Fidel Castro is Dead, defend the Cuban Workers’ State!

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28/11/2016 by socialistfight

Gerry Downing 26-11-16

Castro in his mountain hideout in eastern Cuba while leader of a continuing revolt against president Fulgencio Batista and his regime on Sept. 10, 1957.

Fidel Castro died late on Friday night, 25 November 2016 at the age of 90. His victorious guerrilla army entered Havana on New Year’s Day 1959 in what was the most popular and momentous revolution in the western hemisphere since the US civil war of the 1860s. Cuba with North Korea are the only remaining deformed workers’ states following the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall and subsequent restoration of capitalist states in Eastern Europe, the USSR, China, Vietnam and Laos between then and 1992. Fidel conceded power to his brother Raul in 2008 due to ill health.

Cuba survived not least because of the benefits it bestowed on the working class and peasantry, including a world class education and a health system that greatly out performs that of its giant neighbour 90 miles to the north, the USA particularly for the poor, at a fraction of the cost per capita because profit is not the motivation of the system.

Education and Healthcare in Cuba

The Inter Nations website provided the following details in its article Cuba at a Glance Healthcare and Education in Cuba, undated but with 2014 references. It puts Britain’s National Health Service to shame, to mention just one system frequently mentioned as the envy of the capitalist world. Its emphasis on preventative medicine, its research and development and the integration of the entire effort, as with education, means the benefits of state planning are demonstrated very graphically indeed. This alone justifies our characterisation of Cuba as a deformed workers’ state and our defence of it as such as long as these gains continue and not just as a semi-colonial country which we would be also obliged to defend against imperialist attacks, direct or by internally sponsored proxies, irrespective of its leadership. It exposes the great damage and waste of human resources privatisation and the profit motive cause:

“Contrary to what you might expect Cuba has an extensive public healthcare system, to which all citizens enjoy equal access. Particularly in the 1980s, Cuba’s healthcare system underwent several reforms and redevelopment. This is one of the reasons why, according to the WHO, Cubans not only have the highest life expectancy in the geographical region, but also place among the top five highest in the world.

…As mentioned above, the public healthcare system in Cuba covers all citizens. Private hospitals, doctor’s practices, and other private medical facilities do not exist. Instead, all health-related facilities and services are run by the government. Universal vaccinations and other universal programs have almost eradicated diseases like polio, rubella, tuberculosis, or chicken pox.

Furthermore, the small budget means that Cuba had to invent a unique approach to healthcare. It consists of compulsory health checks in order to put an emphasis on prevention. In fact, preventing a disease, or catching it at an early phase, is less expensive for the public healthcare system. This means that every Cuban has at least one annual health check-up, which often is done at home by local doctors or nurses.

Ever since the Cuban revolution in the 1950s, the country’s education system has fundamentally improved. UNESCO rates Cuba as the best education system in Latin America, despite being one of the less developed countries in the region.

However, this is unsurprising, as, alongside the medical sector, the education sector lies at the centre of the government ethos and it invests 13% of its GDP there (as of 2014). As is the case with healthcare in Cuba, education is public and free for all citizens and literacy is at 99.8%. Before the big changes the revolution brought, it was particularly the rural population which did not have access to basic education. Today, a large school network provides education in all corners of the Cuban island (our emphasis). [1]

A man carries a woman across a river at Petit Goave where a bridge collapsed during the rains of Hurricane Matthew, south-west of Port-au-Prince, 5 October

4 dead in the Dominican Republic, 4 Dead in Cuba, 1,600 dead in Haiti from Hurricane William. No shelters, no preparation, no proper rescue – a country raped and super exploited by US imperialism, as Cuba would be today if Castro had not overthrown US puppet Batista in 1959.

When Hurricane William struck on 3 October 2015 the Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, suffered 4 deaths. Cuba, just 25 miles across the sea, also suffered 4 deaths because of a bridge collapse but Haiti lost 1,600 citizens and huge casualties besides. And therein lies the motivation for the Cuban working class and poor to retain the deformed workers’ state.

Before 1959 Haiti and Cuba were sister states, almost equally exploited and raped by the USA. Havana was a Mafia casino and brothel city for US tourists. Now Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere, super exploited by the likes of Disney Corporation with workers on a dollar a day type wages, its puppet leaders from Papa Doc Duvalier and Baby Doc imposed massive oppression by the murderous Tonton Macoutes on behalf of their Wall Street masters. The latter was ousted by a popular uprising in 1986, but the subsequent military dictatorship and the career of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, ousted and re-ousted by the CIA and their local NGOs and corrupt political agents, made sure no leader of Haiti was tolerated by the USA if they displayed a modicum of independence and sympathy for the poor and oppressed.  In contrast Castro openly defied the USA, defeated their attempted coups including the Bay of Pigs in April 1961 and survived numerous exploding cigar attempts by the CIA to assassinate him.

The Liaison Committee for the Fourth International identified these unique features of the Cuban revolution in our statement of December 2014:

1) Cuba is a workers’ state that didn’t arise from the actions of industrial workers;

2) It is the workers’ state which is geographically closest to the hard core of world imperialism;

3) Economically it is very fragile; it was at its weakest when the USSR collapsed and abandoned it after 1991;

4) In proportion to its fragility Cuba made the biggest effort in the international arena in Africa and in Latin America, without getting any immediate strategic profit for their efforts, but using it as element of resistance against the pressure of imperialism.

6) To influence mass movements in Latin America the Castro bureaucracy needed to abandon part of the Stalinist bureaucracy’s nationalism;

7) The role of the Cuban bourgeois ‘gusanos’(literally ‘worms’, the counterrevolutionary Cubans concentrated in Miami, Florida), as an organic component of imperialism, is disproportionate to its economic weight as a fraction of the US capitalist class.

8) Thus, among all workers’ states the Castroite bureaucratic was forced to confront imperialism far more than any other and had to rely on the masses far more because of the threat of imperialism.

In a way, and to a certain extent, and these exceptional circumstances, above all by the blockade imposed for more than half a century, prevented the capitalist restoration processes developing gradually and peacefully in Cuba and North Korea (as in China and Viet Nam). This is due to the fragility of these workers’ states who have to fight against imperialism and their respective bourgeois “worms” in Miami or South Korea. In these circumstances the restoration of capitalism could only occur through a civil war. [2]

Castro’s and Che Guevara’s intervention in the world stage also had great progressive influence. From the current day supply of medicines and doctors to neighbouring American countries, including to offering aid to New Orleans after its Hurricane Katrina disaster in August 29, 2005, to its great troop airlift to Angola in 1975 which hastened the end of Apartheid. Castro sent troops to fight imperialism elsewhere in Africa and Che Guevara fought in the Congo/Zaire and Bolivia where he met his death in 1967 for what he saw as the international cause of revolution.

Image result for Cuban state executions of oppositionists images

Propaganda of Batista’s spawn, the gusanos, in Miami, Florida.

Tributes and Democratic Rights

World leaders have paid tribute to Castro and many of his enemies were forced to acknowledge his achievements. But even many leftist sympathisers mention his ‘faults’, including his great ‘fault’; his disregard for democratic rights. If only he had achieved these things without violence he would be just perfect, his liberal supporters say. His right-wing opponents say that all his achievements are of nothing because he did not allow ‘freedom, justice and democracy’. But there is violence and violence. The violence of the slave to break his or her chains can never be equated with the violence of the slave owner imposed to maintain those chains. One is progressive and liberating, the other is reactionary and illegitimate.

The revolution had every right to use violence to overthrow the US puppet dictator Batista, to imprison and when necessary execute its determined counter-revolutionary opponents. That is not a ‘fault’ of the revolution or of any revolution but its very essence; it simply could not succeed if it conceded the monopoly of violence to the incumbent corrupt dictatorship. We would quote no less an opponent than President John F Kennedy in support of that view:

“I believe that there is no country in the world, including the African regions, including any and all the countries under colonial domination, where economic colonization, humiliation and exploitation were worse than in Cuba, in part owing to my country’s policies during the Batista regime. I believe that we created, built and manufactured the Castro movement out of whole cloth and without realizing it. I believe that the accumulation of these mistakes has jeopardized all of Latin America. The great aim of the Alliance for Progress is to reverse this unfortunate policy. This is one of the most, if not the most, important problems in America foreign policy. I can assure you that I have understood the Cubans. I approved the proclamation which Fidel Castro made in the Sierra Maestra, when he justifiably called for justice and especially yearned to rid Cuba of corruption. I will go even further: to some extent it is as though Batista was the incarnation of a number of sins on the part of the United States. Now we shall have to pay for those sins. In the matter of the Batista regime, I am in agreement with the first Cuban revolutionaries. That is perfectly clear.”  [3]

And here we see one of the contradictions of the Cuban Revolution. Because the Castro brothers and the 26 July Movement did not see the struggle to overthrow Castro as a socialist or communist revolution. As we see Fidel specifically denied being a communist and it is clear that Kennedy understood that in the beginning “the first Cuban revolutionaries” were not Marxist-Leninists and wished only to establish a democratic bourgeois republic. Of course, we realise Kennedy’s statement is hypocritical in the extreme, the CIA organised the invasion of the Bay of Pigs in 1961 under Eisenhower but Kennedy was kept fully informed and explicitly approved it as President. And he was responsible for the economic blockade after Eisenhower in January 1961. But he points to a change between the “first Cuban revolutionaries” and what happened after the failure of the Bay of Pigs.

 

Fidel Castro as Revolutionary

In 1959, following his ousting of Batista, Fidel denied being a communist or seeking to become a dictator:

“I am not a dictator, and I do not think I will become one. I will not maintain power with a machine gun … I am not a communist and neither is the revolutionary movement, but we do not have to say that we are anti-Communists just to fawn on foreign powers.” [4]

But on the day after the Bay of Pigs failed invasion, on 16 April 1961, in a funeral oration in Vedado for victims of the air raids the day before he had changed his outlook fundamentally:

Fellow workers and peasants, this is the socialist and democratic revolution of the working people, with the working people, and for the working people. And for this revolution of the working people, by the working people, and for the working people we are prepared to give our lives. [5]

And by 2 December 1961 he made a speech on the anniversary of the Granma landing and explained:

If we had paused to tell the people that we were Marxist-Leninists while we were on Pico Turquino and not yet strong, it is possible that we would never have been able to descend to the plains … I am a Marxist-Leninist, and I will be a Marxist-Leninist until the last days of my life. [6]

The blockade of Cuba began October 19, 1960. Cuba had done a barter deal of sugar for oil with the USSR because restrictions of Cuman sugar sales to the US were imposed. The US-owned refineries refused to process the Soviet crude and Castro nationalised them without compensation. The imposition of the blockade forced Castro into the arms of the USSR and as we see from the quotes above he now began to proclaim himself a Marxist-Leninist and the revolution as socialist. The blockade was extended in September 1961 after full nationalisation and state planning was introduced and the country was obviously now a workers’ state.

Part of the reason for the survival of Cuba also was that other countries were unhappy about the blockade and wanted to trade. The Helms–Burton Act 1996 was directed not just at US firms but contained an extraterritorial clause that attempted to forbid all countries to trade with Cuba. The European Union was opposed to the Helms Burton Act as were Canada and Mexico and the US made various attempt to sanction private corporations that it viewed as breaking its rules, viewed as illegitimate by these countries.

It is worth noting the Organisation of American States initially expelled Cuba in January 1962 on US urgings and agreed to readmit it in June 2009 but Cuba has not accepted the invitation and has refused to return. On 6 May 2005, President Fidel Castro said Cuba would not “be part of a disgraceful institution that has only humiliated the honour of Latin American nations”.

Stalinism’s reaction to the Cuban Revolution

John Lister, formerly of the Trotskyist Workers Socialist League and then of the Socialist Group wrote Cuba: Radical face of Stalinism in 1983. It provides an excellent account of the history of Stalinism in Cuba up to 1959. Despite Castro’s purging of the worst elements of its leadership, including those who had acted for long years as Batista’s agents and who had opposed Castro’s June 26 Movement to the extent of supplying names of his supporters to Batista for assassinations it remained abjectly Stalinist. The Cuban CP as it became again after 1965 was a radical Stalinist party and a strong supporter of socialism in a single country, albeit with the exceptions mentioned above.

Castro supported the Russian tanks crushing the Prague Spring in 1968, he supported Martial Law suppression of the Polish Trade union Solidarity in 1981, and the massacre of the students and youth in Tiananmen Square, China in 1989. In line with Soviet policy he advised Allende in Chile against nationalising the economy. He told him to disarm his supporters and rely on the military led by Pinochet, all dangers he had overcome empirically himself. Likewise, Mao had empirically refused to capitulate to Chiang Kai-shek but advised the Indonesian CP to do so with disastrous consequence in the million plus massacred in 1965. And he strongly advised the Sandinistas along similar lines with the predictable result for that revolution.

Fidel Castro is shown with Blas Roca, his reported choice to head the Cuban Communist Party, on Dec. 18, 1961. // AP file photo

Fidel Castro is shown with Stalinist class collaborating leader Blas Roca on Dec. 18, 1961. “The social classes that are objectively interested in the fulfillment of these historic tasks are the workers, the peasants, the urban middle classes and the national bourgeoisie” he proclaimed in August 1960, using Mao’s famous Bloc of Four Classes in an attempt to stop the revolution going too far and expropriating the bourgeoisie.

This is an extract from Lister’s account:

In November 1939 the CP ran in elections as part of a “social democratic” coalition of Batista supporters, and in 1940 the Party helped the Colonel draw up a new Constitution which placed wage bargaining in a structure of labour courts and the Labour ministry, with scope for direct Presidential intervention. The CP was the first to back Batista’s candidacy as President in the 1940 election, and in 1942 was further rewarded for this craven support when two Stalinist leaders, Carlos Rafael Rodriguez (today’s Vice President under Castro) and Juan Marinello were included in Batista’s cabinet as part of what they termed a “government of national unity”. An obedient CP-led CTC that same year voted at its Congress to renounce any strike action for the duration of the war.

In 1944 the Cuban CP changed its name to the Popular Socialist Party, and declared its long-term commitment to collaboration with Batista and the Cuban bourgeoisie:

“The Marxists stand for national unity and for its continuation, extension and consolidation under such conditions as may prevail in Cuba after the war. The policy of national unity, for the Marxists, is a long range policy.”

Batista was fulsomely praised as a “great democrat”, and “the great man of our national politics who embodies Cuba’s sacred ideals.” But when Batista was succeeded as President by a returned Grau San Martin, the PSP, eager to defend its bureaucratic positions in the union hierarchy, offered Grau a similar degree of support. CPer Marinello was appointed Vice President of the Senate.

… Doubtless these Stalinists saw Castro’s adventurist attack upon the Moncada barracks as a threat to this new period of “peaceful coexistence” with Batista. The PSP in August 1953 declared:

“We condemn the putchist methods – characteristic of bourgeois groups – which were evident in the adventurist attempt to capture the barracks at Santiago. The heroism displayed by the participants was misdirected and sterile.”

After Castro’s resumption of the guerrilla struggle in 1956, the PSP again opposed such tactics, and in February 1957 restated its now familiar popular front policy of 1936:

” . . . the correct approach . . . lies in the unity and common action of all opposition forces . . . in a struggle to eliminate tyranny and achieve the victory of democratic forces.”

Nor were these differences with Castro merely the subject of academic discussion or abstract polemic. Stalinist parties have never scrupled at the outright sabotage of opposing political currents and struggles which they cannot control, and the PSP was no exception in the 1953-58 period.

The Stalinists assigned informers to disrupt and destroy the student Revolutionary Directorate (DR), which, fighting in solidarity with Castro, had proven stubbornly resistant to the wretched politics of the PSP. In the summer of 1957 one such informer, “Marquitos” Rodriguez, supplied the police with the details of the whereabouts of four leading DR members, who were then summarily machine-gunned to death. “Marquitos” was smuggled out of the country by PSPers, and was eventually received with honours as a member of the Mexican CP.

And as late as August 1960, on the very eve of the massive wave of nationalisations which were to destroy the basis of capitalism in Cuba, the Party’s veteran General Secretary Blas Roca (in office since 1934) warned the PSP Congress:

“The Cuban revolution is not a communist revolution; it is anti-imperialist and anti-feudal . . . patriotic and democratic . . . The social classes that are objectively interested in the fulfilment of these historic tasks are the workers, the peasants, the urban middle classes and the national bourgeoisie“. [7]

The front page of the Miami Herald on Tuesday, Oct. 23, 1962. // Miami Herald file

The Cuban Missile crisis in 1962, Che Guevara was disappointment at Khrushchev’s back down and favored Mao after it and went to Africa and Bolivia in an attempt to spread his vision of an internationalist peasant guerilla war.

US SWP on Cuba

In its first phase the US SWP, the largest Trotskyist organisation in the world at the time, took an orthodox line on Cuba. In a piece by Lillian Kiezelin in the SWP paper The Militant on January 12, 1959, Cubans Oust Batista Dictatorship she wrote “For the past year Castro has sought in various ways to convince the State Department and plantation owners that he has repudiated the aims announced in 1955 and has no intention of nationalizing industry … Castro’s movement is largely middle class. He is a plantation owner himself. By and large the leadership of this movement, as personified by Provisional President Urrutia, seeks a democratic reform government. It doesn’t want a fundamental social and economic change. However, the State Department and the plantation owners have only recently begun to understand Castro’s real intentions.” [8]

However, the series of weekly articles by the Militant tells the story of the unfolding nature of the Cuban revolution. A real movement from below of tremendous strength. The rag tag army began with 82 on the Granma yacht, lost some 60 before escaping to the mountains and eventually defeated the army of Batista of some 37,000 men having only rifles and machine guns against a modern army of with tanks and an air force. The army disintegrated and Castro’s guerrillas were extremely popular. After taking power he appointed a President and central bank governor sympathetic to the USA but the movement rolled on.

In The Militant editorial of January 18, 1960, Cuba at the Crossroads, obviously written by Joseph Hansen, this is the line taken:

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.
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.
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?

By 1962 Hansen’s article, Cuba, the acid test, A Reply to the Ultraleft Sectarians clearly demolished the position of the SLL/ICFI and Gerry Healy that Cuba was not a workers’ state and in many ways it is very orthodox and correct but the seeds of the later capitulation to Castroism are clearly there in the following paragraph:

By bringing forward a leadership of non-Stalinist origin, the Cuban revolution has visibly hastened the eventual closing of the whole chapter of Stalinism. By impelling this leadership toward revolutionary socialist views, the Cuban revolution has increased in a marked way the actuality of Lenin’s general norms. This would seem so graphically evident that the blind could see it in the measures taken by the Castro regime against Stalinist bureaucratism and in the debates resounding in the Soviet bloc over the meaning of “peaceful coexistence” and how to best fight imperialism. “Unique” Cuba, following the particular pattern of the buffer countries, Yugoslavia, and China, has become a general concern for capitalism and the Soviet bloc, and given fresh inspiration to the partisans of Lenin’s norms. Dialectics has provided us with a beautiful example of the interrelationship between the individual, the particular, and the general. [9]

The notion that the because of the emergence of “a leadership of non-Stalinist origin, the Cuban revolution has visibly hastened the eventual closing of the whole chapter of Stalinism” has proved to be absolutely false historically and implies the theoretical and political charity fought for by revolutionary Trotskyism was no longer necessary as a consequence was fatal for the SWP as a revolutionary organisation.

Unconditional defence of Cuba against imperialism and political revolution against capitalist restoration!

With Trump’s victory and the expansion of the influence of the anti-communist reaction and the White House bourgeoisie, it is necessary to reinsert on the agenda the unconditional defence of the Cuban Revolution against any blockade or measures of sabotage on the part of imperialism.

The struggle for political revolution on the island assumes a permanent character, fighting the measures of the Castro government that conspire against the property relations and forms created by expropriation of imperialism and the Cuban bourgeoisie. At the same time we advocate the construction of popular committees of workers, peasants and cooperative members. We must fight against the secret dialogue agreements with Democrats, Republicans or ‘worms’ as well as with the European imperialism and the Latin American bourgeoisie, everything must be submitted to the debate, rectification and ratification by the organized population.

No return of the property to the ‘worms’. What was expropriated must remain state-owned and under the control of the democratic workers’ councils, producers and consumers. The first priority of the state is to ensure health and food for the people. No privilege for bureaucracy and for tourists to the detriment to the working masses. Down with tourist separatism, for the free access of all Cubans to all hotels, beaches and spas used exclusively by tourists. Everything must paid for in Cuban pesos. We must defeat the bureaucracy in the struggle for proletarian democracy and in the struggle for equality against the privileges.

It is necessary to institute a workers’ court of inquiry to investigate and condemn corruption in the black market and amongst the new rich. We defend the right to strike and to organize as part of the struggle for political independence against the Castro bureaucracy, imperialism, its NGO counter revolutionaries and the Vatican. We are for proletarian control of industry and the economy as a whole as well as on trade agreements and foreign trade with Europe, with China and the entire Eurasian block and the Latin American capitalist countries. We demand accounting control by the working class delegates with executive powers to inspect the books of all enterprises. These delegates must hold mandates which are subject to recall and they must be elected in the workplace by the workforce.

Only workers must decide how much and what should be produced and distributed, as well as the wages and the pace of production. They must combat the mass layoffs, privatization of state enterprises and cuts in social services in the state. We oppose the creation of any party or organization that opposes the workers’ state and the dictatorship of the proletariat and defended the creation of a revolutionary Trotskyist party in Cuba and the establishment of proletarian democracy on the island. Capitalist restoration is not a fait accompli in Cuba; only the revolutionary struggle of the Latin American masses against any internal or external restorationist religious offensive can defeat this.

Notes

[1]  Inter Nations website, Cuba at a Glance, Healthcare and Education in Cuba, https://www.internations.org/cuba-expats/guide/life-in-cuba-15677/healthcare-and-education-in-cuba-2

[2] LCFI, 29/12/2014: The new US-Cuba agreement and the struggle in defence of the workers’ state: https://socialistfight.com/2014/12/29/the-new-us-cuba-agreement-and-the-struggle-in-defence-of-the-workers-state-lcfi-and-others/

[3] Jean Daniel, 24 October 1963, The New Republic, Unofficial Envoy, An Historic Report from Two Capitals, 4 December 1963, pp. 15-20 U.S. President John F. Kennedy, interview with Jean Daniel, https://ratical.org/ratville/JFK/UnofficialEnvoy.html

[4] Wikiquotes, Fidel Castro https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Fidel_Castro

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] John Lister, Cuba: Radical face of Stalinism, Written: 1983 / 84. First Published: January 1985. Source: Published by Left View Books for the Socialist Group. Transcription / HTML Markup: Sean Robertson for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL). Copyleft: Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (marxists.org) 2013, https://www.marxists.org/history/etol/document/wsl/lister/cuba-lister85-ch3.htm

[8] This is a complete collection of the articles in THE MILITANT starting with the triumph of the Cuban Revolution in 1959 through the editorial Cuba At The Crossroads which was published in January 1960.

http://www.walterlippmann.com/militant-cuba-1959.html

[9] Joseph Hansen, 1962, Cuba, the acid test, A Reply to the Ultraleft Sectarians, http://www.marxists.org/archive/hansen/1962/acidtest.htm

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