Friday, January 01, 2010

The Cuban Revolution

On this day in 1959 the Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista was replaced by another, Fidel Castro. Below is a contemporary account of this event.

When a country has undergone a revolution, it is reasonable to expect that far-reaching changes will take place in its econorny, changes that will affect the entire population in its day-to-day activities. Within the lifetime of rnany of us there have been illustrations of social revolutions which have resulted in the overthrow of a feudal or landed aristocracy and the institution of a government, controlled either by the national capitalist class or, as has been usually the case in this century, by the state.

The majority of the population in such cases became transformed from peasants who toiled for the owners (mostly absentee) of vast landed estates, into "free," propertyless wage-workers, owning nothing but their ability to labor, slaves to a capitalist class or a capitalist state.

The Russian expatriate returning, after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 could see changes, even if these were not at all what the Bolsheviks proclaimed them as being. The majority of Turks under the Republic have confronted one another in a different day-to-day relationship than they did under the Sultan. In the case of China the so-called Reds have finished the job of nationalizing Chinese capitalism and dispossessing the peasantry, forcing the working class to produce commodities within a system of cornmunes rather than as "free" wage-slaves. The epidemic of national revolutions which have broken out in Africa in recent years also fit the analysis excepting that the change in relationships have been largely from tribal rather than from feudal to capitalist.

The latest example of a revolution in our times is the upheaval in Cuba which ultimately brought Fidel Castro and his bearded cohorts to power. Although the situation in that nation is still somewhat confusing there are at least some things which are quite clear. In the first place, although the Batista government had alienated most of the population in recent years and had instituted a police state, suspending elections and outlawing opposition political parties, the main force in the revolution which ultimately chased him from the island was the peasantry which has been, generally speaking, excluded from land ownership. The bulk of the land has been held by a relatively few private owners. Under the Agrarian Reform Law, the new government is reported to be engaged in dividing land among the peasants and to be financing and supplying them with mechanized equipment. It remains to be seen how far the Castro regime will go with this policy. It has frequently been the case in this century that a program of this sort has been instituted only to end in the nationalization of the land and the conversion of free farmers into "free" workers.

For about two decades after the "revolutionist" Batista seized power from dictator Machado in 1933, the Cuban working class has been among the forefront in the Caribbean area, even in Latin America generally, in militancy. Batista was supported by the Popular Socialist (Communist) Party of Cuba for many years and continued to play along with that party until 1953, possibly because the Communists were to a considerable extent in control of the labor unions and thus were able to help him maintain his support by and also his control over the Cuban workers. Havana was the seat of vast May Day parades and large-scale conventions of union workers of all political hues,

In recent years, however, widespread unemployment (about 10% of the working population) and discontent over the police state became the order of the day. The city workers were no doubt as happy as were the small capitalists and the professional people who live by fees and salaries to see the end of Batista. The smaller merchants and the manufacturers of low priced agricultural equipment are reported to be enjoying a new prosperity, as are the textile capitalists of Havana.

Whether the "revolutionist" Castro will be any more successful than the "revolutionist" Batista in improving conditions and maintaining them for the bulk of the Cuban population however is another question. Nor does it seem likely that a restoration of political dcuiocracy and elections will take place as soon as many of Castro's followers were led to believe. It will take more than the ideals or even the firing squads of Castro to improve noticeably the conditions of the majority of the population.

To the U. S. capitalists, the overthrow of governments, even by means of force and violence is not necessarily bad. They will not hesitate to organize such a thing themselves as was the case in Guatemala when the Arbenz regime threatened the vested interests of the United Fruit Company. There was considerable support of Batista in America, but there was no widespread concern in this country for the safety of American investments when Castro marched into Havana. In fact U. S. owned institutions rushed to pay their taxes in advance, thereby replenishing a sadly depleted treasury and making it possible for Castro to carry on.

With the attempt, however, of the new regime to pacify its mass of peasant supporters with some much needed land reform, a hue and cry was raised and warning signals were immediately posted by business advisors such as Kiplinsrer to American investors: "Take it easy in further investment in Cuba" was the general idea, and Castro is now being accused of flirting with Communists by capitalist sources in this country.

There is, of course, cause for concern by American capitalism. United States private businesses have more than one billion dollars invested in Cuba. The Cuban Electric Company is U. S. owned. The Cuban Telephone Company is an affiliate of International Tel. & Tel. There is a U.S. Government nickel mine at Nicara and an important U. S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay.

About 90% of Cuba's iron ore is held by U. S. steel interests and virtually all mineral exports go to the U. S. Most of Cuba's cultivated land is used in the growth of sugar cane and more than 600 million dollars worth of Cuban sugar is sold to the U. S. each year.

It can be seen, then, that Cuba is little more than an economic colony of the United States. Nor is it likely for other reasons that Cuba can be, to any important extent, independent of the United States regardless of its politics, or its predominant social relations. As Charles and Mary Beard put it in The Rise Of American Civilization:

"The annexation of Porto Rico and absorption of Cuba under Republican auspices had been merelya prelude to the transformation of the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean into an inland sea of the United States. In the nature of things, to use the language of diplornacy, the region was a part of the American empire; for a lion's share of the commerce with nearly all the islands scattered between the Bahamas and Trinidad had been readily gathered into American hands." (pg. 501, Vol. Il). .

A lot of water has flowed under the bridge since the times the Beards wrote of in the above passage. But the overall interests of American capitalism, even aside from the particular investment in or trade with Cuba dictates that Cuba and the Caribbean area, in fact the whole of Latin America, shall remain within the American orbit.

In view of this it is unlikely that, whatever changes may be brought about by the Castro regime, American vested interests will be seriously threatened. The future well-being of the Cuban workers and peasants can only be tied up with the struggle of the workers of the world for socialism.

HARMO, The Western Socialist, No.6 1959

1 comment:

ajohnstone said...

"Nor is it likely for other reasons that Cuba can be, to any important extent, independent of the United States regardless of its is unlikely that, whatever changes may be brought about by the Castro regime, American vested interests will be seriously threatened."

Oh , the problem and folly of forecasting events for the socialist !!!

I doubt many could have foreseen decades of an American blockade of Cuba. Yet the observation that Castro would not return to a democracy proved accurate enough.