Cuba is going through a moment of great political effervescence since 11 July. The International Workers’ League (IWL) has stood by the struggle against the dictatorship in Cuba at the beginning of the mobilisations, especially demanding the release of political prisoners and exposing the brutal repression of Díaz-Canel government. We want now to debate with activists what is going on.

By Ricardo Ayala and Asdrúbal Barboza – IWL-FI.

We aim to go deep into the understanding of what is happening on the island, the successes and mistakes of the movements that emerged in the last period, to find the best way to continue this struggle.

Brutal repression

The Civic March for Change did not take place. The Cuban dictatorship showed, once again, that it does not respect any right to free speech, to assemble and demonstrate; on the contrary, it sieged, intimidated and criminalised the demonstrators with a state terror campaign that began days before 19 November and had already held 650 political prisoners after the 11 July demonstrations, militarising the streets, besieging activists, arresting demonstrators and kidnapping organisers. At the time of writing this note, there were 72 prisoners (some of them disappeared) related to 15 November. The Archipiélago organiser Daniela Rojo was kidnapped by the state and spent five days disappeared, between 12 and 17 November.

They also carried out what they called “denunciation demonstrations” (encouraged by government representatives), the besieging of organisers’ homes by paramilitary groups loyal to the regime and dozens of policemen. These events did not involve locals from where they happened, but rather outsiders, part of the government apparatus.

The intensification of repression was the determining factor in preventing the people from taking to the streets. A few tried to break the siege of repression, others demonstrated from their homes. But that was all they managed to do.

What does the dictatorship fear?

The deep economic crisis generated by the capitalist restoration and the imperialist blockade, and reinforced by the Covid-19 pandemic, is most affecting the poor on the island, not to mention the drastic economic measures that were put into effect on January 1, 2021, called Ordering Task, clearly of a neoliberal nature. It was poor black Cubans who took to the streets on 11 July. It’s them the dictatorship fears the most.

Articles by several activists, such as Jessica Domínguez Delgado’s [1], disclosed this situation: “The precarious economic situation of a growing number of people, the economy dollarisation and the difficult access to staples and basic necessities – traded in foreign currency since late 2019 – have increased inequality and are the main sources of unrest. (…) A year and a half later, food and the main staples are almost exclusively in foreign currency, and the number of services that are only available in this currency is increasing.

And in testimonies, such as that of one of the Archipiélago organisers, Fernando Almeyda: “[what] made 11 July [happen] (…) was the lousy health management, the lousy social management, the lousy economic management, hunger, need and, beyond this, the obstinacy of a people who were fed up with not being listened to, fed up with asking for change, fed up with demanding that Cuba needed a political opening, fed up with saying that the system was not working, fed up with everything.

“The economy dollarisation has destroyed the purchasing value of the Cuban peso and made us dependent on a foreign currency that is not generated in Cuba and that is monopolised by Cuban banks. They monopolise the dollars that come from the United States. (…) If you are poor or a worker, nobody cares for your suffering. The effects of the terrible crisis is now [on] the working class who have nowhere to drop dead and nobody to defend them. They are the ones who are suffering all the consequences.

Leonardo Manuel Fernández Otaño presents a similar scenario: “A people who are tired because they can’t find food, because they are sold necessities in euros, in dollars, currencies with which they don’t work, with which they don’t earn their salaries. This limits people’s ability to live dignified life. We are talking about a citizenry that lived through a neoliberal “package”, the Ordering Task, in the broadest sense of the word. It is enough to see that inflation is 6,900 per cent, in other words, families, parents have to buy a pair of shoes for their children for 2,000 pesos. And how is that family going to eat during the week? (…) On 11 July, thousands of people took to the streets because they couldn’t stand it any longer, they didn’t know what to do, they didn’t know how to make ends meet each day; the power cuts meant they can‘t even sleep. They do not have access to honest and dignified earning to support their children, their families, they have even seen their own people trying to flee on boats because they do not know how to survive. (…) the main explosions were in the poorest neighbourhoods of Havana, they were in the poorest neighbourhoods of the city.”

When the Cuban people took to the streets on 11 July, they were manipulated only by the hunger and frustration they have accumulated over decades. No more hypotheses need to be added. (…)

In the end, the deterioration of the social situation, mainly in the poorest sectors, due to the increasing difficulty to get food, is the basis of the explosiveness, mainly of black youth in the outskirts of Havana, who see themselves without perspective.

The dictatorship’s greatest fears are the protests and demonstrations by the most exploited, raised by the own government in true economic apartheid. It is they, the thousands of Cubans who demonstrated on Havana’s Malecon to protest against food shortages and high prices, in one of the largest anti-government demonstrations. It was they who, when repression clamped down, reacted with stones. They smashed police cars, broke windows of shops selling freely convertible currencies and fought with plain-clothes police and paramilitary agents who used tear gas, against whom they picked up bricks and threw them at the police.

The citizens were peaceful all the time. But, when the baton attacks started, when the rapid-response brigades came out, when the bullets were fired at the citizens that’s when the citizens responded. There were even episodes of people going to the freely convertible currency shops. I am against any exercise of violence but from a social point of view. I feel that the shops in Emelec are the “children”[2] of Cuba today. In other words, these citizens went with hatred against a symbol, because they pass by and see the sweets, they pass by and see the clothes that their children don’t have or a piece of meat that they can’t buy.”

The people who expressed their rage by invading businesses are those who do not have access to those goods or spaces because they also do not have links with Cubans who send remittances from South Florida.

Imperialism’s policy and organisations to win over the movement

Cuba is a capitalist country, but weak capitalism, led by the main state institution – the Armed Forces – concentrated in the GAESA [3]. That’s why this appears in society in the form of a dictatorship because it must contain the social evils of capitalism with an iron fist. The capitalist dictatorship reveals the contradictions of capitalist restoration, the weakness of a bourgeoisie that needs state support to develop – in alliance with European imperialism – with which it is associated, to resist the onslaught of the Cuban-American bourgeoisie. But both have the same strategy for Cuba: to maintain and deepen capitalism.

The Cuban-American bourgeoisie wants to break the current rules that define how capital accumulates on the island. So, the background of the struggle for democratic rights is the form in which the political struggle for control of the state apparatus, in other words, the dispute over the conditions under which capital will continue to accumulate on the island, appears in capitalist Cuba.

This can be seen in the recently created Council for a Democratic Transition in Cuba (CTDC), which defends a bourgeois-democratic programme against the Cuban dictatorship. Along with that, it advocates the return of the confiscated properties to the Cuban-American bourgeoisie in Miami and imperialist economic intervention. This is not surprising, since it is a bourgeois organisation, submissive to imperialist policies, both American and European, and aims to transform Cuba into a colony. They are part of the same social sector that supported Batista’s dictatorship, but now try to appear as true democrat fighters against a dictatorship.

They manage policies to win over the activists who emerged on 11 July: the many young people who are taking to the streets, using various modes of resistance against the dictatorship of the Communist Party of Cuba, outraged by decades of repression and persecution. If revolutionary militancy is not the vanguard to overthrow the dictatorship, we will leave this process in the hands of imperialism.

Therefore, we may even agree with some calls for action for democratic rights with activists linked to the CTDC, but we will always denounce its strategy at the service of the Cuban-American bourgeoisie and imperialism. The political direction of the struggle against the dictatorship and for democratic rights, so that the working class, which suffer the consequences of capitalism, can organise and mobilise, depends on the outcome of this dispute.

The Stalinist speech to maintain the dictatorship against the people, who suffer from the deteriorating conditions of survival, concentrates on the struggle against imperialism. This has happened, in a different situation, during the democratic struggles against the Stalinist dictatorships in Hungary in 1956, in Czechoslovakia in 1968 and, in a situation more similar to today, in the struggles against the dictatorships of the MPLA in Angola and FRELIMO in Mozambique. But the billionaire leaders of the MPLA in Angola are together with imperialism to plunder the natural resources of the country to enrich themselves. And in Cuba, the GAESA military hides the fact that they are hand in glove with imperialist sectors to exploit the Cuban people.

The truth is that imperialism does not have the real aim to deliver full democratic rights or to improve the living conditions of the poorest people in Cuba. We do not need to explain the imperialist support and funding of many dictatorships all over the world and even military intervention. They did not think twice to support the Chinese dictatorship after the Tiananmen Square massacre when it guaranteed their investments in China.

Sectors of US imperialism, like Obama, advocate a partnership with the Cuban government to get a slice of the cake without questioning the regime. But US policy remains hostage to the Cuban bourgeoisie and its hardest wing. That is why we will stand together with the Cuban people against the dictatorship and imperialism because both want to maintain and deepen the exploitation of the working class.

The Stalinist and left organisations’ response

The Stalinist organisations’ response in the world was timid. That has to do with the very decadence of this current and the repudiation that dictatorial regimes have among the working class. The neo-Stalinists were more cautious, as it is very frowned upon to defend a dictatorship that attacks the workers and the poorest people. Unfortunately, some organisations claiming to fight Stalinism did not align themselves with the demonstrators and unwittingly served as justification for the government.

In practice, articles such as the one published by Frank García prior to 15 November, defining the planned demonstration as pro-imperialist, served to justify the actions of the governments against the demonstrators three days before its scheduling. Outside Cuba, sectors that support Castroism used these same texts to defend that there was no legitimacy to demonstrate. The same was done by organisations that claim to be left-wing, linked to the working class and defending democratic socialism.

An important mistake, since at this moment it is fundamental to unite forces to overthrow the dictatorship. The struggle for democratic demands cannot be left in the hands of the bourgeoisie and imperialism. It is a big mistake not to call for mobilisation against the dictatorship while always denouncing imperialism and the bourgeoisie’s organisations.

Our aim is to fight the Cuban dictatorship as part of a socialist and anti-imperialist strategy. We want a new socialist revolution, renationalising the privatised companies, including those in the hands of European imperialism and the Castroist rulers. From there, set up economic planning with working-class control. This is the workers’ democracy that can lead Cuba in a transition to socialism, with workers’ participation in all fundamental and strategic decisions.

The Cuban dictatorship is not defending the achievements of the 1959 revolution, which no longer exist, on the contrary, they are the ones who are carrying forward the capitalist restoration, a capitalist regime where their leaders earn a lot and guarantee their privileges, being associated with the big European multinational companies.

To support the Stalinist dictatorship is to strengthen the point of view of “progressive camps” in which Ortega in Nicaragua, Maduro in Venezuela and João Lourenço in Angola are included.

The Díaz-Canel government is not a socialist or “left” government, it is a military war government, with a right-wing, capitalist economic policy, applying a neo-liberal plan.

The divisions in Archiplago

Archiplago had the merit of maintaining the struggle against the dictatorship after the protests on 11 July, but pro-imperialist sectors within it are trying to give a dynamic that will lead the movement to defeat, defending interests that are not those of the working class and the majority of the poor people of Cuba.

Faced with the blows of repression, some of their main spokespersons have taken on an even more pacifist discourse, like Yunior García’s “solitary demonstration”. Pointing in the direction of a retreat and serving to weaken the 15 November demonstration.

García’s current fleeing to Spain, without discussing with anyone from the coordination of the movement, but with, at the very least, the consent of the government dictatorship, also demoralised a part of the fighters who remained on the island.

Yunior García made evident both his social background – by retreating in the face of the hardest confrontations – and his alliances with bourgeois sectors, which have essentially the same economic project as the restorationists of the government and the bourgeois of the CTDC. His participation in the “Centro de Estudios Sobre el Estado de Derecho“[4], his escape, and his meeting with far-right-wing politicians of the Spanish state, such as the leader of the PP, is a tragic end for this leader, that the Cuban people have to overcome.

We believe that the fight that the Cuban people have ahead of them is against a ferocious dictatorship, ready for all kinds of violence, as has already been demonstrated. Therefore, it is essential to prepare the activists for this situation, and this will only be achieved if we build an alternative leadership based on the most exploited sectors of the proletariat, relying on the self-organisation of the working class for the struggle.

Our action

The IWL-FI supported the 15 November planned demonstration and will continue to show solidarity with all the demonstrations that face the dictatorship in defence of democratic rights and for improvements in the living conditions of the working class, in the perspective of a new socialist revolution.

The IWL and its sections gave active support. Our record of struggle against dictatorships and against bosses’ governments of all shades has been demonstrated in various countries in America and Europe. We had and still have political prisoners for being at the forefront of these struggles, as well as in workers’ strikes of great impact.

That is why today, in Cuba, it is known that there are organisations of the revolutionary left that support their movement and that there is an alternative leadership on the side of the workers.

Building a revolutionary leadership

Overthrowing the Díaz-Canel government and winning democratic rights, even limited ones will represent an important step forward in relation to the dictatorship that has ruled the country for decades.

However, the structural problems of the poor and working-class people will not be solved by that alone. Cuba needs to return to the path of revolution and socialism, truly, from an internationalist point of view, to take back the major means of production for the benefit of the people.

Only the workers and the youth will be able to lead this relentless struggle against oppression and exploitation, for dignified living conditions, against the deep inequality that exists in the country.

A new vanguard is being built, which gained new breath with the mobilisations on 11 July and 15 November, drawing lessons from the struggles and defeats. It is these young people together with the most exploited sectors such as workers, black and LGBTI women and the people from the outskirts of the cities that must build a real alliance.

We will be steadfast in supporting the building of the organisation of these brave young people and workers of Cuba.

The struggle has just begun!

Release the political prisoners in Cuba! Stop repression!

No to imperialist interference!

Down with the capitalist dictatorship of Diaz-Canel!

[1] Why did the protests break out in Cuba? in: https://www.ladobe.com.mx/2021/07/por-que-estallaron-las-protestas-en-cuba/

[2] Xodó.

[3] A business consortium of the Cuban military in Cuba.

[4] Centre for Rule of Law Studies, https://www.cubaproxima.org/nosotros