While Soviet efforts to strengthen their position in the Middle East were less than successful, the push continued in other parts of the Third World where Cuban and Soviet interests were only beginning to coalesce.
As Cuba’s actions in the early 1960s indicate, it would be a mistake to think of Castro as merely a Soviet surrogate or “puppet.”
Throughout the 1960s, there was an intensive effort to militarize the capital city of Havana. However, this process was shaped by forces working to consolidate the revolution rather than forces reflecting the Cold War competition between the United States and the Soviet Union.
Much of Havana’s transformation focused on a militarized paradigm of development which, at first, was concentrated on the diversification of agriculture. This strategy, while bearing some similarity to models employed in communist China, was not based on Soviet methodology.
While emphasizing a strong need for planning, Cuba’s focus was on decentralization and provincial self-sufficiency.
A good example can be seen in Castro’s efforts to ruralize Havana and urbanize the countryside. Programs were designed to make the capital more able to provide for its own food production.
More importantly, to overcome conditions of underdevelopment, during the early 1960s, the central focus was on the reduction of the historic dependence on sugar exports.
Sugar symbolized the sources of old repression – slavery when Cuba was a colony of Spain, subservience to foreigners when the island was a republic, and, always, uncertainty in the context of volatile market conditions.
Lessened dependence on sugar was to be achieved in two ways: industrialization and agricultural diversification.
Still, efforts to reduce dependency on sugar did not signify a total abandonment of sugar production, but rather an attempt to pursue lower production at stable and predictable levels of output. At the same time, greater emphasis was given to non-sugar exports.
Cuban planners also hoped to achieve self-sufficiency in food production.
These strategies were expected to reduce Cuban susceptibility to the vagaries of the world sugar market, reduce the need for foreign imports through internal production, improve the Cuban balance of trade, and create new employment opportunities.
Industrial objectives included the development of new import substitution industries, specifically, metallurgy, chemicals, heavy machinery, and transportation equipment.
The investment component of this strategy, Cuba expected, would originate from credits from socialist countries and would allow the organization of new industrial and manufacturing units.
Domestic consumption was to be curtailed to divert resources into industrialization and rapid economic growth.
It would be wrong to interpret Cuba’s actions in these early years as an attempt to spread Marxist – Leninist ideology. Instead, the emphasis was on conciencia, the creation of a fresh mindfulness that would lead to a unique revolutionary ethic.