Taken from Chapter 2 of L'Agriculture socialisee a Cuba by Michel Gutelman (Paris: Francois Maspero, 1967). Reprinted in Rodolfo Stavenhagen (ed.), Agrarian Problems and Peasant Movement in Latin America (1970).

Michel Gutelman is an agricultural economist who teaches at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes in Paris and who spent several years as an adviser to the Cuban government.

The Socialization of the Means of Production in Cuba

by Michel Gutelman


The law of May 17, 1959, which established land reform, was preceded by the law of October 1958, given in the mountains of Oriente at a time when the revolution had not yet achieved power. In the eyes of the leaders, the two laws were identical, but the first one was different from the second in that it included some important tactical objectives: it intended, on the one hand, to mobilize more intensively the small farmers in order to incorporate them massively in the ranks of the revolution and, on the other, to neutralize the reactionary forces who were to be kept expectant.

This first law conceded "land ownership to the tiller"; it was very careful about not mentioning the problem of foreign-owned properties. Likewise, it was ambiguous about the fate reserved for the latifundia, saying simply that they would be forbidden, but without specifying any formal limits to the extension of privately owned land.

The tactical results obtained corresponded entirely to expectations: from October 1958 to January 1959, the mass of peasants and the agricultural proletariat, persecuted by Batista's troops, rallied to the revolutionary cause and thus contributed to the rapid disintegration of the regime. Simultaneously, the lack of specifications in the law about the future of the latifundia led many national and foreign landowners to believe that, according to a solidly established political tradition in Cuba, the law would never be implemented. Consequently, several large landowners aided the guerrilleros of the "26th of July Movement" in the hope that their properties would not be affected after the fall of the Batista regime, which they now saw coming closer. Three months later, in January 1959, their hopes began to fade, and seven months later, on May 17, 1959, they fell apart completely.

1. The Land Reform Law (May 17, 1959)

The principal characteristics of the law of May 17, 1959, at least formally, are those of a reformist political document. Thus it could be placed together with the basic land reform texts of Mexico in 1911 and of Bolivia in 1952. Only some of its provisions are clearly more radical.

The land reform law is opposed to the existence of latifundia, but also to that of minifundia. The first aspect has become classical in many Latin American land reform projects. The second aspect is much less so. Probably drawing upon the Mexican and Bolivian experiences, the Cuban revolutionary legislator wanted to prevent the excessive fragmentation of the land which, when technological levels are low, lead inevitably to an inefficient agriculture. In order to forestall this roadblock, the law adopts the notion of "vital minimum" (2 caballerias = 27 hectares) and forbids the partial or total subdivision or alienation of the redistributed land.

Latifundia are prohibited. The maximum area that a physical or moral person may own is fixed at 30 caballerias (402.6 hectares). Land in excess of this limit, which belongs to one owner, must be expropriated and distributed among landless peasants or those who own less than the vital minimum-Properties up to 30 caballerias in size are not expropriate, except for those parts that may have been rented out to tenant farmers or sharecroppers or that are occupied by precaristas (squatters).

The land reform law is concerned with the economic efficiency of agriculture. In order to avoid a decrease in production and productivity, which was, however, expected at the Beginning, and in order to maintain and accelerate, on the contrary, the development of agriculture, the law permits various exceptions to the expropriation of latifundia and large properties. These exceptions are due to concern over the need to maintain "model" agricultural enterprises. The text is, indeed, quite liberal, in that it considers as model farms those on which yields are 50 per cent higher than the national average, when only crops are concerned, and those cattle ranches where the number of head of cattle per caballeria is simply higher than the national average. In no case, however, may these enterprises possess more than 100 caballerias (1,342 hectares).

The same concern over technical and economic efficiency was the reason, at least partly, for the relatively novel decision in the history of agrarian reforms riot to subdivide or redistribute all of the lands belonging to the expropriated latifundia. We shall see that this decision led to the formation of an important state sector which was not formally outlined in the text of the law. Finally, according to the law, the National Institute of Agrarian Reform (INRA) was not to limit itself merely to the distribution of land to the small peasants, but was also designed to offer them powerful technical and economic aid. This naturally implied a certain state control over the small farmers, which was justified by the futility of granting the poor peasants lands which they would be unable to farm adequately because of lack of resources and of technical assistance.

We have shown that the Cuban Revolution, due to the economic structures that existed at the time, was oriented toward "national recuperation." In the agrarian reform law, the nationalist aspect is evident; but we need not exaggerate its influence. In order to really suppress the latifundia, it was necessary to affect foreign-owned landholdings. But the law treats of these in the same fashion as it does with Cuban properties. Thus, Article 15 stipulates that only Cuban citizens may acquire rural property; but it does not state anywhere that the foreign landowners of holdings which are within the maximum size limit permitted by the law, are not allowed to keep their property. Furthermore, exceptions similar to those referring to farm units with higher-than-national-average productivity are also set down for foreign-owned enterprises which, under certain conditions, may possess up to 100 caballerias. Thus it is not the agrarian reform law itself which eliminates foreign property from Cuba, but a series of legal measures taken between 1960 and 1961, to which we will return later.

Land reform was to be cheap. The law did not say that social justice was to be established by drawing upon the public budget; neither were the reform beneficiaries made to pay for land distribution. On the financial question, the law essentially determined that the estimated value of the land for purposes of indemnification, was based on the owners' own assessment for tax purposes. As can be imagined, declared values were very low, and the amount of indemnification calculated on this basis was not a danger to the public budget. On the other hand, it was decided that indemnification would be paid through the issue of "Land Reform Bonds" payable in twenty years with an interest of 4 per cent.

Finally, the land reform was to be efficient and quick. The experience in other Latin American countries proved that a law which was consciously or unconsciously ill conceived permitted the sabotage of the land reform process itself.1 The law of May 17 therefore included a series of precautions designed to prevent shipwreck on the reefs of legal procedures or judicial maneuvers.

Fundamentally, the law prevented the fraudulent reconstitution of latifundia by prohibiting all sales (except to the state), exchange and transfers of privately owned land. All divisions, sales or legal acts of various kinds, carried out after the revolution came to power (January 1959) were declared null. The renting of land that had been distributed by the land reform and the creation of agricultural companies the shares of which were not nominal, were forbidden. In the calculation of the maximum area in the hands of a single owner, all of his properties were taken as a whole and not each unit by itself. Finally, in order to prevent delays in the process of expropriation and redistribution of land itself, the judgment and powers attributed to the National Land Reform Institute (INRA) were such that the large landholders were hardly able to slow down or distort the land reform process by getting it bogged down in legal formalities.

2 The Political Process of the Agrarian Reform

In June 1959, INRA applied the provisions of the law which had just been published, and divided the island into twenty-eight Agrarian Development Zones (ZDA). These became an intermediate administrative unit between the municipality and the province, in which the concrete process of confiscation and redistribution of land to the small peasants was to take place. The implementation of the agrarian reform was entrusted to the Rebel Army as well as to civilian revolutionaries.

The expropriations and land distribution began rather slowly. Ten months after the promulgation of the law, not more than 850,000 hectares had been confiscated, and only 40,200 hectares had been distributed to 6,000 beneficiaries. At this rate, it would have taken twenty years to satisfy the needs of some 150,000 potential beneficiaries.

However, in January 1960 the rhythm of confiscation and distribution was suddenly accelerated. During the first half of January, the latifundia in the center and the east of the island were attacked. In one week, more than 600,000 hectares were confiscated. By June 1961, 3,800,000 hectares had been expropriated and 101,000 peasants had obtained property titles to 2,725,000 hectares.2

The acceleration of the rate of land confiscation and distribution was due to both internal and external causes. It was related to the level of development of the productive forces and to the relations of production of Cuban agriculture, as well as to certain aspects of the class struggle on the international level. These factors of radicalization of the agrarian reform changed its essential character to such a point that the legal text itself was quickly left behind, as far as the original objectives of the revolutionary forces were concerned

The purpose of the law of May 17, 1959, was, above all to create and strengthen a small peasant bourgeoisie. It did not attempt to suppress private property of the land, nor to create state farm enterprises. But the prohibition of latifundia, given the limited number of potential beneficiaries of land distribution, and the limited amount of land which was granted to them, implied that an important part of the confiscated area would not be distributed individually. This specific situation came about because of the high degree of land concentration and the relative scarcity of farm units considered according to the criteria of the "vital minimum."

The law of May 17 had foreseen this situation: it stipulated that the expropriated land which was not granted individually would be handed as indivisible property to cooperative groups. The National Agrarian Reform Institute was to create, develop and supervise these cooperatives. The Institute also had the obligation to provide them with important technical and financial assistance. However, it would be an error to suggest that the creation of cooperatives was a consciously taken political first step toward ulterior state control of agriculture. A careful reading of the texts shows well that the revolutionary leaders who wrote the law did not conceive of the cooperatives as a form of state-run enterprise. True, INRA reserved the right to appoint a "coordinator," who was administratively dependent upon the Institute, to work together with the elected administrator. But this was considered as a provisional measure, the reasons for which were political (to prevent the sabotage of the reform by potential agents of the expropriated latifundists) as well as technical (frequent lack of capability among the elected managers).

In practice, and contrary to the explicit intentions of the law, the cooperative sector became very quickly closely dependent upon the state. The coordinators appointed by INRA who were frequently members of the Rebel Army, became more important than the elected administrators, mainly due to their greater prestige. Very often, indeed, the elected administrator and the appointed coordinator were one and the same person. Finally, the centralization of power in these cooperatives was strongly accentuated because of the economic blockade which made the administrative distribution of scarce resources a necessity. We shall return to this point later.

But to this "intrinsic" factor, if it can be called that, of socialization (a surplus of confiscated land in relation to the number of beneficiaries), were added other factors linked to the conditions of the class struggle on the national and international levels.

The sudden acceleration of land confiscations in January 1960 can be explained by the systematic opposition of the large cattlemen to the new social policy. After the first confiscations, they refused to buy cattle from the small breeders, who were forced to sell because they lacked sufficient pastures for fattening. Faced with this menace of a boycott, which was about to create a political crisis due to the economic strangulation of a social class which had been favorable to the revolution, the state was forced to buy cattle. As it did not itself own sufficient land for feeding these animals, it was forced to rapidly expropriate the necessary pastures. For the first time, it was necessary to disregard the formal stipulations of the law, as in the case of the province of Camagüey, where cattle ranches were expropriated which had benefited from the exceptions established in the law.

If the revolutionary government had not acted as it did, if it had hesitated to pursue firmly its policy of economic and social reforms, it is probable that, even among the small peasantry, a movement of political withdrawal would have taken place, the result of which would have been, under the menace of sabotage by the large landowners, to slow down considerably the process of expropriation.

In the sugar sector, the process of acceleration of the agrarian reform, leaving behind the text of the law, was identical. Here, however, the socioeconomic links between the Cuban sugar sector and the American economy contributed in giving the class struggle a new aspect. In July 1960, the Congress of the United States authorized President Eisenhower to decide a halt of Cuban sugar imports. It was no longer a particular class of the population (the small cattle-breeders) but the whole Cuban nation which was threatened by economic strangulation.

This external menace was so much stronger in that internally it was based on the economic and political power of the American sugar-mill owners. Of 165 sugar mills on the island, 61 belonged to North Americans; they were the most important because they handled approximately 50 per cent of the annual sugar production. Their natural reticence in supporting the Cuban government only pushed the revolution into adopting a firmer attitude: nationalization; or else forcing it, through compromise, to betray the sociopolitical objectives it had set itself. Thus it was that the Law of Nationalization of foreign-owned enterprises (Law No. 851) established on July 6, 1960, the confiscation of all American enterprises. Under this law, all sugar mills and their attendant land, as well as all foreign-owned agricultural enterprises, were seized. A part of this land would have been expropriated anyway under the agrarian reform law, but less completely and less brutally. It should be noted that the payment of indemnification was foreseen; but it was tied to the suspension of the sanctions taken by the U.S. against Cuba.3

The "sugar bourgeoisie" of Cuba, supported morally and militarily by the United States, also passed over into open counterrevolution: fire by arson of sugar fields and public buildings, assassination attempts and various kinds of sabotage took place during 1960 and 1961. In reprisal to this hostile attitude which endangered the national economy, the government decided upon the nationalization of all the large private enterprises in the country. The Law of October 13, 1960 (No. 890), thus resulted, in the agro-industrial sector, in the confiscation of about a hundred sugar mills and their attendant land -- in other words, approximately one million hectares. Finally, an amendment to Article 24 of the Constitution allowed the confiscation of the property of moral or physical persons who left the country or who carried out activities judged to be counterrevolutionary.

If we add to these various confiscations those which were effected according to the law on the "recuperation of ill-gained wealth," as well as "voluntary sales" and "donations" to INRA,4 we see that the land affected in 1961 amounted to 4,400,000 hectares, of which only 1,199,000 hectares were expropriated according to the agrarian reform law.

Land Expropriations
Situation in May 19615

  Surface in
1. Agrarian Reform Law
2. Recuperation of Ill-gained Wealth Law
3. Donations to INRA
4. Voluntary sates and article 24
5. Nationalization law (No. 851)
6. Nationalization law (No. 890)
  4,438,879 100.0

3. The Balance of Interventions in the Agrarian Sector

Of the total amount of land confiscated between 1959 and 1961, the area administered in some way or other by the state represented about 3,816,600 hectares. By the end of 1962, it represented 3,903,000 hectares, if we disregard certain unregistered woodlands.

The different laws which permitted the confiscation of privately owned lands all respected those farm units which were smaller than thirty caballerias in size (except of course those which belonged to foreigners and to sentenced counterrevolutionaries, and which were nationalized in their entirety). At that time, the land tenure situation appeared as follows;

State sector: 3,903,300 hectares - 44%
Private sector: 5,173,800 hectares - 56%

The private sector itself was composed of properties of less than five caballerias, representing 36 per cent of the agricultural surface, that is, 3,331,000 hectares, and of properties holding between five and thirty caballerias, representing 20 per cent of the agricultural surface, that is, 1,863,000 hectares.

On October 13, 1963, a second agrarian reform law was promulgated. It affected farm units of over five caballerias in size and thus transferred to the state 1,800,000 hectares of land. The proportion of land between the state sector and the private sector was thus turned around:

State sector: 5,513,700 hectares - 60.1%
Private sector: 3,563,100 hectares - 39.3%

From that point on, more than 60 per cent of the sugar fields and 60 per cent of the cattle were in the hands of the state sector.

The fundamental and official reasons for this second intervention of revolutionary power were political. They were linked to the elimination of the economic base of the internal counterrevolution, which was at that time involved in guerrilla warfare in the center of the island. But, as we shall see later, this second agrarian reform certainly was also the result of purely technical causes, in the sense that it permitted a consolidation of state farm units which up to then had been much dispersed and fragmented.

Between 1963 and 1967, land tenure underwent various transformations. A number of arbitrarily confiscated holdings, particularly in the province of Matanzas, were returned to owners after 1962, whereas others, which had been more less abandoned, were confiscated. Anyway, these were minor changes and did not affect the relative figures quoted above.

It is now useful, before studying the organization and management of the agrarian property that was restructured through the intervention of the revolutionary government, to examine briefly the historical evolution of the different kinds of land tenure forms that were set up.


In the first place, we shall examine the different types of state farms which were established successively on the land that was confiscated but not redistributed; then, the organization and forms of control of the private sector; then the very particular, but brief, status of "Administered Farm Units"; finally, the cooperative sector.

1. State Farms

The status and name of the enterprises organized on confiscated land varied from year to year, from 1959 to 1963. From then on, the state sector became stabilized, found its equilibrium and definitive form.

During a first phase, from 1959 to 1961, three types of agricultural enterprises were organized by INRA: the "Cooperatives," the "Farm Units under Direct Administration," and the "Sugar Cooperatives."6

The term "Cooperatives" was a misnomer for the units of the first type, because they were neither well organized nor did they have a well-defined status. In fact, they were agricultural production units placed under the authority of administrators, generally soldiers of the Rebel Army, appointed by INRA. The complete transformation of the public administration shortly after the revolution came to power, helped to give them, if not formally, at least in fact, technical and organizational autonomy. The majority of these "Cooperatives" were former large specialized or semi-specialized landholdings. They generally derived their name from their principal activity, thus: "Tomato-producing Cooperative," "Cooperative of Sisal Fiber Producers," "Cattle-raising Cooperative," etc. The constitution of these "Cooperatives" came about through the double need of quickly giving work to the unemployed and of raising production of foodstuffs through the opening up to cultivation of hitherto uncultivated land.

The "Farm Units under Direct Administration," the second type of state farm, were created almost exclusively on former large cattle ranches. Their creation was decided upon when the state was forced to buy the cattle of the small breeders who were in danger of being economically strangled by the latifundists. These production units were managed by administrators appointed by INRA, and their operation depended quite closely upon the directives given by the Institute. Given the way the land was acquired, as well as the type of organization and the kind of payment received by the workers, who were salaried laborers, these units could well be considered as true state farms.

The massive nationalizations of July and October 1960 were to lead to the creation of a type of production unit, the life of which was longer than that of the ones mentioned previously: the Sugar Cooperatives. These enterprises were given a specific statute which at least formally likened them to real production cooperatives.

The directive organ of the "Sugar Cooperative" was the "board of directors," elected by the general assembly of the cooperators. The board was directed by a "coordinator," Every member of the cooperative, if he had been a permanent worker of the former latifundium, could vote and be elected to office. In return for his labor, he received a monthly wage, called "advance," which was supplemented at the end of each cycle by an amount corresponding to the distribution of profits.

In fact, the general assembly, the board of directors and the coordinator did not have full powers to decide about the cooperative's policy. The state, in fact, had decided, in view of the fact that the members lacked administrative experience, and in order to prevent "enterprise egotism," to appoint an administrator next to the elected coordinator, who received and implemented instructions from INRA. All important decisions had to be taken both by the coordinator and the administrator. Such a two-headed management could not but lead to management difficulties and proved to be particularly unstable. In reality, the system evolved rapidly toward a transfer of power from the elected coordinator to the appointed administrator. This tendency of the concentration of power in the hands of the administrative hierarchy of INRA was reinforced further by the policy of diversification of agricultural production and by the economic blockade. Both implied an effort at coordination of the technical and quantitative guidelines, as well as of the distribution of scarce products and resources. In fact, the sugar cooperatives rapidly changed from almost authentic cooperatives, which they were at the beginning, into real state enterprises subordinated to administrative management.

This tendency toward a centralized and administrative management was accelerated after June 1961, due to the decision to create the "People's Farms." These farms resulted from the simple fusion of the cooperatives and the Farm Units under Direct Administration, in terms of their legal statutes, as well as geographically and as to their organization.

The People's Farm was a unit of production comparable to the Soviet sovkhoz. The land belonged to the state, labor was paid for independently of the results obtained by the farm, on a wage basis, without any participation in eventual profits. Investments, working capital and social funds were financed by the general budget of INRA, which in turn simply received a part of the national budget.

Every People's Farm was headed by an administrator appointed by INRA and by an administrative council. The administrator and the council were responsible for the management of the People's Farm and received their instructions from a "General Administration of People's Farms," located in Havana, through a local administrative agency, the "Provincial Delegation of People's Farms."

The reason for the transformation of the cooperatives and Farm Units under Direct Administration into state farms, and the progressive abandoning of the cooperative formula, was principally technical, as we have said. On the one hand, it became more and more necessary to assure a centralized distribution of rationed means of production, and on the other, to coordinate technical assistance and the plans for agricultural diversification. When in April 1961 the socialist character of the revolution was officially declared, the ideological factors became increasingly important. It is difficult to state that they constituted an important factor in the evolution toward state control, inasmuch as they reflected an inevitable evolution, given the political and social situation in which Cuba found itself at that time.

In August 1962, the sugar cooperatives were transformed into "Sugar Farms." This legal transformation into state farms only legalized a de facto situation. The two-headed power structure, which had become merely formal, was eliminated, and only the administrator was maintained. A wage policy identical to that of the People's Farms was established, and the centralized nature of management was accentuated by giving the former administrative structure a pyramidal form similar to that which existed in the "General Administration of People's Farms."

These two administrative organs were nevertheless quite independent of each other, because one of them existed in the area of sugar production and the other in the area where agricultural diversification prevailed. Each one had its own specific problems. However, at the moment when this decision was taken, the difference between Sugar Farms and People's Farms tended to decrease, because the former participated increasingly in the effort of diversification, whereas the latter had been frequently called upon, for technical reasons (for example, if they owned land near sugar mills) to plant sugar cane.

Whatever the reasons, we can say that after 1961 in -- and, since 1962, institutionally -- almost all of the confiscated land which had not been redistributed, was managed within the framework of the state farms. Their management was highly centralized and was carried out through two quite distinct administrative structures.

In 1962, the 280 People's Farms covered 2,844,000 hectares, and the 600 Sugar Farms covered 900,000 hectares, fhe size of the production units varied considerably: some people's Farms were no larger than 200 hectares, whereas others had up to 60,000 and even 90,000 hectares. The same can be said about the Sugar Farms.


  Total Less
Pinal del Rio8314106425
Las Villas4851912633

This situation was due to the historical context of the agrarian reform, which had seized the latifundia as they existed at the time of confiscation, and had transformed them by and by into state farms, cooperatives, etc., not being able always to carry out rational consolidation of farm units, given the speed of the process. In 1962 there were about 120,000 permanent workers on the Sugar Farms and 200,000 on the People's Farms. These figures, however, are simply indicative and not exact, because statistics were deficient at that time.

In 1963 it was decided to reorganize the state sector once again. The administrative differences between People's Farms and Sugar Farms were eliminated. The two former types of farms got a single statute and were now simply called "State Farms."9 Furthermore, they were regrouped into large regional administrative units called Agrupaciones. This form of regional organization, which was the exception before 1963, has since become the rule.

The agrupaciones represented a sort of federation of state farms, with highly centralized powers. In 1966, there were 575 state farms, regrouped into 58 agrupaciones,10 whose area varied from 13,000 to 100,000 hectares.

This new organization, which is still valid at present, seems to be, on the one hand, the definitive form of organization of the state sector, and is, on the other, the point of departure of an effort at administrative decentralization which is quite original and continues to the present time.

2. The Process of Control of the Private Sector

Up to the second agrarian reform of 1963, there were in Cuba three types of private properties: the small peasants who owned less than 5 caballerias (67 hectares), the medium-sized agriculturists owning less than 10 caballerias (134 hectares), and the rich landowners who possessed up to 30 caballerias (402 hectares). Properties larger than this were considered to be latifundia and except for a few rare cases, had been eliminated.


Categories Number of Properties
From 0 to 5 cab 150,140
From 5 to 10 cab 3,855
From 10 to 30 cab 5,970

The poor peasantry, made up of old and new landowners (as a result of the land redistribution carried out by the revolutionary government), represented 94 per cent of the post-revolutionary private peasantry. The owners of farm units of less than 5 caballerias were the great beneficiaries of the agrarian reform. It must be pointed out in this respect that the revolution created at least two-thirds of the members of this part of the private sector.

Small Private Peasantry in 196112

 Number of Owners Surface of Old Properties of Less Than 5 Cab. (in Hectares) Surface Granted to Land Reform Beneficiaries (in Hectares} Total Surface (in Hectares)
Old owners of up to 5 cab48,315805,493--805,493
Land reform beneficiaries of up to 5 cab 101,805--2,725,9102,725,910
Total number of properties of up to 5 cab 150,120 805,493 2,725,910 3,531,403

The creation of small private properties was the result of the law of agrarian reform which, on the subject of the poor peasantry, stipulated that: (1) no one who owned less than 5 caballerias could be affected by the agrarian reform law and all of these owners remained in possession of their properties; (2) every agriculturist who did not own land received 2 caballerias of land free of charge and if he so wished he could buy additional land up to a total of 5 caballerias, if regional conditions permitted. (It should be pointed out that the distribution of land through sale was not very frequent, and that such land was never seriously paid for. This was due principally to a certain lack of financial discipline and to the difficulties encountered in assessing the value of land.)

The medium-sized farmers and the rich peasants who subsisted up to 1963 were not very numerous, inasmuch as the first group included 3,855 peasants, and the second, 5,970. It will be understood how politically easy it was for the revolutionary government, which had the support of the small peasantry, to eliminate these several thousands of landowners during the two agrarian reforms.

In contrast, the small peasantry, who were the first beneficiaries of the agrarian reform and represented a firm support of the revolution, were efficiently organized in new syndicalist structures.

From 1930 up to the time of the revolution, numerous farmers' syndicates had appeared. Quickly dominated by the large landowners, they became obligatory and thus veritable instruments of domination over the small peasantry. Thus a dozen trade-unions or syndicates were created, such as the Association of Rice Producers, the Association of Tobacco Producers, the Association of Cane Producers, etc.

Under the impact of social struggles, they broke up internally and disappeared spontaneously during 1960. On May 17, 1961, the revolutionary government, in order to replace these syndicates, created a single agricultural syndicate: the Association of Small Agriculturists, known in Cuba under the name ANAP.13

Organized along class lines, and no longer according to differences in the crops produced, ANAP was at first conceived as an instrument for the class struggle. Its first role was to fight against the counterrevolutionary activities of the former latifundists and the rich landowners. Only the peasants who owned less than 5 caballerias belonged to the Association, or exceptionally those medium-sized farmers who, during the struggle against Batista, had proven beyond a doubt their allegiance to the revolution. It must be pointed out that membership in ANAP was not obligatory and that even today not all the private farmers belong to it. However, we may consider that about 90 per cent of all small private farmers are members of the union.

The Association was organized according to the same pyramidal model of all socialist mass organizations: at the base there was the "nucleus" of about one hundred small peasants. These nuclei were federated on a regional basis, and then on the provincial level. A national directorate, located at INRA till 1964, but which became autonomous thereafter, supervised the whole organization.

Very quickly, ANAP began to play an economic role. Basically this consisted of orienting private production according to the national agricultural plans. Later, these economic activities became more diversified and widened their scope. The Association became the normal channel through which credit, scarce materials or spare parts, and so forth, were distributed. Though ANAP cannot be considered strictly as an organization for the control of private agriculture, given the fact that it was after all still a private sector of agriculture, the administrative control of the state over the organization was such that at least theoretically it could exercise strict control over a large part of the production in this sector.

This kind of intervention was, however, not contrary to the immediate monetary interests of the small producers, inasmuch as the production directives generally affected crops which were much in demand and whose prices were formed freely at least in part.14

3. Administered Farms

Between 1961 and 1962 a certain number of small, and particularly of medium-sized farm units, were abandoned by their owners. A part of these were simply incorporated into the different existing kinds of state farms, while another part, even though nationalized, was given over to private administration. This explains the name of these enterprises: "administered farms"15 (it being understood that they were managed by the private sector). This was an original management formula which was justified by two factors.

In the first place, the farm units thus placed under the administration of the private sector were relatively small, fragmented and sometimes distant from the state farms. Under these conditions, it would have been difficult to manage them in the same fashion as the state farms, given the cost of running the administrative apparatus which directed every socialist enterprise. A first factor which determined that these units were handed over to the private sector for their management, was thus the difficulty of physically integrating these plots of land in the state sector.

The second factor was of an experimental nature. The non-integration of these dispersed farm units into the state sector was also the result of a desire to experiment, without any dogma, with the possibility of organizing small farm units and to compare their results with those of other state units which, according to the orthodox theory, were large in size. Furthermore, by having these farms managed by individual peasants, an experimental answer was to be given to the polemical issue which developed between those who thought that the "peasants" were better qualified to run farms than the "administrators," and those who believed the contrary.

The administered farms, whose number varied greatly and which in 1963 represented approximately 170,000 hectares, were managed from the beginning by a board of directors and a manager selected from among the basic nuclei of the regional ANAP. Later, as their number increased, it became necessary to organize a system of control and coordination. Thus within the administrative structures of ANAP a hierarchical and centralized substructure arose which was concerned with the management of these farms.

In 1963, when the second agrarian reform took place, these administered farms disappeared and were integrated into the state farms, at the level of the agrupaciones. There were two reasons for this:

· With the incorporation of private units of over five caballerias in size into the state sector, the technical reasons (their small size, their fragmentation and dispersion) for the creation of these administered farms disappeared, because very often, after the second agrarian reform, they found themselves physically located within the area of the newly nationalized enterprises;

· The experiment of having small units administered by "peasants" appeared to be negative; their results were no better than those of the large state farms.

In fact, inasmuch as the functioning of the administered farms was managed through administrative structures similar to those of other state farms, that is to say, in a strongly hierarchical and centralized fashion, the experiment did not really allow the economic potential of these units to come to the fore. At best, it was able to demonstrate the weaknesses inherent in all strongly centralized management systems.

4. The Cooperative Sector

One of the political roles assigned to ANAP was the formation of a socialist conscience among the small peasants. Particularly, the Association was charged with the diffusion of socialist ideas concerning the form of agricultural exploitation considered as most efficient: the agricultural production cooperative.

Thus, in 1961 a statute of "Agricultural and Cattle-Raising Societies"16 was adopted, which is the legal framework within which real cooperative production units were to function. These must be formed by small farmers who voluntarily contribute their land and their means of production in order to Work in common. The revolutionary government has always been very careful in this field, and it does not wish to accelerate the process of collectivization, recognizing the need to turn this sector into an example in order to guarantee the efficiency of future cooperative agriculture.

Consequently, the cooperative sector is still very limited to this day. Its development is very slow; the state, as a matter of fact, holds it back rather than stimulates it. In 1963, there were 230 "Agricultural and Cattle-Raising Societies," all of them very small, almost family groups. They covered about 17,000 hectares, of which 7,000 were contributed by the members and 10,000 by the state. In 1966 there were 270 cooperatives, covering about 20,000 hectares. These production cooperatives work along the same lines as cooperatives that one can find in any capitalist country. There is no direct intervention in their administration or management. At most, the production plans of each cooperative are supervised by ANAP in the same fashion as those of the private peasants. An important part of the produce may be marketed on the free market. Profits from sales* to the state remain entirely in the hands of the cooperators, who are nevertheless obliged to invest a certain part every year. All questions relating to material supplies and production plans are handled with ANAP.

Let us also point out that other kinds of cooperatives were created with private farmers: particularly 537 credit and service cooperatives with about fifty thousand members.

Cuban agriculture, both the state and the private sectors, has thus always been characterized, in large measure, by strong administrative centralization and a rather strict compartmentalization into different sectors.


1 See particularly R. Dumont, Terres Vivantes (Paris: Plon, 1961), pp. 86-101. English edition, Lands Alive (New York: Monthly Review Press).

2 Juan Marinello and Nikolai Petertsev, Los rasgos principales del periodo de transicion del capitalismo al socialismo (Havana, 1963), p. 63.

3 Article b, paragraph 5, of the law stipulates, in fact: "For the payment of indemnification the Cuban state will create an Indemnification Fund which will annually be provided with 25% of the foreign currency obtained through the sale to the United States of sugar in excess of 3,000,000 tons and at a price not inferior to 5.75 cents per English pound; the special account opened in the National Bank of Cuba will be called 'Fund for the payment of goods and enterprises of the United States.'"

4 The Law of "Recuperation of Ill-gained Wealth" (December 22, 1959) allowed for the confiscation of the wealth of Batista and his family, as well as that of people who enriched themselves notoriously under cover of the dictatorship.

"Donations" came principally from municipalities and a number of revolutionary peasants who gave their land to INRA.

"Voluntary sales" were carried out by proprietors who renounced their rights to land which they were authorized to keep under the agrarian reform law. These sales still continue at present, but of course at a slower rhythm.

5 Source: Departamento Legal de Tierras, INRA.

6 We have translated as "Sugar Cooperative" the Cuban expression: "Cane Cooperative."

7 Estadisticas Agropecuarias, Junta Central de Planificacion, 1963, p. 4.

8 It should be mentioned at this point that in Pinar del Rio Province a group of ten People's Farms were administratively regrouped into one "Agrupacion," called PR 2, and is considered as a single statistical entity. Likewise, in Havana Province, the "Agrupacion Camilo Cienfuegos" really comprises eight People's Farms. Finally, in the Province of Las Villas, a particular administrative unit, known by the name of "Plan Escambray," contains twenty-nine People's Farms, which are also considered as a single statistical entity.

9 "Granjas Estatales."

10 The original number was 80, but it was reduced in 1965.

11 Departamento Legal de Tierras, INRA, May 1961.

12 During the year 1962, about 30,000 supplementary hectares were further distributed to the small peasantry, which increased the surface in the hands of owners of less than 5 caballerias to 3.563,000 hectares.

13 Asociacion Nacional de Pequenos Agricultores.

14 These free markets were allowed to function only in the countryside. Elsewhere, the prices fixed by the state buying organizations, even if their relationships were not always satisfactory, were usually remunerative.

15 Fincas administradas.

16 Sociedad Agropecuaria.