add olive oil to a stockpan at medium heat and add the diced onions. once settled in, reduce to low heat. Cook until onions are soft.
Add the sugar and cook, stiring til onions start to carmelize a bit.
add potatoes, carrots and celery and stir the mixture occasionally for about 5 minutes.
Add the barley and the tomatoes and 4 cans of water. Stir well and raise the heat to high heat until the soup boils. Add the salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium, medium-high so soup continues to bubble; stiring occasionally to prevent sticking until vegetables are tender.
Add the cabbage, peas and beans and bring back to a bubble. Cook for 5 minutes.