Taaffe on Cube - Online

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Mon Sep 3 15:08:32 MDT 2001

Socialist Party (England and Wales) General Secretary Peter Taaffe's latest
book, Cuba: Socialism & Democracy is now available in an online format.

The book updates a 1978 pamphlet by Taaffe and takes the form of a polemical
response to the DSP (Australia's) criticisms of the CWI's position on Cuba.
In turn, Taaffe takes on the contradictions and failings in the uncritical
view many on the left have towards Cuba as a socialist state.

The brief Introduction to the book is posted below. To read the entire work
go to http://www.worldsocialist-cwi.org/index.htm click "CWI Publications"
on the left=hand sidebar and then click the link to Cuba: Socialism and
Democracy on the main page.



The Cuban Revolution triumphed in 1959, more than four decades ago. Yet, its
effects, particularly through its most charismatic figures, Fidel Castro and
the murdered Che Guevara, still inspire workers and young people worldwide.
The overthrow of the hated dictatorship of Batista was quickly followed by
the elimination of landlordism and capitalism. The world labour movement was
mesmerised by this. A government and a Œsocialist¹ regime had been
established in the very Œjaws of the monster¹, US imperialism. Writers and
commentators drew parallels with previous revolutions, particularly the
Russian Revolution. However, history never repeats itself in exactly the
same way. Nor do revolutions. The Cuban Revolution was entirely different to
the Russian Revolution, in its origins, the political outlook of its leading
figures and the class forces involved.

Indeed, nothing in the socialist and Marxist textbooks ­ of Marx, Engels,
Lenin, Luxemburg or even Trotsky ­ fully prepared Marxists for what happened
in Cuba. It is true that in his last writings, Trotsky gave some indication
of processes which later developed in the Cuban Revolution. He pointed out
that leaders from a non-Marxist middle-class background could, in conditions
of extreme social crisis, be pushed much further than they originally
intended and into breaking with capitalism. The British Marxists also, who
later published the newspaper Militant (now The Socialist, weekly paper of
the Socialist Party) were better prepared than most for the events of the
Cuban Revolution. Their analysis of the Chinese Revolution of 1944-49 and
the processes in the postwar period which unfolded in the neo-colonial world
meant that they were not taken completely unawares by events in Cuba. Yet
even the best theory is not able to fully anticipate how a revolution will
actually unfold.

The Cuban Revolution was led by Castro and Guevara, and their 26 July
Movement, which originated outside of the Stalinist tradition. They
established a regime enjoying massive, overwhelming popular support and
which evoked enthusiasm in Cuba itself and acclaim from the oppressed
worldwide. In its first phase, moreover, the revolution evinced tendencies
of mass involvement and participation, including elements of workers¹
control and of Œpopular power¹. This compelled every socialist and Marxist
to assess the precise character of the Cuban regime. Could the government of
Fidel Castro and Che Guevara be compared to that of Lenin, Trotsky and the
Bolsheviks in the first heroic period of the Russian Revolution? A planned
economy had been established but was there real workers¹ democracy in Cuba?
What were the international dimensions and the effects of the Cuban
Revolution? These issues were hotly debated at the time, and have been a
source of constant controversy since.

These are also the themes of this book, judged against the background of
events since 1959. Many, including some claiming to be Marxists and
Trotskyists, were, in our opinion, swept off their feet by the Cuban
Revolution. They replaced a balanced Marxist appraisal ­ support for the
revolution but linking this to proposals for establishing workers¹ democracy
in Cuba ­ with impressionism. This did involve comparing the government and
the state in Cuba to that of the Bolsheviks in the first period after 1917.
We opposed this and from the very outset of the revolution attempted to give
an all-sided analysis and explanation that could prepare workers for the
subsequent developments in Cuba and particularly the Cuban state.

Our ideas were presented in our weekly newspaper Militant and in other
publications. I wrote three articles for our newspaper in 1978, which were
subsequently gathered together and published as a small pamphlet. I have
included this pamphlet as an appendix. This provides important background
information on the events leading up to the revolution of 1959 and
afterwards. Readers can also, if they wish, read our original analysis in
the light of subsequent criticisms.

Twenty-one years later Doug Lorimer, one of the leaders of the
Australian-based Democratic Socialist Party decided to subject this pamphlet
to a lengthy criticism. This book is a reply to these criticisms. However,
before we received Lorimer¹s criticisms I already had the intention of
writing an up-to-date analysis of the situation in Cuba today which would
involve a revisiting of the events of the Cuban Revolution itself.

The topicality of such a work has been underlined recently by the worldwide
publicity around the Cuban boy Elian Gonzalez, which has once more brought
Cuba back to the centre of world politics. The outcome of this conflict,
with the Œcapture¹ of Elian by the INS, which led to him being reunited with
his father, represented a defeat for the die-hard ultra-right Miami exiles.
At the same time, it has drawn attention once more to Fidel Castro¹s
government and political regime, and to the future prospects for the
development of Cuba itself.

In this book we touch on some of the main current developments in Cuba but a
substantial work, giving a more detailed overall picture of events in Cuba,
I have had to put aside in order to reply to the arguments of the DSP with,
we hope, some benefits to be gained. Discussion, criticisms and
counter-criticisms of different trends within the workers¹ movement and
amongst Marxists can serve to clarify and educate a new generation who are
not yet familiar with our analysis.

I have felt it necessary to reply to the DSP, in the order in which they
have set out their criticisms of my pamphlet. This necessarily involves a
certain sacrifice of style and presentation in order to properly deal with
these arguments. There are also quite lengthy quotes from different authors
and publications, which is necessary because of disputes over facts. I hope
this is not too burdensome for the reader but will, on the contrary, serve
to illuminate and underline the analysis which we have made of the Cuban
Revolution, the character of Fidel Castro and his government, and the
present and future perspectives for Cuba, which are of vital concern for
workers everywhere.

Peter Taaffe

May 2000

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