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Cuba: Radical face of Stalinism

By John Lister

Written: 1983 / 84.
First Published: January 1985.
Source: Published by Left View Books for the Socialist Group.
Transcription / HTML Markup: Sean Robertson for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

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Cuba: Radical face of Stalinism

Part I: The Cuban Conundrum.

7. Cuba's Stalinist Foreign Policy after 1968.

In August 1967, at the high water mark of its independent stance in relation to Moscow, the Cuban leadership declared at the founding conference of the Organisation of Latin American Solidarity, attended by 160 delegates:

"In the face of the imperialistic tactic of protracted wars, the effective answer of the revolutionary movement is to foster wars of liberation in all regions where the conditions exist for that activity."

But only 12 months later the Havana leadership had turned away from this radical orientation to echo the method of the Kremlin: limited aid to certain politically dependable liberation fronts would from now on be very much subordinated to the provision of support to movements that had already taken power, or were likely to do so in the near future.

Perhaps the biggest and most obvious realignment came in the 1970s in Latin America itself. Guerrilla struggle and radical opposition to governments was for the most part discarded in favour of opportunist alliances with bourgeois nationalist or even "progressive" military regimes – Mexico; the Frei and Allende governments in Chile; the Peruvian military regime; Panama; Ecuador; Venezuela (for a while) and Argentina under Peron.

Particularly significant was the massive campaign promoted by Castro in support of the "Popular Unity" government of Allende which, with support from the cravenly class collaborationist Communist Party, followed classic popular frontist lines from 1970 to its predictable and avoidable, brutal overthrow by Pinochet in 1973. Castro used his influence to help neutralise left criticism and opposition to Allende, and in 1971 visited Chile, urging workers not to strike against the government. The perhaps tacit criticism involved in his presentation to Allende of an automatic rifle and his warnings that Chilean workers did not "yet" control the state, was plainly outweighed by the general fanfares of Cuban support for Popular Unity. Nor did the horrific lesson of the Pinochet coup serve to reverse the Cuban embracing of popular frontism and its reconciliation with the Chilean CP, which had always been among Castro's harshest opponents.

By 1975 a new conference of Latin American CPs in Havana brought forth Cuban support for a common resolution on traditional Moscow lines: class collaboration and peaceful coexistence had now become the order of the day for Cuban foreign policy.

" . . . we communists are prepared to support the positions of Latin American governments that can stand for the defence of our national resources or can assert their will to put an end to the attempts of the multinational corporations to preserve and increase their control of our economies every day.
This historical reality does not at all mean that there do not exist sectors within the Latin American bourgeoisie that because of the contradiction between their interests and those of imperialism adopt certain positions analogous to those of the proletariat, peasantry and other non capitalist layers of the population in struggle against imperialism and for the conquest of economic independence and complete national sovereignty . . .
The incorporation into the broad anti-imperialist and anti-oligarchic struggle front of forces and organisations which represent sectors of the bourgeoisie is of great importance."
(Resolution, Chapter 6)

Significantly, this shift was most explicit in relation to Cuba's own immediate neighbourhood – Central America. Notable in this respect has been the developing political relationship between Havana and the Mexican bourgeoisie. As the most powerful capitalist class in Central America, with one of the most advanced economies in the sub continent and a mass proletariat, Mexico offers a test of the willingness of the Cuban leadership to subordinate revolutionary politics to economic and diplomatic expediency. The institutionalised "revolutionary" bourgeois regime in Mexico has a squalid record of repression against the workers' movement, dressed up for formal occasions with a thin veneer of "anti-imperialist" rhetoric which masks its close working links with the USA. But it is also the only government in Latin America which refused to join the US blockade of Cuba and maintained relations with Castro's regime since the 1959 revolution.

In 1968 as mass strikes and riots broke out in Mexico, the Mexican state machine hit back hard with repression – slaughtering students and youth in the Tlatelolco massacre. The struggles indicated a new level of conflict between the working classes and their bourgeois rulers: yet the Cuban leadership and Party remained tactfully silent on the affair, carefully preserving their links with the regime, and going on to strengthen those links and decorate them with elaborate praise of successive Presidents Echeverria and Lopez Portillo in the 1970s when reciprocal visits were made by Echeverria to Havana (1975) and Castro to Mexico (1979). In 1980 the International Resolution of the Cuban Party's Second Congress explicitly praised the Mexican regime:

" . . . Cuba will express its continuing solidarity with all patriotic, anti-imperialist governments that have decided to oppose Washington's domination with dignity. In this regard we especially esteem the firm, progressive positions that Mexico has taken . . . "

Cuban endorsement of the politics of the Mexican government has been further increased since the Nicaraguan revolution and the rise of the revolutionary struggle in El Salvador. Mexico has been the prime focus of the efforts by alarmed European social democrats and uneasy Central and South American governments to procure a "negotiated" solution that would stabilise the system of capitalist control in the region. Most recently, this initiative has been formalised in the "Contadora" group of bourgeois regimes – Mexico, Panama, Colombia and Venezuela. Castro has supported this initiative. Speaking to the young Communist League's Fourth Congress in April 1982, Fidel declared quite explicitly that:

"The international and Central American situations plus the situation in the area all make a negotiated political settlement advisable.
It was in fact proposed by the governments of Mexico and France. Recently, as you may remember, Mexican President Jose Lopez Portillo reiterated his country's position and called for a negotiated political settlement. The Mexican position was backed by Cuba, Nicaragua and the revolutionaries in EI Salvador. It has broad international support.
Imperialism will have to choose between a clearly absurd policy of intervention which is bound to fail, or a negotiated political settlement in Central America and El Salvador.
( . . . ) We support the stand taken by that illustrious friend of Cuba, President Jose Lopez Portillo, and we do so firmly, seriously."

It is important to recognise that involved in this line of foreign policy is the subordination of the political development of an armed struggle already independently underway in Central America, to the reformist schemes of the Contadora bourgeoisies and European social democrats (albeit aided and abetted by the reformist political leaders of the Salvadoran FDR). Castro's line of 1982-3 thus flies in flat contradiction to the almost fetishistic advocacy of armed struggle in the mid 1960s. It shows the practical implications of the general approach elaborated by veteran Stalinist Carlos Rafael Rodriguez, a frequent spokesperson on Cuba's foreign policy:

"We Cuban communists feel that any contribution to the victory of socialism is perfectly compatible – and we would even say necessarily compatible with peaceful coexistence.
At the same time, however, we do not view such peaceful coexistence as a conciliatory compromise leading to immobility. Peaceful coexistence between two antagonistic systems entails, presupposes, not only the continuation of the ideological struggle, but the maintenance of class struggle, in the local and worldwide arenas."
(Cuba Socialista, December 1981)

Translated into practical terms, this general statement means that the Cuban leadership will continue to give moral, political, even a (limited) degree of material support to the "class struggle" in Central America and other arenas – but within the general framework of preserving a "peaceful coexistence" with US imperialism.

In El Salvador, this has meant pushing in every way possible for a negotiated settlement which will minimise the conflict with the USA: it has even meant pressurising the Nicaraguan regime to strike some form of deal with the US-backed "contras" to their north and south. Cuban "support" has become a combination of token backing and windy rhetoric while the struggle is on, followed up, should a victory be scored by anti-imperialist fighters, with judicious amounts of economic and military support to the new regime. This technique was seen in both phases in the Sandinista struggle: now, under increasing US pressure, it appears that Cuban support is being curtailed by mutual agreement.


In the search for a peaceful coexistence with imperialism while still under a blockade from the US imperialists, the Cuban bureaucracy has taken a soft line towards "progressive" imperialist governments in Europe as well as bourgeois regimes in Latin America. Thus in 1978 Spanish workers would have no doubt been horrified to hear Fidel Castro praise their bourgeois Prime Minister Adolpho Suarez, architect of the wage-cutting Moncloa Pact and butcher of the Basque liberation movement, in fulsome and unreserved terms, as Suarez travelled to a full-scale welcome in Havana. While the Francoist state machinery and the Spanish monarchy remained intact behind a wafer-thin veneer of democracy, Castro – full of praise for the Spanish monarchy – declared that:

"The transition in Spain is being carried out in a brilliant and progressive way. Spain's future seemed doubtful at first, but it has become clear that nothing amiss is going to happen there.
Suarez is a brilliant and capable man, and, together with Juan Carlos, (!!!) he has written a very important chapter in Spanish history."

But Fidel was not the only Cuban leader eager to see signs of self-reform of the European imperialist regimes. Carlos Rafael Rodriguez declared his great hopes that Francois Mitterrand's new Socialist-led popular front coalition would break from imperialist politics in Africa, and carry out socialist politics at home:

"The Mitterrand government has Communists in it, and although this presence does not define the government (!!) it at least influences its character.
. . . the nationalisation law that is being discussed is undoubtedly very different from the "nationalisations" carried out by the British Labourites after the Second World War . . .
The French nationalisations . . . are an attempt by the state to assume control over production as a whole, in order to lead it towards social transformations . . .
Mitterrand's France cannot and will not take an identical position towards Africa as Giscard's France . . . "
(Cuba Socialista, December 1981)

It is not by chance that these hopes and predictions have been so horribly refuted by events – from the austerity measures of the Mitterrand government attacking working class living standards at home, to its military interventions in Chad and Lebanon, in which CP ministers have shared the shame with the "socialists" and their bourgeois Radical stable mates. The fact is that the Cuban leadership's attitude to governments has become moulded to the Stalinist method of adaptation, opportunist alliances, and exploiting occasional advantages only within the framework of "peaceful coexistence".

Soviet Policy

Thus it comes as no surprise that the same Carlos Rafael Rodriguez who served in Batista's government should now act as an international spokesperson for Castro's regime, and declare with confidence:

"It is true that there is and will continue to be a great concurrence between Soviet and Cuban policy. The same could be said of Cuban foreign policy and Vietnamese, or Bulgarian or East German. This stems from our common condition as socialist states and from the fact that as a result of that condition we pursue identical historical objectives."

Elsewhere, Rodriguez has pointed out that "It is useless to search for differences between the foreign policies of Cuba and the USSR because there can be no essentially different approaches."

Nor is it accidental that the links Rodriguez draws are between Cuban policy and the hardest-line adherents of the Moscow policy. It is a feature of Cuban development that its political relationship has always been most friendly with the rigid police-state bureaucracies of East Germany, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia and Hungary: its links have been most strained with the more maverick elements of the Stalinist movement such as Rumania, and downright hostile to the outright opponents of the Kremlin in Yugoslavia and China.

Thus the International resolution at the Cuban CP's Second Congress explicitly acknowledged the common ideology shared by the Castroites and the Kremlin leaders:

"The basis of our Party's foreign policy is its historic, lasting alliance with the Soviet Union, based on our common ideology and goals."

Even within the resolution itself there were examples of this ideology and sharing of "historical objectives" with the Stalinist counter-revolutionaries of the Kremlin. This is shown in the Second Congress' attitude to the explosive struggles of the giant Solidarnosc trade union confederation, which had erupted the previous summer. The official report to the Congress baldly declared that:

"especially in Poland, imperialism is orchestrating a sinister act of provocation against the Soviet camp."

The (already deposed) Gierek leadership was safely denounced for:

"deviating from Marxist-Leninist principles, neglecting ideological work and allowing itself to become distant from the masses."

But this was the official Moscow line. Indeed, a similar "critical" note was struck in the report to the Cuban Second Congress by the official Polish Party representative Emil Wojtaszek, who admitted in the usual verbose, evasive manner that:

"One of the main causes of Poland's present difficulties is that a number of mistakes – chiefly in regard to economic management, social policy and socialist democracy – were made in the implementation of the just and objectively well-founded policy of socialist construction. Furthermore the growing contradictions were not detected in time, and, as a result, mass discontent took the form of strikes."

But he went on to claim that:

"In the 6th and 7th Plenary meetings of the Central Committee of the PUWP we drew the indispensible conclusions and established the necessary guidelines to overcome the crisis on the basis of the relations of socialist production and in keeping with the Leninist principles of the development of socialist democracy and the Party's activities. This, then, is the course to be followed toward strengthening the social base of socialism in our country. And that's what we're doing, but not without difficulties. Those forces opposed to socialism within and outside Poland, whose aims are to undermine the country's socialist achievements and create a counterrevolutionary threat, are trying to join this process of renewal and of meeting the justified demands made by the working class."

Cuba's acceptance of this line and support for the Stalinist approach to the Polish situation was further underlined by the prominence given by Granma Weekly Review to a message of congratulation to Castro on his re-election as First Secretary of the Cuban CP ( . . . ) from the newly-installed Polish Stalinist leader Stanislaw Kania!

Three months later, Fidel Castro repeated a similarly hostile stance towards Solidarnosc in his speech to the CPSU 1981 Congress:

"Here, in the very heart of Europe, they (the Yankee imperialists) seek to tear Poland away from the socialist community and openly encourage the political destabilisation of the country, inflicting tremendous social, moral and material harm on that noble and dedicated people."

In June 1981, Granma Weekly Review featured a blunt front page summary of the Kremlin's letter of ultimatum to the Polish Party's Central Committee. The full text was reproduced inside, with obvious official endorsement. The summary read quite unambiguously:

"* We cannot but be alarmed that a mortal danger is threatening today the revolutionary gains of the Polish people.
* Endless concessions to the antisocialist forces and their demands brought about a situation in which the PUWP was retreating step by step under the onslaught of the internal counterrevolution.
* The enemies of socialist Poland are not making any particular effort to conceal their intentions. They are engaged in a struggle for power, and are already capturing it. They are gaining control of one position after another.
* The extremely serious danger which is hanging over socialism in Poland is a threat also to the very existence of the independent Polish state.
* The mass media became a tool of antisocialist activity and are used for undermining socialism, for demoralising the Party.
* The present Polish leaders expressed agreement without considerations but in fact everything remains unchanged. No corrections have been made. One position after another is being surrendered.
* Also alarming is the fact that among the delegates to the forthcoming Congress the number of Communists from the working class is extremely insignificant.
* The offensive by the hostile antisocialist forces in the Polish People's Republic threatens the common security of the socialist community.
* Time is not waiting. The Party can and must find the strength in itself to change the course of events and, even before the 9th Congress of the PUWP, direct them into the necessary channel.
* We will not abandon fraternal, socialist Poland in its hour of need: we will stand by it."
(June 21, 1981)

The language was Spanish; but here Havana was echoing a Kremlin line.

Significantly, the emotive July 26 issue of Granma Weekly Review earned the text of the speech from Carlos Rafael Rodriguez to the 9th Congress of the PUWP, which once again made clear the "solidarity" being shown by the Cuban Stalinist leadership – not with the Polish workers, but with their main enemies, the Polish Stalinist bureaucracy. With obviously unintended irony, Rodriguez told the assembled Polish police chiefs and bureaucrats that:

"The triumphant banners of the proletariat, stained red with the blood of millions of workers, will keep moving forward."

His audience was increasingly willing to shed the blood of ever more workers in order precisely to stop the banner moving any further forward and jeopardising bureaucratic rule in Poland. But Rodriguez went on:

"I convey to you the Cuban Communists' sincere hope that from this Congress will emerge a strengthened, more cohesive PUWP, reaffirmed as an unfailing and militant detachment that will apply creatively but soundly, the principles of Marxism-Leninism and resolutely join in the common struggle for socialism, the peoples liberation, and peace."

Far from supporting the Solidarnosc challenge, the Cuban leaders were hoping that the discredited, tottering Stalinist state bureaucracy would pull itself back together!

In October, Granma carried a relatively skilful article on the second stage of the Solidarnosc Congress in Gdansk, written by Prensa Latina special correspondent Alcibiades Hidalgo from the standpoint of branding the 10 million-strong union as anti-socialist and counter-revolutionary. He stressed the none-too-surprising fact that:

"The numbers of members of the PUWP – even those very critical of their Party – elected (to the Solidarnosc National Coordinating Commission) is virtually insignificant."

As the Kremlin pressure mounted on the Polish Stalinist leadership to move in and crush Solidarnosc, the Cuban leaders clearly associated themselves with the hardliners. In November 1981 Granma carried a report on a meeting of Secretaries of the Central Committees of the "socialist countries, Communist and workers' parties" (including Cuba) which unanimously:

"reiterated their solidarity with the Polish Communists and other patriots in their struggle against the anti popular (!) forces of the counterrevolution and anarchy to overcome the crisis and strengthen the PUWP's leading role."
(Granma Weekly Review, November 15)

In the immediate aftermath of General Jaruzelski's martial law crackdown of December 13, 1981, the Cuban Party and its press lent its clear endorsement to the crushing of the independent movement of the Polish working class:

"There is not the slightest question about the socialist camp's right to save that country's integrity and ensure it survives and resists at all costs imperialism's onslaught."

Gone was even the implicit criticism that had been contained in Castro's endorsement of the Czechoslovak invasion of 1968: the Kremlin version of events was retailed intact by the Cuban leaders, with alternative views crudely dismissed as those of "Reaganism":

"Reagan lashed out against the measures which the Council of State of the Polish People's Republic took to pave the way for pulling the country out of the present crisis, preserving legality and re-establishing public order. ( . . . )
Reagan tried to justify this crude intervention in Poland's internal policy by interpreting the Polish crisis as though the blame for the events of recent months lay with the Polish Government and not with the extremist leaders of Solidarity and other enemies of socialism who were preparing a counterrevolutionary coup, as has now been proved with documentary evidence."
(Granma Weekly Review, Dec. 27)

From January onwards, under headlines such as "Poland Continues Gradually Returning to Normal", Granma continued to purvey the official Polish and Moscow line on the crackdown, having never been prepared to champion the struggles of the Polish working class.

"Camp" politics

But this wholesale adoption of Stalinist politics and methods can also be traced through in recent policies in Latin America. While for example the Second Congress Resolution extended solidarity to the Bolivian, Uruguayan and Paraguayan peoples in their struggles against "bestial military dictatorships", the vicious Videla dictatorship in Argentina, which had butchered up to 2,000 political opponents and trampled on the workers' movement was excluded from this list. This was plainly because the Moscow leadership had cultivated a bizarre and cynical relationship with the Argentine Junta, receiving in return sanctions-busting supplies of grain during the post-Afghanistan Carter boycott. Obediently, therefore, Castro's Resolution reserves a separate and delicately-worded greeting for:

"The Argentines, who are struggling to have their democratic rights respected."

In his Report to the Second Congress, Castro went even further in embracing the worst aspects of Kremlin ideology. He offered up a list of countries which he declares "have opted for socialism or adopted a socialist orientation". There are some weird entries:

"Ethiopia, Angola, Mozambique, Congo, Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde, Madagascar, Benin, Sao Tome and Guinea in Africa; Algeria, Democratic Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Libya . . . "

Here we see the logic of an international policy based on adaptation, and upon the decoration of chosen allies with flattering if not scientific labels and epithets. When Castro lumps such states into the "socialist camp", we begin to see precisely how little value can be placed on his professions of "proletarian internationalism" and "revolutionary" politics. Under the crushing weight of Kremlin political and economic pressure, Fidel had embraced the world view of a bureaucracy which in the aftermath of the October Revolution gutted the Bolshevik Party of its communists, the democratic centralist structure of its democracy, and the Comintern of internationalists.

Cuba in Africa

So how does this relate to Cuba's dramatically expanded role in Africa in the 1970s? Wasn't the Cuban intervention in Angola and Ethiopia a break from Moscow's line?

The swift answer, by reference to the soaring levels of Soviet economic and military aid to Cuba in the years during and after these interventions, is plainly "No". The sending of combat troops to Angola in 1975 was a Cuban initiative right enough, but was facilitated by large-scale Soviet logistical support and military back-up. The sending of Cuban troops to Ethiopia appears to have been on the instigation of the Kremlin leaders, whose links with the new regime were much closer than those of Cuba and whose strategic and diplomatic interests stood to gain from consolidating a relationship with the bloodstained dictatorship in Addis Ababa. The doubling of the Cuban military budget in the 5 years 1973-78, which facilitated the dispatch of up to 40,000 Cuban soldiers overseas, was underwritten by growing Soviet subsidies, cut-price petroleum and free supplies of weapons. None of this would have been the case had Cuba been violating the Kremlin's wishes in its African missions.

Cuba certainly has a record of commitment to supporting liberation movements in Africa – and a long-standing relationship with the Angolan MPLA – going back to Cuba's 1960s period of radicalism. In 1963, Castro sent troops to aid the Algerian FLN in the final stages of the independence struggle. Castro was also plainly critical of the Soviet withdrawal from its aid programmes in Africa, and from the mid 1960s began supplying Cuban economic and military support to an increasingly strange cross section of "anti-imperialist" regimes, ranging from radicalised groups of army officers through to maverick bourgeois nationalists who had been unable to secure adequate terms with the imperialists. In 1966 some 700-1,000 Cuban troops and advisors were supporting the "Marxist" regime in Congo (Brazzaville), while 50-100 were detailed to provide a personal bodyguard for the anything-but-Marxist President Sekou Toure of Guinea-Conakry.

The list of African regimes receiving Cuban military backing had grown much longer by the mid 1970s. In 1973 a Cuban aid programme was launched for the regime of President Ngueme Macias of Equatorial Guinea. His overthrow in August 1979 was criticised in the Cuban press: only later did it become clear that Cuban cash had been supporting a murderous monster. But Cuban troops also achieved the dubious distinction of being among the last foreign advisors to abandon Uganda's Idi Amin.

The collapse of the Portuguese empire in Africa produced a new crop of guerrilla leaderships in power, in Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde and Sao Tome: Cuba was swift to offer aid.

In 1974 and 1975 military regimes in Benin and Madagascar declared themselves "Marxist" and sought Soviet and Cuban assistance.

By 1976 Cuba had upwards of 3,500 military personnel stationed in African countries excluding Angola. This declined slightly, but remained around the 3,000 mark in 1978, by which time another 1,000 combat troops were stationed in Angola and 16,000 in Ethiopia. What is significant about this pattern of growing involvement is that in every case the Cuban role consisted in consolidating relations with an existing regime, previously established. Not one of the struggles in which Cuba was seriously involved was aimed at overturning a reactionary regime or disrupting the status quo. This is in clear contrast to the sponsoring of guerrilla struggles in the early phase of the Cuban regime. This remained the case even during the Zimbabwe guerrilla war, in which there was only tokenistic Cuban support on the ground for the Patriotic Front, and during the two attempts by rebel forces to topple the vicious – and strategically crucial – Mobutu dictatorship in Zaire. In 1977 and again in 1978 the Shaba province of Zaire was invaded by Shaba exile forces operating from Angola. These rebels had previously received Cuban supplies and training. But – particularly in 1978, when Cuba was in the full swing of its military build-up in Ethiopia – Castro was not prepared to support their struggle, even while imperialist troops were flown in to crush the rebellion. Put on the spot by the Carter administration on this issue, it was left up to Carlos Rafael Rodriguez to make an explicit commitment that Cuban forces in Angola would help prevent further raids into Zaire, declaring in February 1978 the goal of "peaceful coexistence" in Africa:

"Cuba is not aiding subversion, but on the contrary, as the American ambassador to the United Nations admitted, is participating in a project of stabilisation, of struggle against subversion."
(Quoted by Claude Gabriel from bourgeois press sources, in Intercontinental Press, February 19, 1979)

In a real sense the "struggle against subversion" could be said to have been the centre of the Cuban involvement in Angola in support of the MPLA regime from 1975 onwards. There were no complex issues involved in the initial intervention. The MPLA, which had been supported by the Castroites in its battles against Portuguese colonial rule for over ten years, took power in Angola, only to be challenged by armed resistance from the rightist FNLA and UNITA forces. Under cover of this revolt grew an orchestrated intervention from Zaire to the North, increasingly involving the CIA and other imperialist agencies, and, most decisively, by the South African army. UNITA leader Savimbi, who had for some time had clandestine links with the Portuguese colonialists' secret police, cemented a new alliance with the apartheid rulers which has continued into the 1980s as a cornerstone of South Africa's strategy of destabilising Angola. But the forces involved on the reactionary side were not all outwardly imperialist-sponsored: significantly the FNLA / UNITA insurgency was supported by a Peking Stalinist bureaucracy seeking desperately to counter growing Soviet / Cuban influence in Africa.

Towards the end of 1975, South African troops crossed the border into Angola in a move to oust the MPLA and install a stooge regime. MPLA leader Agostinho Neto called on the Cubans to send troops. The Cubans, given a mere 24 hours to decide, agreed to do so. The influx of Cuban combat forces – many transported in commandeered vessels from the Cuban fishing fleet, others in aged aircraft – tipped the balance abruptly back against the invaders.

The Ford administration in the USA, still rocking after the Watergate scandal and intimidated by the still potent "Vietnam syndrome" was unable to come forward with any more than limited logistical support for the South Africans, who refused to go it alone. South Africa was forced to withdraw – leaving UNITA to disintegrate under the MPLA / Cuban offensive. By early February 1976 Neto and the Cuban commanders were able to concentrate on stamping out the counter-revolutionaries in the North, driving the FNLA back across the border into Zaire. By mid-March 1976 Castro and Neto began discussing Cuban troop withdrawals. An imperialist effort to upset the status quo achieved at the end of Portuguese rule had been beaten back with Cuban support.

There was little confusion about this at the time, despite a predictable barrage of noisy propaganda from the USA alleging Cuban and Soviet "expansionism" in Africa. But the South African involvement had been enough to unite the bourgeois leaders of the Organisation of African Unity in denouncing the invasion while refusing to condemn Cuba's role. Conspicuously even Nigeria, one of the most weighty and pro-Western of the black African states, extended recognition to the beleaguered MPLA regime in the midst of the fight against the invading forces, and specifically praised the role played by Cuban and the USSR.

While the immediate threat to the regime was beaten back by early 1976, the apartheid rulers have never renounced their hostility to the Angolan government. From bases in occupied Namibia and even inside Angola itself, South African-backed UNITA forces and regular troops of the South African "Defence Force" have continued a programme of sabotage, guerrilla warfare and economic disruption which has gnawed away at the regime and cost billions of dollars. Instead of being swiftly withdrawn, Cuban troops have stayed on as an integral part of the defences of the Angolan regime. Nor are the Cubans impassive observers of Angolan politics. On at least one occasion, in May 1977, Cuban troops intervened on behalf of the Neto leadership to crush an attempted coup by an oppositional grouping within the MPLA led by Nito Alves, with whom the Cubans had themselves at one point been very close. Seven members of the MPLA Central Committee were killed.

The Cuban leadership has drawn no distinction between on the one hand militarily defending the territory of Angola against external attack and on the other propping up the MPLA regime itself, whose petty bourgeois leadership and politics of class collaboration have combined with the UNITA sabotage to create an economic shambles in which only the multinational oil and mineral companies are coining in cash. Though flirting with a relationship with Comecon, Neto and his successor Dos Santos have maintained their links with Western imperialism and its powerful extractive monopolies. Indeed the Cuban, East European and Soviet personnel have been allocated distinctly second-string positions in the Angolan pecking order of economic allies in development project. According to Angolan Vice Premier Carlos Rochas:

"It will be possible to keep better control over the use of advanced technology as a result of a policy of diversifying our capitalist partners. The best example of this is the new mode of operation with the oil companies . . . in Cabinda. Italian companies will start up the plywood factory again. At the same time they will train Rumanians, who are responsible for providing technical assistance to this sophisticated unit, to maintain it.
At the Petrangol refinery, Cubans are under contract to the Belgian Petrofina company . . . At the Cellulose company, which has been sabotaged and paralysed since 1975, a team of Czechoslovakian technicians is taking over the plant ( . . . ) The technology is from Sweden."
(Quoted by Claude Gabriel in Intercontinental Press, February 19, 1979)

The MPLA has also utilised aspects of the Cuban model which are common to so many non-socialist petty bourgeois nationalist regimes as they struggle to contain the potential strength and political independence of the working class and consolidate a stable capitalist state structure. It has established a single trade union confederation, tied to the MPLA and to the government itself: and it has set up a single "party" with heavy centralist discipline. With or without nationalisations, there is nothing "socialist" or particularly progressive in such changes, which have been foreshadowed in many previous regimes from Algeria onwards. The parallels between the Angolan "model" and early developments in Cuba merely underline the extent to which the Cuban revolution was a deformed rather than a healthy workers' revolution.

Ethiopia: the revolution.

In Ethiopia, however – despite its ostentatious new "Party", few would even dream of claiming that the vicious military regime, the Dergue, which holds power under dictator Mengistu, is in any way socialist or proletarian.

As distinct from the sending of troops to Angola the Cuban intervention in Ethiopia from 1977 onwards involved an abrupt and embarrassing about-face on two previously held political positions: support for the Somali demand for the establishment of a "Greater Somalia" (reuniting the oppressed Somali peoples arbitrarily divided up by the division of the North East "Horn" of Africa under the European imperialist powers); and support for the right of the Eritrean people to self determination.

The Ethiopian regime which had turned towards the Soviet Union, and through Moscow to Cuba, was a classic "radical" grouping of army officers who had been given the cold shoulder by Washington. They sought through skilful use of the Kremlin purse and armoury to balance between the power of imperialism and the potential revolutionary strength of a newly awakened working class and peasantry in the 30 million-strong Ethiopian state. Militancy, bottled up for decades within the feudal prison-house of nations maintained for imperialism by Emperor Halle Selassie, had begun to bubble over in peasant revolts and strikes in the 1960s. But matters had come to a head in the period of the 1973-74 famine, in which as many as 250,000 peasants starved to death.

Strikes broke out in February 1974, backed by students. Troops mutinied demanding pay increases. Concessions by Selassie failed to stem the tide of opposition. In March came the first-ever general strike which ended in victory after four days. The movement spread into the countryside, where peasants seized land, refused to pay taxes and attacked landlords. Spontaneous "revolutionary committees" and "councils" emerged as a challenge to state bodies.

In the armed forces, a new Coordinating Committee, known as the Dergue was formed by young officers – mainly of petty bourgeois background, in April 1974. Its guiding spirit was Ethiopian nationalism – and suspicion or fear of the working classes. In September the Dergue ousted Selassie – and promptly banned demonstrations and strikes.

But to little avail. The Dergue was emerging late on the scene, and had to offer concessions to an already developed mass movement. In December 1974 it declared for "socialism". In January 1975 came a wave of nationalisations of banking and credit, and firms owned by Selassie and his family; in February there were more nationalisations; in March a sweeping land reform was brought in which dealt a belated death blow to feudalism in Ethiopia.

As Ethiopian nationalists, however, the Dergue's democratic reforms – which included the separation of church and state, and the recognition of some languages of oppressed nationalities within Ethiopian borders – did not include any right to self-determination of national minorities. Wherever these rights were demanded or fought for they were vigorously opposed by the Dergue – and most especially in the case of the Eritrean people.

Having set its limits to the nationalisations and radicalisation of the revolution, the Dergue began seeking ways and means of containing and repressing the mass movement. A combination of tactics was employed. On the one hand a new, state-run "All Ethiopian Trade Union" was set up in place of the militant Confederation of Ethiopian Labour Unions. When the leadership of the new "Trade Union" appeared to have stepped out of line in May 1978, the whole lot were purged by the Dergue. In the towns, the Ethiopian equivalent of the Cuban Committees for the Defence of the Revolution were set up as residents' associations or "kebeles", to organise and regiment the population. Similar bodies were established for peasants, and militias were formed under strict Dergue control, and repeatedly purged of oppositionists. From 1977 onwards, and in particular following the bloody rise to power of Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam, the Dergue embarked upon a so-called "Red Terror" of bloodletting against its opponents to right and left, slaughtering thousands, while simultaneously proposing the establishment of a centralised "workers' party" to consolidate its power.

The first substantial move towards this new party was the Congress of the Commission for Organising the Party of the Working People (COPWE) in June 1980. All seven members of the Executive it elected were members of the Standing Committee of the Dergue or its Provisional Military Administrative Council. Of 93 members of the COPWE Central Committee, no less than 79 were military or police officers, and not one was a trade union or peasants' representative.

Ethiopia and Somalia.

The bitter hostility of Mengistu's regime to its opponents – and in particular to left wing opponents – was matched and excelled only by his aggressive attitude towards Ethiopia's oppressed nationalities. It was this attitude which drove on his brutal war against the Eritrean liberation forces and formed the background to the war with Somalia over the Ogaden in 1977-78 which prompted the first dispatch of Cuban troops to assist his regime.

The war was a particularly awkward one for the Kremlin bureaucrats, who had previously cultivated relations with the Somalian regime of Siad Barre – a relationship bolstered up by Cuban military aid. Cuba had indeed gone further, and was on record as late as 1972 as supporting the policy of the "Greater Somalia", which would specifically have included the demand for the separation of the Ogaden (with its largely Somali population) from Ethiopia – then of course ruled by Haile Selassie.

Since the Ethiopian revolution, Soviet links with the new regime had begun to flourish. When Carter cut off supplies of US arms to the Dergue in 1977, the response was a visit to Moscow by Mengistu, who began at once to receive shipments of weapons and political support.

But the Kremlin's efforts to get along with both the Somali and Ethiopian regimes came into conflict with the rising national aspirations of the Ogaden Somalis, who had begun to reorganise their Liberation Front and began to put pressure on Siad Barre to support their struggle for secession from Ethiopia. Barre – for reasons of his own, not least the promise of substantial aid, including $300 million from Saudi Arabia to replace the probable losses from the USSR) agreed. Mengistu was enraged at the very idea of any "dismemberment" of Selassie's old empire. And when desperate mediation attempts by Soviet President Podgorny and by Fidel Castro failed to dissuade the Somali regime from its enterprise, the dispute boiled over into war in the summer of 1977.

The Soviet bureaucracy accelerated its arms shipment to Ethiopia in a massive airlift operation involving 225 transport planes – 15% of its total of military cargo planes. And in December 1977, plainly on Soviet urging, Cuban troops began to arrive in Ethiopia. Their declared objective was to drive out the Somali forces and defeat the secessionary movement which five years previously they had politically endorsed. Although there was not even a hint at this point of the Cuban troops being used against Eritrean forces, it is significant that as soon as the USSR had declared its support for the Dergue in the Ogaden war, Castro began to elaborate a new position of opposition to the Eritrean fight for independence.

Ethiopia and Eritrea.

As recently as March 1975 – after the Ethiopian revolution – Castro had stated at the third ministerial meeting of the Coordinating Bureau of the Nonaligned Movement that Eritrea had a "genuine national liberation movement" which produced a complex situation in which "two causes of progressive trends are confronting each other".

But as the Soviet stance of total backing for Mengistu became clear, Castro dropped this apparent equation of the Eritrean and Ethiopian revolutions, announcing in 1978, as Mengistu visited Havana, that Cuba:

"Supports a peaceful and just solution to the national question within the framework of an Ethiopian revolutionary state that would safeguard as an inalienable right its unity, integrity and sovereignty."

The reactionary reality – that Cuba now favoured the defence of "Ethiopian integrity" over Eritrean self-determination, was thus spelled out quite baldly. Mengistu, of course, minced no words. He told the assembled "proletarian internationalists" in Havana that:

"Imperialism, the reactionary Arab classes and the fifth columnists are conspiring together to frustrate our revolution, backing the traitors in the Administrative Region (!) of Eritrea. "

Fidel responded by weighing in with an appalling comparison between Eritrea and the secessionists in the American South at the time of the Civil War:

"The United States itself had a better historical experience on the issue of secessionism when the slave-owning states of the South tried to leave the Union in the second half of the last century. A peaceful man of Lincoln's stature and noble nature had to resort to force to prevent this. Now they (the United States) try to deny Ethiopia the right to defend its territorial integrity."

The analogy is not only reactionary but quite inept. While the Southern states had always been a part of the USA, Eritrea was never a part of Ethiopia. The secessionist revolt in the South was a reactionary revolt of slave-owners and landlords without plebeian support – quite unlike the Eritrean liberation fighters and their two main organisations. The Southern secessionists were an oppressive, racist elite, while the Eritreans are an oppressed minority struggling for their own national emancipation. Unlike the Southern secessionists, they have their own cultural, ethnic and linguistic entity. Castro's new found analogy was simply a thin coat of whitewash to disguise his own betrayal of the struggle to self-determination which he had supported only three years previously.

This factor became more significant after the defeat of the Somalis. The Cuban troops did not leave Ethiopia after driving back what became described as an "imperialist" or at least an "imperialist inspired" invasion. They stayed on, controlling the Ogaden region – becoming the forces for the repression of the Somali liberation struggle, while relieving Mengistu's armies of that task and allowing them to focus their resources on attacking the Eritrean liberation forces.

A genocidal offensive was launched by Mengistu which came closer to crushing the Eritrean rebels than had previously been thought possible. Interestingly, Mengistu himself went out of his way to suggest that Cuban troops were actually involved in this operation, though this has been consistently denied by the Castro leadership. What is true is that for five years after the Ogaden war ended Cuba has maintained at enormous cost – an army of over 15,000 men stationed in Ethiopia as a prop to a murderous military dictatorship hell-bent on extinguishing resistance from the oppressed nationalities. The Cuban troops in Ethiopia have not been scoring or seeking any victories over imperialism: they have been facilitating the crushing of workers and peasants and the preservation of the "integrity" of Haile Selassie's grisly empire under the new management of Mengistu Haile Mariam. And they have been doing so self-evidently not on their own behalf or in continuation of Cuban policies, but on behalf of the Kremlin Stalinists and in flat contradiction to previous, much more healthy, long-held Cuban positions on Eritrea and Somalia.

These same Cuban troops have been armed and equipped by Soviet bureaucrats whose sordid foreign policy was the first to reach out to Mengistu, and whose own contempt for the self-determination of oppressed minorities begins at home with the Great Russian chauvinism of the Kremlin leadership and has become notorious on a world scale.

Only at the end of 1983 were there any signs that the Cuban troops are beginning to withdraw from Ethiopia – although it was not clear whether this was the result of military planning or political decisions. It is quite possible that Mengistu (like so many reactionary Soviet protégés before him, not least the Egyptian bourgeoisie) may look towards some form of deal with imperialism, having used Soviet arms and political backing to help crush the revolutionary movement. In the meantime his newly-launched "Workers Party" is a handy instrument of dictatorial rule, and his professions of "Marxism" a useful way of obtaining arms – if not food aid – from his Moscow patrons. In any event the Ethiopian campaign – for all the squeals of the imperialists and the fanfares from Castro's apologists such as the American Socialist Workers Party, which in 1978 proclaimed the Cuban leadership unequivocally "revolutionary" – is anything but an example of "proletarian internationalism". Still less is it an example of Cuba breaking away from the Kremlin's line of policy for African and world politics.

The switches of line by the Cuban leadership during their Ethiopian involvement are only some of the most obvious of a succession of moves which have rendered Cuban foreign policy entirely compatible with – complementary to, and equally as opportunist and reactionary – to that of the Moscow Stalinists.

Cuba and Zionism

One anomaly of early Cuban foreign policy was its stance towards the Zionist state of Israel. In the immediate post-revolutionary period, the Castroites were openly favourable towards Israel: in 1961 they extended preferential treatment for Jews wishing to leave Cuba for Israel, and in 1963 Havana declared a 3-day period of mourning for the death of the Israeli President. There were soundings made towards trade and aid arrangements, but the hardening US attitude constrained the Israelis, while the Cuban ties to the USSR also brought them under pressure to adopt a less approachable stance.

As late as 1968, however, after the Six Day War, the Middle East was removed from the agenda of an International Cultural Congress in Havana. Though the Tricontinental Conference of 1966 had adopted extreme anti-Zionist positions, calling for the cancellation of all treaties with Israel, a break of all political relations, and economic and cultural ostracism of Israel, Cuban officials told Israel's minister to Cuba that they were not committed to these resolutions, and relations were not broken. This is in sharp contrast to the Cuban government's letter to the UN declaring its support for the Tricontinental conference decisions.

Contrary to the Soviet line, and that of most Eastern European countries, Cuba did not break diplomatic relations with Israel even in 1967, but only did so in September 1973 at the "Non-aligned" Conference in Algiers. The announcement came suddenly: and its motivation appears to have been entirely cynical – as a means to procure the support of Arab representatives for Cuba's claims to be genuinely "non-aligned". This had been challenged by some Arab leaders, including Libya's Gaddafi. Since 1973, however, "anti-Zionism" (so miraculously discovered at just the right moment) has been skilfully utilised by the Cuban leadership as a device to rally Arab support in the Non-Aligned Movement and at the United Nations. (And by 1977 relations with Gaddafi had become so close that Castro was invited for a 10-day visit to Libya in which he became star guest at the launching of the Libyan "people's power" Jamahiriya). But the switch of policy also brings Cuba neatly into line with the USSR.


A further clear example of the Stalinist methodology of the Cuban leadership can be seen in its fulsome praise for the Khomeini regime in Iran, which as an "anti-imperialist" leadership singled out for favourable treatment by the Kremlin leaders has been tolerated even in its pogroms against the left and the organisations of the working class as well as the oppression of women and slaughter of homosexuals. In May 1980, Fidel Castro went out of his way to stress the identity between Khomeini and the masses of Iran. It was, he declared, "a real people's revolution" that had "extraordinary force", and:

"It is our duty to support Iran, to solidarise ourselves with Iran, because everything that is taking place in Iran reminds us of what happened in our own country."

Not even the most hard-bitten opponent of the Castro regime could accuse it of even a fraction of the blood-letting and oppression meted out by Khomeini against political opponents, national minorities, women and gays. But Castro is seizing upon the "progressive", "anti-imperialist" face of the Iranian events and the regime in order to paint up a hideously reactionary leadership. Conspicuously, his eulogies of the Khomeini leadership were not followed up by comparable criticism of subsequent crackdowns, even when the victims began to include the leadership and rank and file of Iran's servile and ultra-Stalinist Tudeh party.


Another interesting facet of Castro's attitude towards the Iranian revolution is the type of measures he suggested for the defence of Iran. In the same May Day speech, he suggested that solidarity should be forthcoming not in mass revolutionary actions by the workers and poor peasants in the Middle East and Gulf region – who have countless reasons of their own to fight imperialist control and their own repressive ruling classes – but in the form of a refusal by OPEC's bourgeois, reactionary governments to sell oil to any country that followed Carter's economic sanctions against Iran!

Appealing to the feudal sheikhs and besuited technocrats and bankers who take the decisions on oil production quotas in the OPEC states, Fidel declared:

"This is the time for OPEC to show what it is made of (!), to show that it wasn't created just to raise prices and amass huge fortunes (!). This is the trial of fire for OPEC, the nonaligned countries, and the countries of the Third World."

It is hard to imagine an appeal which is further away from drawing a class line in world politics: it is popular frontism on a global scale. Such positions are music to the ears of the Kremlin leaders, who have made it quite plain that they are not prepared to challenge imperialist hegemony in the Gulf region, while seeking close working relations both with the Shah and now with his reactionary clerical successor.

Non Aligned Movement

But Castro's focus on OPEC, as supposedly a component of the "nonaligned" and Third World movement is simply an extension of Cuba's long-standing involvement in the "Nonaligned Movement" – a motley array of regimes ranging from evident mouthpieces of imperialism through to obedient satellites of the Kremlin.

After an initial attempt – in the Tricontinental Conference of 1966 – to outflank the Nonaligned Movement, the Cuban leadership in the 1970s increasingly exploited their status outside the Warsaw Pact to intervene in the Movement, win friends and influence for Kremlin policies, and press the argument that Moscow is the "natural ally" of states not aligned with imperialism. This has been carried through with some considerable success, in the teeth of opposition from both the Yugoslav leadership and the more servile pro-imperialist regimes such as Singapore.

Despite some lapses into somewhat undiplomatic language (in 1979 Fidel Castro singled out the defenders of the ousted Pol Pot regime of Kampuchea and in particular Singapore's Foreign Minister Sinnathamby Rajaratan, as "imperialist stooges"; at the same Conference Carlos Rafael Rodriguez ably summed up Senegal's Foreign Minister Mustapphe Niasse as "a rat") the Cuban leaders successfully operated the Movement's Secretariat from Havana for the 3 years 1979-82, and helped hold together the tenuous and largely fictional "unity" of a heterogenous body.

The significance of this has been both in increasing the influence of Cuba in world politics, and lending a more acceptable "popular" face to Stalinist politics. But Cuba's laboriously cultivated "nonaligned" image suffered a major setback after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan – which was profoundly unpopular even among some of the more sympathetic "Non Aligned" regimes. This was probably a factor in Fidel Castro's guarded efforts to distance himself from all-out support for the invasion.

Nicaragua and Grenada

Cuba's particularly close relations with the two new Latin American "nonaligned" states of 1979 – Grenada and Nicaragua – again fitted into the general format of the post -1968 foreign policy. Though the Sandinistas had conducted a long and bitter guerrilla struggle for the ousting of the US-backed Somoza dictatorship, the level of Cuban material and political support remained extremely modest right up to the point of Somoza's abrupt Batista-style exit, following the effective withdrawal of US support. It was only after the insurgents' victory that Cuban civilian and military advisors arrived in increasing numbers, backed up by trade and aid agreements with Cuba and East European regimes.

In this way, though it has incurred the wrath of imperialism – Cuban support for the Sandinistas should be seen as a continuity rather than a break from peaceful coexistence in the region – building support for a newly established but already existing regime, rather than fuelling armed resistance. In the same way its moves towards the end of 1983 to open up a dialogue with imperialism and even the "contras" on the borders of Nicaragua itself are an attempt to preserve the status quo while minimising the extent of the conflict with the USA.

In exactly the same way, Cuba's support to the New Jewel Movement in Grenada came after the military coup which ousted the corrupt Gairy regime and set in train wide-reaching revolutionary measures. The Cuban objective was again to prevent a setback for a newly established, friendly government.

There seems little doubt that in Grenada, as in Nicaragua, Cuban influence had the effect of encouraging a prolonged – if not necessarily permanent – coexistence between the radical leadership and the remnants of the old capitalists and the multinationals. Castro's public advice to the Sandinistas – that they should seek not a new Cuba but a new Nicaragua – has been heeded.

More than four years after the seizure of power by the FSLN, less than half the economy is nationalised, and most of the country's trade is still with Western countries, including the USA. The Nicaraguan bourgeoisie retains its own parties, press and organisations. The Sandinistas remain committed to a long-term "mixed economy" and are formally "non┬Čaligned". They have preserved a level of political independence from the Kremlin on crunch political questions such as Afghanistan and the recognition of the Vietnamese-backed Heng Samrin regime in Kampuchea.

By a comparable point in the development of the Cuban revolution, the entire economy had been nationalised, the bourgeoisie driven into exile or crushed, the Bay of Pigs invasion repelled, a firm alliance constituted with the USSR, an almost total switch of trading relations had combined with a US blockade to tie the Cuban economy closely to the Stalinist states, and Castro's movement had become a current – albeit distinct in many respects – within the Latin American and world-wide Stalinist movement. Indeed the main difference between Castro and Khruschev was over the need to extend the Cuban revolution into Latin America – an objective never espoused by the Nicaraguan leadership.

Many factors combine to explain the contrast between the evolution of post-revolutionary Cuba and present-day Nicaragua. The Sandinistas are much more strongly nationalist and much more tied to a perspective of coexistence with the bourgeoisie than were the young radicals of the July 26 Movement. Nicaragua lacks the advantages of an island – and bourgeois opponents have been able to make border incursions. But one extremely important element is the attitude of the Kremlin bureaucracy. In 1960, it suited Moscow both militarily and politically to lend substantial support to an otherwise isolated Cuban leadership in exchange for a strategic foothold on the doorstep of US imperialism. The USSR had to combat a new deployment of American ICBMSs for which they had no equivalent. Khruschev was eager to find a less expensive way to respond, short of developing a new range of Soviet missiles.

But the "cheap way out" in 1960 has since cost the Stalinists dearly, both in the military risks they ran in the 1962 Missiles Crisis, and in the soaring and apparently open-ended costs of subsidising the Cuban economy ever since. This is a heavy investment; but it has at least paid off with political dividends for the Kremlin, particularly in relation to the "Nonaligned" and Third World countries.

There is nothing to suggest, however, that a similar gamble in Nicaragua or any other Latin American country would offer similar added advantages proportional to the far higher stakes involved for the Kremlin in confronting in the 1980s a warmongering Reagan administration in its own "sphere of influence". For Moscow's purposes, there are no principled objections to developing working relations with "progressive" (or outright reactionary) capitalist regimes – and little reason to gamble on the successful establishment of yet another dependent, deformed workers' state. Moscow leaders are plainly quite happy to deal with the Sandinistas on the basis of their "mixed economy" in Nicaragua, while the FSLN for its part has shown no inclination to sweep away the remaining capitalists and expropriate their holdings. Moscow appears to have further distanced itself from Nicaragua by leaving most of the relationship to be mediated via Cuba: Brezhnev's last international report to the CPSU Congress failed even to mention Central America, and a Nicaraguan delegation of observers at the Congress were forced to call a "fringe" meeting away from the main building, having been excluded from any official platform. Little has happened to change this distant relationship. Yet there is no evidence that this stance is unwelcome or a cause of friction between Moscow and Managua: the limits appear to be mutually acceptable, even though Nicaragua has suffered US hostility as a supposed "Soviet surrogate" without enjoying any of the material benefits that might flow from a full scale military and economic link-up with the USSR.

Such calculations are important, because they have shaped the options open to the Cuban leadership in its dealings with Nicaragua, and on a smaller scale with the ill-fated NJM regime in Grenada. It is also relevant to Cuban relations with the FMLN fighters and their reformist FDR political representatives in EI Salvador. In September 1981 the Cuban regime denied any involvement or supply of arms to the Salvadorean fighters. But the guerrillas' growing strength in relation to the crumbling US-backed regime has become an embarrassment to the combination of bourgeois politicians, reformists and Stalinists who have sought a "negotiated settlement" which would avoid the traumas of a military defeat for imperialism and a Batista / Somoza-style collapse of the old oligarchic order, bringing in its train once more the spectre of possible social revolution.

Kremlin strategy, therefore, as well as Cuban acceptance of "peaceful coexistence" as a starting point for their foreign policy, helps shape the current Cuban pressure upon the Salvadorean leadership, helps determine the evident lack of substantial Cuban aid to the guerrillas, and helps direct Cuban policy in general towards some form of "regional settlement" which would accept the continuation of capitalist exploitation in Central America at the point where mass movements in Cuba, Nicaragua and El Salvador have emerged with the power to bring it to an end. In a November 1981 letter to the Washington Post, Fidel Castro described allegations of Cuban support for the Salvadorean guerrillas to be part of "a campaign of falsehood and lies".

We have thus seen Cuban foreign policy turn almost full circle since the early days of the revolution: but the missing component of the circle is of course the lack at any point of a proletarian perspective for the development of revolutionary struggles in Latin America and around the world. In this respect at least, Castro's world view has always shared crucial elements with the more traditional Stalinist perspectives. For this reason, despite the enthusiasm for his politics evinced by certain sections of the Trotskyist movement, Castro has always been at loggerheads with the Trotskyist perspective and programme.

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