MIA: History: ETOL: Documents: International Communist League/Spartacists—Cuba

Theoretical Clarification

by James Robertson, 6 April 1966
(a section from the remarks on behalf of the Spartacist to the
International Committee Conference in London,
as reprinted from Spartacist No. 6, June-July 1966)

Written: 6 April 1966
Source: Cuba and Marxist Theory, Marxist Bulletin No. 8, New York. 
Transcription/Markup/Proofing: John Heckman.
Public Domain: Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line 2006. You can freely copy, display and otherwise distribute this work. Please credit the Marxists Internet Archive as your source, include the url to this work, and note the transcribers & editors above.

The experiences of the Algerian and Cuban struggles, each from its own side, are very important for the light they shed on the decisive distinction between the winning of national independence on a bourgeois basis, and revolutions of the Chinese sort, which lead to a real break from capitalism, yet confined within the limits of a bureaucratic ruling stratum.

Two decisive elements have been common to the whole series of upheavals under Stalinist-type leaderships, as in Yugoslavia, China, Cuba, Vietnam: (1) a civil war of the peasant-guerrilla variety, which first wrenches the peasant movement from the immediate control of imperialism and substitutes a petty-bourgeois leadership; and then, if victorious, seizes the urban centers and on its own momentum smashes capitalist property relations, nationalizing industry under the newly consolidating Bonapartist leadership; (2) the absence of the working class as a contender for social power, in particular, the absence of its revolutionary vanguard: this permits an exceptionally independent role for the petty-bourgeois sections of society which are thus denied the polarization which occurred in the October Revolution, in which the most militant petty-bourgeois sections were drawn into the wake of the revolutionary working class.

Political Revolution

However, it is apparent that supplemental political revolution is necessary to open the road to socialist development, or, in the earlier stages, as in Vietnam today, the active intervention of the working class to take hegemony of the national-social struggle. Only those such as the Pabloists who believe that (at least some) Stalinist bureaucracies (e.g., Yugoslavia or China or Cuba) can be a revolutionary socialist leadership need see in this understanding a denial of the proletarian basis for social revolution.

On the contrary, precisely, the petty-bourgeois peasantry under the most favorable historic circumstances conceivable could achieve no third road, neither capitalist, nor working class. Instead all that has come out of China and Cuba was a state of the same order as that issuing out of the political counter-revolution of Stalin in the Soviet Union, the degeneration of October. That is why we are led to define states such as these as deformed workers states. And the experience since the Second World War, properly understood, offers not a basis for revisionist turning away from the perspective and necessity of revolutionary working-class power, but rather it is a great vindication of Marxian theory and conclusions under new and not previously expected circumstances.

Weakness and Confusion

Many statements and positions of the I.C. show theoretical weakness or confusion on this question. Thus, the I.C. statement on the fall of Ben Bella declared:

“Where the state takes a bonapartist form on behalf of a weak bourgeoisie, as in Algeria or Cuba, then the type of ‘revolt’ occurring on June 19-20 in Algiers is on the agenda.” [Newsletter, 26 June 1965.]

While the nationalization in Algeria now amounts to some 15% of the economy, the Cuban economy is, in essence, entirely nationalized; China probably has more vestiges of its bourgeoisie. If the Cuban bourgeoisie is indeed “weak,” as the I.C. affirms, one can only observe that it must be tired from its long swim to Miami, Florida.

The current I.C. resolution, “Rebuilding the Fourth International,” however, puts the matter very well:

“In the same way, the International and its parties are the key to the problems of the class struggle in the colonial countries. The petty-bourgeois nationalist leaders and their Stalinist collaborators restrict the struggle to the level of national liberation, or, at best, to a version of ‘socialism in one country,’ sustained by subordination to the co-existence policies of the Soviet bureaucracy. In this way, all the gains of the struggle of the workers and peasants, not only in the Arab world, India, South East Asia, etc., but also in China and Cuba [our emphasis: Spartacist] are confined within the limits of imperialist domination, or exposed to counter-revolution (the line-up against China, the Cuban missiles crisis, the Vietnam war, etc.). ”

Here Cuba is plainly equated with China, not with Algeria.

The document offered by the French section of the I.C. several years ago on the Cuban revolution suffers, in our view, from one central weakness. It sees the Cuban revolution as analogous to the Spanish experience of the 1930’s. This analogy is not merely defective—it emphasizes precisely what is not common to the struggles in Spain and in Cuba, that is, the bona fide workers’ revolution in Spain which was smashed by the Stalinists.

Overcoming Bad Method

The Pabloites have been strengthened against us, in our opinion, by this simplistic reflex of the I.C., which must deny the possibility of a social transformation led by the petty bourgeoisie, in order to defend the validity and necessity of the revolutionary Marxist movement. This is a bad method: at bottom, it equates the deformed workers state with the road to socialism; it is the Pabloite error turned inside out, and a profound denial of the Trotskyist understanding that the bureaucratic ruling caste is an obstacle which must be overthrown by the workers if they are to move forward.

The theoretical analysis of Spartacist concerning the backward portions of the world strengthens, in our estimation, the programmatic positions which we hold in common with the comrades of the I.C. internationally.

James Robertson
6 April 1966