IMPERILED AND DEFIANT—CAN THE REVOLUTION SURVIVE?
Susan Williams, M.D., New York City
Steven Strauss, M.D., Columbia, Maryland
Debbie Brennan, Melbourne, Australia
Stephen Durham, New York City
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Incursions by Foreign Capital
CHARACTER OF THE STATE APPARATUS
Bureaucraticism Trumps Workers Democracy
THE PROGRAM AND GOALS OF THE CUBAN COMMUNIST PARTY
A Study in Contradiction
CUBAN MASS ORGANIZATIONS
A Force for Democracy or Handmaidens of the State Apparatus?
OTHER VIEWS FROM THE LEFT
At the beginning of 2009, people all over the world who were struggling to make ends meet got a much-needed boost from the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution.
However, the celebration was clouded by the recognition that many of the revolution’s hard-won gains—courageously defended by the Cuban people for decades—are in grave danger. Confronted by U.S. imperialism, thrown into dire economic straits by the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc, and soon to lose revolutionary leaders forged in the battle against Batista, the Cuban people are faced with incredible challenges and the revolution itself is undergoing profound change.
The Freedom Socialist Party has been committed throughout our existence to defend the Cuban Revolution in words and deeds. At the January 2006 party convention in Portland, Oregon, we felt compelled to take a fresh look at recent developments on the island and to reevaluate our long-held analysis in conjunction with the recommendations and strategies which flowed from it. As a result, the convention charged the National Committee with conducting an in-depth study that would insure our thinking and action on Cuba reflect today’s realities.
As Marxists, the foundation of both the theoretical and practical approach to any nation is to define its essential character, that is first and foremost, to determine whether the capitalist ruling class remains in the driver’s seat, or whether the oppressed masses have succeeded in rising up and replacing their reign with a workers state. Secondly, where a workers state exists, we need to assess how well it meets the needs and expresses the will of the people. What will best move the country’s socialist project—and the international proletarian revolution—forward?
This delineates the focus of this paper. It is not meant to be a complete picture of Cuba, but rather an investigation honed in on specific criteria, outlined below, that speak to the nature of the Cuban state.
The authors spent a year and half engaged in this study. A draft was then distributed to all party members and responses invited. During the subsequent year, discussions were held, and comments, suggestions and disagreements sent to the main author, Dr. Susan Williams. We also solicited the response and ideas of collaborators, including some who disagreed with our views.
During that year, Cuba continued to face new challenges and the government under Raúl Castro inaugurated yet more changes. These, together with the horrendous impact of the world economic crisis, created new realities, as well as a tremendously heightened urgency to strengthen defense of the revolution, both within and outside Cuba. All these issues had to be folded into and accounted for in our analysis. They were discussed at a National Committee plenum held at the end of July, 2009 in Seattle, Washington.
A much abbreviated version of our perspective was published in the Freedom Socialist newspaper.1 Responses to date have reflected the extreme polarization within the Left and progressive community over how best to defend Cuba. A few who consider themselves ardent and loyal adherents of the Castroist leadership have sent heated rejoinders to our critique of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC), going so far as to accuse us of doing the work of the far right and the CIA. We believe, however, that it is the duty of all revolutionaries to call things as they see them. We owe that to each other, as sisters and brothers in the struggle.
We hope this paper will be seen as a contribution to open, honest and critical discussion. We welcome opportunities to compare and debate perspectives and to continue to develop our understanding as Cuba’s path unfolds. There is a great deal at stake, not only for the people of Cuba, but for workers and the poor all over the world.
On January 1, 1959, the Cuban people inspired the oppressed of the entire world with their bold victory against the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. Led by Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, the July 26th Movement seized state power. Initially committed to a program of sweeping land reform and national independence from Yankee imperialism, the Cuban guerrillistas were driven to go beyond this to a brash assault on capitalism itself. Supported by the masses of workers and peasants, they pushed aside the private owners of the large means of production and established the first workers state in the Western Hemisphere.
After nearly a half century of the U.S. government’s unrelenting hostility and coercive attempts at political isolation, economic strangulation, and even military assault, Cuba remains a beacon of resistance to Yankee imperialism.
Today, the Cuban people’s passion for their social project still runs high. But the challenges the nation faces are greater than ever. Fidel Castro’s February 2008 statement formalizing his resignation from his long-held political and military offices made Cuba’s U.S. enemies lick their chops in anticipation of a crisis they intend to exploit. Equating the man with the revolution, the “gusanos” (anti-Castro anti-communists) and their U.S. allies expect the political will of the Cuban people to dissolve. They dream of reclaiming sunny haciendas long given over to workers’ housing and neighborhood clinics, and of private wealth wrung from the island through unrestrained exploitation, economic despoilment and environmental plunder.
Must Cuba inexorably slide into the capitalist quagmire that pulled down the USSR and China? Has it already?
We believe that the ascendancy of capitalism in Cuba is not inevitable, but the danger is acute and growing. To best defend the Cuban revolution, we need to gauge the current capacity of the Cuban people to resist new attacks on their revolution. We need to analyze its course over recent years and look at the economic, social and political strengths and weaknesses of the society today. What policies will best safeguard the sovereignty and social gains of the island?
A look back at Cuba’s five-decade social project
The immediate political-military obstacle confronting Cuba’s revolutionary forces was the combined strength of the U.S.-backed dictatorship of Batista, the native landlord class; foreign capitalists invested in Cuban sugar, minerals, and other industries; U.S.-based Mafiosi; and covert “intelligence” agents.
The native landlord-capitalist class allied itself with U.S. imperialism to resist the revolutionary upsurge, proving that they could in no way be a force for true democracy. Conversely, the Castro leadership, focused as it was on achieving the historic goals of the bourgeois revolution, including national independence, democratic rights, land reform, and development and growth of industry, found it necessary to recruit the social power of the working class and peasantry, in opposition to the capitalist class and its allies. In less than two years, the landlords and capitalists had been expropriated and were organizing the counterrevolution from Miami.
The Cuban revolution thus demonstrated in real life one of the central theses of Trotsky’s theory of Permanent Revolution, namely, that a weak and deformed native capitalist class, dependent on foreign imperialism for its very existence and protection, is no longer a revolutionary force capable of leading society forward. This task falls to the working class and its allies.
The bold measures of the rebels transformed the entire economic landscape of Cuba. Land transfers to the peasants and poor farm workers were an immediate priority. Utilities, sugar, oil refineries, and other major industries were expropriated from their private owners and put in the hands of the state. A planned economy and state monopoly over foreign trade completed the structural changes that together constituted the new economic foundations of a workers state.
The revolutionary government committed itself to massive campaigns and reforms that were objectively in the interests of the working class—a countrywide literacy campaign; guaranteed right to employment, education, and health care; equal rights for women, and an end to racial discrimination. Phenomenal social gains were made on all these fronts, testimony to what is possible when oppressed people take the reins of state power and wield them in the interests of the majority.
A workers state, but deformed
The victory of the workers and peasants, however, did not guarantee them the full economic equality and free democratic expression that should be the true manifestation of a workers state. Although there was an urban rebellion that played a key role in the success of the military victory of the guerilla army, led by the July 26th Movement, there never arose a system of soviets—workers’ councils—or an equivalent body that empowered the people to directly exercise social decision-making on a substantial scale.
State power coalesced in hands of a group centered around Fidel Castro. The core leadership of today’s Cuban Communist Party came from the heroes of the struggle to oust Batista, but it was from the outset shaped by the petty bourgeois origins of the July 26th Movement. Overtime, the failure of other revolutions and Cuba’s dependence on the USSR influenced its leaders to accept the limitations on worker’s democracy, imposed by Stalin, as necessary evils.
The political nature of the leadership has continued to dictate both domestic and foreign policy. Brilliant social advances have been coupled with erratic steps backward, a clamp on full expression of workers’ power, repression of pro-revolutionary criticism and a growing encroachment of foreign-based capitalism. With solely stunted forms to express their voice and will, the Cuban people have been able to make only small adjustments to the course driven by the Cuban Communist Party. They’ve lacked the corrective that a workers’ democracy would have placed in their hands. And while open-handed support for various struggles in Africa and Latin America has made a tremendous contribution at times, the PCC’s overall policy of détente with world imperialism has also resulted in the Cuban leadership undercutting proletarian struggles on other occasions.
How do we explain the contradictory nature of the Cuban revolution and of the leadership at its helm? These questions, too, must be part of our analysis.
The Freedom Socialist Party and the Cuban Revolution
The Freedom Socialist Party was born in 1966, nearly eight years after the coming to power of the July 26th Movement. We gestated in the Socialist Workers Party (USA), nurtured by the important developments in the Black civil rights movement and the women’s movement.
As members of the SWP, the future founders and leaders of the Freedom Socialist Party were active from the very beginning in Cuba solidarity and defense work. Clara Fraser, for example, headed up the Seattle branch’s work in the Fair Play for Cuba Committee. At the time of the debate in the SWP over the nature of the Cuban revolution, we supported the majority that recognized the Cuban workers state despite its bureaucratic distortions.
From our founding, we have pledged unconditional defense of the revolution and its workers state against any threat or attack by imperialism. We publicized Cuba’s gains in our press. After the fall of the USSR, we called for a global alliance to defend Cuba and promote world revolution. We’ve been a leading part of the U.S. and Australian solidarity movements, opposing the blockade, gathering material aid, and defying the travel ban to Cuba. Our sister organization, Radical Women, has developed a working relationship with the Federación de las Mujeres Cubanas (FMC) and with them, sponsored a joint feminist brigade to Cuba in 1997.
At the same time, we believe that sharing our concerns, critique and proposals are an important part of the true spirit of revolutionary solidarity. We owe our comrades our best thinking on how they can protect and advance their revolutionary struggle. We have discussed these criticisms frankly with the Cuban leadership. We’ve called on the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) to expand internal democracy; raised concerns about the impact of foreign capital; discussed the impact of expanded tourism on the reappearance of prostitution and escalation of race divisions; pushed the leadership to see queer liberation as a potentially revolutionary force and to admit openly lesbian, gay, and trans people into the party; and pressed for greater advances toward gender equality. We’ve also pushed the PCC to support anti-capitalist revolution in whatever land it breaks out and to use their tremendous prestige and authority to build an international revolutionary alliance.
Despite our criticisms of the Cuban leadership, we do not call for a revolution in Cuba to replace the political leadership, as a number of other Trotskyist parties do. Our rationale has been that advocating political revolution means demanding that lives be put on the line, a step that should only be undertaken if the bureaucracy has become so ossified and unmovable that no other option remains. We believe that this is not the case in Cuba. The blunt reality is that at this time, any breach in state power is likely to be flooded with counter-revolutionary forces well-funded and armed by the U.S. government. Political revolution would put all Cuba’s gains at risk. Despite the many policies we think should be changed, the state leadership has kept an ear open to the thinking and will of the Cuban people, and has, at times, been guided by it. The regime has demonstrated that it is not a replica of the Stalinist bureaucracy in the Soviet Union.
But do the changes of the past decade warrant a reassessment and change in our policy? Has capitalism reclaimed Cuba already? Even if it has not, is the leadership’s course so dangerous and irrevocable that we must now advocate their removal? An answer to these questions must be based on clear, Marxist criteria.
On methodology—what determines the nature of a state?
To determine the current condition of the Cuban workers state and whether it has remained intact, it’s important to define objective criteria that address the foundations of the state itself. The essence of a state is to be the instrument for maintaining class rule. Inherent within this concept is that the nature of a particular state is defined by its relationship to the prevailing mode of production and the corresponding class relations within that society.
Capitalist states are created and serve to preserve private ownership of social wealth, particularly the means of production, and to perpetuate the rule and privilege of the capitalist class. Workers states, in contrast, expropriate private property and replace it with a collectivized economic system with the aim of serving the majority and building socialism.
To get a complete picture of the political economy of the Cuban state, we have to look at three factors: 1) The nature of the economy—the mode of production—upon which the state rests; 2) the character of the state apparatus; and 3) the program and goals of the leadership. Each of these criteria must be examined in their own right. What is particularly important and challenging in the case of Cuba is to look not only at the current status of each factor, but also at the direction and pace of change. More than this, the criteria must be evaluated in relationship to one another.
As the foundation upon which the state rests, the economy is the starting point of the analysis. The key components of building a socialist economy are: nationalization of the means of production, state monopoly of foreign trade, and centralized planning. The section on the economy will look at the historical development of these factors in Cuba and assess their status today.
Incursions by Foreign Capital
Although controversy abounds regarding Cuba’s current course, few observers from left or right dispute that the 1959 revolution launched Cuba into a direct confrontation with imperialism and from there, on a path toward socialism. The leadership of the revolution, however, did not seek or intend to found a workers state and start building socialism when they threw out Batista. Their conscious adoption of a socialist course grew out of their initial conquests and was catalyzed in large part by the vicious opposition engendered by the U.S.
As explained above, the cornerstones of building a socialist economic system lie first in nationalizing the society’s key means of production—industry, energy and natural resources, communication, transportation, large-scale agriculture, and banking—and putting them at the service of the working class and the societal majority they represent. Then the state must establish its monopoly of foreign trade, controlling the flow of goods and capital. These prerequisites make it possible to carry out centralized economic planning with an agenda for providing for the needs of all with some degree of equity.
The Cuban leadership did not immediately leap to nationalization of key sectors of the economy after their political victory in 1959. When they did begin massive industrial expropriations, it was an act of survival.
The first steps toward expropriating the bourgeoisie actually began in the countryside. The peasants’ demand for land had been a driving force for the revolution. Prior to the victory, there had been some confiscations in the liberated zone from landowners allied with Batista. The Agrarian Reform Law was signed into effect in May, confiscating plantations of more than 1000 acres and turning them into government-run coops or dividing them among the peasants who lived on them. The blow against the landowners was softened, however, by paying them for the lands (with bonds that would mature in 29 years). The Cuban leadership was divided on this point, with the left wing, including Che Guevara, criticizing the action for placating the big landowners.
Urban nationalizations were driven by the revolution’s need to survive. The first steps came in March 1959 when the Cuban government took over the telephone company and public transportation. In June of 1960, U.S. oil companies announced that they would not be sending fuels to Cuba and that they would prohibit their refineries within Cuba from processing any crude products provided by the state. This was a direct violation of the agreement in existence since 1938, and was the opening salvo in the U.S. government-led attempt to suffocate the revolution.
A month later, President Eisenhower cancelled all the Cuban sugar imports, an action that by March of 1961 obliterated Cuba’s main source of export revenue, crippling their ability to purchase essential items, including food. Under the whip of colonialism, Cuba’s farmlands had been turned over to primarily sugar and tobacco, creating—as with other Latin American nations—an agricultural country unable to feed itself.
In response to this imperialist economic aggression, Cuba began the nationalization of key properties. On August 6, 1960, 26 enterprises were expropriated. The following month, financial companies including the First National Bank of Boston and Chase Manhattan followed. On October 24, 1960, all the remaining U.S. properties in Cuba were nationalized.
As foreign-owned holdings were transformed into public property, the Cuban government did make lump sum payments to other nationalities, making this concession in part to make future trade agreements possible. The U.S., however, refused to negotiate. They demanded outrageous payments, despite knowing that Batista had sacked the national treasury and that his supporters leaving Cuba had caused massive capital flight.
Driven to defend the country from the imperialist attacks flung against the revolution by the U.S., the Cuba leadership proceeded to nationalize virtually all the key means of production. Control of foreign trade was centralized in the hands of the government. Goals for production were established and implemented through 5-year plans. These plans were structured to meet social goals, including free, universal education and health care, full employment and housing for all.
During the ‘60s and ‘70s, Cuba made remarkable gains, achieving both economic growth and extraordinary improvement in quality of life. In a few short years, Cuba was able to achieve among the highest literacy rates, longest life expectancies and lowest child mortality rates in Latin America or other non-industrialized countries. Economic gains continued to be limited, however, by Cuba’s dependence on sugar as an export crop, limited advances in industrialization, and the restrictions on foreign trade created by the U.S.-implemented blockade.
This last, the leadership sought to ameliorate by increasing its trade with the Soviet Union and its allies. In 1972, Cuba joined the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance, the economic alliance among Eastern Bloc countries established in 1949 in response to the Marshall Plan. This step gave Cuba partners in trade, but made the country increasingly dependent on the USSR, both for exports and for imported—sometimes already outdated—technology.
Early experiments in using market/capitalist measures
Although the really dramatic economic changes in Cuba came in the 1990s, there were several shifts in course in previous decades. Even in its early years, while state-owned enterprises were under direct control of the government, one exception was created: Cubalse was founded in 1974, growing out of entities set up to recover state assets and to provide services to the diplomatic corps. Its predecessor, in distinction from all other state-owned enterprises, was allowed to engage in operations in hard currency (U.S. dollars). Cubalse was established to run independently of the Ministry of the Economy, but was required to have its budget approved by members of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party. It became the first Cuban institution empowered to facilitate joint ventures with foreign, privately-owned companies.
In the early 1980s, plummeting prices for sugar severely undercut the value of Cuba’s exports, slashing its ability to purchase needed foods, medicines and machine parts. The Cuban government responded to the crisis with a number of measures that eroded the centralization of the economy. The first step was the opening of a legal avenue for foreign investment. In 1980, Decree-Law #50 allowed for the creation of joint ventures. In 1982, the Foreign Investment Code formalized the state leadership’s intent to attract foreign hard currency by permitting investors to hold up to 49% ownership and profits of joint ventures (the formation of which had to be approved by the government). In this period, farmers were also allowed to trade legally in the free market.
A number of joint ventures came into creation at this time, first in pharmaceuticals and tourism, then in electronics, mechanical engineering, petrochemicals, and textiles.
While these measures had some positive effects on Cuba’s trade balance, they also resulted in growing social disparities among farmers and industrial managers. In 1986, the government targeted the social inequity by launching the “Campaign to Rectify Errors and Negative Tendencies.” Goals of the campaign were to fight corruption and promulgate a moral standard of working for the common good. Food rations were re-started, and the practice of giving individual productivity bonuses was eliminated as the leadership bent the stick back toward socialist economic measures.
Impact of the collapse of the Soviet Union
By the end of the 1980s, Cuba had become increasingly dependent on trade with the Soviet Union. In 1989, the Eastern Bloc’s Council for Mutual Economic Assistance provided Cuba 63% of its imported food, 86% of imported primary goods and 75% of manufactured goods. These countries also purchased 63% of Cuba’s exported sugar, 72% of nickel exports, and 95% of its tropical fruit.2 The USSR purchased Cuba’s sugar at prices substantially higher than the world market prices, and Cuba used these funds to purchase the technology and industrial parts that it could not produce for itself.
When the soviet workers state collapsed, Cuba lost its key trading partners in one fell swoop. The country’s purchasing power fell by 70%. Production plummeted due to lack of materials. Industrial machinery ground to a halt for lack of parts and energy sources. Scarcity became a reality, with the average caloric intake dropping below recommended nutritional standards.
Sensing blood in the water, imperialist sharks in the U.S. sought to intensify Cuba’s crisis. Heavily supported by Bacardi Rum (a rival for Cuba’s products), the Torricelli Act passed Congress in 1992, hardening U.S. policy and tightening the blockade.
With widespread poverty and malnutrition threatening, the Cuban government adopted a series of economic “reforms” intended to jumpstart the failing economy.
The Special Period in Time of Peace—the door is opened to foreign investment
Cuba set out on a course that the leadership acknowledged would carry dangers to the revolution itself. No longer having the option to trade with and be supported by larger workers states, if Cuba were to find markets for its exports and get enough foreign currency to be able to purchase the many products, including food, medicine, construction supplies, industrial parts, energy sources, and more that they could not manufacture themselves, they would have to trade for them with capitalist countries and find ways to obtain the dollars to purchase them.
So began the Special Period, with its openings to foreign capitalism. The key questions we need to understand—how and to what degree these changes have gone toward changing the character of the Cuba state itself—lie in assessing first of all the foundations of the economy. How and to what extent has nationalized/state property been eroded? Has (or to what degree has) the state relinquished its monopoly of foreign trade? How much (and how effectively) does centralized planning prevail?
The toehold for capitalism reentering Cuba lies in the gate having been opened for foreign, capitalist enterprises to set up business in Cuba, exploiting Cuban workers, generating profit from their labor, and appropriating that profit for the private use of their owners outside the country. It also created the potential for creating a native or comprador capitalist class within Cuba—as happened in China with the restoration of capitalism, growing out of privileged layers of the bureaucracy and the managerial layer.
The reforms instituted during the Special Period included:
- legalizing the holding of U.S. currency
- liberalizing remittance payments from relatives abroad
- legalizing self-employment in some low technology areas
- re-establishing agricultural markets
- liberalizing the foreign investment law
- converting state farms to quasi-cooperatives
- establishing four export processing (free trade) zones
- re-organizing the state enterprise system and ministries, including dissolving the Central Planning Board and dividing its responsibilities among several ministries
- changes in banking: 14 foreign financial institutions were licensed to open representative offices to serve and exchange currency for foreign investors
The change in property forms and organization of agriculture took place very quickly. According to one Cuban economist, by 1997 “Only 25% of agriculture, primarily rice-growing, is still carried out on state-owned plantations. Lack of oil, machinery, and pesticides forced this step backwards to the use of oxen and semi-private property.”3 Other observers have similarly said that the steps were taken in part because the government simply no longer had the fuel or funds to run the state-owned farms and transport their products to market, so had little option but to turn the operations of arable land over to individual peasants and cooperatives.4
Within industry and other segments of the economy, the door was opened to foreign capitalist enterprises, but the entry way was not unguarded. As official policy, the Cuban government sets criteria for which companies are allowed to invest, using as a starting point their estimation of the economic and social needs in Cuba; that is, licensed companies must cooperate with defined social purposes and economic planning. Decisions on which companies are then allowed to participate in joint ventures are based on: making additions to the public infrastructure and technological capacity; provision of industrial upgrading and modernization; and providing access to international markets and/or distribution networks. The government has stated that it will not allow foreign investment that directly competes with state-owned enterprises. In addition, foreign companies are often required to make contributions to other sectors of the economy.
The types of foreign investment include:
- Joint ventures (empresas mistas) are the dominant form of foreign direct investment. They are formed between one or more Cuban entities and a foreign partner. The formation of each must be approved either by the Council of Ministers or a designated commission. The state partner usually holds 50% or more of the shares.
- International economic association contracts are established for more limited purposes, and can be either production contracts, for which the foreign partner provides raw materials, equipment, parts and technology, or management contracts, in which the foreign company has specialized managerial skills, technological knowledge and/or markets. Contracts must be approved by the appropriate ministry.
- Wholly foreign-owned companies were allowed under Article 15 of the Foreign Investment Act. In practice, they existed to a limited extent within the free trade zones until 2007, when they were required to form joint ventures.
The graph on the next page shows the number of active joint ventures from just prior to the Special Period through 2006.
Number of Joint Ventures with Foreign Direct Investment in Cuba, 1990-20065
For the most part, joint ventures opened new areas of the economy the state was unable to develop directly. However, one Cuban economist confirmed that in some cases, they resulted in privatization of previously state-owned industry, particularly in oil and nickel.6
The actual number of joint ventures is small compared to the total number of state-owned enterprises, which is over five thousand. But what is the answer to the critical question of what proportion of the total property or productive forces in Cuba are in private hands? The precise division of the ownership of the means of production between the nationalized, cooperative and private sectors cannot be determined because the Cuban government does not make these figures public. Our direct inquiries to the Cuban government on this question went unanswered. In a conversation with one of the authors, a Cuban economist acknowledged that this information is intentionally guarded by the government, which she justified on the grounds that it was necessary to protect participating foreign firms from U.S. government surveillance and retaliation.
While we can’t determine the exact breakdown of property ownership, we can get an indication from economic “shadows,” some of which are:
- Pro-capitalist forces (including the U.S. State Dept.) bemoan the fact the economy is more than 90% state-owned. 7
- From 1992 to 2002, foreign direct investment provided 8.7% of the fixed capital formation in Cuba.8
- In 2002, the number of workers employed in joint ventures and foreign firms was about 30,000, which was less than 1% of the total number of Cuban workers
Despite their relatively small number, though, joint ventures in 2002 accounted for 22.7% of the revenue generated by Cuba’s total exports of goods and services, suggesting a weight beyond their absolute number.
In addition to having a large impact on generating export dollars, joint ventures have had another effect intended by the Cuban government—that of expanding and updating industrial technology. According to one observer, “While foreign investment may not seem large in terms of its overall volume, it has been the vehicle for valuable transfers of technology. In some cases, these have been environmentally friendly and energy efficient, particularly in comparison to vintage Soviet technology.”9
To what extent are different sectors of the economy affected by foreign investment, how much does each contribute to production, and what is the social weight of each? Just as the breakdown of the forms of ownership is obscured for the economy as a whole, it’s difficult to find anything but indirect evidence for the degree of capitalist involvement in specific areas of the economy. It is clear, though, that foreign capital has found its way into a broad range of industries. To look at this more closely, there is information available on the numbers of joint ventures that exist and in which sectors, depicted in the chart on the next page:
Number of Joint Ventures by Economic Sector in 200510
Looking at the distribution depicted in the graph above, it’s clear that foreign companies have been allowed to enter critical areas, such as basic industry, transportation and communication. Tourism would seem to be a more innocuous venue for the influence of an alien economic system, but in Cuba this sector has an enormous weight. Tourism has become the largest replacement for the vastly diminished sugar exports, and is now the top source for obtaining foreign currency, accounting for as much as 70%.
Notable throughout this period has been the role of the Cuban army under Raúl Castro’s leadership. Spurred in part by the policy of providing as much of its own funding as possible, the army moved into many areas of the economy: agriculture (particularly the leading export, sugar), tourism, manufacturing, construction and transportation. These enterprises are headed by military officers, and many employ civilians. Various sources estimate that the army now is involved directly or indirectly in half to two-thirds of the economy.
Foreign investment in the Free Trade Zones
Free Trade Zones were created in Cuba in 1996. The number peaked in 2000, when there were 365 operations run independently by foreign companies in three Zones. In 2003, this number had dropped to 284. The following year the Cuban government announced that it was no longer promoting Free Trade Zones, and that by 2007, all companies would be required to cease independent operating and form joint ventures with state-owned enterprises. This regulation was enforced in 2007.
The impact of foreign investment on employment
How Cuba’s citizens make their living also gives an indication of the impact of the Special Period changes on Cuba’s property forms, as well as on the society. The graph below shows the percentage breakdown of employment in selected years over three decades. At the height of the Special Period, there were significant increases in the number of privately employed people, reflected the increased number of licensed self-employed professions permitted by the government. Private and joint ventures together accounted for 14% of all those employed.
Distribution of Employment by Economic Sector, 1977-1998 (% of total workforce)11
As of 2006, the state continued to directly employ 78% of the workforce, essentially unchanged from 1998. By 2002, according to a separate source, employees of joint ventures had fallen to less than 1%. As foreign investment was expanded during the 1990s, the Cuban trade union federation (Cuban Workers Central/CTC) proposed that workers not be hired directly by joint ventures. Laws 50 and 77 required that Cuban labor be provided by the state through a contracting agency designated by the Ministry of Foreign Investment and Economic Collaboration. Under this system, the state is paid more for the labor than the salary it provides to the worker. The increased income to the state is intended to be used to fund the social agenda, and thereby limit inequality, and guarantee vacation, sick and maternity leaves, and other benefits. This restriction was lifted in 2009.
Another measure allowed during the Special Period was for citizens to receive money from relatives abroad. These remittances have put a significant amount of foreign currency into the economy. Total value of remittances reached $900 million in 2003 (in an $18.6 billion economy). This measure also exacerbated social inequality, increasing the cash available to people with relatives abroad. The inequity has had a racial dynamic as well, since the majority of the wealthy elite who left Cuba were white. Policy oscillations: moving toward partial economic recentralization
As some of the objectives of the Special Period were met, and as the negative impact of growing social inequity was noted, the “reform” process slowed beginning in 1997. In 2000, five years after the Cuban government had passed the Foreign Direct Investment Act, the government took some steps to reverse the process by repurchasing property that had been developed in conjunction with foreign investors.12
From 2003to 2007, some policies set by the Cuban government began to more extensively curb or reverse some of the changes instituted during the Special Period. These included:
- A drop in the number of joint ventures
- Withdrawing permission for foreign-owned companies to operate independently in the free trade zones.
- De-dollarization of the economy. In July 2003, state-owned enterprises were required to relinquish all U.S. dollars in exchange for convertible pesos. The following year, dollars—allowed in circulation in 1993—were banned as legal currency. This step helped to partially re-centralize the state’s monopoly of foreign trade.
- The 400 state-owned enterprises that had been licensed to import merchandise were required, starting July 2003, to get approval from the Central Bank for any purchase over $5000.
- Disbanding decentralized enterprises that were allowed to conduct foreign trade and retaking control of other enterprises by the Foreign Trade Ministry (the remaining 192 enterprises authorized to import were reduced to 89 in 2005).13
- The number of authorized self-employed professions was reduced by more than 25% to 118. The self-employed are not allowed to compete with state-owned enterprises, particularly in offering goods or services to tourists.
- Starting 2004, the Central Bank of Cuba has been given an increased role in the management of the economy. The CBC was created in 1997. In 1999, Decree Law 192 “was designed to create a fiscal management framework to generate financing resources for the public sector in order to allow the implementation of government policies and programs, including those carried out through public entities and enterprises.”14
Changes were instituted within the agricultural sphere as well. “When food supplies became scarce, [Fidel Castro] legalized private agricultural co-ops to entice farmers to deliver food to local markets. However, Castro has recently curbed this practice to stop the growth in individual farmers’ wealth. Today , it is rare to find private farmers selling their goods to anyone but the government, or at least at government dictated prices.”15
The economic measures aimed at curbing or reversing the Special Period reforms were accompanied by campaigns to reduce corruption and abuse of socialized property and resources. As one commentator noted, “In 2004, officials implemented actions to reduce corruption within the country. The exact targets of the government are unknown, yet they have seemingly picked out the tourist section as a culprit, and hence reduced the number operating foreign tourist corporations.”16
In September, 2006, Cuban officials fired the heads of two of the country’s most influential companies in a bid to bring the computing and telecommunications enterprises back under firm state control amid a national anti-corruption drive.17 The same year, there was a scandal in the discovery that half of the available gasoline was being sold privately. Massive numbers of social workers and students were deployed to replace gasoline station employees to root out the corruption and solve the problem. Despite these measures, corruption and siphoning of resources into private hands continues and appears to be deepening as the global economic crisis has cut sharply into Cuba.
Pro-capitalist measures move to the fore once again
After just a few years of curbing the Special Period reforms, pro-capitalist/pro-market mechanisms are again being implemented, and at an accelerating pace. In August, 2007, then interim president Raúl Castro and vice president Carlos Lage signed into law the “perfeccionamiento empresarial,” or perfecting of the (state) company system. This system had been developed in enterprises run by the armed forces in the 1990s and had been gradually applied to an expanding number of companies, giving local managers greater decision-making capacity and tying salaries—within a 20-30% range—to collective and individual productivity. In addition, regulations on what could be sold in the marketplace without price controls were loosened since the previous year.
The year 2008 brought incredible challenges to Cuba. Three devastating hurricanes decimated the island, causing $10 billion damage and destroying about 30% of the crops. As one of the many consequences of the world economic crisis, Cuba experienced a drop in income from tourism and a nearly 50% cut in world nickel prices (a key export). This led to a major decline in Cuba’s purchasing power at the same time that credit became even more expensive, adding to the mounting foreign debt. Cuba’s ability to purchase imports dropped severely, including foodstuffs.
In February 2008, Raúl Castro was elected president, and his administration extended the capitalist-style measures. Recent changes include lifting the cap on salaries and allowing piecework. These measures were intended to give some relief to the devastatingly low salaries. But while improving the purchasing power of some people, they are aggravating economic inequality and the social tensions that come from them.
Beginning in 2009, foreign owners were allowed to pay Cuban workers directly (rather than paying the government for their services). The government also opened unused land to private use, giving leases to 82,000 families. Other measures of giving rein to capitalist-style methodology included shifting agricultural supplies to open marketing, and lifting prohibitions on some consumer products such as cell phones, and having access—if one can afford it—to hotels and clubs previously restricted to tourists.
Has privatization of the means of production come to dominant the economy?
The clear trajectory of the past years has been to strengthen capitalist methods in the Cuban economy, but it remains—because of the difficulty getting the appropriate data described above—impossible to precisely quantify the change in ownership and the degree to which private ownership holds sway in the economy.
As depicted in Figure 1 above, the number of joint ventures with foreign capital has been reduced, a trend that is reported to have continued through 2010. According to one employee at the Foreign Investment and Economic Cooperation Ministry, “I would not be surprised if in the end there are only around 50 joint ventures in the country and just a handful of cooperative production agreements.”18
But does this trend toward fewer joint enterprises really mean that their economic and social impact has lessened? Even as the number has dropped, the trend has been for prioritizing the large scale joint ventures and developing joint enterprises and trade with Venezuela and other countries in the trade bloc called the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA). Venezuela is now Cuba’s leading trade party, supplying oil/energy resources and jointly dominating sugar production, in addition to other areas.
While an exact measure of nationalized vs. private property is illusive, a qualitative assessment is possible. Despite deep encroachments, particularly in the tourist, energy and agricultural sectors, it does seem clear that the bulk of the means of production remains in the hands of the Cuban state and its control continues to be the dominant force to this point. This assessment is shared by the pro-capitalist enemies of Cuba in this country. Rightwing economists lament, “It is not a free-market reform and it is not privatization.”19 Does the state hold a monopoly on foreign trade?
Some Trotskyist critics of Castroism have asserted that the passage of the 1995 Foreign Investment Act was the point at which Cuba ceased to be a workers state. They see opening the door for any entity, other than the government, to import or export goods as the end of the monopoly of trade. But is it really correct to see this as an all-or-nothing phenomenon?
The Cubans themselves see the monopoly of foreign trade as having been decentralized rather than eliminated. Joint ventures have been allowed to trade, but the licensing of those ventures has been controlled by the state and the number has been in decline for the last five years. As of 2008, only 400 of the 5000 state-owned enterprises are allowed to participate in foreign trade, and all expenditures over $5000 must be approved.
The steps taken to remove U.S. dollars from circulation and keep them under the direct control of the state, as well as licensing and tightened restriction of import/export businesses, point to the fact that the government did not, in fact, relinquish its control and is now, in fact, recentralizing foreign trade.
Does Cuba exercise centralized planning?
Cuba’s Central Planning Board (JUCEPLAN) was founded in 1960 to administer centralized coordination and control of production on the basis of yearly plans adopted by the central government. The National Bank of Cuba was delegated to supervise the financial transactions in concordance with the planning. The objectives and goals of the plans were determined by the central government, and sometimes circumvented JUCEPLAN altogether, as for example, when Fidel announced that sugar production would be doubled from 1965 to 1970 and developed a special campaign for this project.
The role played by JUCEPLAN was modified over the years, being strengthened in 1970 when Cuba consciously turned to mimicking the Soviet economic model and increased its reliance on trade with the Eastern Bloc. Its first formal 5-year plan was implemented in 1973. A new “System of Economic Management and Planning” was introduced in the late ‘70s, the major features of which included the decentralization of many management functions at both national and local levels, financial accountability and autonomy for state enterprises, and reliance on material incentives (and hence inequality of incomes) to increase production.
Fidel periodically personally launched special campaigns or economic turns, including the “Rectification” begun in 1986, aimed at reversing the inequities and other problems created by experimenting with market-type reforms and decentralization under the System of Economic Management and Planning during the first half of the decade.
In 1993, citing the need to increase efficiency by streamlining the bureaucracy, the government instituted a policy of “autogestión” or self-management. JUCEPLAN was dissolved, spreading out planning responsibilities over several ministries and moving from Five Year Plans, to year-by-year goals dominated in the early to mid ‘90s by managing a sharp economic crisis. According to a professor of economics one author interviewed, the character of the change in planning was that rather than the previous system of handing out plans to various industries and monitoring their progress, the responsible ministries focused on budgets, giving individual sectors more autonomy and flexibility as long as they stayed within the budgets and basic mandates.
In our assessment, state planning with varying degrees of centralization has been in place throughout the life of the revolution, though not always through the agency of JUCEPLAN or another single entity. The government continues to define economic as well as social goals, oversee production by state-owned enterprises, set prices for key goods, provide basic rations to all residents, and otherwise carry out key elements of centralized planning. Many critics have argued against specific choices made, such as the degree of dependence on the Soviet Bloc, the protracted dominance of sugar production, and delay in industrial development. But whether the state’s goals were always the best choices, centralized planning was taking place.
Comparison to the New Economic Policy
In assessing Cuba’s course, it’s useful to compare the economic “reforms” with the New Economic Policy (NEP) introduced by Lenin in the USSR in 1921 and continued under Stalin until about 1928. The fledgling soviet state was economically crippled by its inherited backwardness and the decimation of the civil war waged with the support of foreign attackers. The measures taken to ensure the revolution’s survival from 1918-1921, known as “war communism,” included forced requisitions from the peasants to feed the army and city’s workers. While necessary, they drove a wedge between country and city and industrial production fell to a fraction of its pre-1917 level.
In an effort to revive production, a number of capitalist-type reforms were introduced, including ending the forced collection of agricultural products. Peasants were taxed instead and allowed to sell their crops in the marketplace. Other measures were added, including decentralization of the state’s control over foreign trade.
“The commissariat's monopoly on internal and external foreign trade was loosened, beginning in 1921, when the New Economic Policy (NEP) decentralized control of the economy . . . Although the commissariat remained the controlling center, the regime established other organizations to deal directly with foreign partners in the buying and selling of goods. These organizations included state import and export offices, joint stock companies, specialized import and export corporations, trusts, syndicates, cooperative organizations, and mixed-ownership companies.”20
The steps taken by the USSR in the 1920s—including opening the marketplace and decentralizing control of foreign trade—are quite similar to Cuba’s “Special Period” reforms. In answering a Latin American comrade’s assertion that Cuba is no longer a workers state, Italian Marxist Alberto Airoldi concluded that:
“Were we to measure [capitalist] restoration by Hernandez’ standards, one might conclude that Lenin restored capitalism in Russia, for the Russia of the NEP advanced more than Cuba in the passing of the property of the means of production into the hands of Russian capitalists and of imperialism.”21
As in Cuba 70 years later, the NEP was inaugurated as an economic necessity, but at the same time, recognized as a step backwards that carried with it the threat of growing social inequality and strengthening of the capitalist opponents of the revolution. Yet the Soviet Union remained a workers state, however deformed by its perfidious bureaucracy. At the end of the 1920s, control of foreign trade was again tightened in the USSR, curbs were placed on the impact of the market, and centralized planning was formalized in the first of the Five Year Plans. Capitalist restoration did take place, but not until nearly six decades later.
Where does the Cuban economy stand today, and where is it headed?
Based on the criteria defined at the outset of this paper, what conclusions can we draw about the nature of the Cuban economy at the opening of 2010?
- Nationalized property predominates in Cuba, but precise data on the extent to which this has shifted toward private property are not available. There have been significant inroads made by foreign capital in most sectors of the economy, particularly those generating export income and technological advancements.
- The state’s monopoly of foreign trade has been decentralized, but not abandoned.
- State planning has been modified, but again, not discarded.
Based on these standards, we conclude that the economy continues to be that of a workers state. At the same time, Cuba’s inescapable need to trade with capitalist nations and the inherent contradictions of a hybrid economy attempting the transition from capitalism to socialism makes the island nation’s situation highly unstable, a volatile condition that cannot be resolved by its own devices or within its own shores.
The collapse of the Soviet Bloc coupled with the U.S. blockade created incredible hardships for Cuba, with wide-scale poverty. Despite major advances toward recovery during the later 1990s and early part of this decade, the global economic crisis has tremendously exacerbated economic problems never fully resolved. The measures undertaken during the Special Period brought new social problems in their wake. The average worker on a state salary equivalent to about US$20 a month can not afford necessities of life, even with subsidized housing and the monthly (inadequate) ration of staples.
Life is difficult for all, yet even more so for Blacks, women and youth. The social gap between the lives of the average worker and those with access to hard currency or convertible pesos—those employed by the tourist or other foreign-invested industry, people who get remittances from abroad, and officials of the state—has widened enormously. The social inequity hits Black Cubans harder than white because of the racism of foreign firms, especially in tourism, and because fewer Afro-Cubans get dollars from abroad or have access to privileged positions. Conditions, particularly limitations in transportation and energy, have also hit the people in the countryside especially hard.
To make ends meet, virtually all state workers, including party functionaries, must participate in the burgeoning informal economy, whether running their own small business on the side or selling items on the black market. The number of professionals such as teachers who give up their low-salaried positions to drive taxis or perform other free-lance services has reached the point where it is undercutting the quality of one of Cuba’s greatest triumphs, its system of free, universal education.
More belt-tightening measures were announced in 2009. In August, Raúl Castro asked people to reduce consumption, particularly of electricity. He also said that the government was reducing spending for health and education and suggested they are considering eliminating social benefits not guaranteed by the constitution. 22
The official illegality of the informal economy means it’s accompanied by bureaucratic harassment and bribery. The combination of poverty and unequal access to wealth and privilege has created fertile ground for corruption and theft, and with them, erosion of revolutionary values and confidence in the government.
At the opening of the Special Period, Fidel Castro and his administration talked about the social dangers of the orienting the economy to the tourist industry, courting foreign investment, allowing remittances from relatives abroad, and establishing stores selling goods for dollars. They warned of the risk that relying on market solutions would lead to growing social inequality and erosion of revolutionary values, but argued there was no option after the loss of the Soviet Union and other Eastern Bloc trading partners. Many restrictions were put in place to attempt to limit the potential pro-capitalist damage.
In recent years, however, the official leadership has forsaken warnings against the incursions of capital. To the contrary, pro-market methods now are endorsed as Cuba’s unique path to socialism. In a report on the economy released by Inter Press Service (which is affiliated with the Ministry of Foreign Relations):
“There is an ever broadening consensus about the necessity of a profound transformation of the Cuban economic model. … It is recognized that the future strategy should include non-state forms of property — not only in agriculture, but also in manufacturing and services. . . . Fifty years of socialism in Cuba have to be re-evaluated,” [referring particularly to the role of the state and the need to use market mechanisms]23
Cuba’s socialist project has been threatened from the outset by the implacable antagonism of the U.S. The danger escalated enormously with the re-ascendance of capitalism, first in the Eastern Bloc, then in China. The accumulated changes of the Special Period and the government’s current economic policies, rather than protecting Cuba, are escalating the risk of capitalism re-chaining Cuba’s economy. The current course is perhaps most alarmingly revealed in how the removal of salary caps was introduced. The government proclaimed, “Let people make as much money as they can,” a slogan is eerily reminiscent of Deng Xiao Ping’s “It is glorious to get rich; let some get rich first,” that heralded capitalism’s brutal comeback in China.
The critical element that could generate a profound positive transformation in 21st century Cuba is the one thing that had been missing since the state’s inception: the active participation of the producers themselves in making decisions regarding production and distribution.
CHARACTER OF THE STATE APPARATUS: Bureaucraticism Trumps Workers Democracy
While the economy is fundamental to the nature of any state, it is not the only factor to examine. The Cuban revolution instituted huge changes in the structure of the government and the exercise of power in the state apparatus. Yet the questions at the time and the questions we are returning to now are the same: In whose class interest does the Cuban state rule? How do the political, legislative and legal arms of the state operate, and how do they impact on the functioning of the economy? How much direct, democratic control is in the hands of the people?
Nearly a century and a half ago, the defeat of the Paris Commune taught workers and their revolutionary leadership an indispensable and severe lesson, one underscored by Marx and his successors: It is not possible for the working class to seize the bourgeois state machinery and, with a pull on the reins, steer the apparatus to a revolutionary course. This is because the machinery—their army, their police, their legislature, ministries, agencies and executive departments; their courts; and their laws—are all designed to keep the capitalists in power and to drive workers’ voice into the dust. The only way workers’ rule can flourish is to completely destroy all institutions of the bourgeois state and to replace them with new ones designed to protect the rights and enforce the rule of the formerly oppressed majority.
Cuba's evolutionary development of a state apparatus
The July 26th Movement did not have a fully developed program and strategy for creating organs of rule for Cuban workers and peasants at the time Batista was driven from power. However, they were clear from the beginning about one critical step: the absolute necessity to completely disassemble Batista’s army and police forces. This was done in the early days of the revolution, replacing them with a rebel army (Revolutionary Armed Forces) and new police recruited largely from participants in the revolutionary upsurge. An armed people’s militia was also set up that proved critical in mobilizing the country to repel the Bay of Pigs rebellion.
It took longer for other segments of the state apparatus to be replaced. Early on, many of the key areas of government were headed by bourgeois political figures representing reformist politics. These included finance, foreign trade, diplomacy, and even the presidency until mid-way through 1959.
But as Yankee opposition to the revolution grew, the government began to expropriate and nationalize property and industries and to organize resistance to a growing counter-revolution. In 1961, the goals of the Cuban leaders became consciously and explicitly socialist. The necessity to create new state structures to guide the revolutionary process became evident.
This, however, was a very protracted process. For example, the constitution under which Batista ruled was not fully replaced until 1976, almost two decades after he was driven from power. During this time, the government was led by Fidel as Prime Minister and appointed heads of the ministries. The expression of popular will was through mass meetings held in the streets. These endorsed the decisions of the Castro-led revolutionary leadership, which had enormous authority given its military defeat of Batista. The first "pilot" elections held on the island were in Matanza province in 1974. Two years later Cubans elected their first National Assembly. Even then, it was only at the level of the municipalities that people voted directly for their representatives.
Today, these elected delegates select the provincial assembly, which in turn chooses National Assembly representatives from among those elected to lower offices and others nominated by the mass organizations. The National Assembly then picks the Council of State from among its members. The Council of State selects the Council of Ministers (the cabinet of the government) and oversees the government’s operation when the National Assembly is not in session. Its decisions and decrees must be ratified by the National Assembly.
In part due to the people’s demands, and as a reaction to the demise of the Soviet Union, the Cuban leadership changed the Constitution and electoral laws in 1992 to require the direct popular election of the provincial and national assemblies. The people also have the power of recall, and have exercised that right over local officials. The economic reforms of the 1990s also resulted in various new alterations to the Constitution, ministerial bodies and state financial institutions. Other modifications were instigated by mass organizations or manifestations of popular demand.
The key question is, to what extent does the sum of these and other changes over the years contribute to enfranchising and enforcing the rule of the workers and their peasant allies?
How democratic is Cuba?
Cuba’s capitalist detractors have generally depicted it as a country under the arbitrary and repressive dictatorship of one man, a schema that plays right into their cherished prediction that when Fidel dies, the Cuban people will throw open the doors to counter-revolution. This portrayal is mostly an invention of the rightwing Cuban exile community.
The polar opposite of this view is held by Cuba solidarity activists who defend Cuba as a paragon of democracy. They point to high voter turn out for local offices and the National Assembly of People’s Power. (This body's members are elected after being nominated by local committees, trade unions or other mass organizations.)
But it’s not enough to say “Cuba is freer and more democratic than the U.S. or other capitalist states.” We know that bourgeois democracy is a fraud. We expect far more of workers states.
It is true that the leaders of the Cuban workers state are fearful of political opposition of any kind and quick to label all dissenters as tools of the CIA. This is a product of the regime’s isolation and the fact the U.S. is funding a counter-revolution. However, state repression is not what has kept Fidel in power for five decades. He and other PCC leaders have continued to hold the reins of government because of the enormous popularity and authority of the revolution they led, not primarily by repressing their critics.
So what means do the Cuban workers have for expressing and enacting their will? There are episodic mobilizations of mass discussions organized by the government through neighborhood organizations. In September of 2007 and again in 2009, for example, Raúl Castro called for nationwide debates on economic reform, similar to national discussions organized by Fidel Castro in the late 1980s and mid-1990s. At meetings organized at workplaces and neighborhoods across the country, the people were asked to identify key problems, think critically and field potential solutions for issues such as the growth of economic inequality, low wages, poor services, and lack of consumer goods.
Cuba also offers its citizens a voice in other ways, from monthly union meetings in the workplace to the mass organizations like the CDRs and the FMC in which the majority of citizens participate. But forums for airing views are not the same as having democratic control of society which as we all know is the power to make decisions. This, the Cuban people do not have.
The National Assembly, which has two regular sessions a year, has legislative and constitutional authority, but the real power in Cuban society lies in the government's administrative apparatus which makes decisions on a day-to-day basis. This is not workers power, but a bureaucracy.
To clarify our use of the term: the classic definition of a bureaucracy is that it is staffed by unelected officials who derive economic and social privileges from their positions. It operates as a top-down hierarchy, is prone to a proliferation of complex, rigid and often arbitrary regulations and procedures and to managerial/leadership cliques. In the case of Cuba, the administrative machinery may be erratically and partially responsive to what the people want, but there is no mechanism by which they can direct it or hold it accountable.
What would full democracy of a healthy workers state look like?
- Workers’ control of industry: The means of production would not only be nationalized, but would be under the direct control of the workers themselves. Factory councils would not be just advisory bodies for airing discussion, but would make the decisions about production, schedules, working conditions, interactions with related industries—all the decisions now assigned in Cuba to the state-appointed managers.
- Rule by soviets—workers’ and peasants’ councils: Soviets grew organically out of the development of the Russian Revolution. In each factory, armed services regiment, and peasant community, the most trusted leadership was selected to represent the people. The soviets evolved from a vehicle of the revolution to the nascent state apparatus, taking on the legislative and executive tasks of the new revolutionary state. They became the fullest expression of workers’ democracy until the isolation and poverty of this single workers state in a capitalist sea created the conditions that allowed the revolution to degenerate and the Stalinist bureaucracy to rise and force the soviet into subservience.
Cuba’s revolution was launched without similar formations of class struggle, most of its mass organizations and all of its representative bodies being created after the seizure of power. None of these organizations have the key characteristic of the revolutionary soviet: the combination of the legislative and executive power, which means having the capacity to make policy and exercise power to carry it out simultaneously. In Cuba today, recommendations or decisions made on the grassroots or community level are dependent on the willingness of the bureaucracy to enact them.
- Democratization of the Army. The power of working people would be manifest in every institution of the state including the military. This issue becomes even more acute when the army plays such a dominant role in the economy, putting its officers in charge of running massive enterprises with the labor of both soldiers and civilian workers. The rank-and-file would have the power to elect and recall their officers, and to have the same collective decision-making power in the factories, fields and offices where they labor as other Cuban workers, including the right to unionize in military-run enterprises.
- Political pluralism: Under ideal conditions for the existence of a workers state. While bourgeois parties would be outlawed, the doors would open to multiple parties of the working class. There’s a very good reason why this has not been possible in Cuba, however. In the current political reality, with the U.S.-led counter-revolutionary forces desperately seeking any possible toehold in Cuba, the overwhelming likelihood is that any opening would be exploited by the right and would dangerously escalate the threat to Cuba’s revolutionary gains. Given these conditions, which have only intensified since the collapse of the Soviet bloc, the FSP has not supported the call for multiple parties in Cuba.
- The absence of bureaucracy or corruption: This, unfortunately, is not the case in Cuba. Despite considerable rhetoric and some concrete attempts, a bureaucracy has indeed grown with Cuba, and one that despite the enormous popularity of Fidel, is becoming increasingly the focus of resentment and criticism from working people. To its credit, the bureaucracy itself has carried out campaigns to curb corruption, as in the campaign to end abuses in the distribution and sale of gasoline, a precious commodity. But the bureaucracy still enjoys relative material privilege, given the shortages and living conditions imposed on the island by the blockade. This circumstance is intensifying the people’s lack of confidence in the government and is closely connected to the creeping corruption, incursions of foreign capital, economic inequalities, and the growth of the black market.
Having delineated the essential features of a healthy workers state, Cuba’s shortcomings become clear. But are these deficiencies and deformations of the state apparatus so egregious as to negate the nature of Cuba as a workers state? The answer is no. No workers state that has ever yet existed achieved the full expression of workers’ democracy. The USSR retained its essential character as a healthy workers state for a relatively short period and turned into its opposite with the rise of Stalinism, which was characterized by a murderous bureaucracy and treacherous betrayals of revolutionary movements around the world. Capitalism has now finally gained ascendancy in China as well, but even at the height of its revolution, there were far fewer freedoms and opportunity for expression there than have existed in Cuba.
We conclude, therefore, that on the basis of both its economy and its state apparatus, Cuba retains its character as a workers state, though one jeopardized by openings to foreign capital and still possessing a bureaucratic rule rooted in conditions of scarcity. This reality prevails above all due to the failure of the worldwide revolutionary movement to create new workers states, especially in the metropolitan centers of capitalism, capable of expanding the world stage for building socialism.
THE PROGRAM AND GOALS OF THE CUBAN COMMUNIST PARTY:
A Study in Contradiction
In addition to the economic foundation and the state apparatus, the nature of a state depends in part on the goals and program of the leadership at its helm. Views of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) on the Left run the gamut from near reverence to wholesale condemnation. The Cuban leaders are either exemplary revolutionaries, or unredeemable betrayers plotting capitalism’s return. Opinions cluster around these polar opposites. But an objective analysis points to a much more complex assessment: that the PCC’s nature and record show heterogeneity and contradiction. This is due to the PCC's origins, the Stalinist influence of the USSR, the constant pressure of imperialism and the close tie between the state apparatus and the party.
Origins of the Cuban Communist Party
The PCC as constructed today did not actually come into existence until after the seizure of power. In July 1961, two years after the 1959 Revolution, the Integrated Revolutionary Organizations was formed by the merger of three forces: the July 26th Movement, the Popular Socialist Party led by Blas Roca, and the Revolutionary Directorate led by Faure Chomón. On March 26, 1962 the Integrated Revolutionary Organizations became the United Party of the Cuban Socialist Revolution, which in turn became the Communist Party of Cuba on October 3, 1965.
The most revolutionary of these currents was the July 26th Movement, which led the guerilla struggle against Batista. While many of its leaders were petty bourgeois in origin, they had directly confronted not only the dictatorship, but the imperialist forces backing it.
The Revolutionary Directorate was primarily based among radical students, whose programmatic objectives were focused on Batista’s overthrow, democratic rights and national liberation.
The Popular Socialist Party was the name taken by the original Communist Party formed in 1925 and aligned with Comintern (the Communist International) and the CP of the USSR under Stalin. Prior to the revolution, they had played a collaborationist role, even serving in Batista’s government as ministers without portfolio.
These three currents resulted in deep divisions within the PCC during the early ‘60s. When Cuba came under increasing attack from the U.S. government and corporations, the July 26th Movement pushed beyond the conciliatory policies advocated by some and took the lead in instigating the post-seizure of power nationalizations and changes in the government apparatus that established Cuba as a workers state.
Fidel Castro later defended the July 26th Movement for not calling for socialism while fighting Batista because it “would not have been understood by the people” and would have triggered stronger imperialist opposition. He went on, however, to say that, “When subsequently the vigorous and victorious revolution did not hesitate to advance, some said it had been betrayed, failing to realize that to stop the revolution mid-way would indeed have amounted to betrayal.”24
Divisions among the leadership continued on economic policy. One wing of the Cuban leadership around Che Guevara sought to emphasize internal industrial development with state enterprises operating as branches of a centralized economy and, to the extent possible, on the basis of social need rather than the law of value (“profitability”). The former Popular Socialist Party cadre argued for market incentives and supported a degree of decentralization in decision-making, essentially a Cuban version of “market socialism.” In 1965, Fidel Castro intervened to turn toward a more centralized structure, consonant with the PCC’s declared intent of building socialism.25
The influence of Stalinism
Using the term “Stalinist” in relation to the Cuban leadership is a hot-button issue. It’s a label rejected by the PCC itself. Moreover, it’s a term that is too often used loosely and as an epithet from both left and right. But as a dominant force in world politics for three-fourths of the 20th century and a dividing line in revolutionary theory and action, it is crucial to examine the impact of Stalinism on Cuba objectively.
The essence of Stalinism is the practice of peaceful coexistence with capitalism. It accepts imperialism’s dominion over the world and seeks to accommodate to it. Under Stalin’s rule, the USSR forsook its role as the leaders and defenders of every oppressed people worldwide who were challenging capitalism. Instead, it subordinated this international revolutionary duty to the perceived narrow, national interests of the USSR, priorities that often translated into the interests of its ruling bureaucracy.
Stalinism not only holds back from challenging the capitalist class’ hegemony, it conciliates and collaborates with it. It trades away potential revolutionary upsurges elsewhere in exchange for relative safety and stability in its own country or niche. This was codified in Stalin's theory of “socialism in one country,” which was used to justify subordinating anti-capitalist upsurge anywhere in the world to the soviet state. This was the example and policy given to Cuba’s leaders by their soviet senior partners.
The impact of the USSR on Cuban internationalism
Even as Cuba took steps to strengthen the foundation of its workers state, the leadership moved closer to the USSR. This trajectory was in part a testimony to the tremendous authority accorded the USSR for waging the first victorious workers’ revolution. It was also driven by Cuba’s desperate need for a political and economic ally in the face of U.S. hostility and the blockade. Over time the island became increasingly dependent on the Eastern Bloc. With economic aid came concessions and political influence. At times Cuban leaders resisted Soviet influence, but ultimately conceded.
The legacy of “socialism in one country” explains a great deal of the erratic quality of Cuba’s international policies.
The PCC is often portrayed by its supporters as exemplary internationalists, based usually on their sending troops and arms to Angola and the Congo and providing medical help to other “non-aligned” nations. But sending humanitarian aid is not the same as providing political leadership to insurgent forces. And while the example of southern Africa is laudable, the track record of the Cuban leadership on rebellion closer to home is not.
In the early 1960s, Cuba encouraged guerrilla forces in a number of Latin American nations. This overt support, however, was withdrawn in the late 60s under pressure from the USSR, which saw the spread of revolution as a threat to establishing a stable, "peaceful" relationship with U.S. imperialism. So while Cuba unquestioningly gave encouragement to the Sandinista revolt, it urged the victors not to “take the Cuban road,” and to adopt a mixed economy, leaving capitalism in control. This situation made it easier for U.S. imperialism to overthrow the Sandinistas using both the ballot box and a vicious counter-insurgency.
During the 1970s and 80s, Cuba’s de facto foreign policy consistently prioritized national self-interest over those of a revolutionary alliance with proletarian forces abroad. For example, the Cuban government maintained its diplomatic and commercial relations with Argentina after the 1976 military coup, denying potential aid to oppositional forces there. Opportunities to advance the struggle in Guatemala and El Salvador were let go by. In fact, Cuba has never given open support to any revolutionary force within a country that maintained good relations with Havana, including Franco’s Spain.
There are other examples that could be examined, including Castro’s failure to come out on the side of political revolution and workers’ democracy in Czechoslovakia in 1968 and Poland in 1980, as well as withdrawing support from Eritrean liberation fighters at the behest of the USSR. The pattern, however, is clear: decisions on whether to support any given anti-imperialist struggle are not made first and foremost on the criterion of what will advance the international struggle for socialism, but on the basis of the national interest of Cuba, as defined by the PCC leadership.
This practice has intensified under the pressures created by the collapse of the USSR and Eastern Bloc. Its echoes are found in a recent speech by Raúl Castro to the National Assembly. He equated Cuba’s “outstanding international role” with its growing “prestige” among other nations, evidenced by its leadership of the Non-aligned Movement and the lifting of its exclusion from the Organization of American States.26 The Cuban leadership has even gone so far in the quest for respectability among bourgeois nations as to offer to make common cause with the U.S. in the “war against terrorism.”
Hand-in-hand with the idea that an isolated “socialist” state can coexist with capitalism comes the strategy of the popular front, an alliance of working class organizations with bourgeois forces. The popular front leads inevitably to defeat since it ties the hands of the working class to the rule of its bourgeois “partners” who hold back the struggle for socialism. In Chile, Cuba supported the alliance of left and bourgeois parties that brought Allende to power in 1973, paving the way for a colossal defeat of the Chilean people at the hands of U.S. imperialism. Today, the PCC uncritically supports the Bolivarian Revolution advocated by Hugo Chavez, another instance of the popular front.
The growth of the bureaucracy
As alluded to in the section on the state apparatus above, there may be discussion and open elections in Cuba, but workers and peasants are barricaded from direct authentic power. The PCC has gathered the reins tightly in their own hands at the expense of workers’ control at the point of production, the fundamental building block of genuine workers’ democracy.
The banning of other organized tendencies or even other parties should not be the norm for a workers state—quite the opposite. In The Revolution Betrayed, Trotsky describes what should exist, and why the Bolsheviks moved away from that model:
“The present [Stalinist] doctrine that Bolshevism does not tolerate factions is a myth of the epoch of decline. In reality, the history of Bolshevism is a history of the struggle of factions. And, indeed, how could a genuinely revolutionary organization, setting itself the task of overthrowing the world and uniting under its banner the most audacious iconoclasts, fighters and insurgents, live and develop without intellectual conflicts, without groupings and temporary factional formations.
“. . . the extraordinary closeness and at times actual merging of the party with the state apparatus had already in the first years done indubitable harm to the freedom and elasticity of the party regime. Democracy had been narrowed in proportion as difficulties increased. In the beginning, the party had wished and hoped to preserve freedom of political struggle within the framework of the Soviets. The civil war introduced stern amendments in this calculation. The opposition parties were forbidden one after the other. This measure, obviously in conflict with the spirit of Soviet democracy, the leaders of Bolshevism regarded not as a principle, but as an episodic act of self-defense.”27
Stalin, however, found the suppression of criticism tailor-made for his aim of consolidating bureaucratic control and protecting the privileges of the ruling caste which was his power base. A lockdown on dissent became a permanent feature of his regime.
The Castroist leadership, faced with unrelenting threats from its foes, had reason akin to that of the Bolsheviks to guard against attacks from the right. They also had the example set by the USSR and held out as the model for a workers state.
At the same time, it’s important to recognize that the key reason for the Castro regime's survival was that the PCC, more than any other workers state party, retained its character as leader of a revolution; kept the respect and trust of the Cuban people and radicals around the world; and remained responsive to the needs and demands of the people. While restricting full freedom of expression, it still has never created a police state, using coercion and repression to stay in power as did Stalin.
Suppression of Trotskyist thought
Trotskyists have correctly pointed out that the economic policies of the early period of the revolution were necessary steps that demonstrate the realities of permanent revolution. The Cuban struggle could not stop at ousting Batista and launching democratic reforms, but to survive, had to move forward to expropriate capitalism and wield power on behalf of the working class. Some have gone on to argue that these steps indicate Castro was an “unconscious Trotskyist.”
The reality was that as time drew on, Castro and the PCC drew closer to a Stalinist viewpoint and became consciously anti-Trotskyist. There was a small group of Trotskyists in Cuba in the 1950s, including guerrillas who fought alongside Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. This group belonged to the branch of Trotskyism led by Juan Posada, who split from the Fourth International in 1962. In 1961, the Posadaist section in Cuba argued that the Cuban government should forcibly expel the American military base at Guantánamo Bay. It organized workers in the town of Guantánamo to march on the nearby military base, an action repudiated by the Cuban government. Later that year, members of the Popular Socialist Party raided the headquarters of the Posadist group and smashed its printing press, which was in the process of printing an edition of Trotsky's The Permanent Revolution.
Guevara, when asked in an interview about this event, commented:
“That did happen. It was an error. It was an error committed by a functionary of second rank. They smashed the plates. It should not have been done. However, we consider the Trotskyist party to be acting against the revolution. For example, they were taking the line that the Revolutionary Government is petty bourgeois, and were calling on the proletariat to exert pressure on the government and even to carry out another revolution in which the proletariat would come to power. This was prejudicing the discipline necessary at this stage.”28
Castro banned the Posadaist group and launched a vicious anti-Trotskyist attack at the Tricontinental Conference in Havana in 1966. The rationale of the Cuban leadership was that differences with the PCC were equal to attacking the revolution. In the name of protecting Cuba from rightwing counter-revolution, the left wing was suppressed. The PCC became the sole legal party in Cuba, a fact codified in the Cuban Constitution adopted in 1975.29
A bureaucracy, but not a monolith
While the PCC actively suppressed opposition from the Left, they never did so with the bloody fierceness of the regimes in the USSR and China. The PCC has been, in comparison with other Stalinist parties, relatively open to debate within its ranks.
The collapse of the Soviet Union was an inestimable loss, not only to Cuba, but to the world proletariat. It did, however, have the positive effect of breaking the Stalinist political stranglehold on progressive thought around the world and opened the door to theoretical and practical dictates.
In Cuba, this led to the Fourth Party Congress in 1991 being one of unusual openness and debate as the leadership tried to create a wide public consensus to respond to the “Special Period.” Three million people engaged in pre-Congress debate and discussions on issues such as political structure and economic policy.
At the same time, the 1991 Congress redefined the party as “the party of the Cuban nation” rather than “the party of the working class.” Also, the prohibition on religious believers joining the party was lifted. The Cuban CP has not, however, opened the party membership to entrepreneurs as the Chinese Communist Party did.
The question remains of how much room there is, not only for debate, but for openly organizing to shift the course of the PCC from within. There have been many reports in the last few years of open, public debate in Cuba over a range of questions, particularly its economic course. Millions waded in on these questions in the fall 2007 discussions called by Raúl Castro as acting head of state. Recent meetings of economists have published debates between those favoring tightening of centralization versus “China model” market advocates.
Even as the USSR model was being emulated, it has never been without critics within Cuba. In the space opened by the collapse of the Soviet edifice, critics have become more vocal, including some among the top leadership of the PCC. In a 2006 speech, Ricardo Alarcón had this to say:
“The conversion of the Soviet experience into a paradigm for those who in other places fought their own anti-capitalist battle, and the imperative obligation of defending it from its inflamed and powerful enemies, led to the subordination of a great part of the revolutionary movement to the policies and interests of the USSR, which did not always correspond to those of other peoples. . . . The tendency to blindly ‘tail’ thoroughly penetrated many organizations and individuals, and they couldn’t react rationally when the system that supported their faith collapsed.”30
Other indications of individuals taking a fresh look at the high cost of Stalinism and Trotsky's ideas can be found. Progressive journalist Ron Ridenour was startled to enter a book publishing office in Cuba to find a poster of Trotsky on the wall. And Editorial de Ciencias Sociales recently put out a volume on the 1905 Russian Revolution with a positive and objective portrayal of Trotsky’s role.31
It is logical that as the revolution’s survival has been more acutely threatened, some Cuban minds have been drawn to the ideas of this great revolutionary. Roberto Regalado, who has worked in the Americas Department of the Central Committee of the PCC since 1971, and served as a diplomat in the United States and Nicaragua, recently wrote Latin America at the Crossroads: Domination, Crisis, Popular Movements and Political Alternatives. He openly advocates the concept that the best defense of the revolution is an internationalist perspective endorsing the workingclass seizure of power.
Until her sudden death in 2008, the best known voice for Trotskyism within Cuba was that of Celia Hart, daughter of revolutionary heroes. She publicly embraced Trotsky’s Permanent Revolution and saw its expression in the unfolding of the Cuban Revolution. She wrote:
“The fall of real socialism cannot be analyzed and understood without reading Leon Trotsky. . . . He experienced in his own flesh the excesses of the bureaucracy of a socialist state in power, he designed one of the most vital concepts for revolutionary thought: the permanent revolution. It is not only unfair to hold him apart from the best communists, but it also is a lack in our revolutionary practice.
“Internationalism, permanent revolution, and the non-viability of socialism in one country are key aspects of the revolution… Che and Fidel have followed his steps, even though they did not know it. The slogan “create two, three, many Vietnams” is the materialization in Latin America of the Permanent Revolution and Internationalism.”32
Although there has been a small opening for left dissent within Cuba, there is no evidence that advocates of Trotsky’s ideas are having an appreciable impact within the party. Hart was forced out of the PCC and, though she shared her ideas widely, she declined to organize a tendency, faction or other formation to carry them out. In a conversation with one of the authors, she said she would not consider openly organizing in this way until after Fidel died.33 Unfortunately, she did not live long enough to do so.
The need for an international revolutionary party and Cuba’s role
One of the greatest failures of the PCC leadership has been their refusal to use the authority they achieved as organizers of the first victorious anti-capitalist revolution and workers state in the Western Hemisphere to galvanize the creation of an international party. The FSP, and others, have called on the PCC to do exactly that. As we wrote in 1997:
“In these times of danger and opportunity, the forces of world revolution are scattered. Class-conscious workers and radicals are desperately crying out for leaders. A united front of the Left is urgently needed to defend workers’ gains around the world—especially beleaguered Cuba. To pull together an international coalition of radicals requires the initiative of leaders of undisputed stature and authority. For this role, no one can compare to Fidel Castro and the leaders of revolutionary Cuba who live and breathe the truth of Che Guevara’s statement that ‘internationalism is an inescapable necessity’. . .
“A call from the Cuban leadership for international coordination among radicals would resonate among liberation fighters globally and build optimism among Cubanas and Cubanos who know their future is tied to the success of world socialism.34
The PCC's response was that it was “not time” to attempt this project almost 40 years after the Cuban Revolution.
Where is the Cuban leadership headed today?
Despite the prohibition against open factions, the PCC is not homogenous. What are the key forces within the leadership today, and what direction are they likely to take? What voices for change are being raised, both in and outside the PCC?
The Cuban Communist Party continues to have contradictory forces within it. It represents the valiant victory over the island’s exploiters, yet is marred by suppression of workers’ democracy. It has made Cuba a symbol of fighting against imperialism and generously shared the country's resources and medical and other professional expertise with other nations, yet is guilty of failing to play the critical international role of revolutionary leadership. Like the Soviet Union, its leaders have largely become fused with the state apparatus, which further ties it to administrative duties and draws it away from its role as a party working with comrade parties around the world in the interest of global revolution.
With Fidel’s continued health limitations, Raúl Castro, who had been the acting head of state, became Cuba’s new president in February 2008. As Defense Minister, Raúl was a key inaugurator of pro-market reforms. The military under his guidance took on a wide range of enterprises, including the key sectors of tourism and sugar production. As early as the 1980s, the armed forces enterprises introduced tying individual and collective wages to productivity and gave a greater degree of decision-making to local managers who remain under tight control by the PCC.
Raúl Castro is part of the original leadership of the revolution, the old guard that won the respect and loyalty of those who lived under Batista or experienced the early years of the revolution. He has a solid base in the large and powerful military, and was part of building stronger ties to European capital during the Special Period. He has been quoted as an admirer of the Chinese ‘Tiger’ economy, raising the question of whether he and his supporters are poised to lead Cuba along a similar path toward the restoration of capitalism. While he, along with virtually every member of the state apparatus, claims to be committed to building socialism, there is no question that he has supported and introduced measures that raise the threat of restoration and has increased the influence of foreign capital.
In addition to the old guard, there is a younger group within the leadership, sometimes referred to as the “collegiates." They were children during the revolution, or born shortly after it. This group has strong bases in the trade unions, youth organizations and security apparatus and has benefited from the material privileges enjoyed by state officials. Like Raúl, they back many of the pro-market reforms and play a particular role in the recent move toward closer relations with Venezuela, which has become Cuba’s top trade partner. Former Vice President of the Council of State Carlos Lage Dávila and former Minister of Foreign Affairs Felipe Ramón Pérez Roque were members of this group until they were removed from office in March 2009 as part of a major cabinet shake-up which left the reins of government more tightly in Raúl’s hands.
There has been open debate among economists within Cuba over the direction, degree and pace of economic changes. Some openly advocate pro-market reforms that would put Cuba on China’s path. Others argue that any opening in this direction would provide the U.S.-backed right an opportunity to topple the Cuban government; this group seems to be in the minority at this time.
The past few years have seen the emergence of a consciously left critique within Cuba. Celia Hart was the most visible and most openly identified with Trotskyism, but other voices are being heard. They are still a tiny minority in Cuban society, and are not organized as a tendency or faction within the party; they have no official standing and as yet, miniscule impact on policy.
Varied perspectives can be found among the contributors to the Cuban section of the website http://www.kaosenlared.net/cuba. A frequent theme is criticism of the bureaucratism of the state and calls for more democratic measures. Pedro Campos and others have penned a program calling for the formation of cooperatives and decentralization of the economy—a platform they want discussed at the next party congress. The FSP does not endorse these measures and believes they have little in common with a Marxist-based analysis.
Other demands raised on the kaosenlared website speak to the political and social desires of the Cuban masses. These include the creation of workers councils that would control decision-making in the workplace, more democratic participation in the electoral system, guarantees for freedom of speech (including access to the Internet), association and travel. Contributors also call for allowing of tendencies within the Communist Party and opening a door for the rank-and-file of the party to determine policy.
The most recent developments in Cuba suggest that Raúl Castro’s administration is working to consolidate power more tightly rather than opening up discussion. Late summer of 2009 brought a series of announcements. Even as a new round of public discussions on the economic crisis were called, the announcement came that the already long-deferred 6th Party Congress was being postponed, with no new date yet set. The rationale given was that the severity of the crisis and the fact that this would be the last Congress with those who led the revolution demanded that clear policies be developed before the meeting. In other words, the leadership intends to have its policies worked out and well on the way to being installed before the general PCC membership has its official say.
At the same time, Raúl Castro said changes in the leadership would not await the Congress, but that members of the Central Committee not doing their job would be removed or replaced, a move that suggests more dismissals like those of Lage and Pérez Roque may be on the way. Also in August came the announcement that there would be an additional shake-up of some underperforming state-owned enterprises and that army officers would take on managerial duties. This move, too, seems geared to tie more power and influence in Raúl’s hands.
The situation today is contradictory. There is clearly widespread debate and discussion taking place, with diverse opinion regarding the economic and political program for Cuba’s future. The trajectory of the leadership seems to be to allow for public debate—at least up to a point—while simultaneously tightening the PCC's control over decision-making.
This level of bureaucratism does not, however, contradict defining Cuba as a workers state.
Is political revolution the only way forward?
Even if one is convinced that Cuba is a deformed workers state, the question remains as to whether there is any hope of the masses compelling the PCC toward a more revolutionary course. The alternative is to call for its forcible removal, that is, for a political revolution.
There are historically developed criteria for answering these questions, ones that were applied by Leon Trotsky in relation to the USSR, and which we have sought to apply to China during the process of capitalist restoration there.35 These are:
- Has the bureaucracy locked all political, economic and social institutions in an iron grasp, using the police and armed forces to maintain its control?
- Has the bureaucracy congealed, making itself into a caste separate from and inaccessible to the masses and impervious to correction or change from below?
- Has the self-organization of the masses been completely repressed, with no evidence of dissidence or independent organizing?
- Has the bureaucracy instituted a regression in the social, political and cultural achievements of the revolution and elements of the construction of a socialist society, (for example, moving backward on the position of women or elimination of racism)?
- Has the course set by the bureaucracy so deviated from the aspiration of the masses that it had become increasingly unpopular despite the tremendous authority of the revolution?
- We believe the answer to these questions is no. Far more than any other ruling party of past workers states, the PCC has shown tolerance of debate and that it can and will respond to pressure from the people of Cuba. And as long as potential remains for promoting revolutionary ideas from without and within Cuba, and for workers to argue for a clearer, stronger socialist program, any call for political revolution—for an insurrectionary attempt aimed at throwing out the PCC leadership—will open a door to a rightwing coup and constitutes a dangerous disservice to the Cuban Revolution.
The next issue to arise is: even if a call for political revolution should not be raised now, has the time come to advocate a multi-party system and support the creation of a Trotskyist party?
The critical problem here, and the reason the FSP has not called for multiple parties in the past, is that even if legal parties were restricted to those who ostensibly supported socialism, rightwing forces backed by the U.S. would seek to use the opening to sabotage the revolution from within. An alternative is to support and encourage left critics within Cuba, particularly Trotskyists, and to press the PCC to accept them as tendencies within the party. If the PCC refuses to open itself to loyal criticism and correction from within, it will force revolutionaries who disagree with its course to organize as separate parties. And the time to wrest Cuba back to a revolutionary course, away from the precipice of a disastrous crash into capitalism is growing very short.
Another potential force to impact the goals and policies of the leadership lies in the influence and potential power of Cuba’s mass organizations, but here, too, we find contradictory forces at work.
CUBAN MASS ORGANIZATIONS
A Force for Democracy or Handmaidens of the State Apparatus?
Along side the state exist a number of mass organizations, whose members include the majority of the Cuban people. The critical question for the purpose of this analysis is: to what degree do these organizations function autonomously, creating a democratic voice for the populace, a vehicle for expressing their revolutionary will and a corrective to the governmental bureaucracy?
This section will examine some of the mass organizations, all of which are organizationally separate from the state, but require official recognition from the government to win non-governmental organization (NGO) status. Their degree of genuine autonomy will be assessed by looking at their relationship with both the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) and the extent to which they’ve been able to initiate social gains and policy change. In addition, we’ll address the question of how their roles have changed since the beginning of the Special Period of the 1990s.
The mass organizations and their origins
Cuba’s mass organizations represent students, young people, women, workers, small farmers, and local neighborhoods. Their commonly stated mission is to carry through the revolution from the grassroots in all walks of life and to function as schools of popular democracy. However, with just a couple of exceptions, they did not grow out of the struggle against Batista nor play a part in the initial battle for power. Instead, they were created after the seizure of power and became levers for the defense and extension of the revolution. Most were founded in the early years of the revolution, between 1960 and 1962. Those listed on the PCC website are:
- Cuban Workers’ Central (Central de Trabajadores de Cuba), founded in 1939
- Federation of Cuban Women (Federación de Mujeres Cubanas), 1960
- Committees for the Defense of the Cuban Revolution (Comités de Defensa de la Revolución), 1960
- Federation of Middle School Students (Federación Estudiantil de la Enseñanza Media), 1970
- Federation of University Students (Federación Estudiantil Universitaria), 1922
- Union of Young Communists (Unión de Jóvenes Comunistas), 1962
- National Association of Small Farmers (Asociación de Agricultores Pequeños), 1961
The PCC characterizes its relationship with the popular organizations as based on “the recognition of their organic independence and autonomy.” “At all times,” says its website, the Party “uses persuasiveness and explanation to establish the justness of their positions in matters of importance, and without substituting for their responsibilities. Here the Party’s authority and the influence of their militants take root in the bosom of these organizations.”36 The mass organizations accept the PCC leadership within their organizations. The CTC, for example, explicitly says so in its statutes,37 and like other key mass groups, they identify as key social partners in Cuba’s historic project.
The relationship as described on paper between the ruling Party and popular mass organizations—autonomous, interdependent, and unified in advancing the revolution to socialism—should be the standard for a workers’ state. The question is: how truly autonomous are Cuba’s mass organizations? Are they independent agents of the Cuban working class, acting as collaborative popular forces of the revolution? Or do they serve as functionaries to carry out the policies set by a bureaucracy?
To understand the nature of this partnership, the following questions are useful guideposts. To what extent, and how, does the membership participate in the mass organizations? What evidence is there of opposition to, or influence on, PCC positions and policy? To what extent does the PCC defend the autonomy of the popular organizations? Has their independence been compromised by the economic crisis and U.S. counter-revolution? A focus on three of the mass organizations gives insight on this score: the Cuban Workers’ Central (CTC), Federation of Cuban Women (FMC) and Committees for the Defense of the Cuban Revolution (CDRs).
At the point of production: the Cuban Workers’ Central
In Cuba, 98% of workers are unionized. The CTC is the country’s national body of labor, with 19 member unions covering all industries—from education, health and services to construction, mining and forestry. The CTC sees its role as twofold: 1) to defend and advance the economic, social and political interests of Cuba; and 2) to protect the rights and living standards of Cuban workers. The CTC is represented in government and at all levels of the Party, and union officials are elected members of Cuba’s National Assembly.
Unions initiate proposals, they are consulted by the Party and government on all labor matters, and they are in the position to advocate for workers in these forums. For example, in 1995, the CTC opposed the direct hiring of workers by private companies in the initial draft of the new Foreign Investment Law; its argument that such power must remain with the state employment bodies won out. In 1994, the CTC was also successful in its call to delay the implementation of a law that would tax workers’ earnings to fund social security until wages rose enough to make the levy affordable.
What power do the union members have? The union structure gives some clues. The CTC, as well as each national union, holds a congress every five years. Here, delegates analyze developments, raise issues, elect the leadership and debate resolutions that will guide the union movement for the next five years. The membership is surveyed a year before each congress. Early results for the CTC’s 18th Congress in 2001 showed an 81% response rate. The chief concerns were related to the Special Period. Paramount was labor unity: the economic crisis bred a degree of individualism not seen in Cuba since 1959, and the union movement was struggling to preserve unity. Wages, working conditions, social conditions such as transportation, housing and meal services, and the issue of internal union democracy—mainly the relationship between locals and the national leadership—were also ranked as high-priority problems.
At the grassroots of the union structure is the union section (sección sindical). Each section has a general secretary (similar to a shop steward) and a minimum of five other officers. They are elected by workplace assemblies every 2½ years, and the membership can recall their leaders. The officers are responsible for wage-related issues, occupational health and safety, union activities and training. They are unpaid and carry out these duties alongside their regular job responsibilities. The majority of these officers are not PCC members. At monthly rank-and-file assemblies, members analyze reports about the business of the enterprise, discuss workplace issues, and raise complaints or recommendations to be taken to management.
The union bureau (buró sindical) is comprised of one or more union sections. Its officers are professional union staff and are elected every 2½ years by the union section(s). They can be recalled by a workers’ assembly. The bureau represents workers in collective bargaining negotiations, disciplinary matters and other issues. Above the bureau is the provincial level, which reviews the union’s work and can be called upon by a section or bureau to help resolve a dispute or advocate a change. The provincial bodies also assist the bureaus with collective bargaining.
At the top is the National Committee, which is elected at the CTC Congress from among the National Secretariat membership. Between congresses, the CTC is governed by the National Secretariat, the National Council and the National Committee.
Before the 1980s, the government controlled production and all industrial matters, with little or no union input. During the rectification campaign of the mid 1980s, unions were given a more active role in the State’s efforts to raise efficiency and productivity. Union participation was again increased during the Special Period. In both cases, the government’s key goal appears to have been gaining the union’s support in implementation of its labor policy, including efforts to increase productivity.
As a further example of this, unions were restructured to prepare and train officers and members in carrying out the PCC’s policy of achieving greater efficiency and productivity under the Decentralized Management System (sistema perfeccionamiento empresarial) introduced in 1998.
But complaints by unionists and resistance to certain measures indicate a different vantage point from the shop floor and at the checkout counters. The effect on workers of the Special Period, especially the opening of the Cuban economy to the U.S. dollar and foreign investment will be discussed below.
Revolution within a revolution: the Federation of Cuban Women
Approximately 85% of Cuban women, from the age of 14, belong to the FMC. Like the CTC, the FMC’s structure is vertical: above the base of 76,000 local chapters are 169 municipal branches, which comprise the municipal assemblies, committees and secretariat. Above this is the provincial layer, covering 14 provinces. At the top are the Congress, National Committee and National Secretariat.
The FMC‘s objectives mirror those of all the popular organizations: to advance the revolution at the grassroots.38 The FMC’s existence embodies the Cuban leadership’s recognition that women are the revolution’s backbone. The organization has consistently stated that its task is to incorporate women into all aspects of building socialism and in all levels of power.
The FMC formed in 1960 as a fusion of various pre-revolutionary feminist groupings, including the predominantly campesina Revolutionary Feminine Unity (Unidad Feminina Revolucionaria), the Revolutionary Feminine Brigades (Brigadas Femininas Revolucionarias), the Humanist Women’s Group (Grupos de Mujeres Humanistas), the Sisterhood of Mothers (Hermandad de Madres). Its founders came from the July 26 Movement, the student and labor movements, and the Popular Socialist Party (PSP, Cuba’s pre-1959 communist party). Vilma Espín, FMC president from 1960 until her death in 2007, fought in the revolutionary army. She was also a member of the PCC’s Central Committee since its founding in 1965 and the Political bureau since 1980.
There is no data about the crossover of membership and leadership positions between the FMC and PCC, but it would be safe to say that it is substantial. Certainly the FMC, like the CTC and other non-government forces, adheres to PCC policy.
One of the FMC’s first projects was Cuba’s renowned literacy program, which sent 100,000 students, nearly 60% of them women, to far flung rural factories and homes. Another was the school program for Cuba’s domestic servants and sex workers, freeing countless women from the only occupations open to them before the revolution. Establishing day care centers and organizing first aid brigades in the year of the Bay of Pigs invasion were also the FMC’s initial achievements. Says U.S. author Margaret Randall, “women shouldered the gun, the notebook, the machete, and the medical kit, and pitched in to help defend and consolidate the revolution.”39
On International Women’s Day 2000, Granma reported that women made up 43.6% of the workforce (compared to 19.2% in 1953 and 38.9% in 1990) and two-thirds of the country’s professionals and technicians. Comparing these achievements with women’s representation in Cuba’s national leadership (one-third) and National Assembly deputies (27.6%), the newspaper noted the FMC’s concern: “We are the majority of the economic base but a minority in power.”40 On the other hand, women are 54% of the CTC’s national leaders and 58% of its rank-and-file leaders; 90 of the 169 municipal CTC committees are led by women.41
When asked for examples of the FMC’s current capacity to initiate policy change, representatives visiting New York cited an extension of maternity leave policy, jointly sponsored by the FMC and the CTC.42 Cuba’s system of maternity leave is one of the most advanced in the world. Since 1963, Cuban women have benefited from the Working Woman Maternity Law. The legislation was extended in 1974 to provide working mothers 18 weeks’ leave paid at 100% (six weeks to be taken before birth) and additional unpaid leave up to a year after birth. Working mothers are guaranteed to return to the same job. In 1992, paid leave was extended another 12 weeks at 60% pay. Before the CTC’s 2001 congress, women made it clear that, because daycare centers only accept children over one year old, they needed assistance in caring for their children until then. At the congress, the government announced additional leave of up to one year after birth at 60% pay.
Committees for the Defense of the Cuban Revolution
Formed in 1960 to fight counter-revolution, the CDRs are the largest of Cuba’s mass organizations with about eight million members. All Cubans from the age of 14 are eligible to join.
CDRs deal with every kind of issue, from services and maintenance, to evacuation systems during Cuba’s fierce hurricane seasons, to military preparedness against the ever-probable U.S. invasion. In her 1979 work on People’s Power in Cuba, Marta Harnecker describes CDR meetings, reminiscent of what Trotsky imagined under socialism: “Every so often an entire neighborhood becomes convulsed with noisy meetings, carried out, as a rule, in the streets. There the performance of various community services is evaluated. These meetings are one of the most important activities the organized Cuban people engage in today… Convened by the leaders of the respective neighborhoods, they are attended by the residents as well as by those responsible for each of the commercial units in the area.”43
The network of approximately 122,000 committees countrywide is structured similarly to other mass organizations like the CTC and FMC, with local blocks, districts, provincial and national levels. At all levels are a coordinator, an organizer and section leaders, and the members have the right to recall an officer. According to Harnecker, there is nothing of consequence that CDRs have not played a role in, and this is reflected in the sections’ campaigns, such as food distribution, blood donor programs, vaccination and social security programs, or cultural and sports activities.
CDRs work with the FMC. They helped with the 1961 literacy campaign and more recently took part in setting up daycare centers. Public meetings to debate and study documents, legal changes and current developments are collaborative efforts of CDRs, the FMC, CTC, other non-government institutions and government authorities.
The impact of the Special Period on the mass organizations
The revolution brought enormous gains for working Cubans. The 1976 Constitution guaranteed:
- the right to employment
- equal pay for work of equal value
- universal social security
- four weeks’ paid vacation
- sick and maternity leave
- free healthcare and education
These rights, rarely conceded under capitalism and never without struggle, reflect a ruling party in tune with its mass base. Their reaffirmation and expansion in 1992, at the height of the Special Period, showed a commitment by the PCC to safeguard fundamental social gains and an understanding that tampering with these rights would crack the revolution at its foundation.
But as the Special Period progressed, there was a shift in the PCC-led government’s demands on the workers and the role assigned to the mass organizations in carrying out governmental policies.
The CTC was involved in the drafting of the 1995 law codifying foreign investment. It advocated for protecting the working conditions and providing safeguards against exploitation by foreign capitalists by demanding that foreign companies not be allowed to directly hire and fire staff. Their proposal that joint ventures be required to go through state-run employment authorities was accepted by the government, as was the CTC’s insistence that foreign investors comply with Cuba’s labor laws.
However, the CTC cooperated with the Cuban government in tying of earnings to production results. By 2001, one-third of Cuba’s workers were paid according to the productivity level of their enterprise. Monthly incentives were also introduced, whereby workers received bonuses above their base wage, often paid in “hard currency,” or U.S. dollars. By linking earnings to productivity, the inequalities in income increased, and the roots of profit deepened.
In 2006, the government first tried to introduce a new regime of work discipline. Workers’ protested and the government withdrew the measure temporarily. Employees objected that they shouldn’t be penalized for being late to work as long as transportation was unreliable and childcare hours limited.44 On April 1, 2007, the government put the regulations in effects despite the protests. They required workers to arrive punctually at work, stay on the job throughout their shifts, work their scheduled hours and report to management for absenteeism or tardiness. Workers are prohibited from accepting personal payments on the job outside their wages or to use work equipment for personal reasons. But, as one worker complained, the company car is often the only way to transport household goods, and buying daily necessities (such as cooking gas) can only be done during work hours.45
The CTC publicly explained that the implementation of the new measures was delayed in order to introduce them “gradually, with consensus support and political sense, and in better conditions.”46 Subsequently, the government convened a parliamentary hearing on labor discipline which involved the CTC and representatives of the PCC, government and social organizations. Throughout this process, the CTC’s primary role seems less to be an autonomous voice for workers and more to work with the government in breaking down membership hostility and, according to Juventud Rebelde, the newspaper of Cuba’s Youth Communist League,47 integrating discipline into Cuba’s revolutionary work ethos.
Workers’ resistance to the labor law, strong enough to postpone but not prevent its implementation, indicates a rift between their interests and the PCC’s policy, with the CTC acting on behalf of the state bureaucracy. And the growing differential caused by the higher salaries and benefits given joint venture employees and reality of wages tied to production, bonus payments and labor discipline are all hallmarks of an economy being dragged into the world of profit, bound to the U.S. dollar and its demands.
Feminism brings out more contradictions
Another insight into the role of the mass organizations in Cuba comes through the experience of the feminist group, Magín, in the mid 1990s. The economic liberalization of the early 1990s also gave official mass organizations and institutions greater independence. In this period, Magín (Image) formed among women working in media and communications.
Magín came out of the 1993 First Ibero-American Women and Communication Conference in Havana, where its founders were introduced to a gender-based, as distinct from class, analysis. They immediately started researching sexism in Cuba’s media, both in its content and its industry. Magín believed that confronting sexism at all its levels—in private and public life—was necessary to deepen the revolution. They believed that the personal is political and insisted that men can be feminist. They started by injecting this perspective into media programming. An example was the popular TV series, “Tierra Brava!” On one program Captain Nacho, a main character, angrily says to Sylvester, “Sewing on buttons is women’s work!” But Sylvester explains, “No, sewing on buttons is work for anyone whose button fell off and who has a needle and thread!”
The group came out of the depths of economic crisis, when prostitution and domestic violence were re-emerging. Magín addressed these problems and initiated projects that investigated them as well as sexuality and sexual preference.
Shortly after it formed, Magín applied for NGO status but was rejected despite initial support from the FMC. Magín’s members belonged to the Federation, and they worked collaboratively with it. Said one Magín spokesperson: “We informed the Party of everything Magín did. In the beginning, the Cuban Women’s Federation was on our side. We were well respected, we were part of them, and there were no problems. We invited them to everything and shared our materials with them. Also, we always said, ‘If we have been able to get to the point of creating Magín, it’s because of all we learned in the Women’s Federation. If we’ve grown exceptionally fast, it’s due to everything we previously did with the Revolution.’”48
However according to Cuban feminist, María López Vigil, there was a tension between non-official grassroots feminism, which Magín represented, and the FMC. Some Magín members were critical of women’s issues being addressed within the confines of the 1975 Family Code, which presents the nuclear family as the norm. They also opposed what they described as the FMC’s moralistic attitude to prostitution, which essentially blames the sex workers for being individualistic and acquisitive and denies the economic roots of prostitution. A public survey prior to the PCC’s 1991 Congress showed that a significant percentage of women [not stated] believed that the FMC should be dissolved, because the group no longer served their needs. By 1998, according to López, the majority of women in the FMC were passive members, who merely paid their monthly dues.49
Another development was unfolding. Magín attracted financial backing from international organizations, principally from UN programs (United Nations Children’s Fund and UN Development Fund for Women) and OXFAM. Typically, there were strings attached, and Magín was required to concentrate on advocacy rather than grassroots organizing. Oxfam’s funding was specifically for individual-focused training, such as self-esteem and personal growth.50 Magín became absorbed into this focus.
By the mid 1990s, the U.S. government was fostering dissent within Cuba through its Track II of the 1995 Torricelli Law and the Helms-Burton Law in 1996. While tightening the blockade restrictions, Washington was also zeroing in on dissent, especially targeting women who were worst hit by the extreme hardship. It sought out grassroots organizations through which it could destabilize the revolution from within. During this decade, numerous anti-Castro organizations, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, were set up. They include the American Center for International Labor Solidarity (established in 1997 and supported by AFL-CIO), Center for a Free Cuba (1998), Cuba Dissident Task Force (1997), Cuba Free Press (1997), CubaNet (1994), Florida International University–International Media Center (1999) and several more.
In the capitalist world, NGOs have proliferated since the mid 1980s. Their role is to safeguard corporate fortunes by acting as a brake on revolutionary movements around the world.51 They have been effectively used to direct righteous popular anger into safe, reformist channels in democratic countries. In Cuba, they have been used to create anti-communist groups whose goal is counter-revolution.
In 1996-1997, the Cuban government launched an offensive against independent groups such as Magín, with links to foreign NGOs. In September 1996, the PCC dissolved Magín. The Party gave two reasons: foreign funds were subverting some 70% of Cuba’s independent organizations and Magín was duplicating the word of the Cuban Association of Publicists and Advertisers and the FMC. Such duplication is illegal. The PCC also claimed that the autonomous organizing by women risked Cuba’s unity!52
Here we see the impact of imperialism on the Cuban Revolution intersecting with the backwardness of the Communist Party on questions of women’s freedom and grassroots democratic action.
Popular voices outside the recognized mass organizations
When Magín was dissolved, one member said that she believed it would return sooner or later. Developments in Cuba today validate her point. The recent discussion of legalizing same-sex marriage and provision of free sex-change surgery put Cuba ahead of the rest of the world. They represent huge leaps within Cuba itself and are a tribute to the tenacity of grassroots social movements, as well as the Cuban leadership. Much credit for the same-sex and sex-change laws correctly goes to Mariela Castro Espín, head of the National Center for Sex Education and daughter of Vilma Espín and Raúl Castro. Equally significant are the courageous LGBT movement in Cuba and the feminists, including those in Magín, who have been involved in the National Center for Sex Education.
Today’s rap movement is another development to watch. The young lesbian, multiracial group, Las Krudas, is part of a largely Afro-Cuban hip hop scene. Las Krudas belts out a feminism that integrates race, sex and sexuality equality, rooted in the heart of their revolution.53 Others, like Alto Voltaje and Explosión Suprema, criticize the resurfacing racism in Cuba and police harassment of Black youth, but they make it clear that they are not anti-communist. Says U.S. academic Sujatha Fernandes, “they are invested in the idea and legacy of the Cuban Revolution as the basis for their acts of resistance.” “Rappers,” she explains, “associate the Cuban nation with the condition of ‘underground,’ and its connotations of political awareness and rebellion.”54
Contradictions in the role of the mass organizations—what way forward?
The Cuban leadership’s relationship with its mass base is contradictory and dialectical. In Cuba there is the official world of approved NGOs and another world of grassroots movements that have emerged over the past 49 years. With a crossover of leaders, one role of the official mass organizations given NGO status is to take PCC positions to their constituents and rank-and-file views to the Party. However, the recent labor discipline laws contradict the claim of autonomy and independence, and expose to what extent the mass organizations have been subordinated to the implementation of governmental dictates. Workers have opportunity to discuss implementation of economic plans and policies, but little or no voice in their formulation.
It seems that there has been little change in the leadership’s view of the unions’ role since the 1969 interview of two top officials of Cuban Workers’ Central by sociologist and journalist Maurice Zeitlin, who noted:
“Neither seemed to have even an elementary Leninist conception of the labor unions’ role as defenders against ‘bureaucratic deformation’ in a ‘Socialist society.’ Both stressed the unions’ function of raising the productivity of the workers . . . [but] neither mentioned that a union ought also to protect the immediate interests of the workers.”55
The experience of Magín also shows a resistance by the PCC to certain social forces from below. Magín could have been a target for Washington’s Track II. But instead of ostracizing the group, the PCC might have helped to develop Magín’s multi-issue feminism into a new revolutionary force. If the rap movement gets treatment similar to Magín, then what looks like a fiery, young, revolutionary voice could be lost and possibly turned into a disaffected wild card. These unofficial, unharnessed movements, like the gay movement before them, are a test of revolutionary leadership.
Given the imminent threats posed to the Cuban revolution by the U.S.—from economic isolation and desolation, to the insidious depredation of Track II machinations, to outright military invasion—it’s understandable that the Cuban leadership has taken the course of keeping the mass organizations closely in tow. But if they are truly to be a revolutionary force and an expression of workers’ democracy, they are to be “the revolution within the revolution,” the mass organizations must be allowed, even encouraged, to become genuinely autonomous as long as they are not counter-revolutionary.
OTHER VIEWS FROM THE LEFT:
Trotskyists are far from united on their views of the Cuban Revolution. The most extreme outlook is that of the Socialist Equality Party/International Committee of the Fourth International. This organization holds that Cuba and the Castro government are a “bourgeois nationalist regime in deep crisis, which is conspiring against the interests of the masses of Cuban working people and run by a ‘personalist (sic) dictatorship.’”
This position is a reflection of a split in the Fourth International which occurred in the 1950s. When the International reunified in 1963, the majority agreed that Cuba was a workers state. A minority disagreed and stayed permanently outside the Fourth International.
Today there are various shadings of opinion among even those Trotskyist parties that held Cuba was a workers state in 1963. We examine various positions of Trotskyist and state capitalist groups in the following pages under sub-heads which present an abbreviated version of their line. This is not meant to be an exhaustive compendium of all left parties’ positions, even those within the Trotskyist tradition. Rather it is meant to represent the spectrum of views that exist and compare them to our analysis. This, like the entire document, remains a work in progress. Specifically, we would have liked to include parties in the recently formed Corriente Internacional Revolucionaria56 and in the Unidad Internacional de los Trabajadores57, but are still in the process of studying and discussing our relative analyses with them.
No. 1: Cuba was a revolutionary state but has already suffered the restoration of capitalism instigated by a counter-revolutionary PCC leadership.
According to The International Workers League-Fourth International58 (La Liga Internacionál de Trabajadores-Cuatro Internacional, LIT-CI), Cuba was a bureaucratically deformed workers state from the time of the revolution, but capitalism was restored in Cuba nearly twenty years ago. This restoration allegedly began during the 1980s under the direction of Fidel himself. LIT-CI therefore concludes that revolutionaries must adopt a program oriented to both a political and social revolution in Cuba, to overthrow the PCC and re-establish the workers state.
LIT-CI writers point to many dangerous changes, particularly during the Special Period,59 but conclude, rightly, that the balance between nationalized and private property in and of itself is not sufficient to define the character of the state. In assessing the economic foundations of the state, they emphasize the same two questions: the state’s monopoly of foreign trade and the existence of centralized planning. They come, however, to a different conclusion than we do. LIT-CI’s position is that the state’s monopoly of foreign trade was obliterated in one fell swoop by the passage of the Foreign Investment Act of 1995, and that the 1993 dissolution of the Central Planning Board was tantamount to abandoning centralized planning.60 They conclude that capitalism has been restored, though agree there has been as yet no creation of a native Cuban capitalist class. They see the restoration as having come from foreign capital, which they imply is even worse.
The LIT-CI analysis applies Trotskyist criteria for the nature of the economy, but in a very formalistic manner. As discussed in this document’s section on the economy, the state’s control of foreign trade should not be seen as an all-or-none phenomenon that can be wiped out overnight by the passage of a law. It was, in fact, undermined during the Special Period. But was there sufficient quantitative relinquishing of control to qualitatively destroy the state monopoly? In fact, the state retained the prerogative to license the sectors of the government and decide which industries were allowed to carry out foreign trade. They were able to re-tighten the controls and reduce the number of agencies participating in these decisions in the past few years. These facts suggest that the changes in the state’s control were ones of degree rather than complete abandonment. While the Foreign Investment Act instituted a dangerous step, it did not demolish the monopoly of foreign trade.
Similarly, LIT-CI’s equation of centralized planning with the existence of the Central Planning Board (the agency that had been primarily responsible for administering plans) errs by being rigidly formalistic. The government’s planning did not cease in 1993. It became, necessarily, more crisis-oriented. Responsibility for implementing centrally adopted goals became spread out over more government agencies and state enterprises, but was not relinquished by the state.
These are the critical aspects of why our conclusions on the economic foundations of the state differ from those of LIT-CI. The kernel of truth on which we completely agree is that these are critical points on which the underpinnings of the Cuban workers state has been weakened. At some point, added erosions of the state’s control, increasing reliance on market mechanisms, and growing sectors of production in the hands of foreign capital could grow to the point of a qualitative change in the balance, giving capitalism the determinative upper hand. We disagree that that point has already been reached.
Beyond our differing interpretations of the economic situation, LIT-CI places even more emphasis on the program and goals of the leadership. In assessing the Castroist current, LIT-CI correctly points to the petty bourgeois origins of the July 26th Movement. We share with them their criticisms of the PCC’s adoption of the concept of building “socialism in one country.” In practice this was a pact to coexist and collaborate with capitalism, which led to instances of Cuba failing to provide the support to revolutionary movements in other lands that the world proletariat has the right to demand and expect of workers states. As LIT-CI spokesman, Martín Hernandez put it, “The clearest expression of the nationalist character of this leadership was that, in spite of all their international prestige, they never called to build an international leadership of Castroism, of which they would become a part.”61
LIT-CI goes further, however, in claiming that the Castroist bureaucracy intended to restore capitalism for years preceding the collapse of the Soviet Union. Their reasoning seems to be that that the PCC implemented policies allowing the existence of private property and instituting market reforms. LIT-CI discounts the PCC’s rationale that these were dangerous but necessary changes made with the goal of obtaining desperately needed hard currency and technology without which Cuba would have sunk into starvation, and that they were undertaken with awareness of the risks and a commitment to safeguard not only the social gains of the revolution, but also its ultimate ability to continue toward constructing socialism.
LIT-CI absolutely rejects any possibility of pressuring the PCC to take a more revolutionary course and therefore concludes that overthrowing the current leadership is necessary to get Cuba back on track, a position we cannot endorse for the reasons discussed above.
No. 2: Cuba is not a workers state, but is a capitalist country where the state itself takes the place of the ruling class (state capitalism).
The inside cover of the Socialist Worker, weekly paper of the International Socialist Organization, contains the following statement espousing this view: “China and Cuba, like the former Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc, have nothing to do with socialism. They are state capitalist regimes. We support the struggles of workers in these countries against the bureaucratic ruling class.”62
We disagree with the characterization of Cuba as state capitalist. This theoretical construct was initially applied to the Soviet Union in an attempt to explain its degeneration. The central argument is that a nation is capitalist despite not having a bourgeois class in power, that the state itself plays the role of master capitalist. One could argue whether this construct has ever correctly described a post-revolutionary society, but to look specifically at Cuba: the bureaucracy does not siphon off profit to create private wealth.
While the International Socialist Organization bases their policy on an entirely different theory, they end up agreeing with LIT-CI and the Spartacist League (described next), by concluding that the Castro bureaucracy should be overthrown.
No. 3: Cuba is a deformed workers state run by a privileged bureaucratic caste that must be overthrown by a political revolution.
This point of view is exemplified by the Spartacist League (SL), which writes, “As part of our defense of the Cuban Revolution, we fight for a workers’ political revolution to oust the Stalinist bureaucracy in Havana and establish a regime of workers’ democracy, based on the power of workers’ councils, and revolutionary internationalism.”
As we have argued above, calling for political revolution in the absence of a left, revolutionary alternative to the PCC is abstract and adventuristic. It is a call for blood in the streets and opens the door to counter-revolution and the real possibility of the destruction of the Cuban workers state.
It is our view that the PCC’s deficiencies are being challenged from within Cuba. There are various viewpoints being heard within Cuban society and by the PCC, voices that advocate greater democracy and proletarian seizure of power around the world. As long as these viewpoints have the potential for winning support and swaying Cuba’s course, we believe the call for political revolution is premature.
No. 4: Cuba is a mostly healthy workers state that needs some reforms
Socialist Action (SA) holds the view that the term “bureaucratically deformed” does not apply to the Cuban workers state. They advocate continued support to the “Castroist/Guevarist” leadership. Their main criticism is the absence of the highest forms of workers’ democracy, namely soviets or workers’ councils. They find some positive features in the organs of People’s Power (Poder Popular), noting that these are neither true workers’ councils nor analogues of bourgeois democratic institutions. They have few criticisms of PCC policy, stating that the Cubans have been repeatedly tested, and that in almost every case have kept a perspective on the world revolution with the proletarian seizure of power as the essential goal.
SA’s position on the Cuban Revolution is less critical than ours, creating lower expectations for the quality of the PCC leadership. The Castro leadership has not been as consistently internationalist as Socialist Action maintains. For example, the “internationalist” support to Chile and Venezuela should be understood to be forms of popular frontism and populism. The generous social donations of doctors, teachers, and construction workers, laudable as these are from a humanitarian point of view, do not get to the true test of internationalism—supporting revolution in those countries.
No. 5: Cuba is a healthy workers state led by a revolutionary Leninist vanguard party
At the front of the line of those most uncritically supportive of the Cuban Communist Party and the Cuban revolution is the Socialist Workers Party U.S.A. (SWP). In the early days of the revolution, the SWP leadership enthusiastically supported Cuba, defending it against the sectarian currents that, seeing only the leadership’s imperfections, petty bourgeois origins and adaptations to Stalinism, failed to appreciate Cuba’s essential character as a workers state. The SWP’s position metamorphosed from principled defense to opportunistically and slavishly tailending the PCC bureaucracy.
The deterioration of the SWP position on the Cuban Communist Party can be traced to its 1983 document “Their Trotsky and Ours: Communist Continuity Today,”63 written by SWP National Secretary Jack Barnes. In this document, the SWP renounced Trotsky’s theory of Permanent Revolution, part of the program on which it had historically been founded.
Permanent Revolution holds that in the current era, capitalism can no longer provide solutions to what are thought of as problems of bourgeois revolutions—democracy, civil liberties, equality. Even in historically backward countries, these essential demands can only be realized by the revolution moving forward under the leadership of the working class to overthrow capitalism and gather power in its own hands—a dictatorship of the proletariat. Further, this revolutionary process is by necessity international, as socialism cannot be achieved within national borders. And the revolution will not begin and end with seizure of state power, but will be a continuous process involving all layers of society.
Barnes claims the Cuban, Nicaraguan, and Grenadian revolutions show that rather than workers taking power, in the current day there must be interim formations, workers and farmers governments, which he equates with Lenin’s pre-1917 conception of the “democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry.” Barnes interprets this as a stage on the road toward the dictatorship of the proletariat and claims that Castro’s leadership continues the course outlined by Lenin and the early Comintern.
Barnes’ analyses are confused and his quotations from Trotsky and Lenin are twisted out of context. Of course, the subsequent downhill course of Nicaragua and Grenada disproves Barnes’ assertion that the workers and farmers government “will not turn power back over to the capitalists, but will take power away from them and use it to open up the road to deepening mobilization of workers and farmers and the expropriation of the exploiters.” Indeed, as long as the capitalists maintain a foothold in the economy, for example in a mixed economy such as was guaranteed by the Sandinistas, a workers and farmers government is inherently unstable. The capitalists must be expropriated for the revolution to move forward. This is the point of Permanent Revolution. It does not reject the existence of workers and farmers governments, nor even advocating them as a transitional slogan. But it does recognize the mortal danger the revolution faces if the workers and farmers government does not proceed from the military and political defeat of the bourgeoisie to the economic expropriation and replacement of the bourgeois state apparatus with an entirely new structure dedicated to defending the rule of the formerly oppressed classes.
What underlay the SWP’s theoretical machinations junking Permanent Revolution? It was an opportunist maneuver by the SWP to hitch their wagon to Castro’s star so that they could write and sell loads of books for Pathfinder Press which focused on the Cuban Revolution. Once they dumped the theory of Permanent Revolution, the SWP was free to become a totally uncritical mouthpiece for the PCC
The nature of the Cuban state and how revolutionaries can best defend the people of Cuba and support their efforts to create socialism remain points of sharp controversy, with widely divergent views. But these are precisely the issues that must be clarified if we are to be effective advocates for Cuba and for international socialism.
To the fundamental question of this document—“What is the nature of the Cuban state?”—we answer that it remains a workers state.
Cuba’s economy, despite the setbacks of the Special Period after the Soviet collapse, continues to rest primarily on nationalized, state-owned enterprises. Mechanisms to exercise monopoly of foreign trade and state planning were modified and controls have been loosened, but not relinquished.
At the same time, the encroachment of capitalism has dangerously undermined the foundations of the economy. A workers state is by its very nature transitory and unstable. In intense isolation since the Soviet collapse, subjected to the unrelenting hostility of U.S. imperialism, Cuba’s jeopardy has grown over the past two decades. This danger escalated sharply as the global economic crisis shook the world in 2008-9, bringing the country truly to the brink of a precipice.
While the majority of Cubans continue to support the revolution, complaints about conditions there are rising. Those living at official salary levels don’t starve, but exist at levels of constant struggle and hardship. Participation in the informal economy is nearly ubiquitous, often by means that are at least technically illegal. The desire for change is frustrated by the limitations on any real decision-making power.
Disaffection with the social process is especially strong among Cuban youth, who often must wait years for housing of their own, yearn for access to computers and other consumer goods, see a limited future for themselves, but—thanks to underground, rightwing propaganda—are constantly fed stories of the millions to be made in Miami.
The introduction of exploitation by foreign capital is tearing at Cuba’s social fabric. Gaps in income are widening, with Black Cubans suffering increasingly from the racism that Cuba pledged to end, but which has been mounting in concert with foreign tourism. Prostitution, which had been virtually eliminated, has also re-emerged, as an effect of an increasing reliance on tourism to bring in capital.
The social cost to date is but a small harbinger of the damage that would result from the wholesale re-ascendance of capitalism. When asked five years ago if there was a risk of a capitalist counter-revolution, Celia Hart responded:
“I think there exists a real danger of this, and every sincere revolutionary that I know, fears the same. Although the planned economy in Cuba has a state monopoly of foreign trade, although the means of production are state owned, and the bulk of the joint ventures are controlled by the state, time is running out. Dollarization has already had its negative effects. The management of joint ventures and the officials in foreign trade are at risk of being bought and they are also susceptible to bourgeois ideas. If the exiled Cuban capitalists return and try to usurp the country with the aid of pro-capitalist and pro-imperialist forces, there will be the menace of a counter-revolution and a capitalism of the worst sort. All the achievements of the last 45 years are in danger. For this reason, we have to defend the revolutionary heritage of Lenin, Trotsky and Che Guevara and advance the global revolution.”64
Today, the menace is imminent and the need for solutions urgent. What tools lie at hand to fill Hart’s prescription? To answer this, we need to look first at the character of the state apparatus and the goals and program of the leadership at its head.
To what extent does the state apparatus flow from the needs and defend the foundations of the workers state? The early days of the revolution established the key elements of a workers state, destroying and replacing the Batista army and governmental institutions. But it was also marred from the outset with a growing bureaucracy, the overwhelming bulk of decision-making power being preempted by Castro’s circle and government functionaries rather than put in the hands of the people. There have been modifications, such as direct voting in the national elections and organized public discussion, but not a fundamental change. Workers’ control of production and full democracy have never existed.
Similarly, state institutions have been created, and dissolved over the years reflecting the conflicts within the economy. The pattern is that these changes are tailored to carry out policies set by the ruling strata in economic and social policy as shifts have occurred either toward or away from centralization, opening doors to foreign capital or tightening the restrictions, or expanding formal democracy, though never creating true organs of workers’ power.
The Cuban Communist Party leadership has been portrayed by the Left over an entire spectrum from faultless Leninist revolutionaries to blatant capitalist restorationists. Their real nature is complex and often contradictory, and their record stretches from heroism to breaches of workers democracy and international solidarity.
Some Left critics, writers for LIT-CI for example, conclude that despite the PCC’s claims that their aim is to build socialism, the fact that they put in place the legal basis for bourgeois property relations and ending the monopoly of foreign trade proves that the PCC’s true intent is to restore capitalism.
But is this an accurate assessment? At the outset of the Special Period, the central PCC leadership warned that economic reforms were necessary but dangerous, and instigated steps meant to contain the influence of foreign capital, safeguard social advances, stop corruption for private gain, and ameliorate economic inequities. Now, new economic modifications are simply being put in place as a solution. Clearly there are advocates for “the Chinese path” within Cuba; others reject the "Chinese path" label but promote essentially the same mechanisms. Still, this pro-capitalist sector has not been given free rein, and most Cubans seem to favor ongoing controls on the extent to which foreign capital is allowed to impact society.
It is significant that the PCC has shown that it can respond to proposals and pressures from the mass organizations and the sentiment of the people. Contradictorily, even as Raúl appears to be tightening the reins of control from above, there appears to be some growing room for discussion of left perspectives. As long as this remains true, as long as the PCC cadre remain a living, responsive force, and not a frozen, impervious monolith, it would be a dangerous mistake and terrible disservice to the Cuban people to call for overthrowing the Cuban Communist Party.
Move toward a revolutionary course!
We believe that the best defense of the workers state lies in relying on the Cuban people themselves. All who passionately defend the Cuban Revolution should support those in Cuba who advocate the following: shifting the locus of political power from the bureaucracy to democratic organs of workers’ power; the institution of workers’ control and the right to strike at the point of production, in the factories, service industries and farms; democratization of the army and the right to elect officers; and real autonomy of the mass organizations.
On the economic front, we support those who advocate defending and strengthening the nationalized economy by reversing growing privatization, tightening the monopoly of foreign trade, and strengthening centralized planning under the direction of workers and peasants councils.
We also call on the PCC to immediately guarantee full freedom of speech and association to left critics and an end to all forms of political repression against pro-revolutionary, anti-capitalist forces within the regime or the party. The right of PCC members to form tendencies in order to discuss the crucial issues facing the country should also be enacted
On the international front, we believe the Cuban people have a key role to play in insisting on foreign policies that put support for international revolutionary struggles above Cuba’s diplomatic relations with capitalist states seeking to crush or co-opt the world socialist movement.
There are some in Cuba who believe that the enormous respect accorded to Fidel means that anything that could be seen as a challenge to his leadership should be kept under wraps, and that when it comes, his death will create opportunities for raising new ideas. The problem in postponing this struggle until then is that it may be too late. The Miami vultures are waiting for his death as their chance to pounce. The time to prepare the best defense of the Cuban Revolution and its people is now.
Bringing Trotsky in from the cold is a critical part of this preparation. As he and Lenin made so clear when they were leading Russia—itself an embattled, isolated country like Cuba—there is no way to create a single socialist haven in a capitalist world, a fact substantiated by the collapse of the USSR. Without a world community of workers states, it is an illusion that any country, least of all a small isolated island, can achieve a workers democracy on its own.
And if socialism can not be built in one country, it means that a large portion of Cuba’s fate rests in the hands of the international working class and socialists organizing in the U.S. and other industrialized countries. We have work to do.
Among our immediate objectives in the U.S. should be building a movement capable of ending the blockade and stopping any and all forms of U.S. incursion against Cuba, whether economic, diplomatic, overtly military, covertly CIA or under-the-table funding for reactionary forces. President Obama has painted himself as “opening doors” to the island nation, but we have to be absolutely clear that he is no friend of revolutionary Cuba. He represents the ruling sector that believes unrestricted remittances and a flood of consumer goods can achieve what open political hostility and the blockade have not.
Ultimately, Cuba can only survive as part of a world economic system engaged in building socialism. This means the greatest onus is on those of us in other nations—especially the U.S.—to make revolutions on our soil. This will be the greatest act of solidarity of all.
1 Susan Williams, “Cuba’s fate: balanced on a razor’s edge,” Freedom Socialist vol. 30(5), October-November 2009, http://www.socialism.com/drupal-6.8/?q=node/248
2Antonio Carmona Báez, State Resistance to Globalisation in Cuba (London: Pluto Press, 2004).
3 Personal communication from Dr. George Carriazo Moreno, Subdirector of the Center for Investigation of the World Economy, Havana, Cuba, to Guerry Hoddersen, Freedom Socialist Party, August 1997
4On an ecological level, the economic difficulties in purchasing chemical fertilizers and machinery have spurred important advances in green agricultural techniques.
5Omar Everleny Pérez Villaneuva, “The role of foreign direct investment in economic development: The Cuban experience,” in The Cuban Economy at the Start of the Twenty-First Century, eds. Domínguez, Pérez and Barberia, (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004): p. 172, based on reports from the Ministry of Foreign Investment and Economic Collaboration (MINVEC); updated in “La inversión Extranjera directa en el desarrollo económic. La experiencia Cubana,” Reflexiones sobre economia Cubana, (Havana, 2006), p. 72. Supplemented by subsequent MINVEC report online at http://www.cpi-minvec.cu/econocuba.htm
6Personal communication from Dra. Anicia Garcia, professor of economics at the University of Havana, to Dr. Steven Strauss, May, 2008
7Marc Frank, “Raúl Castro launches Cuba-wide debate on future,” Reuters, 20 September, 2007, http://www.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idUSN2039016820070920, confirmed by multiple sources.
8 Paolo Spadoni, “The current situation of foreign investment in Cuba,” Cuba in Transition: Volume 14. Papers and Proceedings of the Fourteenth Annual Meeting of the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy (ASCE). Florida: Miami; 5-7 August 2004:135, http://lanic.utexas.edu/project/asce/pdfs/volume14/spadoni.pdf
9Archibald R. M. Ritter, “An overview of Cuba’s economy in the 2000s: recuperation and/or relapse,” in The Cuban Economy (Pittsburg, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2003): 1-24.
10Pérez Villanueva, op cit., p. 75. Based on data from the Ministry of Foreign Investment and Economic Collaboration, November 2005
11 Mayra Espina Prieto, “Social effects of economic adjustment: equality, inequality and trends toward greater complexity in Cuban society,” in The Cuban Economy at the Start of the Twenty-First Century, Domínguez, Pérez and Barberia, eds (Cambridge, MA: David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies/Harvard University Press, 2004): 209-43.
12Jeremy Anton, Bill McElnea, Raul Oliva and Meera Rao., “Cuba’s political economy: Castro’s revolution to present day,” Cuba Background Case 3, (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan, Mar 27, 2006): 1-31.
13Carmelo Mesa-Lago, “The Cuban economy in 2004-2005,” in Cuba in Transition: Vol. 15, Papers and Proceedings of the Fifteenth Annual Meeting of the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy (ASCE), Miami Florida: 4-6 August 2005: 1-18. http://lanic.utexas.edu/project/asce/pdfs/volume15/pdfs/mesalago.pdf
14Lorenzo L. Pérez, “Assessing fiscal management and central banking in Cuba and proposals for improvement,” in Cuba in Transition: Vol. 16, Papers and Proceedings of the Sixteenth Annual Meeting of the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy (ASCE). Miami, Florida: 3-5 August 2006: 65-74. http://lanic.utexas.edu/project/asce/pdfs/volume16/pdfs/perez.pdf
15Business Monitor International. Latin America Monitor: Caribbean, Vol 23, issue 1, January 2006. http://www.latinamericamonitor.com/
16Jeremy Anton, et. al., op. cit.
17Marc Frank, “Cuba fires telecoms, computing chiefs in shake-up,” Reuters, 26 September, 2006. http://www.caribbeannetnews.com/cgi-script/csArticles/articles/000034/00...
18 Marc Frank, “Investors shown door after Cuban crackdown”. Financial Times [online]. 7 June 2005. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/bcc64954-d6f0-11d9-b0a4-00000e2511c8.html?ncli...
19Marc Frank, “Cuba’s Raúl Castro charts own economic course,” Reuters, 17 June 2008, http://www.reuters.com/article/globalNews/idUSN1646747820080617
20“Soviet Union: Development of the state monopoly on foreign trade.” http://www.lcweb2.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?frd/cstdy:@field(DOCID+su0392)
21Alberto Airoldi, “Criteria to define the character of Cuban social-economic formation,” March 2001, http://www.marxismovivo.org/airoldi3ing.html (Note: the marxismovivo.org website is no longer accessible)
22Raúl Castro Ruz, “They did not elect me president to restore capitalism in Cuba or to surrender the Revolution. I was elected to defend, maintain and continue perfecting socialism, not to destroy it.” Speech to the National Assembly of People’s Power, 1 August 2009, Havana, Cuba, Granma International, 3 August 2009. http://www.granma.cu/ingles/2009/agosto/lun3/32raul-ing.html
23Roger Burbach, “Cuba undertakes reforms in midst of economic crisis,” Latin America in Movement, 20 September 2009. http://alainet.org/active/33125&lang=en
24Fidel Castro, “Speech to the First Congress of the Cuban Communist Party,” Dec. 17, 1975, Granma Weekly Review, 4 January 1976: 1076.
25“Cuba - the final domino?” Trotskyist International No. 06, April/June 1991. http://www.permanentrevolution.net/?view=entry&entry=445
26Raúl Castro Ruz, op. cit.
27Leon Trotsky, The Revolution Betrayed, (New York, NY: Pathfinder Press, 1972): 94-6.
28Che Guevara, quoted in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J._Posadas
29Constitution of the Republic of Cuba (1992), Article 5. http://www.hellocuba.ca/constitution.php
30Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada, “The work of Karl Marx and the challenges of the twenty-first century,” Opening speech at the International Conference, Havana, May 3, 2006, Nature, Society & Thought, 2006:19(1):17-27. http://www.walterlippmann.com/alarcom-05-03-2006-e.html
31Ron Ridenour, “Picking up where Che left off.” Written 26 June 2006, published in the September 2006 edition of the British Communist Party newspaper, The Morning Star, http://www.greenleft.org.au/2006/686/35640
32 Celia Hart, “Socialism: the only ‘better world.’” 12 December 2004, http://www.walterlippmann.com/ch-12-12-2004.html
33Personal communication from Celia Hart to Steven Strauss, Havana, May 2008.
34Stephen Durham, discussion paper for “Socialism Towards the 21st Century” Conference, 21-23 October 1997, Havana, Cuba.
35Susan Williams, Capitalism’s brutal comeback in China, (Seattle, WA: Red Letter Press), 2003.
36“El Partido y las Organizaciones de Masas [The party and the mass organizations] Partido Comunista de Cuba. www.pcc.cu/pccweb/organizaciones
37Statutes of the CTC in Debra Evenson, “Workers in Cuba: unions & labor relations,”(Detroit, MI: National Lawyers Guild/Maurice and Jane Sugar Law Center for Economic and Social Justice), 2001:10
38Federation of Cuban Women website. www.mujeres.co.cu/fmc
39Margaret Randall, Women in Cuba: Twenty Years Later (New York, NY: Smyrna Press, 1981): 131.
40Raisa Pages, “The status of Cuban women: from economically dependent to independent.” [8 Mar 2000]. http://www.angelfire.com/pr/red/cuba/status_of_cuban_women.htm
41Prensa Latina, September 23, 2006, www.plenlish.com, re-published in Women predominant in Cuban unions.” http://www.blythe-systems.com/pipermail/nytr/Week-of-Mon-20060918/046692...
42Personal communication with Susan Williams, New York City, March 2007
43Marta Harnecker, Cuba: Dictatorship or Democracy? (Westport CT: Lawrence Hill & Co.) 5th edition, 1979: 61.
44Andrea Rodriguez, “Cuba Launches national campaign for new work discipline,” Associated Press, CubaNews, 26 March 20007. http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CubaNews/message/63560
45Dalia Acosta, “Cuba: Cracking Down on Irregular Workplace Survival Strategies in Cuba,” in the Havana News Journal, 4 April 2007, Inter Press Service News Agency. http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=37209
47Agnerys Rodriguez Gavilan “What kind of ‘labor discipline’ are we talking about,” Juventud Rebelde, 19 May 2007, translated and posted on CubaNews. http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CubaNews/message/65648
48María López Vigil, “Cuban Women’s History—Jottings and Voices,” in Revisto Envio, November 1998. http://www.envio.org.ni/articulo/1391
50Sujatha Fernandes, “Transnationalism and Feminist Activism in Cuba: The Case of Magín,” in Politics and Gender September 2005; vol. 1(3): 431-52.
51See Guerry Hoddersen, One Hemisphere Indivisible: permanent revolution and neoliberalism in the Americas (Seattle, WA: Red Letter Press, 2006): 54 – 57.
53Yoshie Furuhashi, “Las Kruda: to be lesbian, feminist and hip hop in Cuba.” 2 August 2006. http://www.mrzine.monthlyreview.org/furuhashi080206.html
54Sujatha Fernandes, “With or Without Fidel,” Znet Magazine, October 29, 2006, http://www.zcommunications.org/znet/viewArticle/2868
55Robert Scheer and Maurice Zeitlin, Cuba: An American Tragedy, (London: Penguin, 1954): 238.
56These include: Opinión Socialista de Argentina (OS); Partido Obrero Socialista de México (POS); Liga Socialista de los Trabajadores de Republica Domincana (LST); and the Movemiento de Trabajadores y Campesinos de Costa Rica (MCT).
57Unidad Socialista de Izquierda (USI) de Venezuela; CST integrante del Partido Socialismo y Libertad (PSOL) de Brasil; Unidad Obrera y Socialista Unios de Peru; Unios de Colombia; Izquierda Socialista de Argentina; Propuesta Socialista de Panamá; Alternativa Socialista de Colombia, sección simpatizante de la UIT.
58An international Trotskyist organization composed primarily of Latin American groups of the Morenoist current.
59Alejandro Iturbe, “What is being discussed behind Fidel’s succession?” 30 August 2006. http://www.litci.org/Ingles/MateriaIN.aspx?MAT_ID=287
60Martín Hernandez, quoted in “DOSSIER Debate between the IWL and the Cuban delegation at the Porto Alegre Forum,” Marxism Alive #3, May, 2001. http://marxismovivo.org/dossiercuba3ing.html. Note: Since the original appearance of this document, the marxismovivo.org website is no longer accessible. Other writings appear on their current website, litci.org. The LIT-CI position is most fully elaborated in Martín Hernandez, O veredicto da histório: Russia, China E Cuba da Revolução a Restauração da capitalism [Portuguese]. Eds. Jose Luis and Rosa Sundermann. Other sources include discussions and correspondence between LIT-CI representatives and the FSP.
61Martín Hernandez, “Castroist leadership: from expropriation to restoration,” Marxism Alive, #14 (refer to FN #59 above)
62For a more detailed exposition, see Paul D’Amato, “Cuba: Image and Reality,” International Socialist Review, issue 51, Jan-Feb 2007.
63Barnes, Jack, “Their Trotsky and Ours: Communist Continuity Today,” New International, vol. 1 #1, Fall 1983.
64“Cuba, Venezuela, Latin America: Is the revolutionary spark spreading? Interview with Celia Hart.” In Defense of Marxism, 15 August 2004. http://www.marxist.com/celia-hart-revolution150804.htm
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Sat, 6 May, 4:00 pm
Public meeting: Living and resisting in Trump’s America - An organiser speaks out!