Cuba Before the Revolution of
1959: An Exchange of Views
Frank Gonzalez, a Libertarian, ran unsuccessfully against Lincoln Diaz-Balart in the 2004 election, and strongly opposed the restrictions imposed on US citizens on their right to travel and do business with Cuba. At the same time, Gonzalez made it plain he's an uncompromising opponent of the Revolution. Gonzalez referred readers to a website which presented an opinion on Cuba's future with which Gonzalez made it plain he agrees. As CubaNews editor-in-chief, I made a short comment. Sociologist Nelson Valdes, a long-time Cuban scholar and director of the Cuba-L news service, then continued the discussion. Our exchange of messages, which first took place on the CubaNews list, follows.
Walter Lippmann, CubaNews
From: Nelson Valdes firstname.lastname@example.org
Date: Wed Mar 23, 2005 8:44 am
Subject: 03/23/05 - Accuracy, is it important?
Florida Licensed Mortgage Broker
2006 candidate for U.S. House
As I understand it, you are a "libertarian" - which means laissez-faire in economy and politics.
Since you seem to have gotten involved with the issue of Cuba, let me begin by noting that most of the people who express an opinion on Cuba - in the USA -do not seem to know much about the place or what they are talking about. Bob Wallace is a case in point. Since you seem to agree with his rendition of the "reality of Cuba". Let me clarify one item.
Obviously there can be no objectivity when it comes to Cuba after 1959, so I want to pick on the statement that says: "Cuba will return to what it used to be."
So here is aspect of the Cuba that used to be:
Before 1959, the laws of the "free market" did NOT operate in Cuba. Between 1934 and 1959 Cuba had a state capitalist economy.
Do you know that the US sugar quota actually was a mechanism by which the United States Department of Agriculture determined the amount of sugar that the US could buy from the island, and at what price? Even the number of ships to be used to carry the sugar were determined by fiat.
The Jones Costigan Act (from the US) compelled the Cuban government to then allocate how much sugar cane would be grown by each colono. Tthere was a formula established on how much every sugar cane cutter would be paid on the basis of the weight of the cane, but in concordance with the established price of the raw sugar. And that was determined by both governments.
Do you know that the hacendados who owned the sugar mills were also chosen by the Cuban state? So, it was the state who selected the hacendado and the amount of sugar to be produced, and how much sugar was to be raw and how much refined and how much could be paid to the sugar mill worker?
You probably have heard that after 1934 sugar mills were bought off by Cubans from Americans. That is true. BUT what is never mentioned by the exiles is why. The reason is simple: since the laws of the market did not operate, the comparative advantage was based on political access to the Batista regime. So, foreign sugar interests simply decided to get out of the business. Hence, the Cubans ended up controlling the milling process because their friends in government gave them the allocations.
The political economy of sugar was totally and completely controlled by the two governments. And, by the way, since sugar was the pivot of the entire economy, that meant that the invisible hand did NOT operate in other sectors either -- such as lending, transportation, shipping -- if related to sugar.
Before 1959, Keynesian economics were more advanced in Cuba than in the United States
So, tell me, is that the understanding you had of what Cuba was before 1959?
If it is not, then research the matter. Don't take my words. Then you will see that Cubans in the island have NOT known what the so called liberal economic model was like, None of those alive in Miami ever experienced it, at least not in Cuba.
In fact, the Cuban revolution of 1959 raises a number of interesting issues.
For example, do you realize that the Cuban revolutionary government wanted to get rid of the sugar quota (the whole Jones Costigan system) and allow the REAL market to determine who produced sugar in Cuba and how much?
So, Fidel Castro the radical revolutionary was preaching to the conservative Republican Eisenhower administration the beauties of the market! What the US government did, of course, was to say - you dont like the quota system - well, we are taking you out of it and we will NOT buy sugar from you.
And do you realize that those who benefitted from the quota system (all of whom are now in Miami) opposed the revolutionary regime on the basis that they did not want market forces to determine whether they could continue producing sugar?
Things are seldom what they appear.
Consider the following:
Why do you suppose the United States government was so upset when Cuba decided to start selling sugar to the Soviets and other countries?
Because it meant a link to Communism? Hardly. Because the Cuban revolutionary government defied the Jones Costigan act which was perfectly calibrated so that the market of sugar will remain stable, without anyone producing MORE than they were told by the US Department of Agriculture. To preserve the system was in the interests of those who could NOT compete in an open and truly free world market in sugar. The Cubans knew that they could out-compete others. But the sugar interests in the sourth of the Us and in the beet producing states could not afford that. So how did they defend higher prices for sugar? Simple: scream Fidel is a Communist, and he’ll keep the state capitalist format.
As usual people tend to approach Cuba from an ideological standpoint without paying any attention to reality.
Once you research this matter, then I will be glad to clarify for you what the Cuban position was on the missile crisis and the famous letter to Nikita K. But that is another story. May you have a nice day.
University of New Mexico
From: "Walter Lippmann" email@example.com
Date: Wed Mar 23, 2005 7:58 am
Subject: RE: [CubaNews] Libertarian Author Decimates Fidel Castro
Running as a candidate against Republican Mario Diaz-Balart Frank Gonzalez said, and continues to say that he opposes restrictions on our right to travel and do business with Cuba, a stand for which he received considerable support from the voters of his district. However, Gonzalez provides us with a link to what he says is a page which gives readers his view of what ought to happen in Cuba. There we find the following revealing proposition:
"Sooner or later (soon, if we're lucky), Castro will kick the bucket. Cuba will
return to what it used to be."
Don't know what kind of Libertarianism Gonzales thinks that Cuba had under the
Batista dictatorship. His regime pretty much provided a welfare state for US
corporations and US gangsters like Meyer Lansky and others. Here's a peek at
Cuba as "it used to be":
The Mafia in Havana
Reviewed by Patrick Harrington
The Mafia dominates the Havana described in this book. They used it as both a haven and a playground - "the most splendid of paradises" (p.21) as the author puts it. Drugs, prostitution, gambling were their stock in trade. These come as little surprise. But this book does surprise in other ways.
Enrique Cirules has delved deeply into both Cuban and US archives as well as interviewing eye-witnesses. He slowly builds a complex picture of the financial, media and political links of the Mafia. When they described them as 'organised crime' they certainly meant organised!
Cirules lists the links between key Mafia players and banks and other financial institutions (used for money-laundering). He details the way in which the Mafia bought into the media and explains the often complicated links betweeen them and different political tendencies (including both Batista and his sometime rivals in the Autenticos).
The Mafia operated in Cuba for nearly 25 years with very few problems - whoever was supposedly in power. Even when the infamous Lucky Luciano moved publicly to Cuba there was an extreme reluctance to do anything about it on the part of the Cuban authorities (or what the author calls, perhaps more accurately, the "apparent power"). His eventual departure was only under threat of an embargo of medical supplies from the US and the covert opposition of Meyer Lansky himself to his stay. As Cirules explains: "Lansky was both Luciano's Lieutenant and boss of the empire of Havana, and his assistance in any other circumstance would have been of extraordinary value to Lucky. But the fact that Lucky, the Chief of the Mafia, was moving permanently to Cuba threatened Lansky's local rule. Opposition to Luciano from other hostile quarters in any case threatened Mafia business interests on the island". (p.47). Even when he left in '47 it wasn't as a prisoner but as a First Class passenger of some social note!
Only when the Cuban Revolution, led by Fidel Castro, finally won on January 1, 1959 was the party really over for what had become a 'criminal state'. Cirules has provided a valuable service in documenting the corruption that preceded it and direct US links to it. The account is often dry but it adds greatly to understanding the period.
# Author: Enrique Cirules
# Paperback: 200 pages (December, 2004)
# Publisher: Ocean Press (distributed by Pluto in the UK)
# ISBN: 18761754277
Here's the introduction to Enrique Cirules's book:
Cuba has many problems and faults, but getting rid of Batista and his partners in crime isn't one of them.
Walter Lippmann, CubaNews
From: Frank Gonzalez firstname.lastname@example.org
Sent: Tuesday, March 22, 2005 11:23 PM
To: Frank Gonzalez
Subject: [CubaNews] Libertarian Author Decimates Fidel Castro
This is pretty much my view of this monster and his naive admirers too despite my calls to end unethical and unconstitutional travel restrictions to Cuba and the U.S. embargo on Cuba. Cuba's problems are her own to be solved by Cubans, not by meddlesome and equally murderous American politicians' foreign interventions.
There is nothing that says one cannot hold strong personal views of foreign entities despite favoring an objective and non-interventionist foreign policy toward them.
Florida Licensed Mortgage Broker
2006 candidate for U.S. House