[Marxism] Socialist Worker's "Where We Stand" on Cuba

Joaquin Bustelo jbustelo at gmail.com
Wed Nov 21 08:30:36 MST 2007

Walter writes about the ISO: "Yet the fanatical anti-Communism of the ISR's
principal cadre, which is framed as support for 'socialism from below', is
disorienting to a substantial degree. My guess is that it's a terminal
condition for their principal cadre, though possibly not for the random
individual member who may learn something of value there, but who then moves

What Walter's comments come down to, once you translate from abstractions
and tendentious phrases like "fanatical anti-communism", is that Cuba is a
litmus test, and --except for those whose presence in the ISO is a temporary
stage in their political development-- succumbing to the ideology of
"socialism from below" as the ISO understands it is a "terminal condition."

This is one more expression of the vanguardist-idealist "paper program is
everything" theses that people like Walter and I were indoctrinated in while
we were in the SWP. But, "Every step of real movement is worth ten paper
programmes." (Marx).

The ISO is not led by "fanatical anti-Communists" but by communists, for, as
Engels said, "Communism is not a doctrine but a MOVEMENT." The communist
movement (or if you prefer the Marxist movement, or the
revolutionary-socialist movement, they all mean the same thing in this
context) is the product of a long and convoluted historical evolution that
has been driven by the complex interaction of theory, political struggles,
and social relations. The ISO is the largest organized expression in the
U.S. TODAY of this movement, and although the disorganized part of the
movement is many times larger, this makes the ISO important.

That it is far from a perfect formation politically, ideologically and
sociologically is, like duh...

How could it be otherwise than HUGELY imperfect, given the disappearance of
the class social movement of the workers in the United States, with the
tremendously privileged position working people in the United States (most
of all whites) came to enjoy, especially after World War II? And even when
the SWP was playing a singularly positive role in the 1960's and early 70's,
didn't history show us afterwards that it, too, was a HUGELY imperfect

The ISO --like the rest of the U.S. left-- is an organization formed MAINLY
from the intelligentsia, people driven to the left not so much by their own
individual circumstances and having been part of collective struggle against
them, but from observation, discussion and reflection on society and the
historical movement as a whole. 

The "socialism from below" school is a perfectly understandable and largely
progressive reaction to, and rejection of Stalinism, as well as at least
some elements of vanguardism (this is much clearer in Solidarity's case than
that of the ISO, but is nevertheless true in the latter). It is exaggerated
and one-sided and quite mistaken when it tries to fit Cuba into the same
mold as the "really existing socialism" of unhappy memory, and the
impossibility of U.S. left groups making their home in a mass workers
movement (because there is no such) accentuates the problem, I believe.

But also, part of the reasons for that are the limitations and mistakes of
the Cuban Revolution, of which there have been and continue to be plenty, at
least if Fidel and other leading comrades are to be believed. And if you
want to look at one salient example, consider the criticism made Sunday on
the Cuban TV program "Open Dialogue" that Cuba has had a "culture of
resistance" and a "culture of solidarity" but not a "culture of debate."

One thing that has always struck me about the Cuban Revolution is that the
very rich political life --criticism and debate-- that goes on all the time
in the streets found absolutely ZERO reflection in the mass media, thus
hindering and even blocking altogether in many cases a generalization of
experiences, a better diagnosis of problems, and a more searching effort to
find solutions. It is gratifying to see it being openly recognized finally
on the TV, but that is just putting the key in the lock, the door will be
open not when censorship is criticized but when it is replaced by genuine
dialogue and debate.

The "scratch to a danger of gangrene" and "terminal condition"-type thinking
and diagnoses is part of the primacy of paper programme fetish of misnamed
"Leninism," which take on an especially aggravated character in what might
be described as the broad Trotskyist family. This is precisely one of the
problems that needs to be overcome if the U.S. Left is going to make any
significant advances in this period. Insistence that everyone must have the
same, or closely parallel, analysis and characterizations of the Cuban
Revolution is, concretely, in the United States today, simply a formula for
continuing disunity, and as Fidel said, "Division in the face of the enemy
was never an intelligent or revolutionary strategy." 


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