As was to be expected, in the face of the popular demonstrations in Cuba against the Castro regime of Diaz-Canel that began a few months ago, most reformist and Stalinist organisations spoke of a “CIA conspiracy” and took sides in defence of the regime. However, it should be less normal that organisations that define themselves as “Trotskyists” have also sided with the regime. Among these is the Italian SCR (Sinistra Classe Rivoluzione) and its international, IMT (International Marxist Tendency).
By: Francesco Ricci
We find it useful to develop a political polemic with this position. This is a way to clarify the basic programmatic differences between the only two parties which, in Italy, at the same time claim Trotskyism and are part of international organisations. Because of the common reference to “Trotskyism”, it happens that some comrades ask us what are the differences between the PdAC-LIT and SCR-IMT. Faithful to a method (unfortunately little practised) which is to polemicise on political and not slanderous bases, and respecting the commitment of comrades who join other organisations, we try to answer this question starting from the question of Cuba.
The myth of Cuba
Before coming to SCR, however, it is good to dwell on the positions on Cuba of the majority of left forces.
The organisations belonging to the reformist and Stalinist left keep on presenting Cuba as a workers’ or even a “socialist” state. To fuel this misunderstanding, they use the fact that Cuba was, after the revolution that overthrew the rotten Batista regime in 1959, the first victorious revolution in Latin America. The small island that defied the imperialist giant just a few kilometres from its shores.
A heroic history, which has demonstrated the possibility of defeating imperialism and resisting its attacks for many years.
The heroic figure of Che Guevara (1); the gigantic advances of the masses thanks to the expropriation of the bourgeoisie and the big American companies on the island: everything is true, despite the fact that this workers’ state was born already deformed, devoid of mass organisations of a “soviet” type, and was led by a petty-bourgeois leadership (the 26 July Movement, which only later became “communist”) guided by a non-Marxist strategy (the Guevarist “guerrilla warfare”). A leadership which, after a contradictory first “internationalist” period (that of Che), adhered to the Stalinist policy of “peaceful coexistence” with imperialism, going so far as to advise subsequent revolutions not to “follow our path”, i.e. not to expropriate the bourgeoisie: as Fidel Castro suggested to the Sandinista revolution in 1979.
Despite the bureaucratic limits and the adoption of the programme of “socialism in one country”, the achievements of the revolution and the heroism of the Cuban proletariat are undisputed.
But this history is, for a long time, a thing of the past.
The restoration of capitalism
After the restoration of capitalism in China (mid-1970s), in the USSR (mid-1980s) and in all the workers’ states where the bourgeoisie had been expropriated, capitalism was also restored in Cuba from the mid-1990s, at the hands of the Stalinist (Castroist) bureaucracy, transformed from a parasite of the workers’ state into a direct agent of the restoration and a new bourgeoisie.
Those who defend a non-existent “socialist” Cuba are not interested in proving their definition with facts: it is more comfortable to resort to a myth, that of the last remaining socialist country, and to define those who are not willing to accept this definition as “friends of imperialism”.
But this distortion of reality is also accredited by organisations that claim to be Trotskyist. It is strange because even in Cuba Trotsky’s prediction in the Transitional Programme has been confirmed: either the proletariat succeeds in overthrowing the bureaucracy or the bureaucracy, sooner or later, will be the agent of capitalist restoration.
In the name of “socialism” and with the prestige of the revolution, the Castro bureaucracy has in fact dismantled, piece by piece, the workers’ state.
In numerous articles of the IWL-FI we have analysed this process with facts and figures. For reasons of space, we do not return to the subject here. Suffice it to point out that the conclusion of this process has led to the destruction of the three pillars on which, according to the Marxist analysis developed by Trotsky, a workers’ state is based: a centrally planned economy, state monopoly of foreign trade, state ownership of the main means of production and exchange.
The “Central Planning Board”, which defined what and how much to produce, was dissolved. The state no longer has the monopoly of foreign trade, i.e. imports and exports are freely negotiated by enterprises. And the regime defends and promotes capitalist property relations.
Data show that all the key sectors of the Cuban economy (tourism, sugar cane, tobacco) are now in the hands of multinationals, particularly European and Canadian, and are subordinated to the market laws of profit.
The Castro bureaucracy, the upper echelon of the armed forces, is a junior partner of the multinationals, turned into a new national bourgeoisie and accumulating its share of profits, in particular through the economic conglomerate GAESA (2). According to estimates by Forbes magazine, for example, at the time of his death, Fidel Castro had a fortune of more than 900 million dollars.
The double revision of the centrists
Trotsky, taking up a concept already used by Lenin, defined as “centrists” those organisations that oscillate between reform and revolution: or rather, that have predominantly reformist positions but are cloaked in revolutionary phraseology.
In this field, probably the main force that refers (only formally) to Trotskyism today is the FT (Fracción Trotskista) and the party around which it is grouped, the Argentine PTS, which is heading towards a parliamentary drift (which we have analysed in other articles) (3).
The PTS is the leader among those who, against all evidence, without advancing any analysis, continue to define Cuba as a “bureaucratised workers’ state”, in which a restoration of capitalism is taking place which… has not yet been completed, in thirty years since the beginning of the process.
In this characterisation of Cuba, we find the first revision of Trotskyism: the three criteria, listed above, used by Trotsky, are not used to define the nature of the Cuban state.
But revisionism does not only manifest itself at the level of analysis: the (erroneous) analysis is combined with programmatic conclusions opposite to those Trotsky indicated for the bureaucratised workers’ states.
For Trotsky, in the face of a bureaucratised workers’ state, the programme is that of a political revolution: that is, of a revolution to overthrow the bureaucratic regime in order to preserve the social foundations of the revolution.
On the contrary, we see that the centrists, starting from a definition which is, we repeat, without foundation, do not pretend to develop the real and actual struggles against the regime into a political revolution, hoping for a “pure” revolution (this is the case of the FT-PTS); or even do not mention political revolution (this is the case of the IMT-SCR). In both cases, they end up supporting the Castro regime. This is what they have done in the face of the popular mobilisations that have shaken Cuba since last July: the IMT in a sharper form.
Popular demonstrations in Cuba
The regime of Díaz-Canel (Cuban president and current leader of the self-styled Cuban Communist Party) reacted with harsh repression to the demonstrations that began in July. It had the power cut off in the most militant neighbourhoods; it sent squads; it imprisoned hundreds of demonstrators, accusing them of being “agents of imperialism” when among them are activists and intellectuals who have always fought imperialism.
The real cause of the demonstrations – as we have documented in other articles – is not a plot by imperialism but the degree of unbearable misery to which the Cuban population is subjected. A poverty that is undoubtedly accentuated by the odious blockade (embargo) imposed by the United States, but which is mainly caused by the harsh measures the regime has adopted to restore capitalism: a process that began in the 1990s and is now over.
The demonstrators demand food, medicine, work, in a country where the minimum wage is about 2 dollars a day, inflation has exceeded 400% and all the achievements of the revolution, already limited by the bureaucratic leadership, have now been dismantled.
The workers do not even have the right to strike against the multinationals that, in alliance with the regime, exploit them. Just as there are no rights of any kind for workers and capitalist exploitation has further accentuated the same double oppression of women and LGBTs that already operated in the days of the deformed workers’ state. For example, trans people are defined by the Penal Code as carrying “anti-social behaviour” and their rallies are regularly repressed. Prostitution (including child prostitution) has once again flourished on the island.
Imperialist intervention and the role of revolutionaries
Clearly, imperialism is trying to intervene in order to use the demonstrations in an instrumental way. This happens in particular because of the competition between European and US imperialisms, the latter driven by the need to compete with European countries in the process of recolonisation of the island and by the political pressures of the Cuban bourgeoisie in exile in Miami (the Gusanos or Worms).
The various actors in the field: European imperialism, US imperialism (with the internal dispute between Republicans, close to the “gusanos”, and Democrats) and the new bourgeoisie born out of the Castro bureaucracy do not push for the restoration of capitalism for one simple reason: because capitalism has already been restored decades ago.
Moreover, if one were to apply the criterion that revolutionaries only intervene in processes in which this or that imperialist sector is absent, one would have to wait for the day of reckoning. In all the revolutions of the 20th century, imperialism tried to intervene: starting with the 1917 Russian revolution, when the Anglo-French tried to take advantage of the overthrow of the Tsar in February.
In Cuba, the sector linked to the Cuban bourgeoisie in Miami and the US Republicans led the formation of the CTDC (Council for a Democratic Transition in Cuba), which intervened in the demonstrations demanding the return of their properties expropriated by the revolution. Properties that were in the hands of the workers’ state and which, after the restoration of capitalism, were privatised for the benefit of European imperialism, of which the bureaucracy is today a junior partner through GAESA (which is headed by the military).
What should revolutionaries do in this situation? The IWL support in the first place the popular mobilisations against the capitalist regime in Cuba, and at the same time demand the necessity of a battle for full working-class independence against all pro-imperialist sectors.
But the fact is that this battle can only be fought by supporting and participating in the popular struggles: not by criticising from outside in the name of their supposed “contamination”.
For Marxists, it is indeed a matter of incorporating socialism into the struggles that actually exist. In Cuba this means fighting for a new socialist revolution that overthrows the regime, overthrows the bourgeois state, arms the proletariat, expropriates the multinationals and the new Cuban bourgeoisie, gives birth to a new workers’ state (this time on a healthy basis) that will act as a stimulus for other revolutions in the world. Clearly, it is not a question of setting this goal in the abstract, but of using a transitional programme that envisages the struggle against mass lay-offs, for wage demands, nationalisations under workers’ control, etc.
The IMT-SCR and the reform of the Cuban state
The IMT (i.e. in Italy, the SCR) presents another analysis and another programme.
On the eve of the new demonstrations of 15 November, put down by the repression of the regime, in a significant article entitled Cuba and the reactionary provocation of 15 November: how to defend the revolution? (4), it reads: “the demonstration (…) is clearly a reactionary provocation that serves the interests of imperialism. (…) The organisers of the march [want] to set in motion a process which, they hope, will lead to the overthrow of the Cuban Revolution, to the restoration of capitalism (…). Faced with this situation, we must clearly and unequivocally defend the Cuban Revolution“.
The statement cites a number of organisations (including the CTDC which we have already mentioned) to demonstrate the reactionary character of the demonstrations. To confirm an imperialist plot, they even cite the instrumental use that would be made “of feminist and LGBT activism”. Thus reversing cause and effect and without saying a word about the oppression of women and LGBT people in Cuba.
Of course, the IMT recognises that there is a “rejection of the bureaucracy” but the presence of pro-imperialist sectors in the demonstrations leads them to the conclusion that the side to take sides with is that of the “revolutionaries (…) who took to the streets (…) at the invitation of President Díaz-Canel, in defence of the revolution“.
In reality, the news reports do not speak of any popular mobilisation in defence of the regime: rather of squads and sub-proletarian sectors armed by the regime to attack the demonstrations.
Nothing new: it is the same theory repeated for decades by the Stalinists when the USSR was still a (deformed) workers’ state: “the struggles of the masses against the regime help the class enemy”. An absurdity for Trotskyists, and it is all the more grotesque when you consider that the class enemy is already in power in Cuba.
But the worst, as we said, does not lie in an unfounded analysis. The worst is in the programme: if the IMT-SCR’s analysis were right (i.e. that capitalism has not been restored in Cuba) and ours were wrong, while we propose a socialist revolution for Cuba they should propose a political revolution. And both types of revolution could not start from siding with “the revolutionaries”… called to the streets by the regime. Instead, the IMT writes: “The Committees for the Defence of the Revolution” (i.e. the instruments of the regime), “the already existing organisations must replenish their content” and fight “the incompetence of the bureaucracy“.
For the IMT-SCR this bureaucracy would be the fourth and last of Cuba’s problems (the first being the embargo, the second the isolation of “the planned economy”, the third the pandemic).
In short, the IMT-SCR programme does not even include the goal of a “political revolution”, as should be deduced from their (in our opinion incorrect) analysis of Cuba: rather they seem to allude to a reform of the state leading to the establishment of “real workers’ democracy” and “more socialism”.
In the article Protests in Cuba: Let’s defend the revolution (5), although recognising that the protests have a real basis, is tantamount to the regime’s analysis: the “dominant component” would be “counter-revolutionary”. And they would have rightly responded, supporting “the revolutionaries (…) invited to take to the streets to defend the revolution” by President Díaz-Canel. That this “correct” response consisted of brutal repression of the demonstrators is not included in this analysis.
Of course, it is admitted that there is unrest and “many also have criticisms of the government’s management (…) but when it comes down to it, they know that they must go out onto the streets to defend the revolution“.
The role of what for us is the new bourgeoisie born out of the Stalinist bureaucracy, and which in the IMT’s analysis is still the bureaucracy of a workers’ state, is limited to the use of “bureaucratic methods of management“, “waste, inefficiency, negligence“. The bureaucracy would defend the revolution but with methods that “are inadequate and in many cases counterproductive” (6).
The IMT-SCR supports a reform of the bureaucracy
This same attitude of critical pressure on the regime is expressed by the IMT in an article analysing the recent congress of the Cuban Communist Party (7).
This article describes an imaginary tension between the old guard of the regime and the new leaders. It writes that “Raul Castro’s report reflected (…) a harsh criticism of the Implementation and Development Commission” which led to the dismissal of Murillo, considered by the international bourgeois press as the “reform czar”, from the Central Committee. In other words, opposition to a supposed restorationist sector would have prevailed. Opposition represented by Raul Castro who “rightly linked capitalist restoration with the destruction of the gains of the revolution“.
The article is all applause for Raúl Castro (i.e. the leader of the capitalist restoration), who supposedly “clearly defended the monopoly of foreign trade“. And, in a fit of imagination, Raul Castro is compared to Lenin who, during the debate on the NEP, defended the importance of the monopoly of foreign trade…
We read: “Raul Castro’s speech at the 8th Congress was clearly directed against those who wanted a rapid advance towards the restoration of capitalism, which we can only applaud“.
Certainly, it is admitted that the “economic reforms implemented so far” are moving in the direction of restoration: but, it seems to be understood, thanks to the left-wing led by Raul Castro “not as fast as some would like“. It goes so far as to advance, after the applause, a criticism of the regime: “the discussion on the effective participation of workers in the management of the economy (…) has been totally absent from the official discussions of the CCP Congress“.
But without being touched by the doubt that this happens precisely because the leaders of this self-styled communist party coincide with the leaders of the new Cuban bourgeoisie.
And again: “the strengthening of the market at the expense of planning” is advancing: but with a “dynamic independent of the subjective will of those who implement the reforms“.
The IMT-SCR and Castro-Chavismo
The IMT-SCR’s position on Cuba comes as no surprise to anyone who knows the support that this current has given for years to the Bonapartist Chávez regime in the Venezuelan bourgeois state. In fact, the IMT has distinguished itself as one of the organisations in the world that most uncritically supported the regime of former Colonel Chávez (8), even vowing, upon his death, to continue along the path he indicated: “We mourn for Hugo Chávez but we must not let the tears blind us. (…) When the mourning is over, the fight will have to continue. Chávez would expect no less. (…) We pledge to continue and intensify the struggle to defend the Bolivarian revolution. (…) Hugo Chávez died before completing the great project he had set himself: the culmination of the socialist revolution in Venezuela“. (9)
A solemn commitment was also extended to “continue the struggle for the construction of this revolutionary International“: that is, the so-called “Fifth International” of which Chávez “proclaimed the urgent need“.
After Chávez’s death, the IMT continued to support the regime, now headed by Maduro, although, in the face of the atrocities of “21st-century socialism”, it adopted an attitude of criticism of the government: but only insofar as Maduro disavows the “great spirit of confrontation, openness and freedom of criticism of the Bolivarian movement that was one of the fundamental characteristics of Hugo Chávez’s method“. (10)
That is why they continue to recognise themselves in a “hardcore of Chavistas” who would remain “faithful to the Bolivarian revolution and the struggle for socialism represented by Chávez” (11).
A revisionist conception of the state (and beyond)
It is important to underline that with the IMT-SCR we are not confronted with errors of analysis of the current reality of Cuba and Venezuela. There is this, but there is much more. Its analysis is based on a profound revision of the foundations of the Marxist conception of the state.
On the state, the IMT and the SCR actually mystify Marx’s conception which Lenin summarised in The State and the Revolution and which the Bolsheviks practised in 1917. States, which for Marx are organs of oppression of one class over another, in IMT theory would, in some cases, be neutral; governments, which for Marx are the committees that administer the business of the bourgeoisie, in IMT theory become, in certain cases, “contestable” governments.
For Lenin, communists cannot in any way, even critically, support capitalist governments, whether national or local. It was thanks to this principled position (which Marx had indicated as the main lesson of the 1871 Paris Commune) that the Bolsheviks won a majority in the soviets in 1917, in the necessity of overthrowing the “left” provisional government.
This same programmatic position was then codified by the Third International in the theses of its first congresses, before Stalin’s victory, which brought back to the workers’ movement collaboration with the bourgeois governments, under the term “popular front governments”.
The SCR and the IMT take up the old anti-Marxist conception of “governments that can be conditioned by the masses”. That is, while opposing “ordinary” bourgeois governments, they support the possibility that, under pressure from the masses, “left” bourgeois governments (i.e., composed of reformist parties or considered reformist in any case) can evolve in a progressive direction.
Only in the light of this theory can it be explained why the British section of the IMT fought until recently for a Labour Party government (at the time headed by Corbyn) “with a socialist programme” (12). Going so far as to proclaim this as “the fight of our lives: let’s mobilise for Corbyn’s victory” (13).
This same revisionist theory is applied in the analysis of the bourgeois states of dependent countries like Cuba or Venezuela, the subject of this article; and led the SCR in Italy to theorise a “critical support” for the Neapolitan junta of De Magistris (14).
It cannot be said that these IMT-SCR positions are new in the labour movement. On the contrary: it is precisely against these positions that Marxism arose and developed, starting from Marx and Engels’ fierce criticism of the first entry of reformist exponents into a bourgeois government, in February 1848 in France. The Communist International, in turn, was founded on the cardinal principle of class independence from the bourgeoisie and its governments.
For Marxism, only bourgeois governments can exist under capitalism; governments that are neutral or “conditioned” by dynamics or by the masses are pure fantasy. That is why the principle of opposition to any government in capitalism is not an abstract principle (there are none in Marxism) but is the indispensable premise in order not to sow illusions and to be able to win the workers to the struggle for a workers’ government, which can only be built after having overthrown capitalism by the revolutionary road.
This revisionist position on the state is combined in the IMT-SCR with a rejection of the vanguard party as understood by Marx and Lenin. We have already dealt with this issue in an article of a few years ago, to which we refer: “Our differences with SCR (and SCR‘s differences with Marxism)” (15).
Suffice it to say here that the IMT-SCR have, on this issue, a conception that sees the Trotskyists as a spur to the evolution of the allegedly progressive leading sections of the reformist parties and the reformist parties are seen as “natural” organisations of the class. Hence the rule of building permanent entryism into them (even when they have already been transformed for decades into purely liberal organisations, as in the case of the British Labour Party, which is now expelling them). The only exception allowed is when (as in Italy) there is no party in which to enter, so they adopt external construction while waiting for the emergence of a party in which to enter (until a few years ago SCR was waiting for the construction of an Italian “Labour Party” by the hand… of Landini).
The revision of the Marxist theory of the state is the first link in this tight chain around the neck of Marxism. The second link is the revision of the Marxist theory of the vanguard party. The third link is a mechanistic and fatalistic reading of the materialist conception of history (16). But we have already gone on too long and this could be the subject of another article comparing the positions of SCR and ours.
In conclusion, one question remains: can the set of positions we have described here be called “Trotskyism”? We doubt it and, to paraphrase Oscar Wilde (17), the importance of being a Trotskyist must not be overlooked if one wants to call oneself a Trotskyist.
(1) On Che Guevara and the Trotskyist critique of guerrilla warfare, read “Il Che: un rivoluzionario incorruttibile” www.partitodialternativacomunista.org/articoli/progetto-comunista/progetto-comunista-11/il-che-un-rivoluzionario-incorruttibile
(2) Gaesa (Grupo de Administración Empresarial SA), Armed Forces Business Enterprises Group, is a business consortium controlled by the leaders of the Cuban Armed Forces. The new Cuban bourgeoisie is concentrated there, dependent on imperialism, formed from the conversion of the Castro bureaucracy, which manages the regime. Using the Foreign Investment Law of the 1990s, imperialism, in particular European and Canadian imperialism, has invested heavily in Cuba and controls in particular the tourism sector, with Gaesa as a junior partner. The president of this consortium of Cuban businessmen is Luis Alberto Rodríguez López-Calleja, a relative of Raúl Castro and a member of the Political Bureau of the Cuban ‘communist’ party.
(3) There is no FT section in Italy: its positions, however, are taken up by the blog La Voce delle Lotte.
(4) The article can be read in Italian translation at this link: www.rivoluzione.red/cuba-e-la-provocazione-reazionaria-del-15-novembre-come-difendere-la-rivoluzione/
(5) The full article can be found at this link: www.rivoluzione.red/proteste-a-cuba-difendiamo-la-rivoluzione/
(7) The full article can be found at this link: www.rivoluzione.red/cuba-lottavo-congresso-del-pcc-e-le-sfide-di-fronte-alla-rivoluzione/
(8) The Chávez regime, beyond the “anti-imperialist” rhetoric, and the periodic frictions with imperialism, which also made coup attempts (2002) to replace the regime with an even more docile one, continued to rigorously pay the foreign debt, offloading the cost on the starving population. The same much-trumpeted “nationalisation of oil” has never involved any expropriation of the multinationals but only bargaining of the so-called “bolibourgeoisie” as junior partners of Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Repsol, etc. Thanks to this, Chávez’s family and his party colleagues have collected an immense fortune.
(9) See the 2013 statement of the IMT: “Hugo Chávez is dead: the struggle for socialism is alive!“, written on the death of Chávez, available in Italian translation at this link: old.marxismo.net/venezuela/america-latina/venezuela/la-dichiarazione-della-tendenza-marxista-internazionale-sulla-morte-di-hugo-chavez
(10) The full article can be found at this link: www.rivoluzione.red/fermare-le-minacce-del-presidente-maduro-contro-lapr-e-la-sinistra-rivoluzionaria/
(11) The full article is at this link: www.rivoluzione.red/venezuela-maduro-vince-le-elezioni-presidenziali-nonostante-lingerenza-imperialista-cosa-succedera-ora/
(12) The call for a Corbyn government is contained in dozens of articles and texts, see for example “Why we are fighting back”, available at www.socialist.net/socialist-appeal-stands-for.htm
(13) The article is available at this link: www.socialist.net/we-face-the-fight-of-our-lives-mobilise-for-a-corbyn-victory.htm
(14) This position of the SCR can be found, among others, in the article “La candidatura di De Magistris a Napoli: la nostra posizione” available in the link: www.rivoluzione.red/la-candidatura-di-de-magistris-a-napoli-la-nostra-posizione/
(15) In the article “Our differences with SCR (and SCR’s differences with Marxism)” we analyse all the positions of the IMT and its Italian section, SCR. The article can be read at the following link: https://litci.org/es/nuestras-diferencias-con-scr-imt-de-alan-woods-y-las-diferencias-de-scr-con-el-marxismo/
(16) As an example, read www.marxismo.net/index.php/teoria-e-prassi/filosofia-e-scienza/535-marxismo-contro-postmodernismo in which a correct critique of postmodernism is inverted in a defence of a Marxism in which dialectics has disappeared. The same almost naturalistic materialism that emerges from some pages of the philosophical summa written by Alan Woods and Ted Grant (theoretical guide of the IMT): Reason in Revolt: Marxist Philosophy and Modern Science, which in many parts recalls the evolutionism of certain diamat manuals of the Stalinist era, with a return to what Marx called the “old materialism” that he had overcome.
(17) Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest. The title of this three-act comedy of 1895 is based on the interplay of two words, the adjective “earnest” (honest) and the proper name “Earnest”, which have the same pronunciation in English.