Cuba’s Revolution Sold Out? I. The Cuban Revolution 1959-61

 

 

 

Before we analyse the present process of capitalist restoration in Cuba we shall first deal with the emergence of modern Cuba. As it is widely known, Cuba was ruled by the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista before the revolution in 1959 and was highly dependent on and exploited by US imperialism. Under Batista’s regime, the secret service murdered about 20.000 people. Misery was wide-spread. Even in 1957, the best year economically during the middle 1950s, 17% of the labour force was unemployed, while another 13% was under-employed. In the country’s most important economic sector – the sugar industry, which employed about 475,000 workers (i.e., a quarter of the country’s labor force) – 60% of the workers were employed only for six months or less and only 30% were employed for more than ten months. Even the middle class faced stagnation in its income. In 1958, Cuban per capita income was at about the same level as it had been in 1947. [1]

 

 

 

Misery and Imperialist Super-Exploitation before the Cuban Revolution in 1959

 

 

 

The country was chronically weak in development and the bourgeoisie was particularly parasitic – even for regional standards. This reflected the fact that Cuba was a colony much longer, first of Spain and then the United States, than most Latin American countries which achieved independence from the Spanish and Portuguese conquistadores much earlier in the 19th century. This extraordinary backwardness of the Cuban capitalist class and its total subordination to US imperialism was reflected in the extraordinary low level of capital accumulation. Between 1946 and 1952 capital accumulation – calculated as Gross Fixed Investment as a percentage of Gross Income – was only 9.3% in Cuba. (By comparison: In the same period, the share in Argentina was 18.7%, in Brazil 15.7% and in Mexico 13.4 %.) Not surprisingly, Cuba’s industry was poorly developed – most importantly the sugar production. At the same time, Cuba was a relative urbanized country: in 1953, about 57% of the population lived in cities.

 

US capital completely dominated Cuba’s economy – in particular sugar, mining, utilities, banking and manufacturing. US monopolies controlled 90% of the mining, telephone and electricity services in Cuba, 50% of railroads as well as land and 40% of sugar production. Cuban branches of US banks held 25% of all bank deposits. US Foreign Direct Investment in Cuba reached a peak of $1 billion in 1958 ($386 million in services, $270 million in petroleum and mining, $265 million in agriculture and $80 million in manufacturing). The United States were also the destination of about two-thirds of Cuban exports and supplied about three-quarters of its imports. The importance of these figures is underlined by the fact that foreign trade accounted for about two-thirds of Cuba's estimated national income at that time.

 

Cuba was an important destination for the US monopolies’ capital export in the 1950s. In 1929, 27.3% of all US investments in Latin America went to Cuba. [2] In 1959 the value of US investments in Cuba exceeded that in every other Latin American country except Venezuela.

 

 

 

Revolutionary Upheavals and Treacherous Stalinists

 

 

 

The brief description given above shows that Cuba before 1959 was a capitalist semi-colony dependent of US imperialism, ruled by a reactionary dictatorship, in which the working class as well as the peasantry and the middle class faced depressing living conditions. In other words, Cuba was rife for revolutionary upheavals.

 

And indeed the country was shattered by many militant struggles both in the cities as well as in the countryside. However – as is so often the case – the working class and the peasantry did not have an authentic revolutionary party at its leadership but instead was led by the Stalinist Communist Party (PCC) as well as petty-bourgeois nationalists.

 

In March 1930, a general strike was organized by the outlawed Confederación Nacional Obrera de Cuba (CNOC) – the country’s trade union federation which was led by the PCC. 200,000 workers took part and paralyzed the island. The general strike ended only after fierce repression, arrests, torture and assassinations became commonplace. In September of the same year, an anti-government protest of students resulted in violence and the closing of the university. Militant strikes also occurred in 1929 and 1930 in key sectors of the economy like cigar-manufacturing, metallurgy, construction and textiles.

 

In August 1933, an even more militant general strike took place which inaugurated a revolutionary situation. The sugar workers set up soviets and armed militias. However, the revolution was betrayed by the rotten leadership of the Stalinist PCC. It agreed to a deal with the regime of Machado and called workers to stop the strike and go back to work in return for a few promises from president Machado, like the official recognition of CNOC and the release of all imprisoned. The Havana Federation of Labor and most workers refused to comply, Machado was finally forced to flee, but the revolutionary momentum was lost. In the next years, more strikes and general strikes followed. [3]

 

The continuing class polarization and political instability were the background for the guerilla movement which was started by Castro and his Movimiento 26 de Julio (M-26-7) in the early 1950s.

 

The Stalinist PCC (now renamed into PSP, Popular Socialist Party) however followed – as it was the general line of the Stalinized Comintern from the 1930s onwards – the reformist policy of the popular front, i.e., forming political alliances with petty-bourgeois and bourgeois forces and subordinating working class interests to those of to their allies. In this context, between 1937-39 the PCC formed an alliance with the bourgeois pro-US regime of Batista which came to power via a military coup in September 1933 and ruled until 1944. It praised the latter as a “great democrat” and a “leading exponent of our national policy, a personification of the holy ideals of Cuba”. [4] The PSP supported this “great democrat” at the elections in 1940 and – after his victory – two of their leaders became ministers in Batista’s government. While this alliance was not renewed during Batistas second period of rule (1952-1959), the PSP nevertheless refrained from playing an active role in the revolutionary struggle against the dictatorship.

 

Juan Marinello, one of the two Stalinist former ministers of Batista cabinet and later a member of Castro's Politburo, stated in 1957 his reformist opposition to the armed struggle because "there's no need for a popular insurrection". When the M-26-7 leadership called for a general strike to support guerilla actions, the PSP leadership failed to support it. Unsurprisingly, Castro denounced them in that they had "sabotaged the strike to promote the downfall of the (M-26-7) Movement." Later, Castro was to say in an interview to the Look magazine that "the Cuban Communists...have never opposed Batista, for whom they have seemed to feel a closer friendship." [5]

 

Only in 1958, when it became clear that Batista was losing the civil war and that the M-26-7 was likely to take power soon, did the Stalinists form an alliance with Castro.

 

Even after the revolutionary overthrow of the Batista regime, did the PSP – trapped in its reformist two-stage-theory – oppose the expropriation of the bourgeoisie. As late as August 1960, just two months before Castro's sweeping nationalization of the economy, the Stalinist leader Bias Roca announced that the Cuban Revolution was not socialist, but 'bourgeois-democratic'. [6]

 

 

 

The Petty-Bourgeois Castroite Movimiento 26 de Julio

 

 

 

The Movimiento 26 de Julio was a petty-bourgeois revolutionary-nationalist force. It was a popular-frontist movement which included both open bourgeois figures like Hubert Matos as well as left-wing forces around Che Guevara and Raúl Castro. Fidel Castro played the role of a bonaparte (the “lider maximo”) balancing between, and obscuring, these divisions.

 

The movement as a whole with Fidel Castro at the top followed a bourgeois program of reforms. This already became clear in Fidel Castro’s famous speech in 1953 in which he outlined the main demands of his movement: public investment for industrialization, land reform, reduction of housing rents and an education reform:

 

A revolutionary government backed by the people and with the respect of the nation, after cleansing the different institutions of all venal and corrupt officials, would proceed immediately to the country's industrialization. (…) After settling the one hundred thousand small farmers as owners on the land which they previously rented, a revolutionary government would immediately proceed to settle the land problem. First, as set forth in the Constitution, it would establish the maximum amount of land to be held by each type of agricultural enterprise and would acquire the excess acreage by expropriation, recovery of swampland, planting of large nurseries, and reserving of zones for reforestation. Secondly, it would distribute the remaining land among peasant families with priority given to the larger ones, and would promote agricultural cooperatives for communal use of expensive equipment, freezing plants and unified professional technical management of farming and cattle raising. Finally, it would provide resources, equipment, protection and useful guidance to the peasants. (…) A revolutionary government would solve the housing problem by cutting all rents in half, by providing tax exemptions on homes inhabited by the owners; by tripling taxes on rented homes; by tearing down hovels and replacing them with modern apartment buildings; and by financing housing all over the island on a scale heretofore unheard of, with the criterion that, just as each rural family should possess its own tract of land, each city family should own its own house or apartment. (…) With these three projects and reforms, the problem of unemployment would automatically disappear and the task of improving public health and fighting against disease would become much less difficult. Finally, a revolutionary government would undertake the integral reform of the educational system.[7]

 

In no way did the M-26-7 desire an overthrow of capitalism. In the manifesto from November 1956, the M-26-7 even stated:

 

With regard to the specific relations between Cuba and the United States, the 26th of July Movement formulates a doctrine of constructive friendship.[8]

 

Castro publicly opposed any plans for nationalization and his wish not to “enfeeble private enterprises”:

 

Let me say for the record that we have no plans for the expropriation or nationalization of foreign investments here. True, the extension of government ownership to certain public utilities – some of them, such as the power companies, U.S. owned – was a point of our earliest programs; but we have currently suspended all planning on this matter. I personally have come to feel that nationalization is a cumbersome instrument. It does not seem to make the state any stronger, yet it enfeebles private enterprises.[9]

 

However what differentiated them from the Stalinists was that they fought for their bourgeois reform program with revolutionary means – i.e., an armed guerilla struggle. While this heroically struggle certainly differentiated the Castros, Guevaras, et al. positively from the pathetic Stalinist bureaucrats and made them models for liberation movements for many years throughout the entire world, it was a petty-bourgeois, not a proletarian, strategy. The M-26-7’s guerilla tactics, focused on the Sierra Maestra and other rural areas, as the main form of struggle to which strikes in the cities only played a supportive role, guaranteed that the working class could not play an active and leading role in the country’s civil war. Quite the opposite, it guaranteed that the guerilla leadership around Castro controlled the arms and could take power without any control by the working class.

 

This did not mean that the M-26-7 movement simply ignored the working class. They indeed organized an underground Sección Obrera which had about 15,000 members. Later the M-26-7 helped to launch the Frente Obrero Nacional Unido (FONU) together with other unions. This new organization adopted a 12-point programme that called for a 20% wage increase, for opposition to mechanization along with other measures against unemployment, for an end to racial discrimination, for social protection for women, children and the unemployed, for the reinstatement of victimized workers, for trade union democracy and the end to the compulsory check-off as well as for the reinstatement of the 1940 constitution. [10]

 

The workers section of the M-26-7 played an important role in organizing several political general strikes in which sugar workers were actively involved. Thus, for example, during the strike which started on 30th November 1956, the workers in the processing plant of the ‘Ermita’ sugar estate, where the M-26-7 had two active cells, successfully attacked the police barracks on the plantation. [11]

 

While the M-26-7 supporters called this combination of mass action with armed resistance and sabotage ‘sindicalismo beligerente, the fact remains that such working class action always only played a supportive role for the M-26-7’s main form of struggle – the rural guerilla war. In contrast to the Bolsheviks and the socialist revolution they led in 1917, the workers organizations and struggle never became the heart of the M-26-7’s struggle and the movement itself.

 

The petty-bourgeois character of the M-26-7 is also reflected in its social composition. Most of its leaders were university students and intellectuals and about 3/4 to 4/5 of the guerillas were peasants. [12] (We remind our readers that about 57% of the population lived in cities.)

 

An interesting and positive aspect of the M-26-7 movement was the fact that they had a number of women in its ranks. While they certainly didn’t play an equal role in the movement, it was exceptional in Latin America in the 1950s that the Cuban guerilla had a number of female fighters – there was even a women-only platoon, the “Mariana Grajales Women’s Platoon” formed in September 1958 by Fidel Castro. There were also many women active in urban underground work. Some even became leader like Celia Sánchez (the first woman to ever participate in combat, who became a top strategist during the struggle) and Vilma Espín (who became the President of the Federation of Cuban Women and a member of the Central Committee of the PCC). [13]

 

Finally, the bourgeois reform orientation of Castroism also became apparent in its concrete measures after taking power in January 1959. The M-26-7 leadership appointed the liberal judge Manuel Urrutia as president. Jose Miró Cardona, president of the Havana Bar Association, became prime minister. Foreign minister Roberto Agramonte was the dean of the philosophical faculty of the university in Havana, former ambassador and a leader of the bourgeois opposition party Partido del Pueblo Cubano (Ortodoxos). Luis Orlando Rodríguez – a newspaper owner – became interior minister, the lawyer Humberto Sorí agriculture minister and Manuel Ray, who was the architect of the Hilton hotels in Havana, was appointed as minster for public works. [14]

 

When we look more closely to the concrete measures undertaken by the new government after the overthrow of Batista in January 1959, it becomes obvious that no social revolution was planned by the new authorities, but rather a number of limited bourgeois-democratic reforms. They were well inside the framework of capitalism. As promised by Castro, the urban rents were lowered by 30-50% and urban and rural workers got wage increases. Government expenditure on social services (health, education and housing) was raised from $390 million to $1,321 million. “Conservative estimates have allowed that the sum effect of the various measures adopted between 1959 and 1961 was to transfer at least 15 percent of the Cuban national income from property-owning groups to the working masses.” [15]

 

As stated above, the center piece of the program of the Castroite rebels was the agrarian reform. The Agrarian Reform Law of 17th May 1959 decreed that the maximum size of private farm was 30 caballerías (about 402 hectares), except for those where productivity was 50% above the national average. The latter could be as large as 100 caballerías. Foreigners were prohibited from owning land as well as sugar mills, and tenancy, sharecropping, and similar agreements were prohibited. Where the land was already divided and had formerly been worked by tenant peasants or sharecroppers, it was distributed to them in parcels of 5 caballerías (67 hectares) each. [16] Where estates had been organized as a farming unit, the unit was preserved and cooperatives or state farms (granjas) were set up. [17]

 

While this agrarian reform of the new Castro government was without doubt progressive, it remained clearly within the limits of capitalism and left a substantial rural bourgeoisie in power. This was also true after two other more radical laws, which expropriated the US capitalists as well as the Cuban sugar mill owners. These limitations were even admitted by passionate supporters of new Cuban regime like the pro-Castro Stalinists of Monthly Review: “… even after all the reforms of 1959-1960, Cuban agriculture was still characterized by a markedly unequal division of land.[18]

 

Nevertheless, even after these three reforms, the private sector accounted for 56% of all agricultural land. From Table 1 we can see that the rural bourgeoisie – about 11,000 agrarian capitalists (6.8% of all private farms and – including their families – less than 1% of the total population) – owned 47.2% of all private land, which was nearly a quarter of the whole agricultural land in Cuba.

 

 

 

Table 1  Cuba: The Private Sector in Agriculture 1961 [19]

 

Size of Farms                                                        Number of Farms                                 Thousands of Hectares

 

Up to 67 Hectares                                              154,703 (93.2%)                                                  2,348.1 (52.8%)

 

67 to 134 Hectares                                             6,062 (3.7%)                                                         607.5 (13.6%)

 

134 to 268 Hectares                                          3,105 (1.9%)                                                         610.3 (13.7%)

 

268 to 402 Hectares                                          1,457 (0.88%)                                                      507.6 (11.4%)

 

Over 402 Hectares                                             592 (0.35%)                                                          377.5 (8.5%)

 

Total                                                                      165,919 (100%)                                                   4,451.0 (100%)

 

 

 

It was only via a second agrarian reform, in 1963, that all private land beyond five caballerías was expropriated. Owners were compensated with up to 250 pesos a month for ten years. Against its initial intentions, the Castroite government was forced to go further than they wanted. While they initially wanted a democratic and more socially just capitalism, they were compelled to completely liquidate the bourgeoisie since the later was conspiring – together with US imperialism – for counterrevolution.

 

Even the pro-Castro Stalinists of Monthly Review were forced to admit that the Cuban government expropriated the rural bourgeoisie only when it was forced because of the civil war and imperialist aggression:

 

This was a rural bourgeoisie in the full sense of the term and, as was to be expected, it was in its great majority hostile to the Revolution. This hostility was manifested in many ways (…) but above all by providing a social base for the counterrevolutionary guerilla bands recruiting largely among exiles and armed by the CIA. (…) and the possibility of a new and bigger Bay of Pigs invasion was always present. Under these circumstances, the revolutionary government (…) decided to liquidate the counterrevolutionary rural bourgeoisie.[20]

 

 

 

Background of Cuba’s Liquidation of Capitalism

 

 

 

However, due to a combination of specific circumstances, the Castro regime was forced to go much further than it intended. Contrary to the original intentions of the Castroite leadership and the Stalinist PSP, Cuba underwent a social transformation from a capitalist semi-colony into a degenerated workers state in 1960.

 

So why did it take place? The reason was the combination of extraordinary circumstances:

 

i) The Castro leadership was under extreme pressure from the popular masses who expected a radical transformation of the country and their living conditions after the fall of Batista, and who therefore launched a wave of strikes and mass mobilizations when their expectations were not met.

 

ii) US imperialism was not prepared to accept even bourgeois-democratic reforms (in particular the agrarian reform) and the refining of Soviet oil. It presented the Castroite leadership with the choice either to capitulate or to break with US imperialism.

 

iii) Finally the Castro leadership was not only under massive pressure both from below (the masses) as well as from above (US imperialism) – it was also offered a way out of this cul-de-sac: the Soviet bureaucracy was willing – against the backdrop of the Cold War with US imperialism – to politically and economically support Cuba as an outpost.

 

Under these specific circumstances, the Castroite regime could now transform itself from a petty-bourgeoisie bureaucracy at the top of a disintegrating capitalist semi-colony into a petty-bourgeoisie bureaucracy at the top of a degenerated workers state. In this way, it could solve the following problems:

 

a) It could make substantial social concessions to the masses, pacify them and at the same time impose a political dictatorship over them.

 

b) It could – with the help of the USSR –withstand the massive pressure of its giant neighbour, the greatest imperialist power on earth.

 

c) Consequently, it could – as a bureaucratic caste – retain a leading position in the Cuban society with all the material privileges associated with it.

 

 

 

i) The Cuban Working Class as an Active Force in the Revolution

 

 

 

Let us now explain this in more detail. It is a widespread myth – propagated by Castroists, various Western centrists, as well as liberals – that the Cuban Revolution was made by a few hundred armed guerrillas. The working class – so it is said – was passive throughout the revolutionary events.

 

Centrist tendencies like the International Socialist Tendency of the late Tony Cliff (SWP in Britain) even used this myth to justify their fundamental revisions of Trotsky’s theory of Permanent Revolution: A case in which neither the working class nor the peasantry played a serious role, but where middle-class intellectuals filled the whole arena of struggle, is Fidel Castro’s rise to power.[21]

 

Based on this distortion of history the Cliff/IST tradition claims that the tasks of the permanent revolution don’t need to be fulfilled by the working class but can be implemented by the petty-bourgeois intelligentsia (which they call the theory of the “deflected permanent revolution “):

 

The impotence of the contending social classes, workers and capitalists, peasants and landlords, the inherent historical weakness of the middle class, and the omnipotence of the new Castro elite, who were not bound by any set of coherent, organised interests, explains the ease with which Castro’s moderate programme of the years 1953-58, based on private enterprise, was cast aside and replaced by a radical programme of state ownership and planning. It was not before 16 April 1961 that Castro announced that the revolution had been socialist.[22]

 

However, the truth is that the working class was not at all passive but played a highly active role in the revolutionary process in the years before the Revolution as well as during the revolutionary years 1959-61.

 

As we have already mentioned, the Cuban working class played a central role in launching several mass and general strikes and, above all, the revolutionary uprising in August 1933 which was betrayed by the Stalinists. During the 1940s, Cuba had the highest percentage of trade unionised workers in Latin America. When Batista took power in 1952 by a coup d’état, the British embassy reported in an internal memorandum on its background: “I am more and more convinced that the basic reason for the Armed Forces having staged the revolution was their utter disgust of the growing and unrestrained power of Labour.” [23]

 

Under the Batista dictatorship, workers were faced with brutal repression as well as the trade union leadership of Eusebio Mujal, who collaborated openly with Batista. However despite these difficult conditions a number of important struggles took place. In September 1955, there were a series of bank strikes led by opponents of Batista. An even more important struggle took place in December 1955 when more than 200,000 sugar workers went on strike in protest against a government move that would have reduced their wages. Strike leaders included members of the PSP and the M-26-7, and even some pro-Mujal union officials who felt the need to support the strike to maintain some support in the rank and file. The strike received broad solidarity, including from students. The M-26-7 leader Armando Hart reported: “A number of towns were virtually taken over by the strikers and supporters. Virtually all economic activity in these towns was paralysed, leading them to be termed ‘dead cities’[24]

 

Other major working class struggles before the revolution were the Santiago strike of August 1957 and the attempted general strike of April 1958. The latter one failed because the petty-bourgeois M-26-7 leadership organized it in a secret, bureaucratic way so that workers did not know about it in advance as well as the Stalinist PSP refusal to support it.

 

The high point, obviously, was the final general strike in early January 1959 which occurred in parallel with the downfall of Batista and the victory of the rebel movement. It lasted for one week and demonstrated that the Revolution was not a coup d’état but a popular supported overthrow of the Batista dictatorship.

 

However, the general strike in early January did not signal the end working class activities, but rather inaugurated a whole new period of highly intensive class struggle. In fact, after the revolutionary overthrow of the Batista dictatorship, a wave of spontaneous workers strikes, occupations as well as land seizures by the peasants broke out. As a result, during 1959 there were four more general strikes on 21 January, 13 March, 23 July and 25 October. They were called by the CTC which was now under the control of the M-26-7 bureaucrats but which was also under massive pressure from the rank and file workers.

 

Steve Cushion, a socialist historian and author of a number of studies about the Cuban workers movement, writes about the situation after the general strike in early January 1959: “The strike also served as a launch pad for a wave of strikes and demonstrations organised by the purged trade unions whose new local leaders responded to the upsurge of militancy by workers wanting to reclaim the losses they felt they had suffered under the dictatorship because of the collaborationist policies adopted by the CTC under Mujal. Strikes and the threat of strike action became common and workers made considerable gains in wages and conditions during the first half of 1959, frequently with the support of the new Ministry of Labour. As the immediate demands were settled and the first wave of enthusiasm receded, the Ministry and the national leadership of the CTC increasingly imposed a restraining hand, which was at first opposed by a PSP that had been excluded from the CTC leadership. [25]

 

The active role and pressure of the Cuban workers during the militant years 1959-60 is even admitted by anti-communist opponents of the revolution like Efren Cordova, a well-known historian of the Cuban labor movement. He writes:

 

Another device developed during this period [early 1960] was the direct occupation of the business concerned by the workers, following a real or fabricated dispute, as a pretext for government intervention … The pattern for the takeover was for the workers to discuss with management a series of demands threatening a strike unless all of them were met. Usually included among the demands … was an outright call for the management’s resignation. When the demands were turned down, the group of workers involved proceeded to occupy the enterprise concerned. Street demonstrations usually followed the occupation.[26]

 

The British embassy sent a frightened report to London: “As of labour, I hear on all sides that it is getting completely out of hand.” [27]

 

However, as in so many revolutions of the past century, the militancy of the working class was not equaled by an appropriate, politically mature and class-conscious leadership. The Cuban Trotskyists, while rooted in the working class, were too small in numbers to challenge the Castroite and Stalinist misleaderships.[28] As a result, no revolutionary party of the working class existed. The class struggle therefore, while putting massive pressure on the existing petty-bourgeois leaderships, would in the end be diverted to safe channels by those leaderships, stopping the working class from taking power.

 

During the weeks following the victorious uprising, the Castroite M-26-7 leadership managed to get its bureaucrats elected to top posts of the CTC. This was not surprising since they had a huge prestige after the revolution. Given the still existing friction between the Castroites and the Stalinists, the former made sure that the PSP bureaucrats were excluded from the CTC leadership. (They were re-integrated later in that year.)

 

The anti-working class nature of the M-26-7 was once more demonstrated by its reaction to the upswing of class struggle. Worried by the spontaneous spread of mass strikes, the Castroite M-26-7 used its newly won hegemony in the trade union movement to get the CTC leadership to announce a six month no-strike pledge.

 

The Cuban socialist historian Samuel Farber confirms this reactionary position of the Castroite leadership as well as the conservative position of the Stalinists:

 

Castro’s government, very much afraid of losing control of the working class, let alone afraid of economic instability, tried to discourage strikes. The government convinced the new revolutionary union movement led by David Salvador, a former Communist who had become a 26th of July Movement leader in the clandestine struggle against Batista, to go along with its efforts in this direction. For their part, the Communists still had an arms-length relationship with the government and tried to push it in a more radical direction. While the PSP voluntarily avoided calling for or encouraging strikes even in the earliest days of the revolution, the party took the position that “strikes, when they are necessary and just, help rather than harm the Revolution.” [29]

 

Similarly, the victorious uprising in January opened a number of land seizures by poor peasants. Again the M-26-7 leadership reacted with hostility. In a TV interview on 19.2.1959, Castro announced:

 

We are opposed to anarchic land distribution. We have drafted a law which stipulates that (persons involved in) any land distribution which is made without waiting for the new agrarian law will lose their right to benefits from the new agrarian reform. Those who have appropriated lands from January 1 to the present date have no right to those lands. Any provocation to distribution of lands disregarding the revolutionaries and the agrarian law is criminal.[30]

 

Three days later, the Stalinist PSP, which had initially supported the land seizure in order to regain some support, published a statement agreeing with Castro “that it was necessary to put a stop to the anarchic seizures of land.[31]

 

Nevertheless, during this revolutionary period, many poor peasants took over land without formal approval by the state bureaucracy. This becomes obvious if we examine the following figures. During 1959 and 1960, the number of peasants who actually received property titles was small: at 31,500. However, three to four times as many peasants gained access to land without formal property rights. [32]

 

Another crucial development in the revolutionary process in Cuba in 1959-61 was the formation of popular armed militias. This was the result of the determination of the masses to defend the gains of the revolution against its combined foreign and domestic enemies, despite the numerical weakness of the rebel army, which still compromised only a few thousand fighters. Consequently, as early as the summer of 1959, class-conscious sectors of the working class, poor peasants as well as militant women organizations, demanded the arming of the people. Referring to various resolutions from mass assemblies, the historian Albert Manke reports:

 

In many sectors the popular call for arms to defend the revolution and the Revolutionary Government came up and—mostly in leftist labor sectors, but too in the emerging associations of humble peasants and specific organizations like the Unidad Femenina Revolucionaria—partly converted into the foundation of popular militias.[33]

 

While the Castroite government had an interest in arming the people, at the same time it very much wanted to control this drive towards popular armament. Their interest in supporting distribution of arms to the people was the defense of the revolution, and hence their own power. But they were determined to avoid an independent armed mass organization which could have questioned and endangered the Castroite/Stalinist bureaucracy.

 

The lack of a strong revolutionary party, which would have impelled such an independent armed mass organization, led to the successful channeling of the popular militias. Manke summarizes: “In the beginning of January 1960 that relatively spontaneous movement of support for the defense of the revolution and of the Castro government started to be channeled into an armed institution called National Revolutionary Militias (MNR) directed by the Ministry of the Revolutionary Armed Forces (MINFAR).[34] Later, in 1964, the militias were dissolved and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias (FAR, Revolutionary Armed Forces, the official army) remained as the only military force.

 

In short, the popular front government and the petty-bourgeois Castro leadership were alarmed by the massive increase of class struggle and tried to stop it in order not to endanger their bureaucratic control of the political transformation. They were certainly helped in this by the blunt aggression of US imperialism which helped the Castroites to keep the loyalty of the workers. The Cuban socialist historian Farber summarizes this dynamic in the following way:

 

During the earliest stages of the revolution, most Cubans were in a true state of euphoria while all sorts of long suppressed popular demands, complaints, and requests emerged into the public limelight, often with the support of strikes. Castro and the revolutionary government quickly became concerned about the frequency of such strikes and virtually eliminated them while preventing the development of any sense of frustration, let alone betrayal, among Cuban workers.[35]

 

In another book, Farber correctly described the political dynamic of the revolutionary process in 1959-61:

 

"There is nothing less involved here than the development of autonomous revolutionary consciousness among the masses of the Cuban people as opposed to the dictates of an elite political party which has a complete monopoly of the press and other means of communications."[36]

 

 

 

ii) Aggression of US imperialism

 

 

 

It is beyond the scope of this document to give a detailed history of US policy towards Cuba after the overthrow of Batista. We will only summarize the most important developments which influenced the dynamics of the revolution. In the first few months, the US government hoped for a compromise. When a Cuban delegation headed by Fidel Castro visited the USA in April 1959, they received a relatively warm reception. When a reporter asked Castro about his ties to Communists, the Cuban leader replied, “Democracy is my ideal. (…) I am not a Communist. (…) There is no doubt for me between democracy and Communism.”[37] Castro appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and again denied any connection with Communism, for which he received praise from such legislators as Alabama Senator John Sparkman and Congressman James G. Fulton of Pennsylvania. [38]

 

However already during this early period, many people in the US ruling class had a far more hostile attitude. The former US ambassador in Cuba, Spruille Braden, shared the radical rightist views of the then CIA director, Allen Welsh Dulles, who, when referring to the containment of communist influence in the western hemisphere, once famously stated: “Do nothing to offend the dictators; they are the only people we can depend on.”[39]

 

When the Cuban government launched its agrarian reform legislation in May 1959, the situation changed. This is because agrarian reform threatened US interests. Let us recall that Cuba was – beside Venezuela – the most important destination for US capital export in Latin America. When the Castro government later nationalized all property owned by North American citizens in Cuba, it was calculated that these assets were worth over 1,000 million dollars! [40]

 

From this point in time, the US government openly worked to blackmail Cuba and to overthrow its government. In June 1960, the Cuban government requested the Western petroleum refineries – Texaco, Esso and Shell – to process crude oil it had purchased from the Soviet Union. When the companies refused, they were expropriated. At the same time, the US Congress authorized the President to cut off the Cuban sugar quota (seven hundred thousand tons sugar). In response, on 6 July 1960, the Cuban government expropriated all US-owned agricultural property in Cuba, as well as US investments in some other branches of the economy. On 15 July, the newly established Bank for Foreign Trade became Cuba's sole foreign-trade agency. On 7 August, all large US-owned industrial and agrarian enterprises were expropriated. And on 17 September, all US banks were confiscated. Another law, enacted on 13 October 1960, nationalized all large Cuban-owned sugar mills together with the cane fields belonging to the same owners. On 19 October, the US government prohibited exports to Cuba, except for non-subsidized foodstuffs and medicines. On 24 October, Cuba expropriated all US-owned wholesale and retail trade enterprises as well as any remaining smaller US-owned industrial and agrarian enterprises. The United States withdrew Ambassador Philip Bonsai on 29 October. US-Cuban diplomatic relations were finally and formally broken in the waning days of the Eisenhower administration in January 1961.[41]

 

As early as January 1960, the CIA set up a special task force composed mainly of veterans of the military intervention against the Arbenz government in Guatemala. This task force prepared a wide-ranging attack on the Castro regime. In March, the US government put in place a systematic plan of covert action against the Castro regime. Military preparations were started which – as is well known – culminated in the US and Cuban exile invasion force that landed at the Bay of Pigs in April 1961, which was successfully routed by the Cuban masses and militias in three days.[42] During the so-called missile crisis between the US and the USSR in October 1962, the US Joint Chiefs of Staff recommended to President Kennedy a massive military attack on Cuba.[43] In addition, the CIA carried out several assassination attempts on Castro. Even a study, authored by the US Army War College itself, had to admit later: “To say the least, this was a most aggressive position.”[44]

 

Why did US imperialism react so aggressively despite the relatively limited bourgeois-democratic reform program which the Castro government initially pursued? The reason is simply that even such a democratic reform program was too much for US imperialism. Cuba was, de facto, a US colony until 1959. It was an Eldorado for US monopoly capital, the Mafia, and US tourists. It was a kind of extended US territory in opposite the coast of Florida. A certain reduction of this total US control, the loss of some of their sugar monopolies, the “provocation” that Cuba was opening trade with other countries – in particular the USSR – all this was too much for US imperialism.

 

We also have to remember that this a high point of the Cold War between the imperialist camp – led by the US – and the Stalinist camp of the degenerated workers states, led by the USSR. While the US imperialists had built up their military contingents and bases close to the borders of the USSR and its allies, they were not prepared to accept any Soviet influence close to their own borders.

 

In addition, US imperialism was then at the height of its power. Latin America was its backyard. The US ruling class was accustomed to easily restraining any Latin American country from pursuing an independent course. Usually, it was sufficient to politically and/or economically blackmail the country in question. However, if necessary a coup d’état could easily be organized, as the CIA had done against the liberal government of President Jacobo Árbenz Guzmán in Guatemala in June 1954.

 

What was different this time was that US imperialism tried to blackmail a country whose working people had engaged in mass mobilizations, strikes, and land occupations for years and, in particular, after January 1959. In addition, the people were partly armed since Batista’s military was disintegrating and the government had to arm people in order to defend its power against the counterrevolution. To sum up, US imperialism openly tried to blackmail a people which was militant, organized and who just had experienced a successful revolution. Hence the pressure on the Castro government by its own people, not to give in to US imperialist pressure, was massive. Under these circumstances, the Castroite leadership had the alternative either to capitulate or to break with US imperialism.

 

 

 

iii) Support and Alignment with the Stalinist Soviet Bureaucracy

 

 

 

This leads us to the third central reason for Cuba’s transformation from a semi-colonial capitalist country into a Degenerated Workers State. We have seen that the Castroite government was under massive pressure both from below – from the mobilized and partly armed working class and peasantry – as well as from above, by aggressive US imperialism which threatened to starve the country.

 

Most likely, these two factors alone would not have been sufficient to transform Cuba. But the Stalinist bureaucracy in the USSR was prepared to give Cuba political, economical and military assistance against US imperialism, and it was this that opened the door to Cuba’s becoming a Degenerated Workers State.

 

When the US cut the quota for Cuban sugar, the Soviet Union was prepared to buy it. After the United States’ 1960 decision to cut Cuba’s sugar quota and impose a full trade embargo in 1962, the Soviet Union and, to a lesser extent, China stepped in. In February 1960, Soviet deputy premier Anastas Mikoyan visited Cuba and negotiated a trade accord, whereby the USSR agreed to purchase one million tons of Cuban sugar per year and to provide the island nation with loans and crude oil shipments at reduced prices. In May, both countries established diplomatic relations. Soon, the Soviet Union and other socialist nations fully replaced the United States as Cuba’s main trading partners. Whereas in 1959 the United States absorbed 74% of Cuba’s exports and delivered 65% of its imports, only two years later the Stalinist states received 73% of the island’s exports and shipped 70% of its imports. [45]

 

Similarly the Soviet military sent weapons and helped to organize the Cuban army.

 

The Soviet bureaucracy had an interest to extend its influence to better defend itself against the world-dominating imperialist camp – led by the US - in order to control the revolutionary process in Cuba so that it would not spread to the all of Latin America.

 

Of course, it was completely legitimate for the new Cuban government to seek support from the Soviet Union against US imperialism, and revolutionaries would have called the USSR and other states to rally to the defense of Cuba against Washington’s gunboat policy. However, we must also bear in mind that the growing influence of the Moscow bureaucracy strengthened the Castroite/Stalinist ruling elite to reorganize its state apparatus independent of the working class and poor peasantry. It is revealing that the very first steps in collaboration between the Castroite government and the Moscow bureaucracy already took place in April 1959, when the Cubans requested support to reorganize the army and the intelligence service.[46] Recall, that it was at this time that the Castroite leadership sought to calm down and control the worker and peasant struggles, while it simultaneously strove to rebuild a bourgeois-type state apparatus. As we shall see, it succeeded in doing this with the willing help of the Moscow bureaucracy as well as the Cuban Stalinist PSP apparatus.

 

 

 

Cuba’s Bureaucratic Social Revolution towards a Stalinist Degenerated Workers State

 

 

 

It was this combination of factors that allowed the Castroite leadership – which in this process merged with the Stalinist party apparatus – to achieve the following:

 

* They could form a bourgeois-type bureaucratic state apparatus which was divorced from the working class and poor peasantry so that it could control the revolutionary wave of struggles and finally politically expropriate the working class.

 

* When US imperialism blackmailed Cuba, the Castroite government was able to withstand this pressure both because of the support of the anti-imperialist masses as well as because of the material support by the Soviet Union.

 

* Under the total economic boycott by US imperialism (with the support of the other imperialist states) and the pressure of the revolutionary masses, the Castroite regime only had one choice – in order to stay in power – to expropriate the bourgeoisie in an bureaucratically way and reorganize the Cuban economy under the conditions of proletarian property relations. This was made possible because of the support from the Soviet bureaucracy.

 

In this period of sharp class struggles and fundamental changes, important transformations took place. In the first period after January 1959, a dual power situation emerged and a popular front government with a number of open bourgeois figures took office. Given the rapid class polarization – with a growing militant working class and peasantry and an increasingly hostile US imperialism and domestic bourgeoisie – the government shifted to the left. A number of open bourgeois figures were forced to resign and were replaced by “Fidelistas”. First, after the aggressive US reaction to the agrarian reform, Castro threw out Sori Marin (Minister of Agriculture), Elena Mederos (Minister of Health), Luis Orlando Rodriguez (Minister of the Interior), Angel Fernandez (Minister of Justice) and Foreign Minister Agramonte.

 

However, the Popular Front continued to exist with bourgeois figures like Cas Fresquet (Minister of Finance) and Bunilla (Minister of Commerce) remaining in their posts as well as Pazos continued to stand in charge of the Bank of Cuba.

 

But the deepening class struggle forced Castro to go further and to drive all direct agents of the capitalists from the government. By November 1959, the popular front was terminated along with the dual power situation.

 

Against this background, the Castroite M-26-7 was forced to deepen its alliance with the Stalinist PSP. The latter was the only remaining party with a sizeable apparatus and roots in the working class and the trade unions. In addition, it had the advantage of possessing close relations with the Stalinist bureaucracy in the Soviet Union which was an increasingly important factor for the Castroite leadership given the country’s isolation due to US imperialism. So while in the first period of the revolution, the M-26-7 leadership tried to exclude the PSP from the government as well as the trade union leadership, it was now forced to re-integrate them. The left wing of the M-26-7 was now in the ascendant and the process of founding a unified party apparatus with the Stalinist PSP began in December 1959.

 

In the end, this started a process of several years which culminated with the merging of the two forces and the founding, in 1965, of the Partido Comunista de Cuba (PCC, Communist Party of Cuba). This process took place under the hegemony of the M-26-7 leadership around Fidel Castro. A number of old PSP leaders were purged in this process. However this fusion was possible because of the similar petty-bourgeois class nature of the bureaucracy both of the Castroite M-26-7 leadership and the Stalinist PSP apparatus. Once they agreed to rule Cuba on the basis of a bureaucratically degenerated workers state in alliance with the Soviet Union, they possessed a sufficient common basis for a fusion.

 

With the purge of the openly capitalist ministers, the character of the Castro government changed. It was no longer a popular front government. However given the fact that the M-26-7/PSP-government neither based itself on workers’ and peasants’ organs (councils, militias) nor followed an anti-capitalist program of expropriating the bourgeoisie at that time, it became a bourgeois workers’ and peasants’ government in the sense of the Communist International in Lenin’s and Trotsky’s time. The Comintern’s characterization of such a type of a workers’ and peasants’ government was accurate for the Castro regime in late 1959. It was not a “revolutionary workers' government, but in fact coalition a government of the bourgeoisie and anti-revolutionary labour leaders. Such governments are tolerated by the enfeebled bourgeoisie in critical times as a means of deceiving the proletariat about the real class character of the State, or to ward off, with the help of the corrupt workers' leaders, the revolutionary offensive of the proletariat and to gain time.[47] (In this quote, the Comintern speaks about a workers’ government but they applied the same approach to workers’ and peasants’ governments.)

 

Such a government of “petty bourgeois representatives of the workers and peasants” – to use the words of Leon Trotsky in the Transitional Program – was determined not to relinquish power to the working class and the poor peasantry and to continue to run the country within the limits of bourgeois-democratic reforms. However – as we described above – both US imperialism and the Cuban bourgeoisie deeply mistrusted the M-26-7/PSP-government. In addition, they thought it would be relatively easy to get rid of the new government and to re-establish the old order. As a result, the reactionary forces escalated the pressure and sabotage against the Castro government while at the same time the militant working class and poor peasantry demanded a deepening of the revolution.

 

This forced the M-26-7/PSP-government to decide: either capitulate to US imperialism and the domestic bourgeoisie – with the certain result of a total loss of power – or break with them completely. This meant to expropriate the foreign and Cuban capitalists, to ally itself with the Soviet Union and to reorganize the economy (bureaucratically) on a new foundation – a planned economy based on proletarian property relations.

 

Because of the massive pressure of the radicalized working class and peasantry and because of the possibility of support from the Soviet Union, the M-26-7/PSP-government decided to go further than it initially intended and started to expropriate the bourgeoisie. It was no longer a bourgeois workers and peasants’ government but rather, became in the summer of 1960, a bureaucratic anti-capitalist workers’ government. By this is meant, according to the understanding of the RCIT, a government forced to attack and break the economic power of the bourgeoisie, but using carefully controlled bureaucratic measures and mobilizations – similar to the type of Stalinist governments in Eastern Europe in 1948-49.

 

In our book on the Stalinist quelling of working class revolutionary activity after World War II, we described the Marxist understanding of such bureaucratic anti-capitalist workers’ government in the following way:

 

The government has the programme of anti-capitalist measures constituting the expropriation of the bourgeoisie whilst simultaneously depriving the working class of political power. Thus it prevents the formation or development of organs of proletarian struggle, self-organisations and democracy (soviets) with methods which range from political misleaderships to outright military repression. (...) However, what defines a bureaucratic workers' government is that it is not under the control or conscious pressure of the organs that can form the basis of a full political dictatorship of the proletariat. It is thus anti-capitalist but a bridge to a degenerate not a healthy workers' state. [48]

 

With the establishment of this bureaucratic anti-capitalist workers’ government in the summer of 1960, Cuba’s state changed its class character. It was no longer a capitalist semi-colony but became a degenerated workers state. The Castro government had become a regime which moved decisively against capital and capitalism to create a bureaucratically-planned economy on the Stalinist model. Again, this change entailed the change of class character of the state. As Marxists, we define the character of a given state “by the character of the forms of property and productive relations which the given state guards and defends.” (Trotsky) [49] Of course, a number of political and economic steps still had to be taken to fully establish a bureaucratically planned economy. In addition, the imperialist aggression – most prominently the invasion at the Bay of Pigs in April 1961 – had to be thwarted. But the Rubicon to overturn the class character of the state into a degenerated workers state was crossed in the summer of 1960.[50]

 

This became clear from the measures taken by the Castro government from the summer of 1960 onwards. As we described above, a number of steps took place in the summer of 1960 which led to the nationalization of the industry – including the decisive sugar industry – and banks, the imposition of the foreign trade monopoly as well as the creation of a Junta Central de Planificacion (Juceplan, Central Planning Board) in February 1961 to plan and direct the country's economic development. By the end of 1960, 80% of Cuba’s industrial capacity was nationalized and the agrarian reform had been dramatically speeded up.

 

These measures led to a transformation of the class character of Cuba’s economy. It didn’t operate any longer on the basis of the law of value, but rather on the basis of bureaucratic planning. Thus in the early 1960s, Cuba’s economy ceased to be capitalist. It was transformed into an economy based on proletarian property relations, albeit in a bureaucratically-distorted form. [51]

 

 

 

The Cuban Working Class and Its Political Expropriation by the Castroite Stalinists

 

 

 

As we have already stated, the anti-capitalist social transformation in Cuba went ahead in a bureaucratic way, preventing the working class from politically taking power. When we speak about a bureaucratic social revolution we don’t mean – as the Cliffites suggest – that the proletariat was merely a passive observer of the acting Castroite government. We rather mean that the working class and peasantry – while exerting massive pressure both on the Castroite government as well as the reactionary class enemy – did not consciously lead the revolutionary process.

 

Why was this so? Essentially, because the working class and the peasantry lacked the following: democratic organs to discuss and decide on the political and economic issues (councils/soviets); armed organs to implement these decisions (popular militias); and – most importantly –a political vanguard party which had a program and an organization to lead the class to victory.

 

As a result of this, the social expropriation of the bourgeoisie and the formation of planned proletarian property relations went hand in hand with a bureaucratic political expropriation of the working class by the Castroite Stalinists.

 

We have already described, above, the bureaucratic steps the Castroite regime undertook against the spontaneous workers strikes, land seizures and formation of militias. The political expropriation of the working class was also obvious on the political party and trade union level.

 

In the trade union movement, all opposition was crushed and a fully-empowered bureaucracy, not controllable from without, and fiercely loyal to the M-26-7/PSP-government was imposed. To give an overview over the rapid bureaucratization in the trade union movement, we reproduce here the analysis of Samuel Farber:

 

About 50 percent of the labor leaders, most of whom belonged to the 26th of July Movement and had been freely elected in the spring 1959 local and national union elections, were removed; many were persecuted and jailed as well.

 

In August 1961, less than two years after the fateful Tenth Congress of the CTC, the government approved new legislation that brought the nature and function of Cuban trade unions into alignment with those of the Soviet bloc. According to the new law, the main objectives of the unions were to help in the attainment of the national production and development plans; to promote efficiency and expansion of social and public services; to improve the administration of all sectors of the economy; and to carry out political education.

 

The Eleventh CTC Congress, which took place in November 1961, could not have been more different from the congress two years earlier. Unanimity had now replaced controversy. With no contest allowed for the leading positions at stake, all leaders were elected by acclamation. Not surprisingly, old Stalinist leader Lázaro Peña regained the position of secretary general that he had last held in the forties under Batista.

 

Of the seventeen national union leaders in 1959, only five remained in the twelve-member leadership group “elected” at the conclusion of the congress. In order to save production costs, the Eleventh Congress also agreed to give up gains that many unions had won before the revolution.

 

It approved the eight-hour day, thereby adding work time to those union members who had already gained the seven-hour day. The nine days of sick pay, previously paid automatically, would be paid only to those who could prove that they were actually sick. The extra month’s pay as an end-of-the-year bonus was abolished.

 

Although an abstract case could be made for the desirability of at least some of these changes in a new socialist order, here they were imposed from above with little or no discussion. There was no open confrontation with the opposing views actually held by a large number of Cuban workers, who could not openly express them, nor organize in support of what they thought.

 

Even the dramatic change of leadership carried out at the 1961 congress did not put an end to the process of erasing all remaining traces of independent unionism. By the end of the Twelfth CTC Congress in 1966, only one of the members of the 1961 national committee remained. Of the twenty-five other heads of labor federations in 1961, only one remained in office by 1966.[52]

 

No other trade unions were allowed. Workers had no legal right to strike. The same process took place on the political party level. No other party was allowed beside the ruling party.

 

The Cuban Trotskyists – organized in the Partido Obrero Revolucionario (Trotskista) (POR[T]) – were firmly repressed. Gary Tennant, an expert in the history of Cuban Trotskyism, gives an excellent overview in his academic work. He shows that the POR(T) comrades supported the revolution and participated in the work and activity of the newly established revolutionary mass organisations. They worked in the Movimiento de Superación del Barrio Sur de Guantánamo, undertook voluntary work in the countryside, participated in the literacy campaign, and joined the Federación de Mujeres Cubanas, the CDRs, and the newly organised militias.

 

This, however, did not stop the Stalinists to accuse them of being provocateurs” who are inciting US aggression and who were instruments of the FBI and CIA. The Castroite government – including Che Guevara [53] – suppressed the Trotskyist paper Voz Proletaria and smashed the printing plates of the Spanish translation of Trotsky's The Permanent Revolution. They harassed the Trotskyists and threw a number of them into prison. [54]

 

The bureaucratization was also visible inside the ruling party itself. As already mentioned, the Castroite M-26-7 undertook a series of steps towards fusion with the Stalinist PSP. The PSP cadres were central in the staffing of the administrative apparatus and hence gained increasing influence. The fusion between the two parts first led to the creation of the Organizaciones Revolucionarias Integradas (ORI, Integrated Revolutionary Organisation) in July 1961. The “fusion” in fact took the form of a takeover of the Stalinist party apparatus by the Castroites, a project which caused considerable conflict with leading “old guard” Stalinists. When the National Directorate of the ORI was announced, it consisted of 25 members: 13 from M-26-7, 10 from the PSP, and two from the Directorio Revolucionario. [55] None of them was elected by anyone. They were simply appointed by Fidel Castro.

 

Soon a conflict emerged between the Castroites and the old guard of the PSP. It ended bureaucratically with the denunciation of the old PSP leader Anibal Escalante by Castro for creating a “counter-revolutionary monstrosity”. He was expelled in March 1962 and left the country until 1964.

 

When the PCC was set up in October 1965, the strength of the Fidelistas could be seen in the fact that the military bureaucratic clique around Castro dominated it, while the former PSP bureaucrats played a subordinate role. The entire eight-man Political Bureau were Fidelistas.

 

The composition of the new Central Committee shows also another important aspect. It demonstrates the petty-bourgeois character of the party’s leadership. Hardly any workers or workers’ leaders were in it. They were completely dominated by representatives of the bureaucracy of the repressive state apparatus. Table 2 shows that, of the 100 Central Committee members, 81% either came from the army’s officer corps or the secret service.

 

 

 

Table 2  Composition of the 100-member Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party in 1965 [56]

 

 

 

Share of former member of the Stalinist PSP                                                   18%

 

Share of army officers                                                                                          69%

 

                Amongst them active officers                                                              39%

 

Share of officers from the intelligence services                                                12%

 

 

 

The suppression of workers democracy and the massive bureaucratization of the ruling party as well as the mass organizations went hand-in-hand with the strengthening of the bureaucracy as a materially-privileged and corrupt stratum. This process started immediately after the successful revolution. In the following, we quote from a report by Carlos Franqui, an anti-Stalinist communist and leading cadre of M-26-7 from its start. He became an early critique of the bureaucratization of the Cuban Revolution, went into exile and finally broke with the regime when Castro supported the Soviet invasion in Czechoslovakia in 1968. He describes how the new elite – with exceptions like Che Guevara – soon acquired the luxurious housings of the old upper class:

 

At that time [in 1961] Security was moving comandantes, ministers and anyone of any importance into new houses. Some of us tried to stay where we were – Che, Faustino, Celia, Haydée, Chomón, Orlando Blanco, and I among them. The new houses were those that had been abandoned by the Havana middle class. This reopened the polemic that had been simmering since 1959. Many of us went right back to our old apartments after the war while others wanted to ‘profane’ (as they said) the houses of the rich. It was they who were ‘profaned’. These houses came equipped with 24-hour, round-the-clock guards – because of the counter-revolutionary threat, but it was also a good way to keep an eye on you in the Soviet style. Celia, Haydée, and I had eluded the new-house situation simply because we were civilians… I had been living in my own flat all this time with no problem. (…) Since I wouldn’t obey the order to move, Fidel stepped in, told me I was in danger and that I would simply have to follow orders. The next day the Urban Reform people handed me the keys to my new house. I’d be a hypocrite if I were to say I didn’t like what I found – swimming pool, books, nice furniture, garden, air conditioning – but at the same time I felt guilty. Fidel himself never had those problems, since he was accustomed to living in houses like that…What was really happening was that we were creating a new elite, despite all the rhetoric about the need to protect us, the need for upper-echelon people to be able to relax. This new elite would one day be dangerous.[57]

 

This bureaucratization intensified later and led to massive stealing of fortunes by high-ranking bureaucrats, as the socialist Cuba expert and solidarity activist Janette Habel describes in her study on the political developments in the island since the revolution. She summarizes:

 

Waste and corruption have led to a feeling of discontent among the regime’s base of support, the wage-earning strata, faced with the growing wealth of certain sectors of farmers, as well as the privileges enjoyed by the administrative bureaucracy and top officials of the economic and state apparatus. Signs of economic inefficiency, waste, theft and the misappropriation of goods have been joined by the black market and currency trafficking, the spread of prostitution, and a growth of petty delinquency near tourist centers” [58]

 

Indeed, it is the rule of the Castroite-Stalinist bureaucracy which is responsible for the degeneration of the Cuban revolution as well as the containment of its internationalization towards the whole Latin American continent. The program of revolutionary communists for Cuba after 1960/61, therefore, was based on the need of the working class to organize for the defence of the revolution both against its foreign as well as its domestic counterrevolutionary enemies, while at the same time prepare for the political revolution to overthrow the bureaucracy and establish a healthy workers state.

 



[1] Most figures in this chapter have been reproduced from Louis A. Perez: Cuba, c. 1930-59; in: The Cambridge History of Latin America, Volume VII, Latin America since 1930: Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, New York 1990, pp. 419-455 as well as Jorge Dominguez: Cuba since 1959; in: The Cambridge History of Latin America, Volume VII, Latin America since 1930: Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, New York 1990, pp. 457-508; Jaime Suchlicki; Historical Setting; in: Cuba a country study, Federal Research Division Library of Congress, Edited by Rex A. Hudson, Washington 2002, pp. 1-88

[2] George Lambie: The Cuban Revolution in the 21st Century, Pluto Press 2010, p. 120

[3] See on this for example Gary Tennant: Dissident Cuban Communism: The Case of Trotskyism, 1932-1965, 1999, http://www.cubantrotskyism.net/PhD/central.htm, Chapter 3.2; Gary Tennant: The Background: Nationalism and Communism in Cuba, in: The Hidden Pearl of the Caribbean. Trotskyism in Cuba, Revolutionary History Vol. 7, No. 3, London 2000, pp. 9-39; Louis A. Perez: Cuba, c. 1930-59; in: The Cambridge History of Latin America, Volume VII, Latin America since 1930: Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, New York 1990, pp. 419-455.

[4] Quoted in Hans Magnus-Enzensberger: Bildnis einer Partei. Vorgeschichte, Struktur und Ideologie der PCC, in: Kursbuch No. 18, Frankfurt a.M. 1969, p. 195

[5] Quoted in F. Lennox Campello: The Cuban Communist Party's Anti-Castro Activities, 1987, http://campello.tripod.com/castro.html

[6] Quoted in Joseph L. Love: Economic ideas and ideologies in Latin America since 1930 393; in: The Cambridge History of Latin America, Volume VI, Latin America since 1930: Economy, Society and Politics Fart 1 Economy and Society, New York 1994, p. 442

[7] Fidel Castro: Die Geschichte wird mich freisprechen (1953); in: Fidel Castro: Fanal Kuba, Berlin 1963, pp. 25-27; in English: History Will Absolve Me, http://www.marxists.org/history/cuba/archive/castro/1953/10/16.htm

[8] Kepa Artaraz: Cuba and Western Intellectuals since 1959, New York 2009, p. 31; see also on the so-called Sierra Manifesto Julia E. Sweig: Inside the Cuban Revolution: Fidel Castro and the urban underground, Harvard University Press 2004, pp. 29-38. In October 1958 Castro said that it was the desire of the movement to establish the best and friendliest relations with the United States (quoted in: Ross E. Chapman: The Socialist Evolvement of The Cuban Revolution 1948-1960 (1973). Honors Theses. Paper 875, p. 109).

[9] Quoted in: Ross E. Chapman: The Socialist Evolvement of the Cuban Revolution 1948-1960 (1973). Honors Theses. Paper 875, p. 69

[10] See Steve Cushion: The Cold War and Organised Labour in Batista's Cuba, Institute for the Study of the Americas, p. 11

[11] See Steve Cushion: Cuban Popular Resistance to the 1953 London Sugar Agreement, Institute for the Study of the Americas, University of London, Commodities of Empire Working Paper No.15, March 2010, p. 12

[12] Figures from the pro-Castroite publication of the US magazine Monthly Review Leo Huberman and Paul Sweezy: Cuba. Anatomy of a Revolution, New York 1960, p. 74

[13] See Julie D. Shayne: The Revolution Question: Feminisms in El Salvador, Chile, and Cuba, Rutgers University Press 2004, pp. 115-134 as well as the interesting biography of Sánchez by Richard Haney: Celia Sánchez: Cuba's revolutionary heart, Algora Publishing 2005.

[14] See on this Leo Huberman and Paul Sweezy: Cuba. Anatomy of a Revolution, New York 1960, p. 84

[15] See Celso Furtado: Economic Development of Latin America. Historical Background and Contemporary Problems, New York 1984, p. 288

[16] Former tenants, sharecroppers, and squatters got two caballerías of the land they had tilled free, and the owners of the land could be compelled to sell them three more caballerías for a total of five.

[17] See Celso Furtado: Economic Development of Latin America. Historical Background and Contemporary Problems, New York 1984, p. 287; Otto T. Solbrig: Structure, Performance, and Policy in Agriculture; in: in: The Cambridge Economic History of Latin America, Volume II: The Long Twentieth Century, New York 2006, p. 500

[18] Leo Huberman and Paul Sweezy: Socialism in Cuba, New York 1969, pp. 111

[19] Leo Huberman and Paul Sweezy: Socialism in Cuba, New York 1969, p. 112, our calculations

[20] Leo Huberman and Paul Sweezy: Socialism in Cuba, New York 1969, pp. 112-113

[21] Tony Cliff: Die Ursprünge der Internationalen Sozialisten, Frankfurt a.M. 2000, p. 69; in English: Tony Cliff: Deflected Permanent Revolution, International Socialism (1st series), No.12, Spring 1963, (1963), http://www.marxists.org/archive/cliff/works/1963/xx/permrev.htm

[22] Tony Cliff: Deflected Permanent Revolution, International Socialism (1st series), No.12, Spring 1963, (1963), http://www.marxists.org/archive/cliff/works/1963/xx/permrev.htm

[23] Quoted in Steve Cushion: The Most Expensive Port in the World: Dock workers and the Cuban Revolution 1948-1959, Society for Caribbean Studies Annual Conference Papers 2010, p. 1

[24] Quoted in Chris Slee: Cuba: How the Workers and Peasants Made the Revolution, Resistance Books 2008 (DSP Australia), p. 16

[25] Steve Cushion: Working Class Militancy and the Downfall of Batista: the relationship between mass action and the armed struggle in Cuba 1952-59, 2007, p. 30

[26] Quoted in Chris Slee: Cuba: How the Workers and Peasants Made the Revolution, Resistance Books 2008 (DSP Australia), p. 29

[27] Quoted in Steve Cushion: Organised labour and the Batista regime: A British diplomatic perspective; in: The International Journal of Cuban Studies, Vol. 2, No. 1 (June 2009), p. 70

[28] On the history of the Cuban Trotskyists see Gary Tennant: Dissident Cuban Communism: The Case of Trotskyism, 1932-1965, 1999, http://www.cubantrotskyism.net/PhD/central.htm; The Hidden Pearl of the Caribbean. Trotskyism in Cuba, Revolutionary History Vol. 7, No. 3, London 2000

[29] Samuel Farber: Cuba’s Workers After the Revolution (Excerpts from his book “Cuba Since the Revolution of 1959”), December 7, 2011 http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=57178

[30] Quoted in Samuel Farber: Revolution and Reaction, 1933-1960, Wesleyan University Press, 1976, p. 230

[31] Declaraciones del PSP: El PSP pide a los campesinos que impidan pro si mismo las ocupaciones de tierras; Considera innecesaria y peligrosa la Ley 87,” Hoy, 22 febrero 1959; quoted in Samuel Farber: Cuba’s Workers After the Revolution (Excerpts from his book “Cuba Since the Revolution of 1959”), December 7, 2011 http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=57178

[32] Luis Martínez-Fernández: Sugar and Revolution: 1952–2002; in: M. Pont (Editor): Cuba Futures: Historical Perspectives, Bildner Center for Western Hemisphere Studies, p. 80

[33] Albert Manke: From Fighting Batista to Defending the Revolution: Mobilization and Popular Support for Revolutionary Change, 1952–1961; in: M. Pont (Editor): Cuba Futures: Historical Perspectives, Bildner Center for Western Hemisphere Studies, p. 112

[34] Albert Manke: From Fighting Batista to Defending the Revolution: Mobilization and Popular Support for Revolutionary Change, 1952–1961; in: M. Pont (Editor): Cuba Futures: Historical Perspectives, Bildner Center for Western Hemisphere Studies, p. 116

[35] Samuel Farber: The Origins of the Cuban Revolution reconsidered, The University of North Carolina Press 2006, pp. 133-134

[36] Samuel Farber: Revolution and Social Structure in Cuba, 1933-1959; PhD dissertation, University of California, Berkeley, 1969, quoted in: Janet Elaine Rogers: Interpretations of the Cuban Revolution, Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 5282, 1974, p. 114

[37] Quoted in G.S. Prentzas: The Cuban Revolution, Infobase Learning 2012, p. 73

[38] Samuel Farber: The Origins of the Cuban Revolution reconsidered, The University of North Carolina Press 2006, pp. 79-80; Leo Huberman and Paul Sweezy: Cuba. Anatomy of a Revolution, New York 1960, p. 86

[39] Quoted in Robert O. Kirkland: Observing Our Hermanos de Armas: U.S. Military Attachés in Guatemala, Cuba, and Bolivia, 1950-1964. Latin American Studies: Social Sciences and Law. New York/London: Routledge  2003, p. 88

[40] See Celso Furtado: Economic Development of Latin America. Historical Background and Contemporary Problems, New York 1984, p. 289

[41] See Jorge Dominguez: Cuba since 1959; in: The Cambridge History of Latin America, Volume VII, Latin America since 1930: Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, New York 1990, p. 462

[42] On the chronology of the failed CIA invasion see Alejandro de Quesada: The Bay of Pigs. Cuba 1961, Osprey Publishing 2009.

[43] Jorge I. Dominguez: U.S.-Cuban Relations: From the Cold War to the Colder War; in: Journal of Interamerican Studies and World Affairs, Vol. 39, No. 3 (Autumn, 1997),p. 69

[44] Lieutenant Colonel Carl G. Roe: U. S. and Cuban Relations: Prospects for the Future, US Army War College 1991, p. 4

[45] Luis Martínez-Fernández: Sugar and Revolution: 1952–2002; in: M. Pont (Editor): Cuba Futures: Historical Perspectives, Bildner Center for Western Hemisphere Studies, pp. 80-81

[46] Samuel Farber: The Origins of the Cuban Revolution reconsidered, The University of North Carolina Press 2006, p. 146

[47] Communist International: Theses on Comintern Tactics, adopted on 5th December 1922 at the Fourth Congress of the Communist International; in: The Communist International 1919-1943. Documents Selected and Edited by Jane Degras, Volume I 1919-1922, p. 427

[48] League for a Revolutionary Communist International / Workers Power (Britain): The Degenerated Revolution. The Origin and Nature of the Stalinist States (1982), p. 51

[49] Leon Trotsky: Not a Workers' and not a Bourgeois State? (1937); in: Trotsky Writings, 1937-38, p. 61 (our emphasis)

[50] In our predecessor organization we mistakenly thought for a long time that the decisive turning point to change the class character of a state was only when the character of the economy itself has changed. Consequently, this error was also incorporated in our book The Degenerated Revolution from the early 1980s. We ignored the fact that, for a given period, there can be a discrepancy between the class character of a state and of the economy. In fact this was also the case in the great October Revolution in 1917. While the state became a healthy workers state from the moment when the Bolsheviks took power in autumn of 1917,  this lasted till spring and summer of 1918 when the bourgeoisie was expropriated and the central sectors of the economy were put under the command of the proletarian state. Similarly, the Eastern European states changed their class character when the Stalinist regimes became bureaucratic anti-capitalist workers’ governments and took decisive measures to expropriate the bourgeoisie and abolish the law of value. We overcame this weakness in our understanding at the LRCI’s V. Congress in 2000:

Instead, we should recognise them as workers' states from the point at which the governments and states began to move decisively against capital and capitalism and to create bureaucratically planned economies on the Stalin model, i.e., in 1948-49.” (League for a Revolutionary Communist International: The error of the 'Moribund Workers State' - a correction, Resolution of the LRCI’s V. Congress in July 2000, in: Workers Power (Britain) No. 248, November 2000, p. 12)

[51] We refer readers to the useful summary of the Cuban Revolution in the chapter “Castro’s ’Cuban road‘ from populism to Stalinism” in the previously mentioned book The Degenerated Revolution, published by our predecessor organization, Workers Power (Britain) and the League for a Revolutionary Communist International.

[52] Samuel Farber: Cuba’s Workers After the Revolution (Excerpts from his book “Cuba Since the Revolution of 1959”), December 7, 2011 http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=57178

[53] It shall be noted that while Che Guevara initially supported the repression of the Trotskyists, he later developed substantial criticism against the bureaucratization of the revolution and the conservative foreign policy of the Stalinist states. During this latter period, before he left Cuba in 1965 for his guerilla campaigns in the Congo and Bolivia, Guevara did his best to use his influence in order to help and free the imprisoned Trotskyists. (For more on this, see Gary Tennant: The Reorganized Partido Obrero Revolucionario (Trotskista) and the 1959 Revolution, in: The Hidden Pearl of the Caribbean. Trotskyism in Cuba, Revolutionary History Vol. 7, No. 3, London 2000, pp. 193-195.)

This of course does not mean that Guevara became a Trotskyist. He was rather a left-wing radical Stalinist who however partly transcended important characteristics of Stalinism – in particular his support for internationalization of the revolution opposed to the reactionary Stalinist dogma of “peaceful coexistence” with imperialism. Our criticism of Che Guevara’s political mistakes does not prevent our admiring his unlimited and selfless dedication to the revolutionary struggle against imperialism and capital. His personal example remains today an inspiration for thousands of revolutionary activists. This example is, by the way, also the personified negation of the corrupt, greedy and pro-capitalist bureaucrats who are rule Cuba today.

[54] For more on the repression of the Cuban Trotskyists by the Castroite government see chapter 7.1.2 The Activity and Suppression of the POR(T), 1960-65 in Gary Tennant: Dissident Cuban Communism: The Case of Trotskyism, 1932-1965, 1999, http://www.cubantrotskyism.net/PhD/central.htm

[55] Directorio Revolucionario (Revolutionary Direction) was a university-student based petty-bourgeois guerilla group which took part in the struggle against Batista.

[56] Hans Magnus-Enzensberger: Bildnis einer Partei. Vorgeschichte, Struktur und Ideologie der PCC, in: Kursbuch No. 18, Frankfurt a.M. 1969, p. 208

[57] Quoted in Peter Taaffe: Cuba: Socialism and Democracy. Debates on the Revolution and Cuba Today, published by the Committee for a Workers International 2000, pp. 65-66

[58] Janette Habel: Cuba: The Revolution in Peril, Verso 1991, pp. 58-59; In German: Janette Habel: Kuba: Die Revolution in Gefahr, Köln 1993, p. 91