You've forgotten another dirty pro-Cuba leftist

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Fri May 9 06:14:24 MDT 2003

Tom O'Lincoln wrote:
> I.e.: What was life expectancy and literacy under Batista; has Cuba's life
> expectancy improved more than Brazil's over time, etc.

Availability of Basic Goods and Services per Capita--Cuba 1958-1978

(1958 = 100)

Year 	Food&Beverage Clothing Housing Education Health
1958 		100	100 	100 	100 	100
1962 		99 	52 	107 	173 	105
1968 		102 	52 	107 	173 	105
1972 		110 	90 	103 	224 	120
1974 		120 	95 	103 	275 	151
1976 		123 	100 	103 	363 	175
1978 		125 	100 	104 	446 	202

from Claes Brundenius, "Growth With Equity: The Cuban Experience
(1959-1980)", World Development Vol. 9, No. 11/12(1981) pp. 1083-96


1. Decline in clothing figures can be explained by the fact that a lot
of raw material for the textile industry was imported from the US and
needed to be replaced by local inputs, a structural transformation that
was long and difficult.

2. Lack of growth in housing is because priority for the construction
industry was given to building infrastructure, schools and industrial

3. Gains in health took place despite the fact that 1 out of 3 doctors
left Cuba in the first 3 years of the revolution. The infant mortality
rate in Cuba, up until the recent economic crisis, was one of the lowest
in the developing world.

4. The illiteracy rate in Cuba went from 23.6 percent to 3.9 percent in
less than one year. This was corroborated by UNESCO and described as a
feat unequaled in the history of education. In 1979 compulsory schooling
embraced 92 percent of all children between 6-16 years old, and more
than 1/3 of the total population was attending some form of school.

Private Schools in Cuba were abolished in 1961. Before 1961, roughly 15
percent of grade school students and 30 percent of high school students
attended private schools which were primarily white. This had led to a 2
tier system in which under-financed public schools were attended by
blacks and poorer whites, while the private schools were confined to the
privileged elite. This is the state of affairs, of course, that is
emerging in the United States.

After the abolition of private schools, the bulk of Cuban students
started attending fully integrated schools where blacks and whites
received equal treatment.

The Cuban revolution also attacked racism in housing. It instituted an
immediate 50 percent reduction in rent and eventually ownership of the
houses was granted to the former tenants. Thus, more blacks as a
percentage of the population own their homes in Cuba than in any country
in the world according to Lourdes Casal ("The Position of Blacks in
Brazilian and Cuba Society", Minority Rights Group Report No. 7, pp. 11-27)

Getting women out of the home to join men as equal partners in the
work-force has been a real challenge to the woman's movement
historically. How has the Cuban revolution fared?

Between 1953 and 1974, there was a 14.1 percent increase in the number
of salaried women in the national work force. Even more significant were
the changes in the kind of work women did. In 1953 domestic work
represented 25 percent of the total female work force, but by 1970 this
occupational category had disappeared.

Another change involved the elimination of underage women in the
work-force. In 1953, women ten to fourteen years old represented 10.9
percent of the work-force, but by 1970 nearly no women workers could be
found in this age category.

Finally, certain sectors of industry, which had been traditionally
closed to women before the revolution now saw the highest percentage of
female employment, including textiles, beverages, tobacco, chemicals,
food and graphic arts. So reports Max Azicri in "International Journal
of Women's Studies", Vol. 2, No. 1 (1981).

Behind these stark statistics is the living reality of positive change
in the lives of poor Cubans after the revolution. It explains their
defeat of the contra army and their US backers at the Bay of Pigs. It
also explains their willingness to put up with the difficulties of life
under embargo and economic crisis.

Behind these changes also is the fierce will of the Cuban
revolutionaries who didn't wait until "civil society" had matured before
they took gun in hand and overthrew Batista. No other country in Latin
America or the Caribbean made as much social and economic progress in as
short a time as Cuba did in the early and middle years of the revolution.

This progress was made at the expense of the rich and many middle- class
Cubans. The Cuban revolution followed, in other words, the opposite
trajectory of the "trickle-down" policies of recent US administrations
such as Reagan, Bush and Clinton. Resources in Cuba were diverted from
the cities into the impoverished countryside. The Cubans who did not
want to make a sacrifice in the name of social justice fled to Miami.

Cuba's experiment in socialism may or may not survive the US embargo,
the end of Soviet support, or the current economic crisis, which affects
not only Cuba but every developing, agriculture-based country. But
whatever the eventual fate, the model that has existed will continue to
inspire Latin Americas for generations to come.

What explains these improvements others than the existence of a
government dedicated to reducing class oppression? There can of course
be no other explanation other than the will of the Cuban Communist Party
to build socialism. As to the underlying dynamics that propelled the
Cuban revolutionaries on the path toward socialism, we can consult James
O'Connor's superb "Origins of Socialism in Cuba" written in 1968, and
available from Monthly Review Press in New York. O'Connor is better know
today as a primary theorist of red- green issues but his early work on
Cuba is first-rate and deserves to be consulted today for not only
excellent information about Cuba but as a model of Marxist analysis.

What did Cuba look like under Fulgencio Batista, the dictator who Castro

The social and economic contradictions of the island then were typical
of nearly all Latin American countries that had been exploited
historically by imperialism.

The Cuban economy was based on export agriculture. The main crop was
sugar, followed by tobacco, cattle and coffee. Agricultural resources
were underutilized. For the hacienda owner, this was no problem. It
might mean spending January through March in the US or Europe, shopping
or attending the opera. For the farm worker, this meant unemployment and
suffering. In 1954, for instance, Cuba's 424,000 agricultural wage
earners averaged only 123 days of work; farm owners, tenants and
sharecroppers also fared poorly, averaging only 135 days of employment.

Unemployment led to all sorts of hardship. 43% of the rural population
was illiterate. 60% lived in huts with earth floors and thatched roofs.
2/3 lived without running water and only 1 out of 14 families had
electricity. Daily nutrition was terrible. Only 4% of rural families ate
meat regularly. Most subsisted on rice, beans and root crops. Bad diet
and housing caused bad health. 13% of the population had a history of
typhoid, 14% tuberculosis and over 1/3 intestinal parasites.

The main cause of backwardness in the countryside was the cartel nature
of agriculture, particularly the sugar industry. A production quota was
assigned to each cane grower, based on figures originating from 1937.
The quota was divided into 2 export quotas, one for the US and one for
the rest of the world, and 1 quota for special reserves. The reserve
quota was a major problem since it caused over 1/5 of Cuban land to lay

The quota system also fostered inefficiency and prevented the rational
use of agricultural resources. Primarily, it inflated costs and
discouraged new investments. Clearly, the goal of modernizing and
rationalizing agriculture was not "socialist". Any capitalist reformer
could have taken a look at Cuba and said that capitalism needed to be
unleashed in order for the economy to develop. The cartel structure
should have been smashed and productive agricultural practices encouraged.



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