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Stalinists in Cuba

T. Stamm

Stalinist Record in the Cuban Revolution

(June 1934)

From The Militant, Vol. VII No. 25, 23 June 1934, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

(Continued from last issue)

The Stalinists, foreseeing that a serious attempt to seize power might precipitate intervention by the armed forces of the United States, came to the conclusion, at the same time that they prepared the “Insurrection”, that it was necessary to make efforts to avert intervention. Their ideas on this subject were first advanced in this country by Sinani in the December 1933 Communist. With the idea in abstracto, we have no disagreement. What is required, however is an examination to see whether the methods proposed do not com promise the principled position of the revolution. The seizure of power by the workers anywhere on the face of the earth today will be answered by world imperialism with political and economic support of the overthrown capitalists and if the world and domestic situations permit, attempts at armed suppression of the revolution. Russian and Siberian soil is fertilized with the blood and bones of thousands of workers who gave up their lives in defense of the Russian Revolution in the great civil war. As soon as the Spanish workers and peasants overthrew Alfonso and established the republic British warships rushed to Spanish waters. When the Austrian workers fought the Heimwehr on the barricades Italy and Czecho-Slovakia massed troops on the frontiers.

Necessity of Tactical Maneuvers

Realistic revolutionaries must take this danger into account in their program and prepare to meet it. The vital aspect of resistance to intervention in addition to the fight on domestic soil is the extension of the struggle to the soil of the imperialist country. Demonstrations, protest strikes, a broad mass movement in sympathy with the proletarian revolution abroad on the domestic soil of the attacking imperialists and in its vulnerable foreign markets, colonies, mandates, protectorates, can force a halt in the aggression, until the rest of the movement catches up with the outpost sufficiently to make its protest count. In the case of Cuba upon which is centered the eyes of the millions of Latin American workers oppressed by the same imperialist power, the United States the Cuban proletarian state will appeal to them for support and call on them to follow the example of the Cuban workers.

Now let us see how it stands with the Stalinists with respect to Cuba. According to Sinani (December 1933, Communist)

“— the Communist Party of Cuba considers it advisable for the workers’ and peasants’ government, if it should be formed, to enter into negotiations with the government of the U.S.A. on the conditions of nationalization of big foreign property, while not abandoning this nationalization, i.e., it allows the possibility of buying out this property ... the Communist Party of Cuba allows the possibility of retaining American ownership to some extent in the form of concessions, as to the conditions on which the property will be bought out (amount, forms and date of payment, etc.) negotiations will have to be carried out between the future revolutionary government of Cuba and the government of the United States.” (Our emphasis)

It Is clear from the underscored parts that the sense of this passage defines a MANEUVERING policy of the Communist Party AFTER it has state power. It is the more understandable when it is remembered that this was written, as the text itself clearly states, in the middle of September, that is, a short time before the Communist Party OSTENSIBLY had the perspective of seizing power.

A Retreat in Face of Imperialists

One thing is certain: had the workers seized power in Cuba at that or any other time in the period since the overthrow of Machado, they would have faced the problem of armed intervention by the United States. Or if they seize it in the future before we seize it here the Cuban workers will face that problem either from the U.S. or some other imperialist power. In that situation it would be entirely correct to draw the superior power into protracted negotiations over treaties, settlements, concessions, etc. while might and main were being expended to arouse the workers of Latin America and the United States to come to the assistance of the Cuban workers’ state. And, depending upon the situation and the relation of forces to grant concessions would be entirely correct and unavoidable. The alternatives would be voluntary surrender or armed struggle. Sinani’s explanation defines the limits of the concessions to be made: they proposed to make concessions up to the point of nationalization which they proposed to retain. Should this method fail the Communist Party, says Sinani, would “... organize a real nationwide armed resistance to the interventionists.”

All of this is correct. If we spend so much time on this point, it is not to heap praise on the Stalinists but in the interest of speaking out what is and of making our position clear. We have nothing in common with those ultra-leftists who regard any concession as a betrayal of the revolution and of Marxism. Were we the party in Cuba that is how we would present the question to the masses. Intransigence in principle does not preclude but makes necessary flexibility in tactics; the ability to maneuver within the framework of firmly established Marxist principles, that is the essence of Leninist strategy. The road of the ultra-leftists leads to sectarianism.

Sinani’s position as we have given it above, we repeat is correct If the matter rested there, if thai were all that were involved, we might conclude that the Stalinists had learned from the events of August and were beginning to steer a revolutionary course.

But that was not the case. The idea of averting intervention as formulated by the Stalinists has two aspects: the policy of maneuvering AFTER the seizure of power – which we have already discussed; and the policy of capitulating to American imperialism and the policy of NOT SEIZING POWER.

In Sinani’s explanation there are three main points: “— the C.P. of Cuba tries to direct the chief blow of the revolutionary masses above all against the local Cuban ruling classes”; “— the Communist Party considers it inadvisable for the workers to seize the American enterprises, and puts forward the slogan of workers’ control carried out through factory committees (if there are revolutionary conditions) which can secure the satisfaction of the demands of the workers”; “— the Communist Party considers it inadvisable to force ahead the seizure of plantations belonging to American capital, and fights above all for considerable reductions of the rent of this land —.”

Who Are the Owners of Cuba?

In China the Stalinists tried in vain and with disastrous consequences to make fundamental distinctions, between the native bourgeoisie and the foreign imperialists and attached themselves as a tail to the former. In Cuba they repeat the same treachery but they want to direct their blows against the native bourgeoisie and lie down before the imperialists. Who are the Cuban ruling classes? What is their role in Cuban economy and society? Under the oppressive heel of American imperialism Cuban capitalism had been unable to develop its own finance capitalist class. Almost the entire banking of the island is done by three American and one Canadian bank and their branches. The railroads, sugar plantations, telephone, electric, gas and ice industries, mines, docks shipping, street cars, buses, building and other construction; every large and important industry is owned by American capital or leased by it. A small share is in the hands of British capital. The Cuban capitalists have minor shares. They are the vice-presidents of American firms. They wait on the pleasure and orders of the Chase National and the National City Bank. They beg favors from the House of Morgan and the Royal Bank of Canada. They are perhaps the most helpless and least important bourgeoisie in the world. To conduct a revolutionary struggle against them and not against the American interests is first of all a total impossibility, and secondly, its pronouncement is a plain statement of capitulation.

Surrendering the Struggle

When the C.P. says it considers it inadvisable to seize American enterprises it says that it will not touch EIGHTY PERCENT OF THE ECONOMIC ORGANIZATION OF THE COUNTRY. Let us consider the sugar industry. Almost ninety percent of it is in the hands of American capital. Hundreds of thousands of acres of plantations are owned outright by American capital. Hundreds of thousands more are leased by it through banking arrangements which give it virtual ownership On these vast expanses, the largest of their kind in the capitalist world, live whole cities and their working class populations. For work and bread, for light and gas and ice they are dependent on the equipment of the plantations. If the workers are not to seize these plantations when he general situation demands it and other workers are seizing the isolated plantations owned by Cuban capital it means that they can conduct no struggle at all.

(Continued in next issue)

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