Socialist ViewPoint and analysis for working people

May/June 2005 • Vol 4, No. 5 •

Cuba at the Crossroads

Editorial (The Militant)

The following editorial appeared in the January 18, 1960 edition of the revolutionary socialist newsweekly, The Militant, Vol. XXIV—No. 3.

We are reprinting it at the request of Walter Lippmann who suggested that we publish this special edition of Socialist Viewpoint on Cuba. While we are grateful for his suggestion and welcome his contribution, we are compelled in fairness to The Militant and the Socialist Workers’ Party whose views are reflected in the pages of that socialist newsweekly to say the following. We believe that our friend and comrade’s criticism of the line of The Militant editorial is one-sided and that he has taken this particularly critical editorial statement entirely out of context of the newspaper’s mostly supportive commentary on Cuba from the very outset.

Over the years, The Militant’s editors made timely corrections of the inevitable mistakes that any and all honest revolutionaries are capable of making. They gave the Cubans full credit for the corrections that they made before any serious damage had been done to the future of their revolution. As many honest and capable political commentators have noted, nobody’s perfect.

In a note that accompanied his contribution, he asked that it appear immediately below the reprint of the Militant editorial so that readers can form their own opinions, and respond to his contribution. We, will of course, consider for publication all serious contributions to Lippmann’s comments—as well as other matters discussed in these pages—in subsequent editions of this magazine.

We are also obliged, however, to differentiate the views of the editors of Socialist Viewpoint from Walter’s views on the Cuban revolution which revolves around his criticism of Leon Trotsky’s theory of Permanent Revolution. A theory which The Militant had supported at the time the editorial was written.

We, on the contrary, remain in complete agreement with Permanent Revolution, which we believe explains why the Cuban leadership carried through the socialist revolution at the end of the same year the editorial below was written.

That is, in order to complete its democratic revolution, Cuba’s revolutionary leaders were compelled to begin the socialist revolution, which is a confirmation of Trotsky’s theory of Permanent Revolution.

—The Editors (Socialist Viewpoint)

• • •

The Cuban revolution has reached the crossroads. In one direction lies nationalization of industry and still more sweeping measures of progressive character. In the other, counter-revolution.

This is our estimate. It is also the estimate of other forces. Here is a report that appeared in the Wall Street Journal: “Businessmen, many of them already convinced that almost complete nationalization of Cuba’s basic industry is in the offing, have a new worry: The possibility of counter-revolution.”

According to the same source, “opposition groups are busy collecting funds to buy arms and…the wealthy and middle-class Cubans, who have suffered the most under Castro, are ripe for revolt.”

An American businessman in Havana told the Wall Street Journal, “Now I have reason to hope Castro will be overthrown…”

The Lesson of Guatemala

It is the hope for a successful counter-revolution that has inspired the screaming in our native American capitalist press against the Castro regime. America’s capitalist rulers recall how they succeeded in 1954 in overthrowing the Arbenz government of Guatemala to which the Castro government bears some resemblance.

A crew of adventurers was put together under a Lt. Col. Armas. They were a miserable lot, but they enjoyed powerful support; behind them stood the banana kings of United Fruit and—the State Department. The American embassy was directly involved in the conspiracy that succeeded in overthrowing the Guatemalan government by force and violence.

Can an overturn like the one in Guatemala now be engineered in Cuba? Our imperialist masters seem to hope so. While the Cuban counter-revolutionaries collect funds in the skyscrapers of Manhattan to buy arms, the State Department is utilizing its worldwide influence to cut off sources of modern arms to the Cuban government. In one scandalous instance that came to light, British spokesmen acknowledged that their government had bowed to Washington’s wishes.

True enough, the Wall Street plotters may decide to keep their Cuban Armas under wraps for a time. Tad Szulc, in an informative series of articles in the New York Times, explained that those who determine State Department policy are afraid that any “drastic United States action” today would arouse all of Latin America. So they are taking it on the slow bell. “They feel it is necessary to let the wind of extremism blow themselves out.”

Behind the Plotters

To take such diplomatic delay as signifying an indefinite extension of time would be about the worst mistake the Castro forces could make. Evil as it is, the baleful gaze which the press has turned on Cuba gives little indication of the true fury and malevolent intent which the world center of imperialist capital is measuring the revolution that broke out on its Latin-American doorstep.

Yankee investments in Cuba are estimated by banking circles as worth somewhere between $800 million and $1 billion. That’s not a philanthropic fund set up for the benefit of the Cuban people. It represents an intricate network of economic control threatening the rich Caribbean island like the gray mycelium of a monstrous parasite.

How powerful the forces are to which the counter-revolutionaries look for support can be judged from the following partial list of companies holding property in Cuba: Abbott Laboratories, American & Foreign Power, Atlantic Refining, Bethlehem Steel, Chase Manhattan Bank, Chrysler, Esso, First National Bank of Boston, First National City Bank of New York, Freeport Sulphur, Gulf Oil, International Harvester, International Telephone & Telegraph, Lykes Bros. Steamship, Pan American World Airways, Shell Oil, Standard Oil of California, Texaco, united Fruit.

Besides that the Catholic Church has begun to organize “action groups” in each of Cuba’s 66 parishes.

The Revolutionary Forces

The Cuban revolution, however, cannot easily be “contained,” no matter how intense the wish in the countinghouses of New York.

The power of the Cuban landlords and capitalists, who acted under Batista as venal agents for the foreign masters, lies shattered.

The class forces pressing the Cuban revolution forward are of great scope and depth. The peasantry wants a clean sweep of the feudal-like estates. The workers, elated by the victory over Batista, have already begun to reorganize, foreshadowing their entrance in the arena as the socialist force needed to assure the final success of the revolution.

Despite a rightward swing in many countries, the international setting favors the Cuban revolution. It is part of the world-wide upheaval which began at the close of World War II and which is now shaking the Mideast and Africa. From China to Cuba the revolutions tend to strengthen each other as they weaken capitalism.

The Castro Leadership

The main danger to the Cuban revolution is in its own leadership. The class background of the Castro forces is petty bourgeois. From university circles these revolutionaries moved into rural areas where they gathered strength as guerrilla fighters dedicated to agrarian reform. Their aims were nationalist and equalitarian—independence from foreign domination, and end to government corruption, reduction of special privileges, improvements for the poor.

These aims coincided with those of small business and therefore attracted support from sections of the Cuban bourgeoisie smarting under the Batista dictatorship.

When Castro’s peasant forces swept into the cities, the bourgeois wing of the leadership sought strategic government posts where they could best influence economic and financial policies. Wall Street viewed these figures favorably.

The more revolutionary-minded elements projected far-reaching reforms, especially against the big landholders. But they procrastinated. And they failed to consider such fundamental measures as nationalization of industry, government monopoly of foreign trade, and the expropriation of the capitalists.

Turn to the Left

The result was a relative decline in Castro’s strength and popularity. Emboldened by this, the bourgeois wing of the leadership began to differentiate a right-ward position. The counter-revolutionaries plotted bombing expeditions. The weakening of the revolution culminated in the October crisis.

In this Castro turned leftward. He ousted the most suspicious figures from their strategic posts, staged great mass rallies and opened a campaign against the counter-revolutionaries and their American backers.

The agrarian reforms were speeded up. Along with division of the land, the formation of co-operatives received fresh impetus. The National Institute of Agrarian Reform was given greater weight among the government institutions.

Steps were also taken against the capitalist owners of industry. One of these is a transitional measure called “intervention.” Ownership, with its tapping of profits, still remains as before, but the owners’ control is “intervened.” Control is shifted to representatives of the government.

A transitional step that cuts still deeper is a “request” to businessmen to begin training army men in the operation of their business; in other words, to prepare a substitute management.

In addition, the government was authorized to take over temporarily any business in which there was a serious labor dispute or which discharged workers. The squeeze was increased from another direction by levying higher taxes on mineral concessions and imposing stiff regulations on exploitation of petroleum resources.

Which Will It Be?

These transitional measures are in the right direction. But they were taken in response to immediate pressures. They were not foreseen, still less included in the program of the Castro leadership which spoke only vaguely of nationalizing the electric and telephone companies. This gives the revolution the appearance of headlessness. How long can this petty-bourgeois government get by in such fashion? At what point will it prove incapable of transcending its petty-bourgeois character?

To consolidate the revolution, no choice is open but to take the road of nationalizing the key industries, instituting socialist property forms, constructing a planned economy and undertaking an active policy for a similar course throughout Latin America. The aim of Cuba’s foreign policy should be the formation of a United States of Latin America that could unite all countries below the Rio Grande in an interlocking socialist economy of enormous productive capacity.

The alternative to that grandiose perspective is stagnation, demoralization and decline of the Cuban revolution, an eventual counter-revolutionary victory and the restoration of a dictatorial regime even worse than that of Batista.

Which will it be?

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