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T. Stamm

The Stalinist Program
for the Cuban Revolution

(September 1933)

From The Militant, Vol. VI No. 45, 30 September 1933, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The Stalinist theoretical program for Cuba places on the order of the day the “agrarian, anti-imperialist revolution.” According to the Stalinists the task of the Cuban Communist Party is to “agitate and organize the peasants” for this end. Among their slogans stands the demand for the division of the land which the apply to the sugar plantations.

Unquestionably the central problem of Cuban economy is the agrarian question. But the agrarian question in Cuba has an entirely different content than it had In Russia. Russian agriculture was organized on the basis of a number of large estates in the hands of feudal landowners and a myriad of small holdings worked by individual peasants. The land was cultivated with primitive methods and equipment. Those who worked the land stood in the relation to it of peasants. They constituted the majority of the population.

That is not the picture which greets the eye in Cuba. Most of the land under cultivation is devoted to sugar cane. In area this is equal to more than one third of the island. Ninety percent of this land is owned or controlled on long term leases by large American sugar companies. Some of these plantations are of enormous size. They extend beyond the county limits and include towns. Some plantations embrace tens of thousands of acres. As early as 1900 one plantation alone refined 200,000 bags of sugar, ten per cent of the entire crop. Since then centralization has gone on apace by consolidation of large plantations and the bankruptcy of the smaller ones under the prodding guidance of the Chase National and National City banks. The Chaparra plantation which began in 1900 with 66,000 acres had grown to 250,000 by 1926.

Millions of dollars in machinery have been poured into the sugar plantations. The process began in 1820 with the introduction of steam machinery. In 1840 the appearance of railroads gave this process a new development. Today the plantations boast the most up to date machinery in the world.

In short, the sugar plantations are operated on an INDUSTRIAL basis. For the most part the men who toil on them are wage workers. Wages are unbelievably low; in Camaguey under Machado they were as low as three cents a day, the working year in many cases does not exceed one month. A number of the sugar workers try to supplement their meager earnings between harvests by cultivating the small and patches of relatives.

Because of the high degree of concentration of the industry large numbers of workers are massed on the plantations. As early as 1893 twelve hundred workers were required to harvest the crop on one plantation. Carleton Beales reports that one sugar company in 1933 fed over 7,000 unemployed persons – not so much out of charity as to prevent sabotage and the burning of cane fields.”

Moreover, the majority of the sugar workers have little or no affinity with the soil in the sense of a peasantry. It is estimated that from 1913 to 1927 forty thousand negroes a year were smuggled into Cuba. During the World war, in the period of the great expansion of sugar lands, thousands of negroes from Haiti and Jamaica and even Chinese coolies were brought into Cuba to work on the sugar plantations. Inasmuch as the number of sugar workers today is estimated at 500,000 the labor turnover on the plantations has been great. The sugar workers, for the most part, have no roots in the soil. There is, in Cuba, no land hunger comparable to the land hunger of the Russian peasants.

Thousands of the half million plantation workers – approximately half of the entire working population – have been organized into TRADE UNIONS.

One strike brought out twenty thousand. Sugar workers participated in the general strike of two hundred thousand workers in 1930 in protest against the terrorism of the trade unions by Machado. Today they are on strike on a scale surpassing all previous struggles. The press reports state that the workers have seized 15 sugar mills and are attempting to operate them by workers’ committees. The New York Times of September 20 reports that the owners of the plantations “are willing to make concessions on wages, hours, and working conditions but say the workers demand the impossible”. And what is the impossible demand of the workers? They want their committees to manage the mills. In a word the sugar workers are putting forward the demand for workers control and management of industry. In the next stage this will lead to the demand for nationalization of the industry and will indicate the corresponding state form under which alone it is possible – the dictatorship of the proletariat.

A peasantry exists in Cuba but its weight In economy is small and consequently its weight in society is correspondingly small.

But it is hopeless to think that the peasantry can lead the Cuban revolution. The Stalinists who want to “agitate and organize the peasants” to lead the “agrarian revolution” do not know what they are talking about.

It is no better with the “anti-imperialist revolution.” Ninety per cent of the sugar industry is in the hands of American capital. Most in the hands of American capital, of the tobacco industry is likewise Nearly all the banks, railroads, street car lines, electric plants, the telephone systems, public utilities, docks, etc., etc., are owned by United States capitalists. Three banks, principally, control all of Cuban economy: the National City Bank, the Chase National Bank, and the House of Morgan.

Thus the struggle of the Cuban workers in all industries for higher wages and better conditions must, of necessity, develop into a struggle against American imperialism. The universal impoverishment of the Cuban workers has profoundly imbued them with a hatred of their imperialist masters.

If we are to speak of an “agrarian, anti-imperialist revolution” – an impermissibly ambiguous formulation – we can do so only in the sense of the proletariat leading the struggle. The first steps are Indicated – the slogan of the nationalization of industry under workers’ control of production.

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