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cuba vs

vs. u.s. imperialism

by Edward Boorstein


Cubans were among the first persons in the world to understand u.s. imperialism. They were among the first to be menaced by it, to suffer from it. American dreams of annexing Cuba go back to the early 1800's. Modern V.S, imperial1 sm capitalist imperialism based on the large corporation

began in Cuba. Cuba was the first great foreign market of American capitalism. In 1880, direct u.s. investment in the Cuban sugar industry began; by 1896 u.s. investment in Cuba totalled $50 million.

Jose Martí, leader of the Cuban independence movement which later culminated in the revolutionary war against Spain in 1895-1898, became the first great analyst of imperialism. His views are of special interest today because his focus was on u.s. imperialism and because he is the intellectual precursor of the Cuban and Latin A- merican Revolutions.

Marti, exiled from Cuba in 1871,
spent the years from 1881-1895
in the United States. "I have
lived in the monster," he wrote,
"and I know its entrails." In
1891 -- 25 years before the ap-
pearance of Lenin's classic Im-

perialism he pointed out that: "The people that buys, commands. The people that sells, serves. It is necessary to balance (diversify) commerce to assure liberty. A people that wants to die sells to only one people.... The excessive influence of one country on the commerce of another converts itself into political influence." Marti was not thinking only of Cuba in these comments. They were made in an article on the problem of u.s. domination of all Latin America.

EDWARD BOORSTEIN, an economist, author of The Economic Transformation of Cuba, has worked for the U.S. Federal Reserve Board, the War Production Board and as a consultant in Washington and Latin America. From 1960 through 1963 he worked for the Cuban National Bank and Ministry of Foreign Commerce. Presently he writes and teaches economics.


Martı knew Latin America. He lived in Mexico, Guatemala, and Venezuela for six years, was directly acquainted with several other Latin American countries from short visits, and wrote on the whole area. To him, Latin America was "our America," a term that Che Guevara later adopted. Always he stressed that to solve Latin America's problems, it is necessary to understand Latin America's conditions. And always Martí spoke of freedom. "The hour has come," he wrote in 1889, "for Latin America to declare her second independence." Martí was a revolutionary. As early as 1882 he wrote, "Cuba...has once again arrived at the point of understanding the futility of a policy of conciliation and the need for a violent revolution." Martí's great fear was that Spain would be eliminated from Cuba only to be replaced by the United States. We wanted Cuban independence of the United States not only for its own sake, but for the rest of Latin America. A Cuba and Puerto Rico enslaved would be "mere pontoons" for the spread of American power. From a military camp in Oriente Province in 1895, Marti wrote a friend that his great aim was to assure the independence of Cuba so as to prevent the U.S. from spreading across the Antilles and then descending on all of Latin America. But two days after he wrote this, Martí was killed by the Spaniards. And soon thereafter, what he feared from the U.S. began to come to pass. The U.S. took over Cuba and Puerto Rico and began to spread its empire southward. The Platt Amendment, which the U.S. forced into the Cuban constitution in 1901, gave it the right to "intervene" in Cuba while it imposed on the Cuban government the obligation to "sell or lease to the United States lands necessary for coaling or naval stations ..." There were many gross interventions. The U.S. landed troops in Cuba in 1906, 1912, and 1917, In 1933, during the liberal presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt, the U.s. sent a number of warships into Cuban waters to help bring down a government it did not like. Although the Platt Amendment was abrogated in 1934, part of it still lives on: the U.S. still occupies the Guantánamo Naval Base obtained under the Amendment. But American domination of Cuba was far more than a matter of the Platt Amendment. There were the ordinary natural workings of the large American corporations and the U.S. government which backs them up. Under the shelter of the American military occupation which followed the war with Spain, American corporations began to move into Cuba on an increased scale. Investments were made by the United Fruit Company, the National City Bank of New York, the Cuban-American Sugar Company, the Cuban Telephone Company. From $50 million in 1895, U.S. investment in Cuba soared to $205 million in 1911. Eventually in 1959, the year the Revolution care to power, it reached about $1 billion.



than $100 per year, most people could afford rice, beans, dried cut fish and little else.

The U.S. Department of Commerce reported in 1956: "Thu only foreign investments of importance are those of the United States. American participation exceeds 90% in the telephone and electric services, about 50% in the public service railways, and roughly 40% in raw sugar production, The Cuban branches of American banks are entrusted with almost onefourth of all bank deposits...."

The U.S. corporations naturally operated in their own business interest, rather than for the benefit of the Cuban people. Because it was good business, they acquired enormous tracts of land, much of which they kept idle as a reserve. That there were several hundred thousand landless campesinos who could have used the idle land to grow food for their hungry families was not the concern of the corporations.

Even this does not give the full picture. American domination went far beyond ownership of assets in Cuba, American interests dominated all strategic sectors of the Cuban economy. The U.S. monopolized Cuba's foreign trade, accounting for over 75% of the exports and 80% of the imports. Cuba's tourist industry depended on Americans. The U.S. dominated Cuba's internal market; by far most manufactured goods consumed in Cuba came from the U.S. Most retail stores depended on American goods.

The American corporations tumed Cuba into an appendage of the U.S. economy-a gigantic sugar plantation, an outlet for American manufactured goods. Sugar domi nated the Cuban economy. It made up 80% of Cuba's exports and paid for the bulk of its imports. The sugar companies controlled 70% of the arable land; they owned two-thirds of the railroad trackage; most of the ports and many of the roads were simply adjuncts of the sugar mills. The sugar industry was seasonal, unstable, and stagnant, and it imparted these characteristics to the whole Cuban economy. It employed 400,000 to 500,000 workers to cut, load and transport. the cane during the 3 to 4 month harvest season, and left them to starve during the rest of the year. The price and demand for sugar rode up and down with war and peace, prosperity and depression, taking the whole, Cuban economy with them. Since export outlets for Cuban sugar were growing only slowly, the whole Cuban economy stagnated.

Just by selling their manufactured goods in Cuba, the giant corporations of the north were choking off the possible growth of Cuban manufacturing. But they were responsible for profits to their stockholders, not for Cuba's economic development. Along with economic domination went cultural penetration. There were the American movies, American-type TV programs and commercials, American news services, American books and magazines including True Romances and the like. On top of everything else was political domi nation. "Until the advent of Castro, "according to Earl T. Smith, former American ambassador to Cuba, "the U.S. was so overwhelmingly influential in Cuba...that the American ambassador was the second most important man in Cuba, sometimes even more important than the president." Actually, the president and other Cuban officials could only act within limits fixed by the U.S. The United States wielded ultimate political power in Cuba. Fidel and the other leaders of the Revolution understood the problem of American imperialism from the beginning. They were not--as some people have pictured them--simply wellmeaning humanitarians, indi gnant over Batista's coup d'etat in 1953. They knew about American imperialism from living under it and observing its day-to-day workings, from the U.S. intervention in 1933 which was still a fresh occurrence when they were at school and the university. And Fidel and the others were followers of Martí--Martianos. The importance of this has not been fully understood in the United States; it should be emphasized as the Cuban leaders themselves have done. Martí was proclaimed by Fidel to be the intellectual author of the attack on the Moncada Fortress in 1953. The Second

The large American manufacturing corporations pumped their goods into Cuba. Most of these goods went to the local oligarchy and part of the middle classes which formed foreign oriented enclaves in Havana and the other lange cities. In the countryside, where the average per capita income was less


COMMITTEE EXHIBIT NO. 5-Continued Declaration of Havana and Che Guevara's to have him replaced by someone else satisMessage to the Tricontinental begin with factory to Washington. But Fidel announced quotes from Martí.

that the revolutionaries would accept nothing

less than the unconditional surrender of The Cuban leaders enjoyed a rich Cuban

Batista's army; he called for a general strike revolutionary tradition. Since 1868, Cuba against a last-minute attempt at a coup d'etat, has been having revolutions at intervals The maneuver in which the U.S. was conniving of no greater than 40 years. For Cutans, to forestall the revolutionaries from taking revolution was not something remote, to be power failed. read about in the book but something vivid, close. And again there were the doctrines As soon as the Revolution came to power, Fiof Marti--on the futility of conciliation, del and the other leaders began to prepare on violent revolution.

for the struggle against imperialism. They

mobilized the people with speeches, rejecThis background helps explain many charac ting u.s. attempts to tell the Revolution teristics of the Cuban Revolution--its

what it should and shouldn't do. They began freshness and anti-dogmatism, its vision to buy arms and build up the Revolutionary and firmness in the fight with imperialism, Armed Forces for the U.S. armed intervention its emphasis on revolution throughout Latin that they knew would come. America. Their own direct understanding of imperialism and revolution under Cuban The U.S. objected to the actions of the revoconditions gave Fidel and the others self lutionary government from the beginning-confidence in dealing with doctrines from to the trial of war criminals, to the lowering abroad. They studied seriously; Fidel

of electric power and telephone rates. But has emphasized, for example, that he read the hostility jumped when the Revolution got Lenin's State and Revolution at the Uni

into basic measures--land reform and increased versity. They read not for little for

trade with the socialist countries. Planes mulas to follow slavishly and mechanically, began to fly in from Florida and drop incenbut for basic ideas; not to copy, but to diary bombs on cane fields in June, 1959, the apply.

month in which the land reform law was signed. Fidel, Che, and the others knew from the As signs of Cuban independence grew, President time they went into the mountains that

Eisenhower unwittingly voiced one of Marti's getting rid of Batista was the first, not points as seen from the imperialist's side: the last, step in the Revolution.

In a

he could not understand Cuba's actions, he letter from the Sierra in June, 1958, Fidel said. · "After all, we are her best customer." wrote: ''When this war finishes, there will Other American officials threatened even more begin for me a new one, bigger and longer, openly that if Cuba did not behave, her sugar the one I'm going to carry out against them quota in the U.S. market would be taken away. (the Americans)." Their perspective on the Fidel responded by saying that there could long, deadly struggle to be fought with be no political independence without econimperialism helped the Cuban leaders to omic independence and that Cuba proposed to fight it well; they thought ahead, they trade with everyone. Cuba entered into trade prepared

agreements with the socialist countries,

first in mid-February, 1960, with the Soviet In his History Will Absolve Me speech in Union, and then with others. 1953 and in his public statements from the Sierra, Fidel was very careful in what he In June-July, 1960, thirgs came to a climax. said about the United States. When you

Crude oil from the Soviet Union arrived and are about to enter into a struggle with an the giant foreign oil companies--Standard, enemy as powerful as American imperialism, Texaco, and Shell--refused to accept it for it isn't wise to telegraph your intentions their refineries. The U.S. eliminated Cuba's and program. But Fidel was alert to the sugar quota and Cuba nationalized American dangers from imperialism. Earl Smith, the

property in Cuba. A few months later--in U.S. Ambassador, has himself described how, November, 1960--the U.S. imposed an embargo as it became clear that Batista would te on exports to Cuba; for a time, food stuffs overthrown, he maneuvered behind the scenes and medicines were excepted, but the excep

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