*This is the conclusion to a 2010 analysis by the Freedom Socialist Party. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the Seattle/Cuba Friendship Committee, and is reproduced here for the purpose of stimulating thought and discussion on the current status of the Cuban Revolution. Link to the complete article is at the bottom. -Webmaster
Susan Williams, M.D., New York City
Steven Strauss, M.D., Columbia, Maryland
Debbie Brennan, Melbourne, Australia
Stephen Durham, New York City
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.”
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.
The complete article can be read here: