In January 1959, as rebel troops entered Havana, the urban underground had seized the offices of all thirty-three national unions, ousting those Batistiano leaders who had not fled the country. Subsequently local elections - free, democratic, and mostly by secret ballot - confirmed the overwhelming victory of the July 26 movement. Except in the food and textiles workers' unions, the communists had little support. And even there they represented a small minority of membership. When the Sugar Workers Confederation convened, of the more than 900 delegates elected, only 15 were communists. On November 8 over 1.5 million workers met in assemblies across the country to choose 3,500 delegates to the Tenth National Congress of the CTC. The results were a complete victory for the democrats, as the July 26 candidates garnered more than 90 percent of the votes. Only among the tobacco workers was there any doubt. The communist Lazaro Peņa attempted to manipulate the balloting by holding his own rump assembly, made up mostly of ringers. When the Fidelistas protested the irregularities, the minister of labor, Augusto Martinez Sanchez, agreed to investigate.
As the delegates gathered in Havana, it seemed certain that the communists would have no significant role to play in the labor movement. But Fidel Castro thought otherwise. He appreciated the strong and consistent support given him by the leaders of the PSP. He addressed the assembly twice, on November 18, the opening day, and again in the early morning hours of the twenty-second. In his welcoming speech he called for unity. Patently he did not want an electoral contest. The sole issue, he said, was the unbreakable solidarity of the revolution. "Is there a single worker who does not agree with us?" he asked. "The revolution stands above everything! This is the party of the country. It is justice that unites comrades. It is patriotic ideals that unite us. . . . This is our strength. The spectacle that would most please our enemies is any division in the labor congress. They fear the tremendous strength of the working class. They know that it is invincible. They are going to listen carefully to the congress to see whether there are problems or difficulties. This means that it is the duty of all of us to see that the congress is an example of revolutionary unity. Against the attacks of our enemies there must be discipline," he said.
Despite Fidel Castro's urging, the delegates remained unconvinced. They did not want to share power with the communists. They had come to discuss, debate, and vote freely for their own candidates. To them that had been the essence of Castro's revolution. Of the thirty- three federations, twenty-seven opposed allowing any PSP members on the executive committee. When Castro returned to the rostrum, he was in no mood to brook dissent. His voice was sober, his face stern. Like a disapproving schoolmaster, he threatened the delegates with violence. "This is a shameful spectacle," he shouted. In the end, they had no choice but to capitulate. Only a single candidate would be offered for any office, and each would be handpicked. Henceforth, decisions would be made by "consensus," that is, handed down from above. Within a year most of the labor officials in Cuba came from the PSP or the pro-communist wing of the July 26 movement.