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Stalinists in Cuba

T. Stamm

Stalinist Record in the Cuban Revolution

(June 1934)

From The Militant, Vol. VII No. 24, 16 June 1934, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

In Cuba in the summer of 1933 there were only two serious organized political working class forces: The Communist Party (Stalinists) and the Bolshevik-Leninists. Our section was not quite two years old, and, at that time, still committed to the orientation of reforming the C.I. and the C.P. of Cuba, and was a comparatively small organization. Its greatest strength lay in its connections with the trade union movement. It wielded great and almost decisive influence in the Havana Federation of Labor composed of thirty trade unions in which anarcho-syndicalists were also influential. It was a leading organization in the general strike.

But in size, prestige, and influence it was weaker than the Communist Party which had a wider and more powerful organizational structure and base. In its trade union center, the C.N.O.C., National Confederation of Cuban Workers, were thirty-five unions. The C.P. had auxiliaries and peripheral organizations embracing thousands of workers. If it was not, as it claimed, the leader, it was the outstanding organized political force iu the working class. On its record and in its policy, therefore, are to be sought the reasons for the failure of the workers to advance toward their liberation, and for their set-back at the hands of Mendieta.

Stalinists Come to Aid of Class Enemy

One the ninth of August, two days before Machado fell, when the general strike had reached its seventh day, the Executive of the C.N.O.C. (the Cuban Stalinist T.U.U.L., section of the R.I.L.U.) and the Political Bureau of the Communist Party issued a manifesto in which they said that “... Machado cannot be overthrown by strikes” and that the Labor Federation of Havana (trade union center, at that time under the leadership of anarcho-syndicalist elements and the Bolshevik-Leninists) “was leading the workers to massacre”.

Let no one think that the view expressed here was only a question of evaluating the situation and working out a strategic line of struggle. No! although that in itself were enough to confuse the workers at the decisive moment and demoralize them, disrupting their struggle and doing yeoman’s work for the class enemy. The manifesto was the “ideological” motivation for a treacherous act of strikebreaking. The Stalinists called on the workers to go back to work!

They themselves admit it. In one of the resolutions prepared for the Fourth National Labor Unity Congress of the C.N.O.C. held in Havana in January, 1934 they say:

“The National Confederation of Labor of Cuba, failing to see and apply the experience acquired in so many years’ of strike struggles, which showed in every strike that all economic demands have their profound political content – drew a false analysis of the content of the general strike ... The false appraisal which was a grave error (!) gave as a natural ( !) immediate, consequence, a second, graver (!) error, which consisted in the belief that the workers of each industry, once their demands were obtained, should return to work, and telling the workers that they should not be moved by the slogan of continuing the strike, when in reality the masses, who realized clearly the political content of the strike, were determined to continue it.” (Quoted from the January 12 Manifesto of the General Union of Commercial Employees of Cuba, an affiliate of the Havana Federation of Labor, to the Fourth Congress of the C.N.O.C. – Our emphasis throughout.)

Daily Workers Gives Assistance

Fatal admissions! The Stalinists claim the authority of Marx and Lenin! They call themselves the vanguard of the working class, yet they cannot recognize the political content of a general strike (!!), they are so obtuse with bureaucratic conceit they do not know what the masses want in the fire of the revolution itself!!

But it is not a question of stupidity alone. The Manifesto of the Commercial Employees Union charges: “What the Confederation does not say is precisely that knowing the profound political content of the movement that was developing, it believed in its own miserable concept of the movement, that it was necessary to have Machado remain in power in order for them to continue to enjoy illegality” – that is, maintain the appearance of being illegal.

There is the ugly story of how the epigones sold out the general strike iu Cuba. Let us see how their American brothers-iu-shame covered up the deed. On August 21 the Daily Worker reported:

“Havana, August 14 (By Mail). At noon today the bus and tramway workers returned to work, having won all their demands. With them went back the barbers, bakers, foodworkers, railway workers, etc. However, the shoe plants, textile factories and many others remained out, firmly holding out for their demands. The decision to go back to work was reached last night at 9:15 at a packed meeting of over 700 bus workers in the Trade Union Center of the C.N.O.C.”

It is clear that the Stalinists were sending men back to work.

Lying Out of the Whole Cloth

But this report contradicts one which appeared in the Daily nine days before, on August 12: “Havana, August 11. – The yellow union leaders, to help Welles and Machado, have called on the bus workers” (note: the bus workers) “and street car workers to return to work”!! On the 14th the same story: “Just before Machado flew Cuba the yellow trade union leaders in his pay attempted to call a halt to the general strike.”

On the 15th the Daily tried to make it appear that the C.N.O.C. was standing firm against the strike breaking of the “yellow” trade union leaders:

“The leaders of the transport workers, and especially those of the Railway Brotherhood, had already attempted to break the strike without asking any concessions. The representatives of the revolutionary C.N.O.C. held fast to their demands ...”

And finally in the same dispatch printed on the 21st which announced the meeting in the trade union center, of the C.N.O.C.:

“... 50 young bus workers signed application cards for the Y.C.L. This was the reply of the workers to the scabby statement of the reformist Havana Federation of Labor leaders headed by the renegade Junco that the leaders of the C.N.O.C. were strike-breakers because the accepted the concessions of Machado.” (Our emphasis)

By their own words they stand condemned! Yellow trade union leaders indeed! It is all lies, fraud, treachery!

The “Insurrection” of September 29

Emboldened by the valor and revolutionary ardor of the masses, who, a mouth later, overthrew De Cespedes, the Stalinist adventurers declared for the armed insurrection and set the date for September 29, the day of the arrival of Mella’s ashes from Mexico. Here ultimatism reached its greatest and at the same time its most tragically absurd height. True that Grau’s regime was unstable, under fire from the American imperialists; true that the Cuban bourgeoisie were planning counter-revolutionary coups; true that the masses were pressing it from below to carry out its demagogic, anti-imperialist and democratic pronouncements.

But the influence of the Stalinist Party which was to carry through the insurrection did not extend to the majority of the workers. In fact, following the August strikebreaking, entire unions were freeing themselves from Stalinist influence. The organs for the preparation of the insurrection and the seizure of power, the Soviets, did not exist on a national scale nor was the Stalinist party the dominant influence in those scattered Soviets which did exist. And the army, decisive factor, in the civil war, had given no demonstration of its sympathy for the Communist Party. In terms of the seizure of power by the working class, it was an unknown quantity. In Russia the Bolsheviks tested the Petrograd garrison before the insurrection when the Soviets countermanded the order of the Provisional Government sending two thirds of the garrison to the front. They were rooted in the soldiers’ Soviets and committees. The Cuban Stalinists’ connection with the armed forces was not great. Sinnani reported that two weeks before the “insurrection” the army was only beginning to pass over to the side of the workers.

Not an Insurrection But a Putch

In reality the events of the 20th of September were not an insurrection but a putch on the order, if not on the scale, of Canton. Scores of workers gave up their lives as a sacrifice to Stalinist criminal adventurism. The soldiers began to turn against the workers and Grau gained time and strength.

Panic seized the impotent! For twenty days the Stalinists called on the workers to come out in a general strike! The Manifesto of the General Union of Commercial Employees says: “Nobody paid any attention to their tearful entreaties.”

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