File spoon-archives/marxism-general.archive/marxism-general_1997/marxism-general.9707, message 279

Date: Tue, 29 Jul 1997 17:12:13 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Re: M-G: Re: greetings

On Tue, 29 Jul 1997, Rolf Martens wrote:

> I actually don't have much information on the conditions in
> Cuba concerning democracy. I know enough to doubt very much
> US (official) statements, of course. But the thing, quite
> generally, is that a people may come under fire from two
> competing directions. Not believing US statements does not,
> I think, necessarily accept Cuban (official) ones.

What about eyewitness accounts from Marxists who have been there?
I've had the wonderful opportunity lately to converse with a
number of young people who went there last summer for a conference,
and have spoken with quite a few activist who have been there.
They all have the same story:  the reality of Cuban society is
that it is radically democratic, at least if compared to
bourgeois democracy.  According to those I've spoken to, despite
any bureaucratic deformities that arose during the USSR years,
the masses basically run Cuba from the bottom up, through their
mass organizations:  People's Power (which can be compared to
workers' councils, as in Russia in 1917-21), the Committees to
Defend the Revolution, and the trade unions.  The Communist Party
certainly exerts a lot of influence over the people, but I do
not think they have the final say in any matter.  I think they play
more of a strong advisory, rather than authoritarian (as in
"Stalinist") role.  I could be wrong, but hearing a lot of first-
hand accounts is pretty convincing.

> Actually, as far as I know, there in the early 60s was a debate
> in Cuba on that matter, "having to trade with someone".
> The Chinese NB *real* communists said: It's necessary relying
> mainly on one own's forces - admittedly, much more difficult
> then for small Cuba than for big China.

Yeah -- bingo.  Cuba could in no way defeat the U.S. in an all-
out war and they knew it.  What choice did they have?  None at all.

> But they said (the Chinese): "Try to develop a more all-round
> economy; you have nickel and iron; you can cultivate wheat in
> part instead of just sugar". I remember something vaguely
> about Che Guevara's supposedly supporting such a line but
> I'm not certain of it.

Che did support diversification of agriculture, but that didn't
happen--I think--until the 1980's or so. 

> Anyway, that would have been the right thing, I'm certain
> - concerning the economy, which of course is always bound
> up with different political lines too. The Chinese advice
> was also based in the fact, which the Chinese knew, that the
> Soviet Union was *another gangster power* wishing the peoples
> in the world no good at all. It went in the direction too of
> Cuba's being able to get, in a certain way, at least, the 
> support of the peoples of the world by steering a *just* course.

To not diversify the economy was a mistake of the revolutionary
leadership; I'll concede on that point.  But at that point in
the development of the Cuban economy, they had to work with
what they had at hand, and slowly build from there.  and what
they had on hand was sugar.  To diversify too rapidly would
have meant misery and displacement for millions of Cubans;
such was the mistake of Stalin in his collectivization and
industrialization drives.

> But Castro chose another road - that of massive development
> of sugar production in order to get capital for the further
> construction etc. The "only" thing was, Cuba then got into
> the claws of the Soviet social-imperialists, who i.a. used
> Cuban troops *against* other peoples in Africa, above all,
> under a *false* signboard of "liberation struggle support".
> Also those later developments when social-imperialism fell.

Actually, the Cubans acted on their own, albeit using Soviet-
supplied arms.  And they weren't acting against *peoples*,
but the brutal army of the South African apartheid regime.

They won, too -- the South African army was beaten back.

> The system on Cuba cannot be called "socialism". Even after
> the vanishing of Soviet social-imperialism the system on
> Cuba is too much geared to and connected to that former
> power still today.

I think Cuba IS socialist.  And it isn't dependent on the former
USSR; in fact, the economy has shifted toward finding other
trading partners, in particular: Portugal, Spain, Italy,
and several Latin American and Carribean countries.  The economy
is making a comeback there.  The universal health care system
is intact, as is education and housing.  There are shortages,
but I think we can blame the U.S. for that, in particular 
Helms and Burton.

> Castro *may* still be popular - I cannot pretend to know
> much about that. I suspect you're painting it in to rosy
> colours, though. One thing that would make the people
> support Castro, despite the *very* bad sides of his system,
> of course is precisely the threat from the USA.
> In North Korea, there seems to be a similar phenomenon.
> The government there isn't socialist either.

There we agree.  Cuba and North Korea are worlds apart, in terms
of democracy and *actual* socialist practices.  North Korea is
falling apart; that is due to the failure of Stalinism there.
Cuba is surviving and beginning to recover -- slowly.

As for me painting too rosy a picture of Cuba, in defense of my
position I will say that I am not completely uncritical of the
Cuban revolution, Cuban social institutions, or for that matter
Castro himself.  Mainly I think that Cuba would be in a much better
position today if the country had followed the road of Che Guevara's
ideas rather than Stalin's and those of USSR advisers.

And certainly there are problems in Cuba which need to be rectified;
certainly the country could become even *more* democratic, *less*
bureaucratic.  But I don't agree that Cuba is not socialist, just 
because of certain problems and imperfections which exist there
and have for some time.  

Bruce Burleson

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