Last Saturday, December 2, Cuba celebrated the 50th anniversary of Granma's arrival on the shores of the island, which marked the beginning of the guerrilla war that two years later, under the leadership of Fidel Castro, was to overthrow the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista and clear the way for the abolition of capitalism in Cuba.
The festivities to honour this exceptional historical event, the point of departure of the Cuban revolution, which started as a struggle to achieve full sovereignty and independence for the Cuban nation in the face of American imperialism and ended up abolishing capitalism, which meant impressive gains for the Cuban masses, also celebrated Fidel Castro's 80th birthday, which had to be postponed earlier in the summer after an intestinal operation was performed on him to stop internal bleeding.
The absence from such an important celebration of the man who had led the country right from the beginning of the revolution until his sudden illness, has sparked off a wave of rumours about his medical condition. There are opinions for every taste; from those who believe that he is on his death bed, to those who think that his medical condition would have allowed him to attend the military parade in Havana last Saturday, but that his absence was collectively decided between him and his closest collaborators to avoid sending a contradictory message to the Cuban people about the extent of political transition on the island, which seems to be in full gear.
Whatever the case, what seems clear is that Fidel will not return to take the helm of the Cuban State again and that the transfer of powers that took place before the operation will not be reversed.
The importance of Fidel's role as leader of the Cuban revolution and State cannot be underestimated, especially his stubborn resistance to betray the fundamental gains of the revolution in the harsh years that followed the collapse of Stalinism. That is something that both friends and enemies of the revolution know very well. Therefore, this change in the State leadership opens up the possibility for a turn in the political direction the country will take, which does not exclude a movement towards the reintroduction of capitalism on the island.
The Spanish daily El País spoke for the so-called civilised bourgeoisie in Spain in its editorial of Tuesday, December 5, where under the title of "the great absent" (referring to Fidel Castro, obviously) it expressed itself in the following terms:
"Of him (Raúl Castro) it has always been said that he lacks the charismatic personality of Fidel. However, it seems more and more credible that he will be the one who will head the transition [towards capitalism they mean] or, at least, the regime transformation, which for some has already begun.
"It is evident, in any case, that the Caribbean Island is about to enter a new political cycle (...) .The current leadership puts emphasis on the fact that Cuba will be governed by the Communist Party and the Army. This seems logical in initial phase, since there is no organised political opposition. But, sooner or later, they will have to open up the road towards a democratic reform and a market economy. The role of Washington will be very important. It will have to be flexible and lift measures such as the economic embargo and favour, as officials in the current Bush administration are advocating, the development of the most pragmatic current within Castroism. Any other method could block the transition."
The thinking behind this kind of editorial is something like this: Nobody apart from our friends and agents are interested much in the reintroduction of capitalism, even if it is euphemistically pushed through in the guise of "democratic reforms and market economy". So, the only thing we can really do is to try to win over those elements within the State apparatus that might be more inclined to follow a similar path to that pursued by the Chinese and Vietnamese communist bureaucracies. That will be certainly the safest thing to do, to use the State apparatus to dismantle every conquest of the revolution, dissolving the social base on which it rests, demoralising it, and, once this is done, to found a new bourgeois State on the basis of private property of the means of production, already introduced by the new leadership, and the political organisation that our friends and agents have built in the process of decomposition.
These are the hopes and the strategy which the international bourgeoisie, especially the American and Spanish, are toying with at this moment in time. Thus, the words of Raúl Castro during his speech last Saturday, when he announced his willingness to "resolve at the negotiating table the longstanding dispute between the United States and Cuba, of course, provided they accept, as we have previously said, our condition as a country that will not tolerate any blemishes on its independence, and as long as said resolution is based on the principles of equality, reciprocity, non-interference and mutual respect", although no news in themselves, are nonetheless now seen under a different light by a bourgeoisie which is desperate to find a way into Cuba.
The situation in Latin America and the world, however, is quite different to that of the eighties and early nineties. Nobody is prepared to buy any longer all the neo-liberal phraseology that so much helped the ideological offensive of the bourgeois counter-revolution in the past. Clearer than ever before, capitalism - even if this unpronounceable word is kept under lock and key - is mostly seen as a system in deep crisis with nothing to offer the toiling masses apart from despair, suffering, death, illness and hunger. This is especially so in Latin America, and Cuba is not an exception.
It is in this context that the survival of the planned economy in Cuba depends fundamentally on the future developments in Venezuela more than on any deals that the American administration may try to reach with some sectors and individuals of the Cuban bureaucracy.
Chávez, according to the latest data released by the CNE (National Electoral Committee), with 95.24% of the votes counted, has received 7,161,367 votes (62.89%), which shows the organisational capacity, political maturity and the desire for a profound change in society among the Venezuelan masses.
This is an outstanding victory for the revolution and, as Chávez himself recognised in his address to the masses gathered in the presidential palace to celebrate their victory soon after the first results were out, "the people of Venezuela has chosen; they have not voted for Chávez, but for a project with a name: Bolivarian socialism, Venezuelan socialism."
That is true. The workers, peasants, students, housewives, indigenous peoples, urban poor, the progressive middle class, in short, all those who have voted for Chávez have done so with the belief that Chávez is confident and able to take the revolution to its completion.
It is also true that these same people who are so willing to complete the revolution might not have a clear idea of how to do it but nevertheless they want its completion, the development of the country and a decent life. What they do not want is the oligarchy and its imperialist masters back. "No volverán" (They shall not return) is one of the most popular slogans amongst the revolutionary masses in Venezuela. Acting upon this means completing the revolution.
This cannot be achieved with a mentality of mere resistance and with a conciliatory attitude against the enemy. Only a bold offensive movement to neutralise the power of the oligarchy can lay the basis for further advances. The oligarchy has in its hands important sections of the Venezuelan economy. They own the productive capacity of the country and as owners decide what to produce, how and for whom. That is, they are the ones that decide what Venezuela is in the present and will be in the future. The revolution cannot rely only on the financial surplus that the high oil prices are generating. The ultimate aim of the revolution is to develop the means of production in Venezuela, to raise their productivity and thus guarantee decent living standards to the whole of the population. That is, to lay the basis for the emancipation of the human race.
That is something that cannot be achieved in practice if these means of life are left in the hands of the oligarchy, since they do not have any interest in developing the country. The proof of that is the situation in which the country finds itself after 200 years under their rule.
A vacillating attitude on the part of the government would be disastrous for the future of the revolution. The fact that the opposition has accepted the electoral results is a proof of their weakness and the strength of the revolution. Were they to try any dirty tricks they would be promptly crushed by the force of the revolutionary masses. Their acceptance of the electoral results is only a change of tactics.
To believe that they have turned into a democratic opposition and that they will not resort to violent means, whatever means necessary, to overthrow the government of Chávez when they feel they have the strength to do it would be a most stupid idea. Not to take advantage of the powerful push that Sunday's victory has given to the revolutionary forces in Venezuela; not to go onto the offensive because of some kind of prejudice and consideration towards the oligarchy and its imperialist masters would mean to give them room to organise and, at the same time, to disorganise the forces of the revolution.
The counter-revolution has not been defeated. This is just a first strategic action. In military terms it could be compared to the establishment of a bridgehead, which will secure the deployment of the bulk of the forces, but which could also be lost if this deployment does not materialise.
The opposition has been beaten on the electoral front. However, we Marxists know that in the last analysis the victory or defeat of the revolution will not be resolved in parliament but on the streets, in the barracks and factories. In that sense, the opposition has very skilfully used the electoral front to rebuild its shattered base. Rosales' electoral campaign has galvanised the divided "escualido" forces and given them an aim. They are organised as they have not been since the recall referendum in 2004. They cannot resist an offensive but can hold together waiting for the moment to strike again.
Chávez has the militant support of the masses to complete the revolution. There is no excuse for not taking the revolution right to the end. The nationalisation of the banks, the land and the big industries and monopolies under workers' control is an urgent task. This has a two-fold character: firstly, to neutralise the power of the counter-revolution; secondly, to put the means of production under the control of those directly interested in their development.
To do this, it is not enough to nationalise these levers of the economy. It is also necessary for the State to be under the control of the workers, to be a workers' State. To accomplish this, a new State is necessary, as Chávez himself has recognised, that can only be built by waging an all-out war against bureaucracy and corruption. The four points worked out by Lenin in "State and Revolution" offer a most useful guide to building that workers' State.
1) Free and democratic elections with right of recall of every official.
2) No official to receive a wage higher than that of a skilled worker.
3) No standing army but the armed people.
4) Gradually, all tasks of the administration will be performed by everyone in rotation, so that when "everyone is a bureaucrat no one is a bureaucrat"
This is the only way to fulfil the demands of the Venezuelan people. This is the only way to materialise the "No volverán" so dear to every revolutionary fighter in Venezuela and around the world. That is also the only way to secure a socialist Cuba, which will not only preserve the fundamental gains of its revolution but that will extend them.
Forward to socialism!
For a socialist Federation of Cuba and Venezuela!
For a socialist Federation of Latin America!
- Time is short in Cuba: the world revolution versus the “Chinese way” by Wim Benda (September 6, 2006)
- Fidel Castro's illness – time to wake up to the real danger by Pablo Roldan (September 6, 2006)
- IMT statement on Cuba: solidarity with the Cuban Revolution – down with capitalism and imperialism (August 2006)