On Tuesday, February 19, Fidel Castro announced he was no longer going to stand for the position as President of Cuba. This comes 19 months after Castro
underwent stomach surgery. In fact he has not been in public since then. The
media coverage since Castro announced his retirement has been sickening. No
mention of the real social gains of the revolution, but plenty of talk about
brutal dictatorship and so on.
Immediately upon hearing of Castro’s statement, George W. Bush announced
that this should begin a democratic transition and that, "Eventually this
transition ought to lead to free and fair elections. And I mean free and I mean
fair." He added that, "The United States will help the people of Cuba realize
the blessings of liberty." The blessings of liberty indeed! We may ask whether
he is referring to the kind of blessings bestowed on the Iraqi or Afghan
The hypocrisy of the man has no limits. Everyone knows that irregularities
took place when Bush was elected, so he has no authority to give lessons on
democracy to anyone. Furthermore, the recent elections in Pakistan
witnessed blatant vote rigging, which we can be sure was organised with the
help and advice of US "experts".
Meanwhile Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, both suggested they may lift the
trade embargo on condition that Cuba
pursues "democratic reform". The main European powers also added their advice,
saying that Castro’s retirement could open the road to "democratic change".
The European Union has indicated that it wishes to relaunch diplomatic
contacts with Cuba.
"We reiterate our willingness to engage with Cuba in a constructive
dialogue," announced EU Aid Commissioner Louis Michel. He also plans to
on March 6-7. According to one report, the EU’s objectives are "to encourage
peaceful transition to a pluralist democracy, respect for human rights and
improvement in the living standards of Cubans".
They all pretend to be democrats when it comes to Cuba. In reality they are like
vultures waiting for the day they can get their beaks and claws into the flesh
What they are after is the end of the economic system brought into being by the
Cuban revolution. They want capitalism to return to Cuba. That is what they mean by
"Engagement" or the Chinese road
Another fashionable term these days is "engagement". While Bush sticks to
his guns and insists on the embargo being stepped up, the more intelligent
bourgeois, both in the USA
and Europe are raising the need for
"engagement", i.e. on removing the embargo and opening up trade channels. Does
this wing of the bourgeois have different interests or aims? No, they simply
understand better than Bush and his obtuse circle of friends that the best way
to re-introduce capitalism into Cuba
is to lift the embargo, begin trading, flood Cuba with cash and let the process
That is why it is even more disgusting when we hear some reformist elements
on the left advocating such "engagement". What they are actually doing is
giving the bourgeois advice on how to remove this thorn in their side.
All this talk of democracy is in fact a cover for the real aims of
imperialism. Not so long ago the Financial Times was giving more sober
advice. They were suggesting a "Chinese road" for Cuba accompanied by a lifting of
the US-sponsored embargo. The Chinese model would envisage an opening up of Cuba to
capitalism accompanied by a firm grip on state power at the top.
Castro is an obstacle to capitalist restoration
Fidel Castro in fact visited China
in the 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union,
and he didn’t like what he saw. Ever since then, although forced by economic
circumstance to allow certain opening to private investment he has resisted a
full-fledged advance towards capitalism. That is the real reason why the
bourgeois hate him: they hate the revolution that he symbolises.
We should remind these gentlemen what Cuba was like
before the revolution. It was a dictatorship run by US-backed Fulgencio
Batista. No calls then for "democracy". Batista was a friend of US imperialism.
He ran the country for them. They were allowed to use it as their playground
while the people of Cuba
suffered terrible conditions.
The Cuban revolution put an end to that! It allowed the
country to develop an advanced healthcare system, so much so that life
expectancy was raised to the levels enjoyed in the advanced capitalist
countries. It allowed for free education for all. It gave the Cuban people
their dignity. It also removed the parasitic bourgeoisie and the domination of
mainly US multinational corporations.
To bourgeois and petit bourgeois liberals sitting in London or New
York these may seem unimportant details. After all,
these liberals can pay for their healthcare. The people of Cuba cannot.
These liberals will fight for "democracy" in Cuba. They will also fight for
privatisation of healthcare, education and all the state-owned assets. They
will fight for the right of the multinationals to plunder Cuba, to take
it back to the days of Batista.
They also realise that as long as Castro is still alive,
although he has retired, he will still have a lot of influence on events on the
island. He still holds the position of first secretary of the Communist Party.
That explains the caution of some bourgeois commentators.
They have, however, started speculating about the role of
Raul Castro, who is stepping in to take over the leading role so far played by
Castro. They hang on to every word the man utters, hoping to find an opening
for capitalism. They have noted that as acting president since Fidel Castro
fell ill 19 months ago, he has encouraged Cubans to openly debate the
shortcomings of Cuba’s
"communist system". Although in reality he has made few changes so far, Raul
Castro has raised expectations among the imperialists and the Cuban exiles in Miami, that this may be
the beginning of a process that could lead to the restoration of capitalism at
Which way forward?
They will not have appreciated what Raul Castro said towards
the end of last year: "The challenges we have ahead are enormous, but may
no one doubt our people’s firm conviction that only through socialism can we
overcome the difficulties and preserve the social gains of half a century of
revolution." But the same Raul Castro also announced last year in July
that Cuba was open to talks to end the decades of hostility, but only when Bush
has left the White House, leaving an opening for the future.
According to some reports, Raul Castro is considered to be
an admirer of the Chinese model involving a loosening up of state controls. He
is no doubt pushed by the need to develop the Cuban economy. The country has
endured decades of embargo at the hands of US imperialism. And since the
collapse of the Soviet Union it has suffered
terribly. But he should be warned: the Chinese regime started with the idea of
some loosening up of the economy to stimulate growth. They have ended up with
the capitalist mode of production dominating the Chinese economy, i.e. with
capitalism! With this most of the gains of the Chinese revolution have been
The problems faced by Cuba are not to be found in the
state ownership of the means of production. The problems lie in the isolation
of the revolution to one country. Socialism in one country is not possible. If
it was not possible in the mighty Soviet Union how can it be possible in tiny Cuba? Because
of the isolation the Cuban revolution was forced to lean on Stalinist Russia
and this enhanced bureaucratic tendencies.
The answer, therefore, lies not in the Chinese model. The
answer lies in spreading the revolution to the rest of Latin
America and beyond. This must be combined with the introduction of
the workers’ democracy that Lenin and Trotsky defended in the early years of
the Soviet Union.
The whole of Latin America
has been lurching to the left in the recent period. Venezuela is the most advanced
point of the Latin American revolution. But we have also seen the revolutionary
movement of the Bolivian masses, the tumultuous movement of the masses in Ecuador, the
gigantic mobilisation of the Mexican masses against electoral fraud with three
million on the streets.
The conditions exist for an all-Latin American Revolution.
The bourgeois understand this. Cuba
is still a beacon to the masses across the whole of Latin
America. The imperialists want to crush the Cuban Revolution, for
it still embodies the idea that an alternative to capitalism is possible, that
the market is not the only economic system we can imagine. That is why they
want to destroy every conquest of the Cuban Revolution. And there is a real
danger that imperialism may succeed.
Imperialism cannot tolerate the Cuban revolution
If the Cuban revolution were defeated, as happened in Russia, it would have a demoralizing effect
first of all on the workers, youth and peasants of the whole of South America, and even on a world scale. On the other
hand the regeneration of the Cuban revolution and the victory of the Venezuelan
revolution would completely transform the situation on a world scale.
Now there are important capitalist elements in Cuba. There is
an increasing number of small traders, the people who hold dollars, black
marketeers, who are increasingly interwoven with the party and the state. And
that is the real threat to the Cuban revolution. A while back the leadership
took measures to restrict the growth of the dollar economy. That will no doubt have
an effect for a time, but in the long run it cannot stem the tide in the
direction of a market economy.
One of the main reasons for this is the increased
participation of Cuba on
world markets, which they are compelled to do now with the collapse of the Soviet Union. They have no alternative. We are not
against that. In and of itself it would be a progressive development. The
Bolsheviks attempted to trade with the capitalists on the world market. Lenin
and Trotsky actually offered American capitalists the possibility for them to
conduct business in places like Siberia: to open up whole parts of Russia and
lease it to them as concessions – rather it lease it to them to be correct, not
give it to them. And that was absolutely correct, as long as the Bolsheviks
maintained the firm control of the state. But the Bolshevik Revolution and the
Soviet state in its infancy was a direct threat, and therefore the American,
British and French bourgeois would not trade with them. They wanted to crush
the Bolshevik revolution because it was a threat.
The Cuban revolution represents a threat to capitalism and
imperialism because it gives an example. Therefore the American imperialists at
this stage they do not want to trade with Cuba,
they want to throttle Cuba;
they want to destroy Cuba.
If the truth were to be told, the American ruling class are
a little bit lacking in mental equipment. If they were a bit more intelligent
they would not blockade Cuba.
On the contrary, they would promote trade with Cuba. That would materially assist
the bourgeois counter-revolutionary forces inside Cuba. But because they are all a
little bit thick – and the big boss in the White House is exceptionally thick –
they do the opposite of what is required, from their class point of view.
|Schafik Handal, Hugo Chávez, Fidel Castro and Evo Morales, in Havana in 2004.|
In this way, they drive the masses behind Castro and hinder
the counterrevolution. But one cannot ask an elm tree to produce pears and one
cannot ask the American bourgeoisie and its political representatives to
produce coherent ideas. The present US political Establishment is, in
fact, a little bit mad. But as Shakespeare says in Hamlet, "Though this be
madness, yet there is method in it." The reason why they have this policy is
that they are terrified of the effect of the Cuban and Venezuelan revolutions in
Latin America. They feel they have no
alternative but to strangle the Cuban and Venezuelan Revolutions. That is why
they are acting like political desperados.
The European bourgeois are more polished. They can afford to
be, because their vital interests are not affected so directly. It is the US’s "back
yard" that is going up in flames, not theirs. Nevertheless, for all their
polished politeness and diplomacy, they are equally hostile to the Cuban
Revolution and equally in favour of a capitalist counterrevolution. The
difference is between advocating murder by strangulation – which is noisy and
inconvenient – or murder by slow poisoning – which is more discreet.
The intense pressure of American imperialism on Cuba has had
the effect of infuriating the masses. There is a long tradition of
anti-imperialist struggle in Cuba.
The Cuban people do not like to be bullied by American imperialism. But of
course this has provoked a split in the Cuban leadership. One wing wants to
compromise with US
imperialism and go towards capitalism and the other wing led by Castro wants to
The enormous authority of Castro galvanized the
anti-capitalist elements. He has played a key role. They have been trying to
take measures to stop the slide towards capitalism. They have recently taken a
very drastic step of trying to stop the dollarization of the Cuban economy. The
Cuban economy was becoming dollarized, and that was one of the spearheads of
capitalist restoration. So they passed a decree to stop it on November 14, 2004.
El Pais, the Spanish paper, made quite a penetrating
bourgeois analysis of this process. It says: "dollars brought to Cuba
contamination and inequality […] a real cancer for a system based on
equalitarianism. As well as an economic perversion introduced by the system of
a dual currency." The paper quotes a Cuban as saying: "On the one side there
was the dollar, a strong currency produced by foreign banks, which entered
freely into the market and over which there was no control. On the other hand
there were Cuban pesos, of little purchasing power, which were used to pay us
The Cuban leaders tried to stop this. But they tried to stop
it by bureaucratic means, and this will not work in the long run. The point
that we would make in Cuba
is that you cannot fight effectively against capitalism by bureaucratic means,
and you cannot fight against capitalism without fighting against that wing of
the bureaucracy that is pulled in the direction of capitalism.
Castro is very popular in Cuba but the bureaucracy is not
popular. Therefore, it is not possible to limit the struggle against capitalist
restoration to the demand for the maintenance of the status quo. The masses do
not want the maintenance of the status quo, but to improve their living standards,
to increase their rights and to push the Revolution forward to new heights.
This is unthinkable without a struggle against the evils of corruption,
careerism and bureaucracy – the real ground upon which the capitalist
tendencies are growing.
Slogans like "Down with Castro. Down with the Castro
dictatorship" are the slogans of the émigrés in Miami. They are not our slogans. At a time
when Fidel Castro represents that section that is trying to fight against
capitalism, that is a monstrous position. That is what Bush is saying. Instead,
we should say, "let’s direct our fire against these rotten bourgeois, these
millionaires, these people who have accumulated fortunes in dollars. Let’s
purge them. Let’s get rid of them. Down with the nascent bourgeoisie!" "Down
with corruption." We should be attacking the agents of imperialism in Cuba who are
undermining the planned economy and destroying socialism.