Cuba: Stalinism isn’t socialism
- From: "PL" <pl.nospam@xxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Fri, 19 Jun 2009 03:10:37 +0200
Cuba: Stalinism isn’t socialism
Posted by John, January 3rd, 2009
One of Marx’s unique and profound contributions to socialism is his idea that the emancipation of the working class is the act of the working class. This is the very reason Cuba isn’t socialist.
In 1956 Castro arrived in Cuba with 82 middle class nationalists to overthrow the US backed Batista dictatorship. After being attacked and dispersed they re-grouped in the remote Sierra Maestra Mountains and began the long battle to kick out Batista.
At this stage Castro’s stated aim was to implement the 1940 Constitution, which included among other things a commitment to free markets.
Batista had very little support. By 1959 Castro’s guerrilla army - all 800 of them - was strong enough to force the dictator to flee. 800 middle class nationalists do not a socialist revolution make.
Castro took power, but the working class as working class played no role whatsoever in the overthrow of Batista. In fact they ignored Fidel’s call for a general strike in 1958. As Marx said in the Communist Manifesto: “The proletariat is the really revolutionary class.” Not guerrillas, not middle class intellectuals, not peasants. Workers.
And the Communist Party? (Fidel was not a member in 1959 and did not talk in terms of communism or socialism at this stage.) They had collaborated with Batista during his rule.
1959 in Cuba was at best a nationalist revolution from above. One minority replaced another.
Compare this to the fleeting glimpse of workers’ power in the Paris Commune or, for a few years, in the Russian revolution. In Russia workers set up their own democratic organs of power - called workers’ councils or Soviets in Russian. These were the most democratic institutions the world has seen - direct representation from the workplace, the right of instant recall by workers of representatives who voted against their wishes, Soviet members with their pay limited to the average wage, and the workers’ councils making decisions about what to produce to satisfy human need. And every day the representatives would go back to the factories to debate and discuss issues with workers and receive instructions from them about forthcoming sessions and how to vote.
The war, foreign invasion, the destruction of industry, the de-classing of the working class and the failure of the revolution to spread to Germany (although it was close run) and thus provide material support to help re-build the Russian economy, saw the Russian revolution isolated.
The workers’ councils, without a working class to run them, became shells, and Stalin, the gravedigger of the revolution, rose to power. He began to establish state capitalism in Russia. This is where the state becomes the embodiment of capital and expropriates all the surplus value its workers create. Its historical role is to pull peasant countries up by the bootlaces to become fully fledged capitalist countries.
The first Russian five year plan in 1930, by halving wages, driving peasants off the land and into the cities and moving to build large scale industry in competition with the West, is an indication that by then this process of building state capitalism had begun.
Fast forward to Cuba. The United States was hostile to Castro’s regime since he wasn’t compliant, as Batista had been, to American interests.
So Castro moved closer to Russia and in 1961 declared himself a Marxist-Leninist and the revolution, retrospectively, socialist. He adopted the Stalinist model - five year plans, repression and the establishment of a one party “Communist” state. The major player in the Cuban revolution only discovered it was socialist 2 years after the event. This is sophistry of the highest order. How can this be the self-conscious activity of the working class if Fidel himself did not know it was a socialist revolution at the time?
It is Stalinist state capitalism. ( It was Tony Cliff in his book, State Capitalism in Russia, who developed the theory of state capitalism, using Marx’s thought and analysis as his benchmark and guide.)
There are no democratic organs of working class rule. The local defence committees are agencies of the state, not workers.
This Stalinist regime imprisons dissenters, and homosexuals. Castro locked up gays in concentration camps to supposedly stop the spread of Aids. These are hardly the hallmarks of a democratic socialist regime.
In 1963 US imperialism began its blockade of Cuba. This has frozen the state capitalist project. With a lack of resources the island has been trapped in a time warp. The US must lift its criminal blockade. It is possible that under Obama this will happen, over time. Such action will then expose the fault lines in Cuban state capitalism, rather than allow the Castros the usual excuse that all their problems stem from US imperialism and its blockade.
All the blockade did was drive Castro further into the arms of the Russians. Their Stalinist structures became Cuba’s. The edicts of Fidel became the word for workers to follow. This top down dictatorial approach, with the great leader telling workers and peasants what is good for them and what they must do, is the antithesis of socialism.
Where are the workers’ councils, teeming with debate and discussion, and the differing workers’ parties fighting for working class support over issues, strategies and directions?
As I mentioned before, the blockade provides the Cuban elite with a convenient scapegoat for the failures of state capitalism. It unifies many Cubans behind the regime. Having said that, it appears that large numbers of young Cubans hate the Government.
It is true Castro has improved the health and education of the Cuban people markedly. There is nothing peculiarly socialist about that. Most capitalist countries realise that a fit and educated workforce is essential for the effective exploitation of their workers.
Many on the Left around the world have illusions in Castro and the Stalinist regime in Cuba. (Just as they do in Venezuela.)
This is because Stalinism all but destroyed the real Marxist tradition of socialism from below and as a consequence many leftists are unfamiliar with the essence of Marx’s thought and the real democratic nature of socialism, for example of the Russian Revolution before Stalinism destroyed it. They see the world through neo-Stalinist glasses.
The desire to see actually existing socialism is strong, and it provides a sense of satisfaction that somewhere “socialism” exists and we can aspire to that sort of society too.
None of this is revolutionary. Stalinism is a false idol and diverts the Left from the real tasks at hand. In Australia that includes clarifying our ideas about what socialism is and building the small revolutionary socialist groups that exist into a mass party of the working class in the long run. The long term goal must be the working class setting up workers’ councils and the vast majority of Australians transferring power to their own organs of state and running society themselves in the interests of satisfying human need.
That will be the future for Cuba too. Workers and peasants will challenge the rule of the dictatorial Stalinists and set up their own democratic organs of rule. Maybe not today, and maybe not tomorrow, but the social forces currently exist in Cuba for a real revolution from below.
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