[Marxism] Re: Cuba and State Capitalism

Tom O'Lincoln suarsos at alphalink.com.au
Thu Aug 11 22:10:58 MDT 2005

I agree we don’t want to rehash old arguments or get into flame wars.
Having a discussion on state capitalism is only justified if we can say
something new, and I’ll try to do that.

Joaquin was quoted as asking:

>>But when you get right down to it, don't you have to admit that Cuban
"state capitalism" is qualitatively better for working people than the
regular kind? And if *this kind* of capitalism is better for working
people, aren't you duty bound to defend it and even promote it as a step
forward, even if it falls far short of the final goal?<<

Well, Swedish capitalism is a lot better for workers than Indonesian
capitalism; and for that matter, I'd say it was a lot better for workers
than the East German “socialism” I got to know fairly well at one point. (I
guarantee you, any scientific poll would have shown most East German
workers thought so too.) That didn’t lead me to defend Sweden. 

Dennis wrote:

>>More than simply providing a better living standard, the Cuban revolution
solved the agrarian question by carrying out land reform, destroyed the
bourgeois state apparatus and replaced not reformed it, instituted a state
monopoly of foreign trade and a planned economy and has for over four
decades waged a resolutely internationalist and anti imperialist

To which I would reply:

1. Solving the agrarian question is, in itself, a task of the bourgeois
revolution. These days the bourgeois revolution takes curious forms, and
it’s possible to see Castro et al in those terms.
2. The Cuban revolution certainly did destroy and replace the bourgeois
state apparatus. The question then becomes: what kind of new state
apparatus, and by what process was it introduced? To take an extreme case
just to clarify the point: two years ago the Americans smashed and replaced
the Iraqi state apparatus. A more relevant comparison might be the
Indonesian revolution in the 1940s, which smashed the colonial state and
replaced it with a new national state – but the workers as a class didn’t
take power, and the new regime clearly didn’t introduce socialism (though
it used the rhetoric – “sosialisme ala Indonesia”).

3. A planned economy and state monopoly of foreign trade prove little in
themselves. Gaddafi did this in Libya, Pol Pot did it in Kampuchea, and
from what little I know the regime in Burma has done the same. Were these
socialist regimes? Were they better for the workers? (Some here may think
so, I guess. That would be another debate.)

4. Hezbollah has an excellent history of resolute anti-imperialist
struggle, and for that matter the Sukarno regime in Indonesia had some
reasonable claims in this regard. But anti-imperialism is not the same as

>>If a section of the capitalist class can achieve this, than aren't we
being premature in fighting for socialism?<

I’ve tried to show that capitalist forces can do, and have done all these
things. What they can’t/won’t do under any circumstances is place the
working class in power – and that, for me, is the key thing about fighting
for socialism. Does the working class run Cuba democratically? There are
expert comrades here who will argue that it does, and they know a lot more
than me. The trouble is, I’m just not convinced. Everything I read about
Cuba makes it look to me like a relatively benevolent, populist one-party

Yet I do, in fact, defend Cuba. This is partly a matter of resolute
anti-imperialism. I defend Iraq’s resistance to US attack, and the same
applies to Cuba.

But it goes beyond that. Whatever I personally think of the class nature of
the Castro regime, millions of people in Latin America and around the world
see it as socialist. It kicked out the imperialists, and that is indeed a
step forward. It has achieved significant reforms despite imperialist
blockades. The exploited and oppressed throughout the hemisphere will rally
around Cuba, and we should be part of that, so of course I’m “duty bound to
defend it”. Defending does not mean avoiding difficult questions, however.

>>Wall Street, the State Department and the CIA understand what class
rules, and so does the Latin American bourgeoisie.<<

And they periodically accuse liberal pacifists and Catholic social workers
of being “communists”, and there are a lot of people in Guantánamo right
now they’re calling “terrorists”. Is it all true? Conversely, one might
argue that if the CIA thinks Cuba is socialist, this is grounds to think
it's not -- since when do we agree with CIA logic? Either way, I don't feel
that kind of argument gets us very far.

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