Cuba: Revolution and restoration 60 after

The Cuban Revolution gave rise to the first country that expropriated capitalism in Latin America. Its emergence, independent from the USSR, under the leadership of Fidel and Che, generated a wave of enthusiasm across the continent. Unfortunately, the Cuban Revolution, that resisted the longest blockade in history, today agonizes under the administration of a bureaucracy that was coopted by Stalinism and has now undertaken the road to capitalist restoration, with the latest constitutional reform.

It´s common to see young people with Che´s face on their shirts, and even tattooed on their skin. Che, like no other, has become a symbol of revolution, of the struggle against capitalist oppression. I am sure that the Comandante would today side with those of us who -in Cuba was well as internationally- are opposed to the capitalist advance of the new constitutional reforms.

That is why, those of us who, though highly critical of the Castro leadership, have always unconditionally defended the Cuban Revolution against the imperialist blockade, hold that revolutionaries should confront the capitalist restoration and fight for sustaining that heroic revolution of the Cuban and Latin American people.

A democratic revolution that turned socialist

On January 1, 60 years will have passed since the triumph of the Revolution. In 1959, dictator Fulgencio Batista fled while Fidel entered Santiago de Cuba and Che and Cienfuegos entered La Havana, where Fidel joined them on January 8 to form the new government. A provisional government headed by Manuel Urrutia -ex president of the Supreme Court- was formed, that reflected the interests of the landowners who were opposed to Batista.

The original program of Fidel´s June 26 Movement was democratic. It was originally supported by the landowners who opposed Batista and by sectors of U.S. imperialism who wanted to get into the islands business, supported a democratic bourgeois republic and promoted the bearded revolutionaries on U.S. television.

But the new government soon had important disagreements with the U.S. First over the executions ordered by the revolutionary tribunals, then over the lowering of rents and utilities. Later, over an agrarian reform that expropriated the latifundistas, and the falling out with Urrutia and the rise to government of part of the rebel army.

By 1960, U.S. refineries on the island refused to provide oil or process Soviet petroleum, which led to their nationalization. Then came the commercial embargo and the end of the quota of sugar that the U.S. market had been purchasing, which was compensated by an agreement with the USSR and the COMECON (1) to buy Cuban sugar at preferential prices. That year, banks, sugar, telephone, electricity and hundreds of other companies are expropriated, and thousands of tenants are given homes, among other measures.

1961 was marked by the breaking of relations of the U.S. and Cuba, and the defeat of the mercenaries armed by U.S. imperialism, who tried to invade the island at the Bay of Pigs.

This is how the coherence of a petty-bourgeois leadership with its democratic program, led it to adopting anti-capitalist measures to consolidate its revolution, going against the interests of U.S. imperialism, and also against those of the “democratic” bourgeoisie that had initially supported it. The revolution had broken from the Stalinist mold that expected a long democratic stage of coexistence with the local bourgeoisie before any socialist change could be thought of. The leadership of Fidel and Che did not follow the instructions of the revolution by stages, but rather the rhythm of permanent revolution.

The blockade and isolation of the revolution

The Cuban Revolution unleashed an enormous wave of sympathy in the activist vanguard world-wide and in Latin America in particular. Like the Russian Revolution had, Cuba also posed the necessity of coordinating an international political force to extend the revolution. And this was a necessity for its survival, given the threat of invasion. Fidel´s leadership finally convened the first congress of the OLAS in 1967 in La Havana

Argentinian revolutionary Nahuel Moreno wrote then that revolutionaries from across the continent who supported the Cuban Revolution proclaimed the “peoples´ right and duty to carry out the revolution” and define it “above all, as a struggle against imperialism and the capitalist and landowning bourgeoisie”. (Guevara: hero and martyr of the permanent revolution, October 23, 1967)

Che, the most consistent revolutionary of the revolution, who was convinced that there was no possibility of sustaining revolutionary Cuba without fighting to “create one, two, three Vietnams”, was developing a guerrilla foco in Bolivia, where he was captured and executed on October 8 of that year. Che´s departure from Cuba was, in no small part, related to the differences that he had with the course that the Cuban leadership was undertaking. Because of this -and despite his mistakes, such as the foquista strategy that ended up costing him his life- our current has always vindicated Che as an internationalist revolutionary.

The Cuban leadership gradually put aside its politics of extending the revolution that it had promoted in the OLAS, and decided to follow the line imposed by the Soviet bureaucracy. Not without some friction due to its support of national liberation movements, the Cuban leadership´s demand to the CPSU (Communist Party of the Soviet Union) that it support the guerrilla war in Vietnam (2), was subordinated to falling in line with the policies of world Stalinism.

That is why Fidel condemned the Prague Spring of 1968 and supported the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. He traveled to Chile to support Salvador Allende, who unfortunately promoted the “pacific way to socialism”, which ended up disarming the Chilean revolutionary working class before Pinochet´s coup.

Fidel called on the victorious 1979 Sandinista Revolution in Nicaragua to not expropriate the capitalists as Cuba had done, and endorsed the Government of Reconstruction in alliance with the bourgeoisie that had opposed Somoza. He also supported Ortega’s shameful policy of leaving the Salvadoran Revolution isolated when he supported the murderous government of Cristiani in the Costa Rica Accord, and denounced the “terrorist armed attacks” (of his supposed ally, the FMLN).

During the Bolivarian process, in which Cuban cadres played an important role, the Cuban government supported the most conservative wing, which today, with Maduro at its head, is imploding that enormous revolutionary process. These are some of the great opportunities that the Latin American revolution had, and that the Castro leadership squandered, losing the chance to break the blockade and isolation in which U.S. imperialism held Cuba down in, and the suffering it imposed on its heroic population.

The recent meeting of the ALBA in La Havana, brought together the ex revolutionary turned mass murderer of his people, Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua, with Nicolas Maduro, one of the gravediggers of the Venezuelan Bolivarian Revolution, responsible for the worst humanitarian crisis in the continent, for defending the interests of the governing caste and the businesses of U.S. imperialism and the so called boli-bourgeousie. The summit displayed the role of the Cuban leadership, which has now introduced mechanisms for the restoration of capitalism on the island in its constitution. The opposite road as the one that Che proposed.

The capitalist constitutional reforms

On December 22, 2018, the Cuban National Assembly of People´s Power voted the constitutional reform bill that must be ratified in a referendum on February 24, 2019. The result of the referendum is known, in a country in which the Communist Party is the only legal party and has all State resources in its hands.

The most important part of the reform is the constitutional recognition of the private property of the means of production and of foreign inversion, which only furthers the economic course that the Cuban leadership has taken the island on. The introduction of measures to encourage capitalist inversion in the island isn´t new. In his article, “Echoes of Fidel´s death”(3), Luis Meiners enumerates the measures the Cuban leadership has implemented from 1982 onward, and which were deepened during the crisis the fall of the USSR created.

Among the latest, we can refer to the laying off of 600,000 public employees between 2010 and 2014, the entry of private investment in areas like tourism and transportation, the 2014 law that allows companies with 100% foreign capital, the laws that favor autonomous workers enacted by the new president Diaz Cannel, and the transfer of a third of cultivatable stale land to private producers, with concessions that can be renovated for 20 years.

The new constitutional text is a another leap toward the introduction of capitalism in the island. According to Cuba en Debate, in its December 21 analysis of the constitutional changes, “Adjustments were made in the form of private property. New persons who can hold property were created: natural and legal, national and foreign… The secretariat of the State Council confirmed that the Socialist State Company is the economy´s main actor, but recognized that prejudices against non-state forms of property and the role of foreign inversion have to be abandoned.

Against such categorical expressions, the fact that the word “communism” -which had been eliminated from previous drafts- was maintained, or that the text refers to the “international proletariat” or says that Cuba will never return to capitalism, described as a “regime sustained by the exploitation of man by man” (Cuba en Debate), is a mere facade, since the capitalist system and capitalist property are precisely based on the exploitation of man by man, in order to extract a surplus.

Unfortunately, the stagnation and deterioration of the Cuban economy -due to the isolation and blockade, the refusal of the leading caste to extend the revolution, and because the pro-capitalist measures deepen social differences- has led an important sector of the population to consider this the only way out of the crisis. The Cuban bureaucracy thus follows in the footsteps of Soviet bureaucracy, which was the main agent of the capitalist restoration in the ex-USSR.

The one party regime and lack of liberties continues

Far from generating any opening if the political regime, the constitution once again confirms that “the Cuban Communist Party.. is the superior leading political force of society and the state”.

In parallel to the constitutional reform, the Cuban government approved the Orwellian Decree 349, which considers it a crime to work as an artist or journalist without official state authorization, which sparked an outcry among writers, intellectuals and artists. The authorities hurried to deny that artists would not be able to work without authorization and suggested that the decree would be annulled. However, the decree is still in effect, and what happened to same sex marriage is indicative of what can happen with this undemocratic measure.

They stepped back from civil union

One of the few progressive aspects of the first draft of the reform bill is that it eliminated the description of marriage as between a man and a woman, replacing those terms with the word “person”. This opened the door to civil unions of same sex couples, which meant an important step forward for a homophobic regime which has repressed homosexuals, creating “reeducation” centers for them.

In the end, the pressure of the religious sectors of society (which is not small, given the influence the bureaucracy has allowed the Church and other religious creeds to recover) kept this modification from standing. Since they couldn´t completely turn around, the term which was approved is “spouse”. And it will be the Family Code which will determine the possibility of advancing in this respect.

The official media argues that what was legislated fits into what Cuban society can absorb. Nothing is said about the responsibility of a leadership which has historically persecuted homosexuality and has promoted the worst prejudices against it.

Our model: Cuban socialism with democracy

The disasters of the ruling bureaucracy have led an important sector of the population to identifying the idea of socialism with the lack of liberties, economic stagnation, poverty and the privileges of a ruling elite. This is what the social bases for advancing in the introduction of capitalist measures is made of. As social inequality broadens with the advance of capitalism, a sector of the middle classes will be benefited while the rest of the population will continue to fall into poverty, as the great social conquests of the revolution are dismantled.

But in the midst of such a tremendous crisis of world capitalism, with the intervention of U.S. imperialism, or of the predators of China of Russia, the contradictions that the pro-capitalist measures will create, will surely provoke struggles and the resistance of a people who stood up to the U.S. blockade for decades.

The Cuban regime was born with a leadership that rested on a party-army, which later adopted the form of the Stalinist communist parties. In this it differed from the Russian Revolution in which the revolutionary party rested on democratic organisms of the mobilized masses (the soviets). The need to organize of the Cuban people to defend themselves from the pro-capitalist measures to defend their social conquests and fight to improve their living conditions, will lead them to demand the democratic liberties that they are denied today. Revolutionaries cannot leave this elemental democratic demand in the hands of the right and imperialism.

Through those struggles, a new revolution must be prepared. One that, taking the best fighting traditions of the Cuban people, confronts the measures of capitalist restoration, fights for a Cuba that maintains and develops the great conquests of the Revolution, ends with the one party regime, gives the people liberties to organize and break the current isolation, supporting the struggle of the peoples of Latin America against imperialism. A new revolutionary political organization of the Cuban people must be built with this objective.

The perspective of the Cuban Revolution is tied -more than ever before- to the development of the Latin American and world revolution. The Castro leadership takes it on the path to restoration, a revolutionary leadership would use the enormous prestige it still has to encourage the Nicaraguan people´s revolution and fight for the leadership of that process against the capitalist and Catholic right. It would act to build an alternative pole to the failed “progressive” experiences to confront the imperialist offensive, Bolsonaro and all the governments that want to destroy workers´ conquests, and fight to fill today´s vacuum of revolutionary leadership in the mass movement of the continent and the world.

Convinced that the struggles of the people of the world against the capitalists´ austerity programs and the crisis of all the traditional leaderships create enormous opportunities to build a new international revolutionary current, far from considering the battle lost -as many who justify the betrayals of the leadership based on a supposed imperialist omnipotence do- the revolutionaries organized in the Anticapitalist Network believe that it is possible to fight and win in defense of that heroic and revolutionary Cuba that filled us with pride and emotion.

Gustavo Giménez

  1. COMECON: commercial agreement between the USSR and the Eastern European countries in its orbit.
  2. Armando Hart, the Cuban delegate in the XXIII Congress of the CPSU presented a motion to demand that the USSR and China declare Vietnam a “impregnable territory” and fully support it.
  3. Published on the website of the Argentinian MST on December 1, 1916.