Fidel Castro’s illness and the transmission of power to his brother, Raul, have turned the debate on the present and the future of Cuba red-hot.

American imperialism has started openly pressing the government of the island. President George Bush announced: “We shall support all efforts to create a transitional government in Cuba, committed to democracy” and the State Secretary, in a recorded address to the Cuban people, Condoleza Rice said that USA is encouraging other democratic countries to press on Cuba for . a transition leading rapidly towards elections among various parties”. In Miami, The anti-Castro “worms” walked out to celebrate Fidel Castro’s alleged agony.

On the other side, apart from the declaration of the Cuban government rejecting the interference by the American government into home problems of the island, there is a statement going round that has already gathered several thousand signatures, headed by seven Nobel Prizes and 400 intellectuals all over the world under the following demand: “In the face of the growing menace to the integrity of a nation, peace and security in Latin America and in the world, we the signers of this statement demand that the government of the United States respect sovereignty of Cuba. We must impede a new aggression at any price.”

At first sight then, it might seem that the confrontation and the discussion is, on the one hand, between the interference and the preparation for an aggression (political and military) in order to restore capitalism and, on the other hand, the defence of sovereignty of the island and Cuban workers’ state, guaranteed by the Fidel administration and Castroism.

In our opinion, however, the main problem and the deep discussion posed by Fidel’s sickness and his enforced replacement by someone else is something different. Sovereignty in Cuba has been in jeopardy for quite a long time now and not only by the American imperialism, but also because capitalism entered Cuba over a decade ago, brought directly by the Castro administration.

This real debate is not taking place clearly inside the world left due to the great influence that, since 1959 Fidel and Castroism exerted since the 1959 revolution. Most of the left believe that after the restoration of capitalism in Russia and China, Cuba represent “the last bastion of socialism”. Even if concessions to capitalism had to be made, like the ones Lenin and Trotsky had to make in the USSR since 1921 with the NEP (New Economic Policy), for the time being the socialist nature of the Cuban state would be safe because of sectors of the Castro leadership, essentially by Fidel himself. Seen from this angle, Fidel’s illness or even his demise would accelerate the possibility of capitalist restoration. Other trends are much more critical to Fidel’s policy and point out that it is precisely the Castroist leadership who is carrying out restoration  . Whatever the differences, both analyses coincide as to the point that is Cuba is still a “socialist country” or a “workers’ state”, the main task is to defend it against the Americans or the “worms” (anti-Castro Cubans from Miami” T.N.)

In the IWL-FI we have a different point of view. Obviously we defend and we shall defend Cuba from the American and the “worms” but we believe that the real contradiction Cuba is up against is altogether different: reality proves that capitalism has been restored in Cuba by Castro’s leadership, associated to European and Canadian imperialisms in the second half of the 1990s. As far as we are concerned: what is under discussion in Cuba today is not the danger of a pending transformation of the economic-social character of the state but to change or not to change the political regime. That is why we shall begin by analysing the economic-social of the Cuban state.

The revolution and its achievements

After the 1959 revolution, the Cuban people expropriated the companies of the American imperialism and of the Cuban bourgeoisie. That is how the construction of the first workers’ state in Latin America began.

Thanks to the revolution, Cuba attained great advance in such areas as education and public health with levels comparable to those of the most advanced imperialist countries and outstripped from this point of view much more developed countries, such as Brazil, Mexico or Argentina. Also the general living standard of the people improved very much and poverty and squalor were eliminated, a fact that even imperialist countries had to admit.

Cuba became a symbol of what a socialist revolution could achieve. The leaders of this process, Fidel and Che Guevara, became political landmarks for millions of fighters and revolutionaries all over the world. 

 Restoration has already happened

In 1990, the fall of the USSR and the capitalist restoration in the East of Europe meant a harsh blow to Cuban economy hinging round sugar export and its exchange for oil and technology from those countries. Within this context, Castroist leaders began to develop a policy towards capitalist restoration and the tearing apart of the fundamental bases of a workers’ state. The main milestones of the restoration have been:[i]

·     The Law of Foreign Investments in 1995 creating “joint ventures” administered by foreign capital. Investments were mainly geared towards tourism and related braches but later on they spread over to other sectors such as pharmaceutical products and, more recently, oil.[ii]

·     State monopoly of the foreign trade – exerted up to that moment by Ministry of foreign trade –  was eliminated: both, state owned companies and joint ventures can trade freely their exports and imports.[iii]

·     Dollar has actually become ready money in Cuba, and it coexists with two national currencies: one “convertible” to dollars and one “non-convertible”.

·     Production and commercialisation of sugar has actually been privatised through “basic units of cooperative production” (80% of cultivated area). Members have no juridical property of the land but they do share out the benefits obtained. In 1994, “free farming markets” started functioning, the prices are determined by the market.

What we have seen above has nothing to do with the NEP in the USSR. It is something qualitatively different for it means the destruction of the essence of the Cuban state: centralised state planning has been eliminated and the ministry that was in charge of it has been dissolved. In its stead what emerged was a new capitalist state, where economy functions in accordance with the capitalist law of profit.  

On the other  hand, capitalist restoration is causing a fast deterioration of social achievements of the revolution, especially in the area of education and health. It is also expressed in the increasing differentiation of salaries between those of state workers and private company workers and a massive resurging of such social vices as prostitution.

Enter imperialism

Capitalist restoration in Cuba was not attained essentially through the formation of a new national bourgeoisie but by means of foreign investments: European and Canadian imperialisms have been investing heavily and today they prevail in the strongest and the most dynamic sectors of economy.

Cuban economic structure has changed a lot in the last decade: it is no longer based on sugar and it centres on services which, in 2004, represented the 73.6% of the National Gross Product of the country and 51% of the jobs[iv]. That same year, the “income in foreign currency associated to tourism” almost equalled the total amount of exports of physical goods (over 2 100 million dollars). If we add the income for medicine and other, today the services total 60% of the currency entering the country.

On the other hand, this weight of foreign capital became even greater when contracts for exploitation of the abundant oil reserves discovered in the Caribbean Sea were handed over to Repsol and to British companies.

Castroism and the “Chinese way”

It may sound odd that we should be speaking of capitalist restoration when the same leaders who headed the revolution are still in power and keep on talking about “the defence of socialism”. That does not mean anything: both, Gorbachov and leaders of the Chinese Communist Party tried to conceal their policy of restoration with “socialist” discourses.

St the same time, the Chinese process proved that it is possible to restore capitalism, that is to say, to modify the social-economic character of the state without affecting its political regime. The Chine CP kept it hegemonic power, but the country was no longer a workers’ state and became a capitalist country administered by leaders of CP, who benefited from new business. In Russia and other states of the East, something altogether different happened for the CPs lost their power.

The fact is that no matter whatthe difference between the two processes, what took place in Cuba was something similar to the “Chinese way” to capitalism: restoration was propelled by the CP and the Castroist summit has also obtained great benefits.

For example: the data on the economic power that Raul Castro runs are highly illustrative , historic leader of the Cuban armed forces: “Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR) have a yearly budget of 1469 million dollars and the daily management of a conglomerate of the biggest companies in the country. (.) They control 322 companies that participate with 89% of the income for export, 59% if the profit from tourism and 60% of the transactions in currency.”[v]

The Castro summit has turned into partners of foreign capitals, guarantees their business and, at the same times, becomes rich through the state-owned companies an their participation in the joint venture companies.

Revolution again or colony

Let us repeat, then: the pick today is not between the survival of a “workers’ state” or capitalist restoration: the former exists no more; the latter has already happened. That means that one of the central questions posed in real life is that as from restoration Cuba is losing its character of independent country and is moving fast towards its transformation into a semi-colony of European and Canadian imperialism.

Unfortunately, it is the very Castroist leadership that pushes in that direction. As a proof of this we have Fidel, who keeps up his harangues against Bush and the “worm” bourgeoisie while – together with Chavez – permanently paying homage to King Juan Carlos, symbol of Spanish imperialism.

The main menace to Cuban does not come from American imperialism or from the “worms”. To defend or recover this independence, today it is necessary to produce a new social revolution that will expropriate European and Canadian companies and capital just as it was necessary to expropriate American imperialism and the worms in the first place. The big difference between the process initiated in 1959 and what is there now consists in having to fight against Fidel Castro’s policy and his leaders.

Fidel’s succession: who must decide?

The transmission of the command to Raúl Castro proved that it is a handful of party leaders and top-notches of the State Council and Army who take decisions that affect the future of the country. Not even all the Cuban CP members had their say nor did the members of the Parliament, let alone Cuban people.

There is no doubt that most people still cherish and respect the old revolution leader. But this fact cannot conceal another one: that millions of Cubans have no say in the decision on who should succeed Fidel. This is a completely antidemocratic situation for it impedes an elementary democratic right.

A false debate

On the other hand, those who defend the present Cuban regime state that, firstly – In Cuba there is a “popular democracy” totally different to the false bourgeois democracy. Secondly: that “democratisation” has always been the cloak behind which imperialism ad the “worms” always hid in search of capitalist restoration.

This is a doubly false situation. To begin with, there can be no real “popular democracy” without workers and people having the right to form opposition groupings, publish papers, etc.; and this does not happen in Cuba.

But the essential thing is that this position conceals that capitalist restoration (or the undeniable risk for those who prefer to believe that restoration has not yet been accomplished) was not brought about by an invasion by the worms or by the American imperialism. It was sponsored by the Castroist leadership, who are selling the country out to European and Canadian imperialisms.

That is why the antidemocratic character of the present Cuban regime is not the necessary result of a besieged fortress fighting off an external aggression, but a tool in the service of the policy carried out by the summit that has restored capitalism, is destroying the achievements of the revolution and driving the country into a situation where it will become a semi colony.

The defence of the current regime is hidden behind the risk of the return of the Americans and the worms. But its real meaning is, on the one hand, the defence of a policy and economic privileges of the Castroist top-notches and, on the other hand, it is an attempt at preventing the Cuban people from getting organised to fight against them.

Within this framework, Fidel’s demise or his incapacity to exert power may not only stimulate the rubs and differences between the diverse wings of Castroism, but also may weaken the summit in its relation with the masses. That is why it is so necessary to have everything in neat order to avoid risks of internal division and, especially, to ensure the control over the masses.

We trust the Cuban people

Our proposal of “democratisation” stems out of completely different bases and aims at the opposite target to the one chosen by the Americans and the worms. We see it as a must to defend the achievements of the revolution that are still there, to revert the capitalist restoration and put a brake on to the process of colonisation of the country.

For this we trust the Cuban people fully for they have already proved their capacity to fight against the bourgeoisie and imperialism and their great political maturity. That is precisely why we keenly defend their right to discuss and decide democratically the destiny of the country and the succession of Fidel.


[i] Data from the article Cuba Under Debate, Martín Hernandez, Marxism alive #1 and other sources.

[ii] In 2005, there were 258 companies associated with foreign capital. The countries with the strongest presence are: Spain (77 companies), Canada (41) and Spain (40). Data from an article Foreign Companies in Cuba by the journalist Nelson Rubio

[iii] At present, foreign trade and revenue for tourism and services total about 10 000 million dollars, almost a third of the economy of the country. (Data from the Central Bank of Cuba)

[iv] Estimate obtained with data from the National Office of Statistics in Cuba, taken from their page

[v] Raúl Castro, un papel decisivo, Gerardo Reyes, (El Nuevo Herald, 10/8/2006)


Published in International Courier nº 26, 2006