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Socialist Cuba

The rapid confiscatory phase of the Revolution lasted until the formal establishment of the socialist economy in April 1961, when Castro proclaimed that the Revolution was socialist. The revolutionary leadership aimed at agricultural diversification and industrialization, thus hoping to lessen dependence upon sugar. They also sought to weaken United States economic presence and influence in Cuba by confiscating foreign and domestic enterprises. Natural resources, utility companies, the credit system, and most large and medium industries fell into the hands of the government.

In the midst of critical economic difficulties, the Cuban government managed to eliminate unemployment and meet first priority needs of the population. A comprehensive campaign against illiteracy was implemented in 1961 to teach all the people how to read and write. Though professionals and technicians were exiting the country, especially those in the health sector, the creation of a rural health care considerably improved health care in the country, as it brought medical attention to the farthest corners of the nation. The educational system covered, also for the first time , all the national territory. A comprehensive program of scholarships, grants and boarding schools facilitate access of the vast masses to all levels of education, including higher education. An important work of cultural broadcasting improved the quality of life by edition of literary works -- generally mass edition -- the creation of many artistic groups, and the promotion of a wide movement of amateur groups of artists. Also production and exhibition of Cuban films and films from other countries was an important aspect for the cultural development of the Cuban people. Generalized practice of sports increased the participation -- outstanding participation -- of the Cubans in international sports events.

New equal educational and employment opportunities offered to women had the effect of undermining the family, one of the most important conservers of the old order. Relations between husband and wife were undermined, and the family largely lost control of the children. Large numbers of children attended free boarding schools and saw their parents for only short periods of time during the year. There was, therefore, not only frequent separation of husband and wife because of the work demands of the Revolution, but also separation of parents from children. The regime systematically encouraged these developments, perhaps aware that the only way to develop Cuba's new socialist man was through the destruction of culture-transmitting institutions, such as the family and the church. During the 1960s, the Castro government sharply curtailed the power and influence of the church.

In February 1960, the regime created a Central Planning Board (Junta Central de Planificacion - Juceplan) to plan and direct the country's economic development. For the most part, the board adopted the organizational models followed by East European countries and transformed Cuba's private enterprise system into a centralized state-controlled economy. The transformation resulted in disorganization, bureaucratic chaos, inefficiency, and growing shortages. Agricultural production declined sharply, partly as a result of neglect and Castro's plan for industrialization, and by 1961 food rationing was introduced for the first time in Cuba's history.

The growing radicalization of the regime was accompanied by the destruction of possible opposition and by the growth in influence of the PSP. Political parties were not permitted to function, with the exception of the communist PSP, which later merged with Castro's own Twenty-Sixth of July Movement and adopted the party's original name, the PCC. From the very beginning of the Revolution, revolutionary organizations would implement -- with some difficulties -- a comprehensive integrating work. In March 1962, after Fidel Castro denounced "sectarian deformations" within the process, the future Partido Unido de la Revolucin Socialista (United Party of the Socialist Revolution) would determine as an essential condition for membership exemplarity of the workers proposed to become members. Abetted by Castro, communists progressively occupied important positions in the government, gaining in prestige and influence. As a result, former Castro allies became disenchanted with the Revolution, believing that Castro had betrayed the ideals that he espoused while in the mountains.

Evidently, Castro saw significant advantages in using the PSP. The party provided the trained, disciplined, and organized cadres that Castro's movement lacked. But more importantly, the party had Moscow's ear, and therefore could serve as the bridge for any possible Cuban-Soviet rapprochement. Castro knew well that as he developed an anti-American revolution and insisted on remaining in power, a conflict with the United States would ensue. Only the protective umbrella of the Soviet Union could defend him against possible United States pressures or attack. No other power, Castro reasoned, could or would confront the United States over Cuba.

Ideologically, Fidel Castro was far from being a Marxist. Although strongly influenced by Falangist and fascist ideas while a high school student, and by Marxist ideas while at the University of Havana, Castro embraced none of these ideologies and was instead more a product of the Marti-Chibas tradition, although he broke with it in several fundamental respects. Whereas Marti and Chibas had envisioned reforms in a democratic framework in a nation politically and economically independent of the United States, they both advocated friendly relations with the "northern colossus." Castro did not. He had been anti-United States since his student days, when he distributed anti-United States propaganda in Bogota, Colombia, in 1948. Perhaps because of his anti-North Americanism, and particularly his conviction that a major revolution with himself in absolute control could not be undertaken within Cuba's political framework and in harmony with the United States, Castro broke with the Marti-Chibas tradition. The constitution of the Central Committee of the Communist Party in 1965 as the highest organ of direction of the Revolution would be a decisive landmark for the unity in the country.

In 1963, taking into consideration the characteristics of the Cuban economy and the perspective commercial relations with the USSR and other socialist countries, the leadership of the Revolution adopted a new strategy for economic development. The pivot of the country's economy would be agriculture and the first priority task would be the production of 10 million tons of sugar by 1970. This was undoubtedly an enormous challenge baring in mind the organizational, material and technical conditions existing in the country at the time. In facing this challenge, serious distortions appeared in the direction of economic processes and in the activities of revolutionary organizations, which were focusing in the mobilization of the vast mass of workers required because of the poor technical development of sugar agriculture and because of disproportional demographic structures. The set back of the "10 million tons sugar harvest" would lead to a deep revision of the economic policy.

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Page last modified: 02-04-2013 16:20:53 ZULU