[Marxism] Mike Gonzalez and Cuba

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Jul 12 13:47:50 MDT 2004

Jose referred briefly and with well-justified contempt to an interview 
with Mike Gonzalez--the British SWP's Cuba "expert". Although I have 
little time or patience to unravel all the bullshit in this interview, I 
do want to take a look at one thing he says. Referring to Che's 
discussions with Fidel about how to develop a strategy for overthrowing 
the Batista dictatorship, Gonzalez says:

"During those discussions there aren't any obvious alternative ways of 
thinking. There is Stalinism, the Communist Parties making compromises 
with corrupt governments and dictatorships, on the one hand, and on the 
other hand there is the idea of revolutionaries as a small, determined 
group of people who make the revolution - and above all a vision of a 
revolution as a process conducted and won in the countryside. So the 
urban working class doesn't figure in their thinking, except as a kind 
of support mechanism for the revolutionaries in the countryside. The 
conclusions drawn by Che and Castro are the idea of the necessity of an 
effective, tight military organisation. They see it as a war."

Anybody who has read John Anderson's bio of Che will know that the urban 
movement was just as critical as the rural guerrilla struggle if not 
more so. There were constant meetings with youth, trade union and 
political leaders who were either part of the aboveground movement or 
the July 26th Movement. Street protests, rallies, general strikes, etc. 
were timed to strengthen the armed struggle and vice versa. You also 
have to remember that Castro began his political career as a student 
leader and ran for office. He never repudiated his past, only decided 
that in the final analysis you had to confront the Batista dicatatorship 
with arms in hand. He was right, of course.

More to the point, as Jose has pointed out on numerous occasions, the 
urban and rural working class *stepped up* its participation in the 
revolution after the military defeat of Batista. The revolution takes on 
a ever more participatory character as the old repressive forces leave 
the scene. Here's an excerpt from a Robin Blackburn article that 
describes the process:

"The account given by Binns and Gonzalez of The Cuban revolution itself 
manages entirely to avoid the decisive intervention of the masses in the 
process. On January 1st 1959, when Batista fled, there were, at most, 
four thousand guerrillas with Fidel, backed up by perhaps twenty 
thousand urban sympathisers. How did this tiny group bring about such a 
fundamental transformation in less than two years – completely smashing 
the pre-existing state apparatuses, carrying through an Agrarian reform 
and an Urban Reform which expropriated all large landowners, 
nationalising all large enterprises, successfully confronting the United 
States and defeating the internal counter-revolution? Firstly there was 
a nationwide general strike in the first days of 1959 – not even 
mentioned by Binns and Gonzalez – which prevented an attempt to salvage 
the old order without Batista. This movement had a multi-class character 
but from this point on bourgeois support for the revolution peeled away, 
layer after layer until there was none left. Each major item of 
revolutionary legislation was opposed by members of the former bourgeois 
opposition to Batista. On every important occasion they were defeated by 
the intervention of the masses in gigantic popular mobilisations."

full: http://www.marxists.de/statecap/cuba/robinb.htm

In addition, although I have not read it, I would assume that Julia E. 
Sweig's recently published "Inside the Cuban Revolution: Fidel Castro 
and the Urban Underground" would bring a lot of useful information to 
bear on the British SWP's caricature of the Cuban revolution as a rural 
Blanquist operation.

Editorial Review from amazon.com:
Julia Sweig shatters the mythology surrounding the Cuban Revolution in a 
compelling revisionist history that reconsiders the revolutionary roles 
of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara and restores to a central position the 
leadership of the Cuban urban underground, the Llano. Granted 
unprecedented access to the classified records of Castro's 26th of July 
Movement's underground operatives--the only scholar inside or outside of 
Cuba allowed access to the complete collection in the Cuban Council of 
State's Office of Historic Affairs--she details the ideological, 
political, and strategic debates between Castro's mountain-based 
guerrilla movement and the urban revolutionaries in Havana, Santiago, 
and other cities. In a close study of the fifteen months from November 
1956 to July 1958, when the urban underground leadership was dominant, 
Sweig examines the debate between the two groups over whether to wage 
guerrilla warfare in the countryside or armed insurrection in the 
cities, and is the first to document the extent of Castro's cooperation 
with the Llano. She unveils the essential role of the urban underground, 
led by such figures as Frank Pais, Armando Hart, Haydee Santamaria, 
Enrique Oltuski, and Faustino Perez, in controlling critical decisions 
on tactics, strategy, allocation of resources, and relations with 
opposition forces, political parties, Cuban exiles, even the United 
States--contradicting the standard view of Castro as the primary 
decision maker during the revolution. In revealing the true relationship 
between Castro and the urban underground, Sweig redefines the history of 
the Cuban Revolution, offering guideposts for understanding Cuban 
politics in the 1960s and raising intriguing questions for the future 
transition of power in Cuba.


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