The Cuban and Venezuelan governments can rely on support from most of the world’s left organizations. Their prestige, however, had reached its pinnacle in the previous decade and now is getting weaker as the situation of crisis of these governments gets worse.
The international weight of these organisations – that we call Castro-Chavist – is very important. But since the parties and movements that form part of it are very heterogeneous, we cannot classify Castro-Chavism as an international organization (as Stalinist apparatus was once) nor as a trend. It is all about parties, organizations, movements, governments of very diverse features, each one unlike the other. A part of them takes the shape of bourgeois nationalism from Chavism, Bonapartism from Castroism, or the class collaboration from both. Another part merely supports their governments.
The Cuban and Venezuelan administrations are neither proletarian nor petty bourgeois reformists. They come from different origins but today they are bourgeois administrations leading capitalist states.
Castroism comes from a petty bourgeois trend that carried out a revolutionary task when they seized power and expropriated the bourgeoisie in Cuba. Later on, they headed the restoration of capitalism and turned themselves into a bourgeoisie. The Castroite dictatorship leans on a post- restoration bourgeois state.
Chavism is a petty-bourgeois trend that took over in Venezuela and spawned a new bourgeoisie. Maduro leads a Bonapartist government in the Venezuelan bourgeois country. It is just another version of bourgeois nationalism, just like Peronism in Argentina, the Peruvian Aprism or Egyptian Nasserism.
Cuba is not the “last bastion of socialism” in the XX century. Capitalism has never been expropriated in Venezuela. “Socialism of XXI century” is nothing but propaganda without any contact with real life. Stalinism did a lot of harm to revolutionary movements by identifying Stalinist dictatorships with socialism.
They are bourgeois leaderships, with support based on the workers’, popular and students’ movement. But the support granted to these leaders, which has had its pinnacle of glory is now clearly sliding down.
1. Cuba: from revolution to capitalist restoration
The Cuban revolution deeply marked Latin American history. A small island just a few hundred kilometres from the American shore expropriated multinationals and put an end to capitalist economy. This had not happened before and has not been repeated ever since then. (1)
The Cuban example enabled the materialisation of the meaning of an alternative to capitalist economy. This overcame the level of the previous debate with the defenders of the capital within the scope of ideas and of programme and became a comparable experience. This already existed within the global scope with the USSR and now it became concrete in Latin America due to Cuba.
Cuba used to be one of the poorest and most miserable countries on the American continent. A part of the tourists who used to visit the Island were rich Americans who used to haunt brothels. This ended with the revolution and the expropriation of capitalism.
It was a striking example. There was an end to social problems that not even the imperialist countries could solve. There was no more unemployment and no more lack of housing. Everybody gained access to food, education and health. Cubans gained high class education, including universities. They could have qualified medical assistance at all levels. The change in the living standards of the population was reflected in sports: a tiny island began to compete against the USA for the leadership at the Pan American Games.
This produced an enormous impact on the awareness of Latin American toiling masses. What had already been presented by the Russian Revolution within the global scope was now to be seen in Latin America. Socialism was not a dream: it was a real programme capable of changing the world and the lives of people. Generations after generations of activists in Latin America had their first lessons of socialism from the Cuban example.
The 26th of July Movement, which seized power, was a guerrilla with a petty-bourgeois leadership. This movement carried out a revolutionary task not only because they toppled the Fulgenio Batista dictatorship but also because they built a workers’ state.
Going all that far was not a project of Castro’s, but after having defeated Batista, he wanted to recover the economy that was in a complete crisis. So he had to face up against the Cuban bourgeoisie and particularly so to American companies that were established there. After the agreement for importing oil from the USSR at very low prices, American refineries refused to process that oil. Fidel reacted expropriating these companies and so initiating a confrontation with imperialism that led to a split with capitalism and the construction of a new state.
But this is all about a petty-bourgeois leadership, leaning mainly on the students’ movement, on urban middle class and on poor peasantry. From the very beginning, this movement had a fundamental difference with the Russian Revolution: the exercise of power in Cuba has never been based on proletarian democracy but under the dictatorial control of guerrilla bosses. Right from the very beginning it was a bureaucratised workers’ state.
At first, Castro even had a more leftward posture than the soviet bureaucracy. While the leadership of the USSR applied the policy of Peaceful coexistence with imperialism, the Cuban leadership encouraged Latin American guerrilla. In 1967, Che Guevara died boosting this policy in Bolivia. Even if the guerrilla policy was totally misguided, it indicated a policy that differed from that of Russia. Later on, however, the Cuban leadership joined the same policy as that of the USSR and they were fundamental to prevent the 1979 Sandinist revolution to evolve and expropriate capitalism.
The restoration of capitalism in the USSR came hand in hand by a twin movement in Cuba. Since 1977, changes tending towards opening to capitalism began on the Island. First came the opening in the countrysidefor cooperatives and farmers’ free markets as well as autonomous labour in the cities. In the 90s qualitative steps are taken towards restoration with the Foreign Investment Act in 1995, the privatisation of fundamental sectors of Cuban economy (tourism and production of sugar cane and tobacco), the end of the state economy planning and of the monopoly of foreign trade.
The economic blockade on Cuba, imposed by the government of the United States in 1962, is one of the main evidences used by the Castro-Chavism to “prove” that the Island is still a “bastion of socialism”. However, the blockade was not by imperialism as a whole; only Americans carried it out. The European bourgeoisie took advantage of the situation in order to take the lead in the economic occupation of the Island after the restoration. It is no coincidence that much of the tourist hotel structure belongs to Spanish chains like Meliá. Even the American bourgeoisie stood divided, with an increasing sector opposing the blockade due to the fact that it made them miss the “opportunity”. Actually, the blockade is still maintained mainly due to the decisive influence of the Miami “gusano” bourgeoisie (the pre revolution Cuban bourgeoisie, who fled to Miami). Beyond the restoration, this bourgeois sector aims at grabbing back “their” property and that is why they maintain that bellicose attitude towards the Castro dictatorship. In spite of all that, the US is one of the main exporters to Cuba (scoring between the fourth and the fifth places).
The Castroite bureaucracy’s plan is to turn Cuba into a kind of China nearer to the American shore. So far, however, imperialism just took control of the existing Cuban state owned enterprises, without significant investments on the Island. The result is a clear decadence of the country. In 2011, the industrial production was 55% below the 1989 output. Sugar cane production fell from 8 to 1.3 million tons. The real wage rate was reduced by 72% in twenty years. (2)
Today, with the restoration complete, Raul Castro is implementing a new qualitative step passing another Foreign Investment Act, planning the layoff of a million officials and opening an enormous free trade zone (like the Chinese did) in the Port of Mariel. According to a new investment bill, investors will not pay income taxes during the first eight years of operation and then they will pay half of the current amount. The Port of Mariel is extremely modern and it can harbour deep draft vessels (post-Panamax). It cost a billion dollars and is a bet to make Cuba part of the Asiatic trade to the US market.
These are the recent opening steps of the country to new foreign investments. Perhaps these new initiatives are articulated to a perspective of the end of the blockade and of investments by American bourgeoisie.
The fable, widely reported by Castro-Chavez followers, says that Cuba is the “last bastion of socialism”. They deny the restoration of capitalism, leaning on the figures of Fidel and Raul Castro, who commanded the revolution. (3)
Cuban facts belie Castro-Chavism. The economy of the Island is no longer ruled by state planning but by the laws of capitalist market. There is no workers’ state unless it is based on the state property of the means of production, on planned economy and on state monopoly of foreign trade.
Cuba no longer stands for the awareness of Latin American masses that a workers’ state can be an alternative to capitalism. The contrary is true: there is a social tragedy on the Island as a consequence of restoration that determines a sharp fall of the living standards of Cubans. Workers earn wages of US$18 monthly, unemployment threatens to grow to huge proportions due to the massive layoffs among civil servants; the crisis is reaching Cuban education and health.
Women oppression has not been eliminated by the Castro dictatorship even while Cuba was a workers’ state, but with the capitalist restoration, the worsening has been qualitative. Dozens of prostitutes surround all tourist hotels in Cuba, resuming the sad reality of the times of Batista. (4)
Questioned by the UN Committee for the Elimination of Violence against Women on prostitution on the Island, the Cuban administration responded cynically that “it is a personal choice for women and men looking at prostitution as a way to access certain consumer goods to achieve a higher standard of living than the rest of the working population“. Fidel Castro went even further than that almost advertising prostitution: “Our prostitutes are the healthiest and more educated in the world.” (Quoted by Alejandro Armengol)
Meanwhile, sex tourism returned with force, added by child prostitution. In England, the rock singer Gary Blitter went to jail for paedophilia after consecutive trips to Cuba. A 78-year old Canadian, James Turk, was declared guilty by the justice of his country for sexual tourism with 3-year old Cuban girls.
Oppression of homosexuals has never ceased, not even in the days of workers’ state. The documental “Improper behaviour” produced great impact showing the repression of homosexuals – anonymous as well as well known writers, such as Reinaldo Arenas.
Anyone who wishes to verify the repudiation of the Cuban dictatorship by most of the population can simply travel to the Island and talk to people in the streets outside the “official” environment. There is passive rejection of a broad majority, especially of the youngest. They speak ill of the government all the time, make jokes in the typical Cuban sense of humour. The dictatorship still has some support in the oldest sector who remembers the days of Batista dictatorship. But a broad majority is against the Castro dictatorship.
Attending demonstrations summoned by the government is compulsory and controlled by the political police the same way it used to be in the East. Shortly before the collapse of the Stalinist dictatorship in Romania, for example, there was a gigantic official demonstration. The Cuban Committees of Defence of the Revolution are like political police stations in each one of the neighbourhoods. They exist to watch anybody who can manifest a standpoint contrary to the government and may be penalised by losing their job or going to jail.
The Cuban leadership commanded the restoration and then govern a bourgeois state. In spite of all the secrecy surrounding these facts, there is information about top officers of the Cuban armed forces who are partners in multinational companies operating in Cuba.
Secrecy also involves the private lives of Cuban top leaders. But a book has just been published by Juan Reinaldo Sanchez who had been Fidel’s bodyguard for 17 years. Fidel’s former faithful servant asserts that his former master is the owner of the island Cayo de Piedra, to be found south-east of Cuba, a paradise for millionaires where he always goes sailing in a yacht of his, Aquarama II. Only the few chose ones are invited to this island, such as the owner of CNN, Ted Turner, the French businessman Gerard Bourgoin, or the former Colombian president, Alfonso Michelsen.
What we can see today in Cuba is similar to the Chinese reality: a Communist Party dictatorship commanding a bourgeois state in a capitalist economy.
What we need for the Island is no longer a political revolution, which is what we needed in the days of a workers’ state but a social revolution against a bourgeois state and a capitalist dictatorship.
While most of the global left defend the Castro regime, they are actually supporting a bourgeois dictatorship that exploits and oppresses its people. Unavoidably, sooner or later, something similar to what happened in Eastern Europe will happen in Cuba. Then, this left will have to grant their support to the repression by the Cuban administration or backtrack on everything so far defended by them.
2. Chavism: from petty-bourgeois nationalism to bourgeois nationalism
The rise of chavism has origins in the political crisis in Venezuela, which began with the Caracazo, an insurrection that shook the country in 1989. The president Carlos Andrés Perez imposed a violent economic plan, devaluating the currency by 100% in relation to the dollar) and increasing the price of oil by 80%. The poor on the hills surrounding Caracas marched down, confronted the police violently and looted shops. The extremely harsh repression caused the death of more than a thousand people and so contained the situation. But the armed forces split into two and the crisis was installed in the regime.
In 1992, Chavez, who was then Colonel Chavez attempted a coup that expressed the dissatisfaction reigning in the Armed Forces. In spite of being jailed and convicted, he earned enormous prestige among the poorest sectors. In 1998, he won presidential elections and so initiated a long stretch of time with Chavism in power that is still there.
Chavez wielded anti-American-imperialism rhetoric that gave him great prestige in the whole Latin America. Chavez’s speeches against the Bush administration were clearly far from those of Lula and other governments on the continent. But neither Chavez nor Lula split clearly away from imperialism.
But everything changed even within the scope of speeches when Obama took over in the US. Regarding the American elections, Chavez stated, “If I were American, I would vote for Obama. And I believe that if Obama were from Barlovento or from any Caracas neighbourhood, he would have voted for Chavez”.
The Venezuelan administration kept on paying the foreign debt dutifully and continued supplying the USA with oil even when imperialism invaded Iraq.
Even his most famous measures, such as “nationalisation of oil” meant nothing but maintaining the partnership in exploration and refining of oil, slightly increasing the percentage received by the State. Multinationals may be owners of up to 49% of companies and reserves in the main item of Venezuelan economy – oil. In the case of gas, they may be owners of 100%. We are not talking of small companies but of “socialism” with Exxon Mobil, Chevron Texaco and Repsol. The enormous office buildings of these companies can be seen in the oil cities all over the country. (3)
At first, imperialism repudiated Chavez harshly and boosted the coup in April 2002. The masses reacted violently and began a new insurrection that could only be halted three days later, when Chavez returned to power.
As late as December 2002, imperialism still insisted by trying a lockout and was once more defeated by the masses. Consequently, the US government and the Venezuelan right learned from their defeats and decided to bet on the wear-out of the government and the electoral path to defeat Chavez.
Chavez’s “socialism of the XXI century” is nothing but a farce, an ideology to win over the vanguard and the toiling masses for his bourgeois project. Capitalism remained untouchable during the entire Chavist period, with all the features similar to those on the rest of the continent, such as: the predominance of the multinationals (as in the case of the oil companies) and private banks. Venezuelan bourgeois state remained untouched, with its armed forces controlled by Chavism. There has never been anything like mass organisms of dual power.
This phenomenon has already been defined by Trotsky a sui generis Bonapartism, a type of bourgeois government that leans on mass movement and has partial rubs with imperialism.
The definition of Bonapartism has a lot to do with the antidemocratic and authoritarian character of Chavism. This is something that Chavist try to conceal but fail at it. Trade unions are controlled by bureaucracy and activists are persecuted. Chavez repressed strikes that got beyond the control of Chavist bureaucracy – and Maduro does so right now – just the way it happened in the occupation of Mitsubishi in 2009 (two casualties) and that of Sidor in 2014 (3 injured). The PSUV (United Socialist Party of Venezuela, founded by Chavez) is a bourgeois party that uses the state apparatus the way the Mexican PRI and the Colorado Party of Paraguay do, in order to co-opt and control the movement in a single party (6).
Partial rubs with imperialism exist because Chavism is an expression of Latin American bourgeois nationalism as Peronism in Argentina or the APRA in Peru, but with the limitations that bourgeois nationalism has in times of economic globalisation in the XXI century. There is no room for any more powerful anti-imperialist measures, such as nationalisation of oil such as what Cardenas did in Mexico in 1938 or those carried out by Peron for oil as well as electricity and railways. Nor there is any room for important concessions for the toiling masses like those made by Peronism.
Multinationals are as strong in Venezuela as in the remaining countries of Latin America. And, just as in the other Latin American countries, they are involved in large-scale profiteering with the government. One of the latest scandals broke out after no other than the President of the Central Bank (Edmee Betancourt, who survived just three months in office) said that in 2012, between US$ 15 and US$ 20 billion had been handed over by the state to a group of “Briefcase companies” who had overbilled imports. Among these companies there were General Motors, Toyota, Ford, Cargill, Chrysler, American Airlines, Nestle Venezuela and Procter & Gamble. Between 2004 and 2014 these “briefcase companies” received from the state US$ 180 billion as part of a gigantic scam. (7)
Ever since the rise of Chavism, there has been a huge inter-bourgeois dispute between Chavism and the traditional bourgeoisie (known as “squalid”). This is what explains the 2002 coup, the lockout, the current marches as well as the violent electoral disputes. But the Chavist left confuses the inter-bourgeois treats with the existence of an alleged revolutionary sector against the bourgeoisie as a whole; or what is worse: as if it were Cuba versus the USA in the ‘60s.
Venezuelan workers live in the same miserable conditions of wages and poor working conditions as their Latin American brothers, even less than in most of the continent. In the biggest oil export country, nearly 40% of the people live in poverty. There are 1.2 million unemployed and half of the employed have a casual job. Cooperatives, boosted by the government, greatly help in making labour rights more flexible with no job stability for workers and no acknowledging of the most elementary rights such as unionization, strike, health care, etc.
In Venezuela the oppression of women, Blacks and homosexuals is as bad as in the remaining countries of Latin America. For example, there is no right to abortion as there is in Mexico City or Uruguay (in the first 12 months).
The social “face” of Chavism is the same as that of other Latin American administrations whether “left” or right: compensatory, handout social programmes. Venezuelan “Missions” have the same character as the Brazilian “Family Bag”, or the “Juanito Pinto” and “Dignity income” in Bolivia, as “Zero Hunger” in Nicaragua or “Families in Action” in Colombia, or the “Opportunities” in Mexico or the “Together” in Peru.
This policy attends the recommendations of the World Bank and the IMF to implement social programmes together with neoliberal plans. They come together with the reduction of health, education and pension rights so as to guarantee the payment of the bankers’ debt. According to the instructions issued by imperialism, they are “effective programs” at a “low cost” that help to apply neoliberal plans while maintaining political stability.
In Venezuela, the “Missions” have a terrific weight and they reach more than 40% of the population. This is the quantitative difference in relation to other countries.Funded with oil revenues, the “Missions” can reach more people, ensuring their electoral and political support for Chavism.
The enormous economic potential of oil exports was not used as to change the economy of the country broadening industrialisation. Oil was 70% of exports in 1998 and swerved to 96% in 2012. At the same time the industrial sector’s share in GDP fell from 17.3% in 1998 to 14% in 2012.
Chavism continued the parasitic rentier model of Venezuelan bourgeoisie. It did not even advance along the path of the old bourgeois nationalism, like Peron, Vargas and Cardenas who developed industrial sectors as a substitute for imports in key sectors such as iron and steel industry, car and food industries, etc. It could have made headway in this sense using the oil income for this purpose but it kept on clinging to the same parasitical model of the traditional Venezuelan bourgeoisie.
Chavez did not split with capitalism and that is why workers’ lives did not change. That is why Venezuela cannot present for the world a social change similar to what Cuba had after they had expropriated capitalism.
Instead of advancing towards socialism as their defenders say, Chavism boosted the construction of a new bourgeoisie stemming from the State, known as “boliburguesia” (Bolivarian bourgeoisie).
This new bourgeoisie has an enormous weight in the government as well as in the PSUV. Its most important representative is Diosdado Cabello, former officer of the Armed Forces and today’s president of the Legislative Assembly who went as far as disputing Chavez´s succession against Maduro.
Diosdado’s economic group owns three banks, several industries and service companies. It is one of the major economic groups in the country. Other economic groups of the boliburguesia hinge round Jesse Chacon and Blanco La Cruz, also retired officers of the armed forces.
The ALBA – Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (from its name in Spanish) – boosted by Venezuela proved to be just another association for free trade, controlled by multinationals installed in these countries.
The Venezuelan government uses oil business in Latin American countries as part of their political targets. They sell at lower prices to allied governments and use its commercialisation in other countries as a political bridge for negotiations with movements and parties.
Not having advanced along the anti-capitalist path, Chavism let Venezuela unprotected from the effects of world economic crisis and the manipulations of the local bourgeoisie. At present Venezuela is going through one of the worst economic crises on the continent, with a probable recession this year (-0.5%), hyperinflation (more than 50%) and scarcity of basic food (more than 30% of the products). If the country were really a socialist country, there would be no alibi in the global economic situation. It would be enough to compare the headway of the Soviet Union that grew at rates over 10% in the middle of the 1929 depression. As, contrary to what Chavism says, there have been no steps towards a split with capitalism, the country is now going through a gigantic crisis.
The demise of Chavez exposed the crisis of Chavism very clearly, with its uncountable internal disputes that spread as they lose popular support. The Maduro administration is increasingly fragile and repudiated.
In early 2014, the bourgeoisie leaned on the people’sdiscontent to promote great demonstrations in the streets and gained support from the middle classes and students. By its dimensions and by being associated with the general discontent with the government, they show the real threat from the right to Chavism. The agreement reached between Maduro and the right opposition in order to curb demonstrations meant more attacks on workers and more popular dissatisfaction. (8)
In general, imperialism and right opposition’s policy is to erode the government and to bet on its electoral defeat in the 2015 legislative elections and later on in the presidential race. The disappointment with the inflation, food scarcity and corruption is accruing and may be capitalised by the right opposition. A Nicaragua-like evolution of Venezuela (which included an electoral defeat of Sandinism against the right) is the first strategy of the right.
The government still controls the armed forces and can rely on the support from an important sector of the population which makes a coup unviable. However we cannot discard a change in the course of the process provided the government weakens even more and the right manages to get support of the armed forces.
During all these years of Chavist administration, workers’ movement starred in countless strikes. As a rule, the response has been tough, with direct repression apart from murder of the leaders of the strikes. At present an enormous unrest is growing in the popular sectors and the beginning of a split with Chavism. Recently there have been struggles of health workers, teachers, automakers workers and in Sidor. Sidor is a state owned company, the main steel and iron industry in the country and, ever since 2012, it has been in conflict in defence of a collective bargaining agreement. Maduro accused them of being “Mob” and of “pandering to the right”. On the 11th of August, a march of Sidor workers was violently repressed by the Bolivarian National Guard; the outcome was three wounded and many imprisoned.
It is fundamental for Venezuelan workers to build an alternative movement independent from the government as well as from the right opposition.
3. Genesis of the Castro-Chavist setback
The characterizations on the major leaders of the toiling masses are very important to our understanding of reality and therefore the programme. For years the fundamental controversy inside the workers’ movement hinged round reformists and revolutionaries.
But there is a social and political process that affected most of the mass movement leadership in the last thirty years, concomitant with the gestation of the globalization of the economy and the development of neoliberal plans. Essentially there was a reactionary movement of transformation of bureaucracies into new bourgeoisies who politically shifted from reformism to neoliberalism.
Just when the post-war boom was ending (late 60s and early 70s) imperialism converted their neo-Keynesian plans into neoliberalism. In order to recover their rate of profit it was necessary to drive back the achievements of the proletariat during the post-war (known as welfare state), apart from privatising and making a great headway in the encroachment of the finance capital over the whole economy.
Neoliberalism, which used to be a marginal intellectual trend since its foundation in 1947, was now assumed by intellectuals and rulers of capitalism. First, it was put into practice as an experience in the 1973 Pinochet dictatorship. No neoliberal plan had ever been put into practice before. Later on, in the early 80s, it was taken up by Reagan and Thatcher administrations. Finally it was generalised to other imperialist countries and all over the world.
It is necessary to investigate the parallelism of the globalization of the economy with the restoration of capitalism in Eastern Europe. There are elements that indicate a relation between both processes even if the restoration in the East cannot be explained as a merely economic process.
It is a fact that the ruling bureaucracies in the former workers’ states lacked political conditions to carry out an attack against the workers similar to neoliberal plans without running the risk of rebellions. On the other hand, there were no technological conditions to incorporate informatics, telematics and robotics in production. This greatly strengthened the pressure of the world market on these bureaucracies. The outcome of this relation – and certainly other associated processes – was that the bureaucracies opted for being direct partners of the big business in the process of capitalism restoration. As from there on, they became owners of many former state owned companies and became a new bourgeoisie. This occurred in a generalised manner in all the countries where restoration took place. A typical example is the Abramovich case: he appropriated Russian oil companies and became one of the richest men in the world.
In the semicolonial countries a process was taking place in a similar direction: the transformation of petty-bourgeois reformist parties and movements into bourgeoisie parties when they took over the administrations. This was the case of the Sandinist Front in Nicaragua. In 1979, after destroying the bourgeois armed forces – Somoza’s National Guard – Sandinism refused to expropriate the capitalists. Conversely, Sandinist leaders appropriated many of Somoza’s properties privately. Several of them became multimillionaires, part of the bourgeoisie, as is the case of Daniel Ortega, the current president of the country.
The same phenomenon happened in Mozambique and Angola. The Portuguese armed forces sustained the colonial power. In 1974, the Carnation Revolution in Portugal favoured the victory of the movements for national liberation, which were extremely strong in those countries. Both the PMLA (Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola) and the Frelimo in Mozambique maintained capitalism and their leaders became a part of the bourgeoisie.
Eduardo dos Santos’ family – the current president of Angola – are shareholders of 21 of the biggest companies in the country. His daughter, Isabel dos Santos is a partner of one of the most powerful bourgeois in Portugal – Americo Amorim – in the BIC Bank of Angola. In Mozambique, in 1996-97, the privatisation of thestate owned banks BCM [Commercial Bank of Mozambique] and BPD [Popular Bank of Development] had several leaders of Frelimo as major beneficiaries, who grabbed more than US$ 400 million. Armando Guebuza, current president is a great shareholder in Intelec Holding, partner of the Vodacom multinational. His son, Mussubuluko Ghebuza is also a partner of Américo Amorim in the creation of the bank Único in Mozambique.
In South Africa, the leaders of ANC (African National Congress) in office opened the path for the formation of a new Black bourgeoisie, junior partners of the white bourgeoisie. Cyril Ramaphoosa, leader of Miners Trade Union during the struggle against apartheid today is owner-partner and member of the Board of Directors of the multinational Lonmin. In 2013 the ANC was responsible for the repression at Marikana mine, which belongs to that company, where 34 miners were killed by the police. There is a process of “bourgeoisieing” of the Brazilian PT leadership in the office for twelve years now. Lula’s son, frontman of the family, used to be an employee in a zoo in Sao Paulo, earning about US$ 300 a month when his father took over. Today he is a partner in a communications company multinational. Zé Dirceu is a lawyer and shareholder in multinationals. We are not saying that there is a complete transformation of PT into a bourgeois party; it is merely a process underway. There is a sum total that links globalization and the restoration of capitalism with the conversion of bureaucracies to new bourgeoisies in former workers’ states, in the imperialist countries as well as in dependent and semicolonial countries.
The Castro-Chavist leaders are, therefore, an expression of this ultra-reactionary movement of transformation of bureaucracies and petty-bourgeois movements into new bourgeoisies in Cuba as well as in Venezuela. The origins of these two governments are different, as we have already seen. But today they are all together, and are a political reference for a major part of the world left. An awful reference as we shall now see.
4. What is left of the Stalinist world apparatus
The Stalinist partiesfrom all over the world support the Cuban and Venezuelan administrations. When we talk about the “remains of Stalinism” one may conclude that these parties have no power at all. That would be a serious error.
Evidently, the situation today has nothing to do with the days when they were backed by bureaucratised workers’ states which steered a third part of mankind. But they still keep on having considerable weight in some countries.
These parties make annual meetings with organisations coming from more than fifty countries. They gather parties of different natures even if – because of their tradition – bearing the same name: “Communist Party”.
That includes major parties which, in spite of the crisis, still have great national weight (such as the Portuguese CP) and others with lesser weight due to the crisis of Stalinism as the Brazilian CP.
But it also includes parties that no longer are workers’ and reformist and have become bourgeois parties in control of capitalist states, like the Cuban CP or the Chinese CP.
5. The rise of Castro-Chavism and its consequences in Latin America
The rise of Castro-Chavism took place in the early XXI century, linked to a moment when Popular Front administrations and bourgeois nationalist parties were in the office in most Latin American countries.
Evidently, the impact of the 1959 Cuban revolution caused a wave of sympathy in Latin America ever since then. But it grew weaker and weaker due to the repercussion of Eastern Europe facts.
We are talking of subsequent developments. In the early XXI century, an anti-imperialist and anti-neoliberal wave swept the Latin American continent. The struggle against neoliberal plans accrued as well as against the Bush administration and its plan, the FTAA.
Most of the governments that applied the neoliberal plans were defeated, whether through direct mobilisations (as in Argentina, Bolivia and Ecuador) or by means of elections (Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay and others.)
Never before have there ever been so many popular fronts administrations in the different countries and at the same time. That was the moment of the rise of Castro-Chavism supported by Lula (Brazil), Evo Morales (Bolivia), Chavez (Venezuela), Correa (Ecuador), Bachelet (Chile), Lugo (Paraguay) and several other administrations.
As part of this process of struggle, the imperialist FTAA plan was defeated and the conditions for an unprecedented process were set up in Latin America. It would be possible to fight for the non-payment of the foreign debt in a front of indebted countries. It would be possible to advance towards a split with imperialism in a significant part of the continent and this would have opened a revolutionary anticapitalist process of great importance.
Every time we discuss with class collaboration parties a policy of splitting with capitalism the answer is always the same: “the balance of forces does not allow it”. At that time this answer was absolutely absurd.
More than at any moment in history, the early XXI century caused a sudden change in the relation of forces on the continent. Not even in the days immediately after the Cuban revolution was there anything similar with so many countries producing the defeat of so many right neoliberal administrations. Most of these posts were occupied by parties and movements that were identified as “left”.
The Castro-Chavism, especially the Venezuelan government, became the major reference on the continent. Huge demonstrations of repudiation met Bush each time he trod a country of this subcontinent. Equally important demonstrations of support would welcome Chavez. Had there been any real split with imperialism in Venezuela, it would have set Latin America on fire.
But nothing like that has ever happened. The Venezuelan and Cuban governments managed the rubs with imperialism within acceptable limits. Castro and Chavez did not apply any kind of split with imperialism in their countries. Nor did they defend measures going in that direction in the remaining countries on this continent.
These were bourgeois governments, whether of the popular front type or bourgeois nationalist. And Latin American bourgeoisies are not willing to split with imperialism. These “left” governments were fundamental to hold the mass movement back. They relied on a cyclical economic rise to contain the mass movement and with the popularity they enjoyed among the masses, they managed to restabilise the political situation. From 2005 up to 2012 there has been practically no general strike and no popular rebellion on this continent. The FTAA was defeated, but these governments applied the same neoliberal plans that had been rejected – together with their right administrations – in their countries.
The real role of the Cuban and Venezuelan leadership as well as of the Latin American governments that support them can now be evidenced. They could have started a historical process of breaking with imperialism. They did nothing of the kind. They did the contrary; they sidetracked and froze the process that accompanied their rise. But by doing so they also opened the gateways for their own deterioration.
They managed to halt the great mobilisations that brand marked the early XXI century until 2005. From that year until 2012 there have been practically no general strikes and no popular rebellions on the continent. But they have started paying, with their erosion, the same price that the right governments paid when they have applied neoliberal plans.
6. The decadence of Castro-Chavism
A new process started on the continent. A new cycle began in Latin America, which includes economic and political crises and confrontation of the mass movement with the very same governments that used to have such important popular backing.
Economic decadence of the continent is back together with the end of the boom of raw material exports that had spawned an important part of the previous economic growth. The mass movementpulled itself together with several general strikes that shook Argentina, Peru and Bolivia apart from the popular mobilisations in June 2013 in Brazil.
There is not a homogeneous process of class struggles in Latin American or a permanent and generalised uprising. It is all about different situations of class struggles on the continent, with ups and downs, with back and forth. Furthermore, it is combined with a very strong crisis of revolutionary leadership, i.e. the absence of mass revolutionary organizations.
The decadence and crisis of Castro-Chavism is part of this new moment. The economies of Venezuela and of Cuba are hit by the world economic crisis. The Maduro administration must confront big protests led by the right opposition. Moreover, many governments that back Castro-Chavism, such as Cristina Kirchner in Argentina or Dilma Rousseff in Brazil face strong protest demonstrations.
These governments did not make any headway towards a split with imperialism and must now face the mass movement.
Neither in Cuba nor in Venezuela can the workers’ situation be regarded as reference for the other countries. The contrary is true. The long queues to buy staple foods and the inflation in Venezuela and the tremendously low wages in Cuba are elements of counter-propaganda.
Contrary to classical reformists, these leaders have no commitments with democracy. Cuba is a dictatorship and Chavism is a Bonapartist regime. Furthermore, having taken up the defence of dictatorships such as Khadafi and Assad, Castro-Chavism collides with the democratic feeling of the masses.
The repudiation that existed against Stalinism for its authoritarian characteristics was reduced by the existence of the workers’ states and their social achievements. Today, Castro-Chavism must face the disbelief of the post-Eastern masses towards dictatorships without having anything to present in relation to a higher standard of living of the workers. The weight of Cuba in the awareness of Latin American masses had been greatly reduced by the events of Eastern Europe. Now it is also questioned by the social backlash on the island.
Due to this decline, the vanguard that arises in the struggle has no immediate reference in Castro-Chavismo. The organisations that are part of the Castro-Chavist trend have a broad influence in real life, but Castro-Chavism is no longer a “natural” reference for this vanguard the way it used to be in the days of their uprising.
7. What if the governments of Cuba and Venezuela fall?
After the restoration of capitalism in Eastern Europe, a serious crisis broke out in the whole world left. Two major factors combined boosting a great setback in the awareness of the masses and of the vanguard.
Firstly, there was the disappearance of the bureaucratic workers’ states which, in spite of Stalinism, evidenced of a non-capitalist economy. Secondly, there was a gigantic campaign of capitalist propaganda saying that “socialism has died”; that “socialism is a synonym for dictatorship” and means “economic and social backwardness”.
The consequences of this backlash can be seen even now because the masses haven’t a reference showing that capital can be overcome. There is an ample scepticism related to everything that stands for socialist revolution (revolutionary party, centralism, etc)
The collapse of the Stalinist dictatorships has another consequence – of opposite sign; the disappearance of the Stalinist world apparatus weakened this counterrevolutionary machine that brought together mass parties and states of great importance in the world. This allowed for an important release of strength in the mass movement. However, this very positive element is still mediated by the regression in the workers consciousness that delay the construction of strong revolutionary organisations.
What would happen if the Castro dictatorship is toppled by a massive mobilisation, the way it happened in the East? And what if this is combined with the electoral defeat of Chavism? Will this be reproduced the same process, at least in Latin America?
First of all, it is necessary to mark the difference between the Cuban process and that of Venezuela. The fall of Castro dictatorship caused by massive mobilisation would be a progressive process, in the same manner as it has occurred in Eastern Europe. It would be the collapse of a capitalist dictatorship. The defeat of the masses in Cuba has already happened when capitalism was restored, in the same way it happened in the East.
But the electoral victory of the bourgeois opposition in Venezuela would be a defeat for the mass movement, even if Chavism is also a bourgeois government. It would be the victory of a pro-imperialist opposition against a bourgeois nationalist government.
The Cuban and Venezuelan governments and all the left organisations that support them would be directly responsible for all the negative elements that may grow in the masses’ awareness in case the Cuban and Venezuelan governments are defeated. Today there are not strong left organisations with some weigh among the masses either in Cuba or in Venezuela. The alternatives of leadership that exist in these countries are bourgeois and pro-imperialist.
The non-existence of a left opposition in Venezuela is a tragedy for which the left that capitulated to Chavez administration is responsible. The massive demonstrations against the government are headed by the right opposition, as a consequence of the capitulation of the majority of the left to Chavism. So, the defeat of the Venezuelan government may be a victory of the bourgeoisie.
In Cuba, the situation is even worse. There is a violent dictatorship, which prevents the expression of any political opposition. There are no real alternatives. But it is not difficult to imagine how easy it would be to build bourgeois leaderships with the support of the “democratic” imperialism.
But, back to the question about the consequences of a possible defeat of Castro and Chavez governments in the consciousness of the masses and of the vanguard in Latin America: Would the post-East events happen again or even go deeper? Willit be interpreted again as a new “defeat of socialism?”
In our opinion the immediate impact is unavoidable, but its dimension depends on various factors. There are for and against elements.
A new backlash in the consciousness of the workers would result from the influence of the Castro-Chavist left.
In case the Cuban or Venezuelan governments fall, the leftist organisations that back them will once again spread the ideology that “Socialism” has been defeated again. It is likely that these parties and movements, particularly in Latin America, would live major crises.
Then, why do we say that “it depends” and that the dimension of these results has not yet been defined? Because some elements of the current reality are different from those of the ‘90s and that may lead us to a different situation.
The first difference is that, in the ‘90s, when the Stalinist dictatorships fell, neoliberalism was living its heyday. Neoliberal plans were being put into practice and aroused great expectations in many countries. Capitalism was shown victorious as opposed to defeated “socialism”. But in 2008, the international economic crisis put an end to it all and determined a general decadence. The economic crisis that affects the Latin American continent since 2013 goes along the same path.
As we have seen in this text, there is also some discreditupon the Cuban and Venezuelan governments in the awareness of the Latin American masses. This is due to the general disillusionment in the post-East era as well as to the economic and social decadence of those countries. Also the support of the Cuban and Venezuelan governments for the dictators of North Africa and the Middle East has a negative influence on the vanguard.
The current erosion of the popular fronts and bourgeois nationalist governments who back Castro-Chavism and its own decadence weaken the possible trauma after their likely defeat.
Essentially, the outcome is not yet predetermined. This bears a deep political implication for the present day. The more the activists understand the bourgeois-populist meaning of Castro-Chavism, the lower will the negative impact of their possible defeats. If the post-East era had very negative immediate consequences, this may be different today.
In order to make headway in this direction we want to summon the world left to discuss about the Cuban and Venezuelan governments. It is very important to hold this discussion now, in the entire world and especially in Latin America. Particularly we wish to summon the most militant sectors of the vanguard who still believe in those governments to join this battle, to check if we are right and if so to split with them.
It is fundamental to start building as from now a revolutionary option to Castro-Chavism.
1. Martin Hernandez, Cuba, from revolution to restoration.
2. Gabriel Casoni, Whither Cuba?
3. See material in the section Polemics in this special.
4. See interviews Between famine and hatred by Ernesto Guerra and Increasing poverty and dissatisfaction by Mariucha Fontana
5. Alejandro Iturbe and Americo Astuto, Four Decades of Revolutionary Struggle.
6. Flavia Buschain Rosa, Chavism and workers’ movement.
7. Victor Quiroga, The Central Bank of Venezuela belies the President.
8. UST: “The measures to come.”