Barry Lord


First Published: Progressive Worker, Vol. 3, No. 9, July 1967
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
Copyright: This work is in the Public Domain under the Creative Commons Common Deed. You can freely copy, distribute and display this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line as your source, include the url to this work, and note any of the transcribers, editors & proofreaders above.

The May 1967 issue of Progressive Worker included an article entitled “Cuba Exposes Pseudo-Revolutionaries”, reporting on Fidel Castro’s speech of March 13, 1967, in which the Cuban leader exposed pseudo-revolutionary tendencies among Latin-American “parties that entrench themselves behind the name of communist or Marxists.” While the article applauded this “sharp leftward turn” away from Castro’s position of two years ago, when he denounced attacks on revisionism as “division” within the socialist camp in the face of an attacking enemy, it also noted that the attack on pseudo-revolutionaries in Latin America had dealt only with the results of revisionism, not with its source.

The article concluded:

“it remains to be seen if (Castro) and his Communist Party of Cuba are prepared to go on from this hesitating and vague start to a direct challenge of revisionism in all of its manifestations and especially against its Moscow fortress. We await further developments.”

Almost three months have passed since the March 13 speech. What has happened since? In broad outline, a difference can be seen between the position taken by Castro in his speech, which has been made more specific and accurate by the Central Committee of the Cuban party, and the position taken by Major Guevara in his message to the Tricontinental magazine published by the Organization of Solidarity of the Peoples of Asia, Africa and Latin America (OSPAAAL) and printed in Granma, the official organ of the Central Committee. Evidently the Central Committee does not yet see the divergence between its own statements and those of Guevara: it is the purpose of this article to make the difference clear.

The main thrust of Guevara’s Tricontinental message (printed in Granma, April 23) was a call for the creation of two, three or four Vietnams; this in itself is certainly praise worthy. Guevara even seems to identify the revisionist evasion of all-out support for the Vietnamese people: “U.S. imperialism is guilty of aggression – its crimes are enormous and cover the whole world. We already know all that gentlemen! But this guilt also applies to those who, when the time came for a definition, hesitated to make Vietnam an inviolable part of the socialist world; running, of course, the risks of a war on a global scale – but also forcing a decision upon imperialism.”

So far so good. Yet Guevara does not identify this hesitation as the guilt of the leaders of the Soviet Union. Instead, he continues with this comment: “The guilt also applies to those who maintain a war of abuse and maneuvering – started quite some time ago by the representatives of the two greatest powers of the socialist camp.”

This is virtually exactly the position which Fidel Castro took two years ago, in 1965, when he dismissed attacks on revisionism as factional “division” in the face of the enemy. Either Guevara has not read Castro’s 1967 speech in which he exposed pseudo-revolutionaries in Latin America, or he has connected that speech with the pseudo-revolutionary sellout of the Vietnamese people by the leaders of the Soviet Union. Since the Central Committee printed and applauded Guevara’s message, it also does not see that his attack on the “war of abuse and maneuvering” is closer to Castro’s 1965 position than it is to his 1967 exposure of pseudo-revolutionaries.

Let us hear more from Guevara: “The time has come to settle our discrepancies and place everything we have at the service of the struggle. We all know that great controversies agitate the world now fighting for freedom; no one can hide it. We also know that these controversies have reached such intensity and such bitterness that the possibility of dialogue and reconciliation seems extremely difficult, if not impossible. It is useless to search for means and ways to propitiate a dialogue which the hostile parties avoid. But the enemy is there; it strikes every day, and threatens us with new blows and these blows will unite us, today, tomorrow, or the day after. Whoever understands this first, and prepares for this necessary union, will earn the people’s gratitude.”

This is an echo of the 1965 Castro speech, which read: “Here it’s not a question of analyzing the problem under dispute theoretically or philosophically, but of recognizing the great truth: that in the face of an enemy that attacks, in the face of an enemy that becomes more and more aggressive, there is no justification for division; division doesn’t make sense, there is no reason for division.”

This call for unity in the face of the enemy would be praiseworthy if it were not a clear call for unity with the very revisionist pseudo-revolutionaries whom, by the time of his 1967 speech, Castro had come to identify as a very real threat to the revolutionary tasks of Cuba and the Latin-American people. Yet Guevara, in 1967, maintains his attempt to belittle and obscure attacks on revisionism as “controversies.” Guevara continues:

“Because of the virulence and the intransigence with which each cause is defended, we, the dispossessed, cannot take sides with one or the other form of manifestation of these discrepancies, even if we at times coincide with the contentions of one party or the other, or in greater measure with those of one part than with those of the other.”

Now that is a very curious statement. Guevara contends that revolutionaries cannot take sides in an attempt to expose and condemn those who betray their revolution by pretending to be revolutionary while in fact making deals with the revolutionaries’ enemy, U.S. imperialism. And what reason does he give for tying the hands of the revolutionaries when their interests are being threatened from within the socialist camp by traitors? “Because of the virulence and intransigence with which each cause is defended”! Since when does the heat of a debate frighten a revolutionary?

Dealing with the Russian 1905 party split between Mensheviks and Bolsheviks, Lenin wrote: “ is not enough to point abstractly to the two current in the movement and to the harmfulness of extremes. One must know concretely what the given movement is suffering from at the given time, what constitutes the real political danger to the Party at the present time.” (Two Tactics of Social-Democracy in the Democratic Revolution, Ch. 13, Foreign Languages Press, Peking, 1965. p. 113) Surely these words apply in the current ̴controversies”! It is not enough to point abstractly to “one or the other form of manifestation of these discrepancies” and to the “virulence and intransigence with which each cause is defended.” One must know what the revolutionary movement is suffering from at the given time, what constitutes the real political danger to it at the present time. This concrete knowledge is being gained by Castro and the Central Committee increasingly in Latin America, and is reflected in the comparative “sharp leftward turn” which we observe in their current pronouncements.

As for Major Guevara, he admits that no-one can deny the “controversies”. But what solution does he offer? He returns to his theme of unity:

“In time of war, the expression of current differences constitutes a weakness; but as things stand at this moment it is an illusion to hope to settle these differences by means of words. Time will settle them or give their true explanation.”

This can hardy be called a major addition to classical Marxist theory! It is certainly anything but concrete knowledge of what the movement is suffering from, and what constitutes the real danger to it! It is more like whistling in the dark, in the hope that problems will solve themselves. “Time” of itself will change nothing, except as men use it to make changes. People make history, not time.

Guevara’s statement seems to be in places a strong call to arms, and has apparently been taken as such by the officers of the Tricontinental. At one point he says: “In our struggling world, discrepancies regarding tactics and methods of action for the attainment of limited objectives should be analyzed with the respect that the opinions of others deserve. Regarding our great strategic objective, the total destruction of imperialism via armed struggle, we should be uncompromising.”

But Major Guevara will find that if he is to be truly “uncompromising” about armed struggle, then he will have to become the enemy of the counter-revolutionary revisionist parties and their source in the Moscow leadership; then, despite “the virulence and intransigence with which each cause is defended”, he will have to “take sides”. He will have to examine the opinions of revisionist leaders – whom Castro has learned to identify as “pseudo-revolutionary” – with something more stringent than “respect”; he should beware that their opinions will betray his great strategic objective, the total destruction of imperialism via armed struggle, by selling out that struggle as they did during Cuba’ October Crisis, as they did very recently by failing to support the cause of the liberation of Palestine at the crucial moment, as they are doing by trading war materials to the U.S. for use in Vietnam, and as they are now doing in Venezuela by forsaking armed struggle and running for election to parliamentary office. Concrete knowledge of these and many other instances of revisionist betrayal of revolutionaries is available to Major Guevara; yet he is unwilling to “take sides.”

Revisionist betrayal is in fact exactly what Fidel Castro and the C.C. in Cuba are discovering in practice in Latin America, particularly in Venezuela. The April 30 Granma carried an April 23 report from Caracas that the eighth plenary session of the Communist Party of Venezuela had resolved to “lay aside armed struggle and participate actively in the coming elections.” At the same time, the meeting resolved to expel the Commander-in-Chief of the National Liberation Front-National Liberation Armed Forces, Douglas Bravo, from the Communist party, and to proceed to reorganize the party’s leadership with a view toward the next elections. Is this betrayal of the Venezuelan people’s struggle led by Bravo an example of uncompromising adherence to the “great strategic objective, the total destruction of imperialism via armed struggle”?

The Communist Party of Cuba knows that it is not. In May there were two significant additions to Castro’s remarks against “pseudo revolutionaries.” First, the May Day speech of Major Juan Almeida Bosque, member of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba, printed in Granma, May 7; Bosque said: “It is, in fact, loathsome that some certain groups – such as those who make up the rightist leadership of the Communist Party of Venezuela – should abandon the revolutionary struggle undertaken by the people and hastily select the appeaser’s road of playing politics and engaging in disreputable electioneering, betraying hundreds of combats who have fallen in the struggle and those who, heroic and unconquerable, fight on in the mountains. Those who condemn the guerrilla combatants are in effect, showing solidarity with imperialism and the reactionary government whose mercenary troops launch one offensive after another in their futile attempts to liquidate the guerrillas.” The Communist Party of Cuba has good reason to criticize the Venezuelan revisionists, as three Cuban volunteers were recently captured by the Venezuelan Leoni government, the very government for election to which the revisionist Communist Party of Venezuela is now campaigning; one of the young Cubans was reported killed.

Granma of May 21 printed the May 17 declaration of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba in response to the charges of the Venezuelan government. The statement denounced the Leoni government as an imperialist puppet; it affirmed the right and duty of the Cuban volunteers to aid the Venezuelan people in their struggle against the common enemy, U.S. imperialism, and its agent, the Leoni government; it proclaimed the necessity of armed struggle as the means of liberation for the Venezuelan people and the whole Latin-American continent still subject to U.S. imperialist control. But, perhaps even more important, the declaration also shows some progress in the understanding of the characteristics of revisionism. First, the Committee acknowledges that the economic policies of U.S. imperialism reflect Washington’s understanding of who its real enemies are:

“in all European enterprises in which Yankee investments play a dominant role or are decisive, the policy of the government of the United States is imposed over and above the sovereignty of each country. None of these industrial enterprises, whatever the country in which it is located, accepts the sale or purchase of any product from countries such as Korea, Viet Nam, China, or Cuba.”

Is it by accident that these same enterprises do accept the sale or purchase of products from the Soviet Union and the countries with revisionist leaders in Eastern Europe? The Central Committee makes no comment. Yet the Central Committee is aware that the U.S. uses its trade and cultural relations with revisionist countries to its own imperialist ends. The declaration continues:

“Nor does the United States hide its intention to use economic relations to penetrate, weaken, demoralize, corrupt and split the socialist countries of Europe. Not a single act of Yankee international policy is not inspired by this morality, this policy, with these strategic objectives in mind.”

Then why, we must ask, do the leaders of these socialist countries continue with their trade and cultural agreements with the U.S.? By working out the implications of this question, the Cuban Central Committee might have come to a full recognition of the fact that those countries are led by counter-revolutionary revisionists covert allies of the U.S. and real enemies of Cuba and the Latin American revolution. But the declaration does not pursue the point. Instead, it turns to denounce the United Nations, which, it rightly points out, “has in general served as an instrument to validate the crimes and villainy of Yankee imperialism.” The declaration adds that Cuba stands opposed to nuclear test ban treaties under U.N. or similar auspices: “As long as there is no system for the whole of humanity to offer all peoples, without exception, equal and effective guarantees of security, with privileges for none, the right of imperialist-menaced countries to develop their means of defense, whatever these may be, cannot be renounced.”

But the Central Committee must know that the Soviet Union is signatory to such a treaty. It should therefore recognize and identify all signatories as enemies of imperialist menaced countries. Again, the declaration does not draw the obvious conclusion. Instead, the declaration touches on the Cubans’ most direct confrontation with revisionism, the October Crises of 1962, when the Soviet Union made a deal with the United States at the expense of Cuba’s defenses. The declaration states clearly:

“we refuse to recognize the right of the United States to dictate – as was the case during the October Crises – the type of weapons which our country, under constant threat of aggression, may possess.”

Again, an opportunity to name the Soviet Union as the enemy of Cuba and its revolution; again, the opportunity declined by the Central Committee. The declaration goes on to deal with the imperialist-revisionist tactic of nuclear blackmail, the appeal to fear that a national liberation struggle may lead inexorably to world nuclear conflict. The Cuban position is strongly stated:

“The alternative that confronts the peoples is: either capitulate to imperialism or resist and fight. To resist and fight in all periods of history has to face the risks entailed by resistance and struggle, as to capitulate has meant simply to capitulate.”

“Fear aroused by nuclear blackmail does indeed lead to an inexorable result, which is to yield to imperialism without resistance and without struggle.”

But the Central Committee does not add that this nuclear blackmail argument is used not only by the apologists for imperialism, but even more by the apologists for the revisionist allies of U.S. imperialism.

So again and again the Central Committee describes various aspects of the effects of revisionism, still without getting any closer to identifying its source. But in the concluding paragraphs of this May 17 statement, there is a significant advance on Castro’s speech of March 13. “Peaceful coexistence,” one of the chief concepts of Soviet Union revisionist policies since Khrushchev, is named as a inimical to the cause of true revolutionaries: “if the concept of peaceful coexistence between States with different social systems does not guarantee the integrity, sovereignty and independence of all countries alike, large and small, it is essentially opposed to the principles of proletarian internationalism. What kind of peace are the Vietnamese enjoying? What kind of coexistence is the United States practising with that country? As for the men, women, and children who die there daily... what do the words peace, European security, peaceful coexistence and other idyllic phrases of the kind mean to them?”

Again the Central Committee declines to name the source of this concept of peaceful coexistence. Perhaps it hopes that Soviet Union will be embarrassed by this kind of polite attack on its policies?

To advance from a Mar. 13 attack on “pseudo-revolutionaries” through an experience with “rightist” leaders in Venezuela to a May 17 identification of the concept of “peaceful coexistence” as essentially opposed to the principles of proletarian internationalism,” is not much progress; but it is progress. We should applaud and encourage it. But we must also ask why the Cubans’ “discovery” of revisionism is proceeding so slowly, with so much apparent evasion, and why the Central Committee endorses Guevara’s message, which is not essentially different from the old Castro position of 1965? There would appear to be two possible reasons: one is that Cuba is so deeply enmeshed in “aid” and trade agreements with the revisionist countries that it dare not identify them; the other is the more disturbing suggestion that the Cuban leadership itself is revisionist, or has revisionist elements in it strong enough to head off direct confrontation with revisionism as such, but not strong enough to prevent Castro and others from denouncing pseudo revolutionaries and the policy of peaceful coexistence. In either case, the leadership is not willing to acknowledge the difference between Guevara’s refusal to take sides in the controversy against the revisionists, and the implications of its statements against various aspects of revisionism’s effects in Latin America, Vietnam and elsewhere.

Are Cuba’s leaders revisionist or revisionist controlled? Or do they eschew direct attacks on the Soviet Union and other revisionist countries because of trade agreements they have entered into? The best Way to answer this question would be a detailed study of the Cuban economy, and the policies of the Cuban leadership in domestic affairs. For example, what does “the dictatorship of the proletariat” mean in Cuba? If it means very little, then the leadership is clearly developing in a revisionist direction. This article therefore points to the need for another one, which will examine in detail the Cuban leadership and its policies in the light of Marxism-Leninism, and attempt to uncover the reason for the Cubans’ apparent hesitation to name the revisionist problem with which they are evidently becoming increasingly familiar.