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Cuba Capitalist? A Trotskyist Response to the ISO and LRP
by Steven Argue
Saturday Jul 21st, 2012 11:24 AM
The International Socialist Organization and the League for a Revolutionary Party tell us that Cuba is capitalist. The following was written in response to a member of the LRP who defended their organization's position on Cuba. This strange "third camp" ideology is now promoted among several groups calling themselves Trotskyist including the ISO and LRP in the United States. Their idea that Stalinist led countries were actually capitalist was invented by Max Schachtman who led a petty bourgeois opposition within the then Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party 1939-1940. At that time, Trotsky wrote an entire book in opposition to Schachtman's ideas called, "In Defense of Marxism".
Photo: Literacy Rally held in 1961 in Havana, Cuba.

Cuba is capitalist? This is where eyes roll and you lose everyone. Capitalism was overthrown as a result of the 1959 Cuban Revolution. The repressive U.S. backed capitalist dictatorship of Batista was crushed. Capitalist owned industries were seized from the parasitic capitalist class. Production for capitalist profit was eliminated and, instead, production went largely towards meeting human needs. Socialized medicine, literacy campaigns, and nutrition became priorities through the planned socialized economy. Important gains were made for women's liberation, black liberation, housing, and the environment. Homosexuals, however, were persecuted as an ugly influence of Stalinism in the USSR. A good and meaningful sweeping land reform was also carried out.

Counter-revolutionaries who missed the days of the U.S. backed Batista dictatorship, with CIA backing, waged a terrorist war against the Cuban Revolution. This has included CIA operative Luis Pasada Carriles who, among other acts, blew-up Cubana flight 455 in 1976 murdering all 73 people on the airliner. The U.S. continues to shelter Pasada from justice. Trotskyists, defending the Cuban Revolution against internal and external counter-revolution supported / support measures by the Cuban government to crush this counter-revolutionary movement.

The USSR provided meaningful aid to the Cuban Revolution, in part by buying sugar from Cuba above the capitalist world market price. When the capitalist counter-revolution took place in the USSR the former USSR began carrying out trade in the fashion that capitalist countries do. This hurt Cuba. Combined with the U.S. economic blockade of Cuba and Cuba’s historic underdevelopment as a result of U.S. and Spanish imperialist control, Cuba was put in a very tough spot. Yet, due to Cuba’s socialist food distribution a humanitarian disaster was averted that would have otherwise happened in any capitalist country under similar circumstances. Likewise, Cuba, with its socialist emphasis on education, has a well educated and creative people who were able to put their heads together and come up with solutions to the lack of pesticides and convert Cuban agriculture to organic production. Urban gardening was also widely developed to feed the people.

Trotskyists do not, as you claim, "raise the illusion that the bureaucracy is wed to nationalized property and will defend it." Many layers do defend it, others, who see opportunities with capitalist counterrevolution don't protect socialized property relations and instead seek to overthrow it. Yeltsin was a good example of that. If you read Trotsky’s “Revolution Betrayed”, Trotsky did predict this. Trotsky said in the "Revolution Betrayed" that without a political revolution the Stalinist bureaucracy would move towards capitalist counter-revolution.

Still, predictions aren’t nearly as important as the need for Trotskyists to defend socialized property relations. A simple defense of the national rights of the Cuban people against U.S. imperialism is not enough. This means first and foremost, unlike the LRP, recognizing that capitalism has been overthrown in Cuba. And from there we can differentiate between political revolution and counter-revolution. Counter-revolution destroys the existing socialist property relations. Examples include the Yeltsin and Solidarnosc counter-revolutions. Solidarnosc, with its capitalist program and CIA support, brought 50% unemployment to Poland where there had been none and outlawed abortion where it had been free and legal. Yeltsin’s capitalist counter-revolution brought a drop of life expectancy by 10 years in ten years and many other disasters to the working class.

Political revolution, in contrast to capitalist counter-revolution, preserves the existing socialist economy while overthrowing the repressive Stalinist bureaucracy and implementing a workers democracy. Important revolutionary movements held this potential. These include the 1956 Hungarian uprising, the Prague Spring, and the Tiananmen square uprising. Trotskyists supported those movements and today would support similar movements in Cuba, China, North Korea and Vietnam while at the same defending those revolutions from imperialist attack and internal capitalist counter-revolution. And yes, we do recognize that the Stalinist bureaucracy is playing a major role in allowing dangerous capitalist inroads into the economies of these countries. This heightens the urgency of the need for political revolution to protect and extend the gains of these socialist economies.

This author is a member of the Revolutionary Tendency, Check out our Statement of Purpose:

This is an article of Liberation News, subscribe free (not associated with the Stalinist PSL who stole our name)

Also see:
Why The Russian Revolution is Still Important


In Defense of Marxism (Trotsky's opposition to Schachtman's ideas)
by Leon Trotsky

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by Circles Robinson
Sunday Jul 22nd, 2012 5:24 AM
For more on Cuba have a look at Havana Times.
by Earl Gilman
(elnuevotopo [at] Thursday Sep 13th, 2012 12:21 PM
I've been in Cuba several times: there is a bureaucracy. But it is a very poor bureacracy: they may earn as much as $500 a month. That's a lot in Cuba where wages are $20-$30 a month. But not a capitalist class. The real rich are the Cubans who get money sent from the US. There is an ideological struggle taking place in Cuba: to defend the relative equality of wages and to defend the rationing system. Also to defend free medical services. For the ISO and LRP, sitting in comfort in US cafes, this may seem unimportant. But this revolutionary legacy is not capitalist, though Raul Castro wants to emulate Chinese Capitalism.
by Redwallace
Wednesday Nov 7th, 2012 12:25 AM
I agree that the position of Cuba being capitalist is an adaptation to imperialism and wholly false. However, I also think an analysis of the current restoration of capitalism by the Castroist bureaucracy needs to be discussed. The cuts and attacks made against the Cuban working class must be called out for us to truly defend the revolution. A pretty good Trotskyist article on the restoration by Fraccion Trotskista. Thanks for writing this note Steve- good to continue raising these issues and fighting for the Cuban revolution.
by Steven Argue
Saturday Jan 26th, 2013 12:50 PM
I don't agree at all that capitalism has been restored in Cuba. I'll respond more later when I havr time.