By the mid 1960s, Cubans realized that the strategies of the early 1960s had failed to meet even their most modest objectives. Instead, efforts at import substitution and industrialization had resulted in widespread social distress and economic dislocation.
New strategies after 1968 involved increased emphasis on all aspects of agricultural production, with a renewed prominence on sugar production, but including dairy products, beef, citrus fruits, tropical agricultural products, coffee, and tobacco. This was to be a means of generating foreign exchange and a way of increasing imports of machinery and equipment, which in turn would increase production of agriculture and agricultural commodities. Industrial planning shifted to the development of those sectors that utilized Cuban natural resources most efficiently, with special attention to those industries that supported agricultural production.
The renewed emphasis on sugar offered an obvious and relatively cost effective method of reversing a mounting balance of trade deficit by mobilizing efforts around a sector in which Cuba possessed adequate personnel and sufficient experience to achieve success. The rise of the world price of sugar in 1963, moreover, served to confirm the wisdom and timeliness of once again promoting the expansion of sugar production.
After the mid 1960s, sugar production once again received preference and priority. Output was expected to increase steadily, and was to climax in 1970 with the production of a 10 million ton sugar crop.
The objective became an obsession. Virtually all national resources and collective resolve were diverted to the task. The campaign implied more than a commitment to forming a new economy. It also involved forging a ‘new consciousness.’
Emphasis was given to consciencia, the creation of a fresh mindfulness that would lead to a unique revolutionary ethic.
Cubans announed their intention to use moral — rather than material — incentives to create wealth. The revolutionary leadership repudiated the prolonged use of material incentives in the form of wage differentials, administrative bonuses, and salary scales. Payment for overtime was also eliminated.
In essence, material incentives were proclaimed incompatible with the goals of the revolution, and wages were divorced from productivity and the quality of output. Production achievements were acknowledged in a non monetary way with badges, medallions, scrolls, and awards, frequently distributed by Castro himself. Exemplary workers were recognized and celebrated at rallies, parades, and mass meetings. Of course, the fact that there were comparatively few material goods available to distribute undoubtedly influenced the decision to emphasize moral rewards. Nevertheless, the goal was the making of a new man (hombre nuevo). motivated not by expectation of personal gain but by prospects of collective advancement.
The hombre nuevo was disciplined, highly motivated, and hardworking. Work was an end unto itself, the means by which to purge persisting bourgeois vices and complete the transformation into the hombre nuevo . . . . The development of the hombre nuevo and the attainment of economic growth were proclaimed to be one and the same process.
The appeal to consciousness, with emphasis on sacrifice and solidarity, was critical to the regime’s effort to raise lagging levels of production.
The first test of the ‘new man’ was associated with the drive to produce the 10 million ton sugar harvest whereby citizens — especially those in Havana — learned to willingly defer their consumption expectations in consideration of the future goals of national development.