Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/869/21380

From The Socialist newspaper, 9 September 2015

Cuba at a crossroads

Gains of the revolution of Che Guevara and Fidel Castro under threat

Tony Saunois, Committee for a Workers' International (CWI)

The Financial Times (FT) boasted in June: "There is a new entry among Cuba's roll of important dates. Alongside Fidel Castro's 26 July movement and the 1 January 1959 'triumph of the revolution', there is now 17 December 2014."

The FT is confusing revolution with counter revolution. 17 December 2014 was when US President Obama and Cuba's Raul Castro announced a series of historic agreements to restore diplomatic relations between the two countries.

They agreed a relaxation of travel restrictions and the first tentative steps signalling the easing of the trade embargo which has been imposed since the revolution in 1959. Since then the US has re-opened its embassy in Havana.

These developments represent a decisive shift in the policy of US imperialism towards Cuba. It also signifies a further step by the Cuban regime towards capitalist restoration.

Obama made these announcements, recognising that "You cannot keep doing the same thing and expect a different result". He has now embraced the different approach taken by the European ruling classes, the Canadian and much of Latin American capitalism.

Embargo

Since the Cuban revolution US imperialism has enacted a strict embargo and undertaken various attempts - including armed intervention in 1961 - to overthrow the Cuban regime and restore capitalism. Despite the crippling consequences of the embargo - estimated to have cost the Cuban economy US$1 trillion - this policy has failed. This was mainly due to the deep social roots of the revolution and support for it which has lasted for decades.

US imperialism is adopting a new policy of moving towards lifting the embargo. The threat of capitalist restoration to an isolated workers' state can come not only from military intervention.

As Trotsky warned in relation to the former Soviet Union, it can come in the form of "cheap goods in the baggage train of imperialism". The objective of US imperialism is the same but now they hope to reach it by a different route. They want to flood the Cuban economy with goods and investment with the aim of fully restoring capitalism and exploiting Cuba's resources for themselves.

The devastating economic situation in Cuba means many Cubans are dependent on remittances they receive from families in the USA. An estimated 62% of Cuban households now receive support from abroad. According to some economic estimates, they sustain an incredible 90% of the retail market.

The dire economic situation in Cuba has been disastrous for the masses. The massive social gains conquered as a result of the revolution and overthrow of capitalism have been eroded, particularly since the collapse of the former USSR. Wages in Cuba today are estimated to be worth only 28% of what they were then.

Yet support for the revolution and opposition to capitalism meant that the Cuban regime, incredibly, was able to maintain the planned economy and bureaucratic regime throughout the 1990s and into the early part of the 21st century. Cuba defied the laws of political gravity, despite the tidal wave of free market capitalism which dominated the world economy.

Regime

The regime was also able to sustain itself politically using the US embargo which fuelled hostility to US imperialism. The arrival of Hugo Chavez to power in Venezuela also brought it breathing space through its supply of cheap petrol and oil.

The lack of genuine workers' control and democracy further aggravated the economic and social crisis caused by the embargo and isolation.

The revolutionary convulsions which swept Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador at the beginning of the century offered the prospect of Cuba breaking out of its isolation. A genuine workers' democracy would have seized this opportunity and taken the steps necessary to try and form a socialist federation of these countries.

This would have allowed economic co-operation and planning between them and could have begun to appeal to the working class of the whole of Latin America by offering an alternative to capitalism.

However, unfortunately, neither the Cuban regime nor the reformist leaderships of Chavez (Venezuela), Morales (Bolivia) and Correra (Ecuador) were prepared to do this.

The Cuban regime, on the other hand, has continued to introduce a series of incremental steps beginning the process of capitalist restoration.

Although the easing of travel restrictions will be welcomed, other measures represent a threat to the remaining gains conquered by the revolution. These were already being eroded and dismantled.

The government has established a target of removing over one million workers from the state sector and allowing the establishment of thousands of small and medium sized businesses; 500,000 licenses have already been issued to 'cuentapropistas'.

A bridgehead for capitalist restoration has been developed in the tourist sector which has been the centre thus far of foreign investment from Europe, Canada, Brazil and more recently Chinese enterprises.

While the Cuban regime still uses some socialist rhetoric, reflecting the support which still exists for the revolution, especially amongst the older generation, it increasingly refers to Jose Marti, the leader of the independence movement against the Spanish colonisers.

Younger generation

The younger generation, desperate to enjoy new freedoms - use of the internet and international travel amongst others - have experienced not the gains but the regression of the revolution, economic and social crisis and the stifling dead hand of the bureaucracy.

The arrival of "cheap goods in the baggage train of imperialism" may hold an initial attraction until the reality of life in capitalist society becomes apparent.

These developments clearly represent an important move towards the re-introduction of capitalism.

The state still maintains powerful control and could choke off these steps at a certain stage and the decisive sectors of the economy have still not been privatised.

Even US capitalists, eager to take back what they lost in the revolution, are treading cautiously. As one investor was quoted as saying, "It makes sense. Start small, learn how the system works and then see how it goes".

For socialists and the working class the moves towards capitalist restoration represent a backward step. They will signify the erosion of the gains of the Cuban revolution for the masses and also will be used by the ruling class, especially in Latin America, to try again to discredit the idea of socialism as an alternative to capitalism.

However, this will not have the same effect as the ideological offensive against the idea of socialism which was unleashed following the collapse of the former Stalinist regimes after 1989. The working class and the masses have experienced twenty five years of the 'supremacy of the free market' and is struggling against it. In Brazil, Argentina, Chile and other countries a new cycle of workers' struggle has begun.

The lifting of the embargo would represent a defeat for the past policy of US imperialism and its attempt to overthrow the Cuban regime. But a state monopoly of foreign trade, controlled democratically by a genuine regime of workers' democracy is essential to help prevent the increasing threat of capitalist restoration.

The transition to capitalism in Cuba will not be a straightforward, uninterrupted process. Sections of the regime do not seem to want to go in this direction. Significantly Mairela Castro, daughter of Raul, firmly stated as this deal was announced that: "The people of Cuba don't want to return to capitalism".

Obstacles

There are many obstacles still to be overcome before the lifting of the trade embargo. Not least opposition by far right Republicans in US congress over the question of US$7 billion claims for compensation by former owners of companies nationalised at the time of the revolution.

Countering, Fidel Castro on his 89th birthday in August raised the question of "numerous millions of dollars" being paid in damages to Cuba by the USA as compensation for the embargo.

Some resistance is likely as the reality of capitalist restoration becomes apparent. Sections of the population are already fearful of losing the gains of the revolution and of Cuba being turned into another Puerto Rico.

The need to build resistance to the developing pace of capitalist restoration, and struggle for genuine workers' democracy and a nationalised planned economy in Cuba is more urgent that ever.

Such a movement could link together with the working class and youth throughout Latin America, who are increasingly moving into battle to defend their interests, and begin to offer a real socialist alternative to capitalism. A movement that has fully learnt the lessons of the Cuban revolution.


The Cuban revolution

Extracts from Cuba: analysis of the revolution, Peter Taaffe, 1978.

Cuba, before the revolution, was a paradise for the rich but a nightmare of poverty for the workers and peasants. Under the Batista dictatorship, tens of thousands had died at the hands of the military.

Proportionately fewer children went to school in the 1950s than in the 1920s, yet Havana in 1954 had more Cadillacs than any other city in the world! Land was concentrated in a few hands and the economy dominated by the giant American monopolies.

A heroic three-year guerrilla struggle, with the support of the peasantry, led by Fidel Castro, his brother Raśl and Che Guevara finally defeated Batista in 1959. This was greeted with a general strike when the guerrillas entered Havana.

Castro, faced with a life and death struggle against American imperialism, started speaking of the socialist revolution as the process developed. He relied on the peasants and the rural population, which shaped the character of the movement.

There was colossal pressure from an aroused peasantry and the working class. With the defeat of Batista, the peasants moved to occupy the land and the working class clamoured for wage increases.

US companies refused to refine Russian oil imported into Cuba and the US government stopped the import of Cuban sugar, aiming to bring the Castro regime to its knees. In response over the next few months, all Cuban and American big business was taken over.

By the end of 1960 capitalism had been eliminated in Cuba. US imperialism retaliated by declaring a complete trade embargo and preparing for a military intervention to crush the Cuban Revolution.

A workers' state was established - but with power concentrated in the hands of a layer of privileged officials, rather than through workers' and peasants' councils.

Workers' control

There was undoubtedly an element of workers' control in the factories in the first period of the revolution and every neighbourhood and street had a 'Committee for the Defence of the Revolution'.

An indication of the widespread support for the regime is demonstrated by the enormous crowds which gathered in Havana to listen to Castro's speeches.

But at the same time the masses had no control or management of the state machine. This was concentrated in the hands of Castro and his supporters, the governing party and the army.

The enormous aid extended by the Soviet Union together with the advantages which flow from a planned economy meant a gigantic development of Cuban society. There were huge steps forward in areas such as life expectancy, health and education.


Brand new edition of Cuba: Socialism & Democracy

by Peter Taaffe

SPECIAL OFFER: just £7 including p&p if you buy before the end of September

Che Guevara: Symbol of Struggle by Tony Saunois

£5.50 including postage.

Available from Left Books,

PO Box 24697, London E11 1YD

020 8988 8789

www.leftbooks.co.uk

bookshop@socialistparty.org.uk

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.


In The Socialist 9 September 2015:


Socialist Party news and analysis

Huge support for Corbyn: now build austerity fightback

Solidarity with refugees - Defend the right to asylum

125,000 renters abused by idle parasite landlords

Heartless Tories chop funds for life-extending cancer drugs

Tories allow bosses to keep exploiting workers at below the minimum wage

Them & Us

Bromyard Community Hospital victory


International socialist news and analysis

Cuba at a crossroads

International news in brief


Socialist Party features

How students can fight debt, cuts and sell-offs

Children suffer as the cuts deepen


Workplace news and analysis

Lobby the trade union leaders this Sunday!

Nominate a fighting socialist for Unison general secretary

Most important TUC Congress for decades

Pizza express tips victory

Buses fightback works in Sheffield

Great support for bus strike

Workplace news in brief

Fight against blacklisting in Liverpool


Socialist Party comments and reviews

Film Review: Stonewall

Why I joined the Socialist Party

"NHS saved my life"


 

Home   |   The Socialist 9 September 2015   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate   |   Audio  |   PDF  |   ebook






Related links:

Cuba:

triangleNew musical on life of Castro

triangleChe Guevara 50 years on - revolutionary socialist and fighter

triangleIntimate insight into a revolutionary icon

Revolution:

triangleCaerphilly Socialist Party: Women and Revolution

triangleMass rally to commemorate 1917 Russian Revolution

triangleSpain: Madrid rally celebrates October revolution

triangleWelsh update of Chekhov an engrossing tale of 1980s class conflict

US:

triangleUSA: Historic vote for Ginger Jentzen campaign in Minneapolis

triangleComprehensive account of bloody conflict

triangleWhat we saw

Democracy:

triangleCampaign against political repression in Hong Kong

triangleRussia, October 1917: When workers took power

Fidel Castro:

triangleWaltham Forest Socialist Party: Fidel Castro dies - Cuban revolution, and where next?

Planned economy:

triangleRussia 1917: how art helped make the revolution

Socialism:

triangleCardiff East Socialist Party: Socialism in the USA

Che Guevara:

triangleFight for workers' democracy in Cuba

Soviet:

triangleJuly Days 1917: battles with counterrevolution

Tony Saunois:

triangleThe Socialist inbox

Obama:

triangleSolidarity not racism - Socialism not Trumpism

Oil:

triangleKurdish referendum declared illegal

Peter Taaffe:

triangleOctober 1917 reviews: 'More bright than any heaven'

International

International

15/11/17

Minneapolis

USA: Historic vote for Ginger Jentzen campaign in Minneapolis

10/11/17

Minneapolis

US: Historic vote for Ginger Jentzen campaign in Minneapolis

8/11/17

Sweden

Sweden: 'Revolution2017' success

8/11/17

Spain

Spain: Madrid rally celebrates October revolution

8/11/17

Minneapolis

US: Minneapolis Socialist chimes with voters

8/11/17

Ireland

Ireland: rail workers demand share of 'recovery'

8/11/17

Ireland

Ireland: dangerous ideas for the ruling class

31/10/17

Catalonia

Catalonia: Rajoy's furious response to proclamation of Republic

25/10/17

Kurdistan

Kurdish referendum declared illegal

18/10/17

Hong Kong

Campaign against political repression in Hong Kong

11/10/17

Catalonia

Catalonia: Workers can finish what Puigdemont won't

4/10/17

Catalonia

Solidarity with Catalonia - the people have the right to decide

4/10/17

Catalonia

Eyewitness: Irish socialist MP participates in events

2/10/17

Catalonia

Exemplary resistance by the people of Catalonia

27/9/17

Germany

Germany: Election results in political earthquake

triangleMore International articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party

triangle15 Nov March for free education! We demand a future!

triangle15 Nov Tories on the brink - kick them out!

Socialism 2017

triangle14 Nov Socialism 2017: Organising to fight back

triangle13 Nov Strike wave continues with 49 walkout days by housing workers

triangle10 Nov US: Historic vote for Ginger Jentzen campaign in Minneapolis

triangle10 Nov Strikers picket the South Western Railway network

triangle10 Nov Europe in crisis, revolutionary winds in Catalonia

More ...

triangle20 Nov Birmingham Central Socialist Party: How can socialists support upcoming strikes?

triangle21 Nov Cardiff Socialist Students: Socialism and the struggle for LGBT rights

triangle21 Nov Birmingham South East Socialist Party: NHS in Meltdown - What can be done?

triangle21 Nov Sheffield North Socialist Party: The causes of capitalist crisis

More ...

Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

Archive

Archives:

November 2017

October 2017

September 2017

August 2017

July 2017

June 2017

May 2017

April 2017

March 2017

February 2017

January 2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999

Legal

SP RSS feed RSS

Platform setting: = No platform choice

V2