The case of Cuba is the case of all underdeveloped countries
Address by Fidel Castro to the United Nations General Assembly, 26 September 1960. In the Militant, Vol. 61, no. 4, Book Of The Week column, 27 January 1997
Below we reprint an excerpt from "The case of Cuba is the case of all underdeveloped countries," an address given by Fidel Castro to the United Nations General Assembly Sept. 26, 1960. From that platform the Cuban revolutionary leader explained the measures taken by the Cuban workers and farmers that had so outraged the U.S. rulers and condemned Washington's aggression against the Caribbean island. The entire speech appears in To Speak the Truth: Why Washington's `Cold War' against Cuba Doesn't End, by Fidel Castro and Ernesto Che Guevara. The book is copyright Pathfinder Press. Reprinted with permission.
The revolutionary government began to take its first steps. The first was a 50 percent reduction in rents paid by families. This was a very just measure since, as I said earlier, there were families paying up to one-third of their income for rent. The people had been the victims of housing speculation; urban real estate had also been subject to speculation, to the detriment of the entire Cuban people. But when the revolutionary government reduced rents by 50 percent, there were those who were considerably upset; yes, a few who owned the buildings and apartment houses were upset. But the people rushed into the streets rejoicing, as they would in any country - even here in New York - if rents were reduced by 50 percent for all families. But it caused no problems with the monopolies. Some of the U.S. companies owned large buildings, but they were relatively few in number.
Then another law was passed, a law cancelling the concessions that had been granted by the Batista dictatorship to the telephone company, which was a U.S. monopoly. Aided by having a population without means to defend itself, valuable concessions had been obtained. The revolutionary government cancelled those concessions and reestablished the prices for telephone services that had existed previously. This was the first conflict with the U.S. monopolies.
The third measure was the reduction of electricity rates, which had been among the highest in the world. This led to the second conflict with the U.S. monopolies. Already they were beginning to paint us as Reds, simply because we had clashed with the interests of the U.S. monopolies.
Then came another law, an essential law, an inevitable law - inevitable for the Cuban people and inevitable, sooner of later, for all the peoples of the world, at least those who have not done so. This was the Agrarian Reform Law. Naturally, everybody agrees with agrarian reform in theory. Nobody would dare to deny it; nobody except an ignoramus would dare to deny that agrarian reform in the underdeveloped countries of the world is one of the essential conditions for economic development. In Cuba, even the owners of the vast estates agreed with agrarian reform - only they wanted an agrarian reform that suited them, like the type defended by many theorists. Above all, they wanted the type of agrarian reform that is not carried out, as long as it can be avoided. Agrarian reform is something that is recognized by the economic bodies of the United Nations. It is something over which nobody argues.
In our country it was indispensable. More than 200,000 peasant families lived in the countryside without land with which to plant essential foodstuffs. Without agrarian reform our country could not have taken the first step toward development. And we took that step. We instituted an agrarian reform. Was it radical? Yes, it was a radical agrarian reform. Was it very radical? No, it was not a very radical agrarian reform. We carried out an agrarian reform adjusted to the needs of our development, to the possibilities of agricultural development. In other words, we carried out an agrarian reform that would solve the problem of peasants without land, that would solve the problem of essential foodstuffs, that would solve the great unemployment problem on the land, and that would end the frightful poverty that existed in the rural areas of our country. That was when the first major difficulty arose....
Then the question of payments and indemnities came up. Notes from the U.S. State Department began to rain down on Cuba. They never asked us about our problems, not even to express sympathy or because of their responsibility in creating the problems. They never asked us how many died of starvation in our country, how many were suffering from tuberculosis, how many were unemployed. No. Did they ever express solidarity regarding our needs? Never. Every conversation we had with the representatives of the U.S. government centered around the telephone company, the electricity company, and the problem of the land owned by U.S. companies. The question they asked was how we were going to pay. Naturally, the first thing they should have asked was not "How?" but "With what?"
This was a poor, underdeveloped country with 600,000 unemployed, with an extremely high rate of disease and illiteracy, whose reserves had been sapped, that had contributed to the economy of a powerful country to the tune of $1 billion in ten years. Where were we to find the means to pay for the land affected by the agrarian reform, at the prices they wanted?
What were the wishes raised by the U.S. State Department concerning U.S. interests being affected? They demanded three things: "speedy, efficient, and just payment." Do you understand that language? "Speedy, efficient, and just payment." That means, "Pay this instant, in dollars, and whatever we ask." [Applause]
We were not 150 percent communists at that time, [Laughter] we just appeared slightly pink. We were not confiscating land. We simply proposed to pay for it in twenty years, and in the only way we could - by bonds that would mature in twenty years, at 4.5 percent interest amortized annually. How could we have paid for this land in dollars? How could we have paid on the spot, and how could we have paid whatever they asked? It was ludicrous....
But in our country the land was not the only thing in the hands of the U.S. monopolies. The principal mines were also in the hands of the monopolies. For example, Cuba produces large amounts of nickel, and all the nickel was controlled by U.S. interests. Under the Batista dictatorship, a U.S. company called Moa Bay had obtained such a juicy concession that in a mere five years - mark my words, in a mere five years - it sought to amortize an investment of $120 million. A $120 million investment amortized in five years!...
So the revolutionary government passed a mining law that obliged these monopolies to pay a 25 percent tax on the export of minerals....
Then a new stage of harassing our revolution began. I will pose a question to anyone who objectively analyzes the facts, who is ready to think honestly and not parrot the UPI and the AP, who is ready to think with their own head and draw their own conclusions, who is ready to look at things without prejudice, sincerely, and honestly: Are the things done by the revolutionary government grounds to decree the destruction of the Cuban revolution? No, they are not.
But the interests that were adversely affected by the Cuban revolution were not concerned about Cuba; they were not being ruined by the measures of the Cuban revolutionary government. That was not the problem. The problem was that these same interests own the wealth and natural resources of the majority of the peoples of the world.
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