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T. Stamm

The Cuban Revolution on the Defensive

(May 1934)

From The Militant, Vol. VII No. 19, 12 May 1934, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The Cuban revolution, is now on the defensive. The grandiose sweep of the workers which drove Mach-ado out of the seat of power, hurtled De Cespedes into the abyss and unwisely tolerated Grau is now retreating before Mendieta and Batista, that is to say, before the Cuban servants of American imperialism. Not the workers, but the imperialist-bourgeois reaction ousted Grau and replaced his vacillating regime with the black puppet act of Mendieta-Batista. Mendieta was far from the bourgeoisie’s ideal of a “strong man to deal with the situation”, that is put down the workers with blood and iron. He began by returning the electric company plant to its owners and sending soldiers to force them to work. The workers responded with a hunger strike. Other workers threatened to come out in sympathy. Mendieta decreed all strikes illegal in the light, water, telephone, telegraph and other services. The workers responded by calling strikes for the seventh of February. A general strike began to loom up. Already on the third of February Mendieta declared that the problem created by the return of the electric plant and the strike “might contribute to the fall” of his government.

Advance of Reaction

But there was no party to give leadership to the workers and the favorable moment passed. Step by step the reaction has advanced with the harvest driving the workers at the point of the bayonet and persecuting their organizations. Thus the Havana Federation of Labor which was under the joint influence of anarcho-syndicalists and the Bolshevik-Leninists passed over to the side of the latter and was illegalized by Mendieta. Other organizations too have suffered a like fate.

But the question is not yet settled. No decisive battles have been fought. The apparent strength of the bourgeoisie is two parts the failure of the workers to advance on the road of decisive struggles and two parts the armed might oi the United States military forces Mendieta has not solved a single one of the grave economic, social and political problems of the country. The quota assigned to Cuban sugar for export to its chief market, the United States, is still a little more than one third of the productive capacity of the island’s crops and its INDUSTRIAL-TECHNICAL organization.

No progress has been made In liquidating the huge surplus in storage in Cuba of one million tons; approximately ONE HALF OF THE QUOTA FOR THE CURRENT CROP. No moratorium on the staggering debts to the Wall Street banks has been declared; no reduction in them, despite optimistic White House pronouncements, has been put on the agenda of current problems. The approach of the end of the harvest means that tens of ;housands of workers will again be thrown out of the process of production with no prospect whatever of working again until the late fall of the year! The convocation of the Constituent Assembly has been postponed untl some time before the end of the year, the exact date has not been set. And the liberties of the workers and their organizations have been curtailed.

Perspective of Struggles

The approach of the end of the harvest raises the perspective of further struggles by the workers. Already there are signs of the coming storms. Like the gusts that precede the gale the students are now again in the center of the stage protesting against abuses. Tomorrow they will be followed by the workers who will give a deeper social tone to the music of the class struggle. Strikes are again beginning to plague the government. We have already seen with what Caribbean speed and fury these storms come up. Mendieta hopes to lull the storm by a few “reforms” which settle nothing and by the extradition and trial of Machado!

What course will the workers’ struggles take? Will they confine themselves to the demands for the improvement of conditions, the shortening of hours, increases in wages, the discharge of an offensive police official? Or will they take place under political slogans? Will the workers demand nationalization and control That depends on whether the workers assimilate the lessons of the past period’. And that in turn on whether there is a vanguard capable of helping them learn. From this point of view the situation is promising. The influence of Stalinism has been weakened both ideologically and organizationally by its adventuristic-treacherous course; the influence of the Bolshevik-Leninists is increasing.

Democratic Demands

If today it is necessary – and it is necessary – to advance slogans for democratic demands, that does not yet by itself indicate within what framework these demands shall be put forth. In other words, what is the perspective? We have nothing in common with the craven grovellers before American Imperialism – the Stalinists – who want to struggle for “municipal power”, and who promise not to attack American property. In our opinion the revolution will traverse the ground from which it retreated with great speed and arrive quickly at the decisive questions. There will be no escaping the problem of state power. Failure to seize it will mean, not the step-by-step reaction of Mendieta, but the bloody heel of military dictatorship.

Whether the workers will be able to maintain power is another question. No one can give an answer to that question now. That depends on many things; principally on the. world situation. If we are to assume the victorious sweep of Fascist reaction over Europe with the strengthening of reaction in the Western hemisphere then the doom of the Cuban workers’ state would be pronounced. But if, on the contrary, we envisage a victory in France where the workers can take power, with the incalculable advantages for the labor and revolutionary movements everywhere that must ensue, then we can hold forth a more encouraging perspective for the Cuban revolution.

Situation in U.S.

More immediate to the resolution of the issue is the factor of the internal situation in the United States. The great wave of strikes which are impending in this country will not be without its effect on the Cuban workers. No one can foretell how far the strikes will go in weakening the imperialist colossus. But there is no mistaking the rumbling of the volcano which may burst with tremendous shocks to capitalist terrain. Will they develop in a revolutionary direction? Will we succeed in arousing the workers of Latin America? On the answer to that question which will be given in the fire of the class struggle and in which we must have an influence we will have our answer to the question of whether the Cuban workers who may seize power will be able to hold it. We are not clairvoyants but we reject with contempt the “perspectives” of those “revolutionists” who see only the strength of American imperialism already rotting with gangrene.

In Cuba as everywhere the fate ot the workers, of the entire population, of culture, and possibly, of civilization itself, depends on our success or failure in building the Fourth International. Let us hope that the Bolshevik-Leninists of Cuba at the head of the masses will go forward to victory.

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