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

The Cuban Revolution

(Minority resolution to the 1961 YSA Convention,
as reprinted from Spartacist No. 2, July-August 1964)
by Shane Mage

Written: 21 December 1963
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 Cuban Revolution

“The following document, presented in 1961 to the Young Socialist Alliance by our tendency, has since received impressive confirmation.

“The prognoses it sets forth—for example, the counterrevolutionary aims in Cuba of the Russian Stalinist bureaucracy—have met the test of later events: the missile crisis; the Moscow sugar deal (see Spartacist No. 1); and most recently Castro’s offer to arrive at an understanding with American imperialism.

“The resolution also states that ‘Taken as a whole, the process going on today in Cuba is that of the formation of a deformed workers state—that is, the creation of a society like that which exists in the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and China.’ It has been our opinion for more than a year that this process has reached a point of consolidation such that Cuba has become a deformed workers state.”

1. The Cuban revolution constitutes the highest point of revolutionary development hitherto attained in the Western Hemisphere; it is potentially the commencement of the American socialist revolution. Realization of this potential is possible only if the Cuban revolution once more surges forward, internally and externally, to the establishment of workers democracy in Cuba and the spread of the revolution to at least the decisive countries of Latin America.

2. Despite enormous accomplishments, Cuba remains economically backward and isolated in a Western Hemisphere under the domination of U.S. imperialism. This situation is the direct cause not only of the obstacles to the further progress of the Cuban revolution but also of powerful tendencies toward degeneration.

Social Upheaval

3. For the masses of Cuba the most significant economic achievement of the revolution has been a substantial increase in living standards. This has been accomplished through a radically egalitarian redistribution of income and wealth, and a reorientation of the pattern of investment to give priority to the construction of schools, homes, and cultural and recreational facilities. At the same time, a start has been made toward diversification of Cuban agriculture. The direct action of the working class in seizing industry and in many cases, in exerting democratic control over this industry; the organization of the peasantry into democratically run cooperatives; the arming of the masses with the formation of the militias—all this, while it was not consummated in the actual control over the state by the working class, did give the masses a very real weight in the political life of the country. This was an important acquisition of the Cuban masses and marked the Revolution as a profound social upheaval which brought the Cuban masses for the first time in history into partial control of their own destiny.

4. The revolution has basically over-turned the previous Cuban property forms. The U.S. and Cuban owned latifundia have become the property either of the working peasantry or of the state. All U.S. owned industry has been confiscated and the properties of a considerable portion of the Cuban bourgeoisie have likewise been expropriated. Since Cuba remains free from the burden of meaningful compensation and indemnification payments, these measures can provide the structural basis for a non-capitalist type of planned economy.

5. The speed and depth of the property overturn has been essentially a response to the actions of U.S. imperialism. Although the Cuban revolution began with purely bourgeois-democratic aims (agrarian reform, overthrow of the Batista dictatorship, national independence) these could not be achieved without a fierce struggle against U.S. imperialism and its Cuban bourgeois retainers. The refusal of the Castro regime to back down before U.S. blackmail and economic aggression led it to mobilize the Cuban masses and strike against the economic bases of imperialist and bourgeois rule. Its very survival compelled it to destroy the old army and police which had been the bulwark of the “democracy” of Grau and Prio as well as of the dictatorship of Batista, and replace them with a new revolutionary army and a vast popular militia.

U.S. Imperialism

6. The main concern of U.S. imperialism in its vicious hostility to the Cuban revolution has been to safeguard U.S. economic positions throughout Latin America. The U.S. has been held back from a military invasion of Cuba only by the probability that such action would spread the revolution instead of suppressing it, and the certainty that a U.S. attempt to occupy Cuba would be met by the Cuban people with resistance of the utmost ferocity. U.S. policy toward Cuba therefore has attempted to strangle and distort the Cuban economy through a combination of military and diplomatic pressure with naked economic aggression.

7. The Cuban economy has been able to continue functioning under these blows only because the Soviet Union came to its aid by taking Cuban sugar in return for oil, munitions, and essential industrial products. Far from being altruistic, this action is entirely to the economic and political advantage of the counterrevolutionary Stalinist bureaucracy which rules in the Soviet Union and the other countries of the “Socialist Camp.” It is aimed at bringing the Cuban revolution under control and using it to put pressure on the U.S. in order to gain more concessions in an eventual “peaceful co-existence” deal.

8. The political development of the Cuban revolution has throughout been marked by the absence of a sizable revolutionary Marxist political party and the total lack of democratic structures whereby the government would be responsible to and controlled by the workers and peasants. For a considerable period these factors were overshadowed by the revolutionary actions of the Castro regime and its responsiveness to mass pressure. Nevertheless, the fact remained that the Cuban state and economy were in the hands of a separate administrative apparatus independent of the workers and peasants because not subject to election and recall by them. Even the most democratic of institutions, the popular militia, was deprived of the essential democratic right to elect its own officers.


9. Even in the period of revolutionary upsurge there were strong tendencies towards the imposition of bureaucratic structures upon the revolution. This was most clearly evident in the case of the Cuban Trade Unions whose democratically elected leadership, whatever its vices, was composed of Fidelistas who had ousted the old pro-Batista bureaucrats in 1959. During 1960 this leadership was arbitrarily and undemocratically removed and replaced by a new leadership, largely Stalinist in origin, subservient to the government. Subsequently the structure of the union movement, was revised to eliminate the autonomy of individual unions, placing centralized control in the hands of a small bureaucratic group.

10. Since the April 17 invasion there has been a real intensification and acceleration of the trend toward bureaucratization and authoritarianism. Most agrarian co-operatives, theoretically controlled by their peasant members, have been transformed into “People’s Farms” under centralized state administration. Tentative forms of workers control in industry, the “Technical Advisory Councils,” have been allowed to lapse into inactivity. Government policy, as represented by Che Guevara, is specifically opposed to workers control and assigns to Cuban Trade Unions the exclusive role of increasing production, not defending the specific class interests of the workers.

11. As the Cuban regime develops political structures these likewise tend to be bureaucratic and authoritarian. After April 17, under cover of phrases about the “socialist revolution,” a single-party system has been developed through the amalgamation of all remaining political groups into the “Integrated Revolutionary Organization.” The Stalinist apparatus of the former “Peoples Socialist Party” plays a major role in the ORI which was represented at the recent “National Production Congress” by the veteran Stalinist leader Carlos Rafael Rodriguez.

12. Far from guaranteeing freedom of speech to all tendencies supporting the revolution, the Cuban government since April 17 has begun major repressions. Most important has been the suppression of the Trotskyist paper “Voz Proletaria” and the book “Permanent Revolution” by Leon Trotsky. Political censorship has been imposed on films, and the independent cultural publication “Lunes” forced out of existence. The arbitrary arrests and long detentions without charges of North American revolutionary socialists strikingly indicate the existence of a well developed secret police apparatus free from legal or democratic restraints.

Deformed Workers State

13. Taken as a whole, the process going on today in Cuba is that of the formation of a deformed workers state—that is, the creation of a society like that which exists in the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and China. By minimizing the influence of the working class in the revolution, by limiting the appeal of the revolution to workers in other lands, by tending to give power to an uncontrolled bureaucracy, and by subjecting the future of Cuba to the counterrevolutionary diplomacy of the Kremlin, this process raises the danger of capitalist restoration in Cuba. However, this does not signify that in Cuba today the bureaucratic apparatus is as consolidated or dominant as in the countries of the Soviet Bloc. The democratic mass mobilization and participation in the revolution of the workers and peasants has been so powerful and far reaching that at all levels significant resistance to the process of bureaucratization occurs.

Workers Democracy

14. The Cuban workers and peasants are today confronted with a twofold task: to defend their revolution from the attacks of the U.S. and native counter-revolutionaries, and to defeat and reverse the tendencies toward bureaucratic degeneration of the revolution. To confront this task they crucially need the establishment of workers democracy.

15. Workers democracy, for us, signifies that all state and administrative officials are elected by and responsible to the working people of city and country through representative institutions of democratic rule. The best historical models for such institutions were the Soviets of the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the Workers Councils of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. The Cuban workers and peasants can, no doubt, develop their own original variants of these forms. There is only one essential attribute without which any democratic form is but pretense and mockery: there must be full freedom of organization and expression for all political groups and tendencies that support the revolution, without any concession to the Stalinist monolithism of the one-party system.

Revolutionary Party

16. The full victory of every modern revolution, the Cuban revolution included, requires the emergence in a leading role of a mass revolutionary-Marxist party. The small Trotskyist groups, in Cuba and elsewhere, have a vital role as the nucleus of such parties. They can fill this role only if they continually preserve their political independence and ability to act, and if they avoid the peril of yielding to non-Marxist and non-proletarian leaderships their own ideological responsibilities and the historic mission of the working class.

Defend the Revolution

17. In its relation to the Cuban revolution the YSA, like every revolutionary group, has two principal tasks:

(a) To exert the utmost effort to defend the Cuban revolution not only against the military and other attacks of U.S. imperialism, but also against the political attacks of the social-democratic agents of imperialism.

(b) To struggle for the development and extension of the Cuban revolution and against the attempts of counterrevolutionary Stalinism to corrupt the revolution from within. We seek to further this development and extension both by supporting revolutionary actions of the existing leadership and by constructively criticizing, openly and frankly, the mistakes and inadequacies of that leadership. Both to develop the Cuban revolution and to extend it throughout the Hemisphere, we base ourselves on the imperative necessity for the establishment of workers democracy and the formation of the mass party of revolutionary Marxism.

Shane Mage
December 21, 1961