Burn Down the Cane Fields!
Notes on the Political Economy of Cuba

Part 1

By Rudi Mambisa

Note: This article was originally published in A World to Win in 1989. This text version was produced via automatic optical character recognition (OCR) from a scanned PDF version found hosted on bannedthought.net (an excellent resource) and has not been proofread for transcription errors. Part 2 of this article is available here.

See also on this same topic Cuba: the Evaporation of a Myth—From Anti-Imperialist Revolution to Pawn of Social-Imperialism

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The following is the first of a two-part series. This part focuses on how Cuba came to be dependent on sugar and how sugar turned Castro’s rebels into its armed guardians. The second half will take up the consequences, by examining the overall development of the Cuban economy in the last thirty years, the question of Soviet “aid” and the concept of “dependent socialism.” –A World to Win

Introduction: Castro’s “Touristroika”

The mood in Cuba today is somber. The problem is more than just hard times, although times are hard in Cuba. There is also the question of where the country is going.

A decade of “rationalisation” that resulted in a tangle of three million work norms (more than the total number of workers) and piece rates and pay scales set according to enterprise or production-brigade profitability could not stave off the economic stagnation that has once again overtaken Cuba’s economy.[1] Cutbacks in rations of milk and meat and higher prices for transportation and other necessities have followed in the wake of Castro’s current “rectification” campaign whose rhetorical clothing of “building socialism through moral incentives” can’t hide the resemblance to the standard IMF-ordered retrenchment, with its slashing of imports and promoting of exports so as to pay foreign creditors.

Castro was said to look glum during Gorbachev’s April 1989 visit to Cuba. Gorbachev seemed to be enjoying himself. Although few details of their conversations have been announced, the general idea is that Cuba will have to enter into specific contracts with Soviet enterprises, which in turn are subject to “cost-accounting,” with the result that Soviet-Cuban economic arrangements will be overhauled piece by piece and each of its individual components may be expected to show a profit.

Cuba’s economy works like this: Cuba produces sugar. The USSR buys the bulk of it at a fixed price, paying partly in Soviet oil. Cuba sells the oil on the world market, along with the remainder of its sugar production. Then Cuba uses the mix of roubles and dollars to import food and other materials and make more sugar. Now, with sugar prices and oil prices low simultaneously, it seems that more dollars are indispensable to make the Soviet’s capital investment in Cuba turn over faster. “Tourism is far more profitable than oil,” Castro recently exclaimed,[2] as though he had just made a terrific discovery. To many Cubans, this must seem like a recurring nightmare. The “second harvest” of tourism, as the complement of Cuba’s sugar dependency used to be called, was supposed to have been ended along with U.S. domination. In Havana, in 1959, 100,000 women—over 10% of the capital’s total population—found work as prostitutes, crowding certain streets thick as a cattle market along with the thousands of taxi drivers, beggars and others awaiting American businessmen, tourists and sailors. Gambling was the island’s biggest growth industry. In 1959, 300,000 U.S., Canadian and European visitors came to to waited upon, entertained and otherwise served by those the sugar economy made “surplus.”[3]

In 1988, with, it is true, slightly more emphasis on beaches, Cuba attracted 225,000 Canadian and European tourists. The Cuban government hopes to bring in two million a year by the end of the next decade. The giant Hilton hotel from which black Cubans were once excluded, later symbolically used for the 1966 Tricontinental Conference where Castro denounced both the imperialist U.S. and revolutionary China, is again packed with well-fed, sun-dazed couples from Milan and Montreal. The chorus girl cabarets, once a hated symbol of Cuba’s subjugation, are again parading the glittering degradation of Cuban women for the amusement of drunken foreign big spenders. Contract discussions are under way with Club Med.[4] After thirty years of little construction of new housing, tens of thousands of hotel rooms and vacation cottages and a whole new international airport are to be built in the next five years, financed by joint enterprises set up with European investors.

A currently popular song protests, “The dollar is more important than the Cuban people.” The one thing that many Cubans thought surely had been achieved, an end to their country’s humiliation at the hands of the U.S., now seems to be up for sale. Cubans say that Castro has his own version of perestroika: “touristroika.”

A 1988 Cuban party document warns of “states of opinion reflecting discontent, concern, incomprehension and irritability” among the Cuban people and lays great stress on measures to control “the persistence of manifestations of labour and social indiscipline.”[5] Castro’s interminable speeches rail against popular lack of morale and enthusiasm. Recent visitors’ anecdotes are more pungent about the prevailing cynicism in regard to the government.

The “aid” provided to Cuba by the USSR for almost thirty years cost Cuba its soul, as we shall see, but it bought a certain stability (whose content we shall also examine). Now, when there is every reason to believe that Gorbachev’s perestroika will hold more difficulties for Cuba, even this is in doubt. “If there were only one socialist country left in the world,” Castro told a recent closed meeting of the Cuban party, “it would be Cuba.”[6] But this braggadocio cuts the man that wields it. Once the possibility that the USSR might cease to be socialist is admitted, then even those who reject our Maoist argument that the Soviet Union had already restored capitalism when Castro took up with it would have to question the wisdom of a thirty-year Cuban policy to make the island dependent on the USSR. As an unidentified “foreign diplomat” (probably Soviet) pointed out, “Castro needs Gorbachev much more than Gorbachev needs him.”[7] The ugliness of Cuba’s future, now floating to the surface inside and outside the country, evokes an underlying question: how did it get this way in the first place?

How Sugar Created Cuba

There being no God, it fell to sugar to create Cuba.

There were people on the island long before sugar came, but the island was not yet Cuba. Sugar changed its face and created its people, whose history is a history of revolt and war against the evolving relations of production and the other social relations that arose in consequence and gave sugar its terrible power.

The Europeans brought cane sugar from India to the West Indies in the sixteenth century, along with the African slaves to cut it down. In turn, the trade in these two commodities was a driving force in the development of capitalism and its political triumph in Europe.

In 1793 the slaves revolted in Haiti and drove out the French slavemasters. The long political unrest and clash among the colonial powers for that island brought more colonists fleeing to Cuba and an enormous impetus to what had hitherto been slow development there. The whole of the nineteenth century was one long sugar boom in Cuba. Sugar commanded the felling of the tropical forests, just as earlier it had required the extermination of the Caribbean natives who resisted forced labour. There was little trace left of the island’s original life, except for some place names which no longer resembled the settings they had been named after.

The commodity sugar was sent to Europe where it was transformed into money, the money went to Africa where it became slaves, and the slaves were sent to Cuba and other places in the New World where they were ground up to make more sugar. In the nineteenth century, Cuba was the main destination of those Africans unlucky enough to fall into white hands. About 600,000 Africans were brought to Cuba between 1512 and 1865, most of them after 1820 when the international slave trade was supposedly banned. Nevertheless, Cuba’s black and “mulatto” population in the mid-1800s was no more than half that number.[8] The cane fields killed Africans after seven to ten years of labour. According to an account written at that time, slave men and women worked 19 to 20 hours a day, six or seven days a week. Most owners found it more profitable to renew their workforce through constant purchases rather than allow slaves a few hours a week away from the field for breeding purposes. Slave mothers commonly carried out abortion or infanticide rather than bear children into slavery.[9]

Poor whites tended to work in coffee and especially tobacco. Only in the latter half of the nineteenth century did Europeans begin to arrive in great numbers, along with Chinese brought as bound labour. In the early twentieth century, more bound labour was brought from Jamaica and Haiti, as well as Yucatan Indians from Mexico. Cuba’s population today is not as black as some neighbouring islands (estimates range from a third to a majority, depending on the criteria of the authors). But the rate at which Africans were brought to renew Cuba’s population, the long life of this slave trade (until about 1880), the late abolition of slavery (1886) and the fact that later white settlers came to a country that had long been mostly black made the emerging Cuban nation a daughter of Africa, raped by the slave-master. To this day, aspects of the language, religion and other cultural features of the Cuban masses, especially among the poor and above all in the countryside, are easily identifiable as those of the Yoruba and other peoples of West Africa. In fact, these cultural features, to some extent, mark Cubans of all colours.

Under Spanish law and the Catholic religion, it was forbidden to beat oxen, but not slaves. Slaves needed beating because they revolted. Often they set fire to the cane fields and escaped into the mountains. (This was one reason why fragile coffee beans and especially tobacco leaves were more often tended by free labour.) Major organised revolts took place in 1795 and 1844. Freedom from slavery could not be imagined without the overthrow of the Spanish-supported slaveowner regime. Beginning in 1868, Cubans began a ten-year war for independence and emancipation. Spain sent a quarter of a million troops to suppress the one million Cubans. In 1880, another major revolt broke out and was put down. In 1895, black and white guerrillas under a black general launched yet another war, which this time was successful . . . except that on the eve of victory, the U.S. declared war on Spain and snatched up the Spanish colonies of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines.

American troops invaded Cuba with the double mission of dealing Spain the final coup de grace and preventing the island from becoming a “Negro republic.” The victorious Cuban rebel army was barred from entering the cities and disbanded. U.S troops occupied the island from 1898 to 1902. Before they left, they wrote into the constitution of this supposedly independent country the Platt Amendment, a provision allowing the U.S. to intervene in Cuba at will. A new law requiring written deeds to land in a country where small peasants had farmed individual or communal lands without title enabled the American companies who bought up the sugar plantations to expel those who got in the way of the gargantuan expansion of sugar lands required to feed the newly mechanised sugar mills. To protect this way of life, American troops invaded again in 1906 and stayed three years. They invaded a third time in 1912, and again in 1917. This time they stayed five years, until they established a Cuban Army and political figures who would rule for them. Later, in return for allowing Cuban sugar a preferential place on the U.S. market, Cuba dropped all restrictions and duties on imports from the U.S. In addition, the U.S. snatched Guantanamo, on the eastern end of the island, where it still holds a major naval base. The U.S. was later to use Guantanamo to supply bombs and napalm to the Cuban government to fight Fidel Castro’s rebels; today, U.S. aircraft stationed at Guantanamo could be over Santiago de Cuba, the island’s second city, in three minutes.

For centuries the profitability of sugar had depended on slavery, although it was a slavery in service of the emerging capitalist world market, and in turn slave Cuba was deeply penetrated by capitalism. By the mid-1800s, Cuba’s capital, Havana, was the third largest city in the Americas, just behind New York and Philadelphia. Cuba was among the first countries in the world to have a national railroad system, at about the same time as the U.S. and long before Spain, its colonial owner. In fact, Cuba’s cities, engorged with the U.S. investments that began to flow in towards the end of the nineteenth century, were among the world’s first to be lit by electric lights. But the railroads were to carry cane, not people; the lights illuminated city districts inhabited by plantation owners, merchants and their urban employees, and the country clubs, yacht clubs and night clubs of the Americans, and not the huts and shacks and windowless mill barracks in the countryside.

When finally the profitability of capital in Cuba itself demanded the abolition of slavery for the sake of the mechanisation of the mills, the rapid development the island underwent was not the development of Cuban capital, but of American capital in Cuba. Cuba did not develop an agriculture that could feed industrial workers and supply industry and an industry that could in turn supply agriculture and the rest of the domestic market. Instead, increasingly it became a country where practically nothing was manufactured and little even stockpiled. Almost everything it used came on the freighters, the ferries and the flights from the U.S., 150 kilometers away, and almost everything it produced was shipped back to the U.S. on the return trip. It was said that Cuba’s manufacturing district was in New York, its warehouse district in Miami and its telephone exchange connected Havana and the U.S. far more than Havana and anywhere else in Cuba.

Immigrants of the 1920s brought with them revolutionary Marxism. There emerged a Communist Party, part of the Communist International. The party led strikes and other struggles and even insurrections in the 1930s, when it called for organising soviets (revolutionary workers’ councils) among tjie mill workers. But instead of centring on the peasants and the labourers in the fields as allies for the relatively small industrial working class in the mills, cigar factories and ports, the party looked elsewhere. It ended up supporting a U.S.-installed puppet, the former sergeant and now general Fulgencio Batista, in the name of the alliance against fascism. During the period of the international united front against the fascist powers in World War 2, the Communist Party entered Batista’s government. When the U.S had Batista break off that alliance, after the war was won, the party was spent as a revolutionary force. Instead of the party taking responsibility for launching and leading the armed struggle, in Cuba it was the self-described follower of “Jeffersonian democracy,” Fidel Castro,[10] who took up arms to topple the Batista government.

Different classes opposed the status quo in Cuba for different reasons. One class that came into sharp conflict with the Batista government and the plantation system he represented were the colonos, outgrowers who leased or bought land, hired labourers and supplied cane to the mills. Many were rural capitalists in whose hands the land was used far more productively than the immense stretches of land directly in the hands of the mill owners, for whom monopolising the land was often more important than farming it and who left much of their lands idle. But these colonos found themselves tied to all sorts of restrictions imposed by the biggest plantation and mill owners, Cuban capital arose and found itself hemmed in in other spheres of agriculture and industry us well. Castro’s father was a Spanish immigrant who became a successful colono. Fidel Castro himself was a lawyer—in despotic, agricultural Cuba there were ten times more lawyers than agronomists—and a leader of the bourgeois opposition party. There was a confluence of different streams of opposition. Under other conditions, if there had been a communist party with the line and ability to lead the struggle against imperialism and the Cuban landlords and compradors tied to it, it could have taken advantage of such bourgeois opposition. Instead, the bourgeois opposition took advantage of the Cuban Communist Party.

The party at first opposed Castro, then, in the last months of the war, joined him. Carlos Rafael Rodriguez, a main CP leader and “Communist” minister in the butcher Batista’s cabinet, went up into the hills to talk to Castro. Today he is considered the “ideologist” of the “new” Communist Party that Castro built himself in 1965 out of cadres from his own 26th of July Movement and others like Rodriguez from the old CP.

It could be said that sugar made Batista and sugar broke him: the long postwar stagnation and decline of Cuba’s sugar trade set the stage for events in which representatives of certain of Cuba’s propertied classes rose up...

Rose up for what? Against U.S. domination and, at first, against sugar. And then, as we shall see, for sugar: they rebelled against King Sugar, and ended up becoming his ministers.

As revolutions go, it wasn’t much. It was more a case of the Batista government crumbling than being overthrown. Castro’s forces accumulated strength for 25 months in the mountains. They were city men, for whom the relatively inaccessible and thinly populated mountains of the Sierra Maestra was a good place to fight and nothing more. In the early days they depended on the help of the small coffee growers in the Sierras, but aside from that they sought little participation at all by the broad masses, except on an individual basis. The April 1958 attempted general strike in the cities and plains is considered unsuccessful by many historians today, because its results were uneven, while others consider it proof that the labouring people supported Castro. At best it can be said that they were partisan spectators. For the most part of the war, until the last few months, the rebels numbered only a few hundred men and women under arms. Batista’s army was never decisively defeated in battle. The U.S, which helped bomb and napalm the rebels, had hedged its bets by backing Castro too. The CIA funneled him money, although Castro was left to guess where it came from.”[11]

As soon as Castro’s forces entered the city of Santiago de Cuba, Batista fled the capital at the other end of the island. Shortly after, the U.S. became the second country (after Venezuela) to recognise Castro’s new government. The American ambassador who had been known as a close friend of Batista was replaced by a new one who “was encouraged to believe that we could establish a working relationship that would be advantageous to both our countries.” Such was the attitude of both Castro and the U.S. at the moment, though within a few days after Castro assumed power, the U.S. was already hedging its bets again by preparing a plan to assassinate Castro if necessary.[12]

Castro had taken pains from the beginning to assure the U.S. he was no radical. “First of all and most of all, we are fighting to do away with dictatorship in Cuba and to establish the foundations of genuine representative government. . . . We have no plans to expropriate or nationalise foreign investments here,” he told a reporter from a popular U.S. magazine in the Sierra.[13] In 1959, speaking in New York where he had hastened after his victory, he declared, “I have said in a clear and definitive fashion that we are not communists. . . . The doors are open to private investments that contribute to the industrial development of Cuba. . . . It is absolutely impossible for us to make progress if we do not get along with the United States.”[14]

But when the Castro government took over some of the land of the biggest sugar estates, the U.S. flew into a rage and blockaded the island. The Soviet Union had been a buyer of Cuban sugar under the Batista government; now Castro turned to the USSR to double its purchases. “Castro will have to gravitate to us like an iron filing to a magnet,” Khrushchev is said to have remarked after their first meeting.[15] The U.S. launched a cowardly and inglorious invasion in April 1961. As American ships approached Cuba’s beaches, “I proclaimed the socialist character of the Revolution before the battles at Giron” (the Bay of Pigs), Castro later recounted.[16] More to the point, Castro announced that it was with Soviet arms that Cuba would defend itself. On May 1st, Castro, who until then was always photographed wearing a medallion of the Virgin, announced that he and his regime were “Marxist-Leninist.” This was the first time the Cuban people had heard anything but anti-communism from Castro.

Castro has tried to explain himself in many interviews over the years. He told the American journalist Tad Szulc that he had planned to announce that Cuba was socialist on May 1st, so that the U.S. invasion had only speeded up his plans by a few weeks. He also explained that while he had secretly considered himself a Marxist for a long time, it was not until confronted with a U.S. invasion that he considered socialism “an immediate question” for Cuba. As to why he had kept this a secret, his answer was rather direct, “To achieve certain things, they must be kept concealed, (because) to proclaim what they are would raise difficulties too great to attain them in the end.”[17] Earlier, during the revolutionary war, Castro is supposed to have remarked to others in his circle, like his brother Raul and Che Guevara, who were openly pro-Soviet, “I could proclaim socialism from the Turquino peak, the highest mountain in Cuba, but there is no guarantee whatsoever that I could come down from the mountains afterward.”[18]

If Castro was lying when he said he had considered himself a “Marxist-Leninist” all along, then there is not much reason to believe that he ever became one. If he was telling the truth, than what can you call a “revolution” that hides its goals and ideals from the people—a fraud?

Szulc, one of Castro’s more or less authorised biographers, speculates that by the end of the rebels’ war, Castro was already beginning to think about how to use the Soviet Union to Cuba’s advantage, although he probably could not have guessed what the result would be when he sought to play off the U.S. and the USSR. Szulc also speculates that Castro must have been aware, then or soon after, of the Soviet-Chinese debate and Mao’s denunciation of Khrushchev for overthrowing socialism in the USSR and opposing revolution everywhere else. By 1960, the USSR had attempted to sabotage China’s economy in an effort to encourage pro-Soviet forces in China; the following year, the USSR was to betray the anti-colonial struggle in the Congo led by Patrice Lumumba. Castro must have known who he was dealing with. Did he calculate that these circumstances would increase the price the USSR would be willing to pay to bask in the reflected light of Cuba’s revolutionary prestige?

In hindsight, one can certainly ask what would have happened if the Soviets had not been able to use the prestige of the Cuban revolution in their battle against the political and ideological line represented by Mao Tsetung, a battle whose objectives included turning the world’s revolutionary struggles into capital for Soviet social-imperialism. Cuba represented a key Soviet breakthrough into the oppressed countries, especially in the Western hemisphere, until then run exclusively by the Western imperialists. Khrushchev considered the capture of Cuba his greatest success.

Che Guevara, often thought to represent the radical wing of the Cuban revolution, is said to have written a letter to a friend in 1957, while fighting in the Sierras, contrasting his views to those of Castro: “I belong, because of my ideological background, to that group which believes that the solution to the world’s problems lies behind the Iron Curtain, and I understand this movement [Castro’s 26th of July Movement] as one of the many provoked by the desire of the bourgeoisie to free itself from the economic chains of imperialism. I shall always consider Fidel as an authentic left-wing bourgeois leader.”[19] Later, in his farewell letter to Castro before leaving for Bolivia, where his attempts to raise a secret army to i wage war on the U.S. in Latin j America were cut short by his j murder at the behest of the CIA, Guevara wrote Castro, “[M]y only shortcoming of some gravity was not to have trusted in you more from the first moments in the Sierra Maestra and not to have understood with sufficient celerity your qualities as a leader and as a revolutionary.”[20]

Perhaps, however, Guevara was right about Castro that first time. At any rate the essence of Guevara’s self-criticism is that he did not at first understand the degree to which he and Castro would ultimately prove to be in agreement. Guevara was always a defender of the revisionist USSR, and would remain a rabid opponent of revolutionary China until his death.

It is not surprising that the Cuban masses did not share U.S. imperialism’s horror at Castro’s announced conversion to “Marxism-Leninism.” But for Castro and Guevara, the term had little meaning apart from opposition to the U.S. For them, Marxism had little to do with Marx’s definition of the ideology that can guide the revolutionary proletariat to abolish all classes and class distinctions, all the relations of production on which they rest and the social relations and ideas to which they give rise,[21] but rather with seeking refuge from U.S. imperialism in the bosom of Soviet imperialism. That made it unnecessary, in their eyes, to transform Cuba’s economic relations, and in reality made such a transformation impossible. The military strategy of the Cuban revolution, which they later tried to pawn off on others in opposition to Mao’s strategy of protracted people’s war, is far beyond the scope of this article and requires study and refutation in its own right.[22] The point here, in terms of political economy, is that how political power was fought for is linked to what Castro and his circle were seeking to accomplish and what jthey were actually in a position to do once power was in their hands. ‘Chinese revolutionaries were said to have remarked that the Cubans had found a purse lying in the street and were advising others to count on the same good luck. The problem, of course, is that Castro and his followers could only spend that purse by entering into certain social relations, whose laws existed independently of whatever subjective ideas those men and women may have had. Our thesis is not simply Castro was a master of deceit. Both before and after he claimed to be a communist, there was a consistent thread to his political career: he sought to lighten the burden imposed on Cuba by the U.S., and to obthin a certain kind of development for Cuba. At first he hoped to do this with the U.S.’s help. This vain and contradictory hope was founded on an outlook that could not see any other practical way to do it. Later, when this proved impossible, he accepted the bridle Khrushchev offered (Khrushchev is said to have called Castro “a young horse that hasn’t been broken”).[23]

For thirty years Castro has combined pompous self-aggrandisement with subservience to imperialism. In a sense, when Castro proclaimed his “Marxism-Leninism,” it was not Castro who was speaking, but sugar: in order to be more than stout grass, sugar needs to be sold, and the USSR was willing to buy it. That is how “socialism” came to Cuba. King Sugar put on fatigues, grew a beard and sprouted a cigar. Castro may have wanted a break with the sugar system as imposed by the U.S., but he would not and could not break with the relations of production that gave sugar its ineluctable power.

The Cuba Castro Inherited

On the eve of Castro’s revolution, in 1959, it was common wisdom that “without sugar, the country would cease to exist.” Well over a third of total production—36% of the GNP, to be precise—was for export, and sugar accounted for 84% of exports.[24] These figures do not fully reveal their significance unless it is understood that it was precisely in production for export that capital was most concentrated. The sugar industry almost tripled its consumption of fertiliser in the five years before the revolution and came to represent an enormous percentage of the total machinery,[25] while the roots and tubers and other foods that made up the basic diet of the masses continued to be coaxed out of the ground by hand.

Cuba’s rural landscape was dominated by 161 mills. Only 36 were directly owned by U.S. companies,[26] but the sugar trade itself—like almost all Cuban trade—was dominated by American capital. Just over half of the cultivated land was planted in sugar, and much of the land was uncultivated, given to enormous (and relatively unproductive) cattle ranches. Twenty-eight families, enterprises and corporations controlled over 83% of the land in cane, and 22.7% of the total land.[27] Alongside the giant stretches of land owned outright by the mill companies, there were usually medium-sized estates owned or operated by the colonos.

The key problem in growing sugar profitably is that vast amounts of labour must be kept available for a harvest that only lasts a few months. About 100,000 men worked most of the year around in the mills themselves; of the masses in the countryside these were among the best off. Another 400,000 men worked two to four months a year cutting and loading the cane. For the most part they were black or “mulatto.”[28] In 1955 the average labourer in the cane fields worked 64 days at $1 a day, though the cost of most of what they might have bought in a store was not much less than in the U.S. at that time.

How did this system manage to continue to exist, since the landowners paid these men less than the cost of their labour power (the cost of keeping them able to work and of raising a new generation of labourers)? Unlike slave times, they could not be so easily replaced, although there was an element of that in the continued influx of labourers from elsewhere in the Caribbean. But the system reproduced itself because what these men and their families lived on was only in part paid for by their wages. Just as the slave owners had granted the slaves tiny plots to cultivate for themselves, so as to reduce the cost of feeding them (and to hinder the slaves from running away or burning down the plantation), so also a great many of those who worked for wages part of the year in sugar and other seasonal harvests were tied to small peasant farming, or at least a few rows (conucos) of manioc (cassava), sweet potatoes, taro or other tubers cultivated in tiny, narrow strips in the spaces between fields or along roadways. Such “privileges” entailed relations of personal obligation to the landowners.

These men led a contradictory existence as rural semi-proletarians rather than wage slaves proper, at least for the most part.

It is reported that the typical field labourer in Camaguey, who was considered a wage labourer and not a peasant in these statistics although his cash income amounted to only $118/year, lived off guarapo (sugar cane juice) and sweet potatoes for nine or ten months a year.[29] A survey carried out in Cuba in 1966, done by a European researcher seeking to make up for the lack of reliable pre-revolution statistics, finds that among the men sampled 38% of those who had reported themselves as “agricultural proletarians” in 1957 owned or had use of a plot of land at that time,[30] a figure which probably does not include conucos. These men and their families, the women and children who usually worked these plots without being counted as labourers in anybody’s statistics, were both prisoners of the land and denied it, held in bondage by the latifundia (plantations) which could neither absorb them fully nor permit them enough land to become independent and fully productive. The profitability of the capitalist mode of production which employed these men as wage labour depended on the persistence of the pre-capitalist mode of production.

At that time there were also almost 300,000 peasant families without income from wages, including small landowners, renters, sharecroppers and squatters. At least 175,000 of them were considered minifundistas, with a maximum of 67 hectares [1 hectare = 21/2 acres] and an average of 15 hectares of land; this average itself hides great in-

equalities, since some had enough land to raise a family while most had less.[31] It was these peasants who produced most of the food that the rest of the population lived on; their productive abilities, too, were shackled by the latifundia which monopolised land and other resources and “by the political power of the latifundistas.

Oriente province, Castro’s birthplace in eastern Cuba, was a stronghold of the rural bourgeoisie, especially on the plains. In its Sierra Maestra mountains where Castro’s army formed and grew, most people worked in coffee, typically as sharecroppers who would have to turn over up to 40% of their crop to the landowners, or as squatters of a small piece of land carved out of the mountainside from which they could be expelled at any time. The long lifecycle of coffee plants (which take up to five years to mature and last for about 40 years) meant that an expulsion, for a sharecropper, a squatter or a peasant who paid money rent to a landowner, would be a catastrophe, and this fact in turn greatly increased the authority of the landowners. Coffee is very labourintensive. But often the work of the husband and his wife and children would be sufficient for most of the year; the grown sons would return only for the few months of the coffee harvest before going back down into the plains to harvest sugar or other crops. Often their wages were the family’s only hope to hold back the crushing debts imposed by the landowners for land or goods (since the landowners controlled commerce as well), although in some cases they could hope to use the son’s wages to acquire land.[32] In tobacco, prevalent in the hills at the other end of the island, small and medium farmers—a mixture of owners, leaseholders and sharecroppers—usually of old Spanish and not slave descent, relied upon the unpaid labour of their families much of the year and hired labour for harvesting and processing the leaves.[33]

Chicken and rice, said to be Cuba’s national dish, was beyond the reach of most people in the countryside. Instead they ate sopa de gallo—“rooster soup”—which is really just unrefined sugar and hot water. According to the 1953 Cuba census, two-thirds of the rural population lived in mud-thatched dirt-floor shacks, about 85% had no running water or electricity, over half lacked even a latrine (outhouse) and over 90% had no baths or showers. Cuba’s annual per-capita beef production was 32 kilogrammes per person, but only 11 % of all rural families regularly drank milk and only 4% regularly ate beef.[34]

In the cities especially, nearly everything was imported from the U.S., except beer, soft drinks and some food. The nearly 400,000 people employed in manufacturing, like their brothers and sisters in the fields, were usually working for the foreign market, making cigars, clothing, shoes, wood and cork products, etc., as well as food processing for domestic consumption (which was often controlled by imperialist companies). A quarter of a million people worked in commerce; twice that many were employed in the bloated service sector.[35] This begins to give a picture of the parasitic urban economy where the masses laboured to feed, clothe and entertain the rich and intermediate classes who for the most part ultimately depended on agriculture, and the North Americans and Europeans who came in their hundreds of thousands, attracted by the degradation in which Cuba’s deformed economy obliged its people to seek employment.

Agrarian Revolution: The Road Not Taken

The slaves who rebelled and ran into the mountains and the peasants who fought Spain and America always burned the cane fields. They were right. They were right not only because they were right to rebel and burning the cane fields disrupted the enemy economically and militarily, but also they were right from the point of view of Marxist political economy. Castro burned some cane fields too, during the war. Afterwards, for the first few years of the 1960s, the revolutionary government made efforts to cut the country’s sugar dependency and industrialise, through the strategy of import substitution (manufacturing some previously imported consumer items, with the idea that this would allow Cuba to accumulate the capital and technical capacity to make its own producer goods later). But it seemed that Cuba could not manufacture these items as cheaply as the imperialists could sell them. Rather quickly, Castro set out to replant and expand the cane fields.[36] That was the end of the revolution’s brief first period.

The initial agrarian policy adopted by the Castro government in 1959 was to limit latifundia to a maximum of 400 hectares, while distributing some of the estate land over this size to smaller peasants. This step most favoured the rich peasants and the rural bourgeoisie, although some sharecroppers and squatters did obtain titles to the land they farmed and some small peasants got additional land, especially in tobacco. After 1963, when the decision was made to return to sugar, a limit of 67 hectares was imposed, not in order to distribute land further to smaller peasants, but rather, in effect, to give it to the latifundia which were now considered state farms. Later, after 1968, in order to concentrate still more economic and human resources on sugar, sugar estate workers were forbidden to maintain their family plots. Eventually 80% of the land was nationalised.

The 1966 survey previously referred to makes it clear that Cuba’s “agrarian reform” had brought little change in the countryside. About four out of five of those who had lived off small plots of land (without depending on substantial income from wages) before Castro took power still did so, with most of the rest becoming wage workers on state farms; only one out of 10 of those who had lived mainly on wages and one out of six of those who had lived off both wages and their own land had acquired enough land to live on and for the most part they too were added to the labour force on the state farms.[37]) In other words, those who had the most property got some more, while those who had the least lost it.

Why wasn’t the land divided up among all those enslaved by the latifundia system? Castro’s own explanation is revealing. “I found upon the victory of the Revolution that the idea of land division still had a lot of currency. But I already understood by then that if you take, for example, a sugar plantation of 2,500 acres . . . and you divide it into 200 portions of 12.5 acres each, what inevitably happens is that right away the new owners will cut the production of sugar cane in half in each plot, and they wijl begin to raise for their own consumption a whole series of crops for which in many cases the soil will not be adequate.”[38] In other words, the decision to continue basing Cuba’s economy on sugar cane and the decision not to divide up the land went together in the minds of Castro and his followers, as well as objectively. The land wasn’t divided up because that would have been bad for sugar; sugar cane had to be grown because that was the crop most suitable for large, bureaucratically-run state farms. The all-round development of Cuba’s economy and the feeding of Cuba’s people had nothing to do with it.

There was also no question of carrying out mass line, that is, of uniting with and giving leadership to the advanced desires of the exploited masses, which were much more in accord with what Cuba really needed for its liberation than Castro’s ideas. The French agronomist Rene Dumont, called to Cuba as an advisor to Castro in 1960, gives this account of a conversation with Castro while accompanying him on a tour of Cuba’s countryside during the period when the question of what to do with the latifundia was under discussion within the ranks of the [new regime: “My advice was [asked for, but not that of the workers and peasants who were to work on these enterprises. I was even forbidden to discuss it with them. ‘These people are illiterate and their ideas are usually pretty conservative,’ I was told. ‘It’s our job to lead them.’”[39]

This “leadership” consisted in Castro and his circle simply seizing the latifundia for themselves, with the pretext that the extent of wage labour in the countryside allowed Cuba to skip the stage of agrarian revolution and go directly to “socialism” by turning the latifundia into state-run enterprises. They argued that the latifundia had to be kept intact and even expanded because large-scale production was the most cost-effective way to produce sugar, and sugar the most cost-effective thing to produce.

Cuba is considered by capitalist and revisionist economists alike to enjoy a “comparative advantage” in sugar, since the results (expressed in money) of a given amount of capital applied to a given amount of land there are higher for sugar than for example, rice, or for any other application of capital immediately available to Cuba. This theory, first formulated by Ricardo in the nineteenth century, and later declared “socialist” by the Soviet revisonists to justify their concept of “the international division of labour,” holds that a country should concentrate on producing whatever it produces most cheaply and import everything else, no matter if this results in low profitability or even losses, which apparently was the case for most Cuban state farms by the mid-1980s.[40]

This is an expression of the capitalist logic of profitability, rather than the revolutionary proletariat’s necessity to transform all of society and the world, and goes completely against the theory and practice of constructing genuine socialist economies, first under Lenin and Stalin in the USSR and especially Mao’s path of building a self-reliant socialist economy. The labouring people have every interest—in fact far more than the exploiters—in decreasing the socially necessary labour time involved in production, and this can be furthered by mechanisation and technology as well as strict cost accounting expressed in money. But still, this must serve—and be subordinated to—the proletariat’s mission to “emancipate itself and all mankind.”

Further, this logic of profitability works in a particular way in the oppressed nations, those “subordinate formations in the production relations of imperialism” whose economic structure “is shaped mainly by forces external to them: what is produced, exported and imported, financed, etc., reflects first and foremost their subordination, and not principally the internal requirements and interrelations of different sectors. They answer to another’s ‘heartbeat.’”[41]

Turning the sugar estates into state enterprises was comprador logic. Instead of revolutionising the relations of production, both internally (in terms of production relations in Cuba) and externally (in terms of Cuba’s relationship to the world imperialist system), this measure sought to preserve them (and to allow their evolution to some extent).

From the point of view of prices and commodities, it may be most advantageous to grow sugar in Cuba, but from the point of view of the country’s liberation, economic development had to be based on all-around development of agriculture, even if, for instance, it might initially be less cost-efficient to produce rice in Cuba than to import it, as Castro insisted in a speech justifying the ripping up of rice fields to expand sugar production and the tearing up of a Chinese aid agreement meant to help Cuba become self-sufficient in rice.[42]

First of all, the very existence of the latifundia and the predominance of sugar in agriculture are only possible as long as Cuba is subordinated to the world market. Cuba’s dominant relations of production taken internally, that is, those embodied in large-scale modern sugar production, were called into existence by and dependent on Cuba’s production relations taken externally. This subordination of Cuba to the world market is a production relationship, and without breaking it, there could be no freeing of the productive forces overall in Cuba, especially the productive force represented by the labouring people themselves whose ability to transform Cuba and often even to work at all was crippled by the existing international organisation of production.

The more capitalism developed in sugar, the more the rest of the economy became extroverted, that is, the more its various sectors tended to become linked with foreign capital instead of each other. The more land, labour and other resources were concentrated in sugar, the more they were denied to other sectors of Cuba’s economy, especially the growing of food for domestic consumption, and the more, therefore, the country had to import, in a deepening vicious cycle. The very inputs the sugar industry depended on—chemicals, machinery, transport goods, etc.—were themselves imported. In contrast to the imperialist countries, where capitalism arose on the basis of a unified national market and the articulated development of agriculture and industry, the surge of capitalism in Cuba tended to disarticulate its economy. This disarticulation both arose from and deepened Cuba’s dependency, and also constituted a production relation and a fetter on Cuba’s working people.

Secondly, imperialist investment did accelerate the development of capitalism in sugar, but its effect overall was contradictory. The development of the sugar cane industry, and to a lesser degree the tobacco industry, had brought a high degree of capitalism in some aspects (including widespread wage slavery) to Cuba, making it among the most advanced in Latin America in 1959 in terms of per capita production measured in money.[43] But at the same time its profitability rested on preserving many backward remainders of slavery and semi-feudalism. As Lenin pointed out in his study of the development of capitalism in agriculture, the biggest estates are often not the most advanced in terms of capital-intensive farming and efficiency.[44] A survey of the amount of land under cultivation on various size farms in Cuba before Castro’s revolution illustrates an aspect of this, since in general, the bigger the farm, the smaller the percentage of its area under cultivation,[45] even though very often the smaller farms were on hillsides and the biggest on plains. This had to do with the fact that the latifundia, in order to be profitable, had to monopolise the land, denying the peasants land not only so that it would remain in the hands of the latifundistas but also so that the peasants would be forced to work for the latifundistas, even though the latifundista might lack the capital to use the land for more than pasturage at the moment. While the big sugar latifundia were capitalistic in some important aspects they were not the most advanced sectors of Cuban agriculture, even in capitalist terms, and they used all their economic and political power to maintain the system of backward, small-scale minifundia and conucos and to subordinate all other production. In sum, it was true, as Castro and his apologists claim, that the capitalisation of sugar production was leading to the proletarianisation of the rural population and the development of capitalism. But this is only one side of the question. The kind of capitalism it represented was capitalist development bound up with the preservation of more backward modes of exploitation, subordinated to foreign capital, and therefore impeding the overall and harmonious development of the productive forces. The production relations embodied in the predominance of sugar cane—dependency, disarticulation and continued backwardness—constituted chains on Cuba’s labouring people that could not be broken except by uprooting sugar. Sugar had become a target of both the democratic and national aspects of the revolution. But for Castro and his followers, relying on sugar and relying on the existing production relations were two side of the same coin, the coin with which imperialism bought them.

As the Castro, quotes so eloquently show, the choice that presented itself was: grow sugar cane or divide the land. From the point of view of Cuba’s liberation, the sector of the economy where it seemed that the level of the productive forces was most advanced—sugar cane—was the most | harmful to the all-around independent development of the island’s economy and actually held back the country’s potential economic development. From the same point of view, the most backward sector of the productive forces—the small peasant economy—presented some vital potential economic advantages, since it comprehended both export crops less dependent on imperialist capital and, most importantly, the means to feed the people and the only basis for developing an independent economy once all the existing production relations were shattered.

The food crops typical of Cuba, the roots and tubers and rice and beans, are far more labour-intensive and require fewer capital inputs than sugar cane. At the present level of the development of the productive forces in Cuba (or most places in the world) some of these crops are not so readily mechanised as others like sugar which are more amenable to large-scale, highly centralised and bureaucratically-run enterprises. Such crops can only be successfully grown by relying on the knowledge and initiative of those who work in them. This does not mean permanently enshrining individual ownership in agriculture, nor preclude achieving various levels of collectivisation at a rapid pace and a similarly rapid advance in the level of the productive forces.

Breaking up the latifundia, burning the cane fields (and thus clearing and preparing the land for new crops) and enabling many people engaged as agricultural workers to return to the small-scale farming and the land from which they had not been definitively separated would, it is true, have required going through a stage of small-scale production and opened the way for a certain capitalist development in agriculture. But this destruction of the old system would have also opened still wider the door to socialism, as such measures did in China, because it would have provided the economic and political basis for collectivisation and the socialist development of the country.[46]

The key question is on whom to rely. In China, where the degree of wage-labour in the countryside was far lower than in Cuba, it was possible to rely on the most exploited in the countryside, the poor and landless peasants, to destroy the old production relations, emancipate the productive forces (especially themselves) and continue to revolutionise the relations of production throughout the course of the national-democratic and socialist revolutions.

While a large number of forces in the Cuban countryside held back by the latifundia must be considered rich peasants and capitalist farmers who would have resisted a future transition to socialism to various degrees, there were far greater numbers of poor and landless peasants as well as proletarians whose interest lay in the most thorough-going revolution. These people were not aroused, organised and relied upon, neither in the revolutionary war nor in the country’s economic construction. Instead, Cuba has relied upon imported and import-dependent machinery and other inputs, Soviet-bloc agronomists and economists and the Cuban revisionists they’ve trained, and generally acted as though large-scale production, a high level of mechanisation and state ownership were in themselves revolutionary.

In order to justify the path they have taken, the ideologues of the Cuban revolution often stress the material differences between Cuba and Mao Tsetung’s China. The differences are certainly great and important, but the similarities are even more so. While Cuba did not have the same history of feudalism as China, still the very organisation of capitalism in Cuba was to some extent based on the persistence of relations that had arisen through precapitalist modes of production. Second, Mao’s point that the growth of capitalism in China was not the development of Chinese capital but of foreign capital in China[47] is just as true of Cuba, even if this capitalism was more developed than in China. Mao said of China, “The landlord class and the comprador class are appendages of the international bourgeoisie, depending on imperialism for their survival and growth.”[48] In Cuba, where the natural (locally self-sufficient) economy was weaker than in China and commodity production (production for sale) far greater, the latifundistas and the big bourgeoisie in industry as well, whether Cuban or foreign-owned, were even more dependent on the constant transformation of capital into commodities (sugar) and of commodities into capital (wages and physical inputs) through the workings of the international circuits of capital. In this sense, the capitalistically-developed sugar sector is the point through which Cuba’s economy is most tied to imperialism, an “appendage of the international bourgeoisie” and not a factor for independent economic development. Furthermore, the level of the productive forces in those areas of agriculture which a revolutionary government would consider most important—the growing of food-crops—was very low and needed to be given first priority, at the expense of dismantling some of the things that seemed to make Cuba “ad vanced” and reallocating the resources.

The Cuban experience of trying to skip the agrarian revolution shows the correctness and basic applicability of Mao’s line of new democratic revolution, even in countries far more developed than China. Generally speaking, in the oppressed countries the revolution will take the form of protracted people’s war, itself linked to carrying out the agrarian revolution and building up revolutionary base areas where the peasants exercise revolutionary political power under the leadership of the proletarian party.

In Cuba, although Castro’s armed struggle took place in the countryside, where the overwhelming majority of the population lived, the Sierra Maestra mountains were a theatre in which urban actors played their own drama with a rather secondary local supporting cast. The labouring people of the plains, and the cities as well, could at best be considered extras in Castro’s script—and without a protracted people’s war led by the proletariat in the countryside, what was there for them to do? Even though one could consider Castro’s forces “lucky” in their sudden and relatively cheap victory over Batista’s government, the situation presented certain disadvantages from the point of view of carrying out any real revolutionary economic, social and political transformation of the country: the vast majority of the oppressed had not been aroused, armed, organised and politically and ideologically trained. Of course, for Castro’s forces, this method of seizing power was entirely appropriate to what they were to do with power after it was seized.

For Mao, the pivotal point for the national-democratic revolution was agrarian revolution guided by the policy of “land to the tiller.” The Cubans have always touted their policy of nationalising the latifundia as more revolutionary than the Chinese policy of distributing the land, because, the Cubans claimed, they were thus able to wipe out most private ownership at one blow, whereas even several decades after the revolution in Mao’s China ownership in agriculture had not yet advanced beyond the level of ownership by peasants’ collectives, in terms of the long-term goal of gradual transition to state ownership. But how else, except by all the most exploited and oppressed seizing the fields that they slaved in, could they free themselves and help free the country from semi-feudal and imperialist-dependent production relations and the other reactionary relations that arose on that basis? How else could the political and economic conditions for socialism emerge?

In China, the seizure and distribution of the land took place first in stages and sometimes in a modified form, in the red base areas formed on the basis of the peasants’ armed political power under Communist Party leadership. After state power was taken nationwide, following Mao’s line, a massive peasant storm was unleashed in the countryside and peasants’ committees distributed land individually and in equal shares to every peasant soul, women and children included, and including the landless peasants and rural wage labourers as well as the small peasants. This was done in order to most thoroughly free the productive forces from the shackles of the landlords and to hit all feudal survivals in the superstructure, including patriarchal rule, the domination of Hhe family bv the male “head of household”[49] (which was carefully preserved in those cases where land was distributed in Cuba).

Thus in China, agrarian revolution was indispensable for achieving both the objective and subjective conditions for socialism. Because the Chinese peasants had established their mastery in the countryside, under the leadership of the proletarian party, they could embark upon a rapid though step-by-step process of raising their level of collective labour and collective ownership, even before a very high rate of mechanisation was achieved. As Mao emphasised, such policies allowed the proletariat to form a close alliance with the peasantry, rely most especially on the poor peasants, and lead them in the struggle against the representatives of the old society both before and after the proletariat seized power. Mao’s concept of New Democracy was the method in theory and practice by which backward China was able to prepare the conditions for her advanced socialist revolution.

What about the farmland Cuba didn’t nationalise and the agricultural co-operatives it did form? For many peasants, the coops introduced by the Cuban government were simply a method by which their land was taken from them, since they had little say in the matter when it was absorbed by the state farms, and some of this land went to cane sugar. Aside from this, for almost two decades there was little attempt to lead private landholders through collectivisation towards higher levels of ownership (which would have been impossible anyway, without relying on those who had been the most exploited in the countryside rather than those who often had a bit more property). Instead, there was a certain amount of the polarisation typical of capitalist development in agriculture with private farmers tending to become fewer and richer while others among them were turned into wage slaves. The increase in the number of co-ops in the last decade cannot be said to represent an advance in terms of production relations, since their organisation and goals as economic units are not meant to create “socialist farmers,” as they used to say in China, but small-scale capitalism which enters into varying degrees of harmony and conflict with the interests of Cuba’sbureaucrat-comprador state capitalists.

In the last decade family farming and co-ops have persisted and in fact have played an increasingly important role in Cuban agriculture. They are especially vital in producing coffee, which does not, especially in Cuba, lend itself to capital-intensive methods. They dominate the growing of tobacco, which could not be profitably cultivated if private ownership did not compel the unpaid labour of family members, especially wives.[50] There are also a number of private peasants involved in raising food crops and livestock (such as pigs). Up until the mid-1970s, the Cuban government kept prices paid to private-sector farmers for their crops and rent paid to them for lands taken over by the sugar estates quite low, in order to force these families to send members to work on the big latifundia, just as before Castro’s revolution.[51]

These policies were modified as mechanisation of sugar somewhat decreased the need for such labour, but in 1986, faced with a decreased availability of farm inputs due to a hard currency crisis, the Cuban government launched yet another “revolutionary offensive” that led to the abolition of the popular private markets where private-sector farmers received higher than government-set prices for their produce and other foodstuffs. The purpose, of course, was to re-divert resources to sugar, at the expense of the development of food crop farming. This is an example of local capitalism developing hemmed in and subordinated by foreign capital via that capital’s intermediary, the state-owned sugar plantations. It has been argued by people determined to see something good in Castro that if nothing else, at least Cuba has eliminated the remnants of feudalism. But even this judgement would be one-sided. In his analysis of the different paths of the development of capitalism in agriculture, Lenin described what he called the Prussian road, in which capitalism develops in agriculture on the basis of maintaining the old estates and converting the landowners into rural capitalists, which encumbers the most thorough economic development of agriculture.[52] Cuba’s agriculture has developed, as we shall see, in the sense of becoming more mechanised, but both its pace and qualitative development has been stunted compared to what a New Democratic revolution leading to genuine socialist revolution would have made possible.

There is a certain Prussian odor of feudal remnants in the air above Cuba’s state farms where government administrators now sit in the chairs once occupied by landowners, and where there has been little change in the other social relations inherited from slavery and semi-feudalism (including the relations between white and black, between men and women, and between the various classes). The appropriation of the latifundia and the mills by Castro’s government have not brought much more change in these relations than occurred in the Dominican Republic when the government also took over many of the sugar cane latifundia and most of the mills.

In Castro’s Cuba most of the rural labouring population has been socialised in the sense that capitalism socialises the masses by separating them from their land and transforming them into wage slaves, but the ownership of the means of production has only been nationalised (taken over by the government) and not socialised (taken over by society as a whole). The land, mills and everything else remain in hands hostile to the masses’ interests, a government that expropriates the surplus Cuba’s labouring people produce so as to hand it over to Cuba’s real owners: imperialist capital. There has been no revolution in the relations of.ownership in these terms. The development of the productive forces in Cuba presents advantages, as well as disadvantages, for revolution there, but in itself does not mean emancipation of the labourers, any more than had been the case when the slaves began to be transformed into wage slaves by the surging of capitalism in Cuban sugar mills at the end of the nineteenth century, nor does it bring the emancipation of the country itself any closer.

(continued in part 2 of this article)


1. Cristobal Kay, “Economic Reforms and Collectivisation in Cuban Agriculture,” Third World Quarterly (London), July 1988.

2. “Cuba Admits the Thin Edge of a Capitalist Wedge,” Guardian Weekly Edition (London), 19 February 1989.

3. Ibid.

4. Economist Intelligence Unit Country Report: Cuba, No. 41988(London), p. 13.

5. Communique of Politbureau meeting cited in Latin America Weekly Report on the Caribbean (London), 3 November 1988.

6. “La Nouvelle Solitude de M. Fidel Castro,” Le Monde Diplomatique (Paris), April 1989.

7. Latin American Regional Reports: Caribbean (London), 19 January 1989.

8. Hugh Thomas, Cuba, or the Pursuit of Freedom (London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1971), pp. 169, 1532–1533.

9. Peter Marshall, Cuba Libre (London: Victor Gollancz, 1987), p. 20.

10. See Castro’s “Programme Manifesto of the 26th of July Movement,” in Rolando E. Bonachea and Nelson P. Valdes, editors, Cuba in Revolution (New York: Anchor, 1972).

11. Tad Szulc, Fidel Castro: A Critical Portrait (Hodder and Stoughten: Hutchison Ltd, 1987), p. 469.

12. Ibid, p. 529.

13. Ibid, p. 474.

14. Ibid, p. 554.

15. Ibid, p. 580.

16. Ibid, p. 606

17. Ibid, p. 338.

18. Ibid, p. 520.

19. Guevara to Rene Ramos Latour, cited in Carlos Franqui, Fidel: A Family Portrait (London: Cape, 1984), Appendix, p. 248.

20. Szulc, p. 662.

21. Karl Marx, “The Class Struggles in France, 1848–1850,” in Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected Works (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1965), Vol. 1, p. 282.

22. See Lenny Wolf, “Guevara, Debray and Armed Revisionism,” Revolution (Chicago), Winter/Spring 1985.

23. Szulc, p. 583.

24. Carmelo Mesa-Lago, The Economy of Socialist Cuba (University of New Mexico Press: 1981), p. 8.

25. Susan Schroder, Cuba: A Handbook of Historical Statistics (Boston: G.K. Hall, 1982), p. 243.

26. Ibid, p. 257.

27. Francisco Lopez Segrera, Cuba: Capitalismo Dependiente y Subdesarrollo (1510–1959) (Havana: Casa de las Americas, 1972), p. 366.

28. Marcos Winocur, Las Closes Olvidadas de la Revolucion Cubana (Barcelona: Grijalbo, 1979), p. 74.

29. Ibid., p. 121. Also see Lopez Segrera, p. 379.

30. Brian H. Pollitt, “Towards the Socialist Transformation of Cuban Agriculture,” in P.I. Gomes, editor, Rural Development in the Caribbean (London: C. Hurst and Company, 1985), p. 163.

31. See Pollitt, pp. 156–161.1 have adjusted these figures to exclude “unpaid family labour” (men who worked for their fathers or other relatives without pay) from the category of “wage labour” and include it under “farmers” instead. As Pollitt notes, these 1953 Cuban census figures do not in most cases count the labour of women or children. On these figures see also Lopez Segrera, p. 365.

32. Winocur, pp. 103–110.

33. Thomas, p. 1159.

34. Adelfo Martin Barrios, “Historia Politica de los Campesinos Cubanos,” in Pablo Gonzalez Casanova, coordinator, Historia Politica de los Campesinos Latinoamericanos (Mexico, D.F.: 1984), p. 63. Also see Lopez Segrera, pp. 369–370.

35. Schroder, p. 166.

36. Actually, in some countries the cane fields are commonly burned down every five years or so as a prelude to replanting the cane, but this technique is less used in Cuba.

37. Pollitt, p. 164.

38. Lee Lockwood, Castro’s Cuba, Cuba’s Fidel (New York: Vintage Books, 1969), p. 96.

39. Rene Dumont, “De la Critique a la Rupture,” in Maurice Lemoine, ed., Cuba: 30 Ans de Revolution (Paris: Autrement, 1989), p. 53.

40. According to an interview with Carlos Rafael Rodrigifes, Cuban Vice-President of the Councils of State and Ministers, cited in Media Benjamin, Joseph Collins and Michael Scott, No Free Lunch: Food and Revolution in Cuba Today (San Francisco Institute for Food and Development Policy, 1984).

41. Raymond Lotta, America in Decline (Chicago: Banner Press, 1984), p. 107.

42. Rene Dumont, Cuba: es Socialista? (Venezuela: Tiempo Nuevo, 1970), p. 119.

43. Mesa-Lago, p. 8.

44. V.I. Lenin, “Capitalism in Agriculture,” Collected Works (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1964), Vol. 4, pp. 119131.

45. Pollitt, p. 158.

46. Mao Tsetung, “The Chinese Revolution and the Chinese Communist Party,” Vol. 2, p. 327.

47. Mao Tsetung, “On New Democracy,” Selected Works (Peking: Foreign Languages Press, 1967), Vol. 2, p. 354.

48. Mao Tsetung, “Analysis of Class in Chinese Society,” Vol. 1, p. 13.

49. Mao Tsetung, “The Struggle in the Chinkang Mountains,” Vol. 1, p. 104 (footnote 20).

50. See Jean Stubbs, “Gender Issues in Tobacco Farming,” in Andrew Zimbalist, ed., Cuba’s Socialist Economy Towards the 1990s (Boulder and London: Lynne Reinner Publishers, 1987), pp. 43–65. However, this is not Stubb’s conclusion.

51. Susan Eckstein, “Domestic and International Constraints on Private and State Sector Agricultural Production,” Cuban Studies 23:2, Summer 1983 (Pittsburg).

52. V.I. Lenin, “The Development of Capitalism in Russia,” Vol. 3, p. 32–33. Also see “The Agrarian Programme of Social Democracy,” Vol. 13, pp. 238–247 (chapters 5 and 6).