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International Socialist Review, Summer 1961


Chilean Trotskyists Defend the Cuban Revolution


From International Socialist Review, Vol.22 No.3, Summer 1961, pp.85-88.


This resolution on Cuba has been translated from the June issue (No. 57) of the Chilean newspaper Frente Obrero, official organ of the Partido Obrero Revolucionario. The POR belongs to the International Committee of the Fourth International. For our editorial comment on this resolution turn to page 87.

No party that considers itself Marxist or revolutionary can evade the responsibility of categorically defining the character of the Cuban state. Our POR—which has given full support to the Cuban Revolution since Batista’s downfall—has been debating for some time a theoretical problem which, in its elucidation, leads to important practical slogans of action: What is the character of the Cuban state? To all of us it is evident that Cuba ceased being a capitalist state after the expropriation of last October. What is essential now is to specify the content of the new type of state which has appeared.

We place emphasis on the word specify because various Marxist tendencies have characterized the Cuban state in various ways. For some it is a workers state sui generis, for others a transitional workers state, or workers state without qualification. We leave aside the bourgeois political currents that speak of a socialist or communist state with ulterior motives; our aim is to achieve a genuine materialist dialectical analysis.

We Trotskyists believe that Cuba is a workers state for the following reasons:

  1. Because more than eighty per cent of the country’s basic means of production and exchange has been expropriated, without payment, from imperialism and the national capitalists, passing into the hands of the state, a step that corresponds objectively with the historic interests of the workers and peasants.
  2. Because the bourgeois-democratic tasks have now been carried out (expulsion of imperialism and enforcement of the agrarian reform) while at the same time the parallel undertaking of socialist tasks has fully begun (collective exploitation of the land, expropriation of factories, monopoly of domestic and foreign trade, a single state bank).
  3. Because in Cuba the planning of economy under socialist norms has now been initiated.
  4. Because the bourgeois state apparatus, with all its superstructure, has been destroyed. The army and police in the service of the bosses and imperialism in the capitalist pattern no longer exist; the courts of bourgeois justice have been liquidated and replaced by people’s tribunals; the bourgeois parliament has disappeared; the educational system has undergone substantial transformation and the harmful propaganda of the Church is no longer brought to young minds. Everything indicates, in short, that the Revolution in its dynamics has taken the road to socialism in Cuba.

Here the question arises, what characteristics does this workers state have? We believe that the Cuban Workers State does not yet have the features of a classic workers state like Russia after the 1917 Revolution led by Lenin and Trotsky. In Cuba decisive elements of this classic workers state are still lacking: Soviets or workers councils which controlled and administered all the economic, social and political expressions of the nation. On the other hand, neither is Cuba a degenerated workers state such as Russia later became under the domination of the Stalinist bureaucracy. “Degenerated” implies that it was once well generated.

In Cuba on the downfall of Batista, a workers government based on soviets—as in the Russia of 1917—was not inaugurated; instead a different process took place in which the capitalist state was liquidated without the establishment of workers organs of power or workers councils to administer the country’s economy. Even the Technical Advisers Councils and commissions of production launched at the beginning of 1961 were not generated from below but designated from above and do not yet exercise the functions of workers councils administering the means of production and exchange on a national scale.

In view of these considerations, we believe that Cuba is a deformed workers state. A state that was born with deformations, fundamentally because of the absence of a revolutionary Marxist party. We earnestly hope that these will disappear through the energy and initiative of the heroic Cuban masses. However we must not let our hopes deceive us as to reality, still less bring us to practice tail-endism for fear of upsetting things, as is the case with some capitulationist currents. The best way to help the Cuban Revolution is not to close our eyes to its defects but to indicate them courageously in order to impede the advance of reaction and to find the socialist road to overcoming them.

To resort to analogies—always dangerous—we could say that the Cuba of today bears similitude in character to the deformed workers state which the Chinese Revolution acquired from the beginning. The parallel with the Yugoslav Revolution comes still closer. The difference is that in Cuba no caste or bureaucratic layer of any importance has yet developed. The comparison refers to workers states that have appeared with certain deformations from birth.

In the same way that we acknowledge some defects, we just as firmly characterize the government of Cuba as a Workers and Peasants Government. We make a distinction between the state and the government. The state is the nation in its totality and the government is the political leadership of this state. In accordance with the definition made by Trotsky of such governments, we recognize the government of Fidel Castro as a workers and peasants government. When Cuba comes to the administration of the economy through workers councils the time will have arrived to say that it has become a workers and peasants government based on the dictatorship of the proletariat.

Cuba is the first workers state and the first workers and peasants’ government to be established in our Latin-American continent. This happening is of extraordinary importance in the process of the Latin-American revolution. We might say that the Cuban Revolution is promoting a situation in Latin America similar to that touched off by the Chinese Revolution on the Asian continent during the fifties.

We Trotskyists, without the least hesitation, stand for the unconditional support of the conquests of the Cuban workers state. Just as we are for the defense of the socialist conquests of Russia, China, Yugoslavia, the People’s Democracies, North Korea and Viet Nam, so we are also for the defense of Cuba.

We support the Cuban government, but critically. We support it in all its socialist measures and in its defense against imperialist invasion. But critically so long as workers councils have not been established and it has not differentiated itself from the foreign policies of Stalinism.

We believe that the best guarantee for the Cuban Revolution domestically is to proceed rapidly to the creation of workers councils which would administer the entire economic, social and political life of the country, which would have worker ministers from the CTC and peasant ministers from the INRA subject to election and recall by the ranks through standing trade-union plenary bodies serving as true worker parliaments. We believe that no leader should receive more pay than a skilled worker. And that the provincial and city governments should be placed in the hands of workers and peasants councils of the CTC and INRA.

One of the most serious dangers which the Cuban Revolution faces is the growing control being acquired by the CP. Its subordination to the Stalinist line of “peaceful coexistence” and its conception of socialism in one country can isolate the Cuban Revolution from the rest of the Latin-American peoples and initiate a dangerous process of bureaucratization. Indications of this are apparent in the corps of foreign experts brought to Cuba and in declarations of Cuban Communist leaders to the effect that other Latin-American countries are in no position to imitate Cuba and must follow a peaceful, parliamentary road. Thus every attempt to form Marxist revolutionary parties or to reorganize the July 26 Movement or the Directorio Revolucionario in a socialist direction must be supported in order to avoid political monopoly by the Cuban CP.

The Cuban Revolution poses new and important problems that enrich the theory of revolution. In Cuba, for the first time in history, a social revolution occurred without the intervention of a workers party. Not only without a Marxist revolutionary party but without the participation of even a Communist party. In the revolutions in China, Yugoslavia, etc., the CP, forced by exceptional circumstances, intervened, although deforming the process. But in Cuba not even this happened. The Revolution was made without a workers party, with a non-Marxist petty-bourgeois party, the July 26 Movement. This may “frighten” more than one bad Marxist who may see in the Cuban Revolution the negation of revolutionary theory. Stalinism faces the problem of endangering its prestige if it recognizes that the Cuban Revolution liquidated capitalism without the leadership of the CP. For us Trotskyists the Cuban Revolution does not invalidate the theory of the Permanent Revolution; on the contrary, it confirms and enriches it: First, because to carry out national liberation and the agrarian reform, the social revolution inevitably had to be carried out. Second, because reality has shown that under exceptional conditions, like those in Cuba, the destruction of capitalism can be achieved under non-Marxist leadership. This is the exception and not the rule. But it is one thing to take power and liquidate capitalism without a Marxist orientation; it is something else again to maintain power and construct a genuine socialist state in transition to communism without a revolutionary workers party. We believe that the latter is not possible, at least not without entailing the danger of falling into all sorts of deformations. Still more important, in undertaking socialist measures, the present government of Cuba found itself obliged to turn to the whole arsenal of Marxism, because there is no other theory of service in the march toward socialism. In short, without a revolutionary party there is no guaranty of reaching communism.

The experience of the urban reform constitutes an important contribution of the Cuban Revolution to the revolutionary program. The impact which this measure has made among the people obliges us to incorporate this slogan in our transitional program.

The Cuban Revolution in the same way has underscored the role of the peasantry in the Latin-American revolutionary process. This current, initiated with the massive participation of the peasantry in the Bolivian and Guatemalan revolutions acquired more exact definition in the Cuban Revolution. Here we saw with greater clarity that the revolution can proceed from the field to the city, and this phenomenon can be repeated in a series of Latin-American countries. This in no wise signifies denial of the decisive weight which the proletariat holds in deciding the final triumph of the revolution. Finally, the Cuban Revolution offers a major contribution in revolutionary military strategy—the possibility of developing guerrilla warfare in the Latin-American continent.

The Cuban Revolution has unquestionably opened a new stage in the class struggle. It has signified not only the breaking up of the inter-American system imposed by imperialism but has had impact in the United States itself, influencing the Negroes and Mexican workers who labor there. In our continent it has inspired a rise in the labor movement and has accelerated the crisis of leadership among the nationalist movements under bourgeois guidance.

These currents (Peronism, Varguism, Accion Democrática, APRA, etc.) which were supported by the masses following the Second World War, clearly demonstrated the incapacity of the national bourgeoisie to carry the anti-imperialist struggle to its ultimate conclusion. The Cuban Revolution demonstrated to the hilt that national liberation and the agrarian reform can be achieved only through social revolution. It is false to propose to struggle first for national liberation and then after that is accomplished to begin the social revolution. To advocate a series of steps like a stairway means beyond dispute to turn away from the revolution and to initiate alliances with bourgeois sectors. The Revolution thus confirms the theory of the Permanent Revolution as applied and tested for the first time on Latin-American soil.

The most important conclusion—for those like us who wish to construct Marxist revolutionary parties on a mass scale—is that the Cuban Revolution, instead of strengthening the bourgeois nationalist movements, disintegrates them, for it frees new forces, frees class and revolutionary forces. It sets off processes of differentiation among the various centrist political formations. It has already occasioned a rupture in Accion Democrática and the formation of the MIR in Venezuela, a split in APRA and the founding of the Rebel APRA in Peru, creation of a powerful movement of Peasant Leagues in the north of Brazil, growing left wings in the Socialist parties, in the Bolivian MNR, in the movement that brought Velasco Ibarra to power (today headed by Araujo) in Ecuador, serious attempts to organize a new workers and peasants party in Mexico, frequent shifts among the Communist parties, etc.

In short, we believe that the vanguard of the workers and peasants and impoverished petty bourgeoisie is at present moving through class-struggle currents (at bottom strong revolutionary tendencies) from which it will emerge in the near future as the only layer capable of struggling effectively for national liberation and agrarian reform through social revolution. These developing militant currents tend to form movements that break out of the molds of the old centrist formations, in the final analysis fostering revolutionary currents that want to carry things through once and for all “a la cubana.” Today whoever believes that the vanguard will again pass through the experience of bourgeois movements like Peronism, Varguism, etc., is condemned to be a mere spectator of Latin-American revolutionary events. Still worse, anyone who hopes to vindicate the strategy of the ancient theory of national liberation is actually converted into a conscious traitor to the Latin-American Revolution.

The new forces liberated by the impact of the Cuban Revolution pave the way for regroupment of various revolutionary groups, of independent militant sectors and of left tendencies while splits occur among the centrist formations mentioned above. The task of the Trotskyist, consequently, is to encourage and to develop all these militant and intuitively revolutionary currents, at the same time backing every anti-imperialist mobilization.

The current and future class-struggle situation in the continent offers wide openings for a broad campaign in favor of the unity of the peoples through Socialist Workers States of Latin America as a way of continuously concretizing this slogan.

The POR calls for vigorous struggle in Chile in defense of the Cuban Revolution. A united front should be constituted at once among the currents that stand for non-intervention, for the self-determination of peoples. The Committee for Solidarity with and Defense of the Cuban Revolution takes the initiative and asks its affiliated organizations to form rank-and-file committees and brigades to defend their Cuban brothers. The CUT and its affiliated unions should draw a balance sheet on the general strike in support of Cuba in order to determine timely measures in the event of another imperialist attack on the Pearl of the Antilles. On the Latin-American level, an early Latin-American Trade Union Congress is urgently needed. The POR similarly suggests as a concrete measure the organization of a Latin-American Conference of all the political currents that support the Cuban Revolution in order to work out a broad political anti-imperialist united front throughout Latin America and take the necessary measures to accelerate the revolution in each country as the only way to really defend the glorious Cuban Revolution.

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