About some `left'-communist and other views on Cuba
(from Communist Voice #17, April 20, 1998)
. I am enclosing several xerox copies of articles you might find interesting. I would appreciate any comments, negative or positive. I became aware or your organization from a mutual friend!
Reply: On Cuba
April 5, 1998
. Sorry for the delay in replying, but other work got in the way. You asked what I thought about the articles you sent me, so here goes.
. The article "Cuba is a capitalist hell" proves that it takes a lot more than cursing everything in Cuba to provide a revolutionary criticism of the state-capitalist system there. The main problem, according to the author, is that Castro led a national liberation struggle. This is a mortal sin for "left"-communists for whom the only really legitimate struggle is the world socialist uprising. Until that great day, every other struggle is simply a stalking horse for one or another exploiter, and hence the workers should abstain.
. In order to lend a theoretical cloak to their opposition to the actual revolutionary motion of the toilers, the "left"-communists claim that it is impossible for the masses to win any improvements in their conditions because capitalism is in decay and no further development of the productive forces can now take place. Unfortunately for the "lefts," the world does not obey their theory. Only the blind could deny that there have been many mass struggles that have led to real gains for the workers and poor. Likewise, only "theorists" who ignore what's actually been happening can [hold] that capitalism can no longer grow.
. No doubt that capitalism cannot escape crisis, ruins the masses and the environment, etc. Exploitation will not end until capitalism ends. But the conclusion drawn by the "lefts" is that it is irrelevant what sort of conditions the workers must endure under capitalism. From their standpoint, it doesn't matter if the workers are denied all rights, suffer from semi-slave conditions, are crushed by colonial oppression, or brutalized by racist terror and discrimination. Likewise they turn up their noses at revolutionary peasant uprisings. After all, radical agrarian reform does not in itself go beyond capitalist relations.
. Under the banner that Castro waged the forbidden national liberation struggle, the article tries to deny that there was any progressive content to the Cuban revolution. It's one thing to show that the revolution led not to socialism, but a repressive, state-capitalist order. But the article insists on trashing certain radical reforms that benefited the masses. Indeed, it goes so far as to paint the Batista regime as a high-wage paradise for the workers that was unfortunately done in by the Cuban revolution.
. In the midst of glorifying the Batista regime, the article mentions the huge gap between the urban population and the masses in the countryside who lacked even education, health care and employment. Even pro-imperialist authors concede the revolution considerably improved the situation of the rural masses in these areas. But this article insists this was a mirage.
. What about the agrarian reform? The article fails to mention that land was redistributed from the big landowners to many thousands of peasants. It only mentions the fact that the Castro regime exploits the agricultural workers, but not the fact that in the good old days, huge numbers of these workers were unemployed for months on end and their conditions generally worse.
. What about education? I think it was a positive development that there were major campaigns to bring education to the countryside and urban poor. But all the article can see is that education was used to promote the regime. Perhaps the author would abolish public education in the U.S., too! After all, it doesn't provide a socialist education and the content is often reactionary. Who cares if the workers can read or write?!
. Health care? Yes, the article admits that free health care was established. But, the article whines that free health care was more "profitable" for the regime because it meant the sugar workers wouldn't collapse in the fields. Maybe the author would prefer the good old days in Cuba. When sugar was harvested by slaves, they were literally worked to death. After slavery, the agricultural worker might have no work or income for lengthy periods. But the author considers it a step backward when the regime provides employment and health care!
. No doubt, the apologists of Castro glorify the social programs and life under the regime in general. If the article just hit against that, it would make a valid point. But it is stuck in its absurdly "left" viewpoint that undermines any of its legitimate criticisms of the regime.
* * * * *
. I also looked at the Workers' Tribune articles on Cuba. On the positive side, they say there was a revolution which carried out certain reforms, but that it was not a socialist revolution or led by the workers. However, I was not clear from the articles I read what attitude they had towards the bourgeois-democratic reforms that took place.
. The articles note Cuba's ties to the world capitalist market and give some examples of the negative effects. They also are critical of the Soviet-Cuban alliance. All this is legitimate.
. At the same time, they portray the ills of the revisionist, state-capitalist economies as mainly due to their ties to Western capitalism. This is what they use to show that Stalin led a real socialist society while Khrushchev betrayed socialism. Stalin was a real communist because in his day the Soviet Union had an economy relatively insulated from the vagaries of the world capitalist market, and after Stalin, the Soviet bloc became tied to the West.
. This is not correct. First of all, a closer look at the Soviet economy under Stalin shows that beneath the veneer of planning, anarchy of production reigned. The economy grew, but severe problems were developing. As well, a new class society was developed with a vast gulf between the toilers and the bureaucratic elite. The Soviet economy did not rely on ties to the Western bourgeoisie, but its economy and society was rotting from the inside.
. Secondly, in the post-WWII period, Stalin created panaceas about economic ties to the West in the name of the elimination of the two separate markets. He had hopes that the wartime alliance would become a general alliance of peaceful economic cooperation to the benefit of all. Needless to say, the mainstream Western bourgeoisie was not interested at the time and the idea collapsed. Over time, however, certain East European countries did develop significant ties to the West.
. Despite the fact that eventually there were ties to the West, I highly doubt that the economic debacle of the Soviet Union was mainly caused by that. As for Cuba, economic ties to Western capital were more important. But this still doesn't explain how the dominant state sector operated. Actually, the way the Cuban state sector operated bears a good deal of resemblance to how the Soviet economy functioned under Stalin. True, fluctuations in the sugar market have rocked the Cuban economy. But even here it doesn't explain everything because Castro's main market was the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.
* * * * *
. I also noticed that Workers' Tribune had a penchant for attaching a call to turn the imminent inter-imperialist war into a socialist revolution to a number of articles including those on Cuba. It's off-base from a number of angles. A major inter-imperialist war was not imminent in the early 80s, nor was the socialist revolution in response to it. So it doesn't have much to do with what was actually going on. Maybe the idea was to look more revolutionary than anyone else by giving a super-"left" looking slogan regardless of whether it was appropriate at the time.(This doesn't mean it was wrong to build a movement against our own imperialist rulers, only that their approach didn't assist this.)
. It's also strange that when talking about Cuba, the main call revolves around the conflict between the U.S. and USSR. That's an issue, but U.S. imperialism also used it as a smokescreen. The U.S. government created hysteria about Soviet-Cuban interference in Central America as if the revolutionary movements existed because of some plot in Moscow and Havana. But the main issue there wasn't the U.S. vs. the USSR but the masses vs. their own dictators and exploiters and their U.S. backers. Thus, though it may seem odd, the very "left" phrases about overthrowing the U.S. bourgeoisie wind up shoving the issue of the actual mass struggle in Central America into the background. I'd have to know more about WT's overall stand to understand how agitating this way fit in with their overall views, but it strikes a strange note.
Mark, for Communist Voice
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