Cuban Revolution

che fidel500The Cuban revolution of 1959 marks the first time ever that capitalism has been abolished in the Western Hemisphere. Cuba gained independence from Spain in 1898 only to fall under the domination of US imperialism. For decades the struggle for national independence and against imperialism was closely linked to the struggle against class oppression, with the Cuban bourgeoisie intimately linked to the US ruling class. Figures like Julio Antonio Mella, the founder of the Cuban Communist Party and Antonio Guiteras argued that national liberation could only be achieved through the struggle for socialism. 

The Stalinist degeneration of the Communist International led the Cuban party to adopt the two-stage theory and give support to Batista on the argument that he was on the side of "democracy against fascism" during WWII. The young revolutionaries who wanted to overthrow Batista's regime were therefore not attracted by the Communist Party. In 1953 they attempted a daring assault on the Moncada barracks which had the aim of sparking a national insurrection. They failed, but gained nationwide recognition. Fidel Castro and his comrades eventually went into exile in Mexico from where they planned a landing in Cuba in 1956 which led to a short guerrilla war. 

Having come to power on a program of national and democratic progressive reforms, they soon came into conflict with US imperialism and its lackeys in the local bourgeoisie. By consistently pushing for their national democratic program they ended up abolishing capitalism, though that had not been their original intention. All the gains of the Cuban revolution can be attributed to the expropriation of the capitalist class. Having failed in their attempts to spread the revolution to other countries (including Che Guevara's tragic death in Bolivia in 1967), the Cuban leadership became closely aligned with the Soviet Union, which also set its bureaucratic stamp in the island. 

The collapse of Stalinism in 1989 left the small country completely at the mercy of the world market. The danger is that market friendly measures taken in order to address the economic problems facing the Cuban revolution can end up in the restoration of capitalism. The country still faces a fierce assault by US imperialism, renewed and strengthened under the Trump administration. Ultimately, the fate of the Cuban revolution depends on the struggle for genuine workers' democracy and the spreading of socialist revolution to other countries in the region and beyond. 

On October 9th, 1967 Ernesto “Che” Guevara was killed by the Bolivian army, backed by the United States. Fifty years later, Guevara remains one of the most popular revolutionaries amongst workers and youth around the world. To commemorate the figure of Che, but also, and most importantly, to understand the relevance of his life and ideas to today's struggles, we are publishing an edited version of an article written for the Italian Marxists’ theoretical magazine ten years ago on the 40th anniversary of his death.

This is the text of an essay presented at the Conference on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Pensamiento Crítico (Critical Thought) magazine which took place in Havana on February 21, 2017. Pensamiento Críticowas a monthly magazine published in Cuba from 1967 until 1971. Edited by Fernando Martínez Heredia (1939-2017), the magazine was part of an open discussion about Marxism within the Cuban revolution, in which many rejected the stale Stalinist approach taken by the Soviet manuals on “marxism-leninism”

In this video from the LSE Marxist society, Jorge Martin - editor of the Marxist magazine, America Socialista - discusses the life and legacy of Fidel Castro and the perspectives for the Cuban Revolution today.

At 10.29 pm on Friday, November 25, the Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro died at the age of 90. His brother Raul Castro announced the news to the Cuban population and the world around midnight in a televised speech. His death was not unexpected, as he had been ill for a number of years and had already stepped down from his formal political responsibilities, but still it came as a shock to both friends and enemies.

On Wednesday December 17, the United States admitted that its attempt to bully Cuba into submission had failed. This should be seen as a victory for the Cuban Revolution and its resilience against the relentless onslaught of the most powerful imperialist power on earth only 90 miles away from its shores. However, US imperialism has not given up on its aims: the restoration of the rule of private property and the destruction of the gains of the revolution. It has just changed the means to achieve the same result.

The Workers' International League held its first National Marxist School over the weekend of June 13th and 14th. As part of the School, a public event was organized jointly with Hands Off Venezuela, to discuss the 50th Anniversary of the Cuban Revolution and the lessons for Latin America. Jorge Martin spoke on the Revolution and the lessons that revolutionaries can draw from it.

The long delayed VI Congress of the Cuban Communist Party took place on April 16-19 in Havana and discussed the Guidelines on Economic and Social Policy for the Party and the Revolution. The Congress was timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the attempted Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961, when Fidel Castro proclaimed the “socialist character of the revolution”.

On September 13, a statement by Cuba’s trade union (CTC) published in Granma announced a whole series of sweeping changes in the country’s economy. These measures are the result of the serious economic crisis affecting Cuba, which has been hit hard by the recession in world capitalism. This underlines Cuba’s dependence on the world market and the impossibility of “building socialism in one country”.

The Cuban revolution is once more being attacked by the imperialists. They raise a hue and cry about “democratic rights”, but what they are really concerned about is a country where private property of the means of production has been abolished, where the revolution has survived, in spite of many mistakes and difficulties, and which continues to be a point of reference for the downtrodden masses of Latin America. In this, the International Marxist Tendency stands firmly in support of the Cuban revolution against the attacks of imperialism.

The Cuban Revolution is one of the great events of human history. The small island was completely dominated by US imperialism until the revolution of 1959 shattered the Batista dictatorship and introduced a nationalised planned economy in the years following the revolution. Since then impressive achievements in health care and education have been met with loud shouts of "dictatorship" from the bourgeois press. What was the background to the revolution and why did it develop in the way that it did? Where is Cuba going today?

Fred Weston spoke at a recent day school of Socialist Appeal on how the Cuban revolution, starting out as a bourgeois democratic revolution, was forced to move against capitalism in order to achieve its aims, a brilliant confirmation of Trotsky’s theory of the Permanent Revolution. Now there are growing pressures inside Cuba to adopt the so-called “Chinese model”, i.e. changes that would eventually lead to the re-establishment of capitalism in Cuba. There are also those who resist this idea and are seeking ways of building socialism on the island.

Following from Part One, Jorge Martin looks at how Cuba resisted the pressures to follow the capitalist road as happened in the Soviet Union and China, undergoing a serious crisis in the process. Now, however, there are growing pressures also inside Cuba to adopt the so-called “Chinese model”, i.e. changes that would eventually lead to the re-establishment of capitalism in Cuba. There are also those who resist this idea and are seeking ways of building socialism on the island.

In this first part of his article Jorge Martin looks at how the Cuban revolution, starting out as a bourgeois democratic revolution, was forced to move against capitalism in order to achieve its aims, a brilliant confirmation of Trotsky’s theory of the Permanent Revolution. He also looks at the contradictory tendencies within Cuba in the early years after the revolution.

Jordi Rosich, who recently took part in the Havana Book Fair, looks at the different pressures that Cuba is facing. He highlights the danger of capitalist restoration, particularly the so-called Chinese model,and what this would mean for the Cuban revolution. But the future of Cuba has not yet been decided. It also depends on the spread of the revolution internationally.

On Tuesday, February 19, Fidel Castro announced he was no longer going to stand for the position as President of Cuba. All the talk in the bourgeois is of the need to remove the regime, but there is no mention of the real social gains of the Cuban Revolution. We do not stand with these vultures. We defend the Cuban Revolution by working for an all-Latin American and international revolution.