalinist and therefore anti-Socialist nature of the Revolution whose leader and closest associates have steered it towards.