[Marxism] Guerrillas, workers states -- a response to David Miurray

Jose G. Perez elgusanorojo at bellsouth.net
Thu Jun 24 16:26:49 MDT 2004

David Murray says:  "These issues are intricately linked especially in
the period after 1960. Guerillaism, like armed struggle and terrorism is
the antithesis of marxist tactics. It is based on a lack of confidence
and even contempt for the working class. The guerilla warfare mindset is
therefore part of the complex class nature of the Cuban state."

This is --I think this is the right technical term-- baloney. 

Guerrilla warfare is a time-honored form of military struggle. It has
been especially favored by partisans fighting foreign occupiers and
insurgents who face a autocratic governments. And among those who have
*personally* participated in such campaigns is one Frederick Engels.
There is ABSOLUTELY nothing un-Marxist about it, just as there is
nothing especially "Marxist" about publishing a newspaper, even though
Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky and Fidel all have done so.

War is like newspaper publishing in that it is a continuation of
political struggle by other means. It is the politics being continued
that is important. Yes, of course, there is a dialectical relationship
between the two, it doesn't mean that 12 guys climbing up a hillside
with rifles and  no connection with the masses makes it anything other
than an ultraleft adventure just because they imagine they have correct,
proletarian politics. But contrary to the myths that have been
propagated about Cuba, that isn't what happened there in the mid-1950's.

It is a misunderstanding of the Cuban experience to view the anti
Batista revolution in Cuba as essentially a guerrilla movement. In
June-July 1958, when the decisive battles were waged in the Sierra
Maestra, Fidel's guerrilla forces numbered around 500; in June-July of
1953, *before* the attack on the Moncada barracks at the end of that
month, the "youth of the centennial" (of José Martí's birth) movement,
which would become the July 26 Movement after the attack, had about 2000
members in a country of less than six million people. And, again, that
was *before* anyone had heard about them.

The July 26 movement was a mass underground political movement that was
radical, plebeian, democratic (and not, as events showed, in the
bourgeois sense of the word "democratic"). It fought around a program of
immediate economic and democratic demands as well as what we from the
Trotskyist tradition would call transitional demands.

It won the war not because it overwhelmed Batista militarily but because
it won the people. The massive opposition to the dictatorship that the
guerrillas spearheaded and were the most visible expression of led to
divisions in the ruling class and then a collapse of ruling-class
support for Batista and with it a collapse of the bourgeoisie's army
morale and effectiveness as a fighting force, for it has been structured
as Batista's armed forces. In the end, the dictator fled in the pre-dawn
hours of January 1, 1959.

To say that a "mindset" determines, even if only in part, the class
character of a state is, I hope everyone will agree, an idealist
approach to the question. The class character of the Cuban state was
irrevocably stamped on it by the increasing organization and
mobilization of the Cuban working class in alliance with the peasantry
and other non-proletarian layers in the first two years of the
revolution, and which culminated with the expropriation of the
bourgeoisie as a class in August-October 1960. Yes, consciousness
--"mindset"-- is involved, but consciousness turned into action, into
new facts on the ground, that is decisive.

It is *not* just "nationalization" but *expropriation* by the workers,
the removal of the capitalist bosses by force and violence or the threat
thereof, that transforms a place into a workers state. As a Cuban friend
told me in Nicaragua, discussing the very different situation prevailing
there in the mid-1980s compared to Cuba (for there was a lot of
nationalized property in revolutionary Nicaragua, including a lot of the
industry, such as it was, properties abandoned by Somoza and his cronies
when they pulled a Batista and fled in July 1979), it is one thing for
nationalized property to fall into your hands like candy from a piñata,
it is another thing to have to wrest it from the hands of the class
enemy by force.

The *force* bit is really important. It isn't a detail (but it isn't a
matter of body counts or anything else like that, either). It is a
question of one class IMPOSING its will on another class. 

Essentially the workers state question is quite simple: who is in
charge? Which class gets to *impose* its will on the other class.
Representatives of the bourgeoisie? Representatives of the working
class? The REALLY NEAT thing about the mass expropriation of an entire
capitalist class by the force and violence of working class national
revolutionary militias as happened in Cuba --viewed from the standpoint
of Marxist theory-- is that it doesn't leave much room confusion about
which class is the ruling class, since the OTHER possible answer to the
question about which class is ruling has just been *rubbed out* as a


More information about the Marxism mailing list