As a matter of fact, the policy of diversification was never achieved and as Bianchi makes explicit in his chapters on agriculture:
“Mono-culture and serious under-utilization of land and labour were the principal economic features of pre-revolutionary Cuban agriculture. Each reinforced the other in a classic “vicious circle” which, together with inadequate technical standards, kept actual farm output considerably below economic potential.” (p. 80)
All these studies of the pre-revolutionary background inclines us to be sceptical – to say the least – about the interpretation common among those Cuban exile groups which, with very rare exceptions, picture pre-revolutionary Cuba as a virtual paradise of workers and peasants living harmoniously and joyfully with an enlightened creole bourgeoisie.
Having seized the power the Revolution had immediately to face some enormous problems. The choices left open to it – once it moved decisively towards a true social revolution – were spelled out more or less clearly to Fidel Castro by the logic of the situation. The rest is now history.
I shall not dwell in this review – the authors of this book prudently bypass the subject – on the causes for the establishment of a socialist regime in Cuba. I will merely conclude my comments on the book by referring to what the authors have to say about the economic and social revolution that has taken place in Cuba after 1959, and to their evaluations of Cuba’s economic future.
Writing about the “breakdown in the exchange of goods between town and country” that has taken place during the revolution, Professor Seers adds:
“Of course, again these problems must be looked at in perspective. Almost any degree of disorganisation would have been preferable to the complete failure in Cuba in earlier years (and in several other Latin American countries) to mobilize the factors of production. The chronic, apparently incurable poverty and unemployment of that period, combined with feather-bedding and little technical progress, has given place to what is at least a hope that the direction taken by the economy will eventually yield favourable results, including tolerable living conditions and a degree of economic independence.” (p. 53)
This hope that the direction taken by the economy “will eventually yield favourable results” is also shared by the other economists. Bianchi, for example, points out that many of the problems faced by Cuban agriculture after the Revolution were due to economic forecasts that turned out to be excessively optimistic, to the exodus of trained professionals and technicians, to the breakdown of machinery after the American embargo, and to the lack of adequate statistics. Many of these problems are being solved, and a more sober evaluation of the situation has put an end to “subjectivism” and an excessive “romanticization” of the Revolution. The training of new technicians and professionals – a programme expected’ to give its full fruits around 1968 – should be a positive factor in agriculture and in industry. Developments in agriculture and industry should – barring a major international crisis – lead to an equilibrium in Cuba’s balance of payments around 1968. As a matter of fact Max Nollf says, that, if Cuba “is permitted to develop its industrial programmes without outside interference” by the end of this decade it “can become one of the most indlustrialised countries in Latin America and be in a position to improve notably the standards of living of its population”.
As it is, no amount of mythmaking can do away with the realities of an event of the transcendence of the Cuban Revolution. Once a process like this is in train it becomes, as Professor Seers himself points out, “irreversible”. For the Cuban Revolution, like all social and economic revolutions, is indeed irreversible. And it would be only fitting if a great power such as the United States – however much a force of conservation in the hemisphere – were to conduct a sober appraisal of the Cuban situation.
President Kennedy himself recognised a measure of American responibility for the outcome of the Cuban Revolution in an interview with Jean Daniel, printed shortly after his death in The New York Times, (Dec. 11, 1963):
“I think”, he said, “that there is not a country in the world, including all the regions of Africa and including any country under colonial domination, where the economic colonization, the humiliation, the exploitation have been worse than those which ravaged Cuba, the result, in part, of the policy of my country during the regime of Batista.”
Nevertheless, this candid confession of guilt bas gone unheeded up to the present. Hence, Cuba, the Economic and Social Revolution, is to be welcomed as a serious work that could put things into proper perspective. It may well force a confrontation with some unsavory realities – not only in the United States but also in the rest of the Americas-especially so in the Caribbean, where the population must be wondering why their leaders have abandoned the public appraisal of events in their own backyard to the international press.
It is not unlikely that this work will trigger off a much needed appraisal of Cuba more so among the economic planners in Venezuela, Trinidad, Jamaica and Barbados where Seers is already an influential figure. If it does, it could become an early Caribbean example of th contribution to be made by technical formulations of the issues where and when ideological presentations serve mainly to promote hysteria and to frustrate the attainment of clarity.