The SWP's stance on Cuba in 1974

Fred Feldman ffeldman at
Sat Sep 13 07:27:06 MDT 2003

A controversy has been taking place over my assessment that the
Socialist Workers Party of the United States. had a basically
sectarian stance toward Chile in the years of the Unidad Popular
government and that during the 1970s thge SWP along with the entire
Fourth International  had drifted toward a hypercritical posture
toward Cuba.  I argued that the materials in the booklet Fidel Castro
on Chile, published as an Education for Socialists bulletin, were part
of a partial but very significant correction of this erroneous course
which I myself basically supported -- although I never went to the
point, as some did, of advocating a "political revolution" against

Robin Maisel said that there was no such drift, and that items like
Fidel in Chile book (which has replaced the much more sectarian
"Disaster on Chile" as the main expression of the party's views on
Unidad Popular and Fidel's role in Chile) were primarily aimed either
at the rest of the Fourth International movement or toward dissident
groups in the SWP..

One of the items I mentioned in which the SWP's drift toward a  wrong
stance toward Cuba had been codified was the book Dynamics of World
Revolution Today, published in 1974 by Pathfinder.

Of course the SWP is certainly entitled to have its differences with
Cuba or to make its criticisms of the Unidad Popular and Allende
regime.  Readers may forget that this debate began with my posting of
a commemmoration of Allende by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, which was VERY
critical of Allende's basic political reliance on generalities like
constitutionalism, legality, and bourgeois democratic traditions in
Chile, although Marquez also paid tribute to Allende as a
revolutionary-minded fighter and authentic hero and martyr of his
nation.  And it is also a fact that in some important respects, Fidel
presented a different view than Allende on what needed to be done to
defend the revolutionary process, as a fighter who was participating
in the process and considered it his own.

Similarly the SWP, myself, and anybody else have a right to their
differences with the Cuban revolutionists.  I still disagree with the
Cubans' stand on Czechoslovakia and Poland, their actions against the
rightward-moving poet Heberto Padilla back in the 1970s, and many of
the criticisms the SWP made of the STRATEGY of guerrilla warfare as
advocated by the Cuban leadership and many others in the late 1960s
still make sense to me (although I think the version of these
criticisms presented in the resolution below is so one-sided as to be
completely wrong).  On a more practical level, my class-struggle
experience has given me a different view of electoral politics in the
United States than the Cuban leaders often adopt.

I believe, however, that the SWP (not individually but as, in many
ways, the most highly-developed political representative at this time
of the Trotskyist movement) had difficulty with avoiding rigid
ultraleft criticisms and sectarian carping. The party's approach
easily slipped out of the role of presenting their views from within
the revolutionary process, as participants who are an integral part of
the fight,  and toward the posture of counterposing their own line of
march to the struggle that is actually taking place.  The basic
approach to Venezuela, while there have been adjustments and some
excellent news coverage, is the latest example of this.

Anyway, here is a section of the 1973 resolution presented by SWP
observers to the 1974 World Congress of the Fourth International.  The
resolution was defeated. (The sectarian drift in the Fourth
International was organizationally independent of that in the SWP.)The
resolution was reprinted in the Dynamics book and, I tend to think,
ultimately doomed the volume to deserved oblivion. I want to stress.
in deference to Robin's concern that we may disrupt the
decision-making process in the SWP by talking about internal
discussions that took place 25 or 30 years ago, that this document was
available for public sale around the world.
Fred Feldman

An excerpt from Dynamics of World Revolution Today, pp. 153-55:

Limitations in the education and outlook of the Cuban leaders blocked
success in their efforts to extend the Cuban revolution.  They were
not Leninists. They did not set out to organize as solid political
base by fostering the organization of mass revolutionary parties
standing on the program of revolutionary Marxism.  Immediately
following the revolutionary victory in Havana, the situation was
extraordinarily favorable for this inasmuch as millions of Latin
Americans  were lifted to their feet by what had been accomplished in
toppling Batista and moving forward to the estab lishment of a planned
economy in the Caribbean.

The Cuban leaders not only missed their timing in this, but committed
a series of ultraleft errors. Still worse, they decried "theory" as
compared to  "practice," and reduced "practice" to guerrillaism on a
continental scale.  The guerrilla strategy proved to be sterile, and
since the defeat of Guevara's effort in Bolivia, the Cubans have
virtually abandoned it....

Castro has offered political support to bourgeois regimes in Latin
America that have maintained diplomatic regimes in Latin America that
have maintained diplomatic relations with Cuba.  Conspicuous examples
were Goulart in Brazil, Velasco Alvarado in Peru, and Allende in
Chile....[Allow me to note that the resolution unpardonably narrowed
the real scope of the Cubans' concern in  these three cases.  In each
case, the Cubans were motivated by a desire to advance revoluitonary
processes and to help to defeat reaction, not just by a desire for
diplomatic ties.--FF]The catastrophe in Chile stands out as a grim
example of what can result under such regvimes, however loudly they
proclaim that their aim is the achievement of socialism....

Castro's political softness toward the Kremlin has had its domestic
reflection....Castro now appears to be following a policy of "peaceful
coexistence" with Cuban bureaucratism....

The establishment in December 1973 of rankings in the armed forces
equivalent to those in the capitalist countries and the bureaucratized
workers states constituted another step on the road away from
proletarian democracy.  It marked the open appearance of a privileged
officer caste, revealing how bureaucratization has proceeded in the
armed forces.

Consequently, it must be acknowledged that the Cuban revolution has
not realized its initial possibilities in helping to resolve the
crisis of proletarian leadership internationally. In serious respectsw
the Cuban leaders have fallen back, while dangerous breaucratic
tgendencies continue to gather headway."

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