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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 II: Some Answers: Right and Wrong.

9. Trotskyism and the Cuban Revolution: The Background.

This book is not the place for any extended history of the post-war Trotskyist movement and its fragmentation and crisis. But the Cuban revolution in itself had a substantial impact on the Trotskyist movement, whose whole reason for existence and historical record had consisted in the struggle against bureaucratism and Stalinism, and whose programme at the time of the foundation of the Fourth International in 1938 had focussed so heavily on the need to assert the political independence of the working class in the struggle for socialist revolution.

This is important both from the standpoint of assessing what options and alternatives could and should have been put forward in the course of the Cuban revolution to prevent the slide of the new regime into Stalinist bureaucratism and lead on towards a genuinely healthy workers' state, and also from the standpoint of understanding the present day disorientation and crisis of the Trotskyist movement.

Firstly a brief word is needed on the post-war history of the Fourth International. The movement had emerged from the carnage and repression of World War 2 with a proud record of resistance both to the chauvinist propaganda of the imperialists and reformist social democrats and to the brutish repression and international class collaboration of the Stalinist parties. Yet the already weak numbers of the Trotskyist parties before the War had been severely depleted both quantitatively and qualitatively by the all-sided offensive of imperialism, the social democratic collaborators and the Stalinist leaders. On top of the murder of Leon Trotsky by Stalin's agents in 1940, other vital leading cadres had been killed, imprisoned, dispersed or demoralised under the grinding weight of the war. The International apparatus had functioned through the latter years of the war under extremely harsh clandestine conditions on the continent of Europe – maintaining a European Secretariat from 1943 under Nazi occupation – but in general terms the movement was in a weak position organisationally and politically.

Attempts to resume international operations after the war ran into serious political problems: a new leadership without the unifying and authoritative voice previously provided by Trotsky, and without Trotsky's grounding in both the theory and the practice of Marxism, was forced to grapple with a complex and rapidly-changing situation. Contrary to most Trotskyists' expectations, Stalin's bureaucracy had been neither defeated by imperialism nor ousted by the Soviet masses: instead its armies had borne the brunt of the war against German imperialism. In successfully driving back the Nazi armies and crushing Hitler's Axis allies in Eastern Europe, Stalin's troops had moved into a vast new "buffer zone" of territories which the imperialists were powerless to recapture by force of arms, and within which the old ruling classes and their state apparatuses were discredited and destroyed – only to be reconstructed under Stalin's military supervision.

The situation did not fit into the pre-war schemas of development to which the old hands of the Trotskyist movement tried to revert: but nor was it completely without precedent. Trotsky, in examining the implications of the pre-war Soviet invasion of Eastern Poland and Finland in some of his last writings (most representatively collected in In Defence of Marxism), had stressed the contradictory nature of the Soviet Union as a degenerated workers' state, in which the ruling bureaucracy was neither desirous nor capable of sharing power with the capitalist class. It was not at all excluded – rather to be expected – explained Trotsky, that if the USSR were to retain control of such territories for any length of time, it would seek to secure its own base of support by the process of statisation of industry and suppression of the bourgeoisie from above, through bureaucratic-military means. It would seek, in other words, to replicate the structure of the degenerated Russian workers' state in countries where there had been no workers' revolution, and procure by this means the establishment of a stable, new, rigidly controlled, state bureaucracy. The "progressive" element of this apparently "revolutionary" expropriation of capital in these areas, stressed Trotsky, was completely outweighed in global terms by the exclusion from this process of the working class (and indeed the suppression by the Stalinists of its independent organisations) and the preservation of the counter-revolutionary Kremlin bureaucracy itself, together with its general strategy of "socialism in one country" and collaboration with capitalism.

For Trotsky, therefore, the prospect of even wholesale overturns of property relations by the Kremlin bureaucracy in countries previously within the capitalist "sphere of influence" called for no dramatic rethink of the fundamental character of that bureaucracy, or its relationship with the working class. Unlike the reformist leaders of the social democratic parties and unions, who base their class collaboration upon a coexistence with their own national bourgeoisie within a particular nation state, the Stalinists in the USSR have emerged as a bureaucratic excrescence on the Russian workers' state, in which property relations were overturned in October 1917, and which now seeks to maintain its balance of forces with capitalism on a world scale. With such a global approach, the decision for or against an overturn of capitalism in this or another country under Soviet influence can be taken in certain cases on tactical and strategic grounds without breaking from the general framework of defending first and foremost the bureaucratic base and privileges of the Kremlin leaders: it becomes a question of possibilities, possible benefits, and convenience.

Hence the unplanned and uneven fashion in which Stalinist parties operated in Eastern Europe in the post war period, setting up various permutations of coalition or attempted coalition with capitalist parties (sometimes specifically reconstructed for the purpose by the Red Army), carrying through nationalisations and other changes at varying speeds, and in the main only completing the final overturn of capitalist property relations after the imperialist Cold War offensive began in earnest in 1947. Hence too the tactical decision within this process to leave the status of East Germany an unresolved enigma until the 1950s, and to allow capitalism to remain intact until Austria was formally and firmly returned to the imperialist "sphere" in 1955. In the same way, the decision to give the Soviet military and economic backing which made possible the overturn of capitalist property relations in Cuba in 1960-61 ran, as we have seen, hand in hand with an unbroken policy of class collaboration elsewhere in the world.

For the Trotskyist movement, embroiled in the struggle for survival and development, and denied our benefit of hindsight, such events were by no means as easily comprehended. A small movement of small parties – all too often isolated from the mass movements of the working class in any given country and from the major upheavals on a world scale – came under heavy pressure to adapt to the apparently "left" face presented by certain currents of Stalinism (particularly after 1947), and also faced the need to fight back hard against a gathering imperialist Cold War.

As a result, the split between President Tito of Yugoslavia and Joseph Stalin In 1948 provoked considerable political confusion. Tito's "break" had followed a particularly rapid transformation of his country's economy and state machinery (not least because virtually the whole of the Yugoslav bourgeoisie had sided with, and foundered with, the Nazi occupation forces during the war, leaving a vacuum of power to be filled by the new Communist-led regime). Tito's moves demonstrated his own self-confidence and experience as the leader of a partisan struggle which had for years controlled whole liberated areas of the country prior to its defeat of the Nazis. When Tito combined this move with controlled mobilisations of the Yugoslavian masses, ostentatious steps to set up "workers' councils", "workers' self-management" and other apparently revolutionary gestures, this deepened the confusion: whole layers of the Trotskyist movement took these gestures at face value and began to argue that Tito – a former trusted Comintern agent – had in fact broken not only from Stalin but also from Stalinism. The Trotskyist movement's whole grasp of the nature of Stalinist bureaucracy, and the whole programme of political revolution were thrown into doubt.

A new political line was first elaborated by the Fourth International's secretary Michel Pablo, at the end of 1949. Where Pablo found real events inadequate to support his line of the supposed "centrist" evolution of the Yugoslav CP, he did not hesitate to go back and rewrite the Fourth International's previous analysis of events. The result was a theory that Stalinist Parties like the Yugoslav CP could be forced by "mass pressure" in exceptional circumstances to play a revolutionary role. And as the notion gathered strength, so the events in China were also rewritten to provide a further instance of this "process".

The FI's analysis of the complex and contradictory transformation process underway in Eastern Europe certainly left much to be desired. The general consensus to begin with was that the Buffer Zone was undergoing a state capitalist stage of development, but Pablo had to ride roughshod over much theoretical work as had been done, using the obvious inconsistencies of the "state capitalist" analysis as further justification of his own line. In particular Pablo had to discard the careful analysis of Russia and the Buffer Zone made in 1947 by Ernest Germain, who pointed out that in Yugoslavia:

". . . the relations of forces are such that the bourgeoisie finds itself for the moment at the mercy of an action by the proletariat. It is only the bureaucracy's fear both of the proletariat and of imperialism which restrains it from dealing the native capitalists a death blow."

Pablo also had to jettison the April 1949 IEC Resolution of the FI which had stated that there was "an undeniable existence of a police regime in Yugoslavia". That this was a conscious change was shown most clearly in the 1951 Third World Congress resolution, which explicitly rewrote the previously adopted positions of the FI starting from the appearances of events after 1948:

"It is the duty of the FI to critically re-examine in the light of events which have occurred since 1948, its past analysis of the Yugoslav revolution and the dynamics of this revolution which events have placed in a new light."

It is sometimes important to reassess old analyses: but Pablo's approach was simply to cast aside the facts which would not fit his new theory. Perhaps most awkward of all, he had to get around the fact that at the height of the mass movement in Yugoslavia, and at the point where the native capitalist class was in full-scale retreat, Tito's Stalinist-led partisan forces had set out not to consolidate workers' power, but attempted to set up a coalition with imported remnants of a terrified and pro-Nazi national bourgeoisie. This was the 1944-45 Tito-Subasich agreement. In this, as in every respect of policy up to Tito's break in 1948, Stalinist policy was identical in content, though different in scale and tempo, with the policy throughout the Buffer states. Indeed the first priority of Stalinist parties internationally in the immediate post-war period was to block with the bourgeoisie in the suppression of possible working class upsurges (most notably in France and Italy, where Stalinist parties entered bourgeois coalition governments even while the armed masses were still looking towards a struggle for power). As "evidence" for ignoring this embarrassing aspect of events in Yugoslavia, Pablo simply used the arguments of the Titoites themselves:

"They (the Titoites) insist that none of the political and social conquests of their struggle was endangered by the coalition for the simple reason that reaction had no real base among the masses and that the coalition was reached at the top between representatives of the masses and the impotent shadows of the bourgeoisie."

Precisely why the "representatives of the masses" should have fiddled around in this way with the "impotent shadows of the bourgeoisie", instead of carrying through the socialist revolution, was not explained. Pablo indeed ignored the episode, and subsequently insisted that the masses of Yugoslavia were "continuously active" from 1941 to 1948, and that a "revolution of a special development had actually taken place", leading up to "a seizure of power, to a radical transformation of capitalist property relations and to the destruction of the old capitalist state and the reconstruction of a new state apparatus."

"The transformation of property relations" and the "construction of a new state apparatus" were both in fact already taking place throughout the whole of the Buffer Zone, in anything but a revolutionary way in the years 1944-50, under the watchful eyes and guns of the Red Army. What attracted Pablo's attention in Yugoslavia was Tito with his demagogic "left" speeches and establishment of (carefully controlled) workers' councils as part of his bid to solidify a popular base of support while carrying through his inter-bureaucratic dispute with Stalin. Pablo saw the whole process of transformation (largely complete by 1948) as condensed into a short period. This false impression then became confused with the Titoites' own propaganda and "mass mobilisation". Under these conditions, Pablo undertook the revision of the Trotskyist programme in an opportunist direction.

Tito's leadership, correctly characterised by the FI in 1947 as a bureaucracy afraid of both the working class and imperialism, and in 1948 as running a "police regime", was suddenly described by Pablo as "partly bureaucratic", while he claimed that the Yugoslav revolution "raises itself to new heights, becomes constantly more democratic, etc., etc.". From the very outset these illusions in Yugoslavia were linked to a general revision of the Trotskyist stand on Stalinism:

"Certain Communist Parties in a favourable conjuncture, when they are linked to the real revolutionary movement of the masses, can detach themselves from the yoke of the Kremlin and begin to act on their own."

Act "on their own" the Communist Parties certainly can – and have done, particularly since World War 2. But the real question is the political role they carry out and this relationship to the independent needs and struggles of the working class. Only from this can we tell whether or not they remain Parties whose politics, programme and methods remain Stalinist. Post war history has brought us no example of a Stalinist Party changing its spots – though there have of course been centrist and left wing splits from Stalinist parties.

The foundation of the Trotskyist movement and the new International which it launched in 1938 was based on the recognition of the counter-revolutionary role of Stalinism and Stalinist leaderships, and the impossibility of their reform. Though Pablo began to raise his challenge to Trotskyist politics around the supposed "exceptional case" of Yugoslavia, the above formulation shows that it was swiftly extended to a general rule, and the method involved left the door wide open to further, similar blunders.

The lines of 1950 were developed much further in the pre-conference material for the Third World Congress. Pablo led the way with his notorious document "Where Are We Going?" In this text, Pablo completely excluded from his analysis any concept of the political independence of the working class in its struggles against imperialism and Stalinism. This, taken together with the surface appearances of the Cold War period, combined to create the basis of the Pablo concept of the impending Third World War between the "camps" of imperialism on the one hand and socialism on the other. This would, he believed, amount to a special type of war – a "War-revolution". Such "camps" notion of the world was of course not Pablo's own invention. It had been the bread and butter of Stalinist theoreticians, particularly in the Cold War period, and was developed at some length by Zhdanov at the founding Congress of the Cominform in 1947. Its main consequence is to obliterate any class distinction between workers and capitalists in the "capitalist" camp and workers and bureaucrats in the "socialist" camp.

For the Trotskyist movement, the adoption of such a theory of "blocs and camps" and imminent War created sufficient confusion to make it seem as if the "exceptional circumstances" which drove the Yugoslav CP towards supposedly revolutionary politics might now apply on a global scale. Perhaps Stalinist bureaucracies around the world would suddenly drop their counter-revolutionary role and "under mass pressure" begin to mobilise the working class in a revolutionary way. In other words here was a period so new, and so baffling that it appeared that the tenets of the FI's founding Transitional Programme could no longer be applied, and all the evidence of the thoroughly counter-revolutionary behaviour of the Stalinist parties towards the workers' movement before, during and after the war could now be ignored.

"The Communist Parties retain the possibility in certain circumstances of roughly outlining a revolutionary orientation, that is to say of finding themselves compelled to engage in a struggle for power."

The Yugoslav events had thus been quickly elevated from an "exception" into a general rule. And at the same time Pablo drew out a generalisation which extended even to the bureaucratised, monolithic, power-wielding CPs of eastern Europe, claiming that there was:

". . . the possibility, and in the long run the inevitability of an opposition arising to the Soviet bureaucracy to the degree that these CPs have a mass base of their own which had enabled them to conquer power by and large through their own means."

Pablo was not here brilliantly anticipating subsequent splits in the Stalinist movement of the 1950s, 60s and 70s; he was clearly looking for a section of the bureaucracy to break from Stalinism and move in a genuine fashion leftwards. In the event, the Third World Congress adopted a document on Orientation and Perspectives which included a number of distortions of the Transitional Programme:

"It would be anti-Marxist . . . to affirm that the weight of the bureaucratic apparatus will prove more decisive under all conditions than the pressure of the movement of the masses."

In such a way the formulation of the Transitional Programme looking confidently towards the "laws of history" as favouring revolutionary struggle (but stressing that these same laws will bring the working masses to recognise that their crisis of leadership "can only be resolved by the Fourth International") is stripped of its political content, and turned into simply hoping for the best.

The Congress document went on to spell out even more clearly the abandonment of the very starting point of Lenin and Trotsky in party building – the paramount importance of revolutionary leadership, the subjective factor in the struggle.

"In the long run, objective conditions determine the character and dynamics of the movement of the masses which, raised to a certain level, can overcome all subjective obstacles on the road to revolution . . . It is not excluded that certain Communist Parties with the bulk of their forces can be pushed out of the strict orbit of the Soviet bureaucracy and can project a revolutionary orientation . . . The developments in Yugoslavia and China are only a pre-figuration of the events to come."

Here was nothing more than a recipe for winding up any struggle to build independent Trotskyist parties. Indeed in Eastern Europe, Trotskyist forces were told that their main task was to:

"try to integrate themselves into the CPs and remain there, in order to take advantage of the revolutionary possibilities which will develop."

Two distinct resolutions on Eastern Europe were adopted – one on Yugoslavia, and one on the rest of the Buffer Zone.

The opposition to Pablo was muted and confused. Germain in a document entitled Ten Theses took issue with some of Pablo's positions, but left intact the central assertion that the Yugoslav and Chinese CPs had broken from Stalinism. Mandel actually named the Western European CPs he thought likely to break from Stalinism under "mass pressure":

"In the coming revolutionary upsurge in Western Europe during the period of preparation and unleashing of war, the growing pressure of the masses is liable to force the French and Italian CPs to modify their pacifist course of 'neutralising' the bourgeoisie. These parties could then . . . project a revolutionary orientation and see themselves forced to undertake a struggle for power . . . "

Pablo, on the other hand, trading upon his central position in the fledgling International Secretariat, was able to enlist the public support of other senior FI leaders, including James P. Cannon of the US Socialist Workers Party, and Gerry Healy of the British section. Cannon in 1953 argued that he had been strongly advised to extend" support to Pablo despite substantial political disagreements – not least on Pablo's notion of future development through "centuries of deformed workers' states" – for fear that an open controversy between Cannon and Pablo could break up the fragile Secretariat and destroy its authority.

It appears that this tactical decision – which had the unfortunate by-product of perpetuating political confusion – was compounded by the actions of the SWP's representative in Europe, George Clarke, who failed to raise with the Secretariat a number of detailed criticisms of Third Congress documents that had been submitted by the SWP Political Committee. Clarke himself became a leading defender of the Pablo line.

Among the SWP's criticisms (see Appendix to Cannon's Speeches to the Party) were a number of points which hit directly at Pablo's adaptation to Stalinist politics. In particular, Point 9 stresses that:

"The direct counterrevolutionary role which Moscow has played and continues to play will not fade into the background in the event of war. ( . . . ) Regardless of the effects upon the defence of the Soviet Union, the Stalinist bureaucracy will not countenance independent mass movements, and least of all oppositional ones."

Point 11 takes a stand against Pablo's wholesale exuberance in redefining the Communist Parties:

"Instead of attempting to provide a general redefinition of Stalinist parties, it would be more advisable to recommend following their concrete evaluation in each given case. ( . . . ) At the same time, it is imperative to reaffirm our previous characterisation of Stalinism as a counterrevolutionary force."

Point 13 stresses the SWP's opposition in practice to the line implicit in Pablo's documents:

". . . it is further necessary to emphasise that the tactical orientation does not imply any conciliation with Stalinism. On the contrary, these tactics are designed to enable us to merge with the living movement of the masses and to combat Stalinism all the more effectively."

And in distinction to Pablo's confidence in some purely objective "process" which would resolve the subjective problems of revolutionary leadership, the SWP criticisms (Point 16) restate the centrality of the crisis of proletarian leadership, which:

"will not be resolved automatically or mechanically or independently of our intervention and policies."

These criticisms, which were never taken into account in the Third Congress drafts, are certainly in line with earlier writings of Cannon on the question of Stalinism. Far from submerging the independence of the working class in the confusion of "camp" politics, Cannon can be seen, for example, in Letters from Prison, to be taking a distinct and critical stance on the new developments in Europe in 1944:

"When the Nazi military machine threatened the destruction of the Soviet Union every communist had to put the slogan of the defence of the Soviet Union in first place. Those who denied this defence were ( . . . ) people on the other side of the barricade, with whom comradely arguments were out of season.
But this fight for the defence of the Soviet Union against Nazi militarism has been decisively won. The problem will most probably arise again, with another power in place of the Nazis, but that will take some time. The political reality of the present day is: the military, economic and moral collapse of the Hitler 'new order in Europe', which some people, even in our own ranks, took far too seriously; the military occupation of the continent by Anglo-American and Soviet troops; the indicated beginning of a workers' revolutionary movement and the conspiracy of the imperialists to crush it with the active aid of the Stalinists.
( . . . ) All our emphasis now must be placed on the defence of the European revolution against the conspirators."
(Letters from Prison, pp. 180-81)

However, the fact is that, even if for the best of internationalist motive – the urge not to bring a precipitate collapse to the standing of the European Secretariat – Cannon's failure and that of the SWP leadership as a whole to draw out this distinct position and insist upon a clarification of the line of the Third Congress resolutions helped to entrench a false and misleading line in the Trotskyist movement. Worse: Cannon on several occasions went much further, and specifically supported the Third Congress texts.

Even in subsequent writings it is far from clear that Cannon at least ever reworked or developed a clear opposition to the lines mapped out or the method of analysis employed by Pablo in his documents on Yugoslavia and other aspects of the world situation. In the event it was Sam Gordon, the SWP's representative working with Healy's British group, who first drew attention to the dangerous political drift of the Pablo leadership.

After the Third Congress, both Cannon and Healy lent their support (Healy being actively involved) to Pablo's moves to expel the majority of the French section, who in 1952 refused to carry out Pablo's directive that entry into the French CP be made the main axis in their work, with independent work subordinate to it.

Yet even that section of the French leadership which did fight Pablo failed to challenge his views on Yugoslavia and China. The well of Trotskyism had been thoroughly poisoned.

But in 1953 came a sharpening of the class struggle internationally, which produced a crisis for Stalinism and led to a rapid and thorough exposure of the impotence of Pablo's politics in fighting Stalinism.

In March 1953, the death of Stalin created an immediate problem for the Kremlin bureaucracy. In the manoeuvres to decide Stalin's successor, various minimal concessions were made to head off any possible forward movement of the Soviet working class, while the bureaucracy was careful to hold very tightly onto the reins of real political power.

In June of 1953, the workers of East Berlin rose in revolt against increased production targets and demanding democratic rights, in the first onset of political revolution in Eastern Europe. The Pabloites, who had looked simply to the bureaucratised East European CPs spontaneously to throw up leftward-moving top-level "leaders" for such struggles, were left with no coherent policy. They abandoned the 1947 FI policy of demanding the withdrawal of the Red Army, which moved in savagely to crush the East German workers.

In September 1953 a General Strike broke out in France, centred on public sector workers, only to be derailed and betrayed by the Communist Party – precisely that Stalinist Party which (according to Pablo and Mandel's predictions) was supposedly on the point of "projecting a revolutionary orientation".

Under these conditions, Pablo's line became increasingly hard to defend. At the same time, experiences of successful work in the labour movement prompted Healy in particular to highlight the fact that the Pabloites always ignored the central issue of building Trotskyist parties:

"Take this talk about Stalinism. Impatient comrades, thinking in terms of China, East Europe and now even the USSR, see the impact of the post-war revolutionary forces upon these countries, but, fail to recognise one vital thing; that, as far as we know, we have not one single organised cadre group in these areas."

But it was when Pablo-sponsored factions brought the practical implications unmistakeably to the attention of the leaderships in the USA and Britain that an abrupt turn took place. Between May and September 1953, Healy swung from sympathetic defence of Pablo to bitter hostility; and in the same short space of time the SWP leaders switched from public defence of Pablo to the point of a split.

There was certainly a need to break politically from Pablo's line: but the publication by the SWP and its supporters of an Open Letter denouncing Pablo did so only on an empirical level and without political clarity. Even as they carried through a break with Pablo on the current political questions, both Healy and Cannon clung on tenaciously to the false positions adopted at the Third World Congress. The Open Letter Itself conspicuously challenges Pablo only on issues that arose after the 1951 Congress:

1) Pablo's failure to call for political revolution in the USSR after the death of Stalin;
2) A similar failure to present an independent programme for the workers of East Germany;
3) The failure to combat the Stalinist sell-out of the French General Strike;
4) "Stalinist" organisational methods within the FI, and the promotion of secret factions to enforce Pablo's line.

The Open Letter in effect split the Fourth International. The signatories formed the International Committee, while the Pablo / Germain leadership was able to retain a majority of sections around their International Secretariat. The split itself simply entrenched the existing tendencies and differences, and did nothing to enlighten the remaining cadre of the FI.

All of the Open Letter's charges are well-founded. But none penetrated to the essence of the problem or attempted to correct the FI analysis of the evolution of post-war Stalinism. As a result we find that the 1954 "Fourth World Congress" held by the Pabloite faction felt able to trace (correctly) a clear continuity of their line back to the common decisions of the Third Congress.

Four years later, in 1957, the SWP leaders, plainly impatient to break from their isolation since the split, began to show signs of moving back towards a resumption of dialogue with the Pablo wing. They were challenged by the Healy leadership in Britain, which had made no effort to trace back the origins of the differences, but wished simply to block any movement towards reunification. A major problem was plainly the lack of political clarity on all sides.

The situation for Trotskyism was objectively dominated by the momentous events of the Hungarian revolution, the highest point of workers' struggle against Stalinist bureaucracy, which had been ruthlessly crushed in 1956 by Soviet tanks – in an invasion which has subsequently proven to be a watershed for the Stalinist movement internationally. But far from urging on the Trotskyist leaderships to hammer out the differences of analysis and correct the plainly false notions of "political revolution" advocated by Pablo since 1949, the Hungarian events spurred a new round of confusion. The apparent convergence of the two sides during the Hungarian struggle – both wings of the divided FI had supported workers' councils and defended the Revolution – served to mask the very different expectations and analysis on both sides.

The SWP however expressed some agreement with the document of the Pabloite Fifth World Congress – which drew no serious conclusions from the Hungarian events. Entitled "The Decline and Fall of Stalinism" (after 1956!), the document clung on to all the old eulogies of the Yugoslav CP – which had in fact since reunited with the Kremlin leadership, and lent its support to the Soviet invasion of Hungary. It gave also a favourable view of Gomulka and the "left" leadership of the Polish CP, which had been restored to office by the Kremlin as a means to defuse the militancy of the Polish workers – on condition that the new leadership tacitly accepted the Hungarian invasion! Nowhere in the text is there a call for the building of Trotskyist parties in Eastern Europe to fight for political revolution. The struggles of Eastern European workers were entrusted to the tender mercies of the Nagys, Titos and Gomulkas of the future.

The document was in a sense an advance over the 1953 positions, in which Pablo had expressed reservations over calling for the withdrawal of Soviet troops from East Germany; but the advance was small, and inadequate. It might have been a starting point for a debate on the false positions of the 3rd and 4th Congresses: but no such debate began, and the SWP leaders went much further in expressing their level of agreement. Cannon, who was by now plainly questioning the wisdom of prolonging the split which had left the SWP quarantined in the largely sterile "International Committee", summed up the SWP view that:

"the political pronouncements of the two sides (IC and IS) appear to come closer together than was the case in the period prior to the formal split . . . If the thinking of the two sides should continue to evolve in the same way, then they would both have to consider the question of unity."

It was therefore a divided and massively confused world Trotskyist movement which was confronted in 1959 with the new and even more complex problems of relating to the Cuban revolution. The form of events was very different from the events in Eastern Europe. The July 26 Movement was not a Stalinist Party – indeed scarcely a party at all. It had ridden to power despite the Stalinist PSP; and it embarked initially upon a coalitionist course coupled with increasingly radical reformist policies which were to become typical of petty bourgeois nationalist leaderships – but at the time were almost without precedent. Eighteen months later, guaranteed Kremlin backing, stripped of bourgeois ministers, and in an ever-closer working alliance with the Stalinists, the Castro leadership began demolishing the remnants of capitalist rule in Cuba amidst an obvious and deliberate mass mobilisation, which included popular militias and other mass organisations controlled from above.

Was this – as Pablo had fondly believed in Yugoslavia – a case of a leadership simply evolving under "mass pressure" into a centrist or fully-fledged revolutionary leadership? Or was not the "mass pressure" part of the controlled and conscious preparations by a populist and non-proletarian leadership to protect itself while carrying through radical policies in the teeth of imperialist pressure, propped up by Stalinist aid?

Was the much-publicised purge of Anibal Escalante in 1962 really a decisive blow against Stalinism and bureaucratism by the Fidelistas? If so, why was the move hailed by the Kremlin leaders and by the Cuban Stalinist old guard themselves (with the obvious exception of Escalante himself)? And why did veteran PSPers retain their prominence in the rearranged, "purged" leadership?

Was the Castro leadership being really swept along by some objective "logic" of "permanent revolution"? Or should not permanent revolution rather be understood as a political strategy to be fought for by Trotskyists, as an essential opposite to the Stalinist concepts of "stages" in the national revolution, of class collaboration, and of subordination of the independence of the working class to "broad fronts" with the bourgeoisie and peasantry?

These questions and many others confronted a Trotskyist movement that had not yet extricated itself from theoretical confusion over the overturns in Eastern Europe, or reconstructed a coherent programmatic orientation towards Stalinism and petty bourgeois nationalism. And it was a movement which had begun in the 1950s to place its own wishes, hopes and one-sided assessments of events, movements and political currents in higher esteem than the objective analysis of concrete experience.

A classic example of this was the way in which the experience of Trotskyists inside Cuba was brushed aside by the various elements of the world movement, while abstract schemas were developed at long distance.

There was a small Trotskyist organisation in Cuba at the time of the revolution, the Workers Revolutionary Party (Trotskyist) (POR(T)).

It had a record of struggle against Batista which had brought the imprisonment of leading members (at least one of whom died in jail), the suppression of its paper Vox Proletaria and a hard-waged, long-standing battle with the Stalinist PSP over the "stages" theory of revolution – a debate which continued up to 1960. Trotskyists were amongst those attacked and fingered by the PSP saboteurs as part of the Stalinist opposition to Castro's guerrilla struggle; and some Trotskyists fought alongside the guerrillas, while others swiftly joined the militias.

After Batista's fall the POR(T) commenced in 1960 the publication of a printed newspaper. It polemicised strongly against the PSP's argument that the revolution should be restricted to a bourgeois democratic "stage" and should avoid a break with the bourgeoisie. However, the politics argued by the POR(T) were coloured by the cranky and extravagant sectarianism of Juan Posadas, at that time the leader of the Latin American Bureau of the International Secretariat. (Posadas split with the Pablo wing of the FI in 1962.) In this way the POR(T)'s correct demands for the expropriation of the imperialists, socialist revolution, workers' control and a planned economy were conveyed in ultimatistic terms rather than with maximum impact. The party correctly fought on, however, for their right to exist legally as a tendency within the Cuban workers' movement in what they swiftly (though incorrectly) characterised as a healthy workers' state.

This battle for survival however had to be waged not only against elements of the leadership of the July 26 Movement, but also against the veteran Stalinists of the PSP.

Recent accounts from ex-POR(T) members (see articles by Adolpho Gilly and Angel Fanjul in Intercontinental Press, May 11 1981) claim that they were able with some success to intervene as a Trotskyist delegation in the 1960 Congress of Youth in Havana. Even those who dispute their version of events do not contest that these comrades were allowed to participate in the Congress proceedings as a Trotskyist delegation, and to ensure that their amendments were voted on: this was achieved by winning a sufficiently sympathetic response from Cuban trade unionists and other delegates to outweigh the vicious hostility and gagging moves of the Stalinists.

The POR(T) were also preparing the type for publication of an edition of Trotsky's Revolution Betrayed when eventually in May 1961 the regime began to crack down. An issue of their paper was seized, the plates for the book smashed, the printing presses closed down, and those who produced and sold subsequent duplicated editions were arrested and imprisoned.

This repression of Trotskyists has never since been relaxed by the regime. Nearly a year later, Che Guevara told interviewer Maurice Zeitlin that the smashing up of the printing machinery in 1961 had been an "error", but gave no hint of a change of general attitude:

"We consider the Trotskyist party to be acting against the revolution. For example they were taking the line that the revolutionary government is petty bourgeois, and were calling on the proletariat to exert pressure on the government, and even to carry out another revolution in which the proletariat would come to power. This was prejudicing the discipline necessary at this time . . . You cannot be for the revolution and against the Cuban Communist Party."
(Republished in The Militant (USA), April 9, 1962)

Guevara's readiness to acquiesce to the muzzling of Trotskyists, who quite clearly defended the regime against imperialism but criticised aspects of it, and sought to pressurise the leadership and maintain their own independence, extended logically to his readiness to bolster the old Stalinist party which had opposed the revolution and wanted to preserve links with the bourgeoisie, but began cravenly crawling to the Fidelistas. Two years after the wrecking of the Trotskyist print shop, Guevara spoke at a banquet to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Stalinist newspaper Hoy – which had been founded as one of the first fruits of the CP's squalid deal with Batista back in 1938. Guevara told the audience:

". . . when we bring homage to the newspaper Hoy we also bring homage to the Party that was the ideological precursor of our revolution, the Partido Socialista Popular (APPLAUSE), today fused, companeros, into the greater Partido Unido de la Revolucion Socialista (APPLAUSE).
. . .It must also be a personal homage to Companero Blas Roca (APPLAUSE), its present director (its founder of course had been Anibal Escalante, but nobody talked about him anymore!) . . . Tireless fighter for many years, at times when the revolutionary July 26 leadership appeared (APPLAUSE) he immediately put his efforts and those of the Party at the service of the great unifying idea of the revolution."
(Obra Revolucionaria, No. 14, 1963)

Of course Blas Roca and his fellow Stalinists had done everything in their power to obstruct and sabotage the July 26 Movement, which they stridently denounced from the time of Fidel Castro's Moncada raid up to the very eve of the flight of Batista: and perhaps the most wretched of all the Stalinists was Blas Roca, the PSP's General Secretary since the 1930s and architect of all its betrayals and class collaboration.

Guevara's homage to Stalinism was no flash in the pan for the Cuban leadership. The very next issue of Obra Revolucionaria carried quotations from Fidel, praising:

"The Soviet people, led by the thousand-times glorious Communist Party of the Soviet Union . . . and by that great and dearly beloved friend of Cuba Nikita Khruschev."

And even after apparently reinforcing his "non-Stalinist" credentials by torpedoing the Moscow plans for the Tricontinental Conference in 1966, Castro added sections to his speech which made quite plain his hostility both to the theory and practice of Trotskyism itself and to leftward moving currents in liberation movements which seem to approach the Trotskyist programme. Condemning the Yon Sosa current in Guatemala, Castro declared:

"Yankee imperialism used one of its most subtle tactics in order to liquidate a revolutionary movement, a tactic which consisted of infiltrating into the movement agents of the Fourth International, who – because of the ignorance, the political ignorance, of the main leader of the movement (Yon Sosa) – got the movement to adopt nothing less than that discredited thing, that anti-historical thing, that fraudulent thing emanating from elements notoriously in the service of Yankee imperialism, the programme of the Fourth International."

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