In this book Archibald R. M. Ritter (Carleton University) describes the development strategies and evaluates the economic performance of Cuba in 1959-1972. He distinguishes three development strategies, dealing respectively with: 1) growth (policy, allocation, priorities); 2) institutional arrangements (organization, administration); and 3) mobilization (ideology, incentives). Ritter describes the origins and characteristics of and changes in these strategies and evaluates their economic (not politico-sociological) efficacy in achieving four goals: income distribution, full employment, economic growth, and external economic independence.
The book opens with a brief survey of the economic history of Cuba, from the discovery to Castro, with special emphasis on the role of sugar. Four key socio-economic problems at the eve of the Revolution are then identified and described. (These problems are fundamental because they eventually become the economic targets of the revolutionaries and the author’s evaluative criteria to judge the latter’s performance.) A brief chapter sketches the transitional period after the revolutionary takeover (1959-1961), characterized by competing socio-economic designs to restructure the economy. The core of the book is composed of four chapters that analyze the development strategies under Socialism. Chapters Four and Five discuss the origins, implementation, and results of the two growth strategies: the first (1961-1963) stressed import substitution through industrialization and agricultural diversification, while the second (1964-1970) shifted toward an export-oriented, sugar-centered economy. Chapters Six and Seven, in turn, deal with the origins, implementation, and results of two divergent institutional and mobilization strategies: the first (1961-1966) closely followed the Soviet model of economic organization and incentives; and the second (1966-1970) adopted the Chinese model. Another chapter updates the book to mid-1972, describing the changes that occurred in the three strategies (particularly the institutional and mobilizational) in 1970-1972, with the Cuban shift back to the Soviet model. The book closes with an integration of the various strategies and a summary of the overall economic performance of the Revolution.
Using the four evaluational criteria, Ritter concludes that in the period 1959-1970 the development strategies were “quite successful” in achieving a more equitable income distribution and eliminating overt (although not covert) unemployment, while “less successful” in generating rapid economic growth and reducing external dependence. He predicts that the decade of the 1970s will bring better results because of the shift toward a more-balanced growth strategy, and rational institutional and mobilization strategies, coupled with the payoff of the heavy investment of the 1960s.
Ritter has obviously drawn from my previous works on the subject (mainly from Revolutionary Change in Cuba, University of Pittsburgh Press, 1971, Chapter Eleven: “Economic Policies and Growth”): his selection of four key socioeconomic problems of the pre-revolutionary era, and their use as targets to evaluate revolutionary performance, are similar to mine; he coincides with me also in the basic characteristics and periodization of the development strategies; finally, his conclusions on economic performance are almost identical to my own. But he has surpassed my work by expanding and updating the information (particularly statistics for the period 1968-1970), going into more detail, using an improved methodology (i.e., distinguishing three types of strategies and treating them separately), and better integrating the subject matter. His book, therefore, has become the best treatment available on the development strategies of Socialist Cuba.