Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Comrades in the Southwest

On the Situation in Cuba


First Published: Proletariat, Vol. 1, No. 1, Janauary 1975.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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On July 26, 1953, some 150 men led an armed attack on the Moncada barracks, part of the oppressive state apparatus of USNA imperialism in Cuba. The attack failed, but the “26th of July Movement” developed as the leading voice of the struggle of the Cuban proletariat and peasantry against the USNA imperialist control of Cuba, unfortunately, the situation in Cuba today is one in which the ruling class of the Soviet Union has replaced the imperialists of the USNA as the oppressor of the Cuban proletariat and peasantry. It is of great importance to understand how this development took place.

We must first ask, “Why was Castro’s 26th of July Movement able to free Cuba from USNA imperialism?” The 26th of July Movement correctly summed up the suffering of the Cuban masses, the source of this suffering, and most of what was necessary to eliminate it. After he was captured at Moncada, Castro laid out his plan for Cuba’s revolution in the defense speech at his trial – the famous “History Will Absolve Me” speech. The problems of Cuba which demanded immediate resolution, he said, were in the areas of land distribution, housing, education, health, industrialization and unemployment, and the restoration of public liberties and political democracy.

As early as the guerrilla campaigns in the Sierra Maestra (1956-1958), steps were taken to resolve these problems. The guerrilla army provided medicine and food and education for the peasantry whenever possible, and won much of the peasantry to the revolutionary cause in this way. And after the military victory in 1959, an agrarian reform law was passed which gave land to 100,000 peasants, rent and electricity rates were lowered, previously segregated public facilities were integrated, and the professional army which had supported the neo-colonial regime was replaced by a Revolutionary Armed Forces and People’s Militias. In 1961 all USNA holdings were nationalized, and illiteracy was reduced from 27%to less than 4%. 1962 saw the eradication of at least seven major diseases. Mass organizations – Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, the Federation of Cuban Women, the Association of Small Farmers – were established to insure the democratic participation of the Cuban people in the affairs of the country/Since the early 1960’s, thousands of hospitals, schools and other cultural facilities, and extremely low-rent or rent-free housing units have been constructed in the country-side, which previous to the revolution had almost none of these, and in the cities, which didn’t have enough. And the revolution has cut pre-revolutionary unemployment rates 1700,000 out of a population of 5 million) down to 0%. With the notable exception of self-sufficiency through industrialization, the Cuban revolution has gone a long way in reaching all the goals set down by the Moncada program.

USNA imperialism, although it supplied the fascist Batista regime with planes, guns and ammunition, could not defend its neo-colonial regime against the forces of the 26th of July. The CIA upheld the counterrevolution in Guatemala in 1954 and the Marines did the same in the Dominican Republic in 1965, but the Bay of Pigs invasion could not bring the counterrevolution back in Cuba in 1961. The Cuban revolution was strong enough to turn back the overt attacks of USNA imperialism. But not really basing itself in the science of Marxism-Leninism, the Cuban revolutionary leadership has shown itself unable; to resist two of the most powerful weapons of imperialism – revisionism and the policies of detente.

By the end of the missile crisis (1962), the policies of collusion between the USNA and the USSR had been solidified. In 1960, Cuba established relations with the socialist countries, and in 1961, on the eve of the Bay of Pigs Invasion (Playa Guiron), the Cuban leadership declared their revolution socialist. Later the missile crisis resulted in a pact in which the USNA guaranteed not to invade Cuba while the USSR agreed to remove the missiles from Cuba and to convince the Cuban government to stop “exporting” revolution.

By 1970, Soviet economic domination of Cuba had taken the form of one million dollars per day of “aid,” which has not been concentrated in heavy industry and has resulted in holding the economy back from self-sufficiency. This economic influence was bound to have its effect on Cuba’s political line, and it is now evident that Cuban politics are taking a more and more openly revisionist tone.

And now we come to the essence of the present situation in Cuba – what is the true nature of the Cuban revolution, and in what directions is it presently headed? Here we must see that there are only two ideologies and two camps, and that revisionism, being in opposition to Marxism-Leninism, is bourgeois ideology and can only lead to bourgeois policy.

It is well known that the old Cuban Communist Party (Partido Socialista Popular), although having led a number of labor and mass struggles in the 1930’s and 1940’s, was basically a weak and extremely revisionist party. It even opposed the progressive actions of Castro’s 26th of July Movement, and did not support the revolution until its victory was clearly in sight. When the present Cuban Communist Party was formed in 1965, a number of arch-revisionists, such as Carlos Rafael Rodriguez and Osvaldo Dorticos, retained top leadership positions. Rodriguez is on the Political Bureau of the Party’s Central Committee, and Dorticos is President of Cuba. Through men such as these, the ties to the CPSU were continued and strengthened. Now let us see what result has emerged from the addition of this Soviet brand of revisionism to the progressive but non-Marxist-Leninist petty bourgeois 26th of July leadership.

In his speech on the 20th anniversary of the 26th of July attack on the Mondada Garrison[1], Castro claimed that even before the Moncada attack, the leadership of the 26th of July movement was Marxist-Leninist: “The basic nucleus of leaders of our movement who, in the midst of intensive activity, found the time to study Marx, Engels and Lenin, saw in Marxism-Leninism the only means of understanding the situation of our country with absolute clarity.”

At his trial after the Moncada attack, Castro stated that “The revolutionaries must proclaim their ideas courageously, define their principles and express their intentions so that no one is deceived, neither friend nor foe.”[2] But if, as Fidel said 20 years later, the 26th of July leadership was indeed Marxist-Leninist even before the Moncada attack, then we would expect the “History Will Absolve Me” speech to be a proclamation of Marxist-Leninist principles and goals. The speech is a courageous declaration of very progressive petty bourgeois revolutionary goals, but it does not go beyond this to an exposition of Marxist-Leninist principles. It says nothing of the dictatorship of the proletariat. It consistently stresses a reliance on the masses, but says nothing of the Party, the conscious element, needed to guide the mass struggle to victory.

Reliance on the masses while at the same time rejecting the conscious element amounts to a rejection of Marxism-Leninism. “Some of us, even before the 10th of March, 1952 (when Batista took power,) had come to the conclusion that Cuba’s problems had to be solved in a revolutionary manner and that power had to be seized at a given moment with the masses and with arms, and that socialism had to be the objective....But how were we going to lead the masses along that road,” asks Castro, “since they were subjected to a constant flood of anti-communism....?”[3] Would this be accomplished by bringing Marxist-Leninist theory to the working class movement, by merging these two elements into a truly revolutionary communist party? Would this revolutionary communist party then lead the working class and peasantry to seize state power and institute the dictatorship of the proletariat? Any Marxist-Leninist who had read and understood Lenin’s What is to be done? can easily grasp the universal applicability of this strategy.

But the Cuban Party replies, “As we saw it, the masses...would be... the driving force of the revolution, even though they might not yet realize where the road to a real and definitive solution lay. Revolutionary struggle itself...would give them political education.”[4] One could hardly wish for a finer exposition of the worship of spontaneity! And yet, “The political strategy of the struggle which started oh the 26th of July was based on these ideas...(and) the concept that the struggle itself would create the advanced political awareness in the masses that would lead us to a socialist revolution has proven to be absolutely correct in the conditions of our country.”[5] And it seems that this “Cuban exceptionalism” can be generalized to a “Latin American exceptionalism,” where spontaneous struggle gives rise to socialist consciousness, because “Cuba stands tall to point out a path in this part of the world.”[6]

The Cuban Party’s apparent faith in the leading role of the masses is no more than superficial. In fact, with the negation, of the conscious element {Marxist-Leninist theory), the leading role of the masses, much less, the leading role of the working class, is turned into its opposite: the masses are led by a small group of petty bourgeois democrats. That this is true in Cuba is exemplified by the part played there by Marxist-Leninist education.

The position of the Cuban Communist Party on Marxist-Leninist education, brought out in a March 13, 1968 speech, gives us a strong clue as to the origin of much of the Party’s confusion. Here is their position:

And it must be said that a certain factor has contributed to that lack of sufficient political instruction, and that factor has been not so much the use as the abuse of the manuals of Marxism-Leninism. It must be said that many revolutionary militants went through the schools known as Revolutionary Instruction Schools – which did, in fact, have the aim of giving revolutionary instruction – and philosophic questions were studied, the elements, the fundamentals of Marxism...But there’s something the Revolution itself has taught us – because, after all, the Revolution is the greatest teacher of revolutionaries – and that is the enormous gap that sometimes exists between general concepts and practice, between philosophy and reality. And, above all, it has taught us how far the manuals have gradually become outdated, have become something of an anachronism, since, in many instances, they don’t say one word about the problems the masses should understand. Often the manuals are nothing but a series of abstract generalities, vague and devoid of content, so that, just when you think you have a truly developed revolutionary, you find that what you have is a militant who does not understand many of the most serious problems of the contemporary world.

We must also say that the manuals contain a large number of cliches and stereotyped phrases and, what is more, some falsehoods although it is not our intention to go into an analysis of manuals here. This is a factor which, unquestionably, has been instrumental in that weakness of formation, of instruction, from which our people are still suffering.[7]

Workers’ study circles exist in Cuba, but participation is not required, and the documents studied are of Che and Fidel almost exclusively. The Marxist-Leninist classics are little studied, if at all, by the workers; only Party and Army members, teachers, artists and other intellectuals study the works of Marx, Engels and Lenin.

But without a true, Marxist-Leninist education, how can the proletariat institute its dictatorship? The answer, of course, is that it cannot. And without the dictatorship of the proletariat, there can be no real defense against imperialism.

Given the objective conditions of imperialism and social imperialism which exist in the world today, a state can maintain its economic and political independence only if it adheres firmly to the principles of Marxism-Leninism as its guide to domestic and international policy. That this is so even in the case of a small country has been proven by North Vietnam, North Korea and Albania. Cuba has shown that, unfortunately, the reverse is also true: without the firm stance of Marxism-Leninism, without the dictatorship of the proletariat, no country can hope to remain indefinitely independent, either politically or economically. Cuba’s lack of true Marxist-Leninist leadership has left its people open to Soviet economic dominance, because the socialist goal of economic self-sufficiency has not been understood by the Cuban Party. Once economically dependent on the Soviet State, Cuba was forced into supporting the revisionist political line of the Soviet Party.

Under the 26th of July Movement, the 1953-early 1960’s revolution brought Cuba from a neo-colonial status (where the comprador and puppet rulers were in charge of the state for the imperialists, and the economy was controlled by the imperialists), to an independent status (where a clear political and economic break is made with USNA imperialism but where the government was not in the hands of the proletariat). This state form must either be carried forward with the consolidation of socialism under the dictatorship of the proletariat or it will slip back into neo-colonialism, and unfortunately in the case of Cuba, the motion is definitely back into neo-colonialism.

The revolution is Cuba has not been carried through to socialism, because while the Cuban leadership has been progressive, it has never been Marxist-Leninist. It has not built a Leninist Party of a New Type which could consolidate the dictatorship of the proletariat. The Cuban Communist Party, old or new, never waged a battle against revisionism and was therefore powerless to resist the social imperialism of the Soviet Union.

We can learn important lessons from the example of Cuba. Firstly, the obvious need for a Marxist-Leninist Communist Party to lead the proletariat and peasantry and to ensure proletarian leadership in the struggle. And secondly, unless the dictatorship of the proletariat is consolidated and a struggle continues against all capitalist elements in society, the inevitable outcome is a step backwards to a neo-colony.

The Anglo-American proletariat must support the valiant struggles of the Cuban workers and peasants. Vie must recognize the great contributions they have made to the national liberation movements in the Americas, but at the same time we must recognize the errors of their leadership. We must redouble our efforts to build a Marxist-Leninist Communist Party that will be the first concrete step in our support of the national liberation movements not only in the Americas but in the entire world. The socialist revolution in the USNA is inseparably connected up with the revolutions in South and Central America. We must work to do as Stalin says – turn the reserves of imperialism into the reserves of socialism.

Long live the valiant struggles of the Cuban people!

Build a Marxist-Leninist Communist Party!

Onward to Socialism!


[1] Granma (organ of the CP of Cuba), August 5, 1973, P 3.

[2] Cuba, Anatomy of a Revolution, Huberman and Sweezy, p 37.

[3] Granma, August 5, 1973, P 3.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid., p 4.

[7] Fidel Castro, (Speeches), Havana, 1968, pp 209-10.