World Labor

Cuba, Fidel and Trotsky

By Celia Hart

The following interview with Rouge, weekly paper of the LCR (French section of the Fourth International) was conducted when Celia Hart recently visited France for a colloquium on Pierre Broué, the French Marxist historian who died last year.

Rouge: For fifteen years now the definitive collapse of Cuban society has been announced at regular intervals. Fidel Castro himself has stressed the development of inequality in Cuba. Can we preserve and develop these conquests or are they condemned to disappear?

Hart: I identify totally with the Cuban revolution but I don’t represent it. What I say is my personal opinion. The social conquests of the socialist revolution in Cuba are obvious: great social equality, a system of education which is accessible to everyone and on a level comparable to the United States or Europe—in other words to much richer countries—a health system superior to any other country in Latin America and which, contrary to what is happening in Europe, is not being privatized or dismantled.

But if the Cuban revolution has been able to overcome the difficulties of the “‘special period”—power cuts, breakdowns of public transport, minimal rations of food, etc.—the result of Cuban trade agreements with the countries of the so-called “‘socialist camp”‘ and of the continuing imperialist blockade—it is because the Cuban population as a whole defended the revolution and not social advantages.

The difficulties that we are now experiencing are not related to material needs. The liberalization of trade and of possession of foreign currency—capitalist mechanisms that were introduced, and that some people justify by comparing them to the Russian NEP [New Economic Policy] of the 1920s—led to social differentiation and the appearance of “the new rich.” In a speech on November 17 last year the commander [Fidel Castro] formulated it in the following way “this revolution can destroy itself all alone, and the only ones who can’t manage to destroy it are them” [U.S. imperialism]. “‘But we can destroy it and it would be our fault.” And he said that while stressing that: “‘several tens of thousands of parasites produce nothing and earn everything….”

Similarly, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Felipe Perez Roque, insisted at the United Nations that the danger for Cuba was the creation of a bourgeois class. The interpenetration of the bureaucracy and the market economy, that’s where the danger lies. We have to demolish the foundations of the bureaucracy, because it is on these foundations that the bourgeois class can develop—we saw in the USSR, in Poland, and elsewhere how the bureaucrats, who were managers, men of power, became owners, became capitalists.

In Cuba, unlike in the GDR of the 1980s, “‘Lenin is alive” [in Cuba], the bureaucratic counterrevolution has not been carried through. We must take advantage of that to demolish the remaining foundations of the bureaucracy. Because it is from there that the danger of capitalist restoration can come.

The Venezuelan revolutionary process is making it possible to loosen the imperialist stranglehold around Cuba. And even if this process is only beginning and the parallels between the two revolutions are deceptive, can we speak today of reciprocal influences?

Cuban doctors, paramedics, and teachers, are working in Venezuela. But they don’t take any part in the political life of the country, a choice with which I disagree, even though you can understand that there is a self-limitation to avoid Cuba being accused of interfering.

But the freshness of the Venezuelan process, the voyages there, the possibility of experiencing other realities and intervening there are an enriching experience and it is important that Cubans, in particular young people—and not the Cuban government or state of course—can take part in the Venezuelan revolution, not only as doctors or teachers, but in the factories, the neighborhood meetings, etc.

In any case it has to be stressed that the links that have been established between Cuba and Venezuela are different from those that existed with the USSR. Because it is a question of links between two revolutionary processes, one which is already consolidated and another which is beginning. Both of them are authentic revolutions. With the USSR, on the contrary, it was a question of relations between states, and of unequal relations.

The dynamic of the Venezuela-Cuba tandem, the possible integration of Bolivia into the process that is under way, actualizes the permanent revolution and enables us to lay the foundations of a relationship that is going in the direction of building a real united front.

Rouge: Why does Trotsky’s theoretical contribution seems so important to you?

Hart: In Cuba we have been living through a process of permanent revolution since the Moncada.

The continuity of the revolution, the question of its deepening, were at the center of the thinking of Cuban revolutionaries, and especially of the July 26 Movement. First of all Mella, then Guevara, were accused of being “Trotskyists.” They weren’t, but the accusations had a rational kernel, because they were oriented towards the permanent revolution even without having read Trotsky. The permanence of the Cuban revolution is in the ideas of the Left Opposition.

In Cuba, anti-Stalinist feeling has always existed, because people thought that communism was the Stalinism of the Communist Party. And the [Stalinist] Party was one of the last to join the revolution…. But when Fidel announced in 1961 the socialist character of the Cuban revolution, people said: “‘If Fidel is a communist, you can sign me up too.”

I always felt that there was something missing in my thinking about the revolution. That’s what I’ve found through reading Trotsky: I discovered that social justice and individual freedom were not contradictory and that we weren’t condemned to choose between them; that socialism could only be built by walking on both feet.

Celia Hart, who is a physicist, a writer, and a member of the Cuban Communist Party, has described herself as a “freelance Trotskyist” since discovering Trotsky’s writings when she was studying physics in East Germany in the 1980s. At that time she could see at first hand to what extent this so-called “really existing socialism” was; a society in decadence and without a future. Daughter of two historic leaders of the Cuban revolution, Haydée Santamaria and Armando Hart, Celia Hart was lucky enough on returning from the GDR to be able to find the writings of Isaac Deutscher1 in her father’s library.

—International Viewpoint, May 2006

1 Isaac Deutscher wrote a three-volume political biography of Leon Trotsky, The Prophet Armed, The Prophet Unarmed and The Prophet Outcast.