The Figures Say It All
In Cuba, private farmers, whether individuals or organized into cooperatives, only work 23.4% of the country's 6.3 million hectares of arable land, while the State owns the other 76.6%, or 4.8 million hectares, according to data from 2015 National Bureau of Statistics and Information (ONEI).
Of that 76.6%, Stalinist-like state and quasi-state enterprises, dubbed Basic Units of Cooperative Production (UBPC), managed by the Government, enjoy the best lands and financial resources, controlling 50% (3.2 million hectares), while the other 26% consists of land leased by the regime to some 172,000 usufruct farmers.
According to the ONEI, in the first half of 2015 the country produced 5.7 million tons of meats, vegetables, rice, beans and fruit, but state-owned enterprises and UBPCs were responsible for just 10% of that, or 570,000 tons. The other 90% was produced by private farmers and usufruct growers, with a total agricultural area of just 3.1 million hectares.
Surprising? Not if you consider that about 2,360 years ago Aristotle, refuting his teacher Plato, realized that private ownership was preferable to collective because the "the diversity of humanity is more productive" and "commonly-held goods receive less care than what is privately owned." The dreamer Plato, meanwhile, proposed abolishing private property to build a perfect society based on collective or communal property.
In the 13th century, in the heart of the Middle Ages, the philosopher and clergyman Thomas Aquinas argued that "individual owners are more responsible and administrate better." Half a millennium later one of the founders of the modern era, Scotland's Adam Smith, discovered the "invisible hand" that no one had noticed before and that makes the world go round. "In seeking his own interest," Smith wrote in The Wealth of Nations (1776), "men often better serve society than when they actually seek to."
That is, by natural instinct all human beings seek a clear personal benefit and, as they do so, it is society that benefits. The material wealth of a nation is nothing more than the sum of the wealth generated by its individuals.
That was what the former Spanish President, Felipe González, conveyed to Fidel Castro in Havana in the mid-80s: "Fidel, the lettuce I grow in my back yard will always be better than what the State does." The dictator replied that the State is more likely to use technology, money and other resources to achieve greater productivity.
In the late 50s a Marxist economist leader, Oscar Pino Santos, leader of the Popular Socialist Party (PSP) complained in an essay that Cuba was importing no less than 29% of the food it consumed, a crime caused by the domination of major landowners and "exploitation by US imperialism and the national bourgeoisie."
Today, under socialism, the country now imports 80% of its food ($2 billion per year) and the sprawling swathes of State-owned land produce even less than when the PSP descried the situation.
In Cuba, according to the ONEI, only 3.4 million hectares are actually cultivated. That is, 54% of its land produces nothing. In 2014, of 1.8 million hectares of land owned by the large centralized state enterprises, only 329,584 hectares were being cultivated. In other words, 17.8% of the total.
"Oppressed" Cuba ate better
Back when Cuba was "plundered" by capitalist private property, it was actually self-sufficient for beef (in 1940), milk, tropical fruits, coffee and tobacco. And it was almost self-sufficient for fish and seafood, pork, chicken, meats, vegetables, and eggs. It was the Latin American country with the highest fish consumption, and third in calorie consumption, with 2,682 daily. There was one cow per inhabitant. And the country ranked 7th in the world in average agricultural wage, at $3 a day, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO).
Regarding private property in general, and not only in agriculture, according to the UN Statistical Yearbook of 1958 Cuba ranked eighth in the world in average industrial sector salary, at $6.00 a day, above Great Britain ($5.75), West Germany ($4.13) and France ($3.26). That list was headed up by the US ($16.80) and Canada ($11.73).
That same year, Cuba ranked second in Latin America in number of cars, with 40 inhabitants per vehicle; boasted the most rail track in Latin America, with one kilometer for every 8 square kilometers; and was a leader in television ownership, with 28 inhabitants per unit (third in the world).
The island "dominated by imperialism" had the lowest inflation rate in Latin America, at 1.4%, and was the third most solvent economy in the region, thanks to its gold reserves and the stability of its peso, always on par with the dollar. It exported more goods than it imported, and had a positive trade balance. It was the Latin American country with the lowest infant mortality rate, and that which dedicated the highest percentage of public funds to education: 23%. (Costa Rica, 20%; Argentina, 19.6%, and México, 14.7%). In 1953, France, Britain, the Netherlands and Finland had, proportionately, fewer doctors and dentists than Cuba.
In 1958 Cuba was also the Latin American country with the most theaters (in proportion to the population); was second in number of newspapers, with 8 inhabitants per copy, after Uruguay (6); and second too in telephones, with 28 inhabitants per device.
In short, that nation subjected to the "voracious" greed of capitalism and private property was one of three wealthiest Latin American countries, measured by per capita income, at $374; double that of Spain ($180) and almost equal to Italy.
But in 1959 the Castro brothers seized the power, implemented what Plato had proposed, and the results are obvious. In a country that attracted immigrants from around the world (1.3 million immigrants between 1902 and 1930), now almost everyone wants to emigrate, in any way possible, because "the situation is getting worse."
Nearly 57 years of Marxist-Leninist dictatorship have rendered Cuba one of the three poorest countries in the hemisphere, the most technologically backward, and one lacking the most basic human freedoms. Despite the dramatic evidence, the corrupt political/military leadership is dedicated to "revising" socialism, and refuses to unleash Cubans' creative potential.
Castroism acts to restrain the invisible hand that built the modern world, instead insisting on a philosophy summed up by an old saying from the Spanish countryside: "The master's eye fattens the horse."