Conducted: Tuesday, 4 August 2004
Translated: In Defense of Marxism
Transcription/Markup: Initial transcription and markup by In Defense of Marxism, final MIA markup by David Walters for the Celia Hart Internet Archive.
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This interview was conducted in August 2004, when Celia Hart attended the world conference of the International Marxist Tendency. All footnotes bring you to the In Defense of Marxism web stie.
El Militante: You are closely linked to the Venezuelan revolution. You have written articles, are organising solidarity activities in Cuba. What would be your message, as a revolutionary who lives in an island where the revolution won, to the workers, the peasants and the oppressed in Venezuela and to all those who around the world mobilise in defence of this revolution?
Celia Hart: First of all we must involve ourselves fully in the defence and in favour of the victory of the revolutionary process in Venezuela. This does not mean, some people might have misinterpreted me, that we must do everything that comandante Chávez says. I think that the Venezuelan workers have a duty that goes beyond their nation and that for the first time in a long period, maybe you would have to go back to the II Republic in Spain and the defeated Spanish revolution, Chavez, regardless of whether he has read Marxism or not, has clearly identified imperialism and the oligarchy as the class enemies. This means that the only way to achieve Venezuela’s national liberation is hand in hand with a social revolution. Even if Chávez says that this is not a socialist revolution , the facts have to be interpreted not by what people say about them but for what they really are. There is a class enemy, and if the demands of the oppressed people are to be met, a social revolution will have to take place. Internationally, all those of us who struggle for the cause of the workers and believe that the solution to the problems of the planet is through the socialist revolution, we must pledge ourselves to this revolution to the marrow of our bones.
El Militante: In one of your articles “Socialism in one country” and the Cuban Revolution which has caused a very positive public polemic, you defend the Cuban revolution from an internationalist perspective and its continuity in the Latin American and world revolution. You also make a very critical appraisal of “socialism in one country”, demolishing this anti-Marxist idea that you can build socialism within the national borders of an isolated country, something which has been proven by the collapse of the USSR. What is your balance sheet of this debate and its relation to Cuba?
Celia Hart: For me the ideas of Trotsky have always been very important, as have those of Marx, Engels or Lenin. After writing The Flag Over Coyacan, defending the figure of Trotsky, I had to take one step further in my own thinking. I am a Marxist and I believe in the class struggle. I love my revolution, and I think that Fidel Castro and Ché Guevara are outstanding internationalists, very much in the tradition of José Martí, someone who should be studied more, because he hated borders and the only meaning he gave to national independence in the 19th Century was so that yankiimperialism would not take over control of Latin America and the world, he had a strong internationalist instinct. Therefore, for me, it was essential to take the ideas of Trotsky and his internationalism in relation to my revolution and its defence. I am sure that they are linked, I am a physicist and I am certain that this is the case. I wanted to make clear to my comrades in Cuba why I was reclaiming Trotsky in this moment: precisely because of the Cuban revolution and because its real meaning is the revolution in Latin America and the world revolution. If you read the texts of Fidel or Che, you realise that the only meaning that the Cuban revolution can have is the world revolution. The solution to the Cuban revolution, to its defence and continuity, depends on the world, on world revolution. These are the lessons of history, this is why I think that Trotsky, which has been sidelined and so slandered, something that nobody has explained to me, is at this moment even more necessary. I have asked in many occasions, why do we read Gramsci, why must we read Mariategu and Rosa Luxemburg, but not Trotsky? The link between my revolution and Trotsky is clear.
El Militante: You have just said that we must base ourselves in the facts and not only in their definitions. Che is a symbol of the Cuban revolution, but also of the world revolution. It was Karl Marx who explained the need for world revolution, and coined the phrase permanent revolution in his writings on the German revolution of 1848. Lenin, who put the programme of Marxism into practice, always saw as his main priority the international organisation of the workers, the 3rd International and world revolution, which he regarded as even more important than the Russian revolution itself. In this sense, is the figure of Che linked to all this?
Celia Hart: Absolutely. As time goes by, things are becoming clearer, facts are being clarified. I say that Che opened the era of the permanent revolution in Latin America, but not only that. I think he was the one who continued those ideas until he became the symbol of the world youth. I do not care, honestly, if Che read Trotsky or not, but he was an internationalist who participated unconditionally in the Cuban revolution. He was a world revolutionary, who fought wherever there were revolutionary opportunities. In my view, Che’s statement on the need to make many Vietnams in America, makes him the best disciple of Trotsky. He gave up important responsibilities in Cuba with the firm conviction that this was necessary for the triumph of the international revolution. Surely, things went wrong, the Bolivian communists betrayed him, but he took the step, he committed himself, this is why Ché has to be our symbol.
El Militante: At this time, all conscious workers, all communists, we have the duty to pledge ourselves firmly to the defence of the conquests of the Cuban revolution and in the struggle against the criminal blockade of the US which is aimed at destroying the planned economy, the revolution and to restore capitalism in Cuba. But as Marxists we understand that the future of the Cuban revolution will be determined not only by the revolutionary forces which exist in Cuba, but also in the arena of the international class struggle. Without the extension and the victory of the socialist revolution in Latin America, the threat of capitalist restoration in Cuba will become ever more real. What do you think?
Celia Hart: The Cuban revolution, without any doubt, has become a symbol, and if I defend it is not because I am a Cuban or because I was born in the island, but for the same reasons that I defend the October revolution in Russia. For me they have the same value. Some of my compatriots might think, how can a follower of Martí say such things. I answer with what Martí always defended, Cuba’s independence as a way to solve the problems of the world and put an end to imperialist domination. Some want to present José Martí as a vulgar patriot.
My revolution emerged in the 1960s with a clear class commitment and the only way to achieve victory was as a socialist revolution. Castro himself, in a letter he wrote to the revolutionary Celia Sanchez, and I got my name after her, said: “when this war finishes, another war will start for me that will never finish”. One can understand what he was trying to say. It is also true that when revolutions triumph they tend to stabilise, they need to ensure peoples’ daily life and an administrative apparatus consolidates. I remember my grandmother use to task my parents, two ot three years into the revolution, “but listen, Armando, we already won, we are going to live now, aren’t we?”, and my mum replied, “when did we win?”, showing the revolutionary instinct of not stopping, of not accommodating.
The truth is that the problem of the development of Stalinism left its mark in the revolutionary processes of the whole world. The victory of Stalin over the International, over Communist ideas, was the greatest betrayal in history against revolutionary ideas. It was an attempt to take away internationalism from the ideas and the programme of communism, and now we are alive to reclaim the genuine internationalist content for communists. Even in Cuba, before the revolution, we had the old Communist party (the Socialist Peoples Party), which was composed of good militants, but with a terrible Stalinist slant. This is a self-criticism that we communists must make, because for a long time we wore on our shoulders the dead weight of Stalinism, or we did not fight it enough, or we did not do what had to be done and therefore it won.
In this situation, the Cuban revolution faced US imperialism and it won. Many say that without the Soviet Union this would not have been possible; I at least do not see this line of reasoning so clear, it is not obvious that this was the case. I think that nobody could have stopped Fidel and that it might be that we would still be fighting. What is true is that at a certain point the USSR supplied us with oil, weapons, a very important flow of material resources which allowed us to carry out marvellous works in many fields. But this was not the only role it played in my country. I think that if we look at it critically, we could have done without it. The USSR betrayed us during the missile crisis. The Cuban people was ready for anything at that time, and when finally an agreement was reached between the USSR and the USA, no Cuban participated in the celebration. Stalinism and bureaucracy is a disease which persists in every victorious revolution and the only way to fight it is world revolution.
In Cuba, history has not always been explained correctly. I had to read Trotsky by chance, and when I found out about them, those were my ideas. The bureaucracy in my country also sank in, in nucleus of the Communist Party, with its conservative tendencies, looking for peace and quiet, the “status quo”. Now, given the situation the Cuban revolution faces, it is more necessary than ever to continue the struggle, and for me the defence of Cuba and her revolutionary conquests is through the world revolution and first of all with the victory of the socialist revolution in Latin America.
 At the time when the interview was carried out, August 2004, Chávez had not yet talked of socialism.