Taaffe on Cuba

Jose G. Perez jgperez at netzero.net
Tue Sep 4 22:28:29 MDT 2001

>>I'm simply saying that to be a democratic workers state, to be a socialist
society, certain criteria must be met and Cuba falls short of those


    God knows where you picked up this formalistic way of thinking, but this
is not the way Marxists should approach these or any other issues. Look at
Cuba, not as a "model" (good, bad or a little or both) but as a social
force, a people in motion.

    There is no such thing as a "democratic workers state" in the abstract,
and, frankly, I believe a lot of this
"democratic" stuff on the left is downright dangerous, it goes in the
direction of an adaptation to bourgeois propaganda and middle-class
political currents.

    I think, by and large, the Trotskyist movement, and its various
currents, were often off-axis in the way they conducted their criticism of
the Stalinists and their fight against them, at least in the 1970's and
1980's. There was a tendency, especially marked in the USFI, perhaps, but I
believe others also had very similar problems, to view the revolutions in
the imperialist countries, in the colonial and semicolonial world, and in
the deformed and degenerated workers states as three largely separate things
with different agendas and dynamics. Sure, they were all interrelated and
affected each other, but we tended to view the struggle in the USSR, etc.,
as centrally a struggle for workers democracy against the bureaucratic

    I think this is off. I think the struggle in the USSR should have been
approached as an integral part of the world revolutionary struggle. To the
extent we tended to abstract, for example, the struggle for freedom of
speech in the USSR from the *content* of that speech, it was a mistake.

    The axis of the activity of revolutionaries in the USSR and other East
European workers states, for example, should have been demands to aid the
Nicaraguan revolution. I believe instead what was projected by Trotskyists
generally was a struggle against the bureaucracy. Sure in theory, and in
some articles, correct things were said about the centrality of the struggle
against the world imperialist system; but in practice, too many articles
reflected I think, an implicit "stagist" theory applied to those countries:
first, get rid of the bureaucracy and establish "healthy" workers states,
THEN use those states as part of the struggle against imperialism.

    I think if we had thought more deeply about the implications of the term
"workers state," and especially tried to think through the meaning of
saying, this is fundamentally, in the last analysis, a very powerful union
with an extremely rotten leadership, our approach would have been different.
Because, since the time of Marx, the tactic of Communists towards
retrograde, conciliationists currents in the workers movement has always
been a *flanking* tactic, that is, an approach that seeks to mobilize and
unite working people in the struggle against the bosses, avoiding premature
confrontations with the labor officialdom.

    I believe your democratic "criteria"-based approach is a cristalization
of the mistakes made by most Trotskyist currents in this regard. And I
believe the approach of the Cubans, who centered their denunciations of the
Soviet and Chinese bureaucracy on their failure to give more aid to Vietnam
(for example, in Che's famous message to the Tricontinental, although that
is not, by far, the only such statement, perhaps the most systematic and
far-reaching critique of the Stalinists was Fidel's speech on the invasion
of Czechoslovakia), was closer to the mark.

    And even later, when for diplomatic reasons the Cubans thought it wiser
to present their own points of view in a positive fashion, avoiding
polemics, you will see this is a constant theme of Cuban statements, and
actions. That theme is the famous dictum of the Second Declaration of
Havana, the duty of a revolutionary is to make the revolution, translated
for application by a revolutionary workers state that must live as part of a
bourgeois world system of states and a bougeois world economy. Cuba calls it
"internationalism," and that's right on the money, speaking from a Marxist
point of view. It's the slogan the Communist League adopted when it became a
Marxist organization, replacing the "all men are brothers" of the League of
the Just, with "Workers of the world unite!"

    I would counterpose to your slogan of, for a democratic workers state,
the slogan, for an internationalist workers state. And that is the strategic
axis of the fight against Stalinism, and of the fight to prevent the
bureaucratic degeneration of a workers state, not a fight for an abstract
"workers democracy" devoid of proletarian internationalist content, divorced
from the world struggle against imperialism.


----- Original Message -----
From: "Xxxx Xxxxxx" <xxxxxxxxxx at xxxxxxxxx.xx>
To: <marxism at lists.panix.com>
Sent: Tuesday, September 04, 2001 10:20 PM
Subject: Re: Taaffe on Cuba

Adam Levenstein wrote:

> Well put, Carrol.
> Engineering a society is not the same as engineering a
> bridge. You can't simply say, "ok, we'll do here what
> we did over there." Life isn't that simple - and that
> goes for whatEVER revolution you think is the
> "blueprint," be it Cuba, China, or (in the case of
> orthodox Trots) the Soviet Union.
> You can't simply say "we'll go and do exactly what the
> Cubans did," simply because we're not facing the same
> reality that the Cubans are/were.

Of course not. I'm not saying that there is one "model" or "blueprint" that
must be slavishly followed (although, as I pointed out earlier, many in the
70s, including a good many within the USFI, did view the Cuban Revolution as
such a model and did attempt to follow it with disastrous results.)

I'm simply saying that to be a democratic workers state, to be a socialist
society, certain criteria must be met and Cuba falls short of those
criteria. That doesn't mean we shouldn't defend Cuba against capitalism and
imperialism but it does mean we shouldn't be uncritical of it or harbour any
illusions about Cuba or its revolution or cling to it as a shibboleth as the
DSP, SWP and many of their ex-members and offshoots do.

> (I won't go into the
> specifics, simply because I don't want to insult
> anyone's intelligence.)

> The communists that have accepted and embraced the
> Cuban Revolution have simply recognized that. The
> obvious fact that 2001 Cuba is not the same as 1918
> Russia does not mean "Cuba is not socialist."

No, but the fact that Cuba is *not* a democratic workers state with a
democratically planned economy open to criticism and correction by the
masses and does not have a free press, the right to form independent
political parties or the right to form tendencies within the CCP *does* mean
it's not socialist. If you're view is that Cuba is socialist that calls into
question exactly what your view of socialism is. That being said, Cuba does
have a planned economy and largely nationalised economy and that must be
defended, however imperfect it is, against capitalist restoration and


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