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June 2003 • Vol 3, No. 6 •

A Response to the Fourth International

By Jose Perez

I think it is time to stop mincing words about the Fourth International.The statement on Cuba by its Executive Bureau is a wretched disgrace.

That some progressive individuals and even revolutionaries may have been confused and taken in by the initial barrage of lies and propaganda against Cuba is lamentable but understandable. Many of those that signed onto or made critical statements that others of us feared could have been used as part of Washington’s anti-Cuba crusade, however, have since then also endorsed the appeal to the conscience of the world showing they repudiate any such manipulation and their own comments come in a framework of real, active defense of Cuba.

Unfortunately, that is not what we see here.

This is not a statement issued at the end of March, or the beginning of April. The Cuban authorities have long since made available a detailed accounting of these cases which show: a) the dissidents were tried, convicted and sentenced to prison for collaborating with the United States in its campaign to undermine and overthrow the Cuban Revolution; b) the hijackers were sentenced to death for hijacking and using terrorist methods in the framework of a series of such events; a stepped-up U.S. campaign to push people into hijackings; and stepped-up U.S. threats against Cuba for not bringing the hijackings under control.

Moreover, this is not a statement made by an individual, but by an international organization that should approach these sorts of questions in the most scrupulous way.

Therefore I think it must be said that it is a slander to say now, when the facts have long been available and have been unchallenged, that what went on was “the execution of three Cuban citizens and the heavy prison sentences imposed on other citizens who were expressing their desire to exercise their right of criticism.” It is, quite simply, a lie.

And the people who put out this statement either put it out knowing it to be false or in reckless disregard of whether or not it was true, despite having had ample opportunity to acquaint themselves with the facts.

This statement comes in the midst of series of escalating attacks against Cuba. The travel ban has been re-enforced, academic, cultural, scientific and commercial exchanges cancelled, and the 1994 immigration accords abrogated in all but name by the U.S. side.

And the statement was issued the day after Washington’s latest aggression against Cuba—the expulsion of 14 diplomats—made headlines around the world. And it comes just as the White House is putting finishing touches on further aggressions against Cuba to be announced by President Bush on May 20th, which marks the establishment in 1902 of the corrupt “independent” American protectorate that the Revolution swept away.

There is no mention of any of that. Thus the claims about “our solidarity with the Cuban people” are left without any real substance. They can only be read as ritualistic lip service to provide “left cover” for an attack on Cuba, not a statement that, however critical, comes in the framework of real, active solidarity. Because there is no attempt to explain the stepped up aggressions, there is no call for increased vigilance, on the contrary! They make excuses for their lack of solidarity, placing the onus for it on Cuba: “recourse by the Cuban leadership to extreme repressive methods makes this kind of solidarity much more difficult.”

The principled explanation for the FI Executive Bureau’s criticisms of Cuba are simply the most vulgar, garden variety kind of petty-bourgeois moralizing and philistinism imaginable, delivered in an insufferably arrogant manner.

“It is true, as the Cuban CP’s letter indicates, that ‘the Bush Administration’s hostility towards Cuba has exceeded that of all previous administrations.’ The ruling classes, the US ruling classes first and foremost, have always used barbarous methods; but fighting against these policies cannot justify the use of undemocratic methods, including the unacceptable death penalty, by a government that claims to be socialist. Precisely because certain methods are characteristic of the exploiting classes, revolutionaries must not resort to them.”

Just listen to this! The bourgeoisie, they admit, uses “barbarous” methods; the Bush’s administration’s hostility to Cuba is unparalleled historically ... but! The revolution may not use “undemocratic methods” or the “unacceptable death penalty.”

The Fourth International orders Cuba to play by gentlemen’s rules, which, of course, the imperialists are not bound by. This has nothing to do with Marx, Engels, Lenin or Trotsky. A few quotes will suffice to show the complete divergence of the positions of the Executive Bureau from those of Revolutionary Marxism:

Engels wrote:

Have these gentlemen ever seen a revolution? A revolution is certainly the most authoritarian thing there is; it is the act whereby one part of the population imposes its will upon the other part by means of rifles, bayonets and cannons—authoritarian means, if such there be at all; and if the victorious party does not want to have fought in vain, it must maintain this rule by means of the terror which its arms inspire in the reactionists. Would the Paris Commune have lasted a single day if it had not made use of this authority of the armed people against the bourgeois? Should we not, on the contrary, reproach it for not having used it freely enough? [From “On Authority.”]

Lenin wrote:

Dictatorship is rule based directly upon force and unrestricted by any laws…. The revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat is rule won and maintained by the use of violence by the proletariat against the bourgeoisie, rule that is unrestricted by any laws. [From The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky.]

Trotsky wrote:

The bourgeoisie itself conquered power by means of revolts, and consolidated it by the civil war. In the peaceful period, it retains power by means of a system of repression. As long as class society, founded on the most deep-rooted antagonisms, continues to exist, repression remains a necessary means of breaking the will of the opposing side…. The degree of ferocity of the struggle depends on a series of internal and international circumstances. The more ferocious and dangerous is the resistance of the class enemy who have been overthrown, the more inevitably does the system of repression take the form of a system of terror….
During war all institutions and organs of the State and of public opinion become, directly or indirectly, weapons of warfare. This is particularly true of the Press. No government carrying on a serious war will allow publications to exist on its territory, which, openly or indirectly, support the enemy.... “A besieged city,” wrote a Communard, Arthur Arnould of Paris, “cannot permit within its midst that hopes for its fall should openly be expressed, that the fighters defending it should be incited to treason, that the movements of its troops should be communicated to the enemy. Such was the position of Paris under the Commune.” Such is the position of the Soviet Republic during the two years of its existence.” (from “Terrorism and Communism”.)

And such has been the position of Cuba for more than four decades—“a besieged city”—and never has that been truer than it is today, when a fascist-minded cabal has seized control of the U.S. government through electoral fraud and a judicial coup d’etat, has declared a policy of permanent war against the Third World, has already invaded and occupied Afghanistan and Iraq; and is now threatening Syria, Iran, North Korea and Cuba.

In the middle of all this, and just as the Bush regime announces new aggressions against Cuba and prepares more, comes now the Fourth International to denounce . . . Cuba for the measures that the Cuban authorities have felt forced to adopt in self defense!

Cuba does not ask revolutionary or progressive forces in other countries to endorse the measures it has taken, but it does ask for understanding and respect for the right and duty of Cuba’s leaders and institutions to defend the country against imperialist aggression as best they can. Cuba asks for respect, just as Cuba has shown respect to those who have disagreed with the measures within a framework of real, active solidarity with the revolution.

And Cuba has engaged in a fraternal dialogue with those forces, including, for example, at the May Day rally in Havana, where the Rev. Lucius Walker explained why many of Cuba’s true friends believed application of the death penalty was a terrible mistake.

And in addition, to asking for understanding and respect, at this hour Cuba has also asked for solidarity, and if ever there was a people that had a right, not just to ask, but to demand solidarity, it is the people of Cuba.

And this is how the Fourth International responds, officially, in receipt of a direct appeal from Cuba, after due deliberation, with a month and a half to avail itself of the facts, to see the mounting crescendo of Washington’s anti-Cuba campaign, and in light of the latest provocations and those still being prepared: with an upraised middle finger, arrogant petty-bourgeois moralistic sermonizing, and, oh yes, a fig-leaf phrase about “solidarity with the Cuban people.”

Which brings me to my last point. It is no secret that this Fourth International is mostly based in Western Europe. Yet it has not a word to say—not one!—against the European imperialists—their own imperialists—in relation to Cuba.

They could, for example, have mentioned the countless ways in which their own imperialists cooperate with and re-enforce U.S. economic blockade, even as they gouge Cuba and profiteer from it. Such an explanation would have been especially welcome because Cuba itself, for obvious reasons, is hardly in a position to talk about this except in the most indirect and general ways, in terms of “added costs of imports” due to the blockade and so on.

Or the FI could have pointed out that it has been the European imperialists and their common agricultural policy, which has meant dumping on the world market sugar produced at 50 cents a pound or more at a price of 10 cents a pound or less, that played a central role in bankrupting the Cuban sugar industry and basically driven Cuba—which historically has been the lowest cost producer in the entire world—out of the world market. If in these past 10 years Cuba had been allowed to compete in the European market for sugar and sweeteners, or for that matter in the U.S. market, the island would be by far the most prosperous country in Latin America today.

At the very least one would have thought the FI would have wanted to differentiate itself from the economic and political reprisals adopted by the European imperialists against Cuba over these incidents, so that at least the FI statement could not be seen as shamefaced, back-handed support to their own imperialism’s attacks against the revolution. Not even that.

On the contrary, the statement partakes of the supercilious European intelligentsia’s attitude which looks down, not just on people of color, but on the American barbarians.

“The ruling classes, the US ruling classes first and foremost, have always used barbarous methods,” they pontificate. It is probably true that when it comes to barbarism, the American rulers are in no way the inferiors of those of other countries. But is it really true to say “first and foremost”?

I seem to remember the Spanish ruling class, for example, being fairly barbarous in defending its rule during the Civil War, downright savage. Of course today Spain in a “modern” and “democratic” country, “civilized,” as one European friend tells me, and that’s why they don’t have the death penalty, just death squads to execute Basque patriots in their sleep and laws to gag the Basque nation as a whole outlawing the parties that fight for independence.

That’s the way “civilized” nations do it: no charges, no trial, no evidence, no lawyers, just a bullet from paid assassins.

And it’s not just Spain. Germany—Hitler. Britain—the north of Ireland. France—Vietnam, Algiers. There’s been plenty of barbarism by the imperialists of all countries to make it quite unnecessary to single out a particular one for special honors. Especially because there is very clearly a problem when you start seeing other people’s imperialism as so much more of an enemy than your own.

And most of all when you start issuing statements that read like colonial administrators lecturing the darkies. Cuba’s actions are “unacceptable from a revolutionary democratic point of view” Cuba’s actions are “unacceptable for the defense of the revolution” Cuba “cannot justify the use of undemocratic methods” its use of the death penalty is “unacceptable” especially from “a government that claims to be socialist.” Worse, these darkies are recidivists: “we have considered it necessary to make criticisms—particularly of the Cuban government’s attitude towards the leaderships in the Soviet Union and other non-capitalist countries,” etc. etc. etc.

Who is this meant to impress? Who is this meant to convince? The Cuban Revolutionaries, tested veterans of a thousand battles? They have been lectured by much weightier forces than those under the command of this Fourth International, and have calmly continued to defend the revolution and fight for its extension without losing an hour of sleep worrying about the tongue lashings.

Does anyone think this arrogant tone, which many—let’s be brutally frank—will take as evidence of a racist and imperialistic attitude, is going to have the slightest influence on the millions of working people the world over, especially in the third world and people of color in the imperialist heartlands, who look to Cuba as an inspiration and as an example, who view Cuba—and especially Fidel—as the one voice on the world stage that speaks for them?

What the Fourth International and all revolutionary and progressive forces—most of all in the imperialist centers!—need to do is to center their fire on the real enemies of democracy both in Cuba and the World over: the American imperialists and their European imperialist allies.





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