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June 2002 • Vol 2, No. 6 •

Cuba, Democracy and the Need for World Socialism

By Nat Weinstein

It’s no secret that capitalist America hates and fears revolutionary Cuba with a passion because it has consistently defended the interests of its own and the world’s exploited and oppressed masses. The U.S. bipartisan government, moreover, is as hostile toward the Cuban version of socialism as it had been to the Stalinist bureaucratic dictatorships in the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and Asia. In fact American capitalism perceives this small island nation of some 11 million people to be a threat to its world dominance at least equal to that of the former Soviet Union at the height of its military power.

Cuba has been able to provide every Cuban a job, food, shelter, clothing, universal free healthcare from cradle to grave, and a first class education. Cuba provides a prime example of socialism without the negative features associated with Soviet Stalinism—an example to the world’s working people that threatens the existence of the world capitalist system.

And contrary to the slanders of American imperialism—which claims to be the foremost champion of human rights and individual freedom—every Cuban enjoys a degree of genuine freedom greater than is granted to working people anywhere else in the world. Furthermore, Cubans are guaranteed freedom from the kind of institutionalized racial, national, religious and sexual oppression that exists in the United States and every other of the world’s richest capitalist countries. Also contrary to the slanders of capitalist America, the only real concentration camp on the island of Cuba is the one chaining Afghan prisoners of war inside their open-air cages on the U.S. Naval base in Guantanamo.

Furthermore, because Cuba’s extraordinary educational system allows it to produce many more doctors than are needed at home, it sends its surplus doctors across the globe to provide medical assistance to the world’s most exploited and oppressed victims of American and world imperialism—entirely free of charge!

These simple facts explain why imperialism wants to use its powers of mass destruction to crush the Cuban revolutionary government and its social and economic conquests, as it did the pro-capitalist regimes in Panama and Afghanistan. The only thing standing in the Yankee evildoers’ way is their knowledge that this small Caribbean island is not Afghanistan and—as it has learned from its bitter defeat at the Bay of Pigs—Cuba would be at least as formidable a military adversary as was Vietnam.

Why Cuba is excluded from the world division of labor

Although the reason for the 43-year-long blockade of Cuba seems obvious, there’s more to it than meets the eye. It has a purpose that goes beyond starving Cuba into submission. By denying Cuba access to the world division of labor, American imperialism blocks Cuba’s socialist mode of production from fully realizing its potential for vastly improving mass living standards. The fact is that any nation barred tomorrow from freely participating in world trade would immediately suffer a qualitative reduction in its level of productivity; which would decline further as the years go by.

The potential for huge benefits to all participants in world trade, is after all, to allow each country to exchange those surplus goods it produces most cheaply; for other kinds of goods also produced most cheaply in each and every other country. That frees countries in the world’s temperate zones, for instance, from trying to grow products easily produced in tropical zones; or countries without rich deposits of oil, gas or minerals from trying to extract them from land poorly endowed with these essential raw materials.

In other words, if Cuba had been allowed to participate in the world division of labor 43 years ago—given the superiority of its planned economy over the anarchic profit-driven system in the entire capitalist world, rich and poor countries alike—the living standards for working people in Cuba would, by now, have come at least close to those of the average working person in the advanced capitalist countries!

Lessons from the history of the first workers’ state

As a matter of fact, had there not been an identical blockade imposed by world imperialism on the Soviet Union 85 years ago, the great economic progress made by its planned economy—despite its exclusion from the world division of labor—would have been qualitatively greater. Even so, the advance in mass living standards for the Soviet masses resulting from its planned economy—despite imperialism’s economic sabotage—showed the entire neocolonial world that the only road forward for them out of the wretchedness of their lives as captive nations of imperialism, was through socialist revolution.

But V.I. Lenin and Leon Trotsky’s Bolshevik leadership of the Russian socialist revolution had been fully aware that the world’s capitalists would greet a victorious socialist revolution with the hellfire of a military assault and the brimstone of an economic embargo. Thus they were not in the least surprised when, after World War I ended, their revolution was indeed greeted by an invasion by imperialist troops—including armies that had been on opposite sides of the first inter-imperialist war—and a simultaneously-imposed global blockade designed to starve out the Soviet workers and peasants.

That’s why the Bolsheviks set about the task of constructing a new world party of socialist revolution—the Third International—to replace the Second International, whose misleaders had betrayed international proletarian solidarity by each section supporting its own capitalist class during the first inter-imperialist world war.

The founding leaders of the Russian Socialist Revolution knew that while a nationalized, planned economy would vastly improve the standard of living of the workers and farmers of Russia, imperialism would use any and all means to crush the Soviet state. And even if they could withstand the imperialist assault, the Soviet Union would ultimately succumb unless it could extend the revolution to one or more of the world’s advanced industrial countries. In other words, they had to extend their revolution, because building socialism in one or more backward countries was impossible. The demise of the USSR proved that prediction accurate.

That is to say that without an industrial and financial infrastructure capable of producing in such abundance as would be possible with the help of socialist revolutions in countries like Germany or the United States, the socialist principle of distribution—“from each according to his ability and to each according to his needs”—is also impossible. That’s why scientific socialists characterize post-capitalist societies such as the Soviet Union and Cuba as “workers states.” This term describes a country that has overthrown capitalist rule but is not yet socialist. That is, it is a society in transition from capitalism to socialism.

However, such a transitional state may be called “socialist” only because of the force of possibilities inherent in a nationalized, planned economy based on production for use, not profit. For such a society to be characterized as socialist in its full sense, it must first reach a level of productivity capable of providing the necessities of life in such abundance that it is no longer necessary to measure what each member of society contributes and takes from its total product.

In fact, the military encirclement of the Soviet Union added decisively to the conditions of extreme scarcity in the first dozen years—before the planned economy could begin to take effect. Czarist Russia suffered enormous economic destruction caused by the four terrible years of World War I. Then after the revolution the productive forces of the workers state were further reduced by four more years of civil war, imperialist invasion and ongoing exclusion from the world division of labor.

The factors that lead to an extreme scarcity of life’s necessities, led Stalin down a path toward consolidating the privileges and other caste interests of the Soviet bureaucracy. Of all the strata of Soviet society, the bureaucracy was best able to solve its own social problem. Thus, having made sure their own needs and comforts were satisfied at the expense of the masses, they lost interest in the extension of the revolution. And that, as we now know, led ultimately to the disintegration of the Soviet Union. But that’s another long story that has been adequately analyzed and described elsewhere.

In the final analysis, the imperialist blockade contributed decisively to the bureaucratic degeneration of the first workers state. And though the Stalinist bureaucracy had every reason to expand the country’s productive forces, it nonetheless acted as a brake on the vast productive possibilities inherent in the socialist mode of production. Leon Trotsky explained the mechanics of bureaucratic mismanagement of Soviet industry in The Revolution Betrayed, his brilliant analysis of the Soviet Union, what it was and where it was going: analysis of the Soviet Union:

The progressive role of the Soviet bureaucracy coincides with the period devoted to introducing into the Soviet Union the most important elements of capitalist technique. The rough work of borrowing, imitating, transplanting and grafting, was accomplished on the bases laid down by the revolution. There was, thus far, no question of any new word in the sphere of technique, science or art. It is possible to build gigantic factories according to a ready-made Western pattern by bureaucratic command—although, to be sure, at triple the normal cost. But the farther you go, the more the economy runs into the problem of quality, which slips out of the hands of a bureaucracy like a shadow. The Soviet products are as though branded with the gray label of indifference. Under a nationalized economy, quality demands a democracy of producers and consumers, freedom of criticism and initiative—conditions incompatible with a totalitarian regime of fear, lies and flattery.

The world’s most knowledgeable capitalist economic experts knew from the moment that capitalist rule was first overthrown that allowing a planned economy based on production for use to peacefully and freely compete in the world capitalist marketplace would even more dramatically reveal the superiority of the socialist over the capitalist mode of production. Access to the world division of labor—plus the socialist mode of production—would raise mass living standards more swiftly and further than has otherwise been the case. The contrast between the two systems would be so sharply displayed that the goal of world socialist revolution would be virtually guaranteed.

What is the proof for this assertion since it has never been subject to the test of experience? The proof is provided in great part by the fact that capitalism has assiduously and persistently blocked—by every means at its disposal—such a free, unhindered competition between the two systems in the world marketplace. That in itself serves as world capitalism’s unintended confirmation of the revolutionary Marxist thesis. And it’s underscored today by the unrelenting embargo on trade with Cuba by the undisputed ruler of world capitalist imperialism.

To be sure, there have been and will continue to be those countries that will seek to break through the U.S.-imposed embargo on trade with Cuba. But it’s not likely that such an eventuality will succeed unless, perhaps, the current global recession descends into a full-blown economic crisis.

Then, not only will the blockade begin to crumble, the cement holding the imperialist world together will also start coming unglued as the competition for shares in the sharply reduced world market increases. And the abrupt reduction in mass living standards will surely precipitate a renewed global upsurge of militant class struggle. And at the same time, each ruling class will be compelled to do whatever is necessary to save itself from revolution—setting capitalist against capitalist and imperialism against imperialism.

Meanwhile, the potentially decisive role of the Cuban revolution in the coming period of unprecedented global class struggle needs to be fully appreciated by the existing vanguard of the revolutionary working class. The problem, unfortunately, is that too many of those in the splintered but still potentially revolutionary socialist workers vanguard cannot see the qualitative difference between the Cuban leadership and that of counter-revolutionary Stalinism.

The character of workers’ democracy in Cuba

In sharp contrast to Joseph Stalin’s bureaucratic dictatorship and all the subsequent workers states created in its image, Fidel Castro and his comrades followed an opposite course. Castro, in fact, led the struggle against an attempted takeover by the Stalinist faction in Cuba’s revolutionary party and government in 1961. The Cuban Stalinists—also created in the image of their Soviet Stalinist mentors—had busily recruited to their faction the careerist elements in the Cuban party and state for an ultimate takeover of the leadership of the Cuban revolution. Castro stopped the Stalinists in their tracks even though Cuba was then deeply dependent on favorable trade relations with the Stalinized Soviet Union.

Moreover, Castro has personally intervened whenever those administrators delegated to guard against bureaucratic excesses failed to do their job. Some of us happened to be in Cuba attending an international socialist conference in Havana in October 1997. The conference took place shortly after an important decision-making meeting of the Cuban leadership. Participants told us that this meeting had resolved a very important dispute over this very question with the faction led by Fidel Castro winning a decisive majority against bureaucratic excess.

Joaquin Balaguer, who had evidently been assigned to tell us some of the decisions of that Cuban leadership meeting, pointedly alluded to some of the reasons for the collapse of Stalinism and the disintegration of the Soviet Union. He said, for instance: “It is not socialism that failed. It was those who had the historical responsibility of advancing socialism…. Nor did this failure mean that Marxism and Leninism are of no use as a guide to action. It did mean the collapse of a kind of dogmatic and vulgar Marxism. In those countries, this kind of Marxism was erected into an official theory, burying many of the central principles of our classics. It made into universal laws theses that only served to justify political positions and which had little scientific basis. The socialism that collapsed was moving further and further away from the socialist idea conceived of by Marx, Engels, Lenin and other Marxists….”

(Much earlier, Fidel’s account of his 1961 factional struggle against bureaucratic degeneration can be found in a speech he made on Cuban radio way back in 1962. It was originally published in English under the title “Fidel Castro Denounces Bureaucracy and Sectarianism.” And virtually all his speeches since then reflect his deep commitment to workers’ democracy and what the Cubans learned from the collapse of Stalinism and the disintegration of the Soviet Union.)

Cuba took possession of its own social, economic and political destiny 43 years ago, ending hundreds of years of systematic imperialist skimming-off of the lion’s share of the wealth produced by the sweat and blood of the Cuban working class and other exploited sectors of Cuban society.

But, while Cuba’s economic condition has been vastly improved, despite the great odds against it, the goal of socialism will always be unattainable in Cuba without access to the world division of labor. And as history has demonstrated, socialism is excluded when restricted within one or even many underdeveloped countries. The extension of the Cuban revolution, especially to one or more of the world’s most advanced industrial countries, is as before, the only possible road to socialism.

That strategic perspective, of course, must remain organically linked to Cuba’s continued efforts to maintain and strengthen itself economically in its position as the advance outpost of the world revolution. And whether the revolutionary government of Cuba says that it is oriented toward that objective or not, imperialism believes that that is indeed the case.

In fact, the Castroist leadership of Cuba had long ago begun to draw the lessons of the ongoing economic degeneration and disintegration of what was once the world’s second superpower. And so far, it appears that Cuba has succeeded in gaining some relief from the blockade without making the kind of economic and financial concessions to imperialism that led to the disintegration of the Soviet Union.

So let’s look at the way in which the Castroist leadership pursues its struggle to maintain and advance the interests of the Cuban and the world working class.

The combination of the U.S. imposed embargo and the failures of the former Soviet bloc countries to carry out their trade agreements disrupted the Cuban economy. This photo is from a 1992 Washington Post article showing the temporary but severe impact on Cuba’s health system caused by the American embargo.

Castro invites Carter to speak to the Cuban people

Former President Jimmy Carter’s invitation to visit Cuba was both necessary and an important tactical move on Cuba’s part. It serves the revolution in several ways, the most obvious being to widen a small division among America’s capitalists as well as between the latter and many other of the world’s capitalist countries. Carter made very clear in his speech over Cuban radio and television, however, that he and his friends have only a minor tactical difference with the dominant section of their class and can be counted on to do what they can to destroy revolutionary Cuba. Nevertheless, we believe his action—on balance and despite his real intentions—serves the interests of Cuba’s—not U.S. capitalism’s—class interests.

Pressed by the significantly increasing violation of the U.S. embargo on trade with Cuba by some of the world’s advanced capitalist countries, a growing number of American capitalists—especially those in the giant agribusiness industry who are suffering from the worsening U.S. balance of trade deficit—are pressing their political representatives for an opening into the Cuban market. This is because all the world’s capitalists are in desperate need of finding new markets for their own surplus goods and capital. Thus some of them are compelled to risk their long-term interests by trading with Cuba on the latter’s terms.

They note, as Carter has, that the embargo hasn’t worked anyway and argue that allowing a greater flood of dollars into Cuba would serve to soften up the Cuban government’s commitment to socialism as it did the Stalinist regimes in Eastern Europe and Asia.

Carter and Bush are each partly right and partly wrong. But Bush is more right than Carter because he knows that Cuba, with its Castroist leadership is an entirely different kettle of fish. But who turns out to be right or wrong depends on whether or not Cuba, with a leadership that has consistently based itself on the working class, can hold out until the unfolding global economic crisis breaks out of the control of world imperialism. If they can, then the conditions leading to a resurgence of the world working class in the very centers of world imperialism will change the relation of forces between imperialism and tiny Cuba in favor of the latter.

As expected, ex-President Carter urged Cuba to carry out certain basic “reforms.” He called for Cuba’s introduction of U.S.-style elections, known as bourgeois parliamentary democracy. He also demanded that the Cuban government restore to the Cuban people the right to a so-called “free press.”

But these demands are part and parcel of and lead toward that most treasured of all capitalist “reforms”—the restoration of private ownership of the means of production. Carter, in fact, hypocritically called for a reform already partly in place in Cuba—“the right,” as the former U.S. president put it, “to own a business.”

But Cubans already are licensed to rent tourists a room in their homes or serve them home-cooked meals at much lower cost then in a state-owned or controlled restaurant, or engage in individual and collective forms of agriculture outside the state-owned sector.

Cubans are also allowed to start the “business” of driving their own makeshift “taxis” and otherwise become self-employed outside the formal Cuban economy. And that has led to the creation of one of the most inventive and creative necessary sectors of the Cuban economy—a mass of ingenious, self-employed mechanics that amazingly manage to keep a fleet of ancient, pre-revolutionary American automobiles running indefinitely!

In fact, Cuba’s encouragement of such “private enterprise” is a perfect example of what Lenin described as small businesses performing services that the developing nationalized economy is unable to provide. He explained its indispensable function as “filling the holes in the nationalized economy.”

It’s hardly a secret, however, that the real meaning of Carter’s and capitalist America’s demands have nothing to do with self-employment or filling the holes in Cuba’s economy. It is a demand that the Cuban government restore the right of Cubans to employ their fellow citizens—that is to restore the right of individual Cubans to hire, fire and otherwise exploit the labor of other Cubans.

To be sure both Carter and Bush are smart enough not to demand that “right” for Ford or General Motors. But that is exactly why the right of “Cubans” to go into business for themselves is proposed so disingenuously. They are also smart enough to know that the inevitable result of restoring the right of Cubans to hire, fire and exploit the labor of others would lead to the re-conquest of the Cuban economy by imperialist capital.

To be sure, no one has to tell the Cuban government and the great majority of its people that even granting the Carter/Bush demand for a so-called “free press,” would also become an instrument in the hands of imperialist capital. Workers in capitalist countries are very familiar with the role of the so-called “free press.” While it gives workers the right to publish their opinions in small self-financed newspapers and magazines, such as the one you are now reading, it also allows well-heeled individual capitalists to get their own self-serving point of view out to millions.

Moreover, the capitalists control the entire educational system underpinning modern society as well as the cultural institutions of modern society, such as the movies and the arts. All together these institutions are able in many instances to literally manufacture public opinion on critical local, national and world events, almost as easily as one would order-up a meal in a restaurant.

On the other side of the coin (called bourgeois democracy), it would take the combined efforts of tens, hundreds of thousands or millions of workers to raise the funds needed to reach the same number of readers with their opinions as can a handful of capitalists!

That’s the real meaning of the demand for a “free press” in Cuba by Carter and his country’s bipartisan capitalist government. It would also give a handful of Cuban counter-revolutionaries, financed by the unlimited resources of American imperialism, as loud a voice in Cuba as that of the great majority of Cuba’s working masses. And any attempt by Cuba to limit their lying slander inside Cuba, as we now hear coming out the American “free press,” would only give imperialism the excuse they need to ratchet up its War on Terrorism against Cuba, named number six in Bush’s alleged “axis of evil.”

Such a “free press” now exists in the ex-Soviet Union. It is owned and controlled by a handful of Russian ex-Stalinist bureaucrats metamorphosed into billionaire barons of capitalism and junior partners of world imperialism. Thus, the Russian system of parliamentary democracy is no more responsive to the will of the people than it was under the Stalinist bureaucratic dictatorship.

Cuban democracy is responsive to the will of the majority

Cuba’s system of political democracy is far more responsive to the will of the majority than in any of the few capitalist countries that are able to rule without the most extreme forms of naked repression such as exist in most of the countries in the neocolonial world. Moreover, it appears to us that Cuba’s form of workers’ democracy is more responsive to the will of the majority than is the case in the richest capitalist countries where bourgeois parliamentary democracy is at times least restrictive—at least in periods of capitalist economic equilibrium and expansion.

However, many who consider themselves revolutionary Marxists do not agree with our positive evaluation of the Cuban leadership and their revolutionary and democratic credentials. Here is a brief account provided by a reliable source of Cuban electoral democracy, which is supplemented by a level of workers’ democracy in the unions and in the workplaces that far exceeds anything in the most democratic of capitalist countries. It is in large part based on Arnold August's book Democracy in Cuba and the 1997-98 Elections.

The basic unit of the Cuban system of government is the local popular assembly. Candidates for the various popular assemblies are nominated by the people themselves at public meetings, or by their elected representatives who themselves were nominated at such meetings.

Once elected by secret ballot, representatives or delegates are subject to recall and are accountable to their electorate at meetings every six months throughout their term in office. A not small point to take into account is that it costs nothing to run for public office at any level. This is because the electoral units are so small, that it’s possible to meet and discuss face to face with most voting members. And while the Communist Party of Cuba is the only legally sanctioned party in that country, it plays no role in the electoral process. By law, it can neither nominate nor endorse candidates.

There are three levels of government in Cuba: municipal, provincial and national. Large cities are divided into several municipalities. Elections for delegates by a free and secret ballot are held at 2.5-year intervals for the municipal assemblies and at five-year intervals for delegates to the provincial and national assemblies constituting the Cuban system of government. The 601-member national assembly elects from its membership, the 31-member “council of state” as well as the president of this council. This council is the highest representative body of the Cuban state for national and international purposes. The president of the Council of State, currently Fidel Castro, is the elected Cuban head of state.

The first phase of the electoral process is the election of delegates to the municipal assemblies. The people themselves at small public meetings throughout the country nominate candidates for election of the delegates to these assemblies. Each municipality is divided into electoral districts or constituencies of about 500 inhabitants. In each municipal electoral district, two or more candidates will run for each seat. In the event that no candidate attains a majority of the vote, a runoff is held between the top finishing candidates. Sometimes an additional runoff may be necessary before a majority is attained.

Several months after the municipal elections, the second phase of the electoral process takes place—the election of delegates to the provincial and national assemblies. The municipal assemblies nominate the candidates. Unlike the municipal elections, there is only one candidate for each seat. Voters can accept or reject any or all candidates on the ballot. If any candidate fails to get a majority of the votes, another candidate must be put forward and another election held soon afterwards. (It is safe to say that the U.S. political establishment would never subject itself to this kind of none-of-the-above option!)

Differences between Cuban and pre-Stalinist Soviet democracy

As is well known the Cuban system does not recognize the legitimacy of political parties other than the Cuban Communist Party. This is a departure from the norms in effect in the early years of the Soviet Union when vibrant, pluralistic democratic soviets were the norm. Workers then had the right to form or join working class political parties contesting in the soviets (the political constituency institutions of the Soviet government) with the Communist Party for the allegiance of workers based on their stated political program. But the only parties recognized were those committed programmatically to the socialist revolution and its basic social and economic conquests. All recognized soviet parties, moreover, were pledged to abide by—not necessarily to agree with—the democratic decisions of the soviet system.

In other words, it’s patterned on the kind of democracy that exists in a normally healthy democratic trade union. And like the normal structure of trade unions, the soviets were both legislative and executive bodies with all powers of the state vested in the local, regional and national soviets. That is, all state agencies and institutions were ultimately responsible to and under the control of the soviets. That meant that, as in trade unions and other working-class institutions, the employers or their political representatives were excluded from participating in the soviets and/or its decision-making process, just as bosses are excluded from even the most conservative trade unions.

Thus, in the soviet system, parties calling for capitalist restoration were banned. But alternative workers’ parties were legal and accorded equal rights with the Communists in the soviets. Moreover, in the soviet system the constituencies of the soviets were determined by where its members worked, not where they lived.

The most important argument in favor of the soviet system of political organization, is, perhaps, that it’s far easier to know where your coworkers stand than where your neighbors might stand on the various important questions of concern to the collectivity. That way it’s a whole lot harder for aspiring leaders to have one point of view and pretend to their constituents that they have another. Such duplicity—politicians telling their constituents in one neighborhood one thing and the opposite to another neighborhood—is legendary in the bourgeois democratic electoral system. Another important democratic safeguard normal only to the true soviet form of government is the right to recall elected delegates by a simple majority vote in a soviet of its members at any regular meeting.

The Cuban system is close to the soviet system in this regard but not exactly the same. An important difference between the Cuban Popular Assemblies and the soviet system before the outbreak of civil war in the infant years of the Soviet Union was the right of workers to join or form parties in opposition to the Communist Party. But when the leaders of several of these workers’ parties joined the armed uprising of the Czarist and capitalist counter-revolution, the soviets voted to temporarily ban all but the Communist Party.

Whether or not that decision was justified by the struggle to defend the embattled and weak Soviet power, it was later made permanent when the Stalinist faction of the Communist Party usurped Soviet power and destroyed workers’ democracy in the soviets.

The policy of this magazine is committed to the healthy norms of soviet workers’ democracy as they were practiced in the early years of the Soviet Union. It’s important, however, to understand how the soviet form of government came into existence. The soviets were united front formations composed of all the existing workers parties created by the Russian workers in the course of their three revolutions (1905, February 1917 and October 1917).

The soviet system is like a workers united front in state power

It was through these united front strike committees that the old capitalist state power was overthrown and replaced by the new workers state. This was summed up in the Bolshevik slogan “All Power to the Soviets!” And when the Bolsheviks won a majority in the soviets by a democratic vote they organized the insurrection that resulted in the establishment of the All Russian Congress of Soviets as the new soviet form of government. Thus, a united front of workers’ parties now at the head of the world’s first workers state became an institutionalized component of what was later named the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

We reserve judgment from afar in regard to the Cuban Communist Party’s present policy of outlawing alternative, pro-socialist working-class parties in Cuba. There are three main reasons for our reservations:

First and foremost, it’s because of Cuba’s extreme vulnerability for the 43 years of its existence to open and ill-concealed terrorist assaults by the world’s only superpower 90 miles from its shores. American imperialism’s determination to interfere in Cuba’s democratic system by any means possible, including funding an opposition Cuban “workers’ party” through which it can rule such as many capitalists now do through the reformist Socialist and Communist Parties of Europe and the world.

Secondly, it’s because in almost every other respect the Cuban government has shown that it puts the class interests of its workers and the interests of the world’s super-exploited and oppressed masses before everything else.

And thirdly, it’s because an accurate judgment is difficult to make without direct contact with the participants in the living process of Cuban democracy. It’s very similar to the difficulty we would have in determining whether the decision of the Soviet Communist Party under the leadership of Lenin and Trotsky to outlaw opposing soviet worker’s parties—in the light of subsequent events—was right or wrong.

But while Cuba’s revolutionary socialist government may not have institutionalized all the forms of workers’ democracy that were in effect in the early Soviet system, we believe the Cuban political, social and economic system to be thoroughly democratic in all other essentials. And we have good reason to expect that whatever errors have been or will be made, the chances are very good for a positive outcome. Besides, what else can anyone be reasonably expected to do in this regard? We certainly do not recommend the call for a political revolution in Cuba. Unfortunately, many otherwise well-meaning revolutionists around the world who claim the heritage of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky, do!

Cut off from its traditional trading partners by the U.S. embargo, the Cuban government went to the U.S.S.R., the East European countries, and China searching for trade and credit. Here Fidel Castro is demonstrating a fine Cuban cigar for Marshall Tito in Yugoslavia.

Cuba and the indispensability of a world party of socialist revolution

Scientific socialists from the time of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels understood the need for a world party of socialist revolution. That is a political leadership representing the revolutionary worker’s movement in every country working out a theoretical and practical program of action based on the lessons of the history of class struggle.

The preconditions for socialist revolution are objectively determined. But the matter of effective leadership is a subjective problem. Without the construction of a mass revolutionary workers’ party that has been tested in the class struggle, the conquest of state power by the only revolutionary class in modern society, the proletariat, is exceedingly unlikely. There have been cases where would-be revolutionaries can evolve in the course of the struggle itself into revolutionists that learn from their mistakes and begin to make decisions that lead to successful socialist revolution. And there’s no reason why their evolution into fully developed revolutionary Marxists working toward the goal of world socialist revolution should be excluded.

We think that the current Cuban leadership fits into this category.

However, this writer is not aware of any stated position by the Cuban leadership on the subjective problem of the need for a world party of socialist revolution. Clearly, the objective world situation facing Cuba today—with U.S. imperialism ready to jump on the slightest pretext for justifying an escalation of their terrorist assaults on Cuba, makes it extremely difficult for the Cuban leadership to justify before its 11 million people a bold course of action such as the one taken by the revolutionary socialist government of the Soviet Union in 1919. There is a big objective difference between that time and today but that too, will change.

At the time Lenin and Trotsky and their Bolshevik Party comrades called for and initiated the founding of the Third (or Communist) International to replace the Second, (or Socialist) International, the objective global relation of class forces was very different.

That was a time when revolution was in the air throughout most of the advanced industrial countries of Europe as well as in the colonial and neocolonial world. Setting the mass revolutionary mood were such things as the revolutionary uprising of German soldiers in the trenches in the First World War demanding an end to the four terrible years of senseless killing and dying.

As a matter of fact, such a pre-revolutionary period accompanied the first three decades of revolutionary socialist Cuba’s existence—but only in Latin America and much of the Third World. The imperialist strongholds of world capitalism were stable and in the midst of a prolonged economic expansion with the least disruptive cycles of expansion and contraction ever for such a long period. To illustrate the spirit of the times and the policy of the Cuban leadership, that’s when Che Guevarra, speaking for the Cuban Communist Party issued the revolutionary call for, “One, two, many Vietnams!” It was Che’s uniquely eloquent way of saying that the world’s revolutionaries should come to the aid of the embattled workers and peasants of Vietnam by following a revolutionary strategy in their own countries.

The record of the Cuban revolutionary leaders in responding positively to most pre-revolutionary and revolutionary struggles in the capitalist world, including opposing Soviet Stalinism’s invasion of Afghanistan and Czechoslovakia, strongly suggests that they will again respond even more positively to such a new upsurge of class struggle when the currently unfolding global economic crisis breaks out of control and revolution is once again in the air—this time in the imperialist countries as well as in the neocolonial world. And we have every reason to expect that the Cuban leaders will respond to the new situation as their predecessors in revolutionary Russia had responded to the world situation as it was in 1919 when they founded the Third International.

Fidel Castro addressing a crowd on January 1, 1959. The location is the Moncada Army Barracks in Santiago de Cuba which had just surrendered to the rebel army led by the July 26 Movement without firing a shot. The dictator, General Fulgencio Batista, and a few generals had fled a few hours earlier.





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