In Cuba, the 1960s ended on an unsettled note. The island was faced with economic dislocation, widespread labor absenteeism, low worker morale, poor product quality, and the failure of the ten-million-ton-sugar crop.
Castro was forced to acknowledge the inadequacy of Cuban revolutionary models of development. He was going to have to give in to Soviet advice and recommendations if he wanted to obtain the assistance that his country needed.
One of the first indications of the tightening relationship with the Soviet Union was a visit by the Soviet fleet in June 1969. These visits would continue for the next two decades.
Fidel began the 1970s by making several speeches in which he strongly criticized past revolutionary policies and proposed changes in national administration. He targeted administrative centralization; excessive bureaucratization, especially in decision-making; the absorption of administrative functions by the Cuban Communist Party (PCC); the overarching role of the state in all national affairs; the one-manager system of state enterprises; and the weak and undemocratic state of mass organizations. After delineating specific deficiencies, he proposed to reorganize (and revitalize) each responsible revolutionary institution.
Reorganization was to achieve 3 objectives:
- it would separate the administrative and political functions of the government and the party;
- it would cluster various central ministries with connected functions into groups that would expedite planning and coordination;
- it would provide a collective approach to the management of state enterprises by involving the manager along with representatives of the workers, the party, and the community.
Mass participation would also be extended to the trade union movement and to other collective organizations.
In essence, Castro planned a process of democratization which would transform national administration.
Changes would directly alter the urban environment by shifting all functions that didn’t require centralization to “city-district bodies, integrated by representatives of the workers and of youth, women’s and student organizations.”
As a prototype, Fidel reported an experiment in an eastern suburb of Havana in which
some eight neighbors working every day until 11:00 P.M., with construction equipment and material supplied by the state, built a baseball field and a communal garage and repaired some roads.
Actually, what Castro was proposing was a process of institutionalization that could possible undermine his own charismatic, personalistic style of government. Power was to be delegated at the same time that it was to be centrally coordinated by the administration. The party was to be revitalized, and the army was to become increasingly specialized.
In the 1960s, all power was concentrated in Castro’s leadership. He served as prime minister, first secretary of the party, and commander-in-chief of the armed forces.
The Council of Ministers – composed of Castro and his inner circle of loyalists – controlled all aspects of administration, including executive, legislative, and judicial functions. There was no separation of these three main institutions.
Most ministers and directors of central agencies came from the Rebel Army as did two-thirds of the members of the PCC Central Committee.
In contrast, the post-reform administrative system has been described as “institutionalization following the Soviet model.”
New institutions, in place by the end of the 1970s, reorganized the executive powers, the judicial system, and the criminal and procedural codes.
However, administrative reform wasn’t enough. It was also necessary to address the military directly in order to ensure its continuing effectiveness.