The resumption of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the US, which was broken in the 1960s, was agreed by the Presidents Barack Obama and Raúl Castro and has been the main news in the world press in recent days.
Raúl Castro also called for the end of the trade and investment embargo imposed by the US and Obama pledged to submit an application for its revocation to the Congress.
The role of Pope Francisco in this agreement was widely spread by the media and recognized by Obama and Castro. The relationship between the Cuban government and the Vatican is not new, it began in 1990 with the visit of John Paul II and deepened by Benedict XVI, culminating with Pope Francis as the great articulator of this agreement.
There is an almost unanimous worldwide support for this measure. The main imperialist governments supported it, including the European Union. At the Mercosur meeting, for example, governments considered “leftist”, such as Dilma Rousseff (Brazil), José Mujica (Uruguay), Nicolas Maduro (Venezuela) and Cristina Kirchner (Argentina) as well as those more to the right as Juan Manuel Santos (Colombia) supported the announcement with enthusiasm. Maduro praised Obama for his “courage”. Cristina Kirchner praised the “dignity of the Cuban people” who knew how to defend their ideals, despite decades of economic embargo by the United States. Dilma Rousseff said “We, the social activists, thought that we would never see this moment.”In reality, these are bourgeois governments masquerade as “social activists” to implement neoliberal economic plans.
This almost total unanimity reaches much of the left. Numerous political trends point out that this fact is “a triumph of Cuba” (country who they consider the “last bastion of socialism”) that finally managed to “bend the Northern Empire.” The Partido Obrero from Argentina states that this “victory” is the product of decades of struggle against the blockade. The “New MAS” from that country celebrates the agreement; despite saying there is “a trap” behind it.
We don’t agree with that analysis. For us, the event has a completely different explanation. It means the predominance of American bourgeois sectors that do not want to lose the excellent business opportunities that Cuba offers after the restoration of capitalism on the island over the sectors linked to the Cuban anti-Castro bourgeoisie from Miami.
Before expressing our position, we consider it necessary to point out that we defend Cuba’s right, as a sovereign state, to maintain diplomatic and trade relations with all countries in the world. Likewise, we have always advocated the end of the US trade embargo. This is not the point we are discussing, but the actual content of this recent agreement.
The origins of the diplomatic break and the embargo
In 1959, the Guerrilla Army of the July 26 Movement, led by Fidel Castro overthrew the president Fulgencio Batista and took power in Cuba. This movement had a democratic program, within the framework of the capitalist system.
But as they started to apply some measures against the Cuban bourgeoisie (such as agrarian reform) and other affecting US companies, the US government, first under the command of President Dwight D. Eisenhower and then under John F. Kennedy, begin to have an increasingly aggressive policy against Cuba and tried to overthrow Fidel Castro’s government. Among its actions, we can mention the failed attempt to invade the Bay of Pigs (in April 1961).
In response to these attacks, the Castro government begins a process of expropriation of the imperialist companies and the Cuban bourgeoisie (which fled en masse to Miami) .
Cuba becomes thus the first workers’ state in Latin America in own US’ backyard. As a result (and because of the establishment of a planned economy) Cuba not only ceases to be a semi-colony but the Cuban people have very important achievements such as the elimination of hunger and poverty, and very great advances in the field of health and education. Then, in January 1961, the US government breaks diplomatic relations and imposes a trade and investment embargo to Cuba.
It must be said that the Cuban leadership built a bureaucratic state, according to the Stalinist model with no real democracy for the workers and the masses. Cuban workers never ruled their country.
In addition, the Castro leadership defended the policy of “socialism in one country”, proposed by Stalinism since the second half of the 1930s as a reaction to the Marxist tradition of international socialist revolution of the nineteenth century. This model has failed and as anticipated by Leon Trotsky, led to the restoration of capitalism in the USSR, Eastern Europe, China and Cuba (among others).
In the economic structure of Cuba, trade relations with the USSR had a fundamental importance. It delivered cheap oil and technology and received the Cuban sugar production, branch which remained as the axis of the Cuban economy.
In its foreign policy, after a first gesture of extending the revolution encouraging guerrilla warfare, it aligned completely with the USSR’s foreign policy. So, Cuba played a very negative role of curbing possible breakthroughs in the construction of new workers’ states in similar processes with the Cuban, as happened in Nicaragua in 1979, when the FLSN took power. This helped to strengthen its isolation [as a workers’ state] within the Western Hemisphere.
The capitalist restoration has already occurred in Cuba
The restoration of capitalism in the USSR (in the late 1980s and early 1990s) meant a blow to the Cuban economy and opened the so-called “Special Period,” full of hardships for the masses. At that moment the Castro leadership decides to advance the restoration of capitalism in the country.
The definition of the current Cuban state class character has been the subject of hard controversy among the Left in the last two decades. For Castro-Chavista currents, Cuba is still the “last bastion of socialism.” Other trends, including many coming from Trotskyism, analyze that there is a restorationist ongoing process, and are opposed to it, but that it has not yet given a “quality leap” and therefore Cuba would remain an “bureaucratized workers’ state.”
For the IWL and a few other currents, capitalist restoration has already occurred and was performed by the government of the Castro brothers. The main aspects of the restoration are:
– The Foreign Investment Law in 1995, which created the “joint ventures” administered by foreign capital. Investments were directed especially to tourism and related branches, but soon expanded to other sectors such as pharmaceuticals and later to oil exploration.
– End of the state foreign trade monopoly, exercised so far by the Ministry of Foreign Trade. Both state-owned enterprises and joint ventures can freely negotiate their exports and imports.
– The dollar has become, in fact, the effective currency of Cuba, coexisting with two national currencies: A currency “convertible” in dollars and other ‘non-convertible’.
– The production and marketing of sugar cane was privatized, by the creation of the “basic units of cooperative production” (80% of the cultivated area). Their members have no legal ownership of land but appropriate the profits. In 1994, the “free farmers markets”, whose prices are determined by the market, began to work.
From these measures, the Cuban economy stopped following a state economic planning and started to function, albeit in a distorted way around the laws profit and the market.
Cuba is no longer a workers’ state and became a capitalist country in rapid process of semi-colonization. There are many foreign companies operating in the country, especially Spanish, Italian and Canadian, controlling very important sectors of the economy.
In this context, the Castro regime is becoming a partner of foreign capital, ensuring their business and, in turn, enriching themselves through state-owned enterprises and their participation in joint ventures.
The recent Foreign Investment Law
The approval of a legislation that releases the inflow of foreign capital with the guarantees of huge fiscal and legal facilities by the National Assembly of Cuba in 2014 confirms this characterization.
The law submitted by the government of Raúl Castro opens all sectors of the economy to foreign investment, except health, education and the media. Among the advantages offered by the new legislation, are as follows:
a) Disclaims foreign companies from profit tax for eight years. Then a fee of 15% would begin, unless the profits are reinvested on the island.
B) The law provides “full protection and security to the investor, which may not be expropriated”, except for public or social interest. In the latter case, there will be compensation.
It means this is a clearly capitalist law. Besides this, Raul Castro’s government is opening a huge “free zone” in the port of Mariel. This port, funded by the Brazilian government is very modern and can accommodate large ships. It costs $ 1 billion and is part of the Cuban bet to be part of the route of the Asia-US trade.
At the same time, as the other side of this plan, there is an increasing deterioration process of the achievements of the revolution in key areas such as health , education, job security, ration card and the dismissal of hundreds of thousands of state employees, condemned to survive only as self-employed. Meanwhile, workers earn average salaries of US$ 18.
A debate among the US imperialist bourgeoisie
Since the capitalist restoration in Cuba, a debate opened up among the US imperialist bourgeoisie. On the one hand, there is the anti-Castro bourgeoisie resident in Miami – the so-called “gusanos”, with strong ties and weight in the Republican Party, which wants to maintain the isolation of the island until the Castro regime falls and they achieve in return the properties expropriated by the revolution.
On the other hand, various industries, mostly linked to the Democrats but also with influence among the Republicans, want to take advantage of the excellent business opportunities in a country so close geographically, in areas such as tourism, finance, agricultural production, sales of industrial products, etc. which are being exploited by European industries (especially from Spain). In fact, some have “deceived” the current legislation in the US and perform “camouflaged” investments by means of Canadian companies.
This difference has reached a solution and opens the path for liberation of investment and trade in Cuba. In fact, it is possible that Obama has made an agreement with sectors of the anti-Castro bourgeoisie.
Obama has committed himself to present to Congress the request to lift the embargo. And as evidence that he will be supported by at least a part of the Republicans, the Republican senator Jeff Flake for Arizona, who is a member of the Foreign Relations Committee and is active on Cuba policy praised Obama.“I happen to think that the president did the right thing,” Flake said in a news conference.
Raul Castro’s fight for the end of the embargo does not mean a ‘triumph of socialist Cuba” but otherwise, the search for fresh US imperialist investments that will further deepen the semi-colonization process that the country is experiencing since the restoration of capitalism. The measures just announced are also part of the colonial integration of Cuba in the “globalization”.
The left currents that welcome these measures as a “victory” are helping to disguise a policy that will have severe consequences for the Cuban people. The IWL-FI doesn’t add to this chorus: we opine that, unfortunately, what may put an end to the embargo is not the decades of struggle of the Cuban people, but the restoration of capitalism in Cuba. This agreement benefits imperialism and the new Cuban bourgeoisie formed under the protection of the brothers Castro’s government.
In this context, for the IWL, it’s posed the need for a new social revolution to rebuild the Cuban workers’ state and its achievements and to substitute a regime based on the broadest workers’ democracy for the Castro’s current regime.
We call the Cuban workers and the people not to fool with this agreement and to resist the current course of the growing dependence of the brothers Castro to imperialism, and to reject the submission of Cuba to the US. The right of Cuba to maintain diplomatic relations with all countries in the world is not the same as submitting to imperialism, like the rest of the semi-colonial countries do.
We call workers around the world to defend their Cuban brothers, who earn poverty wages and whose jobs are threatened by the plans of imperialism and the Cuban government.
We call on all workers and youth to fight against the Cuban dictatorship that gives complete freedom to the international bourgeoisie on the island but does not allow free elections, the freedoms of expression and of unions and political association.
São Paulo, December 19, 2014