The Day Fidel Castro Eliminated Private Businesses / Baldomero Vasquez Soto

On 13 March 1968, on the steps of the University of Havana, Fidel Castro delivered a speech where he announced the so-called “Revolutionary Offensive” stage, a speech that we consider — from the ideological point of view — as the most important among his countless speeches.

In retrospect, that date represented the final lift-off of the tragic journey, with no return tickets. which would lead the Cuban people to socialist totalitarianism, toward the hell of misery and repression in which we are still living today. For decades, until today, we would also feel the catastrophic consequences on the Cuban economy of the measures announced and implemented by Castro, which swept away the productive fabric of the small urban businesses of the country.

The Commander in Chief announced, to the leaders of the Communist Party, of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, student leaders, the unions, and the Women’s Federation, that the time had come: “this moment is one for embarking on an all-out, powerful, Revolutionary Offensive.”

Leaving aside the previous manipulations and deceits, where he swore he wasn’t a Communist, he knew he could reveal the intentions that always his between his bushy beard because he already controlled, the press, radio, television, unions, universities and all the other institutions of the country, aside from the Armed Forces.

The objective of the Offensive was to built socialism, communism in Cuba; and to do this, he said, “Capitalism his to be uprooted.”

What the dictator had in mind, he said without mincing words: “It must be said that there will be no future in this nation for private business, the self-employed, private industry, or anything.”

What he proposed, then, was to remove the entire small private commercial sector left on the island, since the large and medium enterprises had always been expropriated. He would confiscate all the small urban businesses and they would become state property, and he would turn the business owners into state employees, or his, which is all the same.

To discredit the office of the small businesses, and expropriate them, Castro classified commercial activity as unproductive and parasitical. He said:

“There still remains among us a real scum of privileged persons, who live on the work of the others and who live considerably better then the rest. They are drones in perfect physical condition who put up a stand or open a small place and earn 50 pesos per day…if people were to ask what kind of revolution is this that allows these groups of parasites.”

The Revolution against the bars

Posing as a moralist, as a good Communist, Fidel Castro justified the guillotine that he applied to small businesses, based on surveys of the Communist Party about the bars of Havana and about small businesses in general.

We quote verbatim for the unbelievers:

“We see incredible things … there still remain in Havana… 955 private bars making money hand over fist and selling everything.”

And the figure is stressed with the histrionics that he always performed: “Nine hundred and fifty-five bars!”

The “investigation” of the bars inquired about data such as gross revenues and profits (55% had insignificant earnings of 25 pesos a day), Revolutionary attitude (72% didn’t support the Revolution, hence Castro’s interest in ruining them) and the type of clientele that frequented these businesses (which was classified derisively as antisocials). Based on this information, the study recommended that “the bars should be operated or closed.”

The Revolution against all businesses

The survey of the Communist Party of the small businesses in Havana yielded data about the legality and hygienic conditions of the businesses, but also about their owners: how many asked permission to leave the country and how many ran their companies directly.

The data did not support the savage expropriation carried out against all businesses: 72% were legally constituted, 50% had good hygienic conditions, only 5.8% of the owners had asked for permission to leave the country and 88% of the owners worked in their businesses. But, none of this mattered because Cuba’s owner made his decision. He expressed it with the following phrase:

Gentlemen, we did not make a revolution here to establish the right to do business! … When will they completely understand that this is the revolution of the socialists? That this is the revolution of the communists?

The fatal “Cuban March” of ’68

So, to do away with the “privileged,” “parasites” and “lazy,” in March of 1968 Castro attacked small private businesses, to confiscate them all:

“There were 55,636 small businesses, many operated by one or two people. Among them 11,878 grocery stores (bodegas), 3,130 butchers, 3,198 bars, 8,101 food establishments (restaurants, friterías, cafeterias, etc), 6,653 laundries, 3,643 barbers, 1,188 shoe repairs, 4,544 auto mechanics, 1,598 artisans, 3,345 carpenters.” [Source]

This commercial raid has been the principal cause of the impoverishment that Cuban people are suffering even today, and not the embargo by the American imperialists, as the Castro propaganda manipulated in his complaint the UN since 1992, and which had echoed through the Left throughout the world.

Cuban Script in Venezuela: War on private companies

Agnes Heller reminds us that “history, for good or ill, is a learning process.” We learn from the ill-starred experience of Cuban socialism and recognize the importance of the private sector to generate employment, income, goods and services that improve the standard of living of the population. We don’t cultivate our anti-merchant prejudices, product of nationalized oil, because we play the socialist government’s game of war against the businesses. We must openly defend private enterprise to stop Venezuela from being turned into a socialist hell like that the bearded dinosaur established in Cuba.

Heller suffered Communism in Hungary. Given our circumstances, I conclude with some guiding words of this author:

“When the majority of the population choose these strategic options (like socialism) they have not had any personal experience with them, and later they no longer have the slightest possibility of changing their mind.”

Cubanet, 19 February 2014,