Speculations on what will Cuba be like without Fidel have been spreading these years. These speculations performed a leap and turned into important political confrontations since the moment when Castro underwent surgery that forced him to pass the command on to his brother Raul.
At the time we are writing this article, we still do not know whether will return to his tasks as the head of Cuban administration or if his step aside has been a definite one.
It is logical for such a situation to give rise to all those speculations and debates. Fidel has been the top leader of the revolution and has been at the head of the administration of his country for over 50 years. On the other hand, it is necessary to take into consideration that, ever since the “Eastern European processes” (restoration and revolution) it is difficult to think that the Fidel Castro Succession in Cuba would take place without rubs and crises.
Back to capitalism?
The vast majority of the left will agree that capitalism has been restored in the former USSR and in the Eastern Europe but not in Cuba, because of the resistance of the leadership, particularly of Fidel himself.
Thus Cuba is regarded as one of the “last socialist bastions”. There are several pieces evidence presented to prove this right: Fidel’s speeches against imperialism and for socialism; the continuity of the American blockade and the ever-increasing hostility mustered by the exiled Cuban bourgeoisie living in the USA (“the worms”).
According to those who reason in this way, the fear of what might happen when Fidel is no longer there is fully justified: American imperialism, together with the “worms” might take advantage of the situation in order to restore capitalism on the Island.
There is no doubt that they are trying to benefit from the current situation, but it is wrong to say that their aim is to restore capitalism for the simple reason that capitalism has already been restored.
There has never been an agreement as to what the character of the Cuban state was after the revolution that swept Castro on to power. Some spoke of a “socialist” state, others of “popular economy” and there were even those who regarded it as “state capitalism”. We have always alleged that, since the expropriation of capitalism, Cuba had become a “bureaucratised workers’ state”.
This article is not aimed at proving which one was the best definition, but what we do wish to point out to is that since the split with imperialism, the Cuban state underwent a qualitative change. Capitalist economy ceased to exist. A new type of state emerged, where there was no reign of anarchy of capital but a planned type of economy. In this way, the Cuban state was part of the world economy but was, the same as China and the East European states, a contradictory party of this economy.
This brief description of the post-revolution Cuban State would probably be backed by most of the left. But it is our contention that, regardless the name we may give to it, it exists no more. That is why we say that imperialism is not aiming at restoring capitalism for it has already been restored. The real debate to be found in Cuba and involving the Castro leadership, the “worms”, the American government and European imperialism is not on whether with the possible departure of Fidel there will be or there will not be restoration. The debate is about how to go on with it, hence there are different political positions stemming out of the different economic positions at stake.
There is an enormous resistance on the world-wide left to admit that capitalism has been restored in Cuba. And yet, if we analyse reality and not only the speeches delivered by the Castroite leaders, restoration emerges as an unchallengeable fact.
The existence of a “non-capitalist” economy was not mounted on speeches but fundamentally on three economic pillars. In the first place, most of the means of production were state property; secondly: the quantity and the quality of what was to be produced was determined by the laws of the market but by a central economic plan and lastly, all the foreign trade, that is to say: everything that the country bought or the country sold was monopolised by the state.
The social achievements reached by Cuba were based on these economic pillars. It is these pillars that exist no more. That is why today we cannot say that there is a “non-capitalist” and that is why all the achievements of the revolution are being lost one after the other.
Concessions to capitalism began in the late 70s, but it was in 1990, in consonance with the process taking place in the former USSR and in Eastern Europe that restoration in Cuba made a leap forwards. Since that time, and following the pattern of what had happened in China after 1978 and in the former USSR after 1086, the steps to pull down the old workers’ state streamed one after the other so much so that in a short time there was no more state monopoly of foreign trade and centrally planned economy. Also the former state-owned companies no longer worked according to a central plan and began to depend on the dictates of the laws of the market. This can be easily proved: Central Planning Board, which used to direct the planned economy, has been simply dissolved.
The background of the process of restoration became extremely important when, in September 1995, the National Assembly passed the law of Foreign Investments. By means of this law, the third economic pillar of the former workers0 state (state property of the main means of production) was destroyed. State-owned companies started undergoing privatisation processes, not to national capital but essentially to capital coming from European capitalism. After that law was established, practically all the productive sectors of the country were placed in disposal of foreign capital, which became associated to the state-owned companies to exploit the resources of the country. Today, Cuba’s main “partners” are Spain, Canada, Italy, France, U.K., in this order.
The penetration of foreign capital took place in practically all the branches of production and at a dazzling pace. Today, joint venture companies (between State and foreign capital) dominate 100% of the exploitation of oil, of metal mining, of the lubricants, telephone services, soap production, perfumes and export of rum, 70% of agro industry and citric fruit and 50% of nickel, cement and tourism.
In spite of all these data, many analysts say that Cuba is not a capitalist state because there are still many state-owned companies and because in most of the joint ventures the state keeps 51% of the shares.
This analysis lacks the least scientific rigour. State-owned companies and joint entire companies exist in all the capitalist countries. But it is not the amount of state-owned companies nor the percentage that the state possesses in the joint venture what determine the character of this economy (workers’ or capitalist). The point is to know, in the case of Cuba, whether these companies, mixed and/or state-owned, are subordinate to the laws of market, of supply and demand. In Cuba, until the late 80s, the companies were subordinate to a central economic plan, but this reality changed in the 90s and that is what explains the massive penetration of foreign capital since that time. For example: by 1990 in the entire Cuba there were only seven agreements of economic association with foreign capital for a total volume of 100 million dollars, and these agreements were restricted to the area of tourism. Five years later, in 1995, there were 212 agreements of economic association with foreign capital with an investment of 21000 million dollars engulfing 34 branches of economy.
Cuba’s relations with the world bourgeoisie
For many years, Cuba had to support a permanent political, economic and even military aggression from American imperialism and their allies.
The revolution that pulled down dictators Batista overcame on 1st January 1959 and in October that same year, the President of the USA, Dwight Eisenhower, gave his approval to a CIA plan to carry out terrorist actions on the Island and, in the early 1990, American oil refineries established in Cuba, began to boycott production. These aggressions accrued in the months and years to follow.
In December 1960, USA stopped buying Cuban sugar. In January it broke off diplomatic relations. In April that same year, about 1400 Cuban exiles, trained and armed by the CIA, landed on the Playa Giro (Bay of the Pigs) with the intention of pulling down the government. In January 1962, Cuba was excluded from the Organisation of the American States (OEA). In February, President Kennedy ordered economic blockade on Cuba.
During all those years, the CIA prepared so many raids meant to kill Fidel Castro that they forced him to live practically in hiding. In 1960 alone, 8 plots were discovered to murder him.
As there have been so many aggressions against Cuba and against Fidel, nowadays there are many who fear that the crisis caused by Castro’s probably forthcoming death could be taken advantage of in order to invade the Island. The statements made by the American government, however, do not aim at confirm such fears. In spite of all the Bush war-mongering policy, Condonesa Rice was categorical when she declared that under no pretext they are planning to invade Cuba. The policy is different. It is to press that political parties should be legalised and that the succession to Fidel’s position be defined by ballots. It is within this framework that Caleb McCarry, Bush’s man for the “transition in Cuba” went as far as to declare, that even if most Cuban vote the Communist Party, USA will respect the result of the elections.
If we observe the current USA policy and compare it to the previous stage (raids against Fidel, landing at the Bay of Pigs, blockade, etc) the change will appear evident.
As for the USSR and the Stalin administration, Trotsky said, “As long as the monopoly of foreign trade is not abolished, as long as the right of the capital is not re-established, the USSR, in spite of all the “merits” deserved by the rulers, will go on a relentless enemy of the bourgeoisie of the world…”
What Trotsky said for the URSS can be said about Cuba. As long as the monopoly of foreign trade belonged to the state and while the rights of the capital had not been re-established, the bourgeoisie of the world regarded Cuba as a relentless enemy.
By the 70s, the Castroist administration had abandoned the idea of the early years, of trying to repeat the Cuban experience in other countries. That is why, when the Sandinists took over in Nicaragua, Fidel Castro advised them against expropriating the bourgeoisie (“do no make a new Cuba”). But this change did not serve his purpose. The bulk of the bourgeoisie continued regarding Cuba as a relentless enemy.
It was not until the “rights of the capital” began to be re-established on the Island that the world bourgeoisie changed their attitude. It was since then that the backing was so great that most of the governments, not only of Europe but also of the entire world, started questioning the American blockade. 183 countries supported this position.
This new relation with a fair share of the world bourgeoisie has been blesses by the Pope Johan Paul II, who visited the Island in 1998, and by the Patriarch Bartholomew I, spiritual leader of 140 million Orthodox Christians, who did the same in 2004.
The American bourgeoisie’s policy has been different, but no too different from that of the European bourgeoisie. There are important sectors that stand for the end of the blockade and re-establishing of full relations with Cuba, which, by the way, is exactly what the Cuban administration stands for. If this has not been reached so far, it is due to the pressure exerted by the powerful Cuban bourgeoisie exiled in the USA. Very likely, most of these only accept to establish relations with Cuba with in views of recovery of power and what used to b their properties. They have not, however, managed to prevent the growth of the sectors that stand for re-establishing relations with the current Cuban regime.
To begin with, it is a fact that the number of Americans visiting Cuba is constantly growing. Only in the year 2002, there were 230 000 visitors (40 000 of them illegal). But not only tourists visit the Island. In May of that same year, Jimmy Carter, former President of the USA, visited Cuba and in December 2004 over 300 American entrepreneurs travelled to Havana to meet Fidel Castro.
There are other facts that prove that a new relation is being established between USA and Cuba.
In 1988 the FBI disclosed a plot of exiled Cubans to murder Fidel Castro while American Judge, James L. King, sentenced six exiles to more than 20 years imprisonment for having taken part in the kidnapping of an aeroplane on the Island.
On the other hand, even the government is beginning to challenge the economic blockade. Today, USA stands on the fourth place in the world as for exports to Cuba. This is mainly due to the fact that the powerful pharmaceutical industry o the USA exports to Cuba with the argument that it is all about “humanitarian aid”. This manipulation against the “worm”, unconditional defenders of the blockade, could only be carried out because of the support from the American government.
The objective of these sectors of the American bourgeoisie is clear: not to be left out of the process of re-colonisation of the Island where at present it is the European imperialism who is in the lead.
Bonapartism and bourgeois democracy
Any analyst will find it evident that if Fidel Castro dies or is in some way impaired from continuing in the office, the Cuban regime will be severely undermined. It would be an exceptional opportunity for the imperialism to grab hold of power by means of the “worms”. And yet there is nothing that would suggest that destabilising the regime could be the American policy, let alone that of the European imperialism. So far, and things may change later on, the policy seems to be that of “pressing without destabilising”.
Why do they not wish to destabilise the Cuban regime? And why do they press for a “democratic” solution? Because the different sectors of the world bourgeoisie are in quest for gaining space inside the process of restoration by means of legalisation of political parties and elections, outworking other bourgeois sectors and even the government that is, so far, in control of the process, and that spawns a new bourgeoisie linked to the state. That is what the debate on the succession of Fidel boils down to as far as the bourgeoisie and the Cuban government are concerned.
The world media echoed the mobilisations of the Cuban exiles in Miami and that nourished the idea that USA might be preparing an invasion or, at least, a terrific offensive to pull down the current regime. But this is not what the best informed analysts believe. Thus, for example, the Argentine journalist and writer Andrés Oppenheimer , a scholar on Cuba who has been working in the USA for many years, wrote: “watching the latest event in Cuba from this part of the world, one has a impression that the international community – including the USA – does not seem to be in too much of a hurry to rush out in quest of a quick transition towards democracy on the Island”.
On the other hand, the same Oppenheimer, quotes from d statement made by Emilio Cádernas, a former Argentina ambassador to the United Nations: “nobody is going to rush to cause great changes in Cuba. At first glance this might mean support for the Raul Castro leadership.”
In order to understand this contradiction (not to destabilise the Bonapartist regime and press for changes) it is necessary to compare Cuba to the remaining capitalist states.
Bonapartist, dictatorial solutions, are an alternative for the bourgeoisie when, due to the needs of class struggle and/or inter-bourgeois confrontations, it is necessary to impose order in the bourgeois business. At such moments, even the “most democratic” sectors of the employers opt for knocking at the gates of the headquarters. On the other hand, Bonapartism is the expression, at the political superstructure, of the existence of monopolies and that is why there is constant pressure of world economy for this type of solutions. And yet, these regimes cannot last for ever because normally, there are three counteracting factors. The very same bourgeois sectors in search of broader space where to develop; a tendency of the governments leading these regimes to become independent from the bourgeoisie that invested them with power and the action of the masses against the regimes themselves.
Every time a Bonapartist regime is defeated it is because, with more or less power, the three factors intervene.
In most of the capitalist states, Bonapartist regimes emerge after the traditional mechanism through which bourgeoisie exerts its class domination, bourgeois democracy, has been challenged. But in Cuba we are not talking of a typical bourgeois state but of a bourgeois state that emerged as a result of the restoration of capitalism in a workers’ state. In such cases, this type of regime is a need right from the moment of the birth of the capitalist state. This is the lesson that bourgeoisie as a whole seems to have learned from other processes of restoration.
For example, in the former USSR, once the restoration began, the masses went out into the streets to confront the regimes while the world bourgeoisie “cheerfully” backed this movement that wound up by pulling down the Stalinist apparatus. This reality, however, posed serious problems in the process of restoration. On the contrary, in China, restoration, which began in 1978, did not lead to a confrontation of the masses with the regime and the made it possible for the restoration to be carried without too much turmoil. In 1989, when the masses did walk out into the streets and jeopardised the dictatorial CP regime, there was the possibility that the Russian experience could be repeated and that the process of restoration would have to get through difficulties, but the Chinese government, managed to control the situation thanks to a massacre. This caused the Bonapartist character of the regime to be reinforced.
On the face of it, world bourgeoisie achieved a great victory in the European East when bourgeois democratic regimes arose in the main countries of the region, and that they were defeated in China because there, by means of repression, the dictatorial regime of the Communist party. And yet things were not and are not regarded that way and that is what explains why during all those years the destiny of most imperialist investments has been China (in spite of the great differences in the languages and culture) and not Eastern Europe.
A piece of recently published information exemplifies the reasons for the posture of imperialism. The cost of labour to produce a car in China is 170 dollars while in the USA it is over 2000. This is the “Chinese miracle” only achievable with the support of a bloodthirsty dictatorship where workers lack the most elementary labour rights.
That is what explains why the world GM managed to climb out of their crisis 2005 leaning on the factories in China and that is the reason for which 50% of all the products exported by the 500 most important multinationals are made in China.
From the point of view of the interests of the imperialist powers it would not make any sense to try and pull down the Chinese regime. In the same way as it would not make any sense to try and pull down the regime controlled by the Cuban CP.
The Cuban government gives the American companies all the guarantees to exploit the resources of the Island. They offer the possibility of finding highly qualified labour for the lowest salaries on the continent and together with that, the state will guarantee that workers will not go on strike or pose demands. This generates an enormous surplus value, which can be shipped back home practically without restrictions. What else can international capital dream of?
And yet, the existence of a restoration process, led by the CP dictatorship gives rise to contradictions not only to American imperialism, but also European. Both of them want to have total control of the process and neither of the has it so far and it is this what makes new bourgeoisie emerge from the State and no imperialist sector is willing to develop it, and that is where the pressure for “democratisation” of the state comes from.
We have already highlighted the contradiction that the American bourgeoisie has with the Cuban bourgeoisie, something that prevents them from competing on equal terms with European imperialism, for the re-colonisation of Cuba. But the above mentioned contradiction also affects European imperialism and that is why – even if they do not work directly to pull the Cuban regime out, they constantly press on them to obtain “democratic” solutions. For example, in November 2004, European Parliament demanded that Cuba should set political prisoners free and the President of Spain, José Luis Zapatero, demanded “fast steps to democratisation”. In October 2005, the European Parliament awarded the Sakharov Prize of the Human Rights to the “Ladies in White”, a group of wives of Cuban dissidents in jail in 2003.
Things being the way they are, the Cuban government has not been immune to pressure and Americans are beginning to acknowledge the fact. On the one hand, the Cuban government has been releasing a series of dissidents and on the other, in May 2005, an encounter of 150 representatives of opposing groups was allowed to be held in Havana to discuss a political transition on the Island. In the face of these facts, the boss of the Section of interests of the USA in Havana (Sina), Michael Parmly, declared: “…one day, Cuban people will make the already initiated reforms leading to democracy possible.” Caleb McCarry, in his turn, declared that the issue of the restitution of the properties to their former owners (the “worms”) or the indemnity for them, an never lowered banner of the Cuban exiles, is something that had to be “discussed”, i.e.: negotiated.
The real fear of the Cuban government
Regardless of whether Fidel will ever take up his old tasks in the government, the succession has already started. Almost as if it were a dynasty, he appointed his brother, Raúl, as his successor and, simultaneously, he appointed a triumvirate of younger leaders to take up the post together. These are: Ricardo Alarcón, President of the National Assembly, Carlos Lage, current deputy President and Felipe Pérez Roque, Minister of Foreign affairs.
All these shifts are taking place without much being know about Fidel Castro’s real health situation. Information on this topic has become a state secret.
Why so much mystery? Why is not a medical report broadcasted regularly on Fidel Castro’s health? If imperialism is not trying to pull down the Castro regime, what else can explain this attitude of the current government? Why have security measures been built up? What is the Cuban administration afraid of?
Something that happened in 1994 can help us to cast some light on such great mystery and so much concern.
This is how Jon Lee Anderson , an American journalist and writer who lived ten years in Cuba, describes what happened in summer 1994, during the crisis of the “rafts men”. “At the peak of the “special period”, after the clashes between the authorities and those who pretended to emigrate, hundreds of men and youngsters walked out in demonstration along the Malecón.
Castro went right there with his jumpy bodyguards and made his way into the crowd. The demonstrators had stones and bricks in their hands, but when they saw Castro, they dropped them and started clapping. The hubbub, that had been expanding dangerously, began to dissipate.” After making this description, Anderson arrives at the following conclusion: “One can hardly imagine any successor of Castro’s having enough authority to take such a measure and the rebellion could have spread all through the island…”.
A possible mass rebellion is the main concern of the Cuban government.
There are readers who will most probably find it strange to think that there could be a rebellion in Cuba, and yet the government is right at feeling uneasy for it is precisely massive rebellions that constitute the norm in practically all the processes of restoration of capitalism.
Spread by capitalist media and assimilated by the bulk of the world left, there is a false idea that processes of restoration provoked no stir among the population. What is more, it has been said that the masses walked out into the streets to demand the return of capitalism. This was just not that way. Capitalism was restored and that had devastating effects on the living standard of the toiling masses and it was due to this fact that the masses went out into the streets and confronted the restoring regimes. In the former USSR, the dismantling of the workers’ state began in 1986 and that generated an insurrection in 1989, which was the beginning of a generalised reaction of the masses that went on for several years and led to the defeat of the CP sole-party regime. In China the destruction of the Workers’ state began in 1978 and that generated an insurrection that broke out in 1988, which, unlike the one in the URSS, could be brought under control by means of a massacre.
As far as the living standard of the toiling masses is concerned, in Cuba the restoration of capitalism has the same consequences for the living standards of the toiling masses as in the former USSR and in China and this reality caused deep discomfort. And yet, in Cuba, the same as in Viet Nam, this discomfort has not yet spawned great confrontation with the restoring governments, there is nothing coincidental about this fact.
Both, in USSR and in China, the process of restoration has been carried out in the mane of socialism and welfare for the toiling masses. But this fallacy could not be held up for long for the ones who proffered them were bureaucrats with no past and standing aloof from the masses. But in Cuba and in Viet Nam, reality is different. Restoration of capitalism was committed also in the name of socialism, but those who were committing them were not bureaucrats standing aloof from the toiling masses bur former leaders of the revolution and of the expropriation of the bourgeoisie.
This is precisely the crisis that is posed in the face of death or removal of Fidel is precisely that. Once Fidel dies, who else could prevent the rebellion against the consequences of restoration? Will Raúl Castro be up to that task?
Apart from Fidel Castro, Cuban revolution spawned only two other great leader of the masses: Camilo Cienfuegos and Che Guevara, and both of them are dead. Raul Castro belongs to the same generation, but he has never had the charisma and the influence of the others. The Cuban government knows all about this serious problem and it is this what explains that the CP official paper, the Gramma, has started running an apology of Raúl Castro. In one of its latest editions a piece of news is re-published from the journal Oriente of 30th July 1953, informing that Raúl had been imprisoned for having participated, together with Fidel, of the raid on the La Moncada headquarters in Havana. The intention is clear: to remind people of Raúl’s participation in the revolutionary process that led to the defeat of the dictator Batista. This apology, additionally, goes to prove that the Cuban leadership fears their own population more than they fear imperialism, for they address all this type of messages at the former who are to be reminded of Rail’s revolutionary past.
As we have already mentioned above, imperialism does not wish to destabilise the Cuban regime but they cannot guarantee that the masses will not do so. If this happens, a new scenario will have been created and imperialism will more likely than not try to intervene because a rebellion of the masses in its dynamics will challenge not only the regime but also the entire process of capitalist restoration.
If this new scenario takes place in Cuba, the world left will have to face a new option. Where to take sides? So far, the bulk of the left (reformist and revolutionary) because of their support to the alleged “socialist Cuba”, they have turned accomplices of the plans of re-colonisation by European imperialism. When mobilisation against the Cuban government will begin, will they keep on with the same policy or will they pick sides with the workers and the people fighting against the dictatorial regime of the Communist Party and against the new European and American conquerors? The future of the left, especially of the revolutionary left, will depend on how – in the practice, we shall respond to that question.