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Fair Play for Cuba Committee

The Real Cuba
As Three Canadians Saw It (1964)

A pamphlet published by the Fair Play for Cuba Committee in June, 1964.

Michel Chartrand is the president of the central committee of the newly formed Parti Socialiste du Quebec. He is known from coast to coast as a controversial and stimulating speaker. He has long been identified as a spokesman for organized labor and was for years a leader of the Quebec CCF. Mr. Chartrand is a printer by profession. He visited Cuba early this year.

Vernel Olson, national chairman of the Canadian Fair Play for Cuba Committee, founded the committee after his first visit to Cuba in December 1960. In January of this year he visited Cuba a third time for a period of five weeks. He has lectured widely in Canada on Cuba during the past 3-1/2 years. Mr. Olson is an engineering technician in a research laboratory in Toronto.

John Riddell, 22 years of age, is in his fourth year of Economics and Political Science at the University of Toronto where he is president of the Socialist Club and has been active in the New Democrats and the CUCND. He has studied at universities at both Freiburg and Frankfurt in Germany and travelled extensively in the Soviet Union, Hungary, Germany, France and Mexico. He spent the entire month of August last year in Cuba.


An Interview by R. Fidler

Among the guests on hand at the festivities in Havana when the Cuban people were celebrating the fifth anniversary of their revolution was Michel Chartrand, president of the Central Committee of the Parti Socialiste du Quebec. Upon his return Chartrand kindly consented to an interview with the Fair Play for Cuba Committee.

Michel began the conversation by drawing attention to the harassment which faces everyone who wishes to visit Cuba. "At the airport in Mexico City, I was photographed by an agent of the American Central Intelligence Agency. When they took a picture of a reporter from the Manchester Guardian, he pointed his camera at the official, and said in reply to a query: `I like to photograph people who are photographing people'. And of course they mugged us when we came back from Cuba."

He said he spent 25 days in Cuba, and travelled throughout the northern and western provinces of Mantanzas, Havana, and Pinar del Rio. Like most visitors to Cuba, he was continually being surprised with its high degree of cultural development.

"The school of painting there is excellent," he exclaimed, "one of the best in Latin America. It is much more modern than the Mexican. While I was there, there was a play by Moliere showing at the Habana Libre Hotel. Ionesco is extremely popular. And the four Havana newspapers each have a full page of cinema advertisements every day. Western European films are very much in vogue nowadays, for the Cubans are fed up with the old Czech and Russian black-and-white war films.

"At the time I was visiting Cuba, there was a debate raging in the newspapers bearing on the freedom of the arts. Blas Roca, editor of Hoy, had attacked la nouvelle vague (the new wave), exemplified by La Dolce Vita and others, as `decadent art', and demanded their interdiction. Alfredo Guevara, head of the Cuban Institute of the Cinemagraphic Art Industry, along with ten other leading intellectuals, replied to Roca in Revolucion, declaring ( among other things) that `our artists must be non-conformists or we will have no artists'. When I was with Blas Roca a few days later, people were kidding him about his blunder. I was particularly amused to note that La Dolce Vita is now playing in the theater located next to Hoy's offices! And there was an anecdote going the rounds that Fidel Castro was pointing out to the people he met that `things are not too bad this Christmas; there are lots of toys, food, and some very good films from Western Europe — you must go see them.'

"The Cubans have 60 trailers which travel throughout the countryside showing movies to the rural population. And the campesinos are brought in to the city to see the ballet, take courses in ceramics, and so on. When they return to the country, they take their artistic appreciation and knowledge with them. I think that the Cuban attitude to art was typified by the reply given to me by one of the leading architects, when I asked him how they could afford to construct such magnificent buildings, faced as they are with the difficulties of the embargo. He replied that `for culture, there is no problem'. And certainly there is little danger of the Cubans becoming robots or conformists — they are more Latin than even the Quebecois."

A printer by trade, Chartrand investigated the facilities of the Imprenta Nacional, the state publishing house. Although equipped with some fairly advanced machinery, the shop he visited had no folding machine; it was apparently situated in another shop. "When I spoke to companero Charpentier, the head of Imprenta Nacional, I asked him about this. When he took office, he said, the situation had been chaotic. `For six months, there was no paper — it had come from the United States — no plates, and even the proof-reading was badly organized. Now it is much better; we get paper from the Soviet Union, as well as manufacturing our own from sugar-cane fibres. There are now 10 new books coming across my desk every day. Last year, we printed 18 million books, which was 4 million more than our objective'."

A Montreal television interviewer recently asked Michel to describe the difference between the PSQ and the new party presently being organized in Cuba. His answer: "They're in power, and we aren't." He now expanded on this subject. "To be a member of the United Party of the Socialist Revolution — the PURS — you must be a vanguard worker, a good companero, a member of the local Committee for the Defence of the Revolution, and have a sixth grade level of education. You must not have voted in the phoney election of Batista in 1958. And you must be a Marxist, and a member of no other organization. As a Catholic, I asked a leading member of the party, `What if a worker is both a good revolutionary and a Catholic; can he belong to the party?'. The answer was `No because then he is a member of another organization'."

And how is the party being organized? "The exemplary workers are elected in the shop, by their fellow workers. If anyone objects to a particular nomination for any reason, then the person objected to must wait six months before being nominated again for party membership.

"Actually the organization of the entire party and youth section had to be started all over again, some time after it had already commenced. Just after the Revolution, the majority of the 26th of July members weren't Marxists. The government relied on the Communist Party to a considerable degree, because it trusted them as revolutionaries. The Communist Party took advantage of the situation, and the general secretary of the new party which was being formed from the various revolutionary groups — a fellow by the name of Escalante, and an old Communist — tried to build up his own prestige, rather than that of the party. Castro gave him a hell of a licking in public, and Escalante is in Czechoslovakia now."

Considerable sympathy for Chinese

What is Cuba's position in the Sino-Soviet dispute? Michel grinned. "Officially, they are neutral, and Castro refrains from discussing it as much as possible. Hoy prints documents of only one side — it is openly pro-Russian. But I noticed that among the students and the higher echelons of the government, there is considerable sympathy for the Chinese line. And it seemed that lots of Cubans are pro-Chinese. Many of the Latin Americans I talked to in Cuba, who were guests like myself, openly declared themselves in support of the Chinese position. They told me they felt that Khrushchev's `peaceful coexistence' means pacifism when applied to the reality of Latin America.

"One thing you can be sure of; in China, the Russians dismantled the machinery they had installed in retaliation to the Chinese for disagreeing with them. But they won't do that in Cuba — it is too valuable to them. Castro went to the Soviet Union while I was in Cuba, because Khrushchev needed him, not because he needed to go. And, although in the joint statement issued after the Castro-Khrushchev talks, Fidel defended the right of each country to define its own road to socialism (a concession to Khrushchev), I noticed that he quoted in defence of this, from the 1957 Declaration, which the Chinese support!"

Both Michel and his wife have been active in the peace movement in Quebec, and helped organize the Quebec-Washington-Guantanamo Peace March. (Michel himself was jailed in Trois Rivieres while on the initial leg of the march.) He noted that the Cubans have a peace organization, called the Movement for the Peace and Sovereignty of the Peoples. However, it is relatively inactive, largely because, he feels, it is little more than a government body. "When I spoke to Vilma Espin, wife of Raul Castro and one of the leading figures in the movement there, I criticized them for their complete agreement with the line of the government. And I was sorry to learn that the Cubans had no plans prepared for the reception of the Guantanamo peace marchers, when they arrive in Cuba."

Correct on test-ban treaty

What, then, did he think of the Cuban refusal to sign the test-ban treaty? Michel shrugged: "Castro has said that they will not sign it until the United States stops trying to overthrow their government. Also, I think they may have been asserting their independence of the USSR to some extent. On the whole, I think it was correct of the Cubans not to sign it."

The Parti Socialiste du Quebec program calls for workers' self-management (autogestion) in nationalized industries. I asked Chartrand if the Cubans had anything to teach us in that respect. He replied that they did not really have autogestion in the full sense of the word. "However," he pointed out, "the workers elect their foremen, who are trained for five or six months in the technical side of their particular industry, as well as how to deal with men — `human relations', we call it here — and (Michel's eyes twinkled) maybe a little Marxism. In the chemical and machinery industries, which I looked into, I was told a pilot plan is submitted by the government ministry, which is then discussed in full assembly of the workers. Quotas may be adjusted, and working conditions changed. I was interested to see if there was any evidence of Stakhanovism or Taylorism in Cuba. As far as I could discover, there is not. The accent in Cuban industry is on quality, rather than quantity, particularly in the export industry. In most places, there is an effective grievance machinery in operation.

"In many plants, the workers receive up to two hours schooling during working hours, and there are usually cafeterias in or around the shops. Everywhere I went I was able to talk freely with the workers."

Did any workers complain to him about their conditions?

"Yes, I heard complaints from a few. Usually, they concerned inefficient management, or shortages of supplies and poor planning. One Negro woman, who worked in a cannery, told me that although she was much better off with the Revolution, `the factory management is no good'; they had recently run out of paper boxes in which to pack the canned fruit. Many of these difficulties can, of course, be traced back to the economic embargo of Cuba.

"At one of the night clubs in Havana, I met a fellow — a bank clerk — who said he was fed up with the Revolution. But his criticisms struck me as being very personal and selfish. I got up from the table, and went to the doorman, and asked him what he thought of the Revolution. `Yes', he said, `for us, who worked in the tourist industry, the situation is worse than before. But we look around us and see that now all the people are eating, are clothed, and have jobs. And that is why I support the revolution'."

Michel noticed a surprising equality of wages in Cuba. "The higher paid workers kept the same salaries, while those in the lower brackets have usually had theirs increased. And of course real incomes are much higher, as a result of the urban and agrarian reforms. Rent now costs only 10% of one's income. There are no sales taxes, just luxury taxes. And in the Westmount of Havana, there are living 100,000 becados, or scholarship students, the sons and daughters of farmers, who receive their clothing, books, and monthly allowance — all free.

Michel leaned forward, his eyes flashing; "Compare that with the situation in the United States, for example. President Johnson said the other day that 20 million Negroes, as well as 20 million whites, live in poverty. That is the difference between capitalism and socialism."

One of the most outstanding achievements of the Cuban revolution, he continued, is the agrarian reform. "In Cuba, before the revolution, they exploited the sugar-cane crop the same way the giant monopolies in Quebec exploit the forest. Because of the abundance of cheap labor, they had never mechanized the sugar industry. I remember visiting a ship-yard where they were constructing fishing boats — for the first time, Cuba has its own fishing industry — and talking to some of the fellows working there. Many of them had formerly worked only three or four months of every year, harvesting the sugar crop, and then were unemployed for the remaining eight months. They had made only two dollars per day. Now they get 80 cents or a dollar an hour, for an eight-hour day, and are employed the year round, except for a one-month vacation.

"Well, they were typical of the majority of Cuban agricultural workers. And this is standard throughout Latin America. In the heart of Mexico City, for example, I saw workers carrying cement pails up ladders, to the third and fourth floors of buildings under construction. With so much cheap labor, it often doesn't pay the capitalist to introduce machinery on a large scale.

"Now, in Cuba, they are introducing machines to cut the cane. And in many other ways they're eliminating the number of operations required to handle the cane." And he went on to describe some of the ways in which agricultural efficiency is being increased under the Revolutionary regime.

Michel dealt at considerable length on the status of the small farmer. The National Association of Small Farmers (ANAP) is the result of a fusion of the rice, cattle, tobacco, and sugar farmer organizations, formerly controlled by the big landowners. "It can be compared with the Quebec Union des Cultivateurs Catholiques (UCC), and it is just as militant. ANAP is a very democratic organization. 30% of the cultivated land in Cuba is privately owned, and according to Castro, will remain that way. 42,000 titles of ownership were delivered by the revolution. The rest of the land is organized into state farms, administered by farmers' cooperatives, which perform the same functions as the unions do in industry." This form of control, Chartrand pointed out, is analogous to the "autogestion" instituted by the Algerians in the "biens vacants" (vacated lands) left by the French colons.

Referring to the fact that the Cuban revolution was based from the start on the poor farmers and agricultural proletariat, the most exploited sector of the population, Michel pointed out the similarities between the Cuban and Quebec situations.

"The farmers in Quebec are very militant. The recent convention of the UCC, whose paper, La Terre de Chez-Nous, has a circulation of 80,000, demanded that if the Lesage government didn't do something very soon to alleviate their exploitation by the giant pulp and paper companies, for whom they contract to cut wood, they would engage in civil disobedience. And don't think they won't."

Warming to the subject, he continued: "My intention is that here in Quebec, socialism will start with the forests. We must go into the rural districts and explain to the people that socialism means ownership, by the people, of the forests. Of course, when we nationalize the pulp and paper industry, there will be repercussions. The recent newspaper strike in New York City demonstrated how important that industry is to the capitalist market. And the reaction will be severe. The only difference is that we are white people, so it will be a little more difficult for the USA to push us around. Then it will be the turn of the mining industry. This is the way it happened in Cuba. And then the revolution here will extend to education and hospitals, and so on. For why doesn't Quebec have enough money for education? Because it is dominated by the companies which extract our natural resources, and exploit our people. Noranda Mines makes an annual profit of 18 million dollars, yet employs only 1,200 men. And it is like that for the others, too. But they pay almost no taxes.

"We will pay them on a 50-year basis, with 1% interest, similar to what Castro offered the foreign monopolies. We will hold public hearings to investigate their activities here, and ask them; 'How much did you invest?, How much did you get back?', etc. And on that basis, we will estimate the indemnification."

Chartrand went on to analyse in greater detail the multifarious ways in which Quebec is exploited by the capitalist system. And he concluded by drawing attention to the increasing demands by workers, farmers, students, teachers, nurses and even engineers to obtain union recognition. All these developments reflect the changes in the consciousness of the people of Quebec, said Chartrand. "But the problem here, as it was in Cuba, from the socialist point of view," he emphasized strongly, "is leadership — the socialists are just sitting on their backsides."

"I spoke to the students in the Faculty of Social Sciences at the Universite de Montreal, who fancy themselves to be the most militant element in Quebec. I said to them; `I don't know about that!' And I told them about the feelings of the farmers and workers of this province. In my view the biggest fault of the labor federations, both CSN and FTQ, is that they are not politicized. As I said to my friend Jean Marchand (president of the CSN) the other day: `You play around with conventions, yet you do nothing about political education. And now you are paying for it" (a reference to the reactionary labor legislation being pushed by the provincial Liberal government).

"But", and Michel leaned forward to emphasize the point, "things are moving now in Quebec, too. In Cuba, they already have a government which works for the people. I look forward to the day when we, too, will build `chez nous' a society truly `of the people, by the people, and for the people'. And that day may come sooner than we think."


I, and my wife Anne, touched down at Jose Marti Airport in Havana early one evening, less than a month before the official celebrations commemorating the fifth anniversary of the Revolution. Our trip from Toronto through Mexico City had been uneventful, although the Mexicans insisted on photographing us and stamped our passports "CUBA". I guess this was done just in case the Cubans should forget. This was one service we weren't expected to pay for while in Mexico City.

We passed through Cuban immigration without ceremony and on to the customs check point. All persons ahead of us, mostly foreign diplomats, passed through without a serious baggage check. As we stepped up to the baggage counter a worker in street clothes asked "diplomaticos?" We answered, "No, Canadians! Fair Play for Cuba Committee". A wide smile crossed his face and we were whisked through customs without a glance at our luggage.

We were pleasantly surprised that the same casual atmosphere that we had experienced on our previous visit was still very much a part of the entrance point to Cuba. This casualness was very evident in 1961 and contrasted to Mexico on our return to Canada last January. In Mexico we were treated as if we had come from a leper colony, and I am sure that it would have been much easier to smuggle marijuana into Mexico than literature. There was a political sleuth at each baggage table who perused all literature found in our baggage. A book we had taken with us from Canada to read along the way, Christianity and Revolution, the lesson of Cuba, by Leslie Dewart, was confiscated by this political watch-dog and despite all our efforts, we have not been able to reclaim this book.

Absent also at the Jose Marti Airport was the tourist atmosphere of Mexico, the red caps, the lackeys selling cocktails, the myriads of uniformed officials. The small staff on duty came to the car to see us off to Havana for by now they all knew who we were.

In Havana we became the guests of the Revolutionary Government and from the Hotel Riviera we began our investigations. At nine o'clock the next morning we were awakened by a phone call from our guide, Alicia, who was at our beck and call for the next five weeks. We made the requests and our obliging guide made the arrangements for scores of interviews and visits to projects and places in and around Havana.

Havana today is quite different from the Havana of July 1961, just three months after the aborted invasion at Playa Giron. At that time it seemed that over half the people were in militia uniform and armed at all times. The crisis atmosphere of 1961 has passed and the accent is on work, rather than on defence; at least this is the surface impression. While in Cuba we met only one person who doubted the permanence of the Revolution. This person voiced most of his doubts about the Revolution in front of our guide and his fellow workers.

The ordinary tourist will find Havana much different from Mexico City in many ways. As a tourist you will be able to wander anywhere in Havana without being accosted for a shoeshine. There are no shoeshine boys or men in the streets of Havana. (In Mexico City there are many mature men shining shoes on the street.) As a tourist you might be annoyed at the absence of cheap souvenirs which are characteristic of Mexico. You will find no hucksters or street vendors at your service at all times of the day or night.

This fact more than any other highlights the dramatic change in the Cuban economy since the Revolution. There is no longer an army of unemployed labor which is forced into handicraft production for the tourist industry. All the youth are in school up to and including university and all able bodied men and women are constructively employed at all levels of industry and agriculture. The miserable "wages" of the handicraft workers have disappeared forever from Revolutionary Cuba.

There are no longer any of the typical traces of "underdevelopment" in Cuba; no children in the streets begging or running errands or shining windshields; no mature men and women eking out a miserable living in soul-destroying catering to wealthy tourists from the "developed countries". Even the taxi drivers are organized and no longer compete with one another for customers.

But there are compensations for the tourist in Cuba today. If you are perceptive and wish to probe a little deeper than what meets the eye there is much that is rewarding, yes stimulating, about the Cuban experiment. We spent five weeks trying to find the answers to many questions and the results were most rewarding.

The Cubans are in the midst of building a new society. We were not fully aware of the significance of this fact until our last visit to the island. On our previous two visits to Cuba we were aware of a great amount of enthusiasm and feeling of great change in the air, an atmosphere I might say which was very intoxicating, but since 1961 there has been a marked change in the Revolution, a change which we have found hard to describe. A maturing process has changed the superficial characteristics which the visitor observes, and it is necessary to probe somewhat deeper in order to grasp the true significance of the process.

There is still a healthy degree of enthusiasm but it is tempered by a high level of consciousness, a consciousness of what the Revolution is all about, an awareness of the role of consciousness in the revolutionary process. In the first stages of the Revolution the people were united in the task of destroying Batista, and then destroying the most obvious symbols of the Batista era, but this in itself was not enough to sustain the Revolution and unite the people.

Constructing a new society

The great majority of Cubans are now consciously participating in the construction of a new society, the general outlines of which are a part of the individual consciousness of Cubans we talked to. We are not speaking about a select coterie but about the average Cuban at every level of the society.

And what is the nature of this new society the Cubans are building? What is there about Cuba that is so different from, say, our own country? It is not the type of architecture nor is it the nature of industrial techniques or farming methods; and it is not that they have better techniques in education or that health facilities are superior. It is true that there is much pioneering in these fields but this is not why Cuba is different.

The Cuban standard of living is still far below that of Canada and the United States. Their educational facilities are lacking in the most elementary materials. The quality of the teaching staff is below requirements, and will be for some time to come. What is more, the Cubans are painfully aware of all these things. It should be remembered that the Revolution inherited but did not create these problems. The economic and social development of Cuba and the rest of the Latin American countries is far behind the potentialities offered by modern technology, thanks to their antiquated social systems propped up by modern military equipment supplied by the United States.

Out of these conditions the Cuban Revolution was born, but the nature of the struggle required to destroy the old society and begin the long overdue process of reconstruction has started the Cuban people on a very different road. In order to guarantee full employment for the campesino and the worker, it was necessary to break the hold of foreign monopolies in agriculture and industry, through nationalization of agricultural lands and industrial enterprises. The nationalizations in turn led to state control of imports and exports and eventually to planning of the entire economy.

These new economic relations are the skeleton upon which the new Cuban society is being built. On our third visit to Revolutionary Cuba we set ourselves the task of finding out something about the effect of these new economic relations on the attitudes of the Cuban people. After all, the Cuban Revolution is an important social and human experiment and the results are as important for us as for the Cubans. Since we, personally, do not have any investments which are threatened by the Cuban experiment we did not go with any prior bias regarding the ownership of Cuban industry and agricultural lands. We were concerned, however, with the attitudes of the Cuban people and the effect of the new economic relations upon the human institutions which have the possibility of creating the conditions for a truly human society.

We found shortages in food, clothing and all the little things which we in North America have grown accustomed to, such as toothpaste and razor blades. We found a great shortage of automobiles and buses and many other things, but we found an abundance of human energy and a genuine zest for living. While we were in Cuba we were aware of a powerful influence being exerted on us, an influence which we were not accustomed to but which gave us a sense of wellbeing, of being in harmony with our surroundings. The tremendous ambition of the individual Cuban is not the ambition we in North America are used to; the ambition to get ahead in a personal sense, ahead that is of our neighbour or workmate. The ordinary Cuban who identifies himself with the Revolution sees his own advancement, economic, cultural and educational, as a part of the general advancement of the new society, of Revolutionary Cuba.

We found a tremendous accent on education, for adults as well as for children and youth. The wealthy district of Miramar we found to be a massive school with every available house used for class rooms or as living quarters for scholarship students. Entering Miramar from the west on Fifth Avenue, (not "Avenida Quinta", because this is where the Americans lived) we were confronted with a large road sign "Despacio, zona de becados" (SLOWLY, Students Zone). Extensive travel through this area demonstrated that this was not a propaganda sign because Miramar is in fact a gigantic school district.

This heavy accent on education is a strain on the economy because all educational institutions are completely state-financed. There is no such thing as a tuition fee right up to and including university, and this is so for cultural schools also. Besides this, 100,000 students receive full room and board, as well as clothing and allowances and travel expenses home for vacations.

Doctors reject fee-for-service

We also found a great effort being made in the field of health needs. In our opinion Cuba is well on the road to establishing a completely socialized health service for her people. In a discussion with some medical interns in the National Hospital in Havana we learned that the graduating classes from Medical School have added to the normal doctor's oath a new one and challenging one. They have sworn not to practice medicine on a fee-for-service basis.

We were fortunate indeed to have interviews with many doctors in Havana. Surprisingly enough, we found that the professional group most loyal to the Revolution, and proud of it, is the medical profession. This may come as a surprise to many in North America but the Cuban Revolution has pioneered in many fields and in this one they have been strikingly successful. Out of an original 7,000 doctors, some 1,700 left for Florida, but these have been replaced and by the end of this decade Cuba will have over 10,000) doctors. But numbers do not begin to tell the most exciting part of what we found.

We spent two hours with Dr. David Alonso, Director of National Health Services for the island. Dr. Alonso, a man completely devoted to the Revolution, gave willingly of his time to answer a host of questions about health services in Cuba. This is a subject worth a book in itself so we cannot possibly deal with it here. What we would like to deal with is the level of consciousness of the doctors of Cuba.

Dr. Alonso was a pediatrician before the Revolution and, as he put it, "with a petit-bourgeois consciousness". Because of his human sensitivities and the nature of his profession, however, he was often concerned about the health of the masses. He was aware of a barrier between the needs of the people and the services of the medical profession, but he did not think too deeply about the nature of the problem, he said. In any event, he had not seen any connection between the economic and social relations existing in Cuba and the state of medical services. He said he had considered private property to be essential to production as well as to medical services.

Through the revolutionary process, as it unfolded in Cuba, he developed what he calls "a social consciousness". He began to see the possibilities of breaking down the social barriers between needs and services in medicine. Above all he was interested in his profession and he began to see the possibility of its development.

The shortage of doctors, caused in part by defections but even more by the massive extension of health services to the people, eliminated professional rivalries and economic competition between doctors and many doctors who were reserved in their support for the Revolution were won over as their profession began to advance through the availability of new facilities provided by the Revolution and the extensive increase in medical class rooms.

Before the Revolution, an extension of the medical schools would have represented an economic threat to doctors but today no doctor in Cuba is afraid for his livelihood. With few exceptions top surgeons and specialists no longer withhold their knowledge from students for fear of competition. There are no social or economic limitations on the professional development of any doctor, and there is a growing need for all levels of skill in the profession.

For an entire afternoon we were guests of the staff of the National Hospital on the outskirts of Havana. Our visit there was made possible by Francisco Lojos, the devoted Director of Administration, who arranged several interviews with the medical staff and also showed us around the hospital. Lojos was a former drug salesman and is now a typical example of the wide support which the Revolution has won among Cuba's professional groups.

In the hospital we met and talked with Dr. Porro, anaesthetist and sub-director of the hospital, as well as Dr. Mendez and others on the staff. All of the professional staff we talked to completely identified themselves with the Revolution. Here are some of the questions and answers from an interview with Drs. Porro and Mendez, and another doctor whose name we did not record.

Q. What has been the effect of the Revolution on the medical profession?

A. Many doctors went to Miami but fewer doctors have left than other professionals.

Q. What is the reason for this?

A. This is because ours is a human science and the Cuban revolution is a humane revolution. The Revolution has made it possible for our profession to develop scientifically as well as socially.

Q. What percentage of doctors consciously identify themselves with the Revolution as you do?

A. The doctors are divided roughly into three groups; thirty per cent are with the Revolution consciously, while about sixty per cent have reservations but are working loyally and participating fully in the health program. The remaining ten per cent of the doctors are ideologically hostile to the Revolution.

Q. Dr. Porro, is it usual for a person in your position of responsibility to be a revolutionary?

A. It is often the case but not necessarily so. A doctor could hold such a position and not be a revolutionary. (In a private conversation after, Director of Administration Lojos disagreed with Dr. Porro on this point, saying that a person in such a responsible post must be a trusted revolutionary).

Q. Dr. Porro, what did you do before the Revolution?

A. I was a private doctor and worked on a fee-for-service basis. When Batista fell, I was glad.

Q. Did you have any doubts as the Revolution progressed?

A. Everyone has doubts in a period of great change but I have not had any serious doubts.

In a visit to the Ministry of Labor we called at the health clinic set up for the staff and talked with the staff doctor there, who is a devoted revolutionary. These and other discussions convinced us that the Revolution has deep roots in the professional layers of Cuban society and not just among the workers and farmers.

As the Revolution matures and the danger of counter-revolution from within and without diminishes, the true dimensions of the new society begin to take shape. It is a fact that the Revolution is now solidly rooted in all layers of the population. The mass exodus of sections of the middle-class and the upper bourgeoisie during the early years of the Revolution was used by Cuba's enemies to discredit the new society with the claim that the Revolution was supported only by the poorest workers and farmers.

It is true that the mainstay of the Revolution was and still is the most exploited layers of the old Cuban society, but it is a gross oversimplification to suggest that Cuba's intellectuals have all deserted to Miami, or wish to do so. On the contrary, the artists and writers of Cuba have remained, almost to a man; indeed, many have returned from abroad since the triumph of the Revolution. Of the more than 30,000 Cubans who have returned, many are artists and writers, who left Batista's Cuba because of the low level of cultural development, an important by-product of Cuba's economic underdevelopment.

As the Revolution matures the new society is consciously approaching the problem of what to reject from the past and what to retain. The initial impulse during the heated first days of any revolution is to destroy much which at the time is seen as largely symbolic of the old enslavement. But the culture of man is the product of a long accumulative process, the best fruits of which are handed down from generation to generation and from one epoch to the next. This is true even in a period of transition from one form of society to another and the Cubans are not unaware of this.

Cherish the best of the past

In a recent speech opening the Museum of Medical Sciences, the President of the Academy of Sciences of Cuba, Captain Antonio Nunez Jimenez said, "We are inspired by a sacred duty: to unite the socialist present with the best of our past." This we found to be the guiding spirit of the Cuban Revolution today. In a recent speech, Ernesto (Che) Guevara also cautioned the youth not to reject all that was foreign or part of the past. This attitude has been in the process of maturing for the past five years.

We were fortunate indeed, to have a three hour interview with Nunez Jimenez, one of the members of the Central Direction of PURS ( the United Party of the Socialist Revolution). This interview was arranged through Fred and Phyllis Brown, a British Columbia couple living in Cuba, Phyllis is the private English tutor of Nunez Jimenez. We talked over a wide range of subjects — from what it is like to be a guerrilla in the mountains to the future of Cuba's fast growing Academy of Sciences. For about an hour we listened to an interesting history of the Academy since its formation in the second half of the 19th century.

The Academy, said Nunez Jimenez, was born in the early days of the development of Cuba as a capitalist nation, to supply scientific knowledge for the newly emerging industrial ruling class, but Cuba did not for long develop as an independent nation. The monopolization of the sugar industry under foreign domination led to the destruction of any possibility of the development of an independent native capitalist class. As a result, the Academy of Sciences in Cuba went into a long and drastic decline which ended only with the 1959 Revolution. Today, the Academy is one of the fastest growing institutions in the country tackling such projects as research in Cuban folklore, sociological studies in peasant traditions, and cane culture. The Academy is also conducting research in the physical sciences.

The increased activity in the field of scientific research is a necessary part of the program of industrialization. Slowly but surely, the enormous difficulties of reorganization are being solved, thus clearing the way for the mechanization of agriculture, particularly of cane production, and the industrialization of the country on a basis commensurate with the population of the island, skills, available materials, trade possibilities, etc.

Everywhere one sees evidence that the Cubans are reaching out to make contact with the best in the rest of the world. Until recently, few foreign movies, other than those from the Soviet Union, found their way into Cuban theaters. Today, an increasing flow of movies from Japan, France, Poland, Mexico, Sweden and elsewhere, are showing in Cuba. Here is a small sample of what Cubans can now see at their theaters.

There is Viridiana, a movie made in Spain under the very nose of Franco's police. Franco invited the director, Luis Bunuel, to Spain to show him that Spain was "democratic". Bunuel accepted the invitation and shot a series of pictures for his movie. Viridiana is a powerful commentary on the reactionary role of the church in Spain. There is also the movie Exterminating Angel, by Luis Bunuel, a surrealist film depicting the historical downfall of the bourgeoisie.

The Soviet film Nine Days of a Year, by Michael Romm, one of the better Soviet films, not so stylized and not so much of the school of socialist realism, has also been showing, along with movies by Ingmar Bergman. Very few of Bergman's films had been shown before because they have been attacked by the devotees of socialist realism in Cuba as "individualistic" and "pessimistic".

During our stay in Cuba we were witness to a public debate over the importation of the films "La Dolce Vita", "Accatone", "The Exterminating Angel" and "Alias Gardelito", by the Cuban Institute of Art and Film Industry, known in Cuba by its initials ICAIC (pronounced e-ki-k). About fourteen articles were published in which the relationship between culture and the new society was discussed in an open way. We cannot possibly present all this material in an article such as this but we would like to give some of the opinions of the Director of ICAIC, Alfredo Guevara, (not to be confused with Che Guevara, the Minister of Industries).

"The artist is a witness, but he is also a protagonist and a combatant, and a prophet as well. He must discern and discover, he must enter into the world through every fissure, and he must unveil reality, not only in the more immediate, but also the more hidden or neglected, the more mediate or distant. The artist or craftsman who sings the praises of daily activity is not thereby a revolutionary, or a better revolutionary: the way we see it, he is a revolutionary artist who with his talent and sensibility, with his knowledge and daring, with his sagacity and imagination, discovers the thread that runs through things; or if not a thread, he discovers a sign-post pointing to the real world, hitherto undiscovered or insufficiently explored, and then finds the means to express his discovery.

"This does not mean — this is not what we wish to underline — that the revolutionary artist cannot or should not attempt with all his skill and ingenuity to tackle the topics of immediate urgency. The revolutionary artist can, and often should do so; and the specialist in political agitation and in revolutionary propaganda can do so as well, and under certain conditions it is specifically his responsibility to do so. Propaganda can make use of art, and should do so. Art can serve revolutionary propaganda, and should do so. But art is not propaganda, and not even on behalf of the revolution is it lawful to disguise its meaning .. .

"If socialist realism is the realism of the age of socialism, of an age in which the artist emerges armed with a critical method of enquiry and analysis which opens up unlimited possibilities, an age in which the creative man is rendered into a position where he can produce his work without reactionary restrictions or pressures, (by reactionary I mean whatever tends to paralyze the life which engenders what is novel and that which is, therefore, always creative; I believe therefore, that in socialism too reactionary trends can emerge, have emerged and continue to emerge); if this is socialist realism, and if for socialist realism reality is not only a segment of the world, but the real world itself — therefore, the world in its infinity — then we can subscribe to the thesis of socialist realism.

"But that is not the realism we are acquainted with, the one that some uphold and systematically propagate as the means and the goal of art. Far from the art which would be in keeping with the reflections offered above, we are sometimes presented, under the guise of being socialist and realist, with an art which is often reactionary, an opiate art, either hypnotic or enervating, in which the spectators and the readers are offered abstract archetypes, truly abstract, which could compete as to falsity and unreality with the best characters of Corin Tellado, or the usual portrayal of Supermanlike heroes of every type. The films we are trying to bring to our theaters are adult, complex, addressed to the whole man and, therefore, to the intellectual...

"Cultural problems are always a part of the ideological debate and of the research and study to which the creative man is dedicated. We cannot accept the identification of our judgments about a primitive and vulgar version of socialist realism, with contemporary Soviet art and literature in general. In the Soviet Union and in Cuba, as in all countries, works are produced which represent, e.g., the populist current or schematism, but also those which represent the highest level of art, as well as experiments which we ought to appreciate by reason of their exploratory value. These manifold and often opposed experiences, dialectically assure the development of the cultural movement, because these are the first conditions of life.

"It is not possible to regiment artistic creation by binding it to an immediatist and utilitarian point of view, just as it is impossible to reduce consciousness, man, to the fulfillment of his daily goals. Only by looking towards the future, by grasping or trying to grasp life as a whole, is it possible for man to find the strength to realize himself, to improve his being and to strive that the same phenomenon should take place in the society in which he lives.

"What else could one mean by socialist consciousness? Man can be whole only in knowledge, in the access to the sources of information, and in the struggle against reactionary ideology and practice. Whatever makes him better informed and increases his depth, whatever makes him more earnest and coherent in his judgments, and whatever ensures a more complex and qualified critical attitude, makes man to be a true man. I believe that this is the objective of socialism, of communism: to restore man to his human condition and to unleash the forces that man, in his plenitude, maintains and develops. I do not believe that the fate of four films could frustrate this objective; indeed, I do not believe anything can .. .

"On the day when `intellectual circles' shall be more than a social stratum in development and have become, as it logically must happen, an appreciable part of the population, the spiritual situation of all those who, conservatively, belittle the right and the need of men, of the masses, to information and study of the manifestations of thought and art, shall be difficult.

"Only live thought, anti-routine, anti-dogmatic, always innovating and creative, respectful of its own nature, is capable of giving birth not only to true works of art but also of ensuring the level of production and its development. Without intellectual daring there is not, nor can there be, an efficient technology. A new form of censorship could never be the source of that climate of freedom in which thought finds its true dimension, and science and art their full development...."

The above outline of the guiding policy of Cuba's National Film Institute shows how the Cuban Revolution is attempting to advance the tremendously progressive struggle of man for cultural freedom and expression.

But the film industry is only one example of the efforts the Cuban are making to come in contact with the best that man has been able to produce in the broad field of culture. We spent two hours with Heberto Padilla, the new director of an institution called CUBARTIMPEX, who has recently returned from a year and a half in Europe, including a year in the Soviet Union.

CUBARTIMPEX has the responsibility of selecting the best of the literature of the world and importing it for the Cuban market.

We understand that this institution is also responsible for selling Cuban literature abroad. The director has broad powers of selection so he is a very important person for the Cuban people.

Heberto Padilla was a former newspaperman and an intellectual in the best meaning of this term. He is fluent in English and Russian and has a command of several other European languages as well as Spanish, his mother tongue. We were immensely impressed with Padilla, who in our opinion is typical of the kind of Cuban intellectuals who have been won over to the Revolution.

Our discussion ranged over a broad field. We were particularly interested in his experiences in the Soviet Union and in his opinions regarding the influence of Soviet concepts upon Cuban culture. What he had to say in this regard was an important educational experience for us. We are going to paraphrase his remarks on this subject realizing that there is some danger of misinterpreting his ideas.

The Cuban Revolution is very popular in the Soviet Union and is having a profound impact upon the youth in particular. The heroic nature of the Cuban struggle in the face of overwhelming odds, has captured the imagination of the entire Soviet people.

The experiences of hundreds of Cuban students now in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe will on the whole be positive and they will return to Cuba greatly matured. These students will convey to other Cubans on their return the positive as well as the negative side of Soviet life, thus helping to enrich the understanding of the Cuban people, giving them strength in their struggle against the alien forces of the past, helping them better to understand the nature of the many problems they face, helping them to learn from the experiences of the Russian Revolution.

The isolation of the Russian Revolution caused the new Soviet society to withdraw within its own borders, to set up barriers against "outside influences". The Cuban Revolution, despite massive United States efforts to isolate it, continues to reach out for contact with the rest of the world. This is evidenced by the emphasis on encouraging the foreign visitor through the method of invitations. A considerable sum of money — valuable foreign currency — is spent every year to maintain this contact with the world.

The influence resulting from the interchange of students, professors and technicians, Padilla says, is two way. Despite its small size, the Cuban Revolution has had a profound influence upon the Soviet world, an influence which has been entirely healthy and positive.

We were informed that a substantial amount of money has been allotted to CUBARTIMPEX, and we are confident that this money will be well spent. For the Revolution to grow and mature it will be necessary for the Cuban people to come in contact with the best of the literary efforts of present and past generations of all mankind. This seems assured.

The spirit of innovation and experimentation is everywhere, and the Revolution is coming to grips with a host of problems which the old Cuba never worried about. We have given considerable space to the question of consciousness and attitudes in the Revolution, but it would be useful to discuss some very practical problems upon which consciousness has been brought to bear. These problems are many and varied but some are more vital than others.

Coming to grips with production

A wide ranging public discussion has been under way for some time now over the problem of increased production, more efficient methods of production and distribution and the key question of incentives. The question of incentives bears not only upon production but also upon the educational program as well as the problem of raising the cultural level of the people.

The Revolution inherited not only a low level of technical and industrial capacity but also a low cultural and educational level. In order to solve the problem of industrialization it will be necessary to raise the educational and cultural levels of the whole population at a rapid pace. This is being done on an impressive scale. At the university level the emphasis is on science and engineering subjects. While we were there there was a futuristic display on the University of Havana campus of the "Technological Revolution". Every work center has technical courses for workers oriented toward the needs of that specific industry.

The tremendous energies released by the Revolution, especially among the youth, have provided the basis for a solution of the problems, but only the basis. This massive energy could be dissipated if proper leadership was not provided for the reorganization of the whole of society along rational lines.

Under the conditions of old Cuba, the initiative of the youth was destroyed through lack of educational facilities for the great majority. Those who did manage to complete their education were frustrated by the chaos and indifference at the various levels of government. Today, the youth of Cuba are inspired by the gigantic task before them. They are not only the privileged group in Cuba but also the group on whose shoulders the responsibility for the future rests. This idea is not just a cliche in Cuba because the whole society is geared to the needs of the younger generation. Those who were most exploited before now receive the most attention, in order to right old wrongs.

This aspect of the Revolution is a great incentive builder for the youth and permeates the whole population. On a visit to Ciudad Libertad (Liberty City, formerly the old Columbia Fortress in Havana, now a massive school area) we met a young man who is typical of the Cuban youth. Lino Abreu Gonzales, 24, is a student in industrial engineering at the university from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., and an instructor in physics at Ciudad Libertad for the rest of the afternoon. In the evening he studies. Abreu is a repatriado from the U.S. where he was studying electrical engineering. On his return to Cuba he found a great need for industrial engineers in the sugar industry so he switched courses.

Before the Revolution his family owned two businesses. The largest business, which his father operated, is now nationalized and his father works for the state. His mother still operates a beauty parlor. His parents are with the Revolution, Abreu said, because they love him and he loves the Revolution. We were not with him long before we became convinced of his love for the Revolution. Abreu is fortunate, because many families were torn apart by the revolution. What is demonstrated here is the deep effect of the attitude of the youth upon the whole population, including the older generation.

Full participation of the people

Over the past five years the major means of production and distribution have passed from private ownership and control into social ownership and control. The laws governing investment under capitalism no longer exist in Cuba. Investment of capital is made on the basis of the overall needs of the economy as determined by economic planning boards.

If this planning is to be democratic and sensitive to the needs of the masses, it must have their full participation at every level. The solution to this problem is complex and varied but it is rooted in the total structure of the new society and its institutions. The newly emerging institutions must be so constructed that maximum democratic control can be exercised by the masses. Extensive investigation in this area convinced us that the Cubans are aware of these problems and are consciously seeking solutions through the process of experimentation, discarding, modifying, etc. Here we see the role of consciousness in the revolutionary process.

About 40 miles east of Havana is the city of Guines, with a population of about 40,000 people. Guines is also the name of an important pilot project encompassing five municipalities, including the municipality of Guines and three more soon to be added. This is an important project in many ways. Through this project the Revolution is seeking solutions to the general problem of local government and its relationship to economic planning and industrial and agricultural administration. The project is also providing important information on the organization of PURS (United Party of the Socialist Revolution) and its relationship to the general problem of leadership and planning at all levels of society. The history of this project demonstrates the conscious nature of social and economic development in revolutionary Cuba.

We learned about Guines before leaving for Cuba so we requested our guide to take us there soon after our arrival. On the morning of December 19th we arrived at the project and our hostess for the day was Magaly Reyes, a vigorous girl of peasant origin who works full time in the local office of PURS.

She is a small woman, in her early twenties, with a healthy tanned complexion, vibrant and warm. She overflows with enthusiasm for the Revolution and she is radiant with an affection for life unequalled by anyone we met. After a general briefing on the history of Guines and lunch she conducted us on a tour of the area.

The city of Guines, and the pilot project of the same name, is situated in a fertile agricultural community where the land is intensively cultivated and the division between Granjas (State Farms, pronounced gran-has) and privately owned farms is about the same as the national average, i.e., 70 per cent Granjas, 30 per cent private. (The present division is the result of the second agrarian reform last October which brought all farms in excess of 150 acres — with some exceptions — under state control. The first agrarian reform, in 1959, nationalized all farms in excess of 1,000 acres, forming either Granjas or sugar cane co-operatives. In August 1962 the Co-operativistas voted to end the cane co-operatives and they were incorporated into the Granjas.)

Prior to March 1962, Guines was governed from Havana and was one of the worst areas for sectarianism, according to the local residents.

[The term sectarianism, as used in Cuba, refers to a tendency widely prevalent in the period prior to March 1962 when Anibal Escalante was secretary of ORI [Integrated Revolutionary Organizations]. ORI was the forerunner of PURS. For further information on this subject we would refer you to the March 26, 1962 speech of Fidel Castro titled "Fidel Castro Denounces Sectarianism", available from FPCC, Box 923, Adelaide St. P.O., for 25’]

Because Guines had suffered most during this period, the Revolutionary Government decided to turn the area into a model of revolutionary democracy. It was here that the first local of PURS was constructed. The methods developed became the norm for the whole country.

The large industries and former foreign monopolies are still run by the national government but an increasing responsibility for local industry and community development is being placed in the hands of the local administration which rests on the local mass organizations, such as the trade unions, Federation of Cuban Women, Defence Committees, National Association of Small Farmers (ANAP) , etc.

At the top of the local administration is JUCEI (Juna, or Planning Board, pronounced Hoo-say). JUCEI is composed of a president, administration secretary, economic secretary, social relations secretary, public health secretary, etc. Most communities in Cuba now have a local JUCEI and the results in some cases are quite striking.

Just west of Havana, in the municipality of Marianao, is the small town of El Cano, proclaimed by its residents as "The First Socialist Town in Cuba", in a floral design on the edge of the highway leading into the town. We spent an afternoon and early evening one Saturday as guests of the local JUCEI. In El Cano everything from the local nursery to the barbershop is run by the town folk. This situation developed because of a small counter-revolution organized by the local businessmen back in 1962. El Cano has an interesting history but there is not space to go into it here.

For the first time in our lives we experienced, although only for a few hours, a genuine community spirit. There was a local library near completion as well as a children's nursery. A new city square was nearly complete and new housing was being constructed by the local government. It is to be hoped that these experiments will be properly documented in the near future so that we may all learn from the rich human experiences which are being accumulated daily in revolutionary Cuba.

In conclusion we would like to discuss, in a general way, the future of the Cuban Revolution. To paraphrase the New York Times on the occasion of the Fifth Anniversary of the Revolution, it is a fact of no mean significance that the Cuban Revolution is still in existence. But more important than this, we can say that the Cuban revolution is not only with us but is living testimony to the tremendous human energy which is capable of being unleashed through a genuine social revolution of the masses.

Much is said these days about the underdeveloped countries. Every year the governments of industrially advanced countries speak about the increasing need to assist the "emerging nations". But all reports indicate that this "aid" does little more than alleviate some of the worst suffering in small corners of the world. Not even the most optimistic report any real progress for the former colonial and semi-colonial peoples of the world through this "aid".

For over ten years now the United States has been "assisting" the Republic of South Korea at the per capita rate set for the Alliance for Progress. After ten years South Korea is still an underdeveloped country with the same problems as before.

After two years of operation the Alliance for Progress is reported by its founders to be a failure and the country most referred to as having a bright future along the "democratic" road of "reforms", Brazil, has now reverted to type. A few weeks ago a military junta turned out the constitutionally elected government and President Johnson immediately sent "warm" greetings to the usurpers.

There is scarcely a government in Latin America with any degree of economic and political stability, despite the open support of the powerful United States. On the other hand, the revolutionary government of Cuba enjoys the greatest stability of any government south of the Rio Grande. Besides political stability, the Cuban economy has weathered the effects of a ruthless economic blockade and is now on the upswing.

The Cuban Revolution has demonstrated the great potentialities which await human society once the latent energies of the people are released from the straight-jacket of antiquated social systems. Nowhere is this problem more severe than on the continents of South America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East. The fact that the United States refuses to tolerate social revolutions in this part of the world is, we believe, an important symptom of the decadence of even the most stable capitalist power in the world today.

Our third visit to the island on the occasion of the Fifth Anniversary of the Revolution removed any doubt whatsoever that the Cuban Revolution is a genuine socialist revolution. Our previous impressions have now become convictions that we were witness to a preview of the future society of all mankind.


At the end of my first day in Cuba I was impressed above all with how firmly the revolution was established, and how overwhelming was its support. Yet as I got to know my way around Havana, I could sense that the excitement of the guerrilla war in the Sierra Maestra was still present. The revolution was still in progress. Problems were tremendous, and I found myself drawn inexorably into dozens of excited discussions: what to do next, how to meet the next difficulty, what solutions to find.

Illiteracy has been almost eliminated, but the general educational level is still tragically low. American-sponsored attacks have been beaten off, but a huge part of the national income still is necessary for defense. For the first time, all in Cuba have adequate food and clothing. Yet Cuba remains an underdeveloped country, with the tremendous tasks of economic development ahead of her. Cubans regard themselves as a free people, free to determine their future. But Cuba still has no constitution and her socialist party still has not had its first convention: the outlines of her political system are still being determined. The most exciting part of my visit to Cuba lay not just in seeing the achievements, but in gaining some insight into the solutions being proposed for the problems that remain.

International gathering place

One such problem has been coping with American attempts to isolate the island. A U.S. action has cut off Cuba's traditional economic ties. The survival of the revolution has depended on the ability of the Cubans to develop an internationalist outlook, to create new, more solid ties with the world. I could see that, the economic assistance of the Soviet bloc and China has been essential to Cuba's trade and survival. Just as significant is Cuba's new role as leader of the colonial revolution in Latin America, and indeed around the world. A good example of Cuba's "drawing power" were the 700 visitors from dozens of countries who came to Cuba for the 26th of July celebrations.

Even apart from such visitors, Cuba is a cosmopolitan island. I found it swarming with students, technicians and radical politicians from around the world. You could meet a young Latin American student in a hotel elevator, carrying up to his room fifty copies of Che Guevara's textbook on guerrilla warfare. Or the American students, who went to Cuba in '63 in violation of their government's travel ban. Among the visitors were members of parliament from England and many other West European countries. The Venezuelan revolutionary movement maintains an office in Havana. The Chinese news agency has an office from which it vigorously spreads its literature to Cubans and foreign visitors. I met some Russian girls who described the hectic competition in the Soviet Union for a position to work in Cuba. And you find hundreds of African and Latin American students studying in Cuba as part of Cuba's own "foreign aid" program. You certainly meet the most interesting people in Cuba! In place of the American tourist and gamblers, there is a resident community representing most of the nations of the world, and practically all tendencies of radical thought. The Cubans certainly appreciate the change.

I found the close ties between Algeria and Cuba particularly interesting. In spite of Cuba's urgent need to improve her medical services, she had sent fifty doctors to work in Algeria. Many Algerian students are in Cuban schools and universities. Algerian Premier Ben Bella received an especially enthusiastic welcome from both government and people. There is no doubt about the excitement with which Cubans support a nation that has followed their revolutionary path.

Cuban internationalism has its economic side as well. Che Guevara has explained that the revolution made two basic economic mistakes in its early days. Cuba cut down her sugar acreage in order to diversify the economy, but this tended to rob Cuba of her one valuable export item and source of foreign exchange. At the same time the government strove to build up diversified industry. But the cost of importing the raw materials for the manufacturing plants that had been built was often equal to the cost of importing the finished items. Cuba was aiming at self-sufficiency and economic diversification — a natural reaction to half a century of economic dependence on the United States. But this was proving prohibitively expensive.

Today a new policy being implemented aims at coordinating Cuba's economic growth with that of the expanding non-capitalist world. Cuba is putting the accent on agriculture, and increasing her sugar production — concentrating on what she can do best. Trade is to be the backbone of her future industrial development.

A Cuban in the foreign ministry explained to me that Cuba was reckoning with the new demand for sugar which would result from new social revolutions. A socialist revolution in Brazil, for example, would greatly increase the standard of living, and the Brazilian masses would be able to buy sugar regularly for the first time. Cuba would then obtain machinery and manufactured goods in return for sales to this new market for sugar. The whole direction of Cuba's economic planning increases her ties with the outer world.

It is this prospect which helps give the Cubans the courage to resist American attacks. They are convinced that Cuba is only one of a long series of socialist revolutions to come. As the first socialist revolution in Latin America, it is playing an essential role. It is not necessary for it to export arms; Cuba's contribution is to set the example, proving that revolutionary victory and the construction of socialism in America is possible. Fidel Castro explained to the seven hundred foreign visitors, that the best way for them to help Cuba was to go back to their own country and make a revolution as the Cubans had done.

Other problems have arisen in the internal development of the revolution. The greatest general objection raised against socialism is the fear that government bureaucracy and high-handedness will obliterate the liberty of the individual. I felt, when I went to Cuba, that there was a real danger that a socialist revolution, even while greatly improving the lot of the people, and ending capitalist exploitation might tend to create a new ruling elite of managers and bureaucrats. Cubans I met talked a lot about just these problems. 1963 was the Year of Organization, this year is the Year of Economy, and both are aimed at ending the kind of red tape, high handedness and government privilege that I had been worried about.

Cuba did not look or feel much like a police state. The only actual policemen I saw were directing traffic. The work of maintaining order had passed over to popular bodies, the "Committees for the Defense of the Revolution" (the CDR's) and the militia. I was surprised to find that opponents of the Revolution are not confined to concentration camps; I found them easily, at liberty, usually with high salaries by Cuban standards, and they speak quite freely. Many come to hotels where they know foreigners are staying, in order to state their case. In one grocery store I got into a conversation with a man who began violently attacking the government. Soon many others gathered around, started arguing with him, and a general debate ensued.

This kind of open discussion was typical of Cuba. Cuba has become a permanent meeting, where discussion never seems to end. As far as I could see, as long as an opponent of the government does not break the laws of Cuba, for example by storing arms, or entering into contact with the CIA, he is able to speak freely, and has full civil rights.

Many foreigners I met in Cuba were wondering how long the present spirit of freedom will last. The Cubans would be the first to admit that the long-run outcome of their revolution depends on international factors; particularly on the spread of the revolution throughout Latin America. This is what makes them such ardent internationalists. But at the same time, I could see a tendency to institutionalize the spirit of the revolution, and thus provide guarantees for the future.

Defence of the Revolution

An important example is the "Committees of Defense of the Revolution", the famous block committees. There are 108,000 CDR's organized both on a block basis and in places of work. They do much of the most vital organizational work for the revolution, for example the tremendous innoculation campaign that wiped out polio long before the United States had organized an effective immunization campaign. It was the CDR's that recruited the 100,000 teachers used in the campaign to end illiteracy in 1961.

But in addition the CDR's have assumed state functions. They are responsible for the rationing system, and they see to it that all Cubans receive an equal share of available food supplies. They have the power of nationalization of all private shops in their jurisdiction — though they must operate what they nationalize. One of their most important tasks is propaganda and revolutionary instruction.

Any attempt to "brainwash" the Cuban people would have to settle accounts first of all with the CDR's. To me their most amazing role was as a security force. As one CDR official explained quite frankly, the members of the CDR's keep tab on all the known counter-revolutionaries. Though they normally do not bother them, the CDR's see to it that none actively engage in sabotage or underground activity. They are highly effective—at the time of the Bay of Pigs invasion they instantly rounded up 10,000 counterrevolutionaries in Havana for temporary internment until the danger was over.

The organization of the CDR is strictly democratic. All citizens over 15 years of age can be members, and in fact about three quarters of the population is enrolled. Imagine three quarters of the population actively working for the security of the island! Perhaps that is why the U.S. finds it so hard to organize an anti-Castro underground. The members of a given area elect a 16 man executive, and weekly meetings are held to review the work of the executive. At these weekly meetings all citizens are invited to state their criticisms—whether or not they happen to be members of the CDR.

The active members of the CDRs are mainly housewives. Workers center their activities in their place of work. For this reason, the CDRs tend to be overshadowed by other organizations. Nonetheless they are a valuable safeguard of democratic rights in Cuba. The Cuban people have protected themselves against unjust acts of a security police, or inequality of the rationing system, by taking over such functions themselves.

Many visitors to Cuba in the early stages of the revolution commented on the degree of equality. I must admit I had fears that this revolutionary equality would disappear in the hard years that followed the victory. I certainly found no such tendency.

There is a legal minimum salary of $90.00 a month, but the practical minimum for agricultural or unskilled workers seems to be around $100.00. In the average office or factory I found that the worker's salary would range from approximately $150.00 to $300.00 a month depending on the degree of his training. A member of the ruling party of Cuba, or a factory manager could not expect any special privileges. He would probably earn slightly less than the skilled worker, and get a salary in the range of $200.00 to $250.00 a month. The tendency at the moment is towards further equalization of salaries. The salaries of the poorly paid workers are increasing while higher salaries are frozen or are being reduced. In addition the pricing system favors the poor. Necessities are generally low priced and luxuries are exorbitantly priced. The greatest equalizer is the rationing system. It applies to everyone, and there are no high priced free stores which could be used by those with extra cash. Every Cuban has the right to leave the country. Many highly skilled workers, technicians or doctors are paid high salaries to dissuade them from emigrating, but with this exception equality in Cuba is general and is growing.

The Cuban economy today is almost completely nationalized. The small farmers are the only significant group of private entrepreneurs. My knowledge of the CNR or the BC Electric showed me one danger of nationalization. Often it is a disillusioning experience for the workers; the old factory managers and foremen remain in their place and the worker is as powerless as before. In Cuba things were different from the beginning. It was largely on the initiative of the workers that nationalization took place, and the power that they won in expelling the capitalists was never relinquished.

It is not a cinch to be a "boss" in Cuba. It means undertaking a tremendous work load, and answering to criticism from above and below. He must justify his actions to the ministry and the party and also must meet the criticism of the workers in the regular factory meetings. In return, his salary is probably less than that of the skilled workers in the same shop.

Workers cannot depose an administrator on a whim. They must present charges in their assembly, and prove them, and then convince the ministry that the administrator should be removed. However if their charges are serious and accurate the ministry usually has little choice but to carry out their decision. In one factory I visited, a worker told me that they had got rid of two administrators since the revolution. He seemed to have a very critical attitude to the third as well. I could sense who the real bosses were there!

Power such as these certainly guarantee the workers' rights against any heavy-handed bureaucrats. But the basic intent of the Cuban government obviously goes far deeper. It teaches the workers that it is they who must take the responsibility for increasing production — by working harder, by arriving and leaving work punctually, by doing volunteer labor on Sundays, and also by participation in the management of the industries.

A complicated procedure has been developed in Cuba to ensure the workers' rights in the selection of their administrators. The Impresa (a level of administration midway between the ministry and the shop) draws up a list of those it considers qualified for the vacant position. This list goes to the party for approval. Then it is presented to the workers of the shop for approval, rejection, or amendment in any manner they desire. The party too must justify to the workers its rejection of any new name it has added. The edited list is presented to the ministry for a final selection, and the ministry's choice must be resubmitted to the workers for final ratification.

It must be added that there is a serious shortage of trained people in Cuba, and there would rarely be many qualified for any one position. Usually there is general agreement on the one candidate presented for approval. However, the procedure I have described is a guarantee of the workers' rights to the final say in any dispute.

Workers participate actively in many of the debates involving the planning of production. One worker told me about a discussion raging in his plant at that moment. Two technical advisors had been assigned to prepare plans for the future utilization of the plant. The ministry concerned had accepted one plan and begun to retool before the second plan had been submitted.

Now, it was apparent that the second plan was far superior, and that the whole plant would have to be retooled a second time. No one would lose any pay. But the worker told me that everyone in the plant was following the discussion with great interest, and that most of them were incensed with the behaviour of the ministry, which had wasted so much valuable time and energy. I asked him what they could do about it. He said he didn't know about the others but he was certainly raising the whole matter at the next workers' assembly. He expected that the workers would protest the ministry's procedure and demand a full explanation of the whole affair.

A grievance procedure has been developed in Cuba which is likely unequalled in the degree that it protects workers' rights. In every factory the grievance committee consists of six members. Two are appointed by the administrator, and two by the union. Two other members are directly elected by the workers. The workers have a formal majority in this key committee, though in practice the unions tend to play a mediating role between workers and administration. Every grievance goes to this committee, and its decision may be appealed to the grievance court of the municipality. A higher appeal may be made to the ministry itself, whose decision is final.

How housing is allocated

All over Cuba, in the cities and in the poorest parts of the country, I saw the great housing projects built since the revolution. I wondered how the new dwellings are distributed? Here too, the Cubans find that the best way is to place the authority in the hands of the workers.

New houses and apartments are not sold; they are allotted to the unions for distribution. The unions assign a certain number to every factory and shop. The workers in the factory elect three from their number to serve on a housing committee and select the recipients of the new dwellings. This committee considers the case of all workers who apply, and selects those whose families live in the poorest conditions. Our guide Ramiro told me that in electing the house committee, the workers often chose the critics of the government. Give them the responsibility and they won't complain all the time, he said.

There is no doubt that the Cubans face tremendous problems in their drive for economic development. In very many cases I found that these problems are being met by throwing more of the authority onto the shoulders of the workers.

The same developments can be seen in Cuban schools. Students have a history of their own in Cuba, a revolutionary tradition a century old. They were among the top leaders of the struggle against the dictator Batista. This gives them a social prestige which we Canadian students have never known. After their victory university students were given wide powers to reform the university along democratic lines. Today students elect 50% of the members of the ruling bodies of the University.

A recent demonstration of the students' power was the case of Juan Marinello, rector of the University of Havana. He had long been unpopular with the students. Student resolutions to the government cannot be ignored in Cuba and Marinello was recently dismissed.

I asked an 18-year old high school student named Diaz Bernal, who up till a year ago was attending school in the United States, what he thought of Cuban schools. "Here the teachers are not dictators; they are students too, and they work with us," he said. "Each week we have two periods when we discuss how the class is going, and we're free to criticize the teacher as well."

He explained the system of student government. Each class elects a class captain, and prefects for sports and cultural activities. These class captains form a school council, and are also members of the national union of high school students, which has an elected national leadership to represent them with the ministry of education.

The struggle to build the party

The biggest political news while I was in Cuba was the construction of the revolutionary party, the "United Party of the Socialist Revolution" (PURS) . The Cuban leadership had felt for some time that a centralized revolutionary party was essential to lead the development of the new society, but constructing it has been a long process, marked by many failures, mistakes and new starts.

The first attempt was a failure. This was the ORI, the Integrated Revolutionary Organization. It was chosen from the top down, and its leadership fell into the hands of a clique associated with the old Popular Socialist Party (Communist). Personal connections and favoritism governed the selection of the ORI, and the revolutionary fighters, the rank and file militants, were passed by.

I asked what was done after Castro denounced ORI. I was told that every member had to win the endorsement of the workers in his office or shop to win admission to the renewed organization, PURS. The screening process took place across the island, and over half the ORI members were rejected.

A new process of selection was developed on the theory that where no Marxist party had led the revolution the workers will be the best qualified to choose their own vanguard. The government established general criteria for members of the party. A member must be an exemplary worker, who sets an example to his comrades on the production line. He or she must be a leading member of the militia, active in the defense of the revolution, and finally he must be a strong revolutionary, with a record of firm opposition to the Batista dictatorship. He does not need to be a Marxist-Leninist (though we think he will become one, a party leader explained). For instance many party members told me they were practising Catholics. The criteria are designed to choose the real vanguard of the revolution, whatever the strictly personal beliefs of the individuals that comprise it.

A three-stage procedure has been developed to choose party members. I attended a meeting of workers at the first stage. Workers would propose candidates from the floor, and after a certain amount of prodding (none of them had much experience with microphones) they would explain the reasons for their choice. The case of each individual candidate would then be frankly discussed. Occasionally the foreman of his section would comment on his performance. Usually by the end of the debate there would be general agreement on whether he should be accepted or not.

All candidates were voted upon, and the list of candidates chosen by this meeting of workers was to be passed on to a selection board of the party itself which normally rejects about 30 percent. It seems that it usually accepts the workers' choice unless it has obvious technical grounds for rejection — usually that the candidate, unknown to the workers, did not fulfill one of the criteria of membership, e.g., he had not been in the militia the required length of time. Even then, the party must return to the workers in the third stage to justify their decisions and gain final ratification.

In the July 1963 issue of the magazine Cuba Socialista, the theoretical magazine of the Cuban Revolution, there was a discussion of the selection of the members of the PURS in the mountains of Oriente, the birthplace of the Cuban Revolution. The article states that of the members of the old ORI in that region 82 percent were rejected by the workers and peasants. "The old ORI did not have the Marxist Leninist approach, did not have a clear conception of class. It included many rich peasants hostile to the Revolution, the number of the agricultural workers was minimal."

The class composition of the PURS in the mountains of Oriente today is as follows:

The number of rich peasants: none
of middle peasants: 2
of teachers and state employees: 30
of workers and poor peasants: 173

From these figures we can see the aim of the PURS; to form a party composed of the revolutionary classes of society, the workers and peasants. This party would then act as a check on any bureaucratic developments and would be an expression of the democratic will of the population as a whole.

As presently constituted, the new party seems to fulfill two functions: to lead the people and to represent them. There is a contradiction here, and many Cubans are well aware of it. I asked a party member whether in the future, after the construction of the party is complete, its members would continue to be chosen by the workers. He replied that the question was being discussed, but that no decision had been reached as yet. It does not seem clear in which direction the present contradiction in the role of the party will be resolved.

When I was in Cuba it was clear that the party still had a long way to go. In particular a party convention had not yet been held. The leadership of the party, The National Directorate, has not yet been democratically chosen. In addition the powers of the rank and file cells of the party on the factory level or on the level of the state farms are very limited. The party in that level is concerned with local problems — like the problems of the management of the factory. Last summer the PURS was not yet organizing discussions throughout the whole party on all the major questions confronting the revolution. In this sense the party was not yet ruling Cuba. However the Cuban leaders desire a slow and solid period of development for the party, and it is still only in its formative stages.

There was a hectic debate going on between Che Guevara and Carlos Rafael Rodriguez about economic policy. Guevara was generally advocating concentration on political incentives to insure higher production and to avoid the development of any privileged bureaucracy. Rodriguez on the other hand was in favor of material incentives, of higher wages to skilled workers and managers. This discussion was going on in all layers of Cuban society, particularly among the rank and file members of the party.

The process of democratic discussion as developed in this case has since been repeated in the other issues. Since that time there has been a public discussion of cultural policy. There has also been a public debate surrounding the trial of a member of the old Communist Party accused of betraying revolutionaries during the struggle against Batista.

The essence of Cuban democracy is that responsibility is being given to all citizens of Cuba for the welfare of their revolution. This is the real purpose of all these democratic institutions that we have described — they are not just means for the citizens to control their government; they are methods by which the citizens can take part in government and share the responsibilities which government entails.

This attitude extends not only to the factories and to the schools but to the jails as well. I visited a prison farm in Cuba. The first thing I noticed was that there was no barbed wire, no wall around it, and no guards. When I entered the prison I had quite a bit of difficulty in distinguishing the prisoners from the administrators. There were 63 prisoners and two administrators, one agronomist and no guards at all.

Prisoners have quite a lot of privileges. Every Sunday they can have visitors, and every six weeks they get three days off. That works out to three and one half weeks vacation a year, and during these vacations prisoners can travel freely anywhere in Cuba. Prisoners worked half the day to make the farm self-sufficient. The other half they spent in school, where many have learned to read and write.

Most amazing of all, the prisoners were armed to defend their farm! Forty-nine were members of a regular militia group, and they had been trained to handle a rifle. A prisoner proudly showed me the four rifles they use in patrolling the farm each night. How was this possible? Obviously, the military training was an essential part of the rehabilitation process. The prisoners had to be convinced that society really needed them. What better way, in a time when the island was under constant danger of invasion and sabotage, than to train and arm them to defend their country?

Shortly before leaving Cuba I visited a village which may be setting the pattern for the future development of workers control in Cuba. This is El Cano, the "First Socialist Village of Cuba."

El Cano, a town of 2,000 inhabitants, lies just outside Havana. The manufacture of pottery is its only industry. Many hangovers from the Batista days plagued the town after the revolution. The business and professional circles strongly opposed the revolutionary government, and continued to practice many of the old habits of graft and corruption. It was a persistent center of gambling. Many of the young people were the kind of rootless unemployed so unpopular in Cuba today.

Early in 1962 one of these was accidentally killed while attempting to escape from soldiers patrolling outside the town. About 80 of the local right-wingers, mainly owners of small businesses, held a protest meeting in the central park, and declared that all businesses in the town would be shut down in mourning.

The people of El Cano regarded the lock-out as an attack on the revolution itself. Within hours they forced the reopening of all businesses. The lock-out had a sequel of much greater importance when Raman Calcines was appointed by the revolutionary government to investigate the whole affair. On the 11th of June, 1962, he made his report. The businesses of all those who participated in the lock-out were to be confiscated. But instead of being placed under the administration of the centralized "Consolidated Enterprises" of the ministries, as is usual in Cuba, they were handed over to a "Local Economic Council" to be elected by the citizens of El Cano. That same day the citizens elected at the general assembly the council and the managers of all the enterprises, and, as a townsman told me with pride, the new managers had their businesses operating before nightfall.

The experiment is now a year old and has been a great success. The town gradually bought out all the remaining small businessmen who did not participate in the lock-out, paying them full compensation. Now the Economic Council operates everything from the grocery store to the barber shop. Small concerns are notorious in Cuba for their unprofitability. In spite of this the total output of the town, with the same equipment and manpower, has risen 50% in the first year.

I asked one of the leaders of the El Cano development how this progress had been possible. He explained that they had done a very frank study of three of the unprofitable enterprises in the town and found that losses were usually due to overstaffing. The Economic Council therefore drastically cut down the number of employees in such enterprises, and shifted them to other industries. They never permitted the growth of a high-paid top-heavy bureaucracy. The whole staff ' of the civic government, responsible for 'everything from the high school to the beauty parlour, consists of only ten men, and they receive an average skilled workers'' salary. But the basic reason for the success of El Cano, he said, lies in the Economic Council itself, and in its success in utilizing the initiative of the whole population for the government of the town.

If my visit to Cuba taught me only one thing, it showed me the tremendous potential of humanity. I found a revolution which is not exhausting itself. Rather it goes on with continued vigor to meet continually new problems. The enthusiasm shown in the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution seems to becoming a wav of life. Far from withering in American-imposed isolation, the Cuban revolution has in a sense become a world movement, strengthening itself from the support of revolutionary peoples and governments around the world. In such experiments as El Cano or PURS, the new party, Cuba is making world history this very moment. My visit gave me a feeling of warm optimism that is still with me today: optimism regarding Cuba's future, but even more for the prospects of the whole world.

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