This document was translated by Richard Stephenson from the French language International Internal Discussion Bulletin of the U.S.F.I., no.1, 15th March 1981, pp.15-19.) It bears upon the questions that will be discussed in a forthcoming issue of Revolutionary History dealing with the history of the Trotskyist movement in Cuba and its treatment by the capitalist and Castroite regimes.
Criticisms of the Positions of the S.W.P. [U.S.A.]
by Peng Shuzi, 16th March, 198l.
Historical Evolution of the Positions of the International on the Cuban Question
The year 1959 witnessed the victory of the Cuban revolution. In 1969 the International responded officially to this event. It was the S.W.P. of the United States which was the first to respond, which was natural, the United States and Cuba being near each other and having close links. At this period the S.W.P. sent Hansen and Dobbs to visit Cuba. Hansen then wrote a pamphlet. At that time the S.W.P. entertained great hopes, indeed, “illusions” about Cuba, and fully supported the Cuban revolution. This support was correct, but the nature of the new regime was not seriously analysed and in a thoroughgoing way. This is how in 1963 Hansen and Dobbs wrote a document that approved of the methods of the Cuban revolution: the guerilla strategy of encircling the towns. They considered that this new strategy was correct and practical, and that became the excuse for those who later on preached the guerilla strategy in Latin America.
In 1961 differences on the question of Cuba appeared between the S.W.P. of the United States and the Socialist Labour League [S.L.L.] of Great Britain. On the side of the S.W.P. the resolution supporting Cuba, written by Hansen, considered that the Cuban regime had thrown out the representatives of the bourgeoisie and confiscated their property, and that it was then developing in the direction of a workers’ state. On its part the Socialist Labour League led by Healy was fundamentally opposed to this point of view and considered that in Cuba there was only a situation of dual power; that the nature of the state had not changed, and that it was not evolving towards a workers’ state.
In these conditions I wrote a document entitled The Question of the Cuban Revolution, in which I considered that since Cuba had dispossessed the bourgeoisie and had confiscated and nationalised their property it could be labelled a workers’ state as far as the property relations were concerned. I supported the S.W.P. on this question and criticised the opinion of the Socialist Labour League as being false. The Cuban regime was not a regime of dual power, but the regime of power of Castro alone. At the same time I asked the comrades to be very careful because Cuba was a very small and backward island country, and that without the aid of other countries, and above all, without the assistance of other revolutions in the Latin American countries, it would be the object of great isolation, would be very vulnerable, and would experience great difficulties in order to survive. Consequently, we ought not to exaggerate excessively the perspectives open to this revolution.
A little afterwards, when the International Committee was due to meet to discuss the Cuban question, I wrote a preliminary draft for the discussion. This was in July 1961. The draft was prudent and objective. I made the remark that the Cuban Revolution was an independent revolution as regards Stalinism, and that it had taken the road of the permanent revolution; that this was a very important event in the Western hemisphere and that we had to support this revolution. I particularly reminded the comrades that to be able to survive Cuba would have to receive the help of the Soviet bureaucracy, and that we must consider this in a dialectical manner, under its two-fold aspect. Given the property relations that resulted from the October Revolution, it was obviously natural that the Soviet Union would support Cuba, and we could thus affirm that the system of property relations created along with the October Revolution would always exert its influence. Without the support of the Soviet Union it was out of the question that Cuba could supply its own needs. The United States had subjected it to a blockade and proposed that the countries of Latin America should do likewise. The Soviet Union then bought the only Cuban product, sugar, and provided Cuba with material and weapons. It is obvious that Cuba could only accept the assistance of the Soviet Union. But on the other hand, the Soviet Union was no longer that of Lenin’s time, which practiced proletarian internationalism in a disinterested way; it had degenerated long ago. Following the political line of Stalin of “Socialism in One Country”, the assistance granted to other countries by the Soviet Union under a bureaucratic dictatorship was in return for a certain price. Thus the support of the U.S.S.R. for Cuba would at least export the Stalinist ideology to Cuba; in other words, Cuba would become Stalinised. This was not only probable, but even inevitable. If Cuba became Stalinised, its perspectives would become more limited for it. Therefore I proposed that the IVth International, and the Trotskyist organisations of America in particular, should call a special conference to discuss support for the Cuban Revolution. Our organisation being materially weak, we could provide no concrete aid, we could only assist the Cuban Revolution ideologically, and hope that a Marxist party could be founded even in Cuba. At the same time the main works of Trotsky should be translated into Spanish and sent to Cuba, and I pointed out that it would be even better if a publication in Spanish were to appear to influence the Cuban masses.
But the meeting rejected my resolution, and Banda and Healy in particular; the former even explained that Castro was a new Batista, Cuba’s Chiang Kai Shek.
I also sent this text to Pierre Frank and told him that I hoped that the International Secretariat and the International Committee would together discuss the Cuban question and would assist the Cuban Revolution. But I received no reply from Frank.
Later I read the document of the Pabloites [International Secretariat] which supported the Cuban Revolution. I then became a staunch supporter of unification and co-operation between the I[nternational] S[ecretariat] and the I[nternational] C[ommittee] for support to the Cuban Revolution. At the Reunification Congress of June 1963, even in the absence of a specific discussion on Cuba, everyone was in agreement in considering that Cuba had become a workers’ state. The difference on the nature of the Cuban state was one of the reasons for which the Healyites and the Lambertists did not take part in the Congress of Unification [cf. my article, Where is Healy Taking the Socialist Labour League?].
A new problem then cropped up. Castro convened a Latin American conference in Havana and called for the guerilla strategy in Latin America. He explained that the countries of Latin America could only free themselves by employing this strategy. Influenced by this open appeal, the Latin American youth followed Cuba and the guerilla strategy enthusiastically. It was after Castro had thus emphasised the decisive importance of the guerilla strategy that it arose in Latin America, in Bolivia, Colombia, Venezuela, and Argentina. This situation even reverberated in the IVth International, and above all among certain leading cadres in Europe, such as Livio Maitan and Mandel. In February 1968 Maitan wrote a draft discussion document for the I[nternational] E[xecutive] C[ommittee] which adopted it, which meant that this decision accepted the guerilla strategy, i.e. accepted Castro’s appeal. At this meeting I was the only one to vote against, and my opposition was therefore in vain. Even though it was presented as a suggestion.the resolution reflected the impact of the guerilla strategy on some of the leaders of the IVth International. In these conditions I had to carry on the struggle.
To begin with I asked the leadership of the S.W.P. to consider this question carefully; if not the IVth International was going to abandon the programme of Trotskyism and begin to degenerate. On the other hand I also wrote the text iReturn to the Road of Trotskyismi and this document influenced some Trotskyists in the United States and in other countries. Finally, at the world congress of 1969 important differences appeared over the question of guerilla warfare in Latin America, and two factions were formed, the future International Majority Tendency [I.M.T.] and the Leninist-Trotskyist Faction [L.T.F.].
In Return to the Road of Trotskyism a subtitle was formulated thus, Castroism or Trotskyism? Here I frequently remarked that under the influence of Castro some of the cadres of the IVth International had chosen the guerilla strategy. The differences remained, and at the world congress of 1974 the International Majority Tendency maintained its views.
Here I must emphasise that at the outset the S.W.P. supported the guerilla strategy; but that later it accepted my arguments and opposed this strategy. Hansen wrote an article criticising the draft discussion document on the Cuban Revolution, which was very close to my views. This point of view was maintained until the unification of the two factions in 1977. Since then there have not been deep differences over the Cuban question because the I[nternational] M[ajority] T[endency] totally abandoned the guerilla strategy and admitted its mistakes.
But the question was found to be posed in new circumstances. From 1975 to 1978, the date in which Vietnam invaded Cambodia, because of the support provided by Cuba to Vietnam [Cuba was on the side of Moscow, whereas China supported Cambodia] the revolutionary role of Cuba was exaggerated.
When Mary-Alice Waters wrote an article to analyse the question of Vietnam and Cambodia she returned to the previous positions and in every way tried to enhance the position of the Vietnamese. In the past, when the French section had supported Vietnam and prettified the Vietnamese Communist Party, the S.W.P., like ourselves, was opposed to the opinion of the French comrades. Today the French section has changed its position but it is the S.W.P. which at present is particularly supporting Vietnam. Previously we had accorded our critical support to Vietnam. Since the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia, not only does the S.W.P. no longer criticise Vietnam, but it flatters it. Its point of view on Cambodia is also different from ours.
Our opinion is the following: under the regime of Pol Pot Cambodia was in a very contradictory situation. On the one hand it had confiscated bourgeois property and had established socialist property relations, and was therefore, from this basic point of view, a workers’ state. On the other hand Pol Pot was the most stupid and the most brutal of Stalinist bureaucrats, a butcher who had killed more than a million people, and his regime was therefore a most frightful and brutal dictatorship, deeply hated by the Cambodian people. From a dialectical point of view the progressive character of the nationalisation of private property could not be denied and had to be supported. But the blind adventurism that had led it to abolish money and suppress all trade must be criticised. As for its abominable bureaucratic regime, it must be denounced and attacked to the utmost. But the S.W.P. had a different opinion. It emphasised the crimes of the bureaucratic dictatorship and denied the fact of the confiscation of private property. It defined Cambodia as a capitalist state. This was a strange point of view because throughout the world there has never existed a capitalist country without private property and trade. Cuba supported Vietnam, and the S.W.P. followed it in this support.
But what followed is even more important; in December 1979 the Soviet Union sent its troops to invade Afghanistan; this event provoked new divergences within the IVth International. To begin with the S.W.P. fully supported the sending of troops by the Soviet Union to Afghanistan. The majority of the European Trotskyists adopted a different position, demanding the withdrawal of the troops from Afghanistan. The divergence was also reflected inside the R.M.L. of Hong Kong: Yip Ning supported the U.S. position and Wu was in agreement with the European position. Recently the position of the S.W.P. on the invasion of Afghanistan by Soviet troops changed, and it adopted a more critical attitude.
Is Cuba a State of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat?
In order to clarify this question some basic considerations must first of all be discussed. In an article by Mary-Alice Waters, A Proletarian Way to Power, it was written that Cuba was applying the dictatorship of the proletariat. The reason given was that the foreign policy of Cuba is a policy of proletarian internationalism. Today, the support and assistance of Cuba to Nicaragua and El Salvador are facts. Its previous support and aid to Angola and Ethiopia and even the dispatch of troops to help them are also facts that we must recognise. But how are we to analyse and evaluate these facts?
And to start off with, is Cuba a state of the dictatorship of the proletariat? That is the main question. The texts of the S.W.P. imply that Cuba has experienced the same sort of dictatorship of the proletariat as that established by Lenin at the time of the October Revolution. Even though this opinion does not seem to be explicit, it has often been implicit. We must ask ourselves: what form does the dictatorship of the proletariat take there?
We shall leave to one side the Paris Commune and simply speak of the October Revolution. The regime that sprang from the October Revolution was based upon the soviets of workers, of peasants, and of soldiers. The soviets were elected in democratic elections by the workers, peasants and soldiers. The Soviet regime was thus a dictatorship of the proletariat in relation to the bourgeoisie, but far more democratic in relation to the proletariat. Such a form of political power has only existed twice in history; the first time was the Paris Commune, which was directly elected by the members of the commune of Paris, and the second time was the Soviet regime after the October Revolution, a regime elected by the masses of workers, peasants and soldiers.
Does Cuba possess any soviet organisation of workers, peasants or soldiers? The first power installed when Castro’s guerilla forces had entered the towns coming from the countryside, was a coalition government with the bourgeoisie, similar to the government established in China in 1949. Later the bourgeoisie was excluded from the regime and the Castroite Movement of 26th July fused with the Cuban Communist Party to form the Communist Party, which alone assumed the reins of power. Has this regime ever been based upon the soviets of workers, peasants and soldiers? Absolutely not. True enough, the workers have trade union organisations and the peasants have perhaps a certain kind of organisation [I know next to nothing about it]. But in any case it cannot be denied that Cuba does not possess the same sort of mass organisations as those which existed in the Soviet Union. On what foundation, therefore, in terms of mass organisations, can we base ourselves to say that Cuba is a dictatorship of the proletariat?
There is no democracy, there is only centralism in Castro’s party; just as in the Communist parties of the Soviet Union, of Eastern Europe, or of China. Such a party absolutely escapes the control of the masses. If it can be said that Cuba is a dictatorship of the proletariat, then China, Eastern Europe, and even the Soviet Union can be considered as being dictatorships of the proletariat!
How ought we to evaluate and define these so-called workers’ Stalinist states? It can be said that the dictatorship in Cuba is less oppressive than that of China or of Eastern Europe. It is possible, it is a fact, that the Cuban bureaucrats are less arbitrary or brutal. However, the functionaries are nominated by the government, they are not directly elected by the worker and peasant masses. Castro is the party. There is no democratic centralism in the Cuban Communist Party, because it is copied from the Soviet Union. The words pronounced by Castro are law. On this point there is no essential difference as regards Mao Zedong in China. The only difference is the following: the former is younger and more vigilant, whereas the latter was more confused and brutal. Thus the Cuban bureaucrats are less brutal or less centralised than those of the Soviet Union or of China, and are closer to the masses.
What Are the Regimes of Angola or of Ethiopia that are Supported by Cuba?
The chief argument of M.A. Waters is Cuba’s internationalism. Above all she is speaking of the aid of Cuba to Nicaragua, to Grenada, to El Salvador and the previous dispatch of troops to the aid of Angola and Ethiopia. Here I am going to make an analysis of the political situation in Ethiopia and Angola at the time, and of the nature of these regimes.
Cuba sent troops to the help of Angola only to the extent to which the Soviet Union was involved. After the Portuguese Revolution the U.S.S.R. supported one group in Angola, the M.P.L.A., and China another group [there were three groups at the time]. Later China withdrew her support, and these groups turned to imperialism, looking for help from Zaire and South Africa, and civil war broke out. Cuba sent troops to Angola as a commission of the Soviet Union – the dispatch of Cuban troops to Angola and Ethiopia would not have been possible without the weapons and material and financial support of the Soviet Union. However, this action took on a progressive and even a revolutionary significance, because the groups had degenerated, had openly passed over to the imperialist camp, and had engaged in a civil war in Angola with the assistance of imperialism. If the Soviet Union and Cuba had not supported Angola, this country would very likely have been partitioned between South Africa and Zaire and would have fallen under the control of U.S. imperialism, which would have been very regressive. I have already said long since that even if Cuba did send troops to Angola under the umbrella of the Soviet Union, this action had a progressive side and must be supported. At that time the S.W.P. did not agree with the dispatch of Cuban troops to Angola.
But the Angolan leaders aided by the Cubans were not Socialists, but nationalists. They had engaged in struggle to rid themselves of Portuguese domination, and with the help of Cuba they had freed themselves from the rule of imperialism, but they were hostile towards the elements of the Socialist Left and were prepared to suppress them. Such a leading layer forms the greatest obstacle to any Socialist perspective for Angola. This leading layer is therefore afraid by any change in the property system and firmly maintains capitalism. Under such a regime Socialist movements would inevitably develop – they are perhaps already developing at present – and the leading layer would certainly seek to make them disappear in order to maintain the existence and development of the system of private property. If at such a time the Cuban troops were ever in Angola, they would find themselves in a very embarrassing situation; if they continued to support the present leading layer, they could even be led to play a counter-revolutionary role.
Compared with Angola Ethiopia is far larger and more anciently civilised. It came into being in opposition to the monarchical dictatorship and by the overthrow of the emperor, which were, and there can be no doubt about it, progressive. The present leadership are those who were opposed to the monarchy. During the first period they received the support of American imperialism, but then they turned towards the Soviet Union. I do not understand very well why they made this turn. Perhaps it was because the Soviet Union accorded them certain advantages. The Soviet Union had helped Egypt to construct the dams, had provided it with weapons, had sent military advisors to train the Egyptian army, and by that had tried to win Egypt over. The result, however, was that Sadat showed the Soviets the door. The Soviet Union encountered the same setback in Somalia and the Sudan. It therefore did all it could to win over Ethiopia. Even though American imperialism was supporting the latter at the time, it hardly evinced any courtesy towards those who were receiving its aid. This is perhaps why Ethiopia turned towards the Soviet Union to obtain aid, because the Soviet Union not only provided weapons and material assistance, but it also attempted to enter into the good graces of the country’s leading layer.
In the north-east of Ethiopia extends the region known as Eritrea, which is inhabited by a national minority of about three million people. It constituted a menace for the new regime which drew near to the Soviet Union and begged it to ask Cuba to send troops to its aid. When Ethiopia and Somalia then confronted each other, the Cuban troops supported the former. The governments of Ethiopia were worse than those of Angola. Erstwhile officers of the monarchy, they led extremely corrupt lives. After the overthrow of the monarchy they set in motion a partial agrarian reform and distributed to the peasants lands belonging to the royal family and to the large landowners, but they maintained the system of private property. In order to arrive at the extermination of about three million people belonging to a national minority, they asked for the help of Cuban troops. But Cuba did not dare to send its armies in order to attack a national minority. The Ethiopian leaders are hostile to the youth, to students, and to the left. As a result they certainly reduced the mass movement to nothing, as had Chiang Kai-Shek. It was therefore even more difficult on Cuba’s part to support Ethiopia than Angola. In fact, Ethiopia was not attacked by reactionary forces supported by imperialism, it had maintained private property relations, and it had repressed its national minorities very brutally. It is a very reactionary regime. Castro was very much embarrassed by the affair and he did not send troops [all he did was to provide weapons to attack this national minority].
The Soviet Union had also helped China in the past, providing large sums of money, advisors and weapons for Chiang Kai-Shek and Wang Ching-Wei of the Guomindang. With the results that we have seen! Are the militarists who lead Ethiopia of the same type as Chiang Kai-Shek? It is difficult to say, and no-one can be sure or no. Explanations must be provided for this so-called internationalist support. We Marxists must ask: who profits from this aid? The revolutionary masses or the bourgeoisie? It is clear that Cuba supports the bourgeoisie and not the revolutionary worker and peasant masses because it is the bourgeoisie that occupies the leading position in Ethiopia. This sort of “internationalism” therefore poses a great problem. On this point Hansen’s article The Role of Cuba in Africa [cf. the October Review of September 1978] expresses an opinion very close to ours. But at present the S.W.P. no longer mentions this article.
Nicaragua and Grenada are small countries that cannot play an important role. Grenada only has 100, 000 inhabitants and Nicaragua two million, though this latter country can have an explosive role in such countries of Central America as El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. These countries, which for a long time have lived under the control and exploitation of American imperialism are very poor, and revolutions can easily be produced there. In Nicaragua this is because the Somoza regime, a puppet of the United States, was so harsh that the people were forced to rise against it and to revolt as the Cuban people had done in the past against Batista. Obviously we must do our utmost to support and assist the extension of the revolution in these countries, in spite of their scant importance. But we must not glorify or exaggerate the situation and say that this could change the world situation.
We say that revolutions in these countries would deliver a blow to American imperialism and that we hope that these countries will take the road to Socialism. But we must understand that they are too backward, that the weight of the workers there is very small and that it will be difficult for them to construct the dictatorship of the proletariat. At the very best can they construct a regime of the same type as that of Cuba.
It is natural that Cuba, terribly isolated in Latin America, should support the Nicaraguan Revolution. It needs help provided by revolutions, and assisting them means helping itself.
It is necessary to recall that these countries cannot play a decisive political role in Latin America. If revolutions continue to develop there they can obviously have a certain impact upon the other countries of Latin America. But there are only certain countries of Latin America that are able to influence the situation as a whole, which are for example Mexico, Brazil and Argentina. The latter, even though it is neither very extensive nor highly populated, is industrialised and possesses a fairly important trade union organisation, and its influence in Latin America is therefore great. Mexico has 60 million inhabitants, and its industry is quite developed. Brazil is even greater in its dimensions and population [100 million]. Obviously I do not want to say that other countries such as Venezuela, Peru, Chile, Bolivia or Colombia have no role as far as their own revolution is concerned, but only that this role is not so decisive compared with that of the three above mentioned countries.
The IVth International must therefore construct mass parties in countries such as Mexico, Brazil and Argentina to guide the working class in the conduct of revolutions. But the attitude of the S.W.P. is the opposite. Because of the split with the Moreno faction the S.W.P. has been disappointed by the Trotskyist movement in Latin America and would much rather think about countries like Cuba, Nicaragua and Grenada. It has neither vision nor an overall plan for the countries of Latin America. However, it is conceivable that a strong section constructed by us in Mexico, Argentina, etc., would be more useful than several Nicaraguan revolutions.
As mentioned above, Cuba, because of its isolation in the western hemisphere, must support the Nicaraguan Revolution and do all possible to put Nicaragua under its influence and to make a satellite of it. But when Cuba wished to assist this country, it had always to take into consideration the attitude of Moscow. Moscow is very hesitant as regards this, because if the Soviet Union seeks to establish its influence in Central America, the United States was inevitably going to intervene. They have already threatened it and they are moving towards military intervention; their present attitude as far as El Salvador is concerned is a clear example. The Moscow bureaucracy very much hesitates, it tries to proceed only through the intermediary of Cuba.
It is therefore possible to say that Cuba’s internationalism is exercised under the influence of the U.S.S.R. and that it is dictated by the foreign policy of the Soviet Union. The basis of the foreign policy of the Soviet Union is the following: no revolution, and above all no revolution in the advanced countries. But it is forced to move to put the U.S.A. in a difficult position and therefore to enhance its possibilities of doing a deal. That is the significance of its actions in such African countries as Egypt, Somalia and Ethiopia. Acting under such control from the Soviet Union, Cuba does not have too many margins of manoeuvre.
What therefore is a real internationalist policy? Lenin and Trotsky founded the IIIrd International and by means of it set up Communist parties in several countries to assist the revolution. The policy of Lenin towards the backward countries did not only consist in helping the bourgeoisie, it was to bring about the transformation of these bourgeois democratic revolutions into Socialist revolutions. All this is very clear and does not need to be repeated.
How then, is it with Castro? He has given much that is important to the aid of oppressed peoples. That is correct. Lenin considered the democratic nationalist revolutions in the backward countries as a very important factor in the world proletarian revolution, because they were able to weaken imperialism, assist proletarian revolutions in the imperialist countries, and at the same time were a means of helping the oppressed peoples to progress beyond democratic revolutions towards the Socialist revolution. But upon what does Castro base his policy? He turns his eyes towards the Soviet Union. But under the control of the Stalinist bureaucracy the U.S.S.R. has become a very reactionary country, opposed to the world revolution. There are two main reactionary camps in the world today: one is made up of the imperialist countries with the U.S.A. at their head and the other is composed of the deformed workers’ states with the U.S.S.R. at their head. The latter is even more brutal than the imperialist countries, as is shown by the example of Eastern Europe under its domination. There can be no final victory of Socialism without the elimination of these two reactionary powers. Castro has said that there would be no Cuba without the October Revolution. Such a statement is only partially correct. New property relations have been developed by the October Revolution and these property relations are assisting Cuba. But he says not a word about the dictatorship of the bureaucracy. This bureaucratic dictatorship is an obstacle to the world revolution and plays a most reactionary role, no more than that. Castro has not said a word. He does not understand at all that the October Revolution has been betrayed, that the only thing that remains of the October Revolution is that private property has been nationalised, but the nationalised properties are completely weakened and controlled by the bureaucracy and that it is in its own interests that the bureaucracy occasionally assists some countries in order to facilitate its bargaining with imperialism.
Castro completely leaves aside this aspect of things because Cuba needs the support of the Soviet Union in order to survive. So is it perhaps possible to forgive Castro for not daring to tell the truth about the bureaucratic dictatorship in the Soviet Union? But what would be unforgivable is that the leaders of the S.W.P. themselves, should no more speak about it, and following Cuba in this, equally hide the truth about the Soviet Union. Such an action would be an objective betrayal of Trotskyism because it would be making too many concessions to Castro.
I will finish by summing up in three points:
Firstly, the S.W.P. emphasises that there is no bureaucratic system in Cuba.
No-one denies that there are bureaucrats in Cuba and the documents of the S.W.P. equally admit it. Obviously, we should distinguish between bureaucrats and a bureaucratic dictatorship. Bureaucrats inevitably exist in the revolutions of backward countries. It is only in the advanced countries, where the proletarians are in a majority and where the workers have a high cultural level that the most democratic dictatorship of the proletariat can be established – democracy for the workers and dictatorship for the bourgeoisie. Is the bureaucratic situation in Cuba so serious that it has become a bureaucratic dictatorship, or an autocracy? If yes, then a political revolution is necessary to overthrow the bureaucracy. One young comrade from the S.W.P. wrote to me that he thought that a dictatorial bureaucratic caste had been born in Cuba, which must be overthrown by a political revolution. I would be very careful in examining this question. I consider that there does exist a bureaucratic system in Cuba because there is no sort of soviet organisation. Without democratic elections on the part of the proletariat, the regime is inevitably going to perpetuate itself in a bureaucratic fashion. The problem is to know to what extent this bureaucratic system has already developed. I replied to the comrade at the time that I did not have much information about the development of the bureaucratic system in Cuba, but that it was certain that a bureaucratic system did exist there. It is, however, not so established as those of the Soviet Union or of China because the Cuban people still benefit from a certain amount of democracy.
Hansen wrote in an article that there existed a bureaucratic system within the Cuban army. This is obvious because a hierarchical system easily gives birth to bureaucratisation. The article also mentions a poet called Padilla who was arrested and forced to recant. This fact must be noted because the Soviet Union and China also oppress their dissidents in this way.allowing neither democracy nor liberty, and forbidding the publication of ideas or different points of view, even in literature.
Later some members of the S.W.P. visited Cuba and on their return explained that the Cuban people enjoyed freedom of action, etc. I think that this is possible. Castro is not so arbitrary as Stalin nor so brutal as Mao Zedong. He has some intelligence and knows that Cuba is only a small country in extreme isolation and that the masses must not be too oppressed or Cuba could then well have difficulties in surviving.
Thus I do not share the idea that there must now be a political revolution to overthrow the Cuban regime. But I am no more in agreement with the people who think that there does not exist a bureaucratic system in Cuba. This poet’s arrest has a symbolic significance. Moreover, there are no soviets in Cuba and no democratic centralism in the Cuban Party. All the time it is solely Castro who makes the speeches; he is like a little emperor in Cuba, and his speeches are royal decrees. This situation is obviously the manifestation of a bureaucratic system. The S.W.P. over-prettifies Cuba and forgets its bureaucratic aspects.
Secondly, the S.W.P. thinks that Cuba has put into operation the dictatorship of the proletariat.practices proletarian internationalism and that there is no bureaucratic system, that it is like the Soviet Union in the time of Lenin. It goes so far as to place Castro on a par with Lenin and the Cuban revolution with the October Revolution.
What are the similarities and the differences between the Cuban Revolution and the October revolution?
The October Revolution triumphed after several decades of preparation. Since the foundation of the League for the Emancipation of Labour by Plekhanov up to the final launching of the Social Democratic Labour Party, numerous serious ideological struggles developed, particularly the struggle between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks and the struggle between the theory of revolution by stages and the theory of the permanent revolution.
Finally, there was the world war, and the problem of the attitude towards Russian imperialism became the object of a decisive struggle and the most consistent Marxism developed, represented by Lenin and Trotsky. Thus the Russian Revolution was able to develop without difficulties, fundamentally on the basis of analyses already accomplished. The conjunctural decisions therefore derived from already established ideological foundations. Consequently, the October Revolution was a typical proletarian revolution, in which, under the leadership of a radical Marxism, the peasantry and the proletariat which led it brought to fruition a profound Socialist revolution in a great country. This revolution shook the whole world and changed the course of human history.
How has the Cuban Revolution unfolded? Before the revolution Castro was a democrat and even a humanist: he had never received a Marxist education. Under the impact of the revolutionary victory of the Chinese Communist Party in 1949 he conducted a guerilla war. In particular circumstances – that is to say, before the U.S.A. could intervene – he led the guerilla army to the seizure of power. This was a petty bourgeois revolution. It was after the seizure of power, when he wanted to obtain the assistance of other countries - in other words, the Soviet Union – that he co-operated with the Communist Party and adopted the embryo of a Marxist analysis. By carrying on guerilla warfare, Castro showed himself to be a figure of the “man of action” type. The leaders of the S.W.P. today emphasise that they are of the “active” type, which means placing the emphasis upon guerilla warfare. They do not understand the words of Lenin, “without revolutionary theory there is no revolutionary practice”. Castro was originally a petty bourgeois revolutionary, in other words a petty bourgeois nationalist and a radical democrat. He had his chance of victory on account of the excessive corruption of the Batista regime. But he continued to co-operate with the bourgeoisie after victory to set up a coalition government. It is only because the bourgeoisie constituted a threat to him that he was obliged to exclude them from political power and he formed his own government. But this government was not set up starting from a democratic election by the proletariat. Consequently, the Cuban revolution absolutely cannot be compared with the October Revolution, and to put Castro on a par with Lenin is truly to do injury to Lenin.
It has to be emphasised that during the 1980s anyone who does not understand the October Revolution cannot understand the degeneration of the Soviet Union, and does not understand the struggle between Trotsky and Stalin, can in no way qualify as a Marxist, and is only really an idiot capable of stupidly reciting quotations from Marx and Engels.Castro has never mentioned the name of Trotsky, he even insulted the Trotskyists in 1963 and vilified the members of the S.W.P. as agents of American imperialism.
Thirdly, there is the question of knowing if Cuba can lead the world revolution. That is the central question.
Mary-Alice Waters has not clearly expressed this point of view in her articles, but on other occasions I have heard the S.W.P. propose that the IVth International co-operate with Castro to lead the world revolution. The articles of Waters also reflect the viewpoint that Cuba is taking the road of the leadership of the world revolution.
This is a central and very serious question because it will affect the destiny of the whole of humanity.
The Trotskyist and Castroist currents are fundamentally different. In so far as Castro is concerned, we can only say that up to the present, he continues to follow a revolutionary orientation and that we must therefore accord him critical support. But it is only a pleasantry to say that we are going to join up with him to lead the world revolution.
In fact Castro has no programme for the world revolution – if he does have one for it, it only consists in actions of the type of the aid provided to Angola or to Ethiopia. He understands nothing of the Trotskyist programme for world revolution – the Transitional Programme of the IVth International.
The Soviet Union has degenerated for half a century. The oppression of the workers and peasants of the Soviet Union by the bureaucracy and that of the peoples of Eastern Europe is a fact universally known. He who does not say a word about this, unless he is an idiot or blind, is deliberately covering up for the Soviet bureaucracy. It is pardonable if Castro covers up for the Soviet bureaucracy in order to obtain the material assistance of the U.S.S.R. But as far as the world revolution is concerned the bureaucratic dictatorship which rules in the Soviet Union absolutely cannot be passed over in silence. There are today two types of revolutions on a world scale: one consists in leading to victory Socialist revolutions in the capitalist countries [in advanced and backward countries] and the other is to make political revolutions in the workers’ states. The peoples subjected to the oppression of the bureaucratic dictatorships make up more than a third of the population of the world. These two types of revolutions are clearly inscribed in the Transitional Programme. Would Castro be in agreement with making a political revolution in the Soviet Union? Would he be in agreement with the overthrow of the oppressive rule of the Soviet bureaucracy and with the establishment of a system of proletarian democracy in Eastern Europe? That would be very difficult for him, because fundamentally that would interrupt the aid that he receives from the Soviet bureaucracy. Is it conceivable that he would be capable of doing this? If in order to make concessions to Castro we were to abstain from mentioning the political revolution in the U.S.S.R. we would be radically betraying the Trotskyism of the IVth International: that would be to give ourselves up to Stalinism and to become prisoners of it.
Must we insist on these two types of revolutions in the programme of the IVth International? Can Castro be in agreement with making a revolution which would overthrow the bureaucracy in the Soviet Union? The leaders of the S.W.P. must reply to these two questions.
15th March, 1981.
P.S. The questions posed in this text are not only vast but also very real, because the line of the S.W.P. has created many divergences, and in particular has led to the formation of two opposing positions within the United Secretariat which are manifested in the two draft resolutions on Cuba. This question merits particular attention and a discussion so that each can be expressed.
Updated by ETOL: 28 November 2009