Addendum to Open Letter
In the course of subsequent discussions with the comrades of the Bolshevik Tendency (BT), as well as a careful study of the documents of both the International Secretariat [IS; predecessor of the United Secretariat (USec)] and the American Socialist Workers Party (SWP) in the first period of the Cuban revolution, it became clear that my previous formulations were at best ambiguous on this question. The sentence in question reads, “By rigidly relying on past theory of the Cuban revolution that a smashed bourgeois state equals a workers state, the radical petty-bourgeois nationalists of the FSLN were transformed into unconscious Marxists or practical revolutionaries.”
In fact the overthrow of Batista and the smashing of the Cuban state apparatus did not lead the SWP leadership to immediately conclude that Cuba was a workers state. Initially both the IS and the SWP viewed the Castroite leadership as petty-bourgeois with an ideology that was more bourgeois than socialist. Yet during the summer and fall of 1960, as Castro expropriated the Cuban bourgeoisie, the IS proclaimed: “In Cuba, consequently, a workers’ state of a peculiar origin and of a new type has been created.”1 The SWP also hailed the new state. In the “Draft Theses on the Cuban Revolution” the SWP leadership proclaimed that Cuba was “a workers state although one lacking as yet the forms of democratic proletarian rule.”2 Almost thirty years later Cuba is still lacking “as yet” any sign of workers democracy (i.e., Soviets). There is very little democracy even for the bureaucracy itself—the Castroite CP waited almost 15 years to hold its first party congress! In dropping the distinction between a healthy workers state and a deformed one, the IS/SWP (now USec), blurred the bloodline drawn between Trotskyism and Stalinism. At the time, it was only the revolutionary Tendency of the SWP (later to become the Spartacist League) that correctly grasped the nature of the social transformation in Cuba—that with the massive expropriation of the bourgeoisie in the summer/fall of 1960, Cuba became a deformed workers state.
There is a certain similarity between the USec’s initial attitude toward the Cuban revolution and the Nicaraguan. Despite today’s proclamation of the revolutionary credentials of the Sandinistas, for the first year the FSLN held power, the USec was “characterising the state as capitalist after July 1979, with a situation of sui-generis dual power.”3 But this was subsequently reappraised at the USec’s Twelfth World Congress in January 1985 which declared that Nicaragua had been a workers state (although an as yet unconsolidated one) since January 1979. Reportedly a similar process has taken place regarding Cuba, i.e., a back-dating of the establishment of a worker state to the moment the radical petty-bourgeois guerrillas take power.
Obviously this presumes the inevitability of the outcome of the critical juncture of the Cuban revolution—the expropriation of the capitalists. The fact that the FSLN has for nine years preserved private ownership of the bulk of the economy is so far the key distinction between the two revolutions. What is common to both the USec’s Cuban and Nicaraguan positions, is the willingness to liquidate not only programmatically, but also organizationally in favor of the “practical revolutionaries” who hold power. Rather than counterposing a Marxist program to either the Castroites or the Sandinistas, the USec prostrates itself before them. This appetite reflects the profound gulf which separates Pabloism from Marxism.
- “On the Nature of the Cuban Revolution,” Fourth International, Number 12, Winter 1960-61; reprinted in International Internal Bulletin, Volume xiv, Number 5, May 1977, p. 21
- Joseph Hansen, Dynamics of the Cuban Revolution, New York, 1976, p. 75
- “The Central American Revolution,” International Viewpoint, Special Issue, “Resolutions of the Twelfth World Congress of the Fourth International,” p. 110