Tue Jul 23, 2024
July 23, 2024

Revolution and counterrevolution in Cuba

Inside IWL-FI, we have studied the Cuban situation and discussed its State character, as well as the programme resulting from this character.

By Martin Hernandez.


The IWL-FI has not yet taken a final position (which will be done in its next World Congress in 2011), however, several of its organizations and leaders (among them, the author of this work), through oral and / or written interventions, have spoken out, categorically stating that capitalism has already been restored in Cuba, as well as in other former workers’ states.

The preceding sentence does not mean putting an equal sign between Cuba and the rest of Latin American countries, since in Cuba, (despite the capitalism restoration), due to the successful socialist revolution (unique across the continent), there are still a series of social gains that do not exist in the former workers states. However, the fundamental difference between Cuba and the other countries is not that. The fundamental difference is that in the other countries of the region, the masses overthrew different dictatorships, and although the working class and the people have not succeeded in seizing power, they have won important democratic freedoms. In Cuba, however, after capitalism restoration there is a capitalist dictatorship, not a proletarian dictatorship against the bourgeoisie, as it existed previously, but a capitalist dictatorship against the working class and the people.

Why is it the fundamental difference compared with other countries and not the social gains that still remain? Because these social gains under capitalism will inevitably be lost. In fact, the social gains are already being lost, as evidenced, among other things, by the fact that full employment no longer exists. Faced with the loss of the revolution achievements, sooner or later the workers will be forced to fight in order to defend themselves, but when they try, they will find a harsh reality: they will not have the least amount of freedom to organize the fight. For, unlike their comrades in the rest of the continent, they will not be entitled to organize a strike or a union free from the State (not even an employee association), they will not have the right to organize their political party with different opinions from the ruling party, nor will they have the right to edit a newspaper or to perform a rally against the government.

So, what is the great task set for the working class and the people of Cuba? The same which, in due time, was proposed in the other countries of the region: to overthrow the dictatorship to gain the broadest democratic freedoms and to move toward a new socialist and triumphant revolution that, as the one in 1959, expropriates the national and foreign bourgeoisie.

This is, in short, the position of the IWL-FI sector to which we referred earlier.

This position provoked a furious reaction from a number of leftist leaders and organizations, especially those of the communist parties or organizations which have their origin in these parties. For example, in Brazil, in April 2010, the Central Committee of the Brazilian Communist Party issued a statement titled “The left hand of the Right”, in which, among other things, states: “(…) this fake international front ( the IWL-FI) get together with the imperialism in order to fight against the Cuban Socialist Revolution (…) their statements are in favor of imperialism (…) to classify the Cuban Revolution as a “capitalist dictatorship” is playing in the fields of the counterrevolution”.

Moreover, a number of organizations that claim to be Trotskyist, but are defenders of the Cuban and Venezuelan governments, as it might be expected, carry on the same type of attack, usually more strongly.

The most striking, though, is that there are other organizations that are not Castroist, as the Nuevo MAS and the PTS in Argentina, which also attack us very hard with epithets very similar to the Stalinist currents.

We say this is striking because these non-Castroist organizations state that capitalism was restored not only in almost all former workers states, but also that the Castroist leaders want the restoration of capitalism in Cuba. So, it is not clear why they attack us with such fury. If they were really convinced that the Cuban leadership wants the restoration of capitalism, what would be strange if Cuban leaders achieved their targets, like those of other workers’ states?

Before ending this introduction, it is necessary to clarify the title of this article: Revolution and counterrevolution in Cuba.

Since Engels wrote his famous work, “Revolution and counterrevolution in Germany”, many authors have been inspired by that title to refer to other countries, “Revolution and counterrevolution in Spain” (Felix Morrow), “Revolution and counterrevolution in Argentina”(Abelardo Ramos),”Revolution and counterrevolution in Catalonia”(Jorge Semprun).

Our trend was not unaware of this tradition. Thus, Nahuel Moreno in 1975 wrote a lengthy article entitled “Revolution and counterrevolution in Portugal”.

This reiterated “plagiarism” on Engels made us question on the advisability of using the same title for a paper on Cuba, but in the end, after reading the Brazilian Communist Party statement, it seemed to us that we could hardly find a more appropriate title to approach the current problems in Cuba.

The PCB’s statement does not offer a single argument to show that capitalism has not been restored inCuba. Instead, faithfully following the old and disgusting tradition of Stalinism,PCB responds to those who give arguments to show what is stated, accusing us of being agents of imperialism. However, we want to highlight something positive in the PCB’s statement. It begins with the following sentence: “Defending the Cuban revolution is a matter of principle”. No doubts allowed, it is a beautiful sentence, which every revolutionary should support. However, in the current Cuban situation, there is a need to fulfill this sentence with content because one must know: where is the revolution and where is the counterrevolution in Cuba? This is the great discussion and in this sense, although the PCB’s statement gives an answer opposite to ours, it has the merit of starting the debate on this topic, which ended up by inspiring our title.

The importance of this debate

We think that this debate on Cuba,besides its importance, may turn to be decisive for the present and future of all the leftist organizations, especially those in Latin America.

There is a worldwide tradition on the left, with regard to their attitude towards the dictatorships. With few exceptions (as was the case of the Communist Party of Argentina, who supported the dictator Videla, or the Chinese government, which supported the Pinochet dictatorship), the left has usually been in the opposite direction of the capitalist dictatorships and has fought for their downfall. However, this old and good tradition of the left may be coming to an end.

If our argument is correct, that capitalism was restored in Cuba some years ago and there is no bourgeois democratic regime but, as in China, a dictatorship supported by the Communist Party and the Armed Forces and that in Cuba there are not the smallest democratic freedoms, in other words, whether it is right that Cuba is now one of the few remaining capitalist dictatorships worldwide and virtually the only remaining in Latin America, the position of the left, regarding this dictatorship, is not a simple detail.

So far the left parties that support the Cuban government are relatively peaceful because, for their luck, Cuban workers have not yet expressed publicly their discontent with the government restorations’ measures. However, the government does not seem so peaceful. This explains why Raul Castro has attended, on October 31, 2010, the Expanded Plenary of the National Council of CTC (Confederation of Cuban Workers) in order to ask the union leaders to explain to their grass roots the positive side of the new economic reforms.

Raul stated that “Cuba is going over the cliff” if the government does not implement these economic reforms (including the lay-off of one million state workers) and, thereafter, made the following call: “It’s up to you, from the Secretariat of the CTC up to the most modest leader, to play the same role as played in their time by Lázaro Peña [1] who, with wisdom and experience, requested (at the historic XIII Congress of the CTC in 1973) the workers to give up the conquests they had taken from the bourgeoisie, because the scenario had changed and the workers were the owners of the means of production. For example, he proposed to repeal a law trough which it would be paid a full salary to those who retired with an exemplary conduct in their work life, a law full of good intentions, but incorrect, and therefore unsustainable from an economic standpoint”.

Will Castro brothers and the union leaders convince the workers that they have to leave aside the achievements plucked from the bourgeoisie? Will they be able to convince workers that they do not have to defend their jobs? Will they convince the workers about the importance of increasing, in a qualitative way, the electricity tax? Will they be able to convince 1 million of new unemployed that they are able to transform themselves into prosperous merchants, working on their own, such as hairdressers, tailors and gardeners?

It might be possible that Castro brothers are able to convince the workers once the Castroist direction, according to its past, still enjoys a high prestige, but it is also possible that they do not convince anybody and that in Cuba, as in most other former workers states, workers and the people stand up against the consequences of the restoration measures and begin to mobilize, to go on strikes, to organize struggle committees, new unions, including to use the violence to defend their rights. And if there is a movement of this kind, as is very likely to occur, at which side will be the left who now supports the Cuban government?

Will they be placed aside the workers or will they support the government that in the past expropriated the bourgeoisie, but at present, is restoring capitalism?

The current scenario indicates that this “left” will continue backing the government (perhaps with the argument that the labor movement is controlled by CIA and by the “gusanos”). Needless to say that to support and / or sustain such a dictatorship, especially in Latin America, where the masses have a long tradition of  anti-dictatorship struggle, will inevitably force these organizations to change their character, turning to be rightist organizations, or tending to disappear.

It may seem an exaggerated forecast, however it would be useful to remember what happened with pro-Soviet or Maoist organizations which supported,at the last minute, the former USSR, East Germany and China when the capitalism had already been restored in these countries and the masses had risen against “communists” dictatorships. Most of these organizations, which had led or co-directed the working class of their countries and had had mass influence, no longer exist, or are reduced to small groups or turned to be bourgeois parties.

Why did it take us so much time to realize that in the former USSR, Eastern Europe and China, the capitalism had been restored?

Although, in our view, capitalism has been restored in Cuba long ago, it is only in this past year that left parties started the debate about whether this fact has already occurred or not.

The arising of these types of questions and controversies are not a surprise. The same happened with the capitalism restoration in the other workers states.

For example, today there is not any left sector, of any importance left, which can fail to realize that capitalism was restored in the former USSR, Eastern Europe and China. However, many years were necessary for most of the left began to question if capitalism had been restored or not, and many more years for realizing that this fact had indeed occurred.

Capitalism was restored in the former USSR since 1986, however, the great debate on the left about the existence of this fact began four or five years after the restoration and the recognition by the majority of the left only took place in the beginning of 21st century, that is, 14 years later.

Disorientation was even bigger when capitalism was restored in China. The restoration took place as from 1978 and was only recognized by most of the left in recent times, i.e. almost 30 years later.

There are a number of factors to explain this widespread misunderstanding about what happened in the bureaucratized workers states, but the key factor has to do with the way in which the restoration happened.

If, during the Second World War, Hitler’s troops had defeated the Soviet Union, capitalism had been restored. If this fact had occurred, the left would have no doubt about it at that exact moment.

But the capitalism was restored in the former workers states through different means. It were neither the sectors of the international bourgeoisie nor the old national bourgeoisie who led this task. The international bourgeoisie and the old national bourgeoisie were the main beneficiaries. The leaders of Communist parties who ran those Workers States were the ones who restored capitalism. A huge mess was created, mainly because these parties restored capitalism in the name of socialism, and even more, attacking capitalism itself.

Just to illustrate: Gorbachev, the father of capitalism restoration in the former Soviet Union, said in 1987 (one year after the restoration began in his country): “There was a belief, for instance, that we should give up the planned economy and to approve unemployment. But we cannot allow it, because our goal is to strengthen socialism and not to replace it with a different system. What the West offers us, in terms of economy, is unacceptable to us (…) “[2].

These double-faced bureaucrats of the communist parties in power may seem surprising because of their degree of hypocrisy, but in reality it is nothing surprising, since it has to do with the social nature of every bureaucracy. Neither the bourgeoisie nor the working class have reason to conceal their purposes, however, considering that the bureaucracy is not a social class, but a parasite being fed by the working class, they feel the deep need to conceal their purposes. As Trotsky said: “The bureaucracy conceals its income; it pretends that as a special social group it does not even exist”(L. Trotsky, The Revolution Betrayed, Chapter 9).

For example, a worker does not hide he/she wants to increase its wage and openly fight for it. An employer does not hide, and there is no need to hide that he/she wants to increase the profits of his/her company and when he/she accomplishes it, he/she makes it public.

The opposite occurs with a Bureaucrat. He fights with all his strength to maintain and extend its privileges, but cannot say it openly because these privileges arise from the usurpation of the workers and from the crumbs they receive from the employers and from the state. Therefore, to maintain and extend its privileges he always has to hide its true intentions.

Bureaucracy leaders in those states where capitalism was restored could not inform the workers and people on their plans. They could not tell them that they would restore capitalism and thereby end up with full employment, with public health and public education. They could not say that their goal was to convert themselves into a new bourgeoisie to exploit those same workers.

The ruling bureaucracy restored capitalism saying the opposite. Thus, each time they took a new measure to dismantle the old workers state, they used to say it was to strengthen socialism. And when they could not hide the pro-capitalist character of a particular measure, they asserted that they were inspired by Lenin, who also, through the NEP, made concessions to capitalism. Alexandr Yákovlev, an important intellectual and leader of the Russian PC, who was the chief aide to Gorbachev known as the “architect of reconstruction (perestroika)”, confessed: “If today we still quote Lenin, it is to have a real credibility before the public opinion” [3].

To this confusion caused by the sinister role of the bureaucracy leaders, it was added another problem. The capitalism restoration was an unprecedented event in human history that the new generations of Marxists had to try to decipher. However, nobody knew in advance what would be the central features of this process.

In general, there had been the idea that one could only speak of capitalism restoration when the bulk of the means of production and distribution (factories, banks and land) would no longer belong to the state and passed to private ownership, and when the bulk of workers were employees of these private companies.

However, none of the former workers states, where the restoration occurred, proceeded a widespread privatization of state enterprises, land, banks and even housing. For example, in Russia in 1989 (three years after the capitalist restoration) there were only 10,000 private homes around the country, and in 1992 (six years after restoration) among more than 200,000 companies only 1352 (most of them small companies) were private.

These figures confused us completely, so much that in the early years of the restoration when analyzing the statistics, we reached the conclusion that there had not been any restoration or that this process was stalled.

In reality, nobody took into account Trotsky’s forecast about the restoration of capitalism in its early years. He said that if there was a restoration, this would occur within the framework of state ownership, which was what eventually happened.

Besides these factors, which have created confusion and prevented us from recognizing that the ruling bureaucracy of that states was restoring capitalism, there were two more factors, although different in regard to political currents.

The currents that had a reference in the Eastern countries, in the USSR or in China resisted at the last minute to recognize the restoration of capitalism, because doing so would mean accepting that they betrayed all revolutions, which is the same as accepting that, historically, Trotskyism was right.

However, paradoxically, also most of the Trotskyist organizations resisted to recognize that restoration triumphed. Some because of the heavy influence of Stalinism and others mostly because, instead of looking at reality as it was, they analyzed it as from one of Trotsky prognostications (the one that stated that the restoration could only be imposed through a bloody counterrevolution) and put aside the vital prognosis of Trotsky, who stated that if the bureaucracy would continue ahead of the USSR, the restoration would be inevitable.

The restoration of capitalism: an international process from which any bureaucratized workers’ state neither would nor could escape.

 As we said earlier, the vast majority of the left resisted to accept that capitalism was restored in the former workers’ states.

It was accepted that capitalism was restored in East Germany (after unification with West Germany), but not in Eastern Europe. Soon after there was no way to deny that it did happen in Eastern Europe, but it was not accepted that it had occurred in the former USSR. And when it was accepted that the restoration of capitalism had triumphed also in Soviet Union, China and Cuba turned to be the “bastions of socialism.”

The idea that capitalism could be restored in a particular country but not in another shows a lack of understanding on what this process was. This idea was common among the left by that time and still is.

It was not understood that,taking into account the world character of economy and mainly the character of those workers’ states, they did not have other alternative but to move towards capitalism,especially the most vulnerable ones. And what was for many years a trend has become an imposition as from the triumph of restoration in the former USSR.

To understand this process in theoretical terms, it is necessary to go back to a controversy that occurred after 1924 in the former USSR.

The Marxists expected that the development of capitalism would cause the development of its own contradictions and as from these contradictions the capitalist system would stop, in absolute terms, the development of productive forces. When this happened, capitalist system would be overcome by communism, a regime in which there would be no exploiters or exploited, and in which all members would receive according to their needs and contribute according to their capacity. This system would allow the productive forces to develop indefinitely. However, the Marxists also predicted that it would not be possible to move, immediately, from capitalism to communism. It would be necessary to go through an intermediate phase, which Marx called “the first phase of communism” and which later was called “socialism.”

This first phase of communism would lead to a society which, since its birth, would be superior, economically and culturally, in relation to the most advanced capitalist societies.

As from this point of view, theBolshevik Party leadership – who headed the seizure of power by the workers – never realized that their revolution was a goal in itself. On the contrary, aware that this revolution (made against Marx prediction, in an extremely backward country) could not succeed if it were not spread worldwide, mainly to the most advanced countries, they saw their own revolution just as a lever for the world revolution. This is what explains that, after taking power and in the midst of civil war, the central task of this leadership had been the construction of the Third International, the world party of revolution.

This Bolshevik Party attitude was not a product of an abstract internationalism, still less a moral stance. It was due to a deep understanding of the world character of the economy and the inability to reach socialism only nationwide, especially in Russia, a country populated mostly by illiterate peasants.

This was, as we said before, the vision of the entire leadership of the Bolshevik Party. For example, few months after Lenin’s death in April 1924, Stalin wrote:“For the overthrow of the bourgeoisie, the efforts of one country are enough – to this the history of our own revolution testifies. For the final victory of socialism, for the organization of socialist production, the efforts of one country, especially a peasant country like ours, are not enough – for this we must have the efforts of the proletarians of several advanced countries.”[4]

However, this insight on the character of the revolution and of USSR role in the international arena began to be questioned by Stalin few months after writing this text.

After the European proletariat defeats and the early successes of the Soviet economy, Stalin began to defend his famous theory of “socialism in only one country”. This theory, as Trotsky pointed out, “expressed the beginning of the degeneration of theThird International”.

This new Stalin’s theory claimed USSR could get to socialism, i.e. could build up a society much more advanced than those of the more advanced countries under capitalism, regardless of world revolution.

This theoretical elaboration of Stalin, which denied the entire tradition of Marxism, will lead to a sharp controversy with the Left Opposition, whose head was Leon Trotsky.

In 1926, the Left Opposition presented a text in a plenary session of the Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party that said: “It would be radically wrong if we think we can march to socialism at a rate arbitrarily decided when we are surrounded by capitalism. The progression to socialism can only be guaranteed if the distance that separates our industry from advanced capitalist industry decreases concretely instead of increasing. ”

In this CC, Stalin managed to vote against the Opposition’s proposals with the following argument: who here wants to involve the international factor does not even understand how the problem is formulated and confounds all notions, either by misunderstanding or by a conscious desire of sowing confusion.

In the 1930s, this debate gained much strength. Stalin, analyzing the economy of the USSR, stated that socialism had already arrived and USSR was driven toward communism.

While Stalin was completely mistaken in asserting that the USSR was already a socialist country, because from the economic and cultural standpoint it was far from achieving the most advanced capitalist countries, he was not wrong to emphasize the spectacular growth of the Soviet economy. This growth was so important that Trotsky, after reviewing the statistics in his book The Revolution Betrayed, stated: “Even if the Soviet Union, as a result of internal difficulties, external blows and the mistakes of leadership, were to collapse – which we firmly hope will not happen – there would remain an earnest of the future this indestructible fact, that thanks solely to a proletarian revolution a backward country has achieved in less than 10 years successes unexampled in history.”

However, in this same book, Trotsky emphasized that it was necessary to observe that the Soviet economy was growing fast, but from very low levels and that this spectacular growth, caused by the bourgeoisie expropriation would not be maintained indefinitely, since the global economy ruled by the imperialist capital would prevent it. Further, he stated: “The longer the Soviet Union remains in a capitalist environment, the deeper runs the degeneration of the social fabric. A prolonged isolation would inevitably end not in national communism, but in a restoration of capitalism. (…) the working class will be compelled in its struggle for socialism to de-bureaucratize the bureaucracy. On the tomb of the latter will be inscribed the epitaph: Here lies the theory of socialism in one country.”[5]

As it is known, despite its various attempts in East Germany, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland, the working class could not expropriate the bureaucracy. And Stalin together with his followers, through a real genocide against the revolutionaries and the working-class fighters, consolidated in power. This, as Trotsky predicted, led the states of transition to socialism turned into states in transition to capitalism.

Under Stalinist bureaucracy leadership, after the Civil War, the growth of the Russian economy, because of the bourgeoisie expropriation, came to be spectacular, but, as the workers revolution did not triumph in the most advanced countries, this growth could not be kept permanently.

After the Second World War, with the bourgeoisie expropriation in Eastern Europe and the triumph of the Chinese Revolution, USSR ceased to be so isolated from the economic point of view, which allowed it to survive for longer than it could be expected even if it would not led the world revolution ahead.

However, since the early 50s of last century, several symptoms of a major crisis started, not only in the USSR, but also in all the workers’ states.

In the late ’50s of the last century, all these countries started a discussion on the need to make major changes, since, at that time and in all these economies, although they continued to grow, it was already possible to detect a significant growth reduction.

In the early ’60s of last century, the scenario became even more critical, the authorities were forced to make major reforms implemented throughout Eastern Europe between the years 1963 and 1968.

An important part of these reforms, aimed at a solution for the crisis that had begun, considered the necessity of international trade with the more advanced countries of the world. These relationships have developed enormously, so much that this stage is known as “The Golden Age of East-West Trade.”

Because of Stalin’s guidance, the revolution did not triumph in none of these Western countries, and this fact caused the quite uneven trade between the two blocs. The heavy import of Western technology ended up by tipping the trade balance of the workers’ states and provoked, in the late 1960s, an economical critical scenario.

To overcome the crisis, the bureaucracy leadership had only one strategic solution:  to re-take the Bolshevik struggle toward the world revolution. However they were not willing to follow this path. To worsen,in order to defend its national interests,the bureaucracy proved to be increasingly unable to develop closer relationships between the various workers’ states, to the point that, over time, we would get not only the friction, but wars between those states.

Within this scenario, the bureaucracy next step was, once again, appeal to imperialism, this time looking for cheap loans. They got them, however, once again, because of the role of imperialism on the world economy, these cheap loans became expensive and the former workers’ states were bond to an external debt that, like the external debt of the colonies and semi-colonies, became un-payable. Thus, all the former workers’ states marched towards the abyss.

Of all the workers’ states, the USSR was the least affected by the crisis due to its most developed economy and its oil and gas large production. Yet, even so, the figures showed a desperate situation. Between 1971 and 1985 the growth rate was reduced by two and a half time. The bureaucracy, with no other option, discharged the crisis it generated on the workers’ backs. Thus, the money spent on education, which in 1950 was 10% of national income, in the early 80’s was only 6%; the increase in consumption per capita, which stood at 5.1% between 1966 and 1970, in the early 80s was void and, most tragic, life expectancy, which in 1972 was 70 years, ten years after plunged to 60 years.

To respond to this economic crisis Gorbachev – led to the CPSU secretariat by the sinister KGB – established in 1985 his plan for the restoration of capitalism. This plan was voted at the XXVII Congress of the CPSU, held in February 1986. This Congress also voted a new governing body, mostly integrated by “restorers” (the reformers, as they were known then). Since this Congress,CPSU bureaucracy started dismantling what remained of the former workers’ state. In August 1986, the economy opens to foreign companies. In September, they voted the law on individual activities, legalizing private work; in June 1987, with the approval of the state enterprises law, they stopped with the central economic planning and the monopoly of foreign trade. In May 1988, they approved the law on cooperatives, which made flourish, just a year later, 200,000 of such companies. In December 1988, they approved a decree allowing the sale of homes … and this restoration process has not stopped ever since.

As it can be observed,theUSSR ruling bureaucracy had no alternative facing the economic crisis but going towards capitalism. The same directions were taken in the rest of Eastern Europe, as it might be expected, since they have economies much weaker than USSR and their crisis were even deeper.

Much has been said about the two opposing models of restoration, the former USSR and the rest of Eastern Europe on the one hand and China on the other hand.

It is true that there were different ways of moving toward restoration. There were differences not only between the USSR and China, but also among all the countries themselves. However the differences were on the modus operandi and not in the restoration content itself.

Just to illustrate, it is often said that the main difference between the USSR and the Chinese model is that in China restoration was carried out through the absolute control of the Communist Party; however, in relation to this, there is no difference in the models. In USSR and in all other countries, the pattern was the same: to restore capitalism keeping the one-party communist party regime. The difference lies in the fact that in USSR and in the Eastern Europe countries, the masses faced the regime and brought them down. This aspect changed the way the restoration took place. Nevertheless, as far as the content is concerned, all the restoration processes were virtually identical, since in all of them the ruling bureaucracies had to dismantle the economic structure of former workers’ states.

Being so, in all these countries, the measures were aimed at ending the monopoly of foreign trade, at ending with the nationalized economy and ending with the central economic planning. Moreover, even with regard to problems of form, the processes were very similar (joint ventures with foreign capital, cooperatives, privatization and / or the increase of public taxes, privatization of housing, the beginning of privatization of education and health, the end of public restaurants and / or of rationing cards, the privatization of land and agricultural production, the gradual liberalization of the banking system).

What happened in Cuba?

Taking into account the bureaucracy interests, the workers’ states have never been led towards the world revolution, but all of them, following Stalin, tried to build the “socialism in one country.” Therefore, none of these states could escape from the unsolvable economic crisis and all of them had no way out but going toward capitalism restoration.

In this scenario, Cuba was not and could not be an exception, because in this country, the economic crisis, structural and cyclical (which provoked all the restoration processes) was much deeper than in most other states.

Much has been written and has been said too, about the impressive development in Cuba after the revolution, mainly in the fields of education and health. But the reality is that Cuba remained an economically backward country even after the revolution, to the point that it has never had an industrialization process and its economy continued to be based on the sugar cane monoculture, as it was in the Batista times.

But it was precisely because Cuba had this structural weakness in its economy (monoculture of sugarcane), the reason why it faced much more difficulties than the rest of the workers’ states to withstand the economic crisis mentioned above. For example, since 1975, the chronic crisis in Cuba has deepened due to the brutal drop in sugar prices on the world market.

Regarding this issue, it is useful to remember an analysis made in 1982: “(…) Castroism faces, like all bureaucratic and totalitarian states of Eastern Europe and Asia, an impressive economic crisis, apparently helpless” [6].

There are a lot of data showing that this analysis was not an exaggerated one. For example, during this period, the Cuban reserves fell from $ 1.5 billion to 500 million. Moreover, by basing its economy on the sugar cane monoculture, Cuba imported 75% of the cereals consumed, 68% of steel and 100% of cotton.

To try to overcome this situation, Cuba has called on foreign loans, from the USSR, from France and Canada and, soon, created a debt that reached $ 10 billion – the largest in the world in relation to the number of inhabitants.

This analysis about Cuba economic situation in the years before restoration is very important in order to understand that the first workers’ states to succumb to capitalism were, as it might not be otherwise, the economically weaker states.

The restoration has not started in the former USSR, but in Yugoslavia, since 1965, and it was not by chance, but by the fact that the Yugoslavian economy was much more isolated and therefore much frailer than others,considering its crisis with the USSR. In this case, once again, it was demonstrated how the reactionary utopia of “socialism in one country” was charging their victims. Yugoslavia, isolated, succumbed to capitalism while the rest of the workers states, although in crisis, managed to survive a longer time because they were part of an economic bloc.

Nor was it a coincidence that the Chinese state has followed Yugoslavia toward restoration. In that country, this process starts in 1978 with so-called “Four Modernizations.” The capitalism restoration in China, starting in 1978, was a byproduct of the Sino-Soviet crisis, in which the vast impaired as from the economic point of view, was China.

Within this scenario, after 1975, Cuba was the natural candidate to stay ahead of China in its march toward restoration. However, this did not happen because the USSR came to give its aid to Cuba and to save it from the inevitable disaster. Thus, between 1976 and 1980, USSR offered a subsidy of US$ 2.4 billion a year (which equaled 75% of Cuban exports) and, moreover, the USSR increased trade with Cuba to the point that, among years 1977 and 1978, Cuba international trade with the USSR, from the standpoint of value, accounted for 85% of its total international trade. However, all this help, although it has acted as an antidote, did not overcome the structural crisis of the Cuban economy. It was so because, firstly, that aid has kept the chronic weakness of the Cuban economy by perpetuating the monoculture of sugar cane and, secondly, it qualitatively increased its dependence in relation to the USSR.

These two factors provoked, shortly after, the burst of Cuban economy, when the economic crisis exploded in the USSR forcing this country to reduce subsidies to Cuba and, crucially, when, with the capitalism restoration and the USSR dissolution, the subsidies were completely eliminated and trade was substantially reduced.

Thus, between 1989 and 1994, Cuban GDP fell 34.3% and Cuban exports, which reached US$ 5.3 billion, fell to US$ 1.5 billion. It was time for the ruling bureaucracy of the Cuban state also to try to get out of the crisis by restoring capitalism. It had to follow the example of other bureaucratized workers’ states and so it did. For that, Cuba took exactly the same measures that were taken in other states.

Monopoly of foreign trade which was formerly controlled by MINCEX (Ministry of Foreign Trade) was eliminated and it began to be done, as in any capitalist country, by different companies and not by the state.

Moreover, in July 1992, the National Constitution was reformed in order to legalize the end of the centrally planned economy (as from there, the National Planning Board was dissolved) and it was also established the right to build several types of new businesses. In 1995, through the Foreign Investment Law, private ownership of means of production was legalized.

Because it is a dictatorship, Cuban government does not disclose many details on the privatization process of former state enterprises. For example, there is not any report on who the new Cuban entrepreneurs are, although there are many reports on the new cooperatives. Cuban government, following the paths of other former workers’ states, created as from 1993the UBPC (Basic Units of Cooperative Production). These cooperatives were established with great force in the areas of sugar production (it is important to bear in mind that Cuba is a country based on monoculture); so strong was these cooperatives force that there were,already in 1994,1,555 of them in the sector, covering 100% of former state property. The producer members in these cooperatives, like in many capitalist countries, have no legal ownership of land, but own the product, and thus share profits among themselves.

These cooperatives are also present in other areas. So, back in 1994, they occupied 76% of the state land dedicated to growing coffee, 48% of rice and 42% of the state land dedicated to cattle.

Currently, within the previous measures framework, i.e., within the market economy framework, Cuban leaders have already taken or are studying to take (in the next congress of the Cuban Communist Party) heavy new measures, most of them directed against the immediate interests of workers. These trends include the layoffs; one million of state workers will lose their jobs shortly, 500,000 of which will be fired in the next six months; the construction of golf fields and high standard condos; the liberation of the real estate market; the offer of bank loans for businesses; the end of the rationing card (through which all Cubans receive, at very low prices, a number of basic needs products), the increase of electricity tax. There are, at the same time, a lot of rumors, echoed by the international press (not confirmed nor denied by the Cuban government), indicating the beginning of the health care and education privatization.

Published in: Marxism Vivo Nueva Época nº 1, 2010

Read the second part of this article: The debate with the Trotskyist organizations

Translation: Wilma Olmo Corrêa



[1] Lázaro Peña Gonzalez (1911/1974) Union leader of Cuban Stalinism. Founder of CTC in 1939 (it was its first secretary general) and the FSM (World Federation of Trade Unions).

[2] Gorbachov, Mijaíl, Perestroika, new thinking for our country and the world.

[3] Yákovlev, Alexandr,What we want to do with Soviet Union

[4] Stalin, Josef, The Foundations of Leninism, quoted by Trotsky in his appendix toThe Revolution Betrayed.

[5] Trotsky, Leon,The Revolution Betrayed.

[6] Moreno, Nahuel, Why does Fidel negotiate in secret with Reagan?,  Correo Internacional, N.° 6, mayo de 1982.

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