Source: International Information Bulletin, April, 1982. Published as a fraternal courtesy to the United Secretariat of the Fourth International by the (US) Socialist Workers Party
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In 1959, the Cuban revolution gained victory. In 1960, the International had official response to this question. The first responses came from the US SWP, which was very natural. The United States and Cuba are neighbours and are closely related. At that time, the SWP delegated Hansen and Dobbs to visit Cuba. Afterwards, Hansen wrote a pamphlet. At that time, they had high hopes, if not “illusions,” for Cuba, and they totally supported the Cuban revolution. The support was correct, but they had not seriously and profoundly analysed the nature of the new-born regime. And so, in 1963, Hansen and Dobbs wrote a document which approved of the method of the Cuban revolution: the guerrilla warfare strategy of besieging the cities. They considered this new strategy correct and practicable, and this became the excuse for those who later advocated guerrilla warfare strategy in Latin America.
In 1961, differences on the Cuban question occurred between the US SWP and the Socialist Labour League of England. On the part of the SWP, the resolution in support of Cuba drafted by Hansen considered that the Cuban regime had excluded bourgeois representatives and confiscated the properties of the bourgeoisie, and thus had gone on the road of a workers state. The Socialist Labour League led by Healy fundamentally opposed this view, and considered that in Cuba, it was merely a dual power; the nature of the state had not changed, and it had not progressed to be a workers state.
Under this situation, I wrote a document titled “The question of the Cuban revolution” in which I considered that since Cuba had excluded the bourgeoisie from the regime, and had confiscated and nationalized the properties of the bourgeoisie, it could be termed as a workers state in its property relations. On this point, I supported the SWP and criticized the opinion of the Socialist Labour League as wrong. The Cuban regime was not one of dual power but was Castro’s unique power. At the same time, I called for caution from comrades because Cuba was a very small and backward island country, and without the help of other countries, especially the help of revolutions in the Latin American countries, it would be under great isolation and danger and would be difficult to sustain. Therefore, we must not excessively exaggerate the perspective of this revolution.
Soon afterwards, since the International Committee was to convene to discuss the Cuban question, I wrote a draft for discussion. It was in July 1961. The draft was cautious and objective. I pointed out that the Cuban revolution was a revolution independent of Stalinism and it had then gone on the road of permanent revolution; it was a very important event in the western hemisphere, and we must support this revolution. And I particularly reminded the comrades that Cuba, in order to survive, had received support from the Soviet bureaucracy. We must view this dialectically: it had its duality. According to the system of ownership of the October Revolution, it was certainly natural that the Soviet Union supported Cuba — and so we could see that the property ownership system of the October Revolution was still exerting its impact. Without the Soviet Union’s support, it was out of the question that Cuba could sustain itself. The United States blockaded it and proposed that the Latin American countries blockade it; the Soviet Union bought Cuba’s only product, sugar, and gave it material and ammunition supplies. It can be seen that it was absolutely necessary for Cuba to accept aid from the Soviet Union. But, on the other hand, the Soviet Union was no longer the Soviet Union of the Lenin era when it selflessly devoted itself to proletarian internationalism; it had long degenerated. Directed by Stalin’s policy of “socialism in one country,” the aid given by the Soviet Union which was under bureaucratic dictatorship to other countries was to be exchanged for a price. Thus, the Soviet Union’s support of Cuba at least would bring the Soviet Union’s Stalinist ideology to Cuba; in other words, Cuba was to be stalinized. Such a situation was not only possible but was also inevitable. If Cuba was stalinized, then it could not have a great prospect. And so, I proposed that the Fourth International and, in particular, the Trotskyist organizations in America, convene a special American conference to discuss the support of the Cuban revolution. Our organization was materially weak and could not provide any material aid, and we could only help it in ideology and hope that a Marxist party could be set up inside Cuba. At the same time, Trotsky’s most important works were to be translated into Spanish and sent to Cuba, and it would even be better if a publication in Spanish was published to influence the Cuban masses.
But the convention opposed my resolution, and in particular Bander and Healy; the former even said that Castro was another Bastista, the Chiang Kai-shek of Cuba.
I also sent this draft to Pierre Frank, and I meant that I hoped the International Secretariat and the International Committee would jointly discuss the Cuban question and help the Cuban revolution. But I had not received any reply from Frank.
Later, I saw the document by the Pabloists (International Secretariat) which supported the Cuban revolution. In order to support the Cuban revolution, I strongly advocated the unification and cooperation of the IS and the IC. At the unification convention in June 1963, although there was no particular discussion on Cuba, it was all agreed that Cuba was already a workers state. The difference in opinion on the nature of the Cuban state was one of the reasons why the Healyists and the Lambertists did not participate in the unification convention. (See my article “Where is Healy taking the Socialist Labour League?”)
Then a new question happened. Castro called a Latin American conference in Havana and called for the employment of the guerrilla warfare strategy in Latin America. Castro said that the Latin American countries could liberate themselves only by employing the guerrilla warfare strategy. Under his open appeal, the youth in Latin America enthusiastically aspired to Cuba and its guerrilla warfare strategy. After Castro had stressed the decisiveness of guerrilla warfare, guerrilla wars surged in Latin America — in Bolivia, Columbia, Venezuela, Argentina. This situation even had its impact on the Fourth International and especially on some leading cadres in Europe like Livio Maitan and Mandel. In February 1968, Maitan drafted a resolution to be presented to the IEC for discussion, and it was adopted by the IEC meeting, which meant that the IEC accepted the guerrilla warfare strategy, i.e., accepted Castro’s appeal. At the meeting, only I cast an opposition vote, and so my objection was in vain. Although the resolution was only a draft, it reflected the impact of the guerrilla warfare strategy on some leaders of the Fourth International. Under such circumstances, I had to wage a struggle.
First of all, I requested the SWP leadership to consider this question prudently; otherwise, the Fourth International would forsake the program of Trotskyism and go on the road of degeneration. Besides, I also wrote “Return to the road of Trotskyism” and this document influenced some Trotskyists in the United States and in other countries. Finally, at the 1969 World Congress, serious differences occurred on the question of guerrilla warfare in Latin America, and two factions were formed, i.e., the later International Majority Tendency and the Leninist-Trotskyist Faction.
In “Return to the road of Trotskyism,” there was a subtitle called “Castroism or Trotskyism?” I emphatically pointed out that under Castro’s influence, some cadres of the Fourth International had gone on the road of guerrilla warfare strategy. The differences remained and at the 1974 World Congress, the Majority Tendency still retained its views.
Here I must emphatically point out that: at the beginning, the SWP supported guerrilla warfare strategy, but it later accepted my persuasion and opposed guerrilla warfare. Hansen wrote an article criticizing the draft resolution on the Cuban revolution, which was very close to my views. This viewpoint was maintained until the unification of the two factions in 1977. From then on there was not much difference on the Cuban question because the International Majority Tendency totally abandoned guerrilla warfare strategy and admitted its mistakes. . But the question was posed under new circumstances. Starting from 1975 up to 1978 when Vietnam invaded Cambodia, due to Cuba’s support of Vietnam (Cuba stood on the side of Moscow, and China on the side of Cambodia), Cuba’s revolutionary role was being exaggerated.
When Mary-Alice Waters wrote articles to criticize the question of Vietnam and Cambodia, she turned away from previous positions and tried all means to adorn Vietnam. In the past, when the French section supported Vietnam and adorned the Vietnamese Communist Party, the SWP, together with us, opposed the opinion of the French comrades. Now, the French section had changed their previous position, but it had become the SWP which particularly supported Vietnam. Previously, we gave our critical support to Vietnam. Since the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia, the SWP not only did not criticize Vietnam, but instead adorned it. Its views on Cambodia were also different from ours.
Our opinion is: under Pol Pot’s rule, Cambodia was very contradictory. On the one hand, it had confiscated the properties of the bourgeoisie and established socialist property relations; on this basic point, it was a workers state. But on the other hand, since Pol Pot was the most stupid and the most brutal among the Stalinist bureaucrats, and a butcher killing over a million people, its regime was an extremely brutal and ugly dictatorship deeply hated by the Cambodian people. From a dialectical viewpoint, the progressiveness of its property nationalizations could not be denied, and should be supported. But its blind adventurism in abolishing the currency and halting all commerce should be criticized; as for its ugly bureaucratic rule, it should be exposed and attacked to the maximum. But the SWP held different opinions. It stressed the crimes of the bureaucratic dictatorship and denied the fact of its confiscation of private properties, and so defined Cambodia as a capitalist country. Such a view is queer because a capitalist country without private property and without commerce has never existed in the world. Because Cuba supported Vietnam, the SWP also followed to support Vietnam.
Most important is: in December 1979, the Soviet Union sent troops to invade Afghanistan; this incident caused new differences in the Fourth International. At the beginning, the SWP totally supported the Soviet Union’s sending of troops into Afghanistan. The majority of the European Trotskyists adopted a different position, demanding Soviet troops to withdraw from Afghanistan. The difference was also reflected in the RML in Hong Kong: Yip Ning supported the US position, and Wu agreed with the European position. Recently, the SWP’s position on the Soviet troops’ invasion of Afghanistan has changed and a more critical attitude has been adopted.
To clarify on this question, some basic questions must first be discussed. In the article “Proletarian leadership in power” written by M.-A. Waters, it was said that Cuba was practising dictatorship of the proletariat. The reason given was that Cuba’s foreign policy was a policy of proletarian internationalism. At present, Cuba’s support and aid for Nicaragua and El Salvador are facts. Its previous support and aid for Angola and Ethiopia, and even the sending of troops to support them, are also facts that we acknowledge. But how do we analyse and evaluate these facts?
First of all, is Cuba a state with the dictatorship of the proletariat? This is the most basic question. The SWP’s documents implied that Cuba has the kind of dictatorship of the proletariat like the one established by Lenin in the October Revolution era. Though this opinion was not explicit, it was often implied. We must ask: what is the form of the dictatorship of the proletariat?
We will leave out the Paris Commune and simply talk about the October Revolution. The regime of the October Revolution was set up on the basis of the workers’, peasants’ and soldiers’ Soviets. The Soviets were produced through democratic elections by workers, peasants and soldiers. Therefore, the Soviet regime was dictatorship of the proletariat in respect to the bourgeoisie, but most democratic in respect to the proletariat. Such kind of political power existed only twice in history: the first time was the Paris Commune which was directly elected by the members of the Paris Commune, and the second time was the Soviet regime after the October Revolution, a regime elected by the worker, peasant and soldier masses.
Has Cuba had any organizations of workers’, peasants’ or soldiers’ Soviets? The first state power that was established when Castro’s guerrilla forces went into the cities from the countryside was a government in coalition with the bourgeoisie, similar to the government established in China in 1949. Later, the bourgeoisie was excluded from the regime, and Castro’s July 26 movement fused with the Cuban Communist Party to form the Communist Party which alone has been holding power. Has this regime ever had any basis of workers’, peasants’ and soldiers’ Soviets? Absolutely not. Surely, workers have trade union organizations and peasants perhaps have some sort of organizations (I do not know much about this). But in all, it cannot be denied that Cuba does not have the kind of mass organizations that had existed in the Soviet Union. And so, what is the mass basis that one bases on in saying that Cuba is a dictatorship of the proletariat?
There is not at all any democracy but there is only centralism in Castro’s party organization, like the Communist Parties in the Soviet Union, in Eastern Europe and in China. Such a party is absolutely beyond the supervision of the masses. If Cuba can be said to be dictatorship of the proletariat, then China, Eastern Europe and even the Soviet Union can be said to be dictatorship of the proletariat!
How should we evaluate and define these Stalinist so-called workers states? It can be said that the dictatorship in Cuba is better than that in China or Eastern Europe. It is possible and is a fact that Cuba’s bureaucrats are less arbitrary or brutal. Nonetheless, its government officials are appointed by the party and not directly elected by the worker and peasant masses. Castro is the party. There is no democratic centralism in the Cuban Communist Party, because it is copied from the Soviet Union. Castro’s words are supreme. On this point, there is no difference in nature from Mao Zedong in China. The difference is only that: the former is younger and more vigilant, and the latter was more muddled and brutal. And so, the Cuban bureaucrats are less brutal or centralized than those in the Soviet Union or China, and are closer to the masses.
M-A. Waters’ main argument was Cuba’s internationalism. She talked mostly about Cuba’s aid to Nicaragua, Grenada, El Salvador, and its previous dispatch of troops to aid Angola and Ethiopia. Here, I will make some analysis of the political situation of Angola and Ethiopia at that time and the nature of these regimes.
Cuba sent troops to aid Angola entirely in relation to the Soviet Union. After the Portugal revolution, the Soviet Union supported one group in Angola, the MPLA and China supported another group (there were three groups at that time). Later, China withdrew its support, and those groups turned to imperialism, seeking aid from Zaire and South Africa; and so the civil war occurred. Cuba sent troops to Angola under the Soviet Union’s support — the sending of Cuban troops to Angola and Ethiopia would not have been possible without the Soviet Union’s arms, and material and financial support. Nevertheless, such an action had its progressive and even revolutionary significance, because those groups had degenerated and openly turned to the imperialist camp, and they waged a civil war in Angola under the aid of imperialism. If the Soviet Union and Cuba had not supported Angola, it would very probably have been partitioned by South Africa and Zaire, and fallen under the control of US imperialism, which would have been very bad. I have long said that, withstanding the fact that Cuba sent troops to Angola under the support of the Soviet Union, the action had its progressive significance and should be supported. At that time, it was the SWP that disagreed with Cuba’s sending troops to Angola.
However, the Angolan rulers that Cuba supports are not socialists but nationalists. They have waged a struggle to get rid of the rule of Portugal, and with Cuba’s support, they are free from the rule of imperialism but they are hostile to leftist socialist elements and are ready to suppress the latter. Such a ruling layer is the greatest obstruction to Angola’s socialist prospect. Therefore, this ruling layer is afraid of a change in the property ownership system and it staunchly maintains capitalism. Under such a system, socialist movements will inevitably develop — they may have developed now — and this ruling layer will certainly suppress these movements in order to maintain the continued existence and development of the private property ownership system. If at that time the Cuban troops have not yet withdrawn from Angola, they will be in a very embarrassed position; if they continue to support the present ruling layer, they may even play a counter-revolutionary role.
Compared to Angola, Ethiopia is much bigger, and more ancient and civilized. This country has gone through the opposition of monarchical dictatorship and the driving away of the emperor, which are without doubt progressive. The present rulers are those leaders who opposed the monarchy. They at first received support from US imperialism, but they later turned to the Soviet Union. I do not quite know why they had such a turn. Perhaps it is because the Soviet Union gives them some advantages. The Soviet Union had helped Egypt to build dams, gifted it with ammunition, sent military advisors to train the Egyptian army, and by all these tried to gain Egypt to its side; the result, however, was that Sadat drove away all Soviet personnel. The Soviet Union met the same failures in Somali and Sudan. And so, the Soviet Union tried its utmost to win Ethiopia. Although US imperialism at that time supported Ethiopia, it was not polite to those who received its aid. Perhaps this is the reason for Ethiopia’s turn to the Soviet Union for aid, since the Soviet Union not only gives Ethiopia ammunition and material aid but also tries its best to ingratiate itself with the country’s ruling layer.
In the North East part of Ethiopia is a national minority called Eritrea with about 3 million population. It was a threat to the new regime and so the new government closed in to the Soviet Union and asked the Soviet Union to tell Cuba to send troops to support it: At that time when Ethiopia and Somali had confrontations, the Cuban troops supported the former. The rulers of Ethiopia are worse than those of Angola. They were .previously military officers of the monarchy and their lives have been very corrupt. Although they have carried out partial land reforms after overthrowing the monarchy, and distributed land held by the previous royal family and by some big landlords to the peasants, they still continued to preserve the system of private ownership. In order to suppress about 3 million national minority people, they requested the support of the Cuban troops. On this point, Cuba dared not send its armies to attack the national minority. These rulers are hostile to the youth, the students and the leftists. In the future, they will surely suppress the mass movement like Chiang Kai-shek did. It was worse for Cuba to support Ethiopia than to support Angola, because the former was not under the attack of reactionary forces supported by imperialism, and it still preserved private property relations and even brutally repressed its national minority. It is a very reactionary regime. Castro was very embarrassed over this and so it did not send troops (but only supplied arms) to attack that national minority.
In the past, the Soviet Union had also helped China; it gave large amounts of money, advisors and ammunition to support Chiang Kai-shek and Wang Ching-wei of the Kuomintang, and what were the results?! Are the military rulers of Ethiopia the same sort like Chiang Kai-shek? It is difficult to say, and no one can guarantee that they are not. And so, clarifications should be made on these so-called internationalist supports. We Marxists must ask: what sort of people are the supports given to? Are they the revolutionary masses or the bourgeoisie? Evidently, Cuba supports the bourgeoisie and not the revolutionary worker and peasant masses because it is the bourgeoisie that is in the ruling position in Ethiopia. A big problem exists with this sort of “internationalism.” On this point, Hansen’s article “Cuba’s role in Africa” (See October Review Sept 1978) had a view very close to ours. But the SWP now does not mention this article any more.
Nicaragua and Grenada are small countries and they cannot play an important role. Grenada only has a population of 100,000 and Nicaragua only 2 million, though the latter can play an explosive role in the Central American countries like El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. These countries long under the control and exploitation of US imperialism, are very poor and so revolutions can easily happen. In Nicaragua, it was because the US puppet Somoza regime was too bad that the people were forced to rise up in revolt, as the Cuban people did in the past against Batista. We should of course try our best to give support and help promote revolution in these countries despite their shortcomings. But we should not adorn or exaggerate them and say that their impact can change the world situation.
We say that: revolutions in these countries will be a blow to US imperialism and so we hope these countries will develop towards socialism. But we must understand that these countries are too backward, the weight of the workers is very small, and it will be difficult for them to build the dictatorship of the proletariat; at most they can build up Cuba-type regimes.
It is natural that Cuba supports the Nicaraguan revolution because it is too isolated in Latin America. Of course, it needs the aid of revolutions in other places, and aiding these countries means aiding itself.
It must be remembered that these countries cannot play a decisive role in the politics in Latin America. If the revolutions in these countries can continue to develop, they can of course have some impact and function on the Latin American countries. But there are only several countries in Latin America that can influence the whole situation, such as Mexico, Brazil and Argentina. Although Argentina is not big in size or population, it is industrialized, has a rather big trade union organization, and so its political influence in Latin America is big. Mexico has 60 million population and its industry has quite some foundation. Brazil is even bigger in its size and its population (100 million). Of course, I do not mean that other countries like Venezuela, Peru, Chile, Bolivia or Columbia do not play a role in their revolutions; it is only that they do not play so decisive a role as compared to the above-mentioned three countries.
Therefore, the Fourth International should build up mass parties in Latin American countries like Mexico, Brazil and Argentina to lead the working class to carry out revolutions. But the attitude of the SWP is the contrary. Due to the split with the Moreno faction, the SWP feels disappointed with the Trotskyist movement in Latin America, and so can only see countries like Cuba, Nicaragua and Grenada. It does not have an overall view and plan for the Latin American countries. It can be conceived that a strong section built by us in Mexico, Argentina, etc. will be more useful than several Nicaraguan revolutions.
As mentioned before, Cuba, due to its isolation in the western hemisphere, must of course support the Nicaraguan revolution and try its best to put Nicaragua, etc. under its influence as Cuba’s satellite countries. But when Cuba supports these countries, it must still look to Moscow’s attitude. Moscow is very hesitant in this respect, because if the Soviet Union wants to establish its influence in Central America, the USA will inevitably intervene. It has already given the warning, and it will go so far as to intervene militarily; its present attitude to El Salvador is an obvious example. The attitude of the Moscow bureaucracy is very hesitant; it only wants to act through Cuba.
Therefore it can be said that Cuba’s internationalism is under the influence of the Soviet Union and is decided by the foreign policy of the Soviet Union. The basic foreign policy of the Soviet Union is: no revolution, especially no revolution in advanced countries. But it must make some movements to place the USA in a difficult position so as to increase its bargaining power. This is the meaning of its activities in African countries like Egypt, Somali and Ethiopia. Under this kind of control by the Soviet Union, Cuba cannot have much room for activities.
What then is an internationalist policy? Lenin and Trotsky set up the Third International and through it, set up communist parties in various countries to help the revolution. Lenin’s policy towards backward countries was not simply to help the bourgeoisie but was to have the bourgeois democratic revolution go on to socialist revolution. And for advanced countries, socialist revolutions were to be conducted. These are very clear and do not need repetition.
How then is Castro? He stresses aiding oppressed peoples. It is correct. Lenin had considered nationalist democratic revolutions in backward countries as a very important factor of the world proletarian revolution, because they can weaken imperialism, can help proletarian revolutions in the imperialist countries, and at the same time means helping the oppressed peoples to go on to socialist revolutions through democratic revolutions. But what does Castro base on? He only looks up to the Soviet Union. But the Soviet Union, under the control of the Stalinist bureaucracy, has become a most reactionary country opposing world revolution. There are two main reactionary camps in the world today: one is the imperialist countries headed by the USA, and the other is the degenerated and deformed workers states headed by the Soviet Union. The latter is even more brutal than imperialism; an example is Eastern Europe under its control. There cannot be the final victory of socialism without elimination of these two reactionary forces. Castro said, without the October Revolution, there is no Cuba. Such a saying is half correct. A new property relationship was produced by the October Revolution, and Cuba is helped by this relationship. But he said not one word about the bureaucratic dictatorship. This bureaucratic dictatorship is an obstacle to world revolution and it is playing the most reactionary role — on this Castro also has not said one word. He does not at all comprehend that the October Revolution has been betrayed, that what is left of the October Revolution is only the nationalized property relationship but the nationalized properties are totally controlled and held by the bureaucracy; it is only for its own interests that the bureaucracy occasionally aids some countries in order to facilitate its dealings with imperialism.
Castro entirely drops out this point because Cuba needs the Soviet Union’s support or else it cannot survive. So, it can perhaps be forgiven that Castro dares not speak the truth about the Soviet Union’s bureaucratic dictatorship. But it cannot be forgiven if our SWP leaders also do not mention this but, following Cuba, also conceal the truth about the Soviet Union. Such an act would be objectively a betrayal of Trotskyism because it excessively concedes to Castro.
Finally, I have three points of summary:
Firstly, the SWP stresses that there is no bureaucratic system in Cuba.
No one denies that there are bureaucrats in Cuba, and the SWP documents also admit this. Of course, bureaucrats must be distinguished from bureaucratic dictatorship. Bureaucrats inevitably exist in the revolutions of backward countries. Only in advanced countries where the proletariat forms the majority and the workers have a high cultural level that the most democratic dictatorship of the proletariat can be established — most democratic for the workers arid dictatorship for the bourgeoisie. Is the bureaucratic situation in Cuba so serious that it has become bureaucratic dictatorship or autocracy? If it has developed to such a dictatorial level, then it requires a political revolution to overthrow the bureaucracy. A young comrade in the SWP wrote to me and said that he thought a dictatorial bureaucratic caste has been produced in Cuba, which must be overthrown by a political revolution. I am very prudent in considering this question. I consider that there exists a bureaucratic system in Cuba because it does not at all have any soviet organizations. Without the democratic election by the proletariat, the regime will inevitably be produced in a bureaucratic way. The problem is to what extent has this bureaucratic system developed. At that time, I answered that comrade that, I do not have much information on the development of the bureaucratic system in Cuba, but it can be certain that a bureaucratic system exists in Cuba; however, it is not as hardened as the ones in the Soviet Union or in China, because the Cuban people still enjoy a certain extent of democracy.
An article by Hansen said that there exists a bureaucratic system in the Cuban army. This is natural because there is a hierarchical system in the army which easily gives rise to bureaucratization. The article also mentioned a poet named Padilla who was arrested and forced to repent. This fact should be noted because the Soviet Union and China also oppress dissidents in this way, not allowing any democracy or freedom, not allowing the publication of any different ideas or viewpoints, including literature.
Later, some SWP members visited Cuba and when they returned, they reported that the Cuban people have freedom of activities, etc. I think this is possible. Castro is not as arbitrary as Stalin or brutal as Mao Zedong. He has some intelligence and knows that Cuba is only a small country in extreme isolation and the masses must not be too oppressed or else Cuba will find it difficult to survive. And so, I do not agree to the opinion that it now requires a political revolution to overthrow the Cuban regime. But I also do not agree with people who think that there does not exist a bureaucratic system in Cuba. The arrest of that poet has its symbolic significance. Moreover, there is no soviet in Cuba and no democratic centralism in the Cuban party. For all the time, there is only Castro who gives speeches; he is like a little emperor in Cuba, and his words are royal decrees. This situation is obviously the manifestation of a bureaucratic system. The SWP over-adorns Cuba and so overlooks its fact of bureaucratism.
Secondly, the SWP thinks that Cuba is practising the dictatorship of the proletariat, practising proletarian internationalism, and there is no bureaucratic system; it is like the Soviet Union of Lenin’s era. It even parallels Castro with Lenin and the Cuban revolution with the October Revolution.
What are the similarities and differences between the Cuban revolution and the October Revolution?
The October Revolution was carried out after several decades of preparations. From Plekhanov’s founding of the Group of Liberation of Labour to the later setting up of Social Democratic Labour Party, there had been many serious ideological struggles, in particular the struggle between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks and the struggle between the theory of revolution by stages and the theory of permanent revolution. Later, there was the world war and the attitude towards Russian imperialism became a decisive struggle and the most profound Marxism was developed, represented by Lenin and Trotsky. And so, the October Revolution could be carried out smoothly basically basing on words previously said. Conjunctural decisions were derived from past ideological basis. Therefore, the October Revolution was a typical proletarian revolution whereby under the leadership of radical Marxism, the proletariat led the peasants to carry out a profound socialist revolution in a big country. The revolution shook the whole world and changed the course of human history.
How was the Cuban revolution? Before the revolution, Castro was a democrat and even a humanitarian; he had never received any education of Marxism. Under the impact of the 1949 revolutionary victory of the Chinese Communist Party, he conducted guerrilla war. Under particular circumstances — that is before the US could intervene, he led the guerrilla army to take political power. It was a petty bourgeois revolution. It was only after seizing power when he wanted to obtain the aid of other countries — i.e., of the Soviet Union — that he cooperated with the Communist Party and engaged in a little bit of Marxism. Castro is an action-type figure, that is in his carrying out guerrilla warfare. Now the SWP leaders stress that they themselves are action-type, which means stressing guerrilla warfare. They do not understand Lenin’s words: “Without revolutionary theory, there is no revolutionary action.” Castro was originally a petty bourgeois revolutionary, i.e., a petty bourgeois nationalist and democratic radical. He by luck obtained victory due to Batista’s excessive corruption. But after the victory, he still cooperated with the bourgeoisie to set up a coalition government. It was only because the bourgeoisie was a threat to him that he was compelled to exclude the bourgeoisie from political power and set up his own government. But this government did not go through the democratic election by the proletariat. Therefore, the Cuban revolution is totally beyond comparison with the October Revolution, and to parallel Castro with Lenin is indeed degrading Lenin.
It must be pointed out that in the 1980’s, a person who does not understand the October Revolution, does not understand the degeneration of the Soviet Union, does not understand the struggle between Trotsky and Stalin, cannot at all be called a Marxist, and is simply an idiot who can only in a simple way recite quotations from Marx and Engels. Castro has never mentioned Trotsky’s name, and he even insulted the Trotskyists in 1963 and vilified the SWP members as agents of US imperialism.
Thirdly, it is the question of whether Cuba can lead the world revolution. This is a central question.
Mary-Alice Waters has not expressed this point clearly in her articles, but on some other occasions, I heard the SWP propose that the Fourth International should cooperate with Castro to lead the world revolution. Waters’ articles also reflect the viewpoint of Cuba going on the road of leading the world revolution.
This is a central question and is very serious because it will affect the fate of all mankind.
Trotskyism and Castro’s tendency are fundamentally different. Towards Castro, we can only say that because up to today, he is still going in a revolutionary direction and so we should give him critical support. But it is only a joke to say that we will join with him to lead the world revolution.
It is because Castro does not at all have a program of world revolution — even if he has one, it is only such actions like aiding Angola and Ethiopia. He understands nothing at all about Trotsky’s political program of world revolution — the Fourth International’s Transitional Program.
The Soviet Union has degenerated for half a century. The Soviet bureaucracy’s oppression of workers and peasants of the Soviet Union and its squeezing of the people of Eastern Europe is a universally known fact. A person who speaks not one word about this fact is, if not an idiot or blind, deliberately covering up for the Soviet bureaucracy. It can still be forgiven if Castro covers up for the Soviet bureaucracy in order to obtain the Soviet Union’s material aid. But for the world revolution, the Soviet Union’s bureaucratic dictatorship must absolutely not be covered up. At present, there are two types of revolutions in the world revolution: one is carrying out socialist revolutions in capitalist countries (including in advanced and backward countries), and the other is carrying out political revolutions in workers states. People under the oppression of bureaucratic dictatorships constitute over one-third of the world population. Carrying out these two types of revolutions is clearly written down in the Transitional Program. Will Castro agree to carry out a revolution in the Soviet Union? Will he agree to overthrowing the Soviet bureaucracy’s oppressive rule and establishing the system of proletarian democracy in Eastern Europe? It is very difficult, because this will fundamentally destroy its aid from the Soviet Union’s bureaucracy. Can it be conceived that Castro will be able to do so? If we, in order to concede to Castro, abstain from mentioning the political revolution in the Soviet Union, it will be fundamentally betraying Trotskyism and the Fourth International, and surrendering to Stalinism and becoming captives of Stalinism.
Must we insist on the two kinds of revolutions, in the Fourth International’s program? Can Castro agree to wage a revolution to bring down the bureaucracy in the Soviet Union? These two questions must be answered by the SWP leaders.
March 16, 1981
Postscript: The questions involved in this talk are not only extensive but are also very realistic, because the SWP’s opinions have caused many differences and in particular have led to the formation of two opposing positions within the United Secretariat, and which was manifested in two draft resolutions on Cuba. This question deserves particular attention and discussion so that one can express one’s ideas.