CASTROISM—DEADLY DANGER TO THE CUBAN REVOLUTION
By Albert Weisbord
(From the magazine "La Parola del Popolo" December 1962)
IN TWO relatively recent articles La Parola del Popolo has pointed out certain dangerous tendencies existing in the adoption of Castroism by the Cuban Revolution.
In the June-July 1961 issue in dealing with Castro’s ransom proposals we wrote: “Castro may be denounced as a communist stooge, but he can never be acclaimed as a Marxist. He is a mere Jacobin, a man who has attached himself to the people from the top and who essentially looks at them from the mountain peak of his intellectual contempt and Spanish pride as a rabble without great brains or historic initiative.” The article concluded: “Let the Cuban revolutionary workers and peasants learn the bitter lessons from this episode. Let them put a bridle on Castro and force him to act not like a catholic savior but like a modest leader of the working class training and developing them for leadership and decision making in a Marxist manner.”
We followed this up with a longer article entitled “Perspective of the Cuban Revolution” appearing in the December-January 1962 issue: “… . it is absolutely essential to raise the question of general elections in which the workers and toilers will be entirely free to vote to make their choices and to participate actively in all government and political activities.
“There is now only one party in Cuba, why should not there be elections? There is now a new proletarian state (supposedly, A.W.) in Cuba, why should not there be a new constitution? Why should not SOVIETS be formed in Cuba as proletarian organs of power? . . . But the proletariat must now be allowed to vote and express its will. What is Cuba waiting for? To wait further is a major crime against the people of Cuba? Working class elections can no longer be delayed! An advancing proletarian revolution can no longer tolerate this dictatorship OVER the working class.”
Another year has gone by and still there are no worker’s elections. Why? Because both the Soviet leaders and Castro are opposed to them. The Soviets know that working class elections to the organs of state power will also mean working class elections within the governing party and once such a collective party is formed and developed it will not allow Cuba to be dictated to by an outside force not motivated by international proletarian considerations. Such a situation would spoil the game by which the Soviet leaders want to use Cuba as a tool for their own international maneuvers rather than for the interest of the world working class. Castro is opposed to elections because he knows such elections both in Cuba and within the ruling party then formed would be the best guarantee that the Cuban Revolution would go forward in its mission to carry out the interests of the working class to the end. Castro wants to use the working class for his own purposes not necessarily identical with working class rule and development.
It is now time to make a thorough analysis of this Castroism because the Cuban Revolution is in deadly peril not only from the United States and Latin American reactionaries but also from within. Either Castroism as described herein is ended and replaced by a working-class rule or the Revolution stands in danger of death.
THE HISTORY of Latin America is filled with Castro type “revolutionists” whose policies and histories, springing from the conditions peculiarly prevailing in this part of the world are very clearly distinguishable. We can enumerate these features as follows:
1. Upper class leadership, often on the “colonel” level;
2. Reliance on tiny conspiratorial military (the “Junta") initiative, often launched from exile bases;
3. Caudillism in military affairs;
4. Personalism in political matters;
5. General program very vague, concentration on “Patria” as against “foreign interests,” vague statements of being for the “people,” the “shirtless,” the “humble";
6. No attack against the native bourgeoisie or top wealthy groups unless absolutely necessary;
7. Vague stand for economic improvements, for greater wealth for the nation, for forced industrialization, resulting in more efficiency by the masses who in turn are to have greater security and stake in the social order.
The early Latin American “revolutionary” leaders were of the George Washington type who in their fight for independence against Spain used the vague phrases of the French enlightenment popularized by the French Revolution so that they could get the people to fight for them and their top group. To this category belonged such “liberators” as Bolivar, Belgrano, San Martin and others. They represented wealthy families which wanted to rule the Western Hemisphere countries for themselves rather than the Spanish aristocracy who looked down on them. Their victories cemented the rule of the landed oligarchical group amassing the huge vacant lands for themselves. Establishing vast latifundias with large numbers of peons and slaves working for them, the strong ones among the oligarchy formed their own private armies (caudillism) and ruled their regions with an iron hand no longer held responsible by others for their actions. Some of these regions actually became artificially created independent States as for example in Central America. The fact that the countries were so new with all social controls absent led to fights among the ruling families themselves as to who should control. In each family were sons with self-given title of “colonel” or “general” who staged one governmental revolt after another. So far as the masses of toilers were concerned their lot was improved not at all.
About the middle of the last century new trends of capitalism entering Latin America changed some of the formulas of the “revolutionists.” The entrance of commercial and financial capital and the rise of a bourgeois world made increasingly felt the need for definite rules. This called for constitutional government that would allow for the interplay of bourgeois forces and would permit the newer wealthier elements to become fused with the old oligarchy. The formation of constitutions entailed a division of labor between the executive and the legislative branches of government. While the army tended to become professionalized within it there was still room for the tiny military conspiracy. The military coup d’etat with personal parties gathered around some military conspirator remained to dominate the workings of the constitution.
Between the middle and the end of the 19th century. Latin America saw not only a vast increase in the influence of foreign capital but also a vast influx of foreign labor and immigration. Millions of people came from Spain and from Italy to seek home and fortune in the countries of this Hemisphere. Some became farmers and agricultural laborers, others small business men, professional men, workers in the cities, and such. Some of them even went into the army to play a role there as “majors” and as “colonels.” Now the nation was faced not only with the matter of establishing basic rules in a constitution but of allowing these middle class elements and immigrants the right to vote. Hence new military conspiracies, new vague general programmatic phrases and new promises with a multitude of personal parties arising controlled by this or that strong individual and his clique combined with the military to take over power. It become appropriate to take on a radical coloration, radicalism in the name of the “people.”
Jose Marti of Cuba does not go much beyond this, or Carranza in Mexico, or Batista in Cuba.
Finally, with the advent of the Russian and Fascist Revolutions, the great depression of the 1930’s, and the great world wars, the Latin American military revolutionary cliques had to take on new guises of a social kind. They had to speak against foreign imperialism and foreign interests (partly to force the foreigners to take the native wealthy into partnership with them into the new corporations and to induce bigger bribes from these foreign corporations). They had to speak in the name of the “humble” (los humildes) and to promise them job security and Christmas gifts (Peron in Argentina and Vargas in Brazil aping Mussolini and Hitler). They expanded totalitarian principles in the name of social justice and threatened even the bourgeoisie with unleashing the masses against them if they did not fall in line. Using the demagogic forms of “plebiscite” and open meetings rather than political party discussions of policy and program they manipulated the masses at will.
None of them permitted honest regular elections, especially in so far as the workers and toilers are concerned. None of them failed to make every effort to control the workers organization, whether it be the trade union, the cultural association, the mutual aid group, the cooperative, or the political party. They withheld elections for years at a time until such elections could be safely manipulated and controlled. They formed a permanent State within the State for their own benefit.
AND NOW we can turn to Castro and see how he fits into these classical types of Junta revolutionists. If it is true, as claimed, that he was a “Marxist-Leninist” from the beginning, then he certainly concealed his character pretending to be just another ordinary Latin American hidalgo, military “revolutionist,” and hiding his social program so cleverly that many of his friends did not know it even existed. He posed as a pure and simple constitutional legalist of the Jose Marti variety. He simply wanted the termination of corruption in government, the end of the Batista dictatorship and the realization of a Cuban Constitution that already had been legally adopted years ago. He “revealed” his “social program” only in proportion as his military needs required him to do so.
Fidel Castro came from a wealthy landholding family, of the kind that would be part of the landed oligarchy in other countries. His contact with students in the University of Havana was contact with sons and daughters of the privileged in the main like himself. He was really not interested in forming a party of any kind. He worked through the tiny conspiratorial clique. He found it a necessity continually to demonstrate his military prowess, like many of the Latin American “revolutionists” before him, and when he was defeated in his first attempt to storm the barracks and was exiled, he again formed the military conspiracy to take Cuba by force but this time using agricultural toilers for his purposes.
In his military actions he shows himself a true “caudillist.” “Caudillo” is the Castillian word for leader, similar to Fuehrer in German and Duce in Italian. Caudillism may be defined as that policy that makes a military force belong to and practically depend on one leader, the Caudillo. That’s what happens in Cuba. Fidel’s military force at first is not an army of the people. It is a military adventure of a clique, headed by a Caudillo, belonging to and responsible to the Caudillo and no one else. The Caudillo appoints his assistants and discharges them. There is only one man and one only that counts, the Caudillo. Those who are true and faithful adherents of the Caudillo are allowed to wear special marks of distinction, in this case they are permitted to wear their hair long with beard and braids!
They can thus be recognized everywhere and woe to him who does not yield to their special standing and status. They are the true Fidelistas pledged to Fidel Castro and to him only. They are his SS troops, his Pretorian Guard, separate and apart from the people.
In all these antics Castro is so much like the comic-opera old style Latin American military conspirator and politico that even officials of the United States are taken in and believe that what is contemplated by Castro is simply another political upheaval of the well-known trite variety. His camouflage is so great that he refuses to allow any Cuban to have the title “General” but only “Colonel” (no doubt recognizing the under-spread Latin American belief that “Generals” would more likely initiate reactionary coup d’etats and the lower officers, like colonels, more radical sounding ones.) Thus U.S. officials at first do not specially hinder his group getting funds and support in the United States but allow him the same free hand that they have given other Latin American conspirators of the hidalgo variety.
Perhaps one might say: Good for Castro. By means of these clever tactics and maneuvers he was able to get necessary aid, to disarm his future opponents until it was too late for them to interfere and thus to accomplish his real purpose which was to further a social revolution rather than a mere constitutional one. A man should not show his hand until the time is ripe. It all shows he is a very clever man, an actor of exceptional sinuous ability.
Well and good! But how does it come about that none of the real workers’ or peoples’ revolutionist in the past was so “clever” and sinuous? Lenin, for example, believed in great flexibility in tactics and strategy, but precisely for that reason he was clear and unambiguous in his program. He too struck when the time was ripe but he always took pains to work out collectively, with the aid of a devoted vanguard party of tested scientific socialists each tactical and strategic operation on each phase of the program. He was no Caudillist, he did not believe in a “personal” political party. He was not a clever sinuous actor fooling everybody including his own comrades.
Just as Castro tricked his original friends when he posed as a mere constitutionalist so he may well be tricking his new friends when he poses as a Marxist-Leninist, and states that Cuba has socialism as its goal. In reality he is fooling no one who has studied the question. He is certainly not fooling Khrushchev who has openly declared that Castro is not a communist. And he is not fooling the reactionaries in the United States who are howling that he is a Leninist not because they believe it but because of his opening the doors of the Western Hemisphere to Khrushchev and the Russian politicians giving them extra weapons in the world struggle for power.
How far has Castro gone towards socialism? We have first the positive statements in his “Second Declaration of Havana,” issued February 1962, three full years after his coming to power. (We expect to make a critique of this document in the near future.) Here he states the achievements of Cuba as follows: “Cuba … has converted into landowners one hundred thousand small agriculturist, has assured all year-round employment on the farms and cooperatives to all the agricultural workers, has transformed barracks into schools, has given 60,000 fellowships to university, secondary and technical students, has created class rooms for all the children, has liquidated analphabetism completely, has quadrupled medical services, has nationalized the monopolist enterprises, has suppressed the abusive system that converted the home into a medium of exploitation for the people, has eliminated virtually all unemployment, has suppressed discrimination based on race or sex, has barred gambling, vice and administrative corruption, has armed the public, has. made into a living reality the enjoyment of human rights in freeing man and woman from exploitation, ignorance, and social inequality, has freed itself from all foreign vassalage, has acquired full sovereignty and established the bases for the development of its economy so that it will be no longer a country producing but one principal commodity and exporting only raw materials….”
In this review of the achievements of the Cuban Revolution we see that they are all bourgeois achievements. There is not one that capitalism as a whole has not attained elsewhere, although it took a revolution to achieve them in Cuba. They are achievements which theoretically have been announced as the goal of all the Latin American States organized in the Punte del Este Conference. In themselves they have nothing to do with socialism although they may be a first step in that direction.
But socialism can not be achieved without the rule of the working class as the head of all the toiling masses, a working class organized in its own political party tested in struggles and choosing freely its own leaders. Here is where Castro stands exposed as not being even a democrat, not to speak of being a socialist, or Marxist-Leninist. After three full years of victory he refuses to allow the formation of a workers party; he refuses to hold working-class elections; he refuses to build Soviets or organs of workers state power. In short be still wants the revolution to revolve around himself and his little clique as though it was his own personal property. This is the mark of the Latin American Caudillo, the Jacobin type of “revolutionist” not of the Marxist-Leninist.
Where did Castro get his clever bag of tricks? Who were his forerunners and teachers? From appearances the man from whom he copied more than any one else is the fugitive-exile Juan Peron, former dictator-President of Argentina now hiding in the Spain of Caudillo Franco, who in turn followed the grand master of all, Mussolini. There is practically nothing that Castro is trying that ………… reactionary regime; Peron also came out for the “humble” and organized demonstrations of the “shirtless” ones; Peron also made strenuous efforts to end unemployment and made it most difficult for the employer to discharge any workman. He also started large public works. He also stood out for higher wages for the workers and established funds for social security, old age pensions, etc. Aided by the tears and passion of his wife, Eva Peron, he also gave workers Christmas presents and indeed fixed it into the very law of the land so that workers were to receive at the end of the year a special present of a salary equal to one whole month’s pay! He also took control of the workers trade unions and other organizations and had the government appoint the leaders. He also saw there were no real discussions but only “plebiscites” from time to time, maintaining regularly that all this meant a higher form of democracy than the decadent bourgeois ones in foreign countries. He also nationalized certain foreign properties and developed others. He also stood for rapid industrialization and for more and harder work by the toilers. He also advocated agrarian reform and the breaking up of the large landed estates on the countryside. He also made bitter attacks against “foreign interests” and “imperialism” and urged the complete unity and strong independence of the “patria.” If Fidel has his admirers in other Latin American countries, Peronism had its counterparts in Apraism in Peru and Vargasism in Brazil.
YES, THERE were some differences between Peronism and Fidelism. Peron in 1943-45 could not call on the Soviet Union for help especially as the ruling classes and military men were heavily oriented on the side of the Axis powers, Hitler and Mussolini. Peron thus did not have to call himself a “Marxist-Leninist". He also was not so heavily bogged down by the weight of American imperialism and there was no Guantanamo Base in Argentina. Nor was he so close to the shores of the U.S. as to become a physical threat to that imperialism. Thus he did not have to be armed by opponents of the United States nor stand in such deadly peril of retaliation by the United States.
REVOLUTIONS can come in an infinite number and combination of forms and contents. There may be palace revolutions, military revolutions, people’s revolutions, peasants’ revolutions, workers’ revolutions, democratic revolutions, social revolutions, social-democratic revolutions, socialist revolutions, etc. What sort of Revolution is that now going on in Cuba? It starts out as a military adventure of a few intellectuals supported by democratic and social revolutionists abroad, it quickly develops into a social revolution backed up first of all by the desperate agricultural toilers and supported by wide strata of the working class and general population.
It also starts out as a democratic revolution, the aim being to overthrow the Batista dictatorship, put life into the old constitution and call for elections by all the people on a universal free and secret suffrage basis. The democratic features of the revolution are soon suppressed. Very early after taking power Castro announces that there will be no elections for a number of years but all power will rest in the hands of himself and the small coterie around him, selected and appointed by him.
To the people who are thus deprived of the vote Castro gives the following arguments:
1.The Revolution has just begun and there are many counter-revolutionary elements who will seize the occasion of the elections to sow confusion and discontent. What is needed now is unity of the country until matters can become stabilized and unemployment ended.
2. The social aspects of the revolution are much more important than the democratic. Everyone is too busy constructing the economy from the ruins of the old to pay attention to elections which are not necessary anyway since the ruling group represents their interests thoroughly. To the toilers he says after the trade unions have been purged of their counter-revolutionary Batista former leaders and the agricultural workers have been formed into cooperatives then there will be voting, first within these organizations and then generally.
3. Elections means the formation of political parties which will have to present programs and make efforts to take power. This cannot be done in such precarious moments.
4. So, with all the tricks of demagogy Castro and his clique prevents any voting whatever and completely sidetracks the development of the Revolution on democratic lines.
But the Revolution does continue as a Social Revolution, although without a democratic base either for the toilers generally or for the industrial workers in particular. Without democracy they cannot discuss their problems and elect their representatives. They cannot pool their knowledge and make collective responsible decisions. They cannot have self development, they cannot take initiative in important political and social matters. They remain constantly chained as coolies for the few intellectuals who have the decision-making powers monopolized to themselves and the policies and programs locked up in their own bosoms until they condescend to reveal them to the workers and toilers. The social revolution loses its head and must become extremely limited in scope.
It is not at all an exceptional historic circumstance that the bourgeoisie cannot by itself modernize its country peaceably and without the assistance of the working classes who are promised all sorts of pie-in-the-sky benefits. Nor is it unheard of that workers will think their leaders are establishing socialism when all they are doing is modernizing capitalism by forced industrialization, forced capital investment and forced labor. Perhaps this last is what Castro really has in mind for Cuba?
Ordinarily, under the relation of forces actually existing in Cuba the control by Castro would eventually pass into the hands of the workers and toilers. Cuba is an island and thus not easily interfered with except by direct invasion. With the expulsion of the American imperialists there remains no bourgeois class strong enough to take or hold the power. The petty bourgeois classes are also too small and weak to do so. The workers and toilers now thoroughly aroused face no class capable of rejecting their will should it become definitely and clearly expressed. These toiling masses can not be withheld from the full fruits of their labor forever, whatever the clever phrases used. The Social Revolution must move further and further to the left, the workers must begin to strive for leadership to move the revolution into the direct paths of socialism. To do this they will have to demand the formation of a workers party, of Soviet or workers parliament, of free elections by workers for their own representatives to decide their own lot. This should be the trend of affairs to be anticipated.
How can Castro prevent this move of the workers to form their own party and to take over power for themselves? In his desperation, not being able to call on anyone else he calls on the Cuban Stalinists and the Russian Khrushchevists to come to his aid. The Cuban Stalinists, like the Russians, do not care about workers’ elections and workers’ party discussions. Long ago they abandoned such free discussions in proportion as the Russian Revolution steadily degenerated towards managerialism and away from workers’ democracy. Thus, if Castro will share power with them the Stalinists are very willing to help him prevent the formation of a real workers’ Marxist party capable of taking leadership of the Revolution and moving the Revolution from its limited social aims to Socialism.
Thus the poor Cuban people are faced not only with the open and deadly enmity of American imperialism, including the leaders of the U.S. trade unions, but are faced with the heavy burdens of removing the degenerated weight of Khrushchevism-Stalinism brought in by Castro to prevent them from taking over in their own right.
Under such dire conditions what should be the tasks of Cuba win? Their hope would seem to be the development of the socialist revolution elsewhere particularly in Latin America but here, too, Castro, and the Stalinists seem to control all the avenues of approach.
Under such dire conditions what should be the tasks of the workers throughout the world?
First of all they must continue to support the social revolution that has burst forth in Cuba.
Second, they should demand Hands Off Cuba and prevent imperialist intervention.
Third, they must demand in stentorian terms that Cuba allow free elections among the workers so that a real workers leadership can be developed and take power through Soviets or similar organs of struggles.
Fourth, they must expose the cynical maneuvers of the Stalinists, conduct their own revolutionary movements and forming their own internationalist socialist movement. For the sake of the Socialist Revolution in Cuba both Khrushchev and American imperialism must be thwarted, both foreign intervention and domestic Castroism must be defeated.
Fifth, finally, they must bend all efforts to the end that the social revolution be extended and made permanent through all Latin America.