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Digital Archive International History Declassified

September 04, 1963

FROM THE DIARY OF O. T. DARUSENKOV, RECORD OF A CONVERSATION WITH CUBAN MINISTER OF INDUSTRY ERNESTO GUEVARA, 27 AUGUST 1963

This document was made possible with support from the Leon Levy Foundation

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    Guevara discusses Cuban economic development, Chinese anti-Soviet propaganda, a proposed PURS (United Party of the Socialist Revolution) party program, and a training program for Cubans in the Soviet Union.
    "From the Diary of O. T. Darusenkov, Record of a Conversation with Cuban Minister of Industry Ernesto Guevara, 27 August 1963 ," September 04, 1963, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, TsKhSD, f. 5, op. 49, d. 654, ll. 296-299, r. 9084. Translated for CWIHP by Gary Goldberg https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/117068
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[Stamp]: Declassified

from the diary of

Darusenkov, O. T.

4 September 1963

Top Secret Copy No 2

No 310

RECORD OF A CONVERSATION

with Minister of Industry of the Republic of Cuba

Ernesto GUEVARA

27 August 1963

I met with Ernesto Guevara at the Ministry of Industry and had a conversation with him in the course of which the following issues were touched upon:

1. Guevara shared several ideas about the broad discussion taking place right now in the Cuban leadership of questions about the economic development of the country. He said that the recent speeches of Fidel Castro regarding the problem of raising agricultural productivity have great significance; however, they do not mean that any change has occurred in the general orientation of the economic development of Cuba [or] that Cuba is making a decisive tilt towards agriculture. The Cuban leadership, and in particular Fidel Castro himself, has for a long time set the task of sharply increasing agricultural production, especially the production of sugar cane. The problem is that earlier these goals hung in the air, but now specific purposeful work is being done on them, from which we expect big results.

Agriculture, Guevara continued, is holding back the development of our industry: it yields little hard currency and raw material. Most of all, the sugar industry is suffering because of a lack of raw material, which has decisive significance for the overall indicators of industrial production in the country. Thus, for the seven months of the current year the cost of the gross output for the Ministry of Industry as a whole is 97% of the cost of the gross output for same period last year, that is, a reduction of 3% occurred. However, if you exclude the production of sugar, relying almost entirely on agricultural production, then there is a growth of 6%. Solving the lag in agriculture will in large part facilitate an improvement in industrial operations. Nevertheless, increased attention to questions of agricultural production should not lead to such a conclusion that industrialization of the country should be neglected, including the problem of providing Cuba with its own metal.

In reply to my question as to how to understand Fidel Castro’s words at the holiday anniversary at the Institute of Water Resources that agriculture will be the basis for development of the Cuban economy for the next decade or two and that from the economic point of view perhaps it would be more advantageous to invest money not in the construction of a metalworks, but in irrigation projects, the development of chemistry, and machine building for the needs of agriculture, Guevara replied that the question of whether or not to build a metalworks is still far from being decided. There are many arguments in favor of its construction.

By the way, stressed Guevara, we still have not received from the Soviet Union the feasibility report for the metalworks project, although the deadline for submission, August, is almost over and therefore we do not have an point of reference [iskhodnaya baza] for discussing this question.

Under present conditions in the world, he continued, any country without its own metal will constantly experience difficulty in developing its economy. We are especially vulnerable in that regard inasmuch as we are very far from the center of our economic relations. The Soviet Union is trying in every way to satisfy our needs, but sometimes it is not in a condition to do this for the simple reason that it is experiencing difficulties itself with several kinds of production which we need. Let’s take tin for example. The production of canned fruit promises us great prospects, but a large quantity of specialized tin is needed for this and the Soviet Union cannot deliver it. The same can be said about tin for manufacturing bottle caps for chilled beverages which are consumed in great quantity in Cuba.

And there’s another problem, Guevara said further. Cuba very much needs to develop its own shipbuilding. We live on an island. Our commerce is done by sea and we practically have no fleet of our own. We do not have a serious fishing fleet. But in order to build modern ships we need more steel, but where do we get it without shipping it across the ocean?

Some people, he continued, say that since Cuba does not have its own coke the cost of metal would supposedly be very high and therefore it’s not advantageous for the Cubans to develop ferrous metallurgy. However they forget that if leading technology and organization of production are employed then the import of coke is not so terrible – Japanese metallurgy operates not only on imported coke but on imported ore and not only operates but competes successfully with other countries which have their own coke and ore. Everything depends on how the matter is done.

In a word, Guevara summarized, the question of whether or not to build a metalworks is still not decided and we will firmly advocate its construction.

2. I told Guevara that the Chinese embassy in Cuba recently unleashed a broad anti-Soviet propaganda campaign. The matter has even reached the point that anti-Soviet literature is being distributed among Cuban comrades with a written request to show it to Soviet specialists working in those or other Cuban organizations.

Guevara replied that he knows about this and could inform me especially confidentially that the distribution of the above literature is a provocation organized by some as yet unknown embassy.

I myself, said Guevara, have received a collection of such literature with a similar request and immediately protested to the Chinese ambassador. The latter categorically denied any participation of the Chinese embassy in this affair. The pamphlets were subjected to analysis in a special laboratory. The analysis showed that neither the paper nor the type of these pamphlets is the same as the original pamphlets routinely distributed by the Chinese embassy.

In Guevara’s opinion, this literature was delivered to Cuba via some embassy in a diplomatic pouch. He also thinks that Cuban Trotskyites are taking part in the distribution.* In particular, one employee is suspected of the distribution of Chinese pamphlets in the Ministry of Industry, an Argentinean by birth and a Trotskyite by political affiliation. Covert observation of him was recently begun.

3. In reply to the question about what’s new in regards to the proposed PURS [United Party of the Socialist Revolution] Congress and whether work had begun to draw up a Party Program, Guevara replied that the convening of the Congress is being delayed and it would not be held earlier than the beginning of next year, given that the process of organizing the Party was still far from completion, especially as regards mid-level leadership. Work to draw up a Party Program had still not started. In principle, said Guevara, we have a draft Program drawn up by Anibal Escalante, but it will not serve as a basis for our Program. Its basis should flow from the ideas expressed in a number of Program speeches of Fidel Castro and also the Second Havana Declaration.

4. At the conclusion of the conversation Ernesto Guevara said that a very welcome event was noted not long ago in the Ministry of Industry – the first group of Cubans studying in the Soviet Union had returned. We are very satisfied at the level of their industrial and political training and fighting spirit, he stressed, and expect that they will give us substantial help.

In principle, Guevara continued, we are very satisfied with the training of Cuban students in the USSR and China. They are studying there seriously and they are growing remarkably, politically. Unfortunately, it is impossible to say the same about several socialist countries of Eastern Europe, especially Poland. We have even decided not to send any more of our students to Poland, since they are quickly becoming accustomed there to a frivolous way of life and completely incorrect attitudes have appeared among them.

Second Secretary of the USSR Embassy in Cuba

[signature]

O. Darusenkov

* There is a Trotskyite organization in Cuba which publishes an underground newspaper "La voz proletaria" ["The Proletarian Voice"].

[There is handwriting at the bottom of the first page and next to the Trotskyite reference]: "Note. The material is informative. We would like to send [this] to the Department for Economic Cooperation with Socialist Countries. Chief of a Sector [signature illegible]";

[handwriting to the left of the above]: "Brief the Department for Economic Cooperation with Socialist Countries [about this]. 12.XI.63 [signature] A. Makarov"

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