In August last year, Raul Castro gave a speech to Cuban representatives in which he pointed out: “… I was not elected president to restore capitalism in Cuba, or to surrender the revolution. I was elected to defend, maintain, continue and improve socialism, not to destroy it”.This is not an original speech in Cuba. It’s the same speech they’ve been doing for many years, repeatedly, both Fidel Castro and the heads of government and Communist Party.

After all the data we have presented about the capitalism restoration (none of which are denied by the Cuban government) it does not seem real that Raul Castro still tries to convince the public that laying off one million workers (in a country of 10 million inhabitants) and building up golf fieldsandhigh standard condominiums mean to strengthen and to “improve” the socialism. Furthermore, Raul Castro wants to mean that the end of the ration cards, the privatization ofsugar production and the leaving of foreign trade control in the hands of entrepreneurs are also measures ofstrengthening and “improving” the socialism.

However, all this Castroist hypocrisy is not surprising, because this tactic to restore capitalism in the name of socialism, as we have already seen, is the same applied by all restorationist bureaucracies, to the point that up to now the Chinese ruling party is still named Communist Party and their leaders ensure that the system prevailing in that country is a socialist one (“market socialism”).

On the other hand, this tactic ensured an outstanding result for the Castroist leadership, to the point that there are millions of people around the world repeating, fervently, what they state. There is an explanation for it.

We cannot forget that these leaders were the ones who led the revolution in 1959, which expropriated the national bourgeoisie and the imperialism and, thereafter, the lives of Cubans changed completely. And so, that leadership has become a reference for national and international levels.

On the other hand, it is necessary to bear in mind that, following the tradition imposed by Stalin, it has brought an impressive personality cult toward Fidel Castro, and this cult, like any other,sets Reason aside. For people who adhere to this cult, restoration measures – for example, dismissing a million workers – might look bad, but if it is Fidel who drives them, they may be good, or can be bad, but necessary, because the Commander said so.

Precisely because it is a cult toward a personality and not something rational, many supporters of Castro brothers avoid the debate or respond to those who say that Cuba has restored capitalism with hatredscreaming such as “worms” or “counterrevolutionaries”, as the Brazilian Communist Party does, as already quoted.

However, being every personality cult completely irrational, it does not last forever. In this sense, it is necessary to observeif this cult will last for long, not among those living far from Cuba, like Spain, Argentina, Colombia and Brazil, but among those new million unemployed Cuban workers and their families.

A debate in the Trotskyist movement

The support for Castroist leadership comes not only from the sectors that defend this leadership, but also, paradoxically, from those who say they oppose it, as is the case of some organizations that claim to be Trotskyists or originated in the Trotskyism movement, as is the case of PTS and the New MAS , of Argentina.

It is impressive to see how these organizations carry out all kinds of political and theoretical maneuvers in order to prove the improvable: that Cuba has not restored capitalism. Thus, the restorationist bureaucracy (as they define it) of Castro brothers would have been unable to achieve what all restorationist bureaucracies of the world have got: a return to capitalism.

How do they explain this unusual scenario? How do they explain that Cuba has survived despite its brutal economic crisis?

Only the PTS gives some “arguments” to show that capitalism was not restored, but does not explain the reasons for this exceptional situation.The New MAS tries to give an explanation on this exceptional situation in Cuba.

In a work by Roberto Ramirez (one of the main leaders of the New MAS), A crucial debate on the Left. Cuba at a crossroads, the author explains: “Cuba was able to withstand in the middle of the debacle of ‘former-socialist countries’. Valuably, the Island remained as an exception”. And as from this point, the author notes that to understand the current Cuban exceptionalism, we must go back to the nineteenth century: along with Puerto Rico, Cuba is one of the only two countries that did not emancipated from Spain and this fact led the island to havethis exceptional course. In this perspective, also theMovement 26th of July, which led the 1959 revolution, would be exceptional, since it would not respond to any social class. It would not be a petty bourgeois movement, as it was always said by Trotskyism, nor a movement of working-class character, nor bourgeois. According to the author, theMovement 26th of July, headed by Fidel Castro, was a “no class” movement.

Also according to Ramirez, the Cuban state that arose from the expropriation of the bourgeoisie would be something exceptional, since it would be neither bourgeois nor a worker’s state. It would be a bureaucratic state. Thus, the author concludes that many exceptional situations have given rise to a new exceptional situation: in Cuba, for a number of exceptional factors, this unfortunate end of capitalist restoration has been delayed.

As from the theoretical point of view it is not a sound explanation. Anyway, it has the merit of trying to give an explanation to which is unexplained.

Let us now consider the arguments ofthese trends that try to show that capitalismhas not been restored inCuba. The main of them, used by the New MAS (but also used by PTS), is that in Cuba there would not be a national bourgeoisie.

On this, Roberto Ramirez says: “this is the crucial point that – not coincidentally – escapes from the theoreticians of PSTU-LIT. The problem is not to make the addition and subtraction of economic measures alone (which, indeed, in the hands of the bureaucracy are highly dangerous), but to answer to a simple question: where is the new Cuban bourgeoisie? Does it live in hiding? Does it live in Canada or Europe? By this reason to put an equal sign between Cuba and China is an absurd … Or would it be the first case of a semi-colonial country whose bourgeoisie is not native, but European or Canadian?”

Let’s leave aside for now Roberto Ramirez’s statement that all restorationist measures taken by the government are “isolated economic measures” and let’s go to their main statement: (…) would it be the first case of a colonial country whose bourgeoisie is not native but European or Canadian. It is difficult to believe that a leader like Roberto Ramirez, who read the Marxist authors, could say such nonsense like this to try to justify his theory of exceptionality of Cuba and its leader Fidel Castro. Because if there is something that characterizes the semi-colonies and colonies (and this is the way of Cuba), it is exactly that its native bourgeoisie is extremely weak and often scarce.

However this is not the main problem of Ramirez’s text. The main problem is that he is convinced that there is no native bourgeoisie in Cuba.

Trotsky stated, when analyzing the USSR bureaucracy: “The bureaucracy continues at the head of the state. Even under these conditions social relations will not jell. We cannot count upon the bureaucracy’s peacefully and voluntarily renouncing itself in behalf of socialist equality …  it must inevitably in future stages seek supports for itself in property relations…It is not enough to be the director of a trust; it is necessary to be a stockholder (…)”[1].

In all restoration processes it happened what Trotsky had said. The bureaucracy wanted to be shareholders of the companies and most of bureaucracies’ leaders became the new bourgeoisie. There is an information about China, broadly publicized (Ramirez himself cites it), thatfrom 3220 Chinese with a fortune exceeding $ 10 million, 2,932 are, or were, civil servants of high-ranking of the Communist Party.

In Cuba, although we have not got enough data, it looks the same process has happened, like in China and other former workers states.

In 1992, the bureaucracy changes the National Constitution to allow the existence of other types of business ownership, besides the state companies.

In 1995, the bureaucracy approves the Law on Foreign Investment which legalized three kinds of new forms of business ownership: the foreigner, thejoint ventures and the international economic association.

In all three cases, the existence of national businessmenis legalized, as it states that investors from foreign companies may sell their shares to the State or to Cuban businessmen. Foreign businessmen are allowed to participate in the joint ventures and in the international economic associations and state enterprises or Cuban entrepreneurs can participate as shareholders.

An important detail is that these companies cannot be freely constituted. All of them, and even the sale of foreign companies’ shares to Cuban enterprises or Cuban businessmen, must be approved by the government, i.e. by the bureaucracy that controls the whole process of privatization.

It would be pure naivety to think that the bureaucracy did all this restoration’s legal apparatus (reform of the Constitution, the Foreign Investment Law …) without thinking in taking advantage of it. It would be a very special bureaucracy. Then, we would be in face of a real exceptional case, so unusual that it would force us to revise the historical materialism.

In one aspect the New MAS as well as the PTS are, certainly, right: when they state that the new bourgeoisie does not appear publicly (it stays hidden behind the state-owned enterprises and foreign companies). And it is obvious why it must be so. It’s hard to imagine Fidel or Raul Castro or any other Cuban Communist Party leader, calling a press conference to announce the purchase of this or that company. We should not forget that the Castroist bureaucracy, entirely, is making the capitalism restoration on socialism behalf.

Once more, on the character of the Cuban State

The PTS, in a text entitled “Defending the revolution gains against the imperialist blockade and against the Bureaucracy’s restorationist plans”, does not diminish, as does Roberto Ramirez, therestorationist measures. Thus, the text states that: “the reform of the constitution of 1992 legalized the joint ventures (members of foreign capital) and the small property, undermined the mechanisms of economic planning and practically dismantled the monopoly of foreign trade (…)”.  And then notes that: “(…) the bureaucracy itself, it means the FAR [2], is the main internal strength of capitalist restoration”. However, after giving these important data, the text reaches the same conclusion as the New MAS: “(…) it would be a mistake to think that capitalism has already been restored on the island (…).”

Here the PTS makes a good description of reality, albeit very incomplete, but the characterization that they assume (that Cuba remains a workers’ state) contradicts this analysis.

Trotsky, who is always claimed by PTS, not only on his successes, but also in his few mistakes, used to say that, despite the bureaucracy, the Soviet Union remained a workers’ state because Stalin could not reverse the major achievements of the revolution: state ownership of means of production, foreign trade monopoly and central economic planning.

Nevertheless, in the citation we quoted, the PTS says that these achievements are virtually vanished. So it is not understandable why they state with such certainty that Cuba is a workers’ state.

Moreover, Trotsky says: “(…) The class nature of the state is, consequently, determined not only by its political forms but by its social content; i.e., by the character of the forms of property and productive relations which the given state guards and defends. (…) “.[3]

PTS says quite rightly: “(…) the bureaucracy itself, i.e. the FAR, is the main internal strength of the capitalism restoration”. Then, turning to Trotsky, what are theforms of property andproductive relations that the Cuban state protects and defends?

PTS says that the bureaucracy, which is ruling the state and, especially, the Armed Forces (which is the main institution of the state) want the capitalism restoration. They are right; it is shown by the series of measures taken by this restorationist bureaucracy.

Therefore, according to the PTS analysis and characterization and taking into account Trotsky criterion, there would not have room for doubts about the capitalist character of the Cuban State. However, the PTS repeats over and over again, that Cuba is a workers’ state.

The program issue

PTS says: it would be a mistake to think that capitalism has already been restored on the island and that there is not any remaining achievement to defend. Roberto Ramirez, in his text, says something similar: “(…) the error of PSTU-LIT (to say that in Cuba the capitalism has already been restored) leads inevitably to the conclusion that there is little or nothing to defend in Cuba, and that there is not a single remaining achievement from the revolution of 1959””.

In any capitalist country, which in the past has been a workers’ state, there are important achievements of the working class and the people to be defended. Moreover, in any capitalist country, which has never been a workers’ state, there are also important achievements of the working class to be defended, but what cannot be defended are the achievements that have been already lost. In this case, they have to be regained.

For example, in the case of Cuba it is necessary to protect public health and education, because they still remain. It is also necessary to defend the companies that continue to be state companies. But it is not possible to defend the monopoly of foreign trade or the central economic planning, because they, for over a decade, no longer exist.

So it is true that there are many achievements to be defended, originated in the 1959 revolution, but the main achievements, the structural ones, those achievements that turned the capitalist Cuba into a workers’ state, the expropriation of the national and imperialist bourgeoisie, the monopoly of foreign trade, the centrally planned economy, these achievements do not exist anymore. This means the discussion of the program has to take place.

Both the PTS and the New MAS say that Cuba does not need to make a social revolution, but only a political revolution.

Regarding the political revolution, Trotsky pointed out that if a revolutionary party headed such a revolution against the ruling bureaucracy, (…) “so far as concerns property relations, the new power would not have to resort to revolutionary measures. It would retain and further develop the experiment of planned economy. After the political revolution – that is, the deposing of the bureaucracy – the proletariat would have to introduce in the economy a series of very important reforms, but not another social revolution” [4].

This program for a political revolution is unenforceablein Cuba, because it comes from something that no longer exists in the island: the planned economy. And secondly, if applied, it would be a program of the Rightist, because there would not be an intention of making a revolution in the property relations, but only some reforms. Therefore, a political revolution would mean to maintain the current economic structure. On the contrary, a social revolution would take over the structural achievements of 1959, which today no longer exist: the new expropriation of thenational and international bourgeoisie; the recovery of the foreign trade monopoly, the reconstruction of the centrally planned economy.

Cuba needs a revolution that cannot be only political, but also social, because it will have to face the old and new exploiters. A social revolution that would have necessarily to overthrow the current dictatorship.

Then, to wrap up, let’s go back to the beginning of this text and to PCB’s statement: Defending the Cuban revolution is a matter of principle. But, which Cuban revolution are we talking about? The Revolution of 1959. And how can we defend it? Building up a new revolution, against the Cuban government and the Cuban state who have been betraying it.

Published in Marxismo Vivo Nueva Época nº 1, 2010

Read the first part of this article: Revolution and Counterrevolution in Cuba

Translation: Wilma Olmo Corrêa


[1] Trotsky, Leon, The Revolution Betrayed,
[2] Armed Forces of Cuba
[3] Trotsky, Leon, Not a workers’ and not a bourgeois state?,
[4] Trotsky, Leon, TheRevolution Betrayed,