Time is short in Cuba: the world revolution versus the “Chinese way”

The bourgeois internationally are hoping that when Castro dies their plans to reintroduce capitalism on the island can be concretised. The imperialists have different opinions about how this is to be achieved, but the real threat to the Cuban Revolution comes from within.

They had already prepared previously to vent their spleen on the 80th birthday of Fidel Castro. But after the emergency admission to hospital of the Comandante the bourgeois media took the opportunity two weeks earlier to pour their poison over the heroic island of Cuba.

Lies, clichés, distortions, facts taken out of context, they pull out all the stops to slander Castro and the Cuban Revolution. What they are aiming at is not so much Castro himself but the very possibility of socialism. The bourgeoisie despises the idea that we can fight for a better world and that we therefore need to get rid of capitalism. For millions of people Fidel Castro is the personification of this idea. Together with Che Guevara he led the Cuban Revolution, which in the beginning of the sixties abolished capitalism through the nationalisation of the land, industry and the banks. It is precisely for this reason that the ruling class has never forgiven Castro. The introduction of a planned economy formed the basis for the development of high-level education and healthcare, accessible to everybody. As a result of this, the living standards and quality of life of the average Cuban citizen by far surpass the misery that prevails in the bulk of the so-called "Third World", despite he economic blockade instigated by the United States.

Of course there are problems in Cuba. Many of these stem from the failure of the revolution in the rest of Latin America and in the advanced capitalist countries. During the 1960s and 1970s the revolution was suppressed in Chile, Bolivia, Argentina, etc. This made the Cuban Revolution much more dependent on aid from the Soviet Union, where the Stalinist bureaucratisation had taken hold thirty years earlier. Thus the grip of the Russian Stalinist bureaucracy became stronger. The bureaucratisation and everything connected with it gave the imperialists a chance to blacken the revolution.

This also affected Cuban foreign policy. Before, especially under Che Guevara, they actively tried to spread the revolution to other countries even if the guerrilla methods did not lead to the desired results. Now, Cuba's foreign policy fell into line with the foreign policy of the Soviet Union, based on "realpolitik" and peaceful coexistence.

The collapse of the Eastern Bloc at the beginning of the 1990s, however, was an unmitigated disaster for the Cuban economy. In one go the favourable trade relations disappeared. Cuba was now completely dependent on its own resources. It can be considered a small miracle that the revolution was able to survive on this small island in the belly of the USA. The basis of this "miracle" is the revolutionary conviction of the Cuban masses.

The Chinese way

In order to survive, the government introduced limited market reforms such as joint-ventures with multinationals in certain sectors and in particular the liberalisation of tourism. In a sea of capitalism it is impossible to keep one's head above the water without economic relations with foreign countries. These market reforms, however, led to the establishment of a new middle class that forms the social basis for a possible restoration of capitalism. In the first place there are the bureaucrats who are linked to the tourist sector and who have links with multinationals through joint ventures. They would like to see their privileges translated into property, which to this day is still illegal. The black market and criminality are also flourishing. Obscure figures who earn good money out of this are not keen on reversing the market reforms either. Thus, the social basis for the counter-revolution consists of different layers.

Often the right-wing Cubans in Miami are pointed to as the battering ram with which Washington wants to break the Cuban Revolution. They have close ties with the ultra-right wing of the Republicans, including the Bush family. But there is another wing of the ruling class that understands that they have to keep the Miami Cubans under control. For a conflict with the Miami Cubans would provoke the Cuban people and give a boost to the anti-imperialist left wing. This more astute section of the imperialists (in Europe but also in the US) put their bets on their Trojan horse: the advocates of capitalism on the island itself. These are not so much the dissidents. These are useful for propaganda purposes against the revolution for "violation of human rights" and so on. The Trojan horse is made up of the new layers inside the Cuban state bureaucracy, the advocates of the "Chinese way". They want to gradually undermine the planned economy and the revolutionary achievements with the replacement of the market, but under the strict control of the Communist Party. They have learned from the quick transition in the Soviet Union, which led to a total collapse.

Fidel Castro has always resisted the restoration of capitalism. Leaders who too openly spoke in favour of capitalism were removed, for example the Minister of Foreign Affairs Robaina. Fidel himself also recognised in a historic speech at Havana University on November 17th 2005 that the greatest danger is not the US but rather the internal enemy: corruption and the bureaucracy (see a transcript of Castro's speech). Thus, it is no coincidence that the bourgeois media busily speculate about the death of Fidel. The loss of Fidel, for them, is closely linked to the perspective for the reintroduction of capitalism.

World revolution

The revolutionary victory in 1959 and the overthrow of capitalism in the following two or three years were a massive step forward. But strictly speaking, Socialism will only be possible if the working class in the developed world triumphs ‑ in other words, if the world revolution triumphs. The advances that the planned economy has allowed in Cuba would then be multiplied one hundredfold. Until then Cuba remains a transitional regime, and transitional regimes can be reversed.

At the end of the day the fate of the Cuban Revolution will be decided on an international level by the victory or defeat of the Latin American Revolution spearheaded by Venezuela. Only socialist revolutions in other countries can break Cuba's isolation. That was the standpoint of Lenin and Trotsky with regards to Russia and it remains valid today. That was also the perspective of Che Guevara when he talked of "one, two, three, many Vietnams" and castigated the policy of "peaceful coexistence" of the Russian bureaucracy. That is the standpoint we defend. For a lot of Cubans this is also their real hope. The developments in Venezuela and Chavez's speeches are being followed very closely by millions of Cubans.

In the debate about why the Soviet Union fell and the way forward for the Cuban Revolution, the ideas of Trotsky are also finding an important echo amongst Cuban communist activists. Our International Marxist Tendency plays a big role in this. In the past two years our Spanish publishing house, the Fundacion Federico Engels (FFE), has participated in the Havana book fair. By having a presence there, they broke the cultural embargo decreed by Spanish publishers, and thus received a big applause from the Cuban media. The works of Trotsky were bestsellers at the bookstall, as well as the books by Ted Grant and Alan Woods. Their book Reason in Revolt was published by the Cuban publishing house Ciencias Sociales in a Cuban edition and Alan Woods went on a speaking tour in the island, which generated a lot of interest.

Our contribution to the debate about the defence of the Cuban Revolution essentially consists of two arguments. First of all, the isolation will only be broken by socialist revolutions in other countries. That is why Cuba needs to actively stimulate these by encouraging expropriations of capitalists and landowners and the introduction of a planned economy, particularly in Venezuela. Secondly, the Cuban Revolution needs workers' democracy, not the pseudo-democracy of Europe and the US, with elections that don't change anything in a fundamental way and that leave the power in the hands of the multinationals and the banks. With such a formal democracy the US would immediately pump tons of money into some liberal party. The specific situation in Cuba, which has been suffocated by imperialism for so long, does not allow for this. The fate of the revolution, however, would benefit from a thorough debate about the future of the revolution, in which the Cuban people and all those groups supporting the planned economy should be allowed to participate. The decisions about the future of the revolution should not be restricted to the limited circle of the leadership of the Communist Party. This has to be a discussion on the streets in which the people need to be able to express themselves. Self-organisation of the people for the defence and expansion of their achievements has always been the strongest weapon against oppressors who want to turn the clock back.


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